Two ancient nations and cultures going back over 2,000 years.
Is it possible to compare them? Greece is known as the cradle of Western civilization.
Ancient Greece is associated with so many legends — everyone from Pythagoras, Socrates, Aristotle, Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Hippocrates, etc.
Greece is of course the land of the Olympics.
How many people are there in all of Greece today? Roughly 10 million. Or, 11 million.
Of course, they enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.
What does India have to boast of?
Population of 1.2 billion roughly.
Oh, a 'booming' economy — one of the 'fastest' growing economies of the world.
And yet, pathetic literacy rates overall. And poverty. Miserable. Degrading.
India perhaps leads the world in childhood malnutrition and infant mortality.
Being the leader in the IT services sector in the world has perhaps made some dent in this abject poverty. Perhaps the wealth created in the burgeoning call centers does trickle down at its own merry pace to the poorest sections of society.
Surely, if the rich young kids buy cars like there's no tomorrow, the poorer sections of society benefit as well in some indirect manner.
The sweatshops that supply to the high-fashion clothing brands of Europe perhaps have a useful role to play.
When the economic problems affecting Greece become headline news, I sometimes wonder about the human scale of it.
How many people are we talking about at the end of the day?
I mean, perhaps 10 percent of Greeks might become unemployed ... that's a measly one million. Perhaps, at least 100 million people are underemployed if not unemployed in India at any given point in time.
Does that make headline news?
No. The grim truth is this: the value of one European life is perhaps equal to the value of 100 Indians.
So, say 100 Greeks die in some accident, perhaps a plane crash, that will perhaps be considered as equal to a tragedy that kills 10,000 Indians.
I am not exaggerating — time will tell. I remember that little incident of a super cyclone which happened in one of the states of India ... Orissa, which happens to be my 'home' state with a population of 40 million or so people. Does anyone remember that? Or, the Latur earthquake. The Asian Tsunami perhaps left India alone and wreaked havoc mostly in Indonesia.
My point is simply this: I wish all Indians would have a standard of living comparable to that of the average Greek or the average European or the average Japanese or the average American.
Perhaps an impossible dream.
But if we can't make that dream a reality, at least let's not be hypocrites ... let's not gloat too much about the tiny islands of wealth that we have surrounded by oceans of poverty.
A few metropolises such as New Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai, etc. don't equate to India becoming an advanced nation.
Those little nations of Europe are far better off than India — countries like Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, etc. One could name Israel as well — what an amazing story of achievement though it's not in Europe.
I am concerned that when we talk about human development, when we enumerate the achievements of the human race and talk about the nations that produced those people, India simply doesn't come into the picture. Perhaps, it does in some peripheral way — a few members of the diaspora have done quite well for themselves and proven themselves to be equal to the best in the world but then that's only a tiny sliver.
India punches way below its weight in the forum of global affairs ... A nation of 1.2 billion people — that's who we are — on a planet that has less than 7 billion people in all.
What a pity it is then that sometimes it appears as if nations with 0.01 billion people or so have greater importance than India in world affairs ...
I wish Indians would wake up to this reality. But, that's unfortunately unlikely. Indians are carrying the burden, the dead weight of 5,000 years of continuous civilization and that's what is holding us back.