The Scarcity Gene

India is home to 60 mn diabetics. South India has amongst the largest incidence of diabetes in the country. People often blame it on the rice eating habit in the South. Maybe that’s why the Chinese also have such a high incidence of diabetes. But diabetes incidence is no less in the western part of India , where rice is not as common. It is not unusual to find young, thin adults have diabetes in India. What makes us so prone ? There has been research around the Scarcity Gene or famine gene to explain the Indian diabetes explosion. Years of food shortage made the Indian body type develop a mechanism to store glucose in the body system, which in an environment of food surplus works against us. Maybe this is true, maybe it is not.

What intrigues me more is the same scaricty mindset reflect in many behavioural patterns of us Indians. I still remember the days at the bus stand where I would throw a handkerchief through the window to block my seat. Before multiplexes came to our cities, a line at the cinemas was best described as a loose gathering of humans around one focal point, a bit like bees hovering around their hive. Even today, we value our petrol so much that if a farmer has to drive 200 metres to take a U-turn, he would rather drive down the wrong side of the highway. The same farmer would happily sit for hours on a charpoy and lament on why the cows are not giving enough milk. Time is not a constraint here. In many houses today, lunch will be served to each family member by the lady of the house with carefully measured proportions of veggies and dal in nice large steel thalis. These are not houses where food needs to be rationed.

It almost seems as if the Scarcity Gene has invaded our minds and consciousness. We have a compulsive fear of a shortage of resources, and our mind is constantly grappling with that fear.

Is there something wrong to behave this way?  A commonly maligned, but hugely successful community in India, the marwaris, in some ways most visibly reflect this mindset of scarcity. Some of the most successful businessmen from the community have boasted of how they made their fortunes by saving money, and not by spending it.

This is an interesting contrast to the Western societies like the U.S. where everything is believed to be in abundance. A throwback to the wild west perhaps ! In such a society, one doesn’t see a scramble to board, a rush at the gates or an attempt to save. Everyone spends more than one has. But is this sense and habit of abundance leading society to a point of future scarcity ? Is the U.S. living on borrowed time?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, like all the others I keep asking. What I wonder about even more is where our kids will land up? They definitely don’t have the sense of scarcity of the generations of Indians prior to them. But do they completely have the sense of abundance that the Americans lice with? If they are somewhere in between, is this a good place to be? Maybe this is the new balance? Is it ? Maybe it is “na ghar ka, na ghat ka” ?

I am running out of words now …. the scarcity gene has hit me too 😁

About Neeraj Garg

I have spent more than 20 years in the corporate world, in a mad rat race, like many others. Sometimes, very so rarely, I try and find some time for myself to pen down my thoughts.......not deep or intense, but often asking myself questions about issues that are top of mind.
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