At this interesting inflexion point in life , being out of the rut , I get more time to think . When you live in India , you look at the poor people around you , you feel sorry for them and yet you have a tendency to think that this is an insolvable problem and one which is just a harsh fact of life for some . After just a short stay abroad , I find myself much more sensitive to the very visible plight of the poor in India . I stop cribbing and complaining and wanting when I think of the problems other people face . I remind myself that [ like every other educated Indian who is fortunate enough to have access to the internet and read this blog ] I should be thankful for being in the top 5 or 10 % earners in a country where the majority of the people live in pitiable conditions . It also isn’t enough to do lip-service to charity – now I think I’ve become more conscious to the fact that educated/well-off people have a duty to spread their knowledge and wealth and contribute to the community . Being subsidized on tax-payer money makes this duty all the more important. If I had done a similar engineering degree in the US , I’d have been deeply in debt even now . The basic point here is that there’s more than enough reason to realize that its give-back/pay-back time now .
One might blame the government or illiteracy , but the fact is that the attitude prevelant in the people running the government is a collective reflection of us as a society . Now that I am trying to setup something of my own , and have had to interact with several people , I think I’ve figured out what characterizes us as a society :-
a) We do not solve our glaring problems because we pretend as if they don’t exist . The "Bhagwaan Kare/God Willing/InshaAllah" also goes to show an attitude of our waiting for some divine messiah to fall out of the skies and magically fix the stuff which we’ve been too lazy to do.
b) Some of us are in fact okay with the poverty/illiteracy problems because it gives a steady supply of "domestic servants" to do "menial tasks" , which would never be the case in an educated population . Why fix a problem , when it isn’t a problem for you.
c) It’s not as if we cannot do good stuff – we don’t even aspire to do it for the most part . We are quite content with mediocrity as long as we impress the neighbours . We are inward looking and set our benchmarks low , and relative to each other – instead of taking a look at what’s going on in the outside world . What makes me qualified to say this ?
I went to the best college in the country – and I can guarantee you , that for all the hype , not more than 20% of the would-be engineers would have ever tried picking up any technical skills on their own . For most , the tag of a good degree just seemed like a pathway to a fancier matrimonial advertisement. There isn’t any passion for one’s work . I can speak for engineering , and I can assure you it can be extrapolated to everything else. It is not without reason that the American/Japanes/Korean Engineers are called "Engineers" while Indian Engineers are generally classified as "skilled labour" . A Japanese gave us a new programming language (Ruby) , a Finnish gave us Linux , and we all know where the DesktopPC and Internet came from . Despite have a third of the world’s software engineers , where is a popular software product ( or even opensource project ) from India ?
d) We talk too much . And we brag to the extent of looking like a bunch of idiots. Bragging rights belong to those who’ve generally made something , done something or achieved something . The self proclaimed "Super Power" ,
"Software SuperPower" tags do not really impress any sensible person . Because , visible ground realities tell us this not the case .
e) Ego , attitude and downright rudeness . People use these as tools to "act important" and do not have the basic sense to realize that this slows down everything for everyone – (apart from making the work environment extremely unpleasant) . Having worked both inside and outside the country – for all the talk about "being a 2nd citizen abroad" – the fact is that the probability of facing rudeness or arrogance in India is much higher than it is outside . If you are polite and honest you will be considered a fool . Maybe its a way for the neo-rich to assert their importance ? My reading is that these are the characteristics of a hobbesian society – one in which their is low trust . One in which everyone survives in a paradoxical kind of situation knowing that the person whom he’s dealing with will do anything to rip him off / deceive him / get the better of him – and vice – versa .
f) Dishonesty . To the extent we don’t even identify it. While in the US , on multiple occasions I noted that some fellow Indian , spoke casually about his "Real Date of birth / Official Date of Birth" (read:some one was bribed to change the Date of birth on the Birth Cerfticate ) , or about bribing his way out of a traffic ticket : and none of the foreign born people in the room could understand this . Not very different from how people would readily cheat in examinations or use leaked out question papers for an examination. As someone ( blog: theotheravenue ) very apty put it , we live in a paradox . One where everyone is lying and everyone knows that the other person is lying – to get his /her work done .
Anyway , long rant – but the bottom line is – being an engineer , I have a tendency to look for causes and reasons . And this is what I have "debugged" so far . I think I now feel the need and motivation to do the right thing, from within , without having some 3rd party watching over my actions .