January 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire seems to be the flavour of the week in India. 10 Oscar nominations, celebrity controversy, unending media attention and the film becomes a subject of a raging debate. Yes, we Indians are argumentative and that's something of a part of our DNA. So let the debate, opinions, arguments, counter-arguments, and emotion flow!

The film shows another face of India that the western world seldom sees. In west, India is portrayed as an emerging economic force. But that is one side of the reality. The other side is a dark reality that we, Indians, see everyday but somehow have become habituated to it and have lost sensitivity. We are blind to a world of poverty that unfolds itself at the center of economic prosperity in form of half naked, mutilated kids begging at traffic signals and railway stations. We are deaf and dumb to a parallel black economy, comparable to white economy in terms of magnitude, that has corruption, crime, politics, and poverty as its spine, limbs, brain, and heart respectively. These realities do not excite us but they do create eye popping excitement among the western world where India is mostly an "Incredible India". As a result, such cinema is exalted in the western world and trashed in India. It is not our fault as we see such things everyday in our real world.

But is it correct to keep our eyes closed forever? Shouldn't films like Slumdog Millionaire stir us to rise from our deep slumber to understand the darker side of India, its problems, and build public opinion to transform it and blend it with the brighter face of India?

Poverty is the fuel that runs many a ill of India. But that's the darker side of poverty. There is a brighter side too. Poverty breeds jugad, innovative resourcefulness. Also, children of poverty are not intellectually dumb. They are too sharp at brain but unfortunately most of that sharpness is consumed by evil things. What a criminal waste of talent!

Why can't we tap such huge sea of talent going down the drain to build a sea of entrepreneurs? Dharavi, said to be the biggest slum of Asia and place where Slumdog Millionaire is set up, is always buzzing with economic activities, some legal and many illegal. If looked from the eyes of a seasoned entrepreneurs, such large slums soaked in poverty may provide unlimited raw entrepreneurial talent that can be polished and trained to create sustainable and legal business enterprises collectively worth billions of dollars.

The point I am trying to make is simple. Let's not see our vices as permanent. Let's not lose sensitivity to the poverty we see around. Let's peek into the other world and try to find out hope and promise amid darkness. Let's not sit silent. Let's discuss, debate, and build public opinion with a solution orientation.

And that calls for 'Slumdog Ideas' that can make thousands of millionaires.