All posts tagged column

Smart Step to Help India’s Rural Poor

Letter from India, The International Herald Tribune

A slew of government initiatives have added up to a real — if still incipient — sense of possibility, especially in the countryside. Over the past few months, as I’ve traveled around the villages and farms in South India, I’ve spoken to farmer after farmer, housewife after housewife, whose life has been touched by one of the government’s programs.

In Kakuppam, the improvement is evident — not dramatic, certainly not revolutionary, but nonetheless palpable.

More →

In the New India, Everyone Is Free to Flourish or Fail

Letter from India, The International Herald Tribune

It’s true that a meritocratic India is a more hopeful India. It’s certainly a vast improvement over a country in which millions were oppressed for being born into the wrong caste or gender or family. But it’s good to remember that meritocracy inflicts its own harms. It replaces old forms of subjugation with new ones — the tyranny of competition, of competence, of drive and ambition, of education.

Perhaps the best that can be said about meritocracy is that it offers the most egalitarian path to inequality: it gives everyone a chance to lose.

More →

What’s Lost When Some Become Rich

Letter from India, The International Herald Tribune

KUILAPALAYAM, INDIA — The other day I went for a drive on my motorcycle and realized that my world had changed completely.

I drove along a cement road that was once a dirt path. The road leads to the ocean. I used to be able to see the ocean from the top of the road. Now the view has been usurped by new apartment buildings and guesthouses and shops.

When I was a boy, the road was bordered by emerald-green rice fields. There’s not a rice field in sight anymore, only the neon greens — and pinks and purples and oranges — of the concrete blocks that have taken their place.

The area around where I live was once an isolated rural hamlet. It was a hundred miles, along a potholed road, from the nearest big city, Chennai, or Madras, as it was called at the time. I grew up here, in the country, surrounded by five villages. I had an idyllic childhood. My life ran to the rhythms of an agrarian world: bullock carts and hand plows, bicycles, windmills. MORE–>

More →