15 May, 2021

We, The Innumerable

An identity, a window to benefits, the final frontier of inclusion that will transform lives

Illustration by Sorit
We, The Innumerable

The writer Salman Rushdie once remarked that India is a country where ‘nobody is afraid of crowds, because here the crowd is the norm’. India’s population and crowds have, since its independence, dominated the country’s image to the point of stereotype—the ‘vast grey amoeba’ of India’s streets overwhelmed one traveller, and it was the object over the decades of aerial shots and fascinated description. It led economists and social scientists to erroneously predict either India’s political fragmentation—how, after all, could a centre in Delhi hold together such vast and diverse numbers?—or India’s decline by famine, due to its inability to feed its millions.

Rushdie’s remark, however, was not entirely true. The ordinary Indian may have been at home with the crowds in the streets, but for decades, within our economic institutions and governments, our engagement with the crowd, our ‘polyglot and polychrome masses’, was limited. Rather, India’s...

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