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21 September, 2004

India Thru' Foreign Eyes & Vice Versa.....

Hi Caferati,

Though the Caferati readers have probably washed their hands off the topic "why foreigners find it difficult to work in India..." I am posting this blog because I find it terribly fascinating.

I have a friend in Germany , Ms.Silke Schwarzbach who wrote to me asking :

Dear Max,

Good Morning,
I've been at India last year and I found it very different to all countries I have seen before.
Have you ever been to Europe? With european Eyes India seem a bit shocking- so many people living on the streets with cows and dogs in between.
But after some days I could see in the eyes of the people that they are not all sad. Some of them have a "shining" that many european people have lost.
And I had to learn that I have to change my point of view. For that I am interested in the indian point of view...
What I want to know is quite dificult to ask:
What is important for Indian people?
What are major problems in India?
How about religional casts? Do they still exist and are still hierarchies?
I am very aware that India is a huge country so that "the Indians" hardly exist.
But I would be glad to get a little bit of your point of view!
Thanks a lot and have a nice day!

Here then is my asnwer which is going to attract a lot of bouquets and brickbats I am sure : -

Dear Silke,

Hey Silke,

That was a wonderful reply to me.
Let me answer ur queries one by one :

Have I been to Europe?

Yes twice. Once in 1993 for eight days at Bergotel Bestei, Dresden, Bremen, Hamburg, Salzgitter, and Frankurt.
Second time to Sofia Bulgaria in 2002 via Zurich where I stopped for a while.

I know how the European eyes look at so many people living with cows and dogs inbetween. This is a fact of life here, a way of life -and I guess those who have lived with animals in close proximity cannot live otherwise. I know of hundreds of cases where the local governent made huge apartments for slum-dwellers, and to their horror, the goats and dogs and other animals moved into the apartments with the new occupiers.....

On the other hand I have not come across any of these people suffering from heart disease or neurosis or depression or 10000 other modern new ailments. They live a contented life almost free of stress.

Yeah, after a few days you could see a shine in the eyes of poverty stricken people that you failed to see in the much better off people in Europe... once at Frankfurt airport I had meditated on this topic, for at least six hours.... my conclusion was that Germany despite its huge strides in industry and finance, seems to be peopled by ghosts. I could see almost insane expression on faces of most persons lost in their own personal world, not paying attention to events around them, and working like automatons. Neurotics abound in such societies... and what use is progress in finance and trade when the average person is more and more under stress?

I could see that the women on streets in Sofia, smoke desparately and have a hunted look in their eyes, as if being pursued by a hundred monsters. Their walking style is brisk and always hurried -as if they are scared witless of missing an appointment, an opportunity or a chance... in fact Bulgaria is one of the unhappiest countries in the world : they have a lot to catch up with in terms of money and infrastructure. This dissatisfaction shows on their faces.

What is important to Indian people ?
I may not be the best person to answer but I am an average Indian so let me try.

Peace in the society, Peace of mind, a good family with very solid family values, some social standing, a roof over our heads, a steady job and income, affection and loyalty, lack of disease and ailment, reliable support from family and society, some recognition and amusement. These are the fundamental things that we all need.

Most Indians seem lackadaisical, bordering on the carefree even irresponsibile, because they do not get thrown out from home at the age of 15. Even a middle aged man of 55 can still be supported financially by a father or mother or an uncle, even someone not related to him. Thus emotionally most Indians are very soft -and breaking of family bonds is equated with disaster or calamity: losing a job or becoming a pauper overnight in business is not that big a calamity... try and grasp these values.

Dishonesty is common, but it is virtually spat upon and a big ruckus is made when someone is caught. In the end, we always forget and forgive our dishonest, corrput ministers who milk the land dry. And stash away millions in Swiss banks.

Major Problems in India ?

Increasing disquiet on the caste and religion basis is threatening to tear this society apart... however the society has self-healing powers and it has usually bounced back to good health after momentary madness or aberration.

Food was a problem long ago, now it is not. Very strangely India produces more than enough food but the distribution system is so rotten, food gets eaten by rats and rodents whilst human being starve to death. We are very callous about statistics. Thousands dying every day, look like empty figures to us. We rarely act on such matters.

Drinking water is a big problem in many dry regions, and it is predicted to become a huge problem very soon. There could be water riots in near future -which makes us shiver. Very little is being done to combat this sure calamity.

Over population has led us to more diseases, more lack of law and order, more crime and more short cuts in earning daily bread.... over construction is depleting the green cover which is affecting rainfall which can cause more droughts in future.

Yes caste structure has been cast in iron... it will never go away form India. Hierarchy still exists, and at various levels. We are sharply divided over these matters and yet, as Indians we come together and fight the enemey whether it is an external threat like China or Pakistan invading us or an internal threat from a government that has failed to rule properly.

India Silke, is not a country, it is a continent.

I hope I have been able to answer yr queries.




There, there, folks. Start throwing the flowers or the stones.... I am ready.


Blogger Pragya said...

Your response to Silke was brilliant. I loved it. Did you ever hear back from her again?

I left India 16 years ago. I was born in the US and raised in India and then moved to the US to reclaim the citizenship that was my birthright.

In my sixteen years here I have been flooded with the types of questions people like Silke have asked. Over here there seems to be a complete ignorance about India and Indians and a lack of understanding of what makes an average indian tick.

Your reply to her, therefore, was brilliant, the response I've ever heard crafted.

10 October, 2004 05:15  

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