Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Far from the madding crowd

Even as a kid, I hated crowds.  I was to some extent even terrified of large numbers of people.  I wanted space.  My parents knew this well and sometimes would even give me the out by saying, "Sriram doesn't like crowds."  And that was when I was a kid growing up in India!

Now, after living nearly three decades in the US, and half of that in Oregon, I am even more uneasy when I am in a crowd.  Visiting India is stressful for that reason too.

Of course, the crowds in India--even in the regular daily life, leave alone those Kumbh Melas--are a reflection of the phenomenal population growth in the old country.  In my own lifetime, India has added--I hope you are sitting down for this--about 750 million people.  Imagine that!  I mean, since the time I was born.  Phew; mind blowing!

Intellectually, this is not news to me.  But, there are some facts that mean more than the mere intellectual ideas they quantify.  Here is another way to think about it: When Indira Gandhi and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, introduced their atrocious family planning schemes in the mid-1970s, India's population was only half of what it is today.  How about that!

As I often tell students, such increases in population have come about despite the fact women have fewer children than ever before.  All because we don't easily die!  Somini Sengupta also touched on this during an interview on NPR:
My parents, who were born during the independence era - they're called midnight's children. In their time, life expectancy was 32, and today, it's 66. In their time, infant mortality rates were sky high, and now it's diminished remarkably.
Mortality rates are down. People are living longer. Is it any surprise then that 750 million more have been added since I was born?

There is one huge problem:
Today, India is youngest country in the world with 365 million people between the ages of 10 and 24. A million turn 18 every month.
When the young don't have things to keep them busy, then any society will be in deep trouble.
This is just part of India’s staggering challenge. Every year, the country must create an estimated 12 million to 17 million jobs.
Yep, it is only a part of India's many challenges.

The youth issue is not merely India's problem though.
Worldwide, young workers are in precarious straits. Two out of five are either not working or working in such ill-paid jobs that they can’t escape poverty, according to figures recently released by the International Labour Organization. In the developing world, where few can afford to be unemployed, most young workers have jobs that are sporadic, poorly paid and offer no legal protection; women are worse off.
It could get worse if young men with testosterone peaking in their systems cannot find women.
Little surprise then that the recent caste protests in India took place in Haryana, the state with the sharpest gender imbalance in the nation, with 879 women for every 1,000 men in the population.
I tell ya, I feel so relieved that I am far from the crowds and am safe in the shelter of my ashram.  Om! ;)

Yep, from the New Yorker ;)

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