ROMANCING THE “GRASSROOTS”: THE TALES OF AN INTELLECTUAL

New entrepreneurial energies were unleashed which catapulted India into the upper echelons of the global economy.

Recently I had a conversation with an old school friend of mine and marveled at this idea of ​​how the notion of “basic” was glamorized by a previous generation of intellectuals and educated classes. We both agreed that this idealization of the “grassroots” of the egalitarian, dreamy-eyed intelligentsia of pre-1990s India basically offered piety and condescension to lesser sections. privileged members of our society. I remember the joke about the French Revolution that “the rich got poor and the poor never got rich,” which succinctly captures this obsession with the poor and underprivileged without any concrete offer of solutions.
This outspoken outpouring of mine must be seen in light of the 30th anniversary of liberalization and economic reform, and in which we belong to a generation which grew up under the yoke of the old socialist license Raj and where Marxist doctrines have taken hold. dominated. In my case, I spent my childhood years in West Bengal, which happened to the citadel of this kind of egalitarian left-wing utopian thinking. Despite having known different cities in India, I can safely say that the intellectual flavor in most of mainland India was this brand of egalitarian, anti-establishment and militant thought. More importantly, wealth creation and entrepreneurship were frowned upon and viewed with contempt. Fortunately, over the past three decades this has changed and new entrepreneurial energies have unleashed, catapulting India into the upper echelons of the global economy. Initially, it would be safe to state that these were not necessarily intellectuals or professional activists or academics holding a card, but largely educated middle-class professionals, a rather motley group of people. professionals who frequented the base. In Bengal there was the traumatic legacy of the radical student movements of the 1970s and many were the relics of this period now firmly anchored in the “bourgeois” order but huffing and puffing in the face of the inequalities of life and the world order. . If one wanted to give the impression of being educated and scholarly, one had to view this novel from the “grassroots” even though there was no idea or knowledge of this world and of being anti-establishment.
We both remembered how in our youth we would attend seminars or public lectures or even family weddings where the affluent, well-paid, articulate, urban intellectuals and the educated middle classes were ranting about the issues ” burning ”of the day, posing as the voice of the popular section of society and explaining how they knew so much about the real genuine India of the masses. As “city children” we have often been ridiculed and berated for our ignorance and lack of contact with the reality of the Indian masses. Notice that our lives were hardly privileged by any stretch of the imagination, punctuated by long hours of power cuts, arduous hours spent in examination rooms with the sweat running from our eyebrows, typing letters in small kiosks for job applications and finally the long and anxious hours guaranteeing the possibility of traveling or studying “abroad”.
I want to stress this very important point having grown up not too far from the grassroots world that most individuals do not wish to be there in this world and that there is nothing trendy or glamorous about belonging to it. Most of them had no choice of being “grassroots” or “privileged” and were primarily an accident of birth and sometimes a misfortune. Therefore, educated and reflective minds should strive to dispense with this “chasm” or “divide” between top and bottom in terms of access to education and life opportunities. We have shining examples of Western social states like Nordic states, Canada, where those born into relatively disadvantaged sections take advantage of opportunities to improve their lives and futures. If we followed our social programs and our responsibilities to the masses, we would have created an “equal opportunity society” where there was no real base in the sense of a disadvantaged section leading parallel lives. to the rich and the privileged.
A prime example of the grassroots empowerment that occurred was access to widespread English education which transformed communities and, in turn, Indian society. In many cases, the grassroots-loving intelligentsia have failed to understand that a good quality English education is a passport to well-paying global tech jobs. As I scroll through the list of successful entrepreneurs in India today, it is heartwarming to find a growing number of success stories emerging from sections that have not been blessed with legacy and fortune. This was made possible by opening up employment opportunities in global companies through good quality education. As we well know, this wide access to education in English has been denied as a political ideology in Bengal, thus preventing generations of young people from taking advantage of global opportunities in information technology and others. sectors where a good working knowledge of English is a minimum.
The most serious impact of this intellectual brigade of egalitarian and popular poseurs has been on the world of culture, the arts and education and this requires a separate article.

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