A billion reasons why India should be scared — really scared!

Years back, when I had a stopover at the Heathrow Airport for a connecting flight to Mumbai, I had noticed something amusing. Over the 8 hours spent there, I spotted more browns than black or white. The whole airport complex was teeming with Indians. Left, right or wherever one could see there were Indians (possibly Pakistanis or Bangladeshis, as they are hardly discernible from us). I have been, ever since, joking about how we are extracting sweet revenge against the ‘Goras’ who colonized us for 200 years, by reverse-colonising them. And this time, there won’t be a battleground or bayonets, say like the Battle of Plassey. Instead, every fertile womb in India is a battleground, and every loaded prick is a bayonet. These ‘teen-gunaa lagaan’ British gentlemen will forever rue the fact as to why they ever came to India. It is now time to pay back ‘teen-gunaa’ (three times) for all those lagaans (taxes).

While India’s teeming story is fairly pervasive everywhere across the globe, from ‘Kaneda’ to Australia, thep-1 demographic boom is most visible in India itself, say in a city like Mumbai. Over the past three decades that I have been around this metropolis, I have seen the city been inundated with numbers far beyond the capacity. Earlier in the city, you had peak hours and non-peak hours for travel, based on the crowds and the absence of it. But now you have peak-hour and hyper-peak hour. There’s no escaping the crowds anywhere, anytime. For instance, I grew up spending very many evenings that turned into starry nights at the Juhu Beach, building castles of sand and digging pits. Nowadays, let alone building castles or forts, if you find yourself sufficient place to even stand, you would count yourself lucky. And no, this isn’t a phenomenon in Mumbai, as a handful of politicians who play migrant-politics would like us to believe. Mumbai is just a snapshot of the bigger illness.

Quite like Mumbai, India is bursting at the seams. There are just too many of us, at any given time. India accounts for a meagre 2.4% of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq km. Yet, it supports and sustains a whopping 17.5% of the world population. The fact of the matter is right there for anyone to see, the population of India is almost equal to the combined population of USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan. Continue reading

Half-Full or Full-Empty

Typically, any lateral thinking workshop involves an exercise of a half-filled glass of water.


“Is it full or empty?”, the gregarious moderator will ask. The exercise apparently highlights the power of hope, optimism and positive thinking. The moral being that even in the dourest situation, there’s always the hope of redemption. We aren’t over the cliff, till we are actually over it.

Were we to employ the same drill to the issue of water scarcity that plagues us, even an optimist will not be able to discern the glass as full, or rather half full. It is full-empty in an oxymoronic way. We seemed to have reached a stage that statistics, figures, projections, etc, don’t matter anymore. In fact, from no matter which angle you look at it, we are going to be in a big mess, if we aren’t in it already. It is an issue scarier than we can actually imagine.
Forget countries, even states within the same dominion are battling each other for every tiny water source. The current crisis in Andhra Pradesh over water is a vivid reminder of where we are headed. And when the whole world is going into a topsy-turvy, how can businesses continue as is? When the land is parched, the taps in the company premises will run dry as well. Just, last summer, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, factories and breweries were shut for months simply because there was no water available. The cost of water is rising by the day, for instance, the average cost of water in Mumbai was `25 / m3 last year and shot up to `40/m3 this year. Businesses need now look at their water consumption from a purely economic purview. Continue reading