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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.