The New India? Whose India?

As I wrote in my earlier post, “the story of India is full of paradoxes” —We often talk of there being two Indias, usually referring to the income or social disparities. Shashi Tharoor takes this even further in his “Elephant Tiger and the cellphone” book to being 5 Indias, again using socio-economic status to determine these “Indias” However a post on WSJ’s India Realtime recently invented something entirely different: the “New India.”

What is this new India you may ask? Have a look at the blog yourself:

(a) A place where the pursuit of individual happiness is now possible

(b) A place that wants to be a part of history

(c) A place where the most common job category for women is “maid”

(d) A place that is not that different from the old India

Apparently it’s all of the above. It’s inaccurate, unconvincing and above all fails to mention where this data has been collected from, except for a book called “Miss New India.” Which is about a girl who moves to Bangalore to work in:

a)   No need for multiple choices on this one. Yes, it’s a call center. Surprise.

The so-called lesson is that India now a place where it was now possible for people to pursue individual happiness rather than putting their families or communities first.

One issue with such blanket statements is that India is hard to define let alone generalize— as Indians we’re more caught up in the question of “which India or whose India,” rather than trying to find a general set of values – because frankly speaking that’s unrealistic.

Secondly, individual happiness and family values are not mutually exclusive. Nuclear families may be more popular in many parts of the country, more desirable than joint families which we all know can get messy whether it is over property or family businesses. At the same time families who are doing well financially are no longer living in the same house, but buying apartments in the same building to maintain family ties, but perhaps not live in too close a proximity. For the big shots it’s just private buildings.

We know the rich are getting richer. But this isn’t distancing us from family values. Families still symbolize an important if not the most important support network for an individual. As a final year Indian college student in the United States,  I know that if I return home I can live with my parents and this will not be considered anything but normal. If I choose to live on my own this would not be a problem either.

Society is changing. A decade ago it might not have been acceptable for an unmarried girl to live on her own. But to say that because it is okay today, does not mean that we’re putting our own happiness over our family’s.

So if writers in Brooklyn question whether India can replicate an advanced society and whether it is possible for India to become like America, it may be worth redefining what “advanced” really means. Can we not live in a society where family values factor into one’s individual happiness? Because it seems like we’re managing pretty well where we are right now. At least in the India that I live in.