Wednesday, April 11, 2012

India and Darwin's theory

Anybody who is exasperated with the social behavior of Indians, especially those living abroad, must get one fact right. First.

That we were born in an overpopulated country with severe resource constraints and a mostly dysfunctional government.

Yes, we tend to be indisciplined, impolite and discourteous. Yes, we never seem to follow queues. And Yes, we tend to find "workarounds" (has jugaad already entered English dictionaries?) even for things that work. And, at every possible opportunity at that.

But how did we get this way ?

Is it in our 'blood' ? Can't we never learn to be 'civil' ?

Tom Wilkinson in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (an excellent movie, if I may add) makes a brilliant point. In India, life is a privilege, not a right.

In my country, we don't 'assume away' the basic necessities of life. We struggle to get them. Access to water, food, hygiene and electricity is NOT assumed. Not "obvious".We fight to get them. If you never lived in India, you might never understand what that means.

ONLY the top 1% of India's population can take these for granted, everywhere they go. Here's a scenario : The average Indian takes an 8 hour bus ride from point A to point B. After 4 hours, the driver stops the bus in order that passengers 'relieve' themselves. Now, how do they do that ? Use public toilets ? You must be joking! We know all too well that (unmanned) public toilets are unspeakably dirty and infectious, so what do we do ? We look for trees ! I claim that ANY sane person, from any part of the world, would behave exactly in the same way - if put in this situation.

You see - it is not in our 'blood'.
Again - Why don't we Indians learn to follow queues ? If you queue up in India for public transport, you will never be able to board an overcrowded bus or a train. Lets try the following social experiment in your favorite developed country - Cancel all bus routes except ONE , and keep the frequency at crazy low levels during peak time. Make sure there are only 20 seats in the bus for a passenger demand of 200. Allow the passengers to complain about this, but simply ignore them. Finally, report that the sun rises in the west if you still see people queuing up!

You see. In India, we need to fight to survive. Struggle to exist. We push, we shove and we make a place for ourselves. It is the only way we have learnt to live.

So, the next time you see us jumping queues or forgetting to open the door for you, admonish us. Counsel us and correct us. But PLEASE, understand us too.


Rohith V said...

Absolutely true. When we went on our Europe trip we met and spoke (with a clear intent to talk to as many people as possible) to many people. Canadians, Germans etc...I used to narrate the same thing to them over and over again.

The scale at which we operate is simply unthinkable to a Hollander or an Australian.

And I would invariably use the number of cellphone subscriber in India to show them the comparison.

Then they would be wowed...

Anonymous said...

Same was the situation even 120 years back when Swami Vivekananda travelled across the country.
Probably, it will be the same 120 years later too.

executioner said...

"That we were born in an overpopulated country with severe resource constraints and a mostly dysfunctional government."

Bingo. I thought I was the only one who thought like this. But then if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that everytime you think you're alone, you need to realize that you're just in a minority. Or probably an overwhelming minority.