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Of Slumdogs and Millionaires

March 5, 2011
Photo courtesy: Rebbeca Selah

India:a land of contrasts

Photo courtesy: Rebbeca Selah

Writer: Varun Gupta

The clamour and vitality on the screen screeched to a lull and the dim lights that provided the moment its company, started to brighten up again. It was the 22nd of December, 2008 and I was one amongst five brown people in a little movie hall on the outskirts of Los Angeles. We had just watched Slumdog Millionaire on the big screen and were awaiting the flurry of questions that would come our way at the end of the show. And as expected, a lot of Americans who had never been to India started to test their hypothesis of the dire situation in the country.

This got me thinking, its quite strange how you find such diversity in the Indian diaspora even while abroad. Of course, we have reached a point in time when the growing middle class has broken away its shackles and proudly sends its sons and daughters to new countries and new horizons in pursuit of their dreams, thanks to the financial freedom that education loans bring us today.


However, meeting Indians abroad really opens our eyes to class struggles and poverty that we thought we have left far behind back home. Anyone walking the streets of Paris will not be astonished to see hordes of people (either Indian or of Indian origin) selling roses and Eiffel tower miniatures, while at the same time walking shoulder to shoulder with their luckier brothers sharply dressed in Armani suits and chatting away on their blackberrys’. It’s almost as if the classes followed them decades ago all the way from home. Some of them made use of the good opportunity that came their way and the others decided to stick to the trade but live in a different country. Even at University, its is common to come across the Indian lad who owns a Bentley back in Delhi and spends more money than his European counterparts on his monthly phone bill while another Indian is losing weight cutting back on his grocery bills thanks to the stifling exchange rate.

Inequal distribution of wealth has been the norm in India for centuries now, and it will take a miracle wave of economics and strong willed politics to rectify the problem. The uncanny picture painted abroad by the community is a mirror of its origins in different light and in all wicked humour, at least there is equality in this regard. Like Lady D used to say, ‘They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?’
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