Indians Need New Social Culture
Prof N.K. Singh
Former Chairman International Airports Authority of India
Recently media reported a Stanford University research finding that Indians are the laziest people in the world. When I see a lot of two wheeler riders not using safety helmets, I feel it is out of laziness and not due to poverty. Throwing safety and public convenience to winds, I see bus and truck drivers doing conversation right in middle of the roads in small towns. They are just reluctant to take vehicle to side and wait for the colleague to join for chit chat. He does it right in the middle and stops others to take a pass. It is a big vehicle and others can’t do anything. It might be challengeable. It is common to see boys on bikes running after girls and four persons riding a vehicle.
* Most grueling experience is when one visits a government office in India. The state culture is usually hostile as if you are disturbing them in their work. Even the PM had to advise civil servants to be civil but it had little effect. This wall of loftiness, authority and arrogance segregates them as superhuman from the rest.
The study if one goes into its details is challengeable but it is better at this juncture to understand our weaknesses that bring us down in comparative sense. Social culture makes a lot of difference we act in public, how we respect each other and how we work or perform various duties. Some experts describe it as ethos of the society. Whether in politics, education, industry, or other fields of institutional life, we have distinct way to observing the norms and respecting the tradition, is in question.
Let us first take family which is the basic unit and where the seeds of culture are sown. My wife frequently points out how Pakistani Muslim families or even outside observe good manners in addressing each other. Janab, Insha allah, aap and tasleem or salam are so common that one feels as if they are very well mannered people. It might be part of a religion, whatever the basis, it is worth appreciation. Only Japanese beat them on this score of politeness and courtesy. On Indian side even a good morning has got converted to mere Hi. There are many regions where respect of elders is maintained and blessings are sought after touching feet. But this is fast vanishing.
In western countries, nodding and wishing is very common whereas in India if we are two or three in a lift we just look away as if viewing horizon and don’t normally wish the other strangers. I noticed especially in French speaking countries that Bon jure is so common that I had to repeat it hundred times even to strangers on the streets. But it was pleasant and socially interactive behaviour.
Most grueling experience is when one visits a government office in India. The state culture is usually hostile as if you are disturbing them in their work. Even the PM had to advise civil servants to be civil but it had little effect. This wall of loftiness, authority and arrogance segregates them as superhuman from the rest. Colonial time was in need of this culture but a free country should have free access of civil servant and even ministers. When I worked in government, I used to move around when I found time and speak to junior officials about work and ideas.
One of my directors came to me with a complaint that my conversation with lower class employees will take away the authority of superiors. I explained to him and others that as human being they need to be cared but if I take their idea for action and it concerns a department I will discuss with that head also before we accept or reject it.
Colonial segregation or aloofness must be shed and social culture become more participative. In family or in society we must care for those who do not get opportunity to meet you often and given them full attention so that the leader or top manager gets a complete picture of reality rather them limiting himself to only few next in command officers. I practiced it as my routine but later I came across books where authors have adopted it ‘Management by moving around (MBM)’. Our social culture must open up, not remain shell shocked and distrustful, which we became due to alien rule. We suffered torture and suppression by foreign invaders for centuries. Ancient Hindu culture was very valued based and just to people but hundreds years of subjugation of India by invaders dented it miserably. Prime Minister is making Herculean bid to change social behaviour with Beti bachao, cleanliness drive, sticking to norms and targets but it needs nationwide effort. He can’t alone lead the movement that has reluctant followers.
First Passenger: Normally, I see boys chasing girls but why one day I found girls running after boys?
Second Passenger: Yes, I know it was Rakhi day.