Jim, my son’s colleague from Australia was sent on deputation for six months to the head-office of an Indian IT company located in Pune. However, within a fortnight of his stay in India, he was on the verge of nervous breakdown and had to be sent back.
Back in Sydney, Jim told his India story to his friends and colleagues, not a flattering narration but definitely insightful. While sharing his experience, Jim told how he felt absolutely fine within the beautiful sprawling campus of the company, but the moment he stepped out to go to his hotel, he became a nervous wreck. He commuted by a cab and hence, didn’t have to negotiate with the unruly traffic and the erratic drivers on the road, yet he could not shut his eyes to the happenings around. A scooterist riding on the pavement alarmed him; speeding drivers scraping past and the drivers changing lane without a signal unnerved him. Persistent honking, a hobby with the Indian drivers, maddened him. As if all this was not enough to make him a nervous wreck, there were heaps of garbage, the stench and sight of which he could not stand. Poor children tapping on the car windows at the traffic signals appalled him. He was shocked to see motorists jumping the traffic lights with impunity but, what he could never fathom was the presence of the stray cattle, our holy cow, let loose on the pathways.
Jim could not stand what we, in India, have learnt to ignore and take in our stride. He had a simple explanation, and quite convincing as well. His reasoning was that in his country, right from the beginning, children are taught to assimilate and absorb everything that happens around them. He argued, “In India there is so much going on, quite a shock for the senses of someone who can’t block out any stimuli.”
I found a lot of substance in Jim’s argument and also some validation for our sab chalta hai attitude. We, Indians, are often blamed for glaring public apathy, indifference towards a lot of failings and wrongs. I realized if we start absorbing and taking note of everything that happens around, we will lose our sanity. We have learnt to insulate ourselves from the chaos and mess around us. The unruly traffic may bother us but, somehow, we steer our vehicle by hook or crook. We manage to hold our breath and not let stench and deplorable mess affect our senses. Years of practice has taught us to consciously turn a blind eye to the ugly mess and be deaf to the clatter around us.
We may have learnt to ignore the chaotic mess and manage somehow but, this does not absolve us of our responsibility. If we keep breaking the rules and continue to be callous towards civic responsibilities, we will have to bear with rampant corruption, appalling poverty, dysfunctional system, unkempt public places, chaotic traffic and dirty surroundings. We may be past masters in Sab chalta hai attitude but it must go. Instead we need proactive approach to sort out the mess and weed out the ills from the society and the system so as to make India a better place to live in.
(Published in Chandigarh Tribune on July 25, 20190 )