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Ironic Contrast

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There is nothing more emblematic of the present time than to see visuals from the USA of long lines of cars in which persons have come to collect food aid. This indicates the irony of being the world’s most powerful economy and, yet, having its people reduced to such conditions in just a couple of months. The country has the most number of billionaires, yet the numbers of the homeless is extraordinarily large. The inequity between social classes is also extreme. All this while the US consumes a hugely disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources and generates waste like no other. How does this match with the American dream that, both, President Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders claim to uphold in their diverse ways?

If such a large number of home and car owners are reduced to accepting food aid, what is the quality of life in that country? How are they better off than the migrant workers in India, who at least feel secure in returning home? Quite obviously, the cost of living in the US is so high that, with even a slight disruption in income, people end up in such dire straits. It has also to do with the accepted norm in lifestyle, where anybody over 18 years of age is expected to move out of the parents’ home. Would it be a pattern worth following for Indians, where the joint family has been the norm?

Consider the cost and effort that goes into establishing a separate establishment just for a single person. Those living in India’s mega cities can identify with this stressful and demanding lifestyle. In a joint family, traditionally, all that even a newly married couple required was a room for themselves in a household that otherwise provided everything else. Given that it is no longer feasible for many families – Indians do not have many children any more – to have such a system, the concept could be transformed to fit the present requirements, certainly by mutually supporting different generations. And, if not families, there could be something like the communes of the hippie generation that created common spaces of various kinds.

Perhaps, the present crisis will inspire the Americans to re-examine their way of life and not be as obsessed as a society with ‘becoming rich’ at the cost of everything else. And, Indians too must consider if the traditional values have something to be retained, rather than mindlessly try and replicate the American experience.