Monday, May 05, 2008

Are we that unique?

After a recent trip to Indonesia, a developing country of similar status as that of India, I am beginning to wonder if we are unique in certain ways. There were three stark differences that struck me (as an observer from India) right away.

First, the streets are clean. There is no garbage on the streets. The neighborhoods are clean. Wherever you go, either it is a city or countryside, the streets and locales are clean. There is no visible trash.

Second, there is no honking, unless very necessary. Most of the driving is done without honking and somehow, though some of the streets are similar to India, and though the density is comparable to many Indian towns and cities, the drivers of Indonesia have become civilized enough to do away with honking.

Third, the traffic rules are followed much better. In fact, some volunteers stand at traffic junctions and start regulating the traffic and earn money through tips. I thought it was a novel way of getting oneself a job. Imagine so many beggars in India. If they were to contribute by regulating so many unmanned and unregulated junctions of India, we would solve many congestion problems and also give livelihood to so many jobless people. Imagine if all those beggars were to convert into trash pickers to live only on tips. Of course, I am imagining too many things here. May be, they would never get tips for picking up trash. May be, they should just stick to carrying the figures of deities or just become astrologers – that is a sure way of earning money in India. May be, we have not become civilized enough to spend money on cleanliness instead of on godliness.

Looking at Indonesia, I couldn’t stop wondering why we are the way we are. Why is cleanliness so important to these Indonesians? And why does that completely escape most Indians, including the most educated and well-off ones?

Recently, I went on a small trip to a nearby sight-seeing location near Bangalore. It was completely filled with trash. Everywhere you look, there is trash. And I see people throwing trash nonchalantly. And these people are all well-off, well educated, driving nice swanky cars and wearing foreign-brand shoes and attire.

Are we so different from even the fellow developing countries to make us completely unique?


  1. Rightly Pointed.....

    i saw it in HongKong.....
    Spitting and Littering Fine..500 HK $
    Smoking in Public Place fine.. 100 HK$

    In India, This cant be Implemented... BMC once started a Drive....Cleanliness Marshall... BMC members themselves opposed it...

    People have taken themselves n others for granted..... Fines cant work here...coz every 3rd person is Relative of some Minister or MLA...

    and they know their ways around the law....

    See. I cant Blame any also a part of the system.... SO if each part works as it shud....the problem will never arise..


    People don't Litter.....
    IF People Pay the Fine, after Littering...
    IF The "Relative-MLA" refuses to help the offender...
    IF the Police Catches the Offender and "The Relative-Police officer" doesn't lax the law of the "in-laws"..
    IF the Judiciary Does work according to how it shud and punishing the offenders righteously...

    ONLY IF.....

  2. i recently read a book titled "Games Indians play"
    although it does not answer why we indians are the way we are, it tries to explain the zeitgeist through game theory and social behavior norms. it is a saddening book for any indian, but i would recommend u read it.

  3. Sujai,

    I second Smitha's comments.

    Please read the book 'Games Indians Play'. You might be able to get some logic for Indian's behavior. Check out:

    To get my review about the book.

  4. If the analysis in 'Games Indians Play' is based on game theory exlanation of behaviour, I would think twice about accepting it. Game theory began during the cold war era to try and out-manoeuvre the enemy. It later went on to become very popular among American psychiatrists. The problem with that approach in analysing humans is that in its assumptions it reduces humans to emotionless self-serving machines. Quite predictably, from psychiatry it went onto support the fundamentalist capitalist idea in economics.

    Just a perspective.

    ~ Vinod


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