October 26th, 2015
Source: Quora | Author: Brendan Stewart | Image Courtesy: athleticsinjapanmlb
I’ll write this reply as an American with lots of Indian friends, Indian wife and having spent a lot of time in various parts of India.
1. Neither system is perfect. The United States isn’t even close to perfect. But neither is India. Everyone here has cited examples of positives and negatives on both sides and i have some of my own.
a) One thing that really upsets me in India is that people don’t pull over for ambulances. It could be your own grandmother dying in that ambulance, but drivers in India don’t move for that ambulance.
b) Conversely, here in the United States, a mother could give birth to a child in a hospital and once the child has been born, they are left alone with barely any care in a hospital room. They are hurried to leave the room and go back home. These things would never happen in India. There are always lots of people around to take care of you and help you with various things, even outside of immediate family.
My point being that there are positives and negatives on both sides.
2. Nostalgia vs. Practicality. I fell in love the first time i went to India in 1999. I loved the chaos, the culture, the festivals and social scene, i thought it was all great. I’m not one of those American’s that stayed in Taj Hotels and hired drivers to go everywhere. I stayed at local small places, took the train and bus and forced myself to integrate. And i remember thinking to myself, how can my friends from India living in the US be happy in the United States? But, i was in India as a tourist until i met my wife. And coming to India as a tourist and living in India are two entirely different things. As a tourist of any country, typically you are seeing the best that country has to offer. Not the reality of day-to-day stuff.
a) The luster of India wore off on me once I became an OCI and our family had to do administrative actions. We had to change ownership of some land at a mini-secretariat in Gurgaon. Holy shit. What a nightmare, we were put in a long queue, had to wait for workers to finish lunch. Bribed a guy to get us through the line faster, visited over 10 different serving windows for various checks. Had to pay a lawyer to print a paper, come back and bribe some CM to approve the land sale, How does this system function?
b) My wife and I went to the Post Office in Gurgaon and tried to redeem her 401k pension thing (I forget the name of this) and the Post Office was a complete nightmare as well. I had these sweaty railroad workers pushing on me and yelling at people behind the counter. It was absolute chaos.
c) On the Delhi metro and witnessing young ‘men’ not letting old ladies sit down. For me that is unacceptable. It’s basic human decency. Nothing about culture here.
Anyhow, my point here is this – I used to wonder how my friends from India could live in the United States, based on the cultural differences, the great food, the strong social/family circles etc. I thought they lost a lot of that coming to America.
Until i had to live like a local. Then it started to make sense to me. All the aggravation, of simple tasks, the impossible morning/evening commutes, bribes to make people just do their basic jobs like it was a favor to me, hiring someone to clean my flat, clean my car, tiffen service, all these little things, it adds up.
So i personally think it’s a matter of Nostalgia vs. Practicality. For some people nostalgia is stronger than practicality and for others practicality is more important than nostalgia.
Who is to say which way is better? It’s a very personal decision.
Let’s take a few other things into account,
3. Future-Proofing. India is progressing at an amazing rate. For example, just look at how people celebrate Holi in a village vs. a city. It’s not even close to the same thing. Villages still breathe and live authentic old-school Indian life. In cities, a bunch of people plan to meet, throw some color a little bit (Mostly rubbing some on themselves) and they call this Holi. Same can be said for Diwali. Not the same in cities vs. Villages.
20 years from now, it’ll be like Christmas in the United States. Just pageantry. The real meaning of the festivals will be lost in cities especially.
Look at the way children are raised today. Men taking care of their parents is becoming less and less standard each and every year.
My point here is, while many of you (And even myself) have very fond memories of the older India, the fact of the matter is that when any culture ‘progresses’ they start to lose their culture and identity. And India is not immune to this problem.
I suspect 20 years from now, if we were to have this same conversation, the nostalgia factor would be much less in India’s favor, just because India is changing so rapidly.
My personal hope and belief is that India doesn’t lose its identity. It’s such a rich culture and fun country, i hope it never changes. But nobody can stop progression. And i can’t be selfish enough to hope that those in poverty situations can’t pull themselves out of that.
Next up, my controversial points…
4. Challenge Yourself. Some people commented here, that you have to take care of everything yourself. You don’t have a maid, a driver, a cook etc. I think that everyone should challenge themselves in life. While it is nice to have these luxuries, it also makes you very dependent on other people for even basic things. Every MAN, should know how to cook basic food. How to clean their own clothes, how to drive a car. How to paint a wall.
When I see people complaining that they have to do stuff themselves here in the United States, I think these are the first people that will want to back to India. Don’t you want some measure of independence? Don’t you want to know how to be a useful human being? If your money source went away, wouldn’t you need basic skills to survive on this planet?
Case in point – I was mowing my lawn and trimming hedges the other day, my father in law was taking a video of me doing this. And i asked why. He said, because in India we’d never do this ourselves. Cleaning my own car, he’d never done it before.
So while on the one hand, i like the idea of paying someone else to do stuff for me, there is a certain satisfaction in learning to do things yourself. Some people catch the independence bug. Others just want people to do stuff for them. Don’t fall into the trap of having someone else do everything for you, be a self-sustaining human being. I promise you, there is satisfaction in it.
5. Schooling vs. Knowledge. While you may have been a topper in your class, that doesn’t do much for you when you need to fix a door lock. Or install a speaker on your car. Schooling is great, knowledge is power. But so is practical experience. Also, Indian educations don’t focus much on history outside of India. I was surprised to learn from my wife how insular India is when it comes to geography and world history. If you ask the average Indian if India participated in WWII, they don’t even know that they did.
My point here is that you can be book smart, you can be the topper on your favorite subject. But to be really smart, you need to be a well rounded human being. You need to know what goes on outside your own country. You need to question authority, around the world and ask why things are the way they are.
6. Integration. I take particular offense to this point. Listen, the United States population is no more racist than Indians. I understand enough Hindi to know what people say behind my back. (Gora, foreigner) etc.. if you think Indians are any less racist than American’s, you haven’t been on the receiving end, within India. I have.
Honestly, from what I’ve noticed, there are two types of Indians that come to the United States. Or probably any foreign country for that matter.
a) The Indian that is open to integrating with other cultures besides other Indians.
b) Those that only congregate with other Indians.
If you fall under (a) you are opening your mind to the way other cultures think, the foods they eat, the adventures they embark on. Living this life in my opinion is much fuller than just hanging around other people of the same culture.
Why do people travel this world? Why do people want a genuine/authentic experience in a foreign land? Because we want to learn about new cultures. How can you not get tired of your own culture from time to time? The planet is very large and the system you grew up with isn’t always the best. Wouldn’t it be better to integrate with many cultures and learn from them?
Otherwise, how could you be objective about your own culture? You couldn’t. In my opinion, it’s imperative that all of us integrate. We all need to take a chance on attending a party of people not like ourselves. We all need to sometimes let ourselves be vulnerable to strangers. Otherwise how can you grow as a person?
Here in America, I see many groups of Indians especially in IT, that only go to lunch with other Indians. On their weekends, they only meet with Indians. How boring is this? What would happen if you invited your (Gora) coworker to lunch with your Indian group one day? Wouldn’t that be fun to exchange ideas and differences?
Integration is a two way street. Take a chance, you may be surprised with the result.
Finally. First and foremost, i’m an American and a patriot. I love my country. But part of love is also recognizing ones faults. America has many faults. As does any country.
But i also love India. What an amazing country. From the richest to the poorest person, you can learn from everyone in India. They all have unique stories to tell and lessons to be learned. Some of my most cherished life experiences have occurred in India, simply because of the chaos, the traffic, the bribery, without these differences, today i’d still think the entire world is just like the United States.
Surprise. This may come as a surprise, but i want to retire in India. I want to retire in India for the same reasons that a lot of people here miss India. The nostalgia factor. I’ve had so many great interactions with various people in India, but it’s not just that.
There is an electricity, a sort of rhythm in India. Something that just can’t be measured with today’s instruments. That doesn’t occur here in America. America will always be my home and my heart. But there is some immeasurable attraction to India. It’s such a diverse and vibrant country.
My final days will be spent in India.