In the year 2022 my arrival on this planet earth will be touching five decades of journey. In this voyage lot of water has flown under the bridge. If I try to capture a bird eye view of this expedition then it has been like a river for last five decades which have been passing through mountains, gorges, steppes, traversing through wilds, dropping like a river fall and merging into another river. In other words, an unknown quote summarizes it well “Life is like climate, it can suddenly change, whenever and wherever, but memories are like oxygen, they stay in our breath forever”. At this note I tried to revisit my memories of past and try to capture few of the glimpses on significant aspects of life which have evolved, changed and taken a new dimension especially in terms of socio-economics outlook in due course of time.
Being employed in automotive supply chain, I thought of revisiting dynamic of changes within mobility landscape first. Means of logistics to move man and material has been consistently evolving ever since the history of mankind. During my childhood my dad use to have lambretta scooter for our personal commuting purpose. Thereafter we shifted to Bajaj scooter in mid-eighties. Bajaj scooters was the workhorse of middle-income group in India till it gradually shifted to Maruti 800. Fiat and Ambassador car which dominated the passenger vehicle were predominantly used by the affluent class, except for the purpose of taxi within the metropolitan cities of India during eighties. Dominance of Maruti car was the beginning of decline for Fiat and Ambassador. With arrival of other major players in India things went for paradigm shift in passenger vehicle segment including two-wheeler segments. Aviation sector was beyond the means of middle class in the eighties and before. My uncle who was employed in Middle east sponsored my first air travel when I was in my fifth standard to feed my mind less craving for air travel during my child hood. During my Ahmedabad stay for three years within the period of 2008 to 2011 I must have travelled by air every month to Delhi, courtesy low-cost airlines Indigo and other. During eighties we always made an annual pilgrimage from Jabalpur to Delhi during my school summer vacation along with my mother. We use to travel in ordinary sleeper class. It was in mid-nineties after graduation we shifted to AC (Air-condition Coach). From the year 2000 onwards our travel from one city to another is primarily by air except by Shatabdi to travel from Delhi to Amritsar or Chandigarh. After the movement of golden quadrilateral initiated by former late Prime Minister Vajpayee ji, highways have improved a lot. We were even able to make multiple trips from Noida to Agra on Yamuna Express way which is of world class standard, even Mirage 2000 could be landed for trial purpose on the expressway. We need to have lot more such quality of highways throughout India to make mobility across smooth and effortless. Metro train, Bullet train, drones, electric vehicles well integrated with internet will dominate the mobility landscape in coming time to counter ever growing demand for logistics within and outside India. Commute in metro cities is nothing less than a nightmare and it goes out of gear if hit by monsoon. We hope somewhere down the line this chronic state of India’s mobility landscape will improve to give some sense of relive in the metropolitan cities.
Segment which has improved the most in last five decades has been Telecommunication, IT sector, entertainment through multimedia backed by internet. During my childhood we have to book a trunk call from post office to call from Jabalpur to Delhi, followed by waiting period of six hours and thereafter voice from the other side was barely audible to have any meaningful conversation. My Dad placed his application for a local telephone connection ten years in advance so that at the time of his retirement in the year 2001 we can have phone connection at our Delhi house. I can still count on my fingers favourite shows of eighties telecasted on TV like Hum Log, Buniyaad, Epics of mythological era and weekly news coverage of World this week anchored by Pranoy Roy. And now with DTH, Netflix and internet it has reached to the proportion of countless. Internet and mobile telecommunication penetration have made a significant impact on daily walk of life by making things simpler and far more efficient. Though we still struggle in getting signal to converse properly in metropolitan city, I wonder what must be the condition in small towns in-spite of ever-increasing mobile tower population around us.
In last fifty years lifestyle changes too have witnessed tectonic shifts. We have tendency to gradually shift our mindset from our value system to western mindset, plus shift in role models of this era with respect to one we had four to five decades back, leading dailies and media have played a significant role resulting into change of moral values to suite their business interest. These changes are part of evolution which impacts us all. We have to make it easy sometimes by ignoring some of these changes and sometimes by accepting these changes. I never heard about binge drinking among ladies during our childhood and now it’s increasing significantly among female population with rise of disposable income. Fashion trends are being set by the models and film celebrities appearing on the page three of the Times of Indian and Hindustan times. During my childhood at Jabalpur and Delhi there were few instances of recreational eating I am able to recall, one was having Masala Dosa at Sadar bazar and Chinese food at Ghanta Ghar courtesy my Dad and Mom while he was stationed at Jabalpur, Papdi chaat at Bengal sweet shop Greater Kailash with the spare money given by my grandfather to get milk for the house and if we were lucky enough then once in a year trip to Nirula’s ice cream at Connaught Place, thanks to my aunt for funding it. But now the concept of recreational eating has taken an all together a different dimension, every Tom, Dick and Harry have developed a taste for scotch, caviars and truffle. Adverse impact has been seen on the health, lifestyle induced diseases have risen significantly in current times and extreme precautions needs to be practiced to get rid of the modern day’s quandaries.
Another aspect I would like to touch upon in is Finance, Banking and Stock Market. Needless to say, all three aspects too have witnessed a sea change and barely anyone you will come across which has not been impacted. Black swam events of past few decades have been IT integration of financial services, privatization of banks spared us from queuing up at teller counter for hours , introduction of plastic money made transaction simpler, 1991 economic reforms by then finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh ji enhanced investment from retail investors through Mutual funds and IPO’s, investment through FDI’s or FII’s resulting into excess liquidity driving the jobless growth of BSE sensex and last but not the least demonetization to promote digitization of currency. This shift has served any good is hard to comment, since it is still unfolding but one thing is for sure India’s has shifted its bias from Karl Marx’s school of thought to Adam Smith’s is for sure. The brunt of this shift has taken a toll on bottom of the pyramid since economic reforms benefits since 1991 by design were not designed for inclusive growth. Migrant labourer, farmers and small vendors haven’t reaped any benefit from the economic reforms in terms of upliftment or development of any sort.
While travelling from Jabalpur to New Delhi on a train during my childhood, it was a common site to see people in masses indulging in open defecation while train use to pass from villages or outskirts of major cities. As a nation we should take a pledge to eliminate this peril which is also a serious health hazard. Though our efforts as a nation have not been very effective to eliminate this menace, but we can’t afford to give up on this. Policy of government of India to reduce, mitigate and eliminate open defecation is highly commendable. Apart from policy level, mindset and cultural change too is required to overcome the menace of this nuisance.
We also need to take care of adverse impact mankind has been making on the environment which is resulting into severe climate change. Quest for growth and development has taken a huge toll on the environment in last fifty years. Every day one message I invariable get on my mobile phone is AQI of Delhi is very bad and stay-indoor. Due to poor state of regulations, we have turned our rivers like Ganges and other into highly toxic water bodies. Unfortunately, these all rivers are in this pathetic condition in-spite of we revered them as per Indian tradition. Due to strange eating habits of people of our neighbouring country, has unleashed a catastrophic pandemic worldwide in the form of COVID-19 and till date loss of life due to COVID has already touched more than a million figures around the world. Let us pray that the process of inoculation will be smooth, fast and easily accessible to all.
Political class in India hasn’t changed a bit in last fifty years. When in power they are hand in glove with the corporate, and when in opposition they give lip service to moral, ethical and constitutional values. Media has lost its sense of purpose in last fifty years and has been in connivance with vested interest to suppress real chronic issues to come in forefront for ever to be deliberated and resolved. Media has played a major role in making Hypocritical nation out of India. Apathy shown towards migrant labourer during lockdown, state of distress of Indian farmers and other chronic issues are never adequately covered by Indian media, instead they keep feeding the nation with problems of nonsensical Bollywood. World around us changing faster than ever. We need to be rational enough to understand if these changes are good for us or do, we need to embrace them mindlessly. We need to question ourselves, whether this quest for growth and development has put us into a path of no return. There are no easy answers, but we must not lose our sense of equanimity in this drive to change.
Written by – Yogi Bhogi SardarRajat Sodhi