India is a very weird place to come to at the best of times. The people here are weird, and their actions, however well intentioned, inevitably turn out to be, for lack of a better word, weird. But to come here during Holi, would be akin to committing suicide. And its a good thing that the Japanese people know how to do that... Yes, they have perfected the art of suicide and can commit it in no less than 23 ways. How do I know? because I met one such guy, who had travelled to India during Holi, from Bangladesh, which was a marked improvement at least.
Anyway, this person, unlike most tourists, was smart. He was a trained Civil engineer, who had worked at a Government job, had left it, and was now out to see the world. As such, he had developed his own views on the world, and the economic laws that shaped it. He also knew a thing or two about Indian poverty, as does everyone unfortunate enough to have ever boarded a train at Varanasi Junction. And he had been in India for three weeks, which is a sufficient time to form your views on a country and its people.
A friend of mine was kind enough to point out on facebook that there is currently a nuclear disaster in progress in Japan, and while his Machiavellian intellect had sufficient perspicacity to point out this seemingly crucial bit of information, I did have the courage, if not the courtesy to ask my Japanese friend about the tragedy. He informed me that his family was safe, and in the interior of the country, ergo not prone to immediate danger. This being the case, he was travelling alone in and around the world. The reason he was on my train was of course, he was a practising Buddhist. Which meant that a place called Bodh Gaya was of particular significance to him. Also, his girlfriend was South African, go figure... which meant he knew english reasonably well.
After the usual banter about engineering, and jobs, and how, in general engineers are better than the rest of the people in the world, and of course, about how difficult it is to get a girl in an engineering college, there being so few of them, we decided to get dwon to brass tacks. And this meant that I was questioned about equality in India, or rather, the lack of it.
Because, according to this Japanese guy,people in Japan were equal. There wasnt the level of poverty that we take for granted here. The poor were largely urban, and even then, they were better cared for than our rural poor, in terms of government welfare. He said that Japan wasn't growing as fast as India, in fact it wasn't growing at all, but shrinking. China had pipped it to the number two spot, and this caused a lot of grief to the Japanese people. Of course, this was followed by the force de majeur events of the past week, and might well lead to a significant collapse of the Japanese economy.
But the fact of the matter remained, the people there were equal. Here they were not. And so he asked me, how long is it going to be before India is a true economic power? I said, well, at least the government here is not as autocratic as that of China, and while it is helping the people, it may be a while, but it would certainly happen in my generation. He nodded assent, but seemed unconvinced. I didn't blame him, there wasn't much conviction in India's economic might. It seemed as fragile as a house of cards. And I wondered what would happen if 2 nuclear reactors melted down in India...
You see,there's more to those Japanese than just that joota...