India is awakening from a long dream filled sleep. There are fears and concerns, yet there is also new optimism. People are on the move, geographically, economically, and socially. This cuts many ways. The rigidity of caste are undermined, yet so are the extended family structures that have supported the young and old for centuries. Class now, say many, is more important than caste, and class, in India, is flexible.
The educational system increasingly rewards accomplishment over social status. This opens new doors for the underclasses, yet puts unimaginable pressure on the young. I was told that the teen/young adult suicide rate in India now exceeds that of Japan. Yet, Indians are bringing their new-found optimism and sense of competency to the issue. Yours Truly Theatre Company, mental health clinicians, and social and educational organizations, work diligently to bring awareness of the problem, hope to the isolated and forlorn, and solace to those left behind by suicide.
There is a growing vibrancy and excitement in the cities, and people are moving in huge numbers to them from the rural regions. Bangalore, the Silicone Valley of India, will likely double in population in the next three to four years. Other cities, across the country are also growing rapidly, for cities are rich in educational opportunities, jobs, and social networks.
Indian governments, at all levels, while sometimes repressive, are also increasingly committed to social justice, health care, and economic opportunity for all. Infrastructure projects abound. I imagine life in Bangalore, and other cities, now is very much as it was in New York or San Fransisco in the Fifties, driven by a sense of renewal and profound expectation for the future.
One other similarity comes to mind. While we were in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, India is in a similar conflict with both Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, China. The very real threat of both terrorism and nuclear warfare provides a dark background to India’s emerging power and prosperity.
Global climate change is also a real and growing threat to India’s stability and security. Rising sea levels, increasingly unstable and unpredictable Monsoon patterns, and the spread of diseases such as Dengue Fever, are all perceived as related to climate change. Indians take climate change seriously, and 85% of Indians understand the science of the problem. They are increasingly frustrated with our failure to address climate change, and cannot comprehend our collective rejection of the science.
In spite of, and because of, all this, India is coming of age. Wondering through India one is reminded of the power of optimism and mutual concern. Civic engagement is high, and there is a deeply seeded understanding that the future prosperity of the country will depend on shared resources and a more equal sharing of economic gains.