Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Epilogue to the Consumerism in India Series

An article (login may be required) in today's New York Times provides the perfect epilogue to the now-concluded five-part series "Consumerism in India: A Faustian Bargain?" (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) In the series, I focused more on the psychological and social consequences of life in a consumer society. I also touched on the impacts on the lives of people implicated in the global chain of production and consumption. What I did not mention were diseases of affluence. Adult onset diabetes, now more widely known as Type 2 diabetes, is a perfect example:

In its hushed but unrelenting manner, Type 2 diabetes is engulfing India, swallowing up the legs and jewels of those comfortable enough to put on weight in a country better known for famine. Here, juxtaposed alongside the stick-thin poverty, the malaria and the AIDS, the number of diabetics now totals around 35 million, and counting.

The future looks only more ominous as India hurtles into the present, modernizing and urbanizing at blinding speed. Even more of its 1.1 billion people seem destined to become heavier and more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes, a disease of high blood sugar brought on by obesity, inactivity and genes, often culminating in blindness, amputations and heart failure. In 20 years, projections are that there may be a staggering 75 million Indian diabetics.

I don't have much to say about the article at this point. I just wanted to make sure that readers are aware of it and that the issue gets some attention in the blogosphere. The only concern I will raise is what I imagine is the dominant attitude towards this problem. The attitude, characterized by Dr. A. Ramachandran, the managing director of the M.V. Hospital for Diabetes, in Chennai, is captured in the following quote from the article:

“Diabetes unfortunately is the price you pay for progress."

I realize that Dr. Ramachandran does not represent all Indians. But if this is how India responds to the problems of consumerism and affluence, some of my predictions in the "Consumerism in India" series about the future of India looking more and more like troubled western consumer societies are already coming true. Perhaps for India, the future is now.

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