Time has come for a bit of stock-taking. I have been writing this web log for a while now and it is time to examine what motivates it and what justifies its existence. Until the motives are clearly understood, it is likely to be misunderstood, as some have done after a superficial reading of some items in this blog.
First, a tip of the hat to Rajesh Jain for insisting that I write a blog specifically dealing with Indian economic development and growth. I already had a personal blog Life is a Random Draw at UC Berkeley; but this one was to be more focused on issues economic and developmental. I have neglected my personal blog almost entirely since I moved from California to Mumbai in September of 2003 and started this blog. One of these days, once I get my act together, I will resume my personal blog.
While this blog has been moderately successful (it won the Best Indibloggies Award in 2005) and has a modest readership, I don’t believe that I have been successful in my objective. I will try to express my objective here. My basic objective is to provoke thought about India’s development and economic growth. That objective is motivated by my desire for India to progress materially and spiritually beyond where it is today. That immediately implies that I somehow do not approve of what India is. I see India as an extremely overpopulated desperately poor massively corrupt largely illiterate insanely over-regulated country of over a billion people. I use no commas in there to stress my belief that all those characteristics are not disjoint and are mutually dependent: overpopulation, poverty, corruption, illiteracy, insane regulations are inter-related and mutually reinforcing.
I cringe with distaste in having to describe the land of my ancestors in such unflattering terms. I wish it were otherwise. But how will it be otherwise? That is precisely what I am trying to understand: What should India be? The answer to that question is not immediately obvious as some may insist. We have to ponder that and have a reasonable answer to where our destination is before we start on our journey. And to properly plot our course, we have to have a reasonable idea of where we are to begin with.
Therefore the questions we need to grapple with are: Where are we? Why are we here? How did we get here? Next, where should we be going? Is there a reasonable chance that we can get there? If so, how should we get there? Only then should we begin the journey.
Why all this pondering and thinking, you may ask. Why not just do something? Because I take the Buddha’s admonition very seriously: First Do No Harm; Then Try To Do Good. Or, from a Zen perspective: Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There.
We need to understand something before we intervene. Otherwise we may make a bad situation worse. Or even make a perfectly good situation bad, as illustrated by one of my favorite sayings “Let me save you from drowning, said the monkey to the fish, and put it up on a tree.”
Akira Kurosawa recounted in one documentary on his life that when he was a small boy, his slightly older brother took him to see the death and destruction that occurred in wartime Tokyo. Akira could not bear to see the dead and wanted to turn away. His brother told him, “Akira, you must see this so that you can work towards preventing this sort of thing from happening.” (I am paraphrasing.) Akira later realized that his brother was probably more scared than he was and it was an act of courage on his brother’s part.
So my first objective is to look frankly and as dispassionately as I can at what India is today and then describe it as best as I can. Look, here is India with all its ills. We have to face that reality and acknowledge it without shying away. Only then we may be moved to say that we don’t like it and gather sufficient resolve “to break this sorry scheme and remold it closer to our hearts’ desire.”
To see what is wrong with India and write about it is not pretty. Me write pretty some day but I cannot yet. For me are denied the pleasures of writing how India is unbound for an adoring readership. Even if I wanted, I probably could not write in glowing terms how India is an IT superpower. I am not gifted with a golden pen that I will be able to describe how India is shining. And for that, I am run the risk of being labeled an “India-hater.”
In the next bit, I will justify my obsession with fully knowing and acknowledging what is wrong with India. Understanding the problem is the first step; the next is to figure out the genesis of the problem; the next is to eradicate the root cause of the problem. In the next bits I will give a brief outline of what I think the methodological error that are made in problem solving, which is that people try to mask symptoms instead of addressing the underlying causes.
Until then, goodnight, goodbye, and may your god go with you.
Post Script: Part 2 of “Me Write Pretty Some Day”