My dear NRI son,
They say, ’Life begins at 60!’ Yes, a whole new game starts at 60 when you enjoy the fruits of all that you have sacrificed and worked for. It seems that I have ’arrived’ after all those years of toiling, denying and watching others enjoying ’the good life’.
Celebrating my 60th birthday today, I have a thousand big and small things to be thankful for. First, the big ones...
I am living in an independent country where every vote counts. More importantly, it still remains united through all crises. I can seek justice from independent courts even though they move slowly. I can make my voice heard without fear in the public. A powerful media keeps everyone on his/her toes. Perhaps, it can be said that the Supreme Court and the media run my country.
Last but not the least, despite the one billion plus people, Indian economy is the fastest growing free economy in the world, at a galloping rate of over nine percent. Now I am a member of the exclusive Trillion Dollar Club - the value my GDP - that has only 13 members.
Remember the times when I craved for ’phoren’ goods? We could not buy any foreign consumer goods because there was no foreign exchange to pay for them. For 50 years, the shops just had local goods.
Now things are totally different. The local goods are also as good as them because they are successfully competing with them. Foreign exchange? At the latest count I have $230 billion. When I go shopping at the shining malls even in smaller towns, I get the feeling of being in a foreign country with the dazzling displays.
Instead of just two or three makes of cars, I have a great line-up to choose from as over one million cars were made here last year and, believe me, we also export them!
I enjoy perhaps the cheapest rates of mobile calls in the world. Mobiles have the fastest growth in the world here as 10,000 are added every hour and 166 every minute! Now there are almost 200 million of them because the basic price for a mobile is just around $45! The servant, maid, driver, plumber, carpenter, electrician, washerwoman... everyone has a mobile.
And most of them have a colour TV at home. What a hassle you had when you imported a colour TV set for me back in the 1980s? The 300 percent custom duty and the 150 percent penalty and the form filling! Now you can buy any colour TV set including the flat screen and the huge plasma ones at any big shop. Over 12 million sets are made in India. Colour TV sets are quite cheap too as I switched over to a decent flat screen for less than $250. Instead of just one or two government controlled channels, now I can surf over 400 channels beaming by cable to my TV.
Instead of long train journeys, I have been travelling in India by air. Recently many private airlines have taken off to compete with the single domestic carrier as in the past.
If I book early, I can get an air ticket from Mumbai to Delhi or any airport for just a few hundred rupees! Millions who had never travelled by air have become regular air passengers. Gone are those days when getting foreign exchange to travel abroad was a nightmare. Now every year, I can get up to $5,000 for my vacation, up to $25,000 for a business trip and can send abroad up to $100,000!
No need of the trip to Post Office to send you this letter as I am using email and can talk to you over the Internet and also see you with my web cam on my PC. Yes, I have learnt to use the Net along with millions of other Indians. All of them may not own a PC but they just spend 50 cents an hour to use a cyber cafe for their emailing and surfing.
You do not see all these goodies just when you land in India but slowly they sink in and you also find out about the hefty pay cheques for IT professionals. Then you may start thinking: ’Why shouldn’t I return?’
A few thousand young professionals, perhaps 40,000 say some, have returned to work in India in IT companies or multi-national companies flocking here. Of course, many millions of unemployed, underpaid and under-qualified are trying to go abroad by hook or crook. That’s another story of ’the other’ India - not for today.
When you see the tricolour unfurling atop the Red Fort in Delhi today, it is a moment to celebrate. It seems that my turn has come to be counted on the top table of the world. You know that I am always praying for your welfare and waiting for your next trip into my extended arms.
Yours ever loving,