Vir Sanghvi--editor of the Hindustan Times and perhaps India's only columnist worth reading--this week takes issue with Time Asia's cover story on India in his regular column Counterpoint ("India's Parallel Universes" HT Dec. 5 2004--available online only to subscribers). While to some degree he points out the obvious (following Time's lead), Sanghvi makes some funny observations about Time's conclusions.
For example, he draws attention to the magazine's use of Sahara founder Subroto Roy as evidence that India's super rich have something more than profligate spending to offer the country, quotiing the magazine's statement that Sahara "represents a powerful case for the way in which money can buttress India's traditions." Vir's response: "(Really?)" I'd say that's a good one-eyebrow-raised withering if I've ever read one. My question is: what traditions are we talking about here? Feudalism - with the lord charitably funding marriages for a few vassals alongside family nuptials (in suitably lesser style, of course)? Grand traditions like dowry? This is a laughable observation if I've ever heard one.
His eyebrow still raised, Sanghvi also raises a question that many Indian journalists (and by extension, foreign correspondents) have long asked. "One day," he writes, "somebody will have to explain to an economic dunderhead like me how Subroto Roy manages to keep on spending so much money even though there are no obviously profitable ventures visible to non-business minded laymen like myself."
Funnier still is Sanghvi's subtle lampooning of Time's conclusion that Indians find rich people inspirational and aspirational. He writes this is "a sentiment supported by three quotes. One is from Simi Garewal..., one is from columnist Swapan Dasgupata, who says "people like Subroto Roy 'let us believe we can make it, that India can make it...' [Make what? Ambi valley?] and one from a guest at one of Vijay Mallya's parties.
Keep up the good work, Vir.