This is my last full day in the Punjab. We travel back to Delhi in the morning and fly out out the following day. As I write I am sitting on the balcony of my fathers house overlooking acres and acres of land. The sun is beaming down and again, and as per every day we have been here there is not a cloud in the sky. The only sounds I can hear are that of a harvester harvesting a field to the right of me and the incessant chatter of the birds.
Below me a heard of cows have just gone past. In the opposite direction and elderly woman walks past, carrying a basket full of cow pats on her head. The methane gas makes them perfect for fuel.
I have been here for most of the day and despite the absence of the internet and English language television channels I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and wouldn’t have it any other way.
The pace of life in the west is becoming more and more hectic as we work longer hours for less and less reward. Sometimes all one wants to do is stop the word and get off. That is exactly what I have done here. And it’s great.
I have always wondered what made my parents leave this idyllic land and start a new life half way around the world, to endure rain, cold and of course prejudice. The answer is simple, Poverty.
B both my parents’ family were poor, although my mother’s side was a lot poorer than my father’s side. Moving to England was their way to escape the poverty and in turn send money over to alleviate the poverty for family members in India.
In my father’s case, England really was the land of opportunity as his hard work and dedication paid off. His fortune grew and throughout the years he sent literally Hundreds of thousands of pounds to India. He built a new house. Bought land and was the cash cow of the community.
Unfortunately. my Mother’s side of the family didn’t see much of the money, hence the reasons why they are still very poor. All over the Punjab you see enormous homes, paid for by money from NRI’s (Non Resident Indians). The money pumped in from England has certainly helped boost the economic prosperity of the region. But as in most states the level of poverty is still alarmingly high.
Has my opinion of India changed during the two weeks of my travels? The simple answer is yes. I was immensely proud when it launched the first space rocket a few weeks ago. The first stage of a programme that will ultimately take India to the moon. It is costing Billions of Rupees.
Having seen the poverty first hand, India’s space ambitions should certainly be given a lower priority. It’s pointless sending a rocket to the moon when 500 million people are starving at home. The same applies to the 2012 commonwealth games to be held in Delhi. The Billions of Rupees spent should also be diverted in helping alleviate he slums and provide better housing. Instead a fortune will be spent on Bamboo walls to hide the Slums from view.
India are clearly in Denial with regards to its poverty problem. They have an image which they want to portray to the rest of the world. The image of an Economic super power in waiting. The slums do not fit in to that view. Indeed from what I saw, I cannot see India as a super power. In the last hundred years all super powers have built their might upon a strong industrial base. At its heart, India is still very agricultural.
It is a country of extremes. The haves and the have nots. If you have money then India is a great place to live. If you don’t, then survival is the order of the day. And yet, it is they who smile the most. Would I go back to India? I certainly would. Would I like to live there? Maybe. Despite the differences compared to England, I found the Villages surprisingly familiar and felt at home straight away. Something I thought I would never do.
I came as an Englishman in a strange land. I leave it saying goodbye to a familiar place.