My space

Monday, August 06, 2007

East vs West

The Indian society is becoming increasingly westernized - this is one common observation many people, especially the elderly have in India. So what exactly is westernization - wearing bare all clothes, roaming or being overtly friendly with opposite sex, late night parties, unwanted pregnancies, doing drugs, frequent divorces - just what aspect of our lives do we associate western culture with.In fact we associate only negativity with western culture, but it is much beyond teenage pregnancies and unruly youngsters and drugs. Every culture has its own pros and cons. Even Indian culture ,that we are so proud of, has so many drawbacks like caste system, ill treatment of women to name a few. So why single out western culture and always bash it up for promoting bad habits and immorality in a supposedly civilised society.

I strongly believe that culture is an assimilation of vices and virtues. Culture is something very collective in nature and includes aspects that are of day to day importance also. The very way in which we talk, we behave, we work all reflect our culture.

Thats why I decided to write what I personally liked about western culture .The things probably we overlooked in our hurry to condemn western culture, the things which we knew did not even exist in western culture or never bothered about.

1. Hygiene and cleanliness - This has to go first for me because in India hygiene comes as last of our priorities. 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness' is just another phrase we study in school , later to discard all practicalities of this.I can never imagine going to a public loo or a train toilet in India. Here everything is so clean and tidy.The public toilets and the toilets in the train are maintained well.Toilets in homes are also pretty well planned and treated like a room , whereas in our country toilets are strictly meant for relieving oneself. People might laugh at me for writing this, but this again shows our light attitude towards hygiene. The roads are so clean and dirt free, there is no garbage strewn all over the place with stray dogs and cows feasting on it.There are waste bins at each point of the road to effectively dispose off the wastes. Even in our flat there is a separate refuse store to dispose the wastes. Actually it is a far cry from the dirty lane we lived in, filled with half km stretch of garbage in the posh Indira Nagar area of Bangalore.We are just living in the country side here, not any major city and the care the Town Council and people take to maintain the place clean and beautiful is laudable. The parks maintained by the Council are so neat and pretty. I have never seen anyone spitting on the road or throwing garbage or bottles , atleast not in the main roads.Some people do lack personal hygeine here also, again thats there in all the countries. The overall cleanliness of the place is very impressive.

2.Facilities - You may be wondering why I am putting all this under culture , the reason I have already stated. Culture reflects essentially what we are and what we do.

Some of the facilities here provided by Government are amazing.

Medical care - There is the system of National Health services under which we have to register and then all medical care is available at a subsidized rate.What more all the hospitals and pharmacies across the country are interlinked and even if you shift to some other place within the country, all your details are readily available in the data base for the next doctor.Can we imagine going to a Government hospital in India or can we imagine any hospitals having such facilities. We can afford private health care may be in India, but there are millions in india who die every year for lack of facilities in Government hospitals.

Library - The Council library here is just incredible with its vast collection of books, CDs and internet facilities - and guess what it is all for free. So much for the tax you pay. They have amazingly combined technology with every aspect of their lives. There are online catalogues, 24 hr renewal services - things which even private libraries cant boast of in India.

Job centres - This is a boon to all the job hunters and again for free. We can go browse online jobs and take how many ever printouts without any questions being asked. They even have free telephones in the office to contact the prospective employers.

3. Trust and honesty - This is what impressed me the most , they trust you. We had gone to the council office to ask for concession on council tax as we are not permanent residents of UK. The lady was very kind and she clearly explained us what needs to be done.She just took our passport xerox and took down our address in India and next week we got a letter with the revised taxes.Tell me guys if this is possible in India, have any of you got your tax returns any time. And for any file in a government office to move it takes months together or years together coupled with a good dose of bribes. If we show passport, they want ration card. If we show ration card, they want PAN card. Why is it that we have to prove each time that we are legitimate citizens of India. The reason is we simply dont trust each other. With corruption and red tapism ruling the roost money is the key factor for any thing to be done.

Our blender was spoilt just 32 days within its purchase time, 2 days beyond the stipulated 1 month exchange time.We took the blender along with the receipt and walked over to the store and told the lady in charge it is not working. The only question she asked was what is not working, we told her it is the motor and she just replaced it with a new one, without any questions being asked. There was nothing like ' you people must have done something' or ' its 2 days beyond the exchange time.' That shows their immense trust in people, a thing which I am sure will be misused and taken advantage of to a great extent if in India.

There is honesty and openness in this country. People just say it on your face, whether pleasant or not.When my friend got her dress spoilt the dry cleaners here were polite enough to say ' sorry, this cannot be dry cleaned '.

The government itself works with a lot of transparency. We receive newsletters from the council stating how they are using the tax money and what are the forthcoming plans.They even have open markets for farmers so that they can directly sell their goods.They also take care of the senior citizens who are often neglected in india.

4. Respect for all jobs - IT people and doctors are not the only respectable people here. All jobs right from cleaner to businessman are considered equal. Its not surprising that a plumber or mason may earn more than a software engineer here, thats because no job is considered inferior to others. This is very important aspect of their culture as it gives equal respect to all individuals irrespective of their professions. In India how do we treat the labourers who toil hard to build our offices or homes , for that matter people who do odd and menial jobs - they are considered third class and we look down upon them. Why cant we consider that also as a decent job, after all they are working hard to earn their living. This hype about software is really killing sometimes.

5.Gender equality - This country is one of the foremost in gender equality. Women are treated with atleast some respect.Yes stray incidents are there, but not the kind of abuse women are subjected to India. In India all this talk to women empowerment is just a sham. Women are emerging in the mainstream, but just how many of them. The horrid stories of female foetuses being dug out every day in some part or the other of the country tells a different tale. Why are women still subjected to domestic violence even if they are educated. Why are they treated worse than cattle in some places.There are even women workers who are discriminated on the basis of wages for the same work. They cant even complain against their husbands or families or employers for fear of social stigma and because of the sati - savitri image we attach to women and we expect them to bear everything.The divorces here may be shocking for us , but I feel it is better than being victims of unhappy marriages - bearing everything and leading miserable lives.

6.Preserving heritage - They preserve their old monuments and castles and take great interest in maintaining them . In India people are hell bent in destroying public property, they wont even spare the Taj Mahal. My cousin was telling me that people had written over the white marbles in Taj Mahal, one of the 7 wonders in the world. All the monuments have writings and paan stains and garbage and what not. Even places of worship are far from neat and well preserved.The Government is also not bothered about the revival unless UNESCO declares it as a heritage site.Even the museums are ill maintained for lack of interest from Government and over zealous destruction desire of people.

7. Work hard, party hard - Yes, they believe in this.We may find them not so ambitious as us, but they strongly believe in working only for stipulated time and enjoying their life too. Good or bad , I feel we should take a cue from this and learn to take it easy in life. I mean Indians are very hard working, but I think we should also start enjoying life a bit rather than focusing on career and work all the time. They never miss a holiday or doing interesting things or pursuing their passions outside the work life.

8. Infrastructure - This is just mind blowing. Even the most insignificant roads and highways are interlinked in a well planned manner. Hats off to the planning , the whole infrastructure is very well built , be it roads, schools, parks, malls or whatever. The public transport system of buses and trains is so well connected and it does not take years to build a flyover.This is one thing India lacks completely and it contributes to India's traffic woes and adds to congestion.

9. Regard for law - This is the most important thing which I really admire about all western countries. No one is above law. In India there are 2 laws - one for the rich and powerful and the other for the common people. And needless to say the mighty escape the long arms of law very conveniently.Here, no one can ask the police man 'do you know who I am ' when caught in an act of crime like drunken driving or rash driving or anti social behaviour.No one cares even if you are the prime minister's son; law is law and will take its own course.

People have respect for the law of land unlike India where people show scant respect and in some cases are not even aware of the laws. How many people obey traffic rules or lane discipline in our country. We even make fun of people who try to obey law or any rules. For us lawlessness is slowly becoming a way of life and days are not far when whole country might plunge into a Jungle Raj.

These are some of the facets of the western culture that I felt like appreciating.I am not being a spokesperson of western culture, let me clarify this. But how long will we live in this assumption that our culture is the best and rest all are useless and have corrupting influence. The problem with us is we have adopted the wrongs in the western culture and conveniently ignored the good aspects.Thats the natural tendency of humans I guess; to see the wrongs first. Perhaps our youngsters consider that pre marital sex ,PDA( public display of affection) and dance parties are cool. But what they fail to see is western culture is not just about that.Why cant we incorporate some of the good things like good and transparent governance, clean and well planned infrastructure , punctuality and honesty, wise use of tax money etc.

The comparisons with India are inevitable as I wanted my points to be seen in right light. I have not meant to demean Indian culture , but all I wanted to say is we should see good points about western culture too.My dream about India is that it emerges as a culturally sound country devoid of corruption, bad politics and dishonesty where equality and respect for one and all is present and for that we need to have a cultural revolution. We definitely need to change our narrow minded attitudes, stick to some virtues and fast track our development in order for our country to reach its rightful place in the world.