The more I think about it the more I believe that the state of
Do you ever wonder why Indians are indecent to each other and why they throw garbage everywhere?
Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen has given us an unnecessary license to hush up all criticism that points at our lack of introspection. His thesis is used by all and sundry to tell us, ‘Look! We have always been an open society; we have always discussed our issues’. Thereby we believe that we have always pointed out our negatives when needed. Yes, it was a first good step, but what we did after we discussed and debated for hours is a complete mystery. Now, I want to point out two things that we almost never discuss- either during parenting or at a cocktail party or in a serious debate on Indian media- a massive desensitization program that is ongoing; and a program to make indecency a virtue.
You know how some western countries debate their homegrown desensitization towards violence and how it affects its youth! In
On a daily basis, we are allowing our kids to become desensitized towards all our civic responsibilities. When I wrote an article on how I see ugliness everywhere, people commented that I should try to look for beauty in spite of all that superficial ugliness. When I went to Nandi Hills and commented on garbage filled hills, I was told to look beyond and enjoy the view rather than get affected by the garbage lying around. There is this amazing sense of apathy in action here- which is nothing more than being highly insensitive. We DO NOT teach our kids where trash should go, but instead we do set examples on what to do with it – Dad throwing away the used packet on the street, Mom throwing trash outside the window without even looking, Uncle spitting right there on the street, etc. These examples are good enough for this kid to do the same. With added pride that he gets, compared to his parents because of better schooling, this kid also learns the art of rationalizing these actions. He explains them away:
‘Everybody does it, Live like a Roman in
‘Someone will come along to sweep this up! Don’t worry! That’s why we pay our taxes!’
‘Look! This is just a drop in the ocean. First, clean up the ocean, then I will do my part!’
‘Don’t preach! Let’s see what difference your attitude makes’
‘Who are you to teach us? Have you seen the streets of
The new age parents spend lot of money to send their kids to top schools. I heard a radio advertisement where this international school actually sends the kids abroad as part of their education, where they spend time abroad learning. Wow! I thought. I mean which schools on the planet actually include a kid’s junket to a foreign nation? While we continue to spend exorbitantly and unnecessarily on one side, we don’t take time to teach our kids what they need to do with the trash.
I still remember one incident that took place few years ago, when I was living in US. I was at a movie hall waiting for the next movie. A kid aged 2, I guess, walked up slowly to a trash can and put his paper cup and walked back to his Dad. But this paper cup actually fell outside after few seconds. The Dad made the kid go back and put the paper cup back into the trash can. The kid did exactly as instructed. Then the Dad hugged the kid and they left the place.
Right there, in front my eyes, I saw a parent teaching his kid what to do with his trash. And to give a counter example, I have witnessed an incident in
I live in
You know why Indians are not decent to each other? It’s because decency is synonymous with the meek, the weak, and the helpless. In
A meek person waits for the traffic to clear up before he enters the main street, only because he is afraid. A decent person waits for the traffic to clear up before he enters the main street, only because he thinks it is a decent and right thing to do.
A meek person stands in line to get his ticket, because he fears someone might scold him or bash him up if he cuts the line. A decent person stands in line to get his ticket, because he thinks it is a decent and right thing to do.
There are many examples, starting from how kids behave at school all the way to college and beyond into adult and corporate life and then into retirement, which suggest that a meek person and a decent person apparently acts almost the same way, though for different underlying reasons.
Therefore, Indians have grown up not differentiating the two, and instead, conveniently clubbed both these into one- 'the meek, the weak, and the helpless'. Nobody wants to be seen as meek, the weak and the helpless. They want to be seen as strong, assertive and aggressive. Therefore, we end up doing those actions which suggest these desired qualities in us.
A person who doesn’t wait at traffic and instead juts in causing lot of inconvenience to others is seen as aggressive and ‘smart’. He is paid handsomely for this aggressive posture because he gets away with it, seen by others as a great example. When you wait at traffic, you are actually told not to wait, and that it is the Indian way to jut through irrespective of how much inconvenient it is to others. You are told that you will end up waiting there forever (which according to them is losing out).
The parents teach the kid (by setting the wrong examples) to become more aggressive, be more dishonest, be more corrupt, to cut the line, to bend the traffic rule, all in the great Indian game of ‘getting ahead’. They rationalize all this as ‘getting ahead in a rat race’. ‘Hey, do you want my kid to stay behind? No way! I am teaching all the skills he needs to win this race’, is their usual response when asked why they prefer their kid to be an aggressive go-getter ‘using all that it takes to get there’ instead of being a decent human who respects others, is more concerned about his environs, and is an honest tax-payer.
We have made this ‘aggressiveness with utter disregard for politeness and courtesy’ a virtue in
Through our bad parenting, which sets wrong examples, we have institutionalized insensitivity and indecency and made them virtues. Please don’t blame the politicians. They are just the symptom, not the cause.