Monday, June 18, 2007

Trying to find beauty in India

How easy (or hard) is it to see something beautiful in this country? I cannot imagine the plight of tourists who visit India. What must be going on in their heads? Can one find beauty in India?

Today, in the morning, I was trying to locate few beautiful things. First, I get confounded with idiotic Indians in the traffic. They are everywhere. I keep looking for one act of courtesy, one act of decency. It’s hard to come by. If you yield for a pedestrian, they walk off nonchalantly without even nodding an approval towards you. If you stop at the crossroads to yield to traffic on the main road, you get yelled at, you get passed by cars and motorcycles from both sides. Nothing beautiful to find as yet! I get to my office, and walk a little distance, and I see various shops keeping their front yard clean. How do they do it? They clean up the mess and pile the trash right there on the road in a heap. Eventually the traffic and the wind will disperse that trash over the entire place. I haven’t found something beautiful as yet. Then I spot a very nice and beautiful girl, listening to music on her iPod, walking seductively. Every move of her is quite entrancing. And she has this nice smile on her pretty face. Ah! At last I have found something beautiful in otherwise ugly India. Then it happens. The ugliest scene I could ever witness. That girl takes a chocolate out from her handbag, and throws the wrapper to the wind right there on the middle of the road, coolly, with the same grace and seductiveness that she was walking all this while. How hard it is to find something beautiful here- the places are ugly and so are the people.

Traveling to India by airplane is usually inclusive of a small rehearsal of facing this ugliness of India. The Indian passengers on the plane from US behave differently in two legs of the voyage. The journey to an intermediary city (such as London, Amsterdam, Paris, etc) is usually quite decent. The Indians, consisting of a PhD from MIT and senior manager at IBM behave quite ‘decently’. They wait till the lights show that you can now remove your seatbelt. They all get up in a ‘decent’ way. They remove the baggage and if it falls on someone, they throw some minimum decent apologies. This decent behavior is either of genuine decency or out of sheer meekness (which we will soon find out). But once the plane takes off towards the final destination in India, the atmosphere completely changes. When it lands in India, all the passengers get up before the lights go on that indicate ‘seat belt can now be removed’. Unruliness and indecency is the norm of the moment. Every one is shoving the other person to get their luggage out. The same PhD from MIT and senior manager from IBM have removed their cloak of decency to bare their ugliness. That shard of courtesy which they donned in a foreign nation is now completely absent. The older people who were quite meek at the transit city are now quite aggressive in their postures and movements. They brazenly lunge their bodies and luggage into others without apologizing. The lady on the plane speaks over the intercom- ‘Welcome to India! Hope you have a great stay’ and I prefer to read it as ‘Welcome to Land of Idiots! Ugliness starts right here’.

29 comments:

  1. My God!Your past few posts have been so cynical! I understand that Hinduism has it's ugly face, but it's still one of the most tolerant religions. I also respect your right to to be free to choose your religion and if you want to believe in a God. Also, I agree there are many things wrong with our country. But the way you have written your posts it seems like there's absolutely nothing right with our country, there's nothing good in our people. It seems like you are the only one who stops for pedestrians, stops at crossroads and does not throw waste onto the roads.

    Expressing your angst, despair or some form of superiority complex?? I'm not saying you shouldn't write about this or 'how dare you write like this'. You are well withing your rights to express your opinion. Is it possible that you didn't find anything beautiful coz you weren't looking for it? Your attitude was such that you were seeing only the bad things? How bout an article on all the things good/beautiful about India? Come on, we really aren't that bad now, are we?

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  2. i really loved the second half of your blog's subtitle. and i'm going to post it on my blog :)

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  3. Whatever "attitude" you may have, I too am struck by that. I think about India and what I have there and the answer is nothing. There is nothing in India worth going back to. There is just unruly people madly involved in a rat race. There are some shining examples now and then. But the average is sickenining.
    Your latter half of the post is very very true. The change in attitude is so obvious. How do Indians do it? Just how? Do they even know they are doing it? I wonder. Hopelessness has taken over me. I have no hope in India.

    ~ Vinod

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  4. Either shut up or do something about things that bother you. But whatever it is that you do, spare the world your moral outrage. So, if dirty streets are your problem, pick a goddamn broom and sweep them clean.... You know what is ugliest about India? People like you, who sit on their asses and just act superior. Also, like attracts like. I am sure that's the reason you can't find anything nice in India. Catch the next flight out of India PLEASE...

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  5. "The Indian passengers on the plane from US behave differently in two legs of the voyage." - Ain't that the truth!! I have seen it so many times.

    You can still find some beauty if you look hard. For instance, I still see youngsters helping elderly strangers cross the street safely.

    We have light years to go when it comes to improving our civic sense and common courtesy.

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  6. continued-contemplation:
    I don't have to answer to you. But lest others think the same. Here's my answer.

    What do I do?
    I don't throw garbage or trash on the streets. And if someone that I am associated to does it, I decently ask them to pick it up. Sometimes I pick it up myself to set an example. That's what I do - consistently, all the time, without fail. If everyone did their part, I don't think we need to clean up the streets. They would be clean already.

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  7. :)

    I understand your frustration. I too am quite frustrated with the people of this country.

    But dont forget that we are such a poor, populous country, that people feel that they have to fight every single moment for their survival. And in their fight they have to beat others and get ahead of them, since only a few can survive.

    :)

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  8. First, I get confounded with idiotic Indians in the traffic. They are everywhere. I keep looking for one act of courtesy, one act of decency. It’s hard to come by. If you yield for a pedestrian, they walk off nonchalantly without even nodding an approval towards you.

    Sujal, just one question.

    Before visiting the US, how often if ever, did you nod to someone who stopped for you at pedestrian crossing? Be honest.

    This is an interesting trait of phoren returned-s. They visit a different country, find something good and then start wailing why people of his own country are so stupid as to not follow something, which they have not even seen. It is pretty much the attitude of earlier native sahibs which went like this: "White man hate native. Native bad. Me, good native. Me, also hate bad native.Period."

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  9. Anonymous:
    Many people ask me this. ‘Were you like this before?’ It’s hard to answer that question unless you have a good memory of how you were before when you were living in this country. In my case, I have to rely on accounts of my friends and my parents who witnessed some of my behaviors. What I found out is that in some respects I was the same even before- its is just that living in other lands has only strengthened by core belief, that’s all, may be, I was shy being this way before. Now I am not. Even back then, I would never throw piece of garbage. I would fold the paper and put into my pocket and wait till I get a place where I could dispose it off.

    I was the same when it comes people treating me like shit. When a ticket person at railway station refused to give me ticket because I didn’t have the right change, I stood ground and made sure that he gave me ticket, and in the process invoked his wrath and his invectives. This was all before I even set foot on a foreign land.

    You may think nodding an approval is a western phenomenon. I don’t think so. Two days ago, I stopped for an old lady who was crossing a main road. She was walking on the zebra crossing. She stopped midway thinking that I would just go ahead. When I stopped, two motorcyclists zoomed past me from both sides. But after a second or two, the traffic stopped, the lady proceeded to cross the street. While she was crossing, she looked at me and nodded with a sense of approval. Western nodding and eastern nodding could be different, but an approval can be easily sensed wherever you are born or trained.

    I am not answering your question here, I am answering many people who may similar doubts about me.

    I called our people idiots even before going to foreign country. I will call them idiots after I have come back. It is just that now I have realized that I am not the only one who thinks these people are idiots. There are many out there who have shunned these idiotic practices long ago, while we never seem to learn.

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  10. Sujai,

    I can understand your frustration. One suggestion that you can take or leave: criticize the action, not the people. Just because someone acts in an idiotic manner when you observe him/her, does not make him/her an idiot. I'm sure you are smart enough to discern the difference. :)

    Thanks!
    -Amit

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  11. Amit:
    Thanks for the suggestions. However, I am not going to follow it. I do find those actions idiotic. And those who keep doing them in spite of knowing better, I like to call them idiots.

    Please allow me this only satisfaction of calling them idiots (it is nothing to do with mentally retarted people who can't help themselves). These are idiots who have all capacity not to be idiotic but chose to be idiotic.

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  12. hey [deleted * unnecessary provocation], why don't you put your money where your mouth is? organize a NGO to pick up the trash people sweep into the streets. fund billboards and TV ads promoting pedestrian safety. spend some time & money arranging to clean up the local park, plant some trees, advocate public awareness... start a political party... anything!

    but no, you won't do that. instead you sit on your ass and post the same redundant crap on some shitty blog which achieves exactly NOTHING.

    your observations may be accurate, but your hypotheses are flawed.

    what's ugly in this country are [deleted] like you, brandishing their sense of "moral superiority", all the while being apathetic and unmotivated to actually organize and DO something about it. [deleted * expletive].

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  13. Anonymous:

    Avoid using abusive language. Next time on, I will reject your comments.
    Thanks.

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  14. Hi Vinod,

    Let me ask you something!! Is it because of ugly india u went abroad or because u want to do ur MS went there?

    Many people when they are in US behave as if they are most dignified !If they won't follow rules they will be fined or kicked there.

    The moment they are back to India they will tell us all nonsense saying US guys are disciplined ,they follow rules and the same guy won't follow when he is in INDIA.Just cursing INDIA -saying it ugly.If its really ugly why don't u stay back.

    Why u come here and curse people?

    And for Sujai ,

    Its just hatred towards INDIANS.Whatever he writes in BLOG 90% of times it will be criticising INDIA or INDIANS.I don't know why he still want to stay in this ugly place?

    He himself gives an example saying an old lady has nodded head when he stopped and at the same time he says its ridiculous.He himself has written "Peevish Indians" to which even he belongs!!He can only take suggestions which says good about him and not bad.

    Keep looking at his answers he will definitely say some or the other thing for this too.And the answer will be "Grow up" /"Welcome to the world of maturity" etc etc as if he is the only one grown up in the world and has the highest level of maturity.
    I don't think its that bad/ugly.

    Even if its bad I still want to stay here only.

    -KK

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  15. KK-

    Its just hatred towards INDIANS.

    I don’t hate India nor do I hate Indians. I think I have said somewhere- I am a proud Indian. That does not mean I think I am superior, and it does not mean I think India is superior. It means- I am proud of what I am without feeling superior to others or without feeling inferior to others.

    There’s a big difference between hating India and criticizing India. Hope you understand the difference. The day you understand that difference, hopefully, you will be able to understand my blog.

    Whatever he writes in BLOG 90% of times it will be criticising INDIA or INDIANS.I don't know why he still want to stay in this ugly place?

    You criticize something or someone when you have certain expectations from it. On the other hand, you hate something you don’t want to attach yourself to.

    When you criticize someone, you expect them to do better next time because you had set certain expectations from that person. You want that person to succeed the next time. When you hate someone, you expect them to do worse than the previous time and you want see the doom of that person. You want that person to fail next time.

    In all my writings, I wish for India’s betterment. I want it to do much better than what it has been doing so far. If it is ugly, I want it to be beautiful.

    Now, why should someone escape from a place that he criticizes? Some of the ardent critics of US are living inside US and it is a vibrant democracy. (please see my ‘why do we criticize our nations?’)

    He himself gives an example saying an old lady has nodded head when he stopped and at the same time he says its ridiculous.

    I never said that it was ridiculous. Now, you are making up things.

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  16. When you criticize someone, you expect them to do better next time because you had set certain expectations from that person. You want that person to succeed the next time.

    I sincerely hope you don't follow this thinking when raising your kids and expecting them (or your family members) to do better and succeed. They'll grow up to hate you.

    Criticism is fine, but one has to examine the underlying feeling - whether one is doing it out of love or out of contempt. Not just criticism, but how one criticizes is an important factor, which IMO the author hasn't given much thought, or ignored. Taare Zameen Par has some interesting things to say about it.

    And another part - scientific - is whether one's actions are having the desired results or not (evaluating action-and-reaction). If not, then one must re-examine his actions and the underlying basis, otherwise the quote by Einstein that defines a fool (doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results) is quite apt in this case. ;)
    -chirkut

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  17. KK

    I left India for a country that got its independence after India did and that began almost at the same condition as India. It has now left India far behind.

    "If they won't follow rules they will be fined or kicked there."

    I think you need a stint abroad to see that people behave themselves, not just because of fear of the law. Their civic sense is developed enough to see that it benefits everybody to follow some basic courtesy and rules. It is like a self-catalysing phenomenon. People may start off out of fear of the law and once they see the benefit of following the rules, the motivations change to being courteous simply because it is good for all in itself.


    "The moment they are back to India they will tell us all nonsense saying US guys are disciplined ,they follow rules and the same guy won't follow when he is in INDIA.Just cursing INDIA -saying it ugly.If its really ugly why don't u stay back."

    Now you're painting with a broad brush and getting over-dramatic.

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  18. First of all sorry for my typo mistake.I think I added the word "ridiculous" and did not checked it before posting it.

    "When you criticize someone, you expect them to do better next time because you had set certain expectations from that person"

    Do you think writting a BLOG or posting the issue on NET solves the problem.How many Indians read this? I observed most of ur topics criticise Indians.May be thats ur expectation and thats how u want india to be.But the mistake is in our system.

    If we want to change something lets try to change the people around us first.
    An Indian in India behaves like indian but the same guy when move to other country like US behaves as if he is US guy.why?Because the system make them to do so.If u r fined for every wrong thing u do atleast at root level(lets start from here) there will be definitely a change.

    You have given many suggestions in ur BLOGS did it changed even after that .The answer will be definitely "No".

    If I stop at signal with "RED" light "ON" people behind me start honking and they will shout at me if I don't move.Even if I am correct people won't allow me to do correct thing.This happened to me many times.People shouted at me I have given them back but again I won't move on "RED" signal.

    I warned many people who won’t wear seat belts.I told one guy almost 100 times till now to wear seat belt.He never used seat belt,but now atleast on main roads he definitely wears seat belt.

    I gave this example only to tell u that try to educate the people around u. I did many things of this kind .May be its difficult but its not “IMPOSSIBLE”. Wrtting a BLOG may only decrease ur frustration or anger but not solve the problem.

    Anyways this is my way of thinking. Good luck for ur future.

    Bye
    KK

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  19. KK:

    Do you think writting a BLOG or posting the issue on NET solves the problem.

    Please read the title message on this blog. These are my opinions. You are entitled to agree or disagree. I do not expect things to change so easily just with a blog. Having said, if that was the case, then there shouldn’t be a single book written to analyze current events or no opinion page in a single newspaper, or a single pamphlet distributed. But, such messages, as small as a mere pamphlet, have brought revolutions in some cases (though I do not have such expectations from my blog).

    How many Indians read this?

    Very few Indians read this- the very same number of Indians who actually pay attention to a Science class trying to understand its message instead of just trying to mug up the formulae to pass the next exam.

    But the mistake is in our system.

    I don’t agree completely. I addressed this in many of my blogs. You can start off with ‘Indian Man Vs. Indian State’.

    If we want to change something lets try to change the people around us first.

    This is my attempt. If I can influence one person, I will consider that a success.

    A lady once wrote that after reading my blog, she stopped her car and picked up her mobile phone instead of her customary habit of talking over phone while driving.

    That is good enough for me.

    An Indian in India behaves like indian but the same guy when move to other country like US behaves as if he is US guy.why?

    I don’t have all the answers. I address this to an extent in ‘Tipping Point’.

    Because the system make them to do so.

    I don’t agree.

    If u r fined for every wrong thing u do atleast at root level(lets start from here) there will be definitely a change.

    I don’t necessarily believe that will solve the problem. At the most, I see more coercion from the rule-enforcers and more corruption.
    I gave this example only to tell u that try to educate the people around u. I did many things of this kind .May be its difficult but its not “IMPOSSIBLE”. Wrtting a BLOG may only decrease ur frustration or anger but not solve the problem.

    ;-)
    Thanks for the suggestion. You seem to be doing well. Why then do you get frustrated by my blog? ;-)

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  20. Although what you have said is true, it mostly applies to people in the cities. I do see the point you are trying to make, but your views cannot be generalized to include the whole of the Indian population. In my experience, people in villages and small towns are well behaved and, in most cases, I have been greeted with a "namaskar" or some other form of local greeting when I meet some stranger in such places. I have seen that people are willing to help me as much as they can when I make an enquiry. In some cases their hospitality has surprised me. I cannot agree to your generalization that you can find only ugliness here. I say, you are looking for beauty in the wrong locations. A few small stones in your rice does not make the rice itself bad. The stones are ugly, not the rice.

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  21. There has been a lot of discussion or interchange of thoughts about the very topic that India is ugly.sujoy , i too want to join this bandwagon of people who are on the other side of the boat . I am presently in US and I agree to your thoughts there are some basic problems in India . But i beg to differ that India is ugly . US is deluged with mannerism no doubt , but I have seen people smiling at u just for the heck of it . I have few classmates who are american and who dont see us in high regards . Yes , they were people who have been truly decent and have welcomed us . But I have felt innumerable time this ingrained thought in them about India being a country of people where there isnt enough resources to fulfill the needs of people , thats why they immigrate .
    The problem with India is rampant illiteracy and feeble law system . But it lies in our hands , I completely agree that U have been taking initiative in picking up things and putting into the garbage . But we need to realize that there are very few who do this,we just shun away are responsibility because we succumb to the environment and the law system . i agree to people that when Indians come to US they are bound by rules , so they are compelled to abide by the rules . Yes , we do need a radical change ,, and its we who can do that .. I may be going too far in this realisation because there are many barriers that preclude you from voicing your opinion . But the thing is that US is beacuse of their people , yes there are ground root problem ,, but its we who have to find a solution . India isn't ugly , with idiots flocking all around .

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  22. Shambavi:
    Thanks for writing.

    Looks like you have recently discovered US and its people. Good for you.

    Give it few more years and I am quite sure you will see far more details and depths, and may be, you will compare societies not on their behaviors and mannerisms but on their maturities.

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  23. Man.. what is this?? When I started reading your posts I kind of liked them, but this post is very derogatory. This kind of problems you will see every where, don't compare everything with USA. I think in one of your posts only I read that, people prefer to stay under rules in USA than to be free in India. Don't despise your country like this man. Do people leave their homes just because they find their Mom is untidy or something. How many of NRIs coming back to India are actually behaving moe prudently. As they land in India, they do the same thing. Many people, they eat a foreign chocolate.. they bought in their fanciful trip to US but throw the wrappers back on the ground ! Those who have seen the difference between US and India itself are not ready to bring about such change how can we expect the ones who never travelled abroad changed. And why do youu need to worry so much about others. You mantian certain habits, seeing which others will cultivate and this effect will go on. That is every one learnt how to use a computer, how to use a mobile and how to interpret the traffic signals, or every other thing that is done a mass of people.

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  24. Sujai, have you read Shantaram? Please do read it. I am sure that if an Australian convict can realise that our people are the beautifullest in the world, you will also tend to agree.

    As far as making a difference is considered, i m glad that your blog at least initiates a discussion - a sign that we are trying to better ourselves - gradually. i think its our responsibility being the cream of the society (i consider internet usage & blogging as quite a privilege in our country - available to a select few) to be tolerant and try to bring about that difference (instead of just flying off to developed countries to avoid the ugliness you mentioned).

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  25. you seemed ashamed to be indian.

    beauty is everywhere in india. you cant be blinded by inconvenience and superficialities. its the small victories that people achieve every day in their lives that makes it beautiful. the chaos, beautiful eyes, faith, love, random singing and dancing, (i could go on forever!), the fight, the romance, solidarity.

    i guess it all depends on your personality. there is negativity and ignorance in every culture and country. you can't let that define your idea of what your culture is or you will continue to have a negative view of you who are.

    give india a break yaar, its only been 61 years. we all know that it is not up to par legally or infrastructurally. i think it's done a pretty damn good job trying to catch up to speed thusfar, don't you?

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  26. sujai,
    why cant you come and visit delhi metro. I hope you can find something beautiful here. I am not saying here it would be very beautiful like western countries. But it would be better than the place you were searching the beauty for. You know here inside the metro people dont litter, they always stand in queue to board the train. But to be frank these civic sense are followed only within the 4 walls of the metro. Once the people come out it is business as usual. So atleast inside the metro you can find some beauty.
    I see some changes in the way people use the metro service the time when it started and now about 4-5 yrs later. Actually when the service started, people were behaving the same way they use to behave outside. They litter, even spit paan on the glasses or on escalator. Sometimes escalator stops because of the paan clogging on the sides.(the inventor has not taken this into consideration - poor design). there used to be a yellow line on the platform which we should not cross.but people dont mind it.
    but nowadays things are changing. you dont find anyone spitting or littering or eating in the premises. but still few people cross the yellow line, still few sit on the floor of the train. things are improving. But people's behaviour change according to the crowd also. More crowd = less civic sense.
    But atleast when you see delhi metro you would have some hope that things have not gone that bad.

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  27. LOL...you speak the truth...I have seen that first hand and I have travelled to india 4 times in the past 15 years...Very shameful...
    Indians somehow are better behaved in the US than in India.
    When I look around for a trash can in Munnar and on not finding one, decided to take my trash back with me to the resort, people thought I was being crazy?...Thats exactly what I would do if I was at yellowstone national park or anywhere..why not India huh?

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  28. I have to say i agree with you about the garbage situation. I remember the litter around our street when growing up. but I do think the present generation wouldn't do littering. I believe that we are developing/realizing our civic duty. I am example of that, even in my school days I wouldn't litter just by watching Doordarshan advertisements promoting civic sense. My point is change is coming, yes its slow but its there around the corner. like you said correcting our friends/acquaintances on the civic responsibilities is all that we can do to bring in change.

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  29. Do you have any clue as to why Indians lack complete civic sense? Even much more backward countries in Africa or Asia do not have such disregard for a civic sense. It would be interesting to try and understand why only Indians lack this sense.

    It is not just about littering the surroundings, the oggling,jostling,eve teasing, groping, grabbing,loud, brash, rude, aggressive behavior,spitting,cutting corners,constantly looking for shortcuts to success, plagiarism, breaking rules, pirating software,dvds etc etc..........

    Would be nice if you provided some insight into this... .

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