As much as I would like to be able to say that cultures are not to be hierarchically classified, and that they are all equal, but different, my experience of India has somewhat disturbed this position. Let me explain.
Of course cultures are different, and there are probably few cultures more different from mine than the Indian one. But India is importing, or let’s say: absorbing, a lot of western culture.
Even though India will remain India, and people there do not want to lose their culture, there is an attraction to the West and an inclination to imitate it.
I think these streaks of western culture can allow a comparison – although I am of course aware that what I am saying here is disputable.
- Take birth control and sexual education: India is way behind.
- Take ecological awareness: India is way behind.
- Health facilities: behind.
- Quality of education: behind.
- Social services: behind.
That doesn’t mean to say India is “bad”. I really love India. I think lots of positive things about this country. But it has some really horrible sides for me.
- I find it dreadful to see people breaking rocks under the scorching sun on a heavy traffic road (convicts work). I find it even more dreadful to hear people saying “but then what work would these poor people do?” when you ask why machines couldn’t do the work.
- I was horrified to learn that small children are maimed so that they will be more efficient “employees” in the begging-business (that was confirmed to me by a family member who has been counsellor in human rights for many years in NGOs).
- I find it unacceptable that many people do not have access to education, and that even for those who do, schooling is so often bad – especially for those who do not have the money to bribe themselves into the best schools.
Worst of all – it is in my opinion the root of all the “problems” in India, and in any case, preventing any revision of the system in place: corruption. Corruption is everywhere, from the top to the bottom of the social ladder. Your speeding ticket is Rs 100? No problem, give 50, don’t ask for a receipt, and everybody is happy. It is almost official.
Some will say it is part of the system, that you cannot get rid of it, that it is necessary in Indian culture. I don’t care. Of course, policemen take bribes because they are not paid enough. So do all the clerks and small officials. But somewhere, up higher on the ladder, some people are making very big bucks out of the system, while there is no staff in the hospitals, no money for schools, holes in the roads and droughts in Gujurat. That is wrong.
Linked to the corruption problem, there is the screaming lack of law enforcement. I have been told that the Indian constitution is quite a good one – but what is the use of laws if nobody respects them? And that is what the situation is in India.
Of course, there are horrible things in the West too. And there are beautiful things in India. The picture above is not meant to be complete – it is a list of dark sides.
I am probably also reacting to the Myth of India you find in the West. Most people who “love India” in my country have never been there and shrink back in horror when I describe what everyday life there was like for me. And I had a rather cosy home, I would say.
People tend to emphasise only the “spiritual” side of India. I am not talking about that here, you will have noticed – although it is what I am studying. In short, I don’t think people in modern India are more spiritual than here. But that is another chapter.
I love India, but I have been there, and I am critical. I can be critical with my own country too, of course – but that isn’t what I’m doing here : )
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- The Myth of The Aryan Invasion of India [en] (2005)
- Eat, Pray, Love: Damn You, Elizabeth Gilbert [en] (2011)
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- Aryan Invasion [en] (2001)
- A Quick Survival Guide to India [en] (2011)