Friday, August 20, 2010

About dirty Ganges and rampant corruption...

Recently I read a very enlightening book by Mr. Pavan K. Varma. It is called 'Being Indian'. It is a brilliant book of insights from an extremely observant intellectual, who tries to demolish myths and generalizations about Indians.

He gives a great epic on his views on Indian psyche, on what makes Indians tick and what they have to offer to the world in the 21st century.

I was stuck by two obvious traits that we experience everyday but don't normally think too much about the root cause. It is about why our holy Ganga  is dirty and why do we have such rampant corruption in the smallest things we do in our day to day life.

He says, Indians don't care about the community as much as they care about themselves. The whole world revolves around himself and his family, community coming among his least priorities. Then he adds, Indians don't care about the means as long as the end is clear, positive and good by conventional standards.

Most of the phenomena that we observe around us can be explained by these two traits.

Whether it is the noise pollution / water pollution during Ganapati celebrations in Mumbai, or the garbage disposal behaviour of Indians, we see that Indians do not care about the community as a whole. They do not care how dirty the Ganga is, as long as the belief is to become sin-free by immersing in it. All common sense would imply that any holy place would be most cared for, clean, organised and looked after. In India, we hardly see any clean, organised temples across the country. There are efforts by the temple committee but those efforts end in their personal benefits and their personal beliefs about their part of the duty towards God. Its ultimately all about the end.

The author has given innumerable instances to prove this trait including those that we all know in Mahabharata involving Lord Krishna and Arthashashtra written by Kautilya.

In the same breath, Hindus, contrary to popular belief, have no inclination to understand the six schools of Hindu thought. Their pre-occupation is with the ritual of religion and the rewards that it can offer. The pursuit for the fruits of religion and not the religion per se. The end is important, not the means.

The author gives an interesting example of the Gora Baba in a village near Lucknow. The Gora Baba - an English man who died during the 1857 revolt, is known to fulfil every wish of his followers. Since he was an Englishman, he is offered liquor, cigarettes and meat. A prayer is incomplete without the lighting of a cigarette, which is then offered along with the agarbatti.

It is this trait that make us tolerate and encourage the smallest and silliest of bribes that we pay in our everyday life. The job should be done and ultimate profits should be made, and in the process if we have to organise for chai paani, its alright till the job is getting done quickly and to desired results.

I am sure we have enough examples of such instances, stories and anecdotes.

The book is a well illustrated and substantiated personal opinions of Mr. Pawan K Varma. Any Indian with interest to discover Indians should definitely read the book.

You may decide to disagree with his views, but his views would definitely widen your horizon of thinking about Indian and Indians.

For me, it worked. I loved it.

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