Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Land of Almost

In India, we have found it is of utmost importance that a person has the capacity to be flexible, patient, and have an extra measure of an ability to go with the flow. Whenever we go anywhere we never know if our ride will arrive up to a whole day earlier, an hour late, or if they won’t show up at all. Our program coordinators spend so much time arranging our transportation along with each place we visit, all our speakers, and everything in between yet anything is subject to change and/or cancellation at a moments’ notice. Also, I learned about some interesting facets of India from talking with a pastor and his wife, the Smiths (from MN!), who have lived here for almost 4 years now. They explained to me their struggles with simply establishing themselves in this country. They described the frustrating legal process of establishing the lease contract and then when you are almost ready to sign, the landlord will throw a curveball into the mix (like going back on one of the things he agreed to pay for) and expect you to just give in out of exasperation. Rev. Smith and his wife talked about stories where literally 9 plumbers and electricians are called in, each only fixing a part of the problem, to solve one simple issue and then all of them leaving the mess for the resident to clean. It seemed to the Smiths, based on many experiences in India, that only about every other person actually knows what he or she is doing in professions like these and very few will take pride in their work. Due to their many experiences here, they have dubbed India the land of almost. Why is this so? How will India ever be able to develop into a developed city that takes care of its citizens if its always ‘almost’ solving problems?

One observation of India that I’ve made is that everything everywhere seems to be under construction. This is seen in both the physical and ideological sense. Physically, literal buildings are decaying right next to new ones that are being manually built. The roads themselves have lots of bumps and potholes in some areas right next to or leading to newly paved freeways leading to more development. We’ve been in India for over 3 months now and there are building and road projects that were underway when we arrived and now seem to have remained the same. In a land that is supposed to be the fastest developing country in the world I wonder at the slow progress I see being made. Why is it that the physical labor is done manually in Bangalore even, the International Technology capital of the world?

In a book called Post-Hindu India the author, Kancha Ilaiah, claims that the caste system has put people in their places so rigidly and put such an emphasis on each person fulfilling only their role in society that many don’t aspire to do anything beyond their current capacity. To be born into a caste is to be originally destined to have a certain place in society and it is very taboo to try to change this. In a country where at least 85% of population is Hindu and at least 30% of those people being part of the laboring castes, it seems possible that the people doing their manual labor are just going about their duty hoping to just get through this life with the hope of being soon reincarnated as a Brahmin.

With the attitude of a person just getting through life because it’s their duty, it isn’t hard to imagine that people might lack an intrinsic motivation to take pride in their work. This may also be what has happened with the many workers the Smiths had to call to come fix issues with their house. It seems as if things get “almost” done, or just done enough for the time. It’s possible that this mentality, along with a very functioning but long democratic process, is responsible for many of the improperly addressed issues of this country like the slow, inefficient aid provided to Koppal during it’s flood crisis that has been occurring these past couple months. My question becomes, where do Hindu Indians derive their motivation and is this sufficient to cause noticeable change here? There have been many Indian speakers who have come in and talked in our classes and seem incredibly intrinsically motivated. From where do these speakers derive their drive to make a difference in the world and could this be the secret to encouraging others in ‘the land of almost’?

No comments:

Post a Comment