Dramatic contrasts in India, raises more questions at HBR

Marshall Goldsmith at HBR wonders about the contrasts in India. To quote-

“In the cities, I saw a longing for extreme opulence — countless ads with rich people living lavish lives — next to the reality of extreme poverty — countless shanties with poor people living harsh lives.”

To be honest, as an Indian, I have become almost numb to the contrasts. What appears as shocking dichotomy is to me a fact of life, these are the environments I grew up in.

Marshall asks a bunch of questions and I take a crack at them below.

What is being gained in the “new” India? What is being lost?
The new India gains self-awareness – Of her strengths, of the fact that she has a voice of her own, that she can dream and deliver on it, that its okay to bully once in a while, that she has to work out her place in the world and her purpose.

The new India has lost, or is in the process of fast losing, her ability to introspect. Her wisdom is a myth, her spirituality consumed by the canker of materialism. Faith is held up by tradition and an intuitive perception as the thing worthy of possession, attempting to withstand the assault of rushing reality and retreating farther into the recesses and having little to no influence on how this life is lived.

How can today’s Indian professionals achieve the material success of the West without losing the wisdom of the East?
Well, how can you lose what you don’t possess?! To be honest, the vast majority of Indians don’t know their own mythology, their scriptures and their past. What is taken for knowledge is only superficial opinions gathered from the mass medium.

I see this as a phase where all that is dead and not reasoned is washed away in the waters of progress and this is not necessarily a bad thing. And ages of poverty has created a perverted need for riches. India wants to splurge now. Given an option between iPhone and Buddha’s Nirvana, it is very clear what the majority would ask for.

So how does India not lose her wisdom. First she re-acquaints herself with the past, its scriptures and law of life. Not by donning the robe of a monk or chanting mantras at a temple doorstep. But by staying in the battlefield of material life. By innovating, by creating and sharing wealth, by not mimicking the voices of the west, by finding the heart of her own self and purpose.

What is your experience of professionals from the West? What can you learn from them?
The ability to focus. To dedicate ones life to any pursuit that captures their fancy. To value labour above and beyond any notional values attached due to legacy or other superficial reasons. To practise dedication to the lord of wealth with such intensity that the East often gapes in wonder!

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