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 ;)


Ramesh said...

Yes Yes Yes. Its precisely because of those huge numbers of the young that job creation has to be above all else in terms of priorities. China did this remarkably well - so please doff your hat in tribute to one of the 20th century's greatest achievements. India must do the same and not listen to the loony left who are moaning about income distribution. Create jobs first. Create jobs next and you can say that again.

You are hereby invited to stand in front of Churchgate station and simply watch for a few hours as a cure for Enochlophobia.

I am tickled that the New Yorker can appreciate the Queen's English. There is hope in the world after all :)

Sriram Khé said...

I had to look up the meaning for "Enochlophobia" ... don't use big words and confuse the heck of this simple fella ;)

In India, the left needs to think about income distribution along with job creation. But, they seem to think that eliminating income inequality will somehow miraculously create jobs. Unemployed youth anywhere--especially the young men--are the metaphorical ticking bombs ... put them to work or else :(

Rob and Sara said...

Hmmm.... You can't stand crowds, you eat meat, you don't care for spicy foods. Are you absolutely SURE you're Indian? :)

Every time we return to India, I'm amazed anew at how many more people -- and how much more traffic! -- there is, everywhere we go. The population is ballooning, yes. And I'm appalled at how many unattached young men are jobless & almost hopeless. A ticking time bomb, for sure. How sad.

I'm not enochlophobic nor am I entomophobic nor murophobic nor bacteriophobic nor ephebiphobic nor Indophoboc nor arachnophobic nor catagelophobic nor gelotophobic nor mageirocophobic nor ophthalmophobic. Any of these could make it extra hard for me to adjust to India.

But with the increased traffic, I admit, I've become agyiophobic.

Isn't it amazing what new words you can learn by having to look up "Enochlophobia"! Gee, thanks, Ramesh.


Sriram Khé said...

Long time no see, Sara ...

As for eating meat ... ahem, it is a rare, rare once in a while. So rare that it can be discounted. One of my many jokes with students is that I am an Oregonian who was accidentally born in India ;)

I don't consider the situation "sad" though. i am always impressed that people in India--the poor and the middle class alike--see to be happy and content more than people here in the US.

Mike Hoth said...

Ah, the fear of crowds. I tried to cure my wife of her fear of large cities by setting our honeymoon for Chicago, and promising her I had no intention of taking her to LA or New York (it doesn't hurt that I hated both when I went!) but I assume the progress I saw was temporary. Such is the case, I assume, with crowds. Those who have always been surrounded by crowds grow more used to them, while country bumpkins gaze in horror. My desire to visit Japan or China always dies when I see how full the trains are, for instance, but I feel at home in Chicago.
As for population booms, my understanding is that part of the issue is a chauvinistic familial pride. Parents want a son to continue the family, and more sons has always meant better odds. Ah, that's another thing you've won, Sriram! The ovarian lottery!

Anne in Salem said...

That was a very interesting interview; I wish I could have heard it in its entirety.

12 - 18 million jobs a year? Yikes.

Sriram Khé said...

The ovarian lottery was "fate"--I didn't do anything ;)

Rob and Sara said...

What I think is sad is all those "extra" boys with no jobs & no future.

Couple that with the rise in materialism we've observed in the younger generation over the past 19 years, and, um, bad things can happen.

On our first visit, we were awed by the people who were content with their lot because they recognized they already had the true necessities in life. It was inspiring to me, to say the least.

Now, more & more young people seem to be coveting all the newest & best gadgets & widgets. We're seeing less and less contentment & more and more aspiration -- at least among that generation. Will they mature into contentment? Or will the time bomb blow up?

I agree totally, however, that there's less grasping and more acceptance & contentment over there than here!


Sriram Khé said...

Hi Sara, I accidentally clicked the "delete" button and Blogger didn't even ask for a confirmation :(
In that comment, you had referred to a NY Times piece ... that is one of the sources that I had linked to in my post ...

As for this comment ... my first thought was you have made seven or eight trips, right, in the 19 years? And each time spending two to four months there? You and Rob are some serious Indophiles ;)
Yes, the kids and the youth are increasingly the same in any part of the world--they can't wait to get their hands on the latest electronic gadget and then they forget all about the humans all around them :(

Rob and Sara said...

Obviously, I haven't been good about following your links. :D