The Indianness of Indians.

Photo By: Vishesh Gupta
I was dazed when I heard that a guy no longer wanted to prepare for the IAS because he foresaw lower corruption rate in India in the coming years owing to all the ongoing movements. I was enmeshed in abysmal thoughts for a week!

I’m midway through reading a book called “Games Indians Play- Why we are the way we are” by V. Rangunathan, and I’m compelled to write this post before I finish the book. The book has injected in my brain a willingness to ponder over the abstruse question again and again. My nascent perception makes me look at various Indian behaviors in a semi-critical way, trying to find the solution to them, rather than pitying them.
To put it in a panegyrical and short review, I would say the book elaborates on the Indianness of Indians- Why of all the countries in the world, we as a human population seem so uncivilized? Be it jumping queue lines, or unsanitary behavior, we have a paradigmatic uniqueness that makes us stand apart.
Indeed we have qualities that are unbeatable- we’re truly on an average the most astute and intelligent species in the world. We excel in most of the fields we go into, and we’re considered in high regard by the rest of the world for that. But our civic sense is looked down upon, and rightly so I must say. The author gives various examples that compare completion times of development projects undertaken by India and China. Trust me, the figures make you speculate, what’s wrong with us.
V. Rangunathan looks at all this through the concepts of Game theory, and relates our behavior in an innovatively intelligent way.
But I’m not here to write a review on the book. I’m here to carry on the discussion further.
Why is it so? Why is ‘self’ in Indians so prominently embedded? Where is the ‘we’?
I was dazed when I heard that a guy no longer wanted to prepare for the IAS because he foresaw lower corruption rate in India in the coming years owing to all the ongoing movements. I was enmeshed in abysmal thoughts for a week! I expected more out of my generation and the coming ones, but this seemed like the onset of the Beelzebub’s era itself! If our generation, the to-be-politicos-handling-the-nation are no better than the current ones, on what grounds can we expect change? We have people in the parliament watching illicit films, powerless puppets in the main parliamentary positions, lok sabha speakers travelling to 28 countries in 35 months. We have paranoid leaders calling university students Maoists, and what not?
Our government is , succinctly put, a farcical tableau-vivant, no actions taken, and yet it seems so funny in a grim way!
Why is it that we have to incur a double cost- the white money and the black money to have a job done? When will our politicians look beyond the bribed money? Here comes the role of our souls, embellished with greed. Which Indian is not greedy? Who does not look forward to earning money, by hook or by crook? It’s just that we Indians have mastered the crook part well, perhaps too well that it has overshadowed the hook part.
What governs our behavior? Is it the climate? Our colonial past? The vast diversity in terms of culture?
Take spitting for example. Why do we spit so proudly any and every chance we get? I was shocked to see red spit marks staining the elevator corners of a building in Delhi that day! I mean, AN OTIS ELEVATOR? SERIOUSLY?
The root of the problem partly lies in the fact, perhaps, that we are a neo modern society. Our origins trace back ultimately to our closer-to-nature, primordial rural life.
Spitting reflex is natural. In a shower you would like to take water in your mouth and spit it. It actually balances body temperature, and the urge to spit is not uncommon to people in hot temperate climates.
So there was nothing wrong with spitting, as long as it occurred in rural areas, anywhere you spitted, everywhere- it was just soil.
Habits don’t change when rural goes urban. Unfortunately, the materials and flooring do change, and so do their absorption power. Thus we have it, a wide range of spits and spitters. Expli-spit.
This reminds me of another good read on the internet. How we are so very submissive to fetishes of our deities, and how we respect them. It was an experiment conducted by the local authorities, fed up of having people spit and urinate on a particular space to the penultimate level, even after repeated instructions being written there. They cleaned up the place and painted a Hindu God’s mural on it, the results were as obvious as your guesses.
This might have been a slight digression from our main topic, but it also gives an insight into the Indian way of thinking. How we can bank on it to make our society cleaner, and better.
As a coda for this post, I apologize by saying that I do not have the answer to the Why's I posed. All that i can say though is that the sooner we Indians learn not to skips queues, stop before the zebra crossings, not to spit or urinate anywhere and everywhere, and differentiate between the do’s and don’ts in a sensible society, the better.  We need to smile the friendly smiles, similar to ones we receive from everyone in the West. Its not just about changing the ‘me’, but also the ‘we’.
And change is happening, we all are witnesses to that.  We just need to accelerate it.


Alok K. said...

In Dubai, I noticed a strange thing. The same Indians (including me) were searching for dustbins to safely discard chewing gums, wrappers, paper cups and used bottles.
Was it something about the excessive fine system there?
I could not help but think about it.
What are the incentives to be civilized in India?

Alok K. said...

Or to put it in a different way, what is the disincentive for being uncivilized in India?

Vishesh said...

I completely agree. This happens. And is easily observable.
And that is one BIG why. It isn't because we're not patriotic. Neither that we don't want our country to be like others.
Its merely out of a habit never inculcated.

Shad Khan said...

Great Post!. Seems like a good book. I'll surely read it.
We can compare this to Broken Windows Theory. It's actual use is in the study of criminology but can be applied here also. I think what we do depends a lot on our social surroundings or the people around us.

RAE said...

Most Indians lack patience because of the many tiring tasks and problems they handle.Though they maintain their property well, they care the least about public property or somebody else's. They remove their frustration on somebody else's property.

Vishesh said...

I read about the broken windows theory, and I find it one of the bang-on reasons.
But then again, looking at the Delhi metro. I think it serves as an exception to the theory. It should've seemed like an extremely positive environment, and the people should behave in a civilized way. There are improvements indeed, but I still see people sitting on the metro floors despite repeated instructions.
We've simply forgot to take notice of the instructions we're provided with. I guess its more of a habit, arisen out of the broken windows theory.

Vishesh said...

@RAE: True indeed. The Indian 'me' is over dominating the 'we'. We lack public sense.

Shashank Srivastav said...

aha! the article was a kick-ass \m/
Lets say an intriguing Pièce de résistance.
The post was replete and pique per se .. I mean riveting a
man(read: Indian) or calling on one to think of their own infamy.

However, at the end I sort of felt disgusted not sad, to see how even young minds can be such stugots and outstandingly bad. I mean how much more of a disgrace can they be, regardless of being foolish.
To hell with all the education they are getting. I fail to recognize why someone wouldn't like to see themselves in a better world. Just pathetic.

Okay! no further berating And I'll practive euphemism

You know the second I finished reading and before any of those unanswered " Why's " could clutter my small mind, I had the perfect answer ready:
BRING EDUCATION my man, educate them. But as you can see, that thought plummeted with the same verve it cropped up. And I was and am still left blank, deserted;
unable to think of a riposte / answer.

If education can't mend their minds then I don't know what can : good will maybe.
but I believe Education in real sense is the only solution.

now take for instance that kid you cited above whose preparing for IAS.
Would you refer to such a person as educated? Probably not , he is just literate and not Educated.
What good can he ever do?

In times like these where MOOC's are surfacing with huge success, gargantuan no. of interested people are thriving.
Shunning away their parochial attire to become more versatile and ascend their repertoire.
And I can say with pride that these are the individuals who will definitely bring a change!

I completely understand being avaricious to some extent is crucial but why be so selfish that you injure a mass.

This changes the whole idea often adduced :
that we should leave a better planet for our kids,

Whereas all we should do is leave better kids for the planet.

P. Soumya said...

Its like we have developed an indifference to our own country -- whereas as soon as we step on foreign land, we want to put our best foot forward. Is it because we lack a sense of pride in ourselves, in our nation?
We associate patriotism only with the freedom movements. but what about feeling happy for the place we live in now, 60 years down the line?

Vishesh said...

Indifference, habit, or inner voice? :P
On thinking more, I guess I have a probable answer to the why. Maybe because instead of adapting, evolving ; we simply copy. We see the Western style and incorporate it, without any changes in it according to our society. ( Like in Western Europe, they had introduced spittoons because of the frequent spitting. It was only because of the spread of the influenza epidemic of 1918 when spittoons disappeared and spitting was discouraged. Gradually the habit went out.{Source- Wikipedia})
So they adapted.
What we do, is simply incorporate.

NishantKurada said...

We,Indians are regarded as high IQ beings and to some extent,intelligence is responsible for our defiant nature.It is a fact that high intellectual lot can be found behind bars across the globe(research based on graphology or handwriting analysis).
Our intelligence consciously or subconsciously questions the significance of the rules and the necessity to follow it.
And it is not only the intelligence but a cumulative of factors like cynicism,impatience etc. responsible for this rule-breaking tendency.

@Vishesh: Great post.keep it up.I agree with you that most of the people sitting on metro floors simply forget to pay attention to the instructions.

Vishesh said...

Yes Shashank, although we both know who that guy was. :P . With education, its also about the educated behaving the way should, so others can learn.

@Nishant: Maybe that's it.
In an attempt to find the shortcuts for success, we fail to understand how we ruin the collective development by not following the norms. A company would bribe and get away with environmental norms for self success, but a wreck is created when all companies do so!

Pooja Agarwal said...

Enough of criticising Indians!!!!
As always said there are two sides of the same coin. I would like to show the other side!

Even after more than 60 years of Independence India still has the world's largest number of poor people in a single country. According to a world bank estimate 37% of total Indian population falls below the international poverty line of US $1.5 a day.

Poverty indicates a condition in which a person fails to maintain a living standard adequate for his physical and mental efficiency. Do you really expect these people to find a proper place to urinate??
They live in shabby , unclean , miserable places where i guess a common man would not like to even urinate ... So isn’t the best option available- open spaces??

The next question is that what about the rest of the 63% ??

Only 46.9 per cent of the total 246.6 million households have toilet facilities. The rest would obviously spit or urinate anywhere and everywhere. Why is it so?? Its due to lack of facilities available in india. The number of public toilets don’t meet the most rudimentary facilities for all people. People inspite of repeated instructions sit on floor in metros ...why is it so?? The aged, the weak do not find seats but they need to travel to earn a living. India a country with second largest population has to both grow and utilise the existing resources in most effective and efficient manner to meet the demands.

Though our government from time to time have launched poverty alleviation programmes but they have not been implemented properly. The reason we all know why. Corruption. Its like cancer spreading its wings at bureaucratic , corporate as well as at individual level. As a result poor are becoming poorer and rich are becoming richer implying high social inequalities.

@Alok people will surely look for a dustbin when they are sure that they will find it nearby!! Wen you actually don’t find dustbins at a stretch you will be forced to throw it. People in dubai are fined for littering. There is no such rule in this country!

The inadequacy of rules , regulations (as well as their stringent implementation) and infrastructure in our country form the obvious reasons for the unclean and unhygienic india. At the same time its not only the government’s job, its every mango man who has to understand the intensity of the situation and work towards its fulfilment.

Vishesh said...

You have rightly put forward your point and I bow to thee! I agree with you, we should not blame the people for things where they have no other choice.

But my target was at those, who have the facilities yet don't pay heed to it. Who can go to a restaurant/ shop nearby and perhaps ask for permission to use the toilet, but they'll urinate on the wall. Who can see the dustbin at a walking distance, but won't make an effort. Who know that they should wait for their car to stop somewhere to throw anything, but they pull down their window and off it goes on the roads.

Exactly, old people can't find places to sit in a metro. Repeated suggestions are given to the youth to offer their seats to women, children and the aged, but they don't listen.
I was standing when i made this observation, but saw many young people sitting. And that also makes me guilty for not suggesting someone to let the old people sit.

It is my fault, and another Indian characteristic, for not being bold enough to take a stance for the betterment of the society.

I'm not sitting, I'm doing my best.

Whereas my best would've existed if I'd made an effort to change the 'us' among us.

Corruption- well, the perfect example of money being the root of all evil. Every problem comes down to that!

And thanks for carrying on the discussion and putting forward this extremely necessary viewpoint.

N.S.Kirti said...

Interesting post and equally interesting comments by your readers here.
all i want to put in is that maybe it is the mindset of Indians that is the root cause of all this. or to put in other words... habit?
people think its OK to spit on road, elevators, platforms etc in INDIA because that, if i may be bold enough to say, is a 'characteristic' of this country. so maybe to bring our society to a cleaner level, we need to work with the very basic thinking of people itself.
I agree with the points raised by Pooja here; choice definitely seems to be a crucial role playing factor. but let me site an incident i experienced myself. I saw a teacher in my school spitting openly in the middle of our ASSEMBLY. i am not proud saying this, revealing such disgusting stuff about my school, but it is something that shocked and repulsed me greatly.
If an educated man, who in every way has an access to wash basin/bathroom can stoop to such a conduct in PUBLIC, in front of other colleagues and students, i dont know what to expect from others.
we certainly need to change the 'us' in us, that is the least we can do.
and yeah, the fear of God seems to be working quite effectively amongst us :P
A great blog you people have here :) and it was really great reading someone from the same place i am from!! had no idea kgp has these many bloggers :D
do tell me if the book was nice, i might give it a try :)

Anonymous said...

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