Democratic but poorly functioning, Indian political culture badly needs a shake-up and a transformation. Will the widening class gap bring about an Indian Summer?
Last summer in Delhi, when a new overpass was built where the massive Outer Ring Road goes over Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, I would see a small family of four taking shelter under the arches. Now that family has grown. There is a community of about 50 people, including more than a dozen children, and their meager belongings. There are two makeshift tents and clotheslines strung across. There are plastic containers of water and a stove. Several women busy themselves tying flowers into small bundles and pointing the children to vehicles that stop at the intersection. The children look into the cars, show the red roses, and plead with the occupants to buy their wares. The more persistent ones tap softly for attention on the closed windows of air-conditioned SUVs. I often wonder what stops them from breaking the glass and shouting "It's not fair!"
Many say that the heady jasmine scent from North Africa will never waft across the Arabian Sea to India. We are already a democracy, in our own inimitable way. We are brimming with employment opportunities. Our rights of free press, free speech, and peaceful dissent help release pressure and avoid greater malcontent. Yes, we have rich and poor, but after all we are, as we romantically like to call ourselves, "a land of contrasts." But that is no longer a compliment; it's a portent.