The Obsession with the Growth Story

As some of you might be aware, I have been hitting the bookstore trail in Chennai over the last couple of days. There are some amazing discount sales out there and I cant help myself!
Soon I started noticing some unusual trends emerging in these shops. Indian writers seem to have finally come to the forefront! For someone who has long awaited for this day, I was really happy with this development! Even though English is a transplanted language in India, Indians have really taken to it as their own. Most people I know prefer talking in English over even their mother tongue. Despite English's rampant popularity and widespread usage, Indian writers seemed to struggle to break into the front shelves of bookstores.
All that changed with the arrival of the IIT, IIM pass-out Chetan Bhagat. Whether or not he is a good author is an altogether different question, but we must credit him for opening a million minds to Indian writing. One can hope that eventually some of them would have progressed to better writers such as Amitabh Ghosh.

But this second boom in Indian writing is coming from two fronts - mythology and the India story. Being a strongly traditional country with over 10000 years of civilization, Indian mythology is a ripe source for ideas and stories. With the younger generations losing their connections with these traditional tales, such 'myth-inspired' fictions are indeed a welcome development.

But the second trend is a little worrisome. More and more Indian authors are now obsessed with the India-growth story - 'The story of how a socialist, statist, stagnant India shed her old skins and emerged into an Information Age powerhouse'. They proceed to theorize about how India will eventually become the Super Power it once was, before a tiny island conquered us all that is.

I am starting to hate the India story. Because the truth is, there is NO INDIA STORY YET! India has not done anything that any other democratic, self-respecting country is not supposed to do. For close to 40 years, we were the on the most retarded path of economic and social governance and finally in 1991, the government started acting with some common sense. And that little bit of common sense has only been yielding us dividends for over 2 decades.
But they are now grounding to a halt. Our industrial outputs are falling and IT and BPO are no longer the trailblazers they used to be. The first mover advantage that we had in these fields, is now all but over thanks to the rapid strides made by countries like Indonesia. Unless we radically open up new segments of our economy to competition, the India story will turn out to be a blinking comet rather than a burning star.

Politically we are stuck with a government that is struggling for its survival, so we cannot expect them to bring in any actual reforms. Any constructive move towards opening up the economy will undoubtedly be booed by parties such as the Left and TMC. An opposition that has smelt blood will also act by putting its senses in cold storage. Sadly, the India story, or non-story is dying in front of our eyes but we are not seeing it.
All we are seeing are the fancy books written by authors who are trying to cash in on mass euphoria.

While we have made relatively impressive strides, we cannot be compared to countries like China or Japan. They enjoyed close to 3 decades of sustained government reforms to get where they are right now. Apart from economy, massive investments were made in the spheres of primary education and public healthcare, areas where India woefully lacks in.

Let us not get side tracked with past glories, we have suffered enough because of such ill-placed nostalgia and self-congratulating. Sadly in India, absence of attention often perceived as absence of existence. Let us not fall into that pit again.


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