Friday, February 3, 2012

The India of my dreams

You grow up in a country, you have seen things change and have grown along with the changes. Then, you move out of that place, and on your return, what you notice, sometimes takes you by surprise. That is what happens to me every year. Only a year passes by between my visits, and yet each time, I feel like I have stagnated, but my country is growing and taking huge strides. And it is so true, that distance nurtures fondness, whether it is for a place or a person. Sometimes, just taking a step back, helps you to notice what was right in front of you all along. I experience that every time I am back home, I get a completely new perspective of things and wonder how I hadn't appreciated these things before.

If asked, what two things I absolutely love about my country, it would be an impossible task to write those down. There are uncountable things that I love and admire about this great nation, but here are two that in recent times, have struck me as remarkable.

1. Smart enough to be flexible

The adaptability of this huge nation just amazes me every time I am here. It really is true, whether be it technology, fashion trends or education, India is always open to change. The pace at which the telecom industry is spreading its wings is unbelievable. Every household, these days, has at least two mobile phones. And given the fact that, the cell phone industry is undergoing such a revolution, India is not far behind in adopting those developments. Every urbane professional today aims to pocket a smart phone, even though the facilities like 'maps' might not be as useful. The widespread use of Facebook and Twitter in a country where the neighborhood gossiper keeps chattering about updates around the locality, the city and the world is just amusing. The extent of awareness about global trends is so much, so that even a small "chat" vendor has a sign put up with the option of "liking" his stall and account on Facebook. It might seem ridiculous at times, but to me, it is a sign of the willingness to absorb new technology. It is due to the same attitude that our professionals are doing so well in countries like USA and UK, where English is the essential language of communication. It is because our policy makers were smart enough to ensure that it's country men shouldn't lose a chance at proving their worth, just because of the lack of fluency in a language. As opposed to China, whose people are equally hard-working, Indians had the upper-hand of  being able to fulfill the basic requirement of communication. It fills me with pride to see that India knows it's strength and also knows where and how it needs to fill the holes, so that the world takes notice of it's mettle. The number of people wearing sweatshirts, with logos of American Universities, is an indicator of our presence on the education scene. I am sure this innate Indian flexibility will definitely take India to newer heights.

2. Who needs a GPS?
It is a well known fact that a GPS would not work in India as well, as it does in Western countries. The reason being, the small lanes and in-roads, which do not even show up on the GPS. But, the bigger question here is, does India need a GPS? The fact that you could just stop someone and ask them for directions, eliminates the need for a GPS. Add to that, ten people who would be more than willing to show you the way. And everybody trying to think about the shortest way, taking in consideration closed areas due to construction changes on the road. Could a GPS take into account these dynamic changes? I love the fact that in India, the people connection is as good as the network connection. If you are in need, all it takes is a phone call to a friend, who calls another friend, who calls another friend, and eventually you are helped by a friend's friend's friend. I think this concept exists only in India - we never have acquaintances, we only have friends. A look at our Facebook friends list, and you would know, that anybody we even spoke for 5 minutes becomes our friend. And it is this connection, that is one of our biggest strengths. While putting our car in reverse gear (or backing up), we don't feel the need of the rear-view mirror, because we have people around, guiding us on how much to back up, constantly saying "Aan do, aan do". I love that we rely more on humans than on machines, because finally, it is a human who can understand best what another human needs.

As, I had said, I could go on about what I love about India, but there are also sore points, that we might not like to talk a lot about, but have to accept them. We have to realize that if we want our country to change and improve, the first step would be to realize and accept the shortcomings. So, here come:

1. Breaking barriers

The economic disparity between the rich and the poor has been a classic problem in many countries around the world. And of course, India is not untouched by that. But, what makes this difference worse is that, the disparity between the rich and poor, soon transcends into a disparity between the educated and uneducated. Money should not control the ability of a person to be literate, but it does. And the condition is getting worse. On the one hand, we feel proud about our country producing intellectuals. As I just said above, we feel proud that our good education and fluency in English have helped us make a place for ourselves in the world. But, what percentage of the Indian population does that section form? There is still a huge percentage of the population, where children have never been to a school, they have never known the pleasure of reading a book, just because their parents cannot afford to send them to a school. Although, the "Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan" tried making an effort, the ignorance towards smaller villages is unbelievable. And the fact, that these campaigns pick up momentum only from election to election is disheartening. The policy makers should realize that the "Right to Education" is a very pertinent right in today's world, and instead of having reservations here and there, there should only be special privileges for the worthy, but financially weak section. Our education system has paved way for the country's success, but it is the same education system that discriminates and might design the downfall too.

2. Taking responsibility
On the same lines as above, it is amazing to see how many Indian students and working professionals are placed outside of India. All these people take pride in being in such developed countries and don't hesitate even for a second, before showering praises on the quality of life and living conditions in these countries. The irony is that we are aware enough to notice what the benefits are, but not proactive enough to implement them. There are so many NRIs today, who visit India, or just students coming back home, yet they don't try to bring back what they noticed and admired about these developed countries. I do realize, that one man's actions cannot change the universe, in a second. But, there is a chance, that these actions might start a chain reaction and there might be substantial results. I detest the fact that people will be careful about cleanliness in USA, UK, but those same people, when back in India, start treating the roads as a garbage disposal. You can't just crib about the system, without trying to do your bit. If you can't change, yourself, how is the system going to change? Are we not part of the system? It hurts to hear people talk about the systematic traffic and strict traffic rules abroad, but not even wanting to use the vehicle's indicator, while making turns in India. If you have got the opportunity to learn the good points about a country, have the commitment to bring it back to your country. Looking into the number if people that are studying or working outside of India, if each one tried to implement one positive, the change in India would be visible. Your country made you capable enough to sail the seven seas, now it is your chance to give back to the country in your small way.

When every citizen is conscientious enough to realize what the strengths and weaknesses of our country are, when he/she is dynamic enough to think of ways to make our strengths outdo our weaknesses, what will arise is the "India of our dreams". 


  1. Loved it! I just posted mine too. Unfortunately, looks like no one else has apart from the two of us. Some parts of your 'flexibility' point match mine. And OMG, the taking responsibility one totally does. Hate it too. When I was in India last year, a friend of mine and I went to have Kulfi. After that we kept the wood stick and the cover with us till home to throw it in the trash. But someone else I was with just threw a dirty paper napkin right there in the road and when I asked him why, his answer is because there are no trash cans around! Thats their excuse. US has a lot of trash cans everywhere. But then, even when I was standing as a bus stop, a guy threw and empty packet of Lays right there even though a trash can was on his other side. I was digusted !

  2. I agree with the idea of sustainable development that arises from every single person's strong will.
    I am a working for the education department in India and have recently been to the EU and had discussions with many people out there.
    I have invited some of them to come visit INDIA and they have agreed to do it in the coming July 2012.
    I hope to show them the common school classroom and the teaching practices. wish them to comment constructively on its improvement.
    I work for an International School and have also adopted a nearby village school's class 8 for one hour daily to teach them computer in my school's computer labs.
    class 8 will get promoted to class 9 and then they will need to pass a computer subject exam and there is no computer lab in that school)
    Three teachers along with the headmaster of that govt school have agreed to come there too and learn computers so that they can later on take care of their children themselves.

    I know there is so much in India that we must be proud of and i totally agree with Amruta that more than that we must be careful about how to contribute our bit to the making of that Dream INDIA.
    Great job Amrita and Deeps. Carry on the good work.
    God Bless India.

  3. Now you've got me interested. Arpit, what is EU? Also, what is your job profile in the education department, what are the qualifications required? I work in IT today but its not my calling. I am gravitating more and more towards teaching. One of my dreams has been to help the students who shift from vernacular mediums to English mediums in 11th standard and then struggle because of their lack of reading and writing or conversations English skills.

    To your knowledge, is there any kind of virtual teaching setup where you work? I can help with Computers and English definitely, possibly something else too. I have been trying to research that angle for a while now, I know there's a whole setup like that in a village in Bihar - my husband's work requires that we would be out of the country for a couple of years more. I used to volunteer here at the community education teaching English and Computers to foreign immigrants as well as basic Math to 5th graders, but I am not content. My country has given me a lot and I have not been able to repay back yet. Let me know if you have any ideas.

    Amruta, since you're in India now - do you know of any such setups around where we would be able to help virtually?

  4. Amruta, love the GPS part ! Yep, love that about India. You can ask anyone for directions and sure there are people who would have a little fun at your expense, but for the most part they are so helpful. Very true, who needs a GPS!

  5. Amruta,
    Loved your article and all the images that you used at apt places. My fav point amongst all your points was definitely "Who needs a GPS?:) I too love that fact about India. You can always stop and ask a panwala how to get somewhere.
    Yeah, it will take us a long time to take responsibilty about all our actions. What makes me sad is that we assume and take for granted all the wrong things that have been going on. Add to that the "Chalta hai" attitude. Spitting on road..Chalta hai yaar..Throwing trash on roads..Chalta hai re..Sab fekte hai:(


Would love to hear your thoughts!

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