COST OF PLAY­ING CATCH- UP

Pak­istan will try to match In­dia on all in­di­ca­tors. But the ef­fect of the arms race and the so­cial cost of reli­gious ex­trem­ism may con­sign it to the ranks of also- rans.

India Today - - SIGNATURE - S. V. Div­vaakar The au­thor is a busi­ness ad­viser and nov­el­ist Bis­mil­lah e rah­man al rahim

I loved your gift: The bright, deep- cut gha­gra- choli. Pity, I can’t wear it much. In fact I wear it un­der­neath my hi­jab, and take off my hi­jab when the men aren’t around! My new Abbu doesn’t know that I have one, I’ve hid­den it along with Ammi’s other clothes in the at­tic.

I have thought of you daily since Laila sent me your essay on how you see your coun­try in 20 years. It made me want to imag­ine how Pak­istan might be in 2032!

You have shown so many num­bers to ex­plain your pre­dic­tions, and I wanted to do the same at my end. Ammi helped me get a lot of in­ter­est­ing bits on the In­ter­net about how our coun­tries will be 20 years hence. She was an econ­o­mist at Cam­bridge, af­ter all. She be­came quite in­ter­ested in my fan­tasy too!

Es­pe­cially be­cause some big and im­por­tant peo­ple keep say­ing that we must keep pace with your coun­try, be­cause only equals can re­spect each other. Ammi tells me it seems that we are more or less equal to­day. You rank 134 and we rank 141 on some Hu­man De­vel­op­ment In­dex, though I don’t know what that means. But Ammi also says that if we stay like this, in 2032, we will be­come very dif­fer­ent from each other. But in 20 years, your GDP will be­come four tril­lion dol­lars by

my cal­cu­la­tions, al­most 10 times as big as our $ 0.43 tril­lion. This GDP, some­thing we both make is our real power— it is not a bomb, Ammi tells me.

Ammi tells me that each In­dian makes $ 1,055 of GDP while each Pak­istani makes $ 975 worth of it. That’s not too much of a dif­fer­ence, only five dol­lars a month. But in 20 years, each of your peo­ple will be mak­ing twice as much GDP as mine. When I ask her why, she told me that the big dif­fer­ence will be due to how we in­vest in our women, our ed­u­ca­tion and our armies.

It seems we spend a lot more of our GDP on our army than you do. Ammi says that if we both continue to spend the same to match each other, you’ll be spend­ing one- fifti­eth of your money, but we’ll end up spend­ing one- tenth of our money to keep an army like yours. It’s go­ing to bleed us a lot more, be­cause we must bor­row more and cut back on many other things I miss al­ready. Isn’t it a pity that by 2032, both coun­tries would be wast­ing $ 100 bil­lion buy­ing guns?

But Ammi’s big­gest con­cern is how dif­fer­ent our women may fare. She says that a lot more of your women will get to study and go to work; and her big­gest fear is that fewer of us may get to study and go to work. She says that there will be as many women as men at work in your coun­try, but here, we will have only one woman for four men at work. She’s also very scared about the new type of schools that are form­ing ev­ery­where. She wor­ries even more about the new rules about dress­ing up and other things, that are com­ing in each day.

Ev­ery­one is hav­ing more ba­bies, and Ammi is on to her fourth one as well— the first from my new Abbu. I’m still get­ting used to him, so is Ammi. She tells me my real Abbu and his men in power were killed by new Abbu. Ammi saved us by de­cid­ing to move into his house un­der the swara: Now we are his prop­erty, and he must pro­tect us. It was the only way to save our lives and bring back peace among the two war­ring sides!

I’ve started stay­ing at home, as she needs me around to help with the house and with my youngest sis­ter, she just turned two yes­ter­day. I re­ally miss In­ter­na­tional Con­vent, my old school, the skirts, the English books, and the lovely for­eign teach­ers. Abbu doesn’t want me to study af­ter next year. For­tu­nately, the Net works very well and I take on­line lessons from a school in Lon­don, ar­ranged by Laila.

It seems so dif­fer­ent there with women! We’ve started get­ting In­dian satel­lite TV, and I hear a lot of In­dian films are shoot­ing here. You won’t

AMMI SAYS THAT IF WE BOTH CONTINUE TO spend the same to match each other, you’ll be spend­ing one- fifti­eth of your money, but we’ll end up spend­ing one- tenth of our money to keep an army like yours.

be­lieve, I was lucky to see Ka­reena Khan Pataudi when she vis­ited Is­lam­abad. Still so beau­ti­ful. She didn’t have a hi­jab, and she danced with all the men here!

For my broth­ers Di­lawar and Farid, it is a good time. There’s work these days, for they are re­build­ing the roads, power sta­tions and other things. Many peo­ple are vis­it­ing these days, for busi­ness as well as tourism. Mostly In­di­ans but also oth­ers. Things are look­ing good; some new shops have sprung up.

And we will have elec­tions again this year. I don’t know what it means, but elders are very ex­cited, as if it’s a cricket fes­ti­val. The speeches talk about the real world and it is time for Pak­ista­nis to catch up. The new leader has promised schol­ar­ships to study in for­eign coun­tries in schools and col­leges just as all other peo­ple do. But Ammi tells me plenty of peo­ple are leav­ing to work in the West now.

Ammi has been happy of late. These days, she keeps hum­ming an In­dian song about a bird wait­ing to be freed from her cage, so it can soar high in the skies of free­dom. I con­stantly see her pat her stomach and say, “Naseeb wala ho to Lon­don mein ankhen kholega!” Let me share the se­cret. Ammi’s friends have al­ready ap­plied for im­mi­gra­tion for my fam­ily. She tells me that the swara will help get us asy­lum.

So, 20 years later, we must open these let­ters to check how we’ve grown as equals, and how our women and our armies feel about their sta­tus and power. And I hope I can make my chil­dren wear your gha­gra- choli!

( This “let­ter” is fic­tional)

AP

GIRLS ATAMADRASA IN PAK­ISTAN

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.