Is India shining? Give me a break!
This piece of article is an un-well thought of thoughts that keep flashing in my mind. I am deeply concerned about a country that I see is on a very confused route, sometimes it feels like on a self destruct path. I am talking of India – the Shining India. In spite of the recession we are growing by over 7% per year. Our companies have been buying out Cos in Europe and other parts. Some of us have also earned gold medals in the international sports events. We have been launching satellites and now plan to send our pax to the moon…soon. We have a tough stand on nuclear programs and do not get intimidated by the Big Daddy, US.
All seem so fine and in the fast lane. Life seems to be getting better day by day. To get a descent 2 room apartment in any of the metros in India, costs you not less than 5 million rupees. Cars are expensive and so is fuel, yet the sale of houses is on the rise and so is the sales of cars. So where is the problem…Errrrr…unfortunately everywhere.
The die hard patriots will hate me for writing this and so will the Bhartiya Indians. We in India are a lot (I am talking of the majority of people…..not all) of amazing people who display the highest standards of social insensitivity. As if the world is just ‘Me’ and my priorities and my place and my life. Rest everyone and everything – just does not matter or on a modest note: go to hell.
We all have a high self esteem (do we?) about India being the “Sone ki Chiriya” (golden bird) from history that dates back to over 5000 years. We all talk a lot about our culture and claim to be among the most culturally bound nation. I am making this statement because I run a company for tours in India and have had peoples from various nations visit us. During their visits the tourists have quoted from books and authors about the culture in India (They longed to witness this great land). Our tour guides (most of them, actually being guides to guide the tourists to some carpet shop where in he gets a shamefully high commission and obviously the customer pays far more that what it should cost) – these guides, I have heard them blah blah about the culture of our country, about our emotional nature, our family bonds, about the respect for women (excuse me…respect for women. Something is wrong here). How we respect our elders and always seek their blessings. How we all are very religious…may be the guide will tell some story of his keeping a fast on Tuesday, and donating oil and a black cloth every Saturday – under a banyan tree to the SHANI – Saturn God. You better keep the God pleased…he has high powers of destruction. So is it fear…or respect that brings the guide to donate. I don’t know. Back to the story telling.
The tourists are told about our culture that is very tolerant and forgiving (That is why we all went to destroy the Babri Masjid )…forgot it! We are GOD fearing…absolutely…that is why we can pitch tents in the middle of a highway, or a well maintained park, next to a hospital or for that matter any damn place and host the most celebrated…JAGRATA (…Mata…Mata…). This JAGRATA (Loud musical night devoted to devotional songs) is a show off of your money power and it also shows how religious you are…(Opps I thought that being religious was a personal virtue and sometimes people will actually get into DHYAN (meditative state where in you introspect yourself without any prejudices to be better human being – the social being – ignore the ‘social’.)
But here in the North of India – you have to use a 20,000 watt amplifier(may be Gods are deaf or may be they have gone too far from us), organize a group of performers – who are dressed in shiny silk kurta and pyjamas and adorn a red cloth with gold borders on their heads (this is the chunari of the mother – blessing of their Godess) do a vulgar show of singing Mata Mata synchronized to some famous item number, and people dancing to the tune (dancing is still on the same charisma of the original song…but the lyrics have been changed to avoid the confusion…”choli ke nichey kya hai BECOMES murat ke agay kya hai…that’s all…after all it’s a religious show. As if the sanctity of BHAKTI (Devotion to GOD) has vanished. Perhaps with the evolution…Gods also desire to see their followers…..not in purity…but in the best of their Jewellery and attire, mind you matching the dress codes and styles of latest soaps that you follow like a religion every day.
Organizing a Jagrata – in North India is your ticket to block roads, eat away parking lots, destroy public property in order to make a stage, steal electricity directly from electric poles, draw water from municipal lines and at the end of the Jagrata – leave behind (not the peace, devotion, happiness or blessings) but a scene like a dumping ground. Plastic glasses, paper plates, left overs stacked with plastics for the cows to feast on the prashadam, a road with holes that will catalyse the cracking during monsoons…well who cares…after all we are a tolerant culture. Tolerant is the word. Try questioning anyone about things like why did you park your car here ? Well the answer from the man is a very tolerant one – Yeah tere baap ke jagah hai kya ? (Does this place belong to your dad).
Being in a profession where in I earn by showcasing the Bigness of India…I am forced to introspect and see with critical eyes (unbiased and something not Indian)…everything that is happening around me. 15 years of doing so has left me confused and sometimes ashamed. The reality is far from the ‘Great India’. Things out here are in a very volatile state. We as a society must be amongst the most divided societies in the world. I don’t blame the people for it. It’s the history of the country that has brought this catastrophe.
If you look back in our history you will find that there was no India – the India that we know. It was a collection of various kingdoms with their own ways and styles. Interestingly the Kings were always on a lookout for acquiring the neighboring kingdom (Hatred was default for the neighbors). This went on till the British came and slimily consolidated this zig saw puzzle of modern Indian Geography. It’s only after a span of time…INDIA took birth under the rule of the British. (Interestingly we hate the Neighboring country more than the British). British ruled the country and did a lot of good work along with draining the wealth to their side. But the foundation of modern India was laid by them and I am sincerely thankful to them – or by now we would still be fighting between states and being ruled by some other nuts.
Not to raise any eyebrows…all our history and historical wealth was documented and excavated by the British. Our people were busy with our culture that resonates to “Sab Chalta Hai” (Everything will do). It’s the people from the world who for centuries have been adopting our arts, dances, languages and trying hard to conserve them. But we just don’t pride in our own things.
We shamelessly display social apathy. The other day I was wondering in markets in Delhi in the old Delhi area and also in Lajpat Nagar. I often wonder about the ability of our women to hold their pee for a whole day. Or perhaps women do not pee in India when they got to public places. Men have the right tool and just require a tree, bush, parked truck, a wall or just IGNORE it when you do attitude and they will do it anywhere. I have seen them doing it in the most unimaginable places – Trees in the park around India Gate, Palika Bazaar Parking, Domestic Airport parking lot, for that matter anywhere.
Men are blessed with a power to ignore and women to hold their pee till the time they find a descent clean public toilet. (The Shulabh Man should be given Nobel Prize). Though I am born and brought up here…I have developed this fetish for clean toilets…my friends tell me that it’s a sin. Pee is our dirt and hence toilers have to be dirty. Alas….Why cannot I find a descent toilet ‘both for men and women’ more often in this country? It is quite shameful, but the ‘sab chalta hai’.
While I am writing this I read this headline in one of the dailies – Government publishes the list of Vanished monuments – excuse me! What…the historical sites gone for ever! No No that can’t be…we have a well populated office of the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) that has been protecting, restoring, and finding the historical buildings and places.
What were they doing…well now they will start to point fingers on each other for the loss…but they will never apologize and take responsibility. This department is an amazing waste…though they have been doing good work in the big cities where media’s watchful eyes keep a tab. But when you go to remote places…the reality is far from good. Once I was passing through The lahoul Valley in Himachal. They had just finished restoring the old women’s monastery named TAYUL. It’s now a brilliant cement structure as against the old mud and wood. Paintings also will be the plastic paints over the vegetable paints of those times. There was a huge pile of pillars and columns made of wood, from the old structure. I got interested. I asked them as to what will they do of these…they said “Will sell it or take it home to light stoves for winters”…phew! I asked if I could take a few columns. YES.
I am sure the ASI has funds to build a small museum…for the old pillars and columns. But who would take the pain…Tayul is not even on the road side, you have to walk uphill. So it does not matter. I have come to the conclusion that we do not take pride in our work and do not believe in an immaculate approach and perfection of our duties and work. We all end up finishing it…just for the heck of completion. As if everything was a drag. I must say that we rally have a laid back attitude and an attitude to order others to do our dirty jobs.
We all love the assistance that we get from various domestic help. Thanks to unemployment and a huge population. The kaam wali bai, our drivers, the cook, the baby sitter (these baby sitters are themselves babies of age 10 -13, carrying the rich baba or baby kid on their tender backs…all day long. You can see them in the malls behind the memsahib, In the shopping areas and every where. I live in a locality wherein I see child labor in this form and their employers are proud to employ them…where is the child labor…we feed them, give them free room to stay, free clothes, free rides in our expensive cars….we pay them also…may be Rs. 1000 or 1200 per month. Sad!
Our SAHIB attitude is so entwined into our daily lives that if any one of these is absent…our lives go for a toss. How can we manage without them? In our system we are the ones to the dirty act…and then demand the government to clean it for us. Or we expect someone else to clean my dirt. I am surprised as to how will these people manage if they were to settle in developed countries. Their houses will be like pig shacks! Enough of these mentioning of our culture!
I have this gut feeling that at one time we all went through a major famine…there was no food or land or water. That incident left a genetic defect in us. And now even when we have ample to thrive on…I see people fighting on petty things like space on roads while driving, trying to get inside a metro before the ones who are in queue or expecting the waiter to serve me before the others. Everywhere there is rush to get ahead…but ahead where?
You stand in a queue to buy your tickets and the person behind literally leans on you…as if the 5 inch gap will be taken by someone else. I am forced to ask if they were gays. I have no privacy, or my personal space. And the best is now we have even learnt the word Sorry and use it left right and centre without even thinking what it means.
I am pained to see this hunger. I have had people ring my bell well past midnight to tell me to move my car from some specific corner (that is on public property, municipal roar) to move the car, because that specific corner belongs to that fat neighbor of mine who has been parking there for some time…So he owns the place…no matter what he will not take the pain to park his car in the next empty lot and request me the next day. His EGO is dented just by the site of any car in that place. Funny…
On the contrary when he goes to some other colony…he will cooly park his car at any place and slip away. I am sure he does not think that someone like him must own that public place. It’s a fight every where. The virtue of honesty and truth – that forms the backbone of our much advertised culture is missing from the very land. Cheating each other is a normal phenomenon. Getting your insurance cover, or the reimbursements from some agency, or your pension, or any of your documents from any office…is like a mission and you have to wade through all challenges of a ‘Sahab abhi nahi hai” Boss is not present. “Boss is on a 10 day holiday and he did not transfer the charge to anyone”. “ Come tomorrow” (Without considering that the old man has travelled 4 hours in a bus in hot weather to prove his pension account” there is no sympathy. It’s a never ending road of frustration.
I know a friend from Switzerland who fell in love with Kerala. So he wanted to own a place in Kerala and make his dream house. He even started to learn Hindi and was a pro in eating with hands, dripping the Sambhar from up to his elbows. We suggested some 99 year lease program and some other hanky panky way to get him land. But being a Swiss he wanted everything proper. So he began the process wherein he will be entitled to own a piece of land as a foreigner. I saw him for 8 years, struggling, staying here for months and being made to run from pole to post and on and on. He kept his quest going…the last I learn that he died in a motorbike accident back at home in Switzerland. If only our system could be transparent, swift and honest…may be he could at least live that dream of having a house in India.
I have a ton load of such true stories that bullish the very culture that we boast of. Secular, Sovereign democratic…please read the matrimonial and you will come to get a peek into our mindset as a society as large. We are all looking for FAIR (color wise), Convent educated, homely (her duty is to keep every one happy, who will keep her happy…we don’t know), well behaved, High Character – read virgin – though this is not mentioned but there are serious undercurrents of it.
Women still have to struggle to keep their career and homes. Career oriented women are often blamed for broken homes. It’s good for them to follow a career, but as soon as she gets married – everything changes – her house, parents, priorities and even her dreams. She is now a property of someone else – the else is her protector…her MAN. She should touch his feet and be thankful to him to have married her. Dowry is still a day to day affair and this happens in the most educated families too.
Daughters are thought to be “Paraya DHAN” Someone else’s wealth. So the parents of a girl even pay a premium to safe guard this wealth. Phew! Double standards are passé, we are multi standards generation. We are a country where the general well being of citizens, and development of social facilities, free schools, colleges, more hospitals etc. – is still a thing to talk on news and the top priority still is raising statues, building parks, sanctioning schemes where in a huge commission could be gained in kickbacks. Pathetic is the word that describes the situation. But we are a very ‘Culturally Strong Country’ and we forgive. The crippled social system has made people to behave like escapists. They work, earn, and grow – only in their personal domains and shut their eyes to anything that should not be happening around them. ‘Sab Chalta Hai” (Everything is ok).