KR Ravi | Sep 09, 2009
When Jaswant Singh wrote something about Mohammed Ali Jinnah the ensuing brouhaha in the BJP told a tale about India that needs to be analysed. I suggest that we as a nation are prisoners of the past in many of our activities in daily life. In other words we are like the car driver who drives down a main road with his eyes fixed on the rear view mirror!
Talk to an Indian politician and depending on his party ideology he will eulogize Mahatma Gandhi, or Patel, or Indira Gandhi or Anadurai or Kamaraj or Karl Marx or Chairman Mao or someone else, all the way back to Lord Ram. When I ask my scientist friends who wax eloquent about our ‘great scientific achievements’ of the past, about what is our contribution to the world these days they have little to say.
I ask scientists this question: If you say that India had an advanced scientific culture in the past and many modern inventions like aircraft first existed in our land, can you now predict at least one life altering invention or discovery that the west will come out with in the future and which is already known to India?
Even computer experts in India shock me by telling me that Sanskrit is best suited for programming. I stun them in return by asking if any computer program has been written with this ‘fact’ in mind. I also ask them – will or can you write a programme using Sanskrit in a meaningful way?
When I see how we break rules and laws in daily life casually and with impunity, I ask myself why are we as a nation so indifferent to law and order? Is there something in our DNA that makes us disobedient? During our freedom struggle we were taught by our leaders to disobey rules with a view to making it difficult for the British to govern us — this was called ‘civil disobedience’. But 62 years after Independence we continue to be disobedient. The past holds us in thrall and our old habits die hard.
The World Health Organisation has announced that Indian roads are the most dangerous in the world with 13 fatalities every hour! Why do we disobey traffic rules?
I suspect that we are not only prisoners of the civil disobedience mindset but also of another phenomenon. I refer to our past village life. Many aspects of our daily lives are a vestige of our past rural lives. To be sure a majority of our population still lives in villages. Our town and city dwellers continue to behave like villagers. Thus in a village there is little fear of being run over by a bullock cart. Today the lack of fear of an accident on the part of jaywalkers may be a vestige of this behaviour. As for rash driving this may also be due to the rural attitude of the powerful considering themselves exempt form any law — this is evident to this day. Thus a truck or car driver has a power that can be exactly measured in terms of the horse power of his engine multiplied by his speed multiplied by his connections! How can you expect him to respect a mere pedestrian?
The way Ganeshotsav is celebrated in say Mumbai is proof that ‘India lives in the villages’. Nowhere else in an advanced nation will a ‘celebration’ be permitted to hamper traffic across a city and throw normal life out of gear for almost two weeks. To give one more example, the way some of us celebrate Holi is an instance of pastoral life transplanted into city life. Readers may not know this sensational stuff. There was a case where a Hindu family in a major city in the US celebrated the wedding of their son with 3 ELEPHANTS striding slowly down a road accompanied by band baaja! No doubt the band baaja belted out Bollywood hits accompanied by dancing, inebriated revelers.
You might have also noticed that politicians perceived to have an urban orientation find it difficult to win an election.
To put all this in modern psychological terms Indians are victims of the Stockholm Syndrome. We have begun to enjoy being prisoners or hostages of our past.
This leads us to another phenomenon that I shall discuss in another article. I call this phenomenon the Great Indian Gridlock.
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