By Tarun Pall

So another Independence Day rolls around. The 66th one. In fact, 66 years of Indians running India.

If you have been turned off by this topic yet, you are probably bracing yourself for a ‘death by bullet-points’ list of what we have achieved in 66 years and what we haven’t, followed by a pithy closing sentence which includes the words Mera Bharat Mahan or Jai Hind. Some of you may even have invented a drinking game, taking a shot every time you see a tricolor on screen, or hear the National Anthem. That is, of course, if you managed to obtain your liquor before Independence Day, which happens to be a Dry Day.

Have you ever wondered why? Why should we not be allowed to celebrate our freedom with a drink? For that matter, if we live in Delhi, why do we have to be put under siege, with closed city borders and police checkpoints galore, every time we want to celebrate our freedom? {Yes, yes, Terrorists and all that – but why are so many people so keen on killing us?} That noted citizen of Bihar, Mr. Orwell, must be laughing in his grave.

Dear reader– I don’t ask these questions rhetorically. I ask them very seriously. Why do we take these things as given? If we listen to our parents, our teachers, our government and our media – this indifference, this ‘apathy’, is our own fault. We are too busy chilling at Select CityWalk, waiting in line to try a Starbucks. Maybe that’s true. Maybe we are just too shallow. Or maybe not.

I’d like to suggest an alternative viewpoint: This is by design. Pick up any newspaper, or tune in to any TV news channel – and you’re likely to see things that are so beyond the level of sanity that you’re used to, that your mind has become desensitized to them. You would rather download an episode of Game of Thrones and get traumatised by the Red Wedding instead. I say it again – this is by design. The people in charge – they don’t want you to participate in the circus that is our democracy. They do not want to hear what you think. They especially don’t want you articulating your needs and your desires. When I say you, I mean people with a decent income, the ability to access the Internet easily and read a blog written in English, and who can afford a beer at Hauz Khas Village. We don’t realize it – but we are actively and passively being told not to participate in the democratic process that governs our country.

Let’s talk about the ‘How’ before we talk about the ‘Why’.  I am going stick my neck out here and speak for ‘Us’. This ‘Us’ can be as wide or as small a group as you’d like it to be. What is it that we want in life?

I will propose that we want the following |

  • The ability to feed & clothe ourselves
  • The ability to better our lifestyle through education & material comforts
  • The ability to pursue our dreams & attain ‘happiness’


These desires, it turns out, are defined by the Government of our country, as Luxuries |

  • Getting a decent education
  • Having 24/7 electricity
  • Being able to walk down an empty street at 3 am and not get murdered, or worse, raped
  • Watching a movie in a dark room on a big screen with Sharma, who is busy critically evaluating the movie for Verma, who is on the other end of a cellphone.
  • Being able to sit in a bar till 4 am, or dance till 5 am


We are told, like bratty little schoolboys and girls, to be ashamed of demanding these things when people in our country don’t have a roof over their heads or enough money to buy a cup of rice. And it works. We look around us, and we feel guilty. We have been guilt-tripped into not participating. We have been told to wait, until the rest of the country ‘catches up’ with us – in fact, more and more – we have been told that we are evil – and that we need to catch up with the rest of the country! It will then apparently be ok to whine about the fact that some fool built a flat surface amongst all those potholes, and that my power cut was rudely interrupted by the fridge being turned on.

So we turn off, and tune out, because our world – the world we were taught about in school, and sometimes see on TV – we are told, is not the Real India. And we don’t belong in the Real India. We only contribute all our resources to it. But we’re not a part of it.

There may be a slum next to the mall, but we didn’t put it there. Coca-Cola/Monsanto/<insert-‘evil’-multinational-name-here> is responsible. We can’t fix it because we don’t know how it got there in the first place. And if we do try to fix it, we find that we are blocked, because we are surrounded on all sides by gangsters of varying hues. Most of them wear Nehru coats and khaki uniforms. It is not apathy that prevents us from acting. It is self-preservation.

So the question is – Why? What do the people in charge gain by keeping us out? The answer is simple. Power & Control. We, the middle & upper middle class, are now actually more numerous than we were 66 years ago. And we expect our government to actually do work. But more importantly, in order for our desires to be met, people who are weaker than us, less intelligent than us, and arguably less moral than us, would have to lose the control that they have over the country.

  • If we built 20 new schools in this city – who would you go to to beg for a seat in school?
  • If 24/7 power was available to all, businesses would have no government official to bribe to keep their machines running
  • If there were no lines outside the driving license office, where would the touts make all their money?
  • If we let Wal-Mart sell cheap fruit and vegetables in the country, and paid the revenue back to the farmers directly {as they do in all the countries that they operate in}, a whole government infrastructure, dependent on everyone getting their ‘cut’ would come crumbling down, and people would need to actually work for their money, instead of getting it simply because they are subordinates to the under-under-secretary of the collector of the district.


And the thing is, we ceded this control to them. We were told to make a sacrifice, and put the needs of the destitute before ours, because we were better off than them – not realizing that as the middle class, we are engine of this country. If I want to start a business – do I hire Mukesh Ambani to do my accounting for me? If I open a mall, is Vijay Mallya the guard who frisks people at the gate? When the Middle Class thrives, incomes rise, and people – across the board – get wealthier, happier and healthier. But we have been fed, for 66 years, on a diet of sacrifice, and told that we are too greedy, too selfish to dare desire anything. And in the process, here we are 66 years later, guilt-ridden, but no closer to solving problems that others have already solved. Countries with less wealth, countries with populations as large as ours, have surpassed us in development, health… in happiness.

Within a few decades, China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates have all undergone startling transformations. Transformations that countries in the West went through a century or so earlier. Going from agricultural, rural, sleepy, dusty territories, to dynamic wealthy countries, where people now hold their heads up high, and can speak about their countries with pride. These are places that vary by geographical and demographic size, but have all managed to find ways to solve the problem of poverty. There are differences, but there are also many similarities. The governments in these countries didn’t try to alleviate poverty. They encouraged the creation of wealth. The well-off and extremely well-off in every country try to preserve whatever they have in whatever way they can. They are not necessarily concerned with wealth creation, mostly just wealth preservation. How to multiply their personal fortune and how to prevent anybody else from getting their hands on it. The poor are unable to generate much wealth by themselves, because they are short of both opportunities and resources. This is where the much spat-upon Bourgeois, or middle-class comes in. This is the group of people that have the hunger, like the poor, to try and better their lives, but also have access to greater resources and opportunities. But they cannot rise by themselves – they need the funding of the rich, and the labour of the poor – and in combining the two – they make everyone better off than before.

But in our country, the middle class – the engine of this country – remain mute spectators, and have been driven, by our government and its puppet media, to insulate ourselves from the outside world and create little cocoons for ourselves, where the electricity works, and we can surf the Internet in peace. Outside, the Powers-that-be try to maintain their control, by keeping the destitute dependent on them, and the well-off fearful of reprisals.

So let me ask you all to not fall for it. Don’t let yourself be tricked into believing what they tell you. Those statements are made with one intent – to subdue the people who could actually make a difference and drive change |

  • Create the impression that women are not safe and you take away women’s independence {and who wants independent, free-thinking women eh?}
  • Blame everyone for being corrupt, and no politician will ever go to jail for taking a bribe again
  • Tell everyone that all politicians are the same – and we all lose the ability to discern between one politician or the other – to the benefit of the ruling party
  • Tell us that our population is too large to change, and we give up trying to change even one individual
  • And then, as a pièce de resistance cherry-on-top – we are told that we are apathetic and afraid to ‘get our hands dirty’, because all politics, is of course, dirty – and they then proceed to make all politics dirty – so that we genuinely do stay away from it!


It doesn’t have to be this way.

There are places in this world, where women don’t get raped after getting on a bus, and where government officials are genuinely there to serve you, and train stations don’t smell of urine. These are not the ramblings of a dreamer, but a reality. And it can be ours.

So, readers, I would like to suggest an alternative answer to the ‘Who cares that there’s an election this year?’ argument.

Please go and vote.

And as much as I would love for you to vote for my personal preference, I will hold off and try to keep this article balanced. The political parties, the media, the police, the gangsters – all of them know that there is no intersection between Select CityWalk mall-goers and voters. Let’s surprise them, and put the fear of God {or in this case, fear of the Middle Class} into them. Shock the powers that be, by voting. Shake the system up. It can only make our lives better, and give true meaning to the words Independence Day. Jai Hind.

P.S. – Just to stir the pot, and generate some heat as well as light, I will be sure not to vote for Congress in the next election. Who I will vote for, however, is yet to be confirmed.

About the Author | Tarun Pall usually spends his time courting his lovely wife, loudly espousing his political ideologies as facebook statuses, and earning his living as a management consultant.

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