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India - Slumdog or Wounded Elephant?

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Millions of Indians watched as Slumdog Millionaire’s British producer and director were rewarded for showing some very ‘unshining’ aspects of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">India</st1:country-region></st1:place>. All over the world, people now understand <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">India</st1:place></st1:country-region>’s challenges a little better.

Maya Radj’s recent (free) online novel, R’s Journey – the Wounded Elephant, also delves into many of these challenges--beyond the acute poverty of slum dwellers--but in a different way.


A realistic novel, it does not propose luck (very few of India’s slum dwellers actually become millionaires) as a solution; instead, it raises the thorny and unresolved issues of poverty, corruption, injustices, etc. and shows how they can be tackled at the root by decisive action by empowered and passionate youth – and there are many in India.

As the main character wanders on a yatra across Bharat prior to leaving for the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">USA</st1:place></st1:country-region>, he meets others, some who have typically chosen to turn away from the country’s problems … and others who are taking steps to resolve them. For example, Nandan, who left a well paid doctor’s practice in America to open his Ayurvedic clinic in Madurai; or Gautam, the civil engineer who turned down lucrative job offers in Delhi to lead development projects in rural Bihar.


The message is that a 'wounded elephant' can heal and rise again.

The novel can be downloaded from its website (www dot mayaradj dot com). Its summary:

After completing his university studies, R. Sharma is still searching for a first job in the Indian capital. It is a deeply frustrated R that we discover at the start of this novel, a young man who has lost faith in his country and who begins to loathe it.

Fortunately, Mohini, his sparkling girlfriend knows how to cheer him up. Behind a mask of superficial frivolity characterized by a passion for Bollywood movies and their stars, she hides a clear agenda about her future and that of her boyfriend – they should leave <st1:country-region w:st="on">India</st1:country-region> and emigrate to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">America</st1:country-region></st1:place>—like her cousins, who are now enjoying a regal life there. Encouraged by Mohini, R begins to nurture an American dream. After all, his elder brother Ashok is now a successful computer programmer in a <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Los Angeles</st1:city></st1:place> company.

R asks Ashok for help. Initially very reluctant,—much to R’s bewilderment—Ashok eventually agrees to help his younger brother. However, prior to R’s departure, Ashok demands that his younger brother visit their family guru, Pundit Yogish Doobay in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Varanasi</st1:city></st1:place>. Oddly, Ashok also asks R to hand-deliver gifts to five of his university friends. The young man, already daydreaming of Los Angeles’ attractions, grudgingly agrees to undertake what he feels will be a highly unpleasant three week trip across the poor and dirty country that he now despises. Unknown to him, this journey is part of a plan orchestrated by Ashok to open his younger brother’s eyes on the hidden treasures of their country of birth.

Indeed, at every step, the journey provides plenty of surprising discoveries for the young would-be migrant—through experiences that re-shape his thinking and will likely change his outlook on life forever.

R starts his journey in the mystical city of <st1:city w:st="on">Varanasi</st1:city> on the banks of the sacred—and highly polluted—<st1:place w:st="on">Ganges</st1:place> river. There, Yogish Doobay reveals some of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">India</st1:country-region></st1:place>’s deepest philosophical and spiritual treasures: Yoga and Ayurveda, the stages and aims of life, Vastu, Maya and reality.

In Jaipur, the capital of majestic Rajasthan, R meets Colonel Singh, a direct descendant of Rajput kings who challenges some of the young man’s assumptions about Indian history and politics.

In Mumbai, the country’s economic powerhouse, as R watches the flow of poverty-stricken rural migrants flocking into the city, he reflects upon the social and political challenges facing <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">India</st1:country-region></st1:place> and Ashraf offers him an emotionally charged taste of Hindu-Moslem relations. To R’s surprise, the gift that Ashraf unwraps looks exactly like the Colonel’s, an elephant-shaped sandalwood paperweight that conceals a hidden message. But, like the Colonel, Ashraf does not wish to discuss the mysterious gift nor its contents!

We follow R as he visits Jeremy Souza in Goa, a popular seaside resort in <st1:place w:st="on">Southern India</st1:place>. There, Ashok’s friend and R discuss a few controversial aspects of the region’s colonial past.

In the southern <st1:city w:st="on">temple city</st1:city> of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Madurai</st1:city></st1:place>, R meets Nandan. The fourth of Ashok’s friends proudly shows off his new Ayurvedic clinic to the young man. He also explains why, unlike Ashok, he chose to return to his hometown after living and working several years in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">America</st1:country-region></st1:place>. Nandan’s father, an expert Ayurvedic practitioner, introduces R to the concepts of this ancient science of healthy living.

On the last leg of his trip, R meets Gautam, the last of Ashok’s friends in Bodhgaya, a historic Buddhist pilgrimage site in rural <st1:place w:st="on">Bihar</st1:place>. There, R learns from Radha’s about the different styles of classical Indian music and dance, and the fifth of Ashok’s friends reveals to R the astounding secret of the elephant-shaped paperweights…and that of the journey. It is a shaken young man who then hurries to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Varanasi</st1:city></st1:place> to seek advice from his guru! Along the way he begins to realize the influence that this journey has had on him.

Back in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Varanasi</st1:city></st1:place>, Yogish Doobay listens sympathetically to his young disciple, and helps R to see the light and find balance through some chosen teachings from the Vedants and the Upanishads.

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Have you guys ever wonder?


India was once the hub of civilizations and prosperity some 2,000 years. From India, knowledge went to the Middle-east and to the Eastern nations such as China and Japan, Indochina and South East Asia.


But today ... India cannot even feed its people properly and only second to Africa in term of AIDS. There are internal and external conflicts which (frankly speaking), Indian Government are unable to control or fix.


In my opinion, this is because India have choose to be Secular in its approach to development. It choose to turn its back on Indian heritage and choose to follow Western approach to development.


While many here could say that India have achieve independence in 1948, I for one does not think so. India is still "ruled" by foreigners; only this time - the foreigners are in form of Indians who they themselves have lost their heritage.


A slum dog or an elephant ... it matters NOT if you forget who you are.

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