The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shining through the shade

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge… A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new…”

In his address to the Constituent Assembly on the night of August 14, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru had shared his dream for an Independent India and outlined the objective of fighting poverty and inequality and wiping every tear from every eye.

Fifty-seven years have passed since the famous tryst with destiny speech of the country’s first Prime Minister. The years in between have seen development of a vibrant multi-party democracy and a robust economic system but have the basic objectives that the first generation of leadership laid down been achieved' The answer, to put it politely, is no.

A simple test: count the number of smiling faces when you make your way to work on Monday, August 16.

Index of happiness

To understand how we, the people, feel about their world and their lives, Metro on Sunday conducted an opinion poll in the first week of August. The subjective assessment of overall happiness — among 202 Calcuttans — was translated into numbers as part of the survey, carried out by Consumer Connect.

After crunching the individual happiness numbers and adding up the counts for a collective figure, the verdict is out — the cup of joy is far less than half full, the cup of woes all but brimmeth over.

The happiness index stands at 3.78 on a scale of 1 to 10.

The respondents — in the age group of 18 to 45 — were also asked to evaluate various parameters ranging from employment opportunities to healthcare facilities, political system to law-and-order situation.

Strikes and disruptive activities top the list of hitches to happiness, followed by limited employment opportunities, constant tension regarding Kashmir, insecurity facing women and a corrupt political system.

Citu leader Shyamal Chakraborty is not surprised that “strikes and disruptive activities” cause maximum unhappiness. “The thought of regular strikes makes me unhappy… And if you ask me, there is hardly any happiness around us,” he feels.

While the index of collective happiness has hit a low, individual brilliance in various fields has given the populace fleeting moments of pride.

When economist Amartya Sen wins the Nobel Prize, the pride quotient shoots up among Calcuttans. Other events finding pride of place include the success of Indian software engineers in Silicon Valley, the achievements of astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the match-winning performances of Team India in Pakistan and master blaster Sachin Tendulkar’s run as the world’s best batsman.

Former Test cricketer and ‘adopted’ Calcuttan Arun Lal says: “It’s true that there is a huge following for cricket but national pride is much more than Sachin’s centuries or India’s win against Pakistan. I think we should talk about democracy and secularism while mentioning the factors that make us proud as Indians.”

Global aspirations

Pride comes with the rise of Indians to the world stage. With a hawk eye on affairs away from home — 92 per cent of the respondents say one “must know everything that happens in the world” — the new Calcuttan may act local, but he definitely thinks global.

“The issue of short-term national pride has always been a function of international recognition. That happened even in the case of Rabindranath Tagore,” observes Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, professor of economics, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.

Global events occupying more local mind space can be traced to the explosion of various forms of communication channels, feels Chattopadhyay. And so, “a Euro Cup generates more excitement than a Mohun Bagan–East Bengal match”.

As a natural extension, satisfaction levels are now set to international benchmarks, with 70 per cent of the respondents saying they are willing to shift base anywhere in the world if career be the cause.

But where does India figure in comparison to other major countries around the globe' If USA is 100, India creeps in with a score of 40.64, behind Japan, England, China and even crisis-ridden Brazil.

What about predictions that India will emerge as one of the strongest economic powers by 2020 and catch up with the developed world' Mission impossible, declare 75 per cent of respondents.

Indian at heart

But let not the global eye make you blind to the dynamics closer home. Rooting for the roots and crowing about culture remain ‘in’ things.

Calcutta may not be the place for professional performance, but for many it remains the place to rejoice — in marriage — and retire — maybe after a life well spent beyond city limits.

Not for die-hard Calcuttans like Roopen Roy. “I have my roots in Calcutta and I like the positive diversity of this city. I am happy that I chose to stay back and make Calcutta my base,” says the managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers. “And if we are talking about growth, we have experienced that. The future also seems bright here.”

Finally, the silver lining. Despite the low happiness count and little hope of India’s chances of being a world-power some day soon, the majority of the respondents (55 per cent) say their most important identity is that of being an Indian.

Happy Independence Day.

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