Monday, February 13, 2012

Are we better Indian Citizens after Marriage?

Its about two very young foreign tourists whom I saw cycling through the busy streets of Andheri, Mumbai; and one answer to a question that I had asked one of my married friends, who is also a father.

These two random incidences gave me a flash, explaining one of the factors why things happen the way they happen, in India. It gave me some answers to my curiosity about our over-arching corruption debate, the in-decisions in public life, the in-numerous pending court cases, the infinite delays in various infrastructure projects etc.

My married friend, who is a father of a very beautiful 4 years old daughter had said, "I want my daughter settled happily with a good husband" to my question, "what is your sole personal ambition?" My first reaction was, "That is really sweet, but what is your aim either for yourself or for the society at large?" That left him thinking... Then I realised that this is not a singular emotion.

This is the generic emotion of an Indian father (and mother). Indian parents feel responsible to provide for their children for their lifetime. Even though, the responsibility decreases after their children marry, yet it might be a tad too late in the day.

Lets compare this emotion to a father's agony and embarrassment in the United States of America, when his children are staying with him even after they have turned 18.  Children are supposed to fend for themselves by the time they are 18. Parents don't feel the blame, if their children are taking loans or doing a menial job for their further studies. Parents don't feel the blame if they are not settled and married to a respectable family. 

This is a paradigm difference in the way Americans (most of the west) therefore perceive responsibility after they marry and have children.

Those tourist kids cycling through Mumbai or that British girl (I once met in Diu) travelling India for the past 11 months are the bi-product of that culture. It breeds an independent attitude and an ability to take risk even among children, unlike India where both parents and children are dependent on each other.

Parents' life revolve around trying to provide the best education (donations and dowry included) and children's life revolve around seeking permission and grants from their parents. It is their birthright to be dependent on their parents in India.

If we juxtapose this argument to the fact that married men and women manage India, its infrastructure, its corruption, and all the related decisions, we would be able to visualize why we are so lenient in our public lives. All decisions that affect public life are politically sensitive, involve larger than life egos and have multiple and dangerous impacts. They require one to be brave and take risks. Our culture and family responsibilities restrict us to take these risks.

Adding to that is the scientific fact, as mentioned in one of the most intelligent book that I have come across - Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, that both risk detection and risk avoidance are not mediated in the thinking part of the brain, but largely in the emotional one. The consequences are therefore serious. It means that rational thinking has very little to do with risk avoidance.

Which doctor would setup his practice in a village when he knows that he may have to pay huge donations for his son's MBBS? Which bureaucrat would risk his responsibility towards his family by going against a corrupt politician? It may even be true vice versa. Who would act as a witness to a crime? How can one let go of huge sums of money when a higher price can fetch a better husband for his daughter?

Even the corporate world faces the symptoms of this lack of risk appetite. Who would want to lose a promotion by disclosing the truth, or by accepting one's mistake, or by taking responsibility.

We have anomalies to this fact such as Mr. Narendra Modi and Ms. Mayawati, that further proves my analysis right. They are individuals and therefore have greater appetite for risks in their own rights.

If we look at the effective and popular social activists, we would see the same argument taking shape. Medha Patkar is divorced. Anna Hazare never married. I don't think Vinoba Bhave was married.

Baba Amte was married, but his wife Sadhana Amte actively participated in her husband's social work with equal dedication. Importantly, he belonged to a very wealthy family with different and evolved values system as compared to that of the masses.

My POV is that the ability to take risks severely decreases with marriage and children. Marriage and children make us selfish to our family, thereby detaching us from the responsibilities as Indian citizens.  It is ingrained in our culture in the way we perceive responsibilities, risks and therefore take decisions in life.

Government policies, judiciary and other administrative functions should take note of this understanding and accordingly write policies, make regulations and enact laws.

Large scale corruption, fear of tough decisions etc can only be managed with this POV in perspective.

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