Well, this story is about a middle class boy who was born and brought up in Delhi, but is currently working in the land of the free and home of the brave.
As with a majority of other Delhites, my upbringing was modest. I grew in a middle class neighborhood of Paschim Vihar, where my parents currently reside. After my graduation, I opted to desert the noise and pollution of my birth place and went to the US. That was almost eight years ago, when US was still the economic powerhouse of the world. I thought with all the degrees I had (MBA, MS, PhD), I could make a good future for myself and my family working across the Atlantic. In hindsight, I am still not sure whether this was the best or worst decision I ever took. Fast forward eight years. Although my job is stable, the flow of wealth (material and non-material) seems to have changed course over these years, and now flows through the Indus valley.
I am in Delhi these days after almost four years, and things could not be starker. The T-3 terminal was a welcome surprise, nice and comfortable with no smell of phenyl (the staple Indian cleaning liquid) and as I have traversed through parts of Delhi and Gurgaon over the past few days, my feelings have swayed from being happy and proud (and regretting my move) to that of being vindicated for making the decision to move abroad. Counting the goods. Roads and infrastructure have improved tremendously in a short span of time. The omnipresent Metro is a delight, and so are the comfortable DTC buses. But then I look at the attitude of several Delhites, who have nothing but total disregard for their city. Just the other day, I saw a group of young boys speeding down Dhula Kuan with music blaring and screaming. I can bet that within the next 5 years, one of them will mow down a few Delhites with his Lamborghini (well gone are the days of BMW was a status symbol in India). And then there is the cost of living. I am pretty sure that I can never afford to buy a bungalow in Delhi in my lifetime now. It was shocking to see property prices in Delhi. Another shock was the cost of eating out. Every restaurant I have been too charges at least 7-8 dollars per dish (I am not counting cost in rupees given the exorbitant cost). And then there are the hookah bars, which seem to have cropped up all over. The youth is loosing its identity in this country. What we forget is that smoking is decreasing in the west, and increasing in Asian countries. Guess there must be a correlation between wealth and behavioral stupidity.
A part of me feels lost in the city I grew up in. So much has changed in such a short time. Some of it is for good, but rest is difficult to comprehend. Where will the inflation take us? What will happen to millions of Indians who are not working in call center or corporate world? Will they ever be able to take their kids to restaurants for a nice meal? And where will all the resources come from to feed the rising Indian appetite? And then there is Anna’s mission. Being a Non Reliable Indian, I strongly support the initiative. Things are in a flux these days in India, and I guess no one is sure where things will go from here. As someone said, “If God is just, I tremble for my country.”