Upbeat young India and the new image ambassador

Yukta Mookhey must not only be witty, wise and beautiful but also lucky for having won her Miss World title at a time when hopes about India are so high. Several other Indian women have won the Miss Universe and Miss World titles earlier but no one of them roused such hopes in corporate India as she has. And, today's corporate India is important because, unlike the business India of the past, it represents not merely the India of big wealth but also the Young India of big aspirations living on the frontiers of technology.

This Young India is upbeat today because for the first time in our long history we are marching in step with contemporary technology of the advanced world and not merely begging anti borrowing technology from others. For the first time in many years, Indians living and working on the frontiers of knowledge, technology, culture, business and global diplomacy are feeling hopeful of a bright future for themselves and their country.

True, the dismal reality of the Indian villages has not changed much in these last some months but Indian hopes, aspirations, ambitions and image have change drastically.

What has changed most is the self-esteem of every Indian living here at home and outside. The Indians are looking at themselves differently from the way they used to until only a few years back. A young Indian no longer feels small or apologetic about himself and his country. In the past, an Indian confronted by foreigners about his country's poverty, dirt, filth and corruption used to strut and stammer ruefully. Not today. Today, he says, yes, there is much poverty around here still, much illiteracy, much filth and much dirt, much social apathy, much bureaucratic red tape and much corruption too, but that is all changing. He says this not with a sense of shame for India's present reality but imbued with a sense of pride for India's future prospect. Many things have contributed to this sense of elation about India's future. First and foremost is the freeing of the long suppressed and pent up individual initiative of every Indian as a result of loosening of the straightjacket of the socialist era controls.

It is as if economic liberalisation had brought about real independence for the daring and dashing Indian. Suddenly, everybody is feeling liberated, especially the young. Everybody is filled with a new spirit of adventure. Everybody is seeing new opportunities and rearing to explore and exploit them. Everybody is upbeat and everybody is on the upswing. Opening up of the economy is, no doubt, crippling some and killing others but overall the young in heart and spirit find emerging competition stimulating. They see competition as a challenge and feel proud to meet it head on.

There have been other developments too. The staggering rise of the new information generation, for instance. The fact that the Young Indians everywhere are doing so well on the frontiers of the new technology has raised everybody's morale and self-esteem high. Other developments like the recent global support to India's stand on Kargil have added to this heightened sense of self-esteem.

For the first time, Indians everywhere are feeling proud that the world powers, including even one-time hostile countries like America, have had to endorse, approve and support Indian government's stand on a Kashmir related issue vis-a-vis Pakistan.

The nuclear explosions, despite all the world's opposition to these, have made Indians feel that their country truly is a world power now. It is not the nuclear capability so much as the fact that India could and did go in for the explosion defying the world powers which has evoked this pride.

Clearly enough, Yukta Mookhey's winning the Miss World title on the eve of the new millennium has come as a booster to this already high morale. A title like Miss World is seen in today's world not only as an award for individual beauty but also as a collective effort of many different national skills like fashion designing and personality training. In a world where image matters about as much, it is not surprising that the corporate world sees her as an image ambassador of future India.

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