Recently, I have been working on a consulting engagement for a Disaster Management Agency of one of the first-world nations; there had been reports of a fraud in flood insurance claims disbursal. While my job involved figuring out how to predict and avoid such a mess in the future, the task also carries digging into the past and identifying the events that led to the current state of affairs, so to say.
As I ploughed through transcripts of thousands of conversations, I realized how vastly different the concepts of “devastation” and “homelessness” are between the people of that mighty nation versus the perceptions of our own compatriots here in India.
People there seek government grants and insurance claims (funded by taxpayer money) to repair the wall paint in their basements and to replace consumer electronic appliances- clothes driers, room heaters et al.- that have been damaged in a flood. For a large part, the rest of their homes, the superstructure, the rooms and the rest of their furnishings are more or less intact. And they speak of their homes as being ‘devastated’ and of themselves as being ‘homeless’ when they had to empty parts of their homes that are being repaired.
Compare that with the ‘floods’ here in India. All we have is the only basement level, where all our possessions are, including our own bodily selves. A few feet of rain water in the house and we don’t even bother to call it a ‘flood’. What can we do- this is an annual occurrence in our many flood-prone areas. In fact, we have gotten so used to it that we kinda miss it when it doesn’t happen that year. Even those multitudes that live in ramshackle shacks don’t call themselves homeless or devastated in floods. They just pick what they can and go where they can wait out the storm; and once the worst is past, they come back and start rebuilding it all with whatever the flood has left behind.
They don’t wait 2 years for the government to give grants or aid to rebuild the houses. Perhaps because we know that we can count on the certainty of another flood more than we can count on the certainty of government grants here.
I am not saying we are awesome or anything. Nope, not at all. Tonight, I’m working a presentation for the aforesaid assignment that would be discussed in board rooms several times over the next few weeks. If things go well, it may even lead to a million dollars changing hands over the next few months. A million dollars of money spent on painting someone’s basements or replacing a rusty, flooded clothes dryer in the ‘developed nation’. A million dollars that could potentially build a few hundred concrete houses in flood-zones in an ‘underdeveloped’ or a ‘developing’ nation.
Trouble is, I can't not work and tell my boss all this tomorrow...