By Chetan Bhagat
March 14, 2020
Thank you for giving us this assignment to write about our grandparents’ generation, India in 2020. Gosh, it feels like so long ago. If we hadn’t been given this assignment, we wouldn’t have known how to value what we have around us now.
We take today’s India for granted. Almost everyone has a car and a house. People have access to good hospitals and colleges. The roads are good, public transport is even better than private cars. Our per capita income, they told us in economics class, is $60,000. This allows most Indians to have a good life. But did you know, in 2020, we were only at $2,000 a person annually?
Somewhere along the way, perhaps in our parents’ generation, India decided to focus on growth. Not in our grandparents’ 2020 generation though. As I researched this assignment, I realised that they used to be quite wild. Like did you know, in 2020 India was facing the slowest growth in several decades? Jobs were difficult to find, businesses from autos to real estate to banks were suffering. And yet, guess what our wild grandparents decided to focus on? Hindu-Muslim issues.
Apparently, at that time Hindus and Muslims in India didn’t like each other. Politicians would use it to divide people and get votes. Of course, all that stuff is strictly illegal now. In fact, today in India we socially look down very much on people who talk divisive stuff. We even have laws that disallow any violence in the name of God or nationalism. Thank God for that.
Because in 2020, it was free for all. Our grandparents didn’t care about lack of income, poor roads and bad healthcare. Today, if a hospital neglects patients and some kids die, imagine the havoc. At that time, it became news for a few days, and then people went back to their lives. When it came to voting time, it wasn’t a factor at all. Imagine how crazy it must have been?
There were two main political parties. One of them, BJP, had a strong majority. They kept winning, so clearly people liked them a lot, especially when they talked about religion and nationalism. But whenever they talked economic reforms, people didn’t appreciate it. They called them suit-boot ki sarkar (what’s wrong with suit-boot? Didn’t they want all of India to have suit-boot like we have now?)
The other party, Congress, lost two elections in a row. However, they didn’t change anything because of it. Apparently, the son of the son of the daughter of India’s first PM was their PM candidate. So no matter what happened or what people wanted, they wouldn’t change.
In 2020, there was also a global scare of a coronavirus. As a result, China suffered the most. India could have taken the opportunity – the world wanted to reduce their manufacturing dependence on China after the virus. However, we didn’t capitalise on it. People cared little about the economy at that time.
Because they talked Hindu-Muslim all day long. Like who was good and who was bad (both had good and bad people, but they never realised that). Or they wanted to prove that historically it is the Muslims, or Hindus, who were the bad guys. These would be prime time debates. People loved all this stuff. The world worked towards the future, advancing in artificial intelligence and robotics. But our grandparents could not get out of their past.
Sometimes, there would be riots on the streets. People died, but since they were poor people and India had a lot of them, they didn’t really matter. In fact, the riots provided another opportunity to discuss Hindu-Muslim issues. Later oil prices collapsed, the virus spread and Indian businesses suffered more.
Anyone who said let’s focus on the economy was termed boring. GDP, unfortunately, didn’t have a religion or a Hindu-Muslim discussion component.
Our grandparents also loved to talk about and compare themselves to Pakistan, even though they agreed India was much better than that country. It’s like maybe we are messed up, but we feel better when someone is more messed up than us.
A few people did try to talk about real issues like healthcare, growth, jobs and education. However, they were very few in number and used an old social media app called Twitter, which doesn’t even exist now. However, they were ignored as noisy people discussed Hindu-Muslim issues on Twitter all day long.
Thank God, somewhere along the way, Indians woke up. They realised all this was entirely stupid and will lead to nothing good. They made laws, and also socially ostracised people who spoke about absurd things that had no relevance to India’s growth and progress. The country decided to grow, grow and only grow. Both Hindus and Muslims decided to educate their kids, teach them coding, business, networking and communication skills. Voters judged leaders purely on performance. For the next couple of decades, they said, let’s do nothing else but grow our country.
Today, India is rich, and glorious. Because India is rich, we are also considered cool. Diwali and Holi are famous worldwide now, because a rich country like India celebrates it, just as American festivals like Thanksgiving and Halloween were famous in 2020. In that way, even Hindu culture is promoted much better now than it was by its so-called guardians in 2020.
I sometimes shudder to think what would have happened to my generation if India had not changed. Indeed, how fortunate are we today in 2070 to not have been born in that India of 2020.
Blurb: People cared little about the economy at that time. Because they talked Hindu Muslim all day long. Like who was good and who was bad (both had good and bad people, but they never realised that). Or they wanted to prove that historically it is the Muslims, or Hindus, who were the bad guys. These would be prime time debates
Original Headline: School assignment, circa 2070: The wild, wild India of 2020 AD: When our grandparents talked only Hindu-Muslim
Source: The Times of India