The march of the seven billion -- what a frightening thought. We might console ourselves with the thought that rats and various insects might outnumber us, even if we have effectively reduced most wildlife. Dust mites, bacteria and viruses also seem to have withstood the human juggernaut. Still, seven billion is quite a substantial number, considering we had only recently got used to six billion. So are we to follow the now faddish jingoistic line and take pride in the fact that a good percentage of the seven billion are Indian? Out of all of us, some will certainly make a packet on Wall Street, stand for local elections in Utah and twiddle some tech thing in California. It is therefore guaranteed that our scope for national pride and chest-thumping will now expand exponentially.
Teeming multitudes: A good portion of the world's 7 billion-strong
population are Indians
We also now have more potential fans across the world for so many song and dance extravaganzas with half-baked scripts, masquerading as cinema. Shiny sequin-encrusted brocade outfits must now dominate global catwalks and hips will certainly be back in fashion. Those androgynous female models who glide around Paris-Milan-New York-London will be replaced by jhatak-mataks and dhak-dhaks. Masterchef India's suran mousse, paneer steaks and apple katori will be the norm for all fussy, poncy cookery shows. And naturally McDonald's will turn vegetarian.
The portents, as one can see, are exceptional for those of Indian origin. Of course, it is also true that we will not be able to export all of our seven billion to terrorise, sorry enthral, the world with our vegetarian Bollywood-inspired brilliance. Most of us will be left behind and some, foolishly, might even refuse to go. Okay, I concede, maybe only one or two of us will refuse to go.
What to do then about the bulk in India, which has no chance of winning an election in Minnesota and so make the front pages of every Indian newspaper? Now there's a tough one. Apart from the 95,000 lucky enough to be invited to or buy a ticket to the Buddh International Circuit in UP on Sunday, there are also those pesky Rs 32-a-dayers who refuse to vanish in spite of all our best efforts. Statistical tricks, creative accounting (like Kiran Bedi, you can move them from Rs 32 to Rs 44 and thus have a few less of this and a few more of that), very few schools, hospitals or employment opportunities are some of the strategies that have been deployed. These have had some largely marginal success in reducing our population.
It would be unfair to recognise so many of our one billion and a bit who have done so well that they can buy Louis Vitton bags by the dozen for every family marriage and at our current interest rates, those who have the courage to take home and auto loans. Plus all the socially conscious (at least 1,00,000 in person and many more in cyber space) who have joined the fight against corruption. We even have plenty who have no faith in the Indian banking system and are therefore forced to park all their money in foreign countries with minimal taxation policies. And judging by what has happened to Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, we have those who are, justifiably, too scared to pay any taxes at all.
Is it all doom and gloom then? Certainly, we must acknowledge India's efforts not to increase the world's population even further. We do after all have among the highest infant and maternal mortality rates. We also have high rates of female foeticide and infanticide. No one, therefore, can accuse us of not trying to keep the numbers down.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist
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