Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All in a Day's Work

Today we witnessed something that made us ask once again, WHY, INDIA? Why are you such a mess sometimes? Let me explain.

We live in a lovely apartment with excellent views from both balconies, and  refreshing breezes which I keep mentioning.  No complaints, except…. The road that connects us to the main road is a road that is (1) full of potholes,  big holes, and debris, and (2) used by many tourist buses because it sits squarely between the museum/zoo complex and the palace.  The traffic on that road is atrocious on the best days but today was NOT one of the those days.  As my driver attempted to drive up the road, we were met with 4 or 5 huge Mercedes buses. 
Experts Survey the Situation
We didn’t make it past the first one before we heard the unmistakable sound of metal scraping against metal.  I forgot to mention the parking plan for this busy road: there isn’t one.  People park in whatever space they can find in whatever angle suits them.  Also, since there is no plan, people overpark to the extent that it’s always very difficult to conduct 2-way traffic on the street.   And yet, every day, hundreds of people try….
So, we hear the sound, the driver lays on his horn and looks at the bus out the window, which he has to do because early on in the attempts to get by the bus he pulled in his outside rear-view mirror.  As he begins cranking his car’s wheels this way and that, a quick crowd of “experts” convenes on all sides of our car.  S. and I look at each other and the eyes say it all: it’s going to be one of those unique Indian experiences.  The experts don’t agree with each other,  so one will tell the driver to do something, he will start doing it, then another fellow will exclaim how stupid that move was, and tell him to do something else.  The result of all this expert advice is that we are so close to the bus now we can feel the breath of the passengers, and there is no possible way he can now move.  That’s when the crowd of about 10 experts come up with a better idea:  let’s lift up the car and move it away from the bus.  Now even though I don’t speak Malayalam, I understand their next move, and I call a halt while we bail out of the car.  Watching from the sidelines we see the experts lift up the car, and move it over a couple of feet so our driver can back into parking, and the bus can be on its way.  As we are processing the event later, I ask, why is it that this country has some of the most well-educated (American grad schools) engineers in the world and a population with a very high aptitude for the exacting field of mathematics, yet fails to transfer that mind set into everyday life? 
I decide to put the question to someone who I think will shed some light on the subject, an Indian/American with at least one engineering degree and some other sciency degrees as well, and also someone who has lived in the U.S. for 10 years, so won’t take offense when I ask him exactly what is going on with the inexact life of people in India.  I found his answer most illuminating, so I give you Indian born and raised American citizen Ram S. from Banglore’s answer to this baffling phenomenon.

I do have a great explanation for it - call it insight into Indian ethos.  It baffled me as well - I thought they did not have a spirit level or did not know how to hang a weight on a thread to find vertical - but I was wrong. There is more to it than what meets the eye. So here I go!

The ultimate form of 'Brahman' or realization is the understanding of oneself that will lead you to eternal salvation.  This cannot be achieved by material things.  This can only be got by deep meditation and for this material things are a distraction.  Which means we need material things, and they have to work but they are not very important - you need them to get by.  So, do the minimum required to make things work. Add to this that Pride is a great sin (humility is what it is all about) - which means one should not have pride in ones work either [:-)].  These together make a nice blend, do what is required in the material world to get by and don't have pride in your work - you have the problems you see.  The Indians have invented a phrase for this in every Indian language as well "Chalta hai" - in Hindi, "Solpa Adjust Maadi" - in Modern Kannada etc.  In other words "please adjust a little".

One could say that this is all bad -lack of professionalism, inability to things right, no sense of trying to achieve perfection, no pride in ones work etc. etc..  This is how I felt too - but I am beginning to get to realization.  This is simply why "INDIA" works.  Indians have realized that life is not binary, one shoe does not fit all, there is no right and wrong - that is a matter of perception and everything is grey, etc.. You cannot have things work "Right" for 1.2 billion people - so lets get things to WORK. I even read an article some time ago I think in Times of India on the advantages of "Solpa Adjust Maadi".  While crooked switch boards and ill fitting cabinet doors still bother me a lot, I have begun to appreciate the value of "get the damn thing working"....

So there you have it, an eloquent insightful explanation that I boil down to the following: 1.  It's no big deal if stuff isn't exact, 2.it's not nice to be prideful in your accomplishments, and 3. if there are 1.2 billion people in your country, being exact is a luxury you can’t afford if you want to keep the very flawed, clogged, uneven system moving at all.  Is that about right, Ram? 
I'm hoping this knowledge will allow me some calm in the next situation that will inevitably present itself. It will probably take some practice to achieve this new detached view of things, however.  Like a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. You are right Connie! And your summary is on the dot.