A Curious Mind W(o/a)nders

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Random impressions of India

I come back home to Kolkata, India, atleast once a year for a few weeks; this time around I jotted down some random impressions I had at the end of the stay:

- You have to stay continually alert and tough to survive...even on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise there is every chance that you will be tricked many times in a single day, or you'll be waiting in a queue ad infinitum, or you'll be charged a fine after an accident though it was no fault of yours, so on and so forth. You can't depend on the system, you have to fight the system every now and then.

- Judging by the standard of living, there are many sub-countries within the same country. The small minority of rich millionaires and billionaires live an enviable life by every global standard. The large middle class, of which I am a part, lives a life comparable to, or probably just a notch below an average advanced nation's denizens. The poor live a wretched life; its no life at all, just a daily struggle to survive another day. Despite such galling inequality the country doesn't fall apart since there is an osmosis between the various economic strata. Many of India's elite have risen through the ranks in a single generation, some honestly, some through the backdoor. Yet its this hope of breaking through the glass ceiling that prevents a rebellion by the deprived.

- There is hardly any formal social support system to fall back on. Thus you have to create your own informal systems and networks everywhere. If your locality has had some robberies you'd rather hire a few extra watchmen to patrol the place than expect much from the police. Only the elitest firms in the private sector give medical care, so you'd purchase your own medicare if you can afford it. Things like that. Relatives are important, community is important, workplace connections are important - these are the networks that help you naviagate the maze.

- Despite the distrust of governement in many day-to-day issues, there is an implicit faith in the government in certain affairs. Most people prefer to save in government banks, look forward to sending their kids to government higher education institutes (though they don't trust government "primary" education), prefer that there is some government control of natural resources, aspire for good government jobs etc. etc. The overall perception is that the government can be careless and dysfunctional at times, but its not inherently malicious.

- The 'honest' best that comes out of this country is very easily among the best you can find anywhere in the world (by 'honest', I mean the ones who've not used any back door to the top). And that's because their mettle has been tested in very demanding and chaotic of situations as they've tried to ascend the steps. If they've still managed to come out trumps, they are usually damn good. So if you care to look,  you'll find brilliant doctors, great scientists and innovators, smart shortkeepers, amazingly scheming politicians or traders...and all such innovative sorts strewn across the length and breadth of the country.

Thats it for now, more later :)


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