For far too long the notion of ‘imagining India’ had been an exercise of romanticised fancy. It either meant hooking up to a ‘glorious past’ — reveries of the times ‘before British rule’ and dipping into the mythology of our freedom movement — or envisioning a future that had more to do with wish fulfilment than with real aspirations. The problem was compounded by the fact that an ‘Imagined India’ was also a product of an exoticised India manufactured by Orientalists and Raj nostalgiawallas who saw the charms of India in snake charmers and spirituality. We were happy to be typecast in this role without fixing up our own list of priorities. All that is changing — that is, if it hasn’t changed already.
Hindustan Times Leadership Summit
has posed the issue of imagining India in the context of this change. ‘Imagine the India that can be’ is not about airy-fairy ‘what if?’ scenarios. There’s been too many of the ‘Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne’ kind of dreaming that leads nowhere. In a way, by imagining the India that can be, one identifies the problems and impediments that have held India back for all these years. The leaders from India as well as from outside the country deliberating on India’s emergence as a world player are key players in their respective fields. They know a good thing when they see one — and perhaps more importantly, a bad thing too. Listening to what they have to say over the next two days about what is required for India to realise its legendary — and all-too-clichéd — potential should be a fruitful experience for all of us, both in terms of imagining along the right trajectory as well as following the imagining with real work.
Over the last few years, there have been people — both in high places and in ordinary life — who have shown that there is more to shaping India into a global power than just breast-beating and chest-thumping. What is required now is to carry along the rest of the country with them. Sometimes, what will be required is removing obstacles in the way of prosperity for all; sometimes, it will require a paradigm shift. Either way, it is no longer about staring into space and imagining how wonderful India should have been. It’s now about putting the ropes and the pulleys into place so that India can become what it can be: a progressive, prosperous nation of a billion-plus.