E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Our engineers design software that makes the hardware tick in every computer of the globe. Our doctors perform the most complex surgeries in the greatest hospitals. Our scientific and other manpower is one of the most sought-after.
Our corporates are flush with cash and buy companies like toys all over the globe. Indian brains run some of the biggest, most prestigious firms. We have yoga schools imparting physical and spiritual fitness to citizens around the world. Our countrymen are model citizens whereever they go, much liked and wooed.
In short, we have “arrived” on the global stage.
But, back home, we live in another world, in another century.
Our air and water remain polluted leaving our children and adults prone to diseases at any time of the year. We are unable to provide education to the poorest of our children who are either too sick to go to school and/or have to work to support the family. Our teachers play truant more than students.
Our cities have the finest 5-star hospitals with MRI and CT scanners, but our towns and villages have primary health centres where most drugs are either not available or are siphoned off to be sold on the sly. Doctors do not practice at their allotted centres, but are available in their clinics, for a fee.
We have rich kids, fully sloshed, driving fast cars and mowing down people sleeping on footpaths with sickening abandon. We are unable to send such people to jail or levy hefty fines or cancel their licenses as a stiff deterrent. Worse, witnesses can be bought, alibis can be found and the kids can be back to their old wicked ways right under the nose of the police.
What is the reason?
How, on the one hand, do we manage to achieve earthshaking success abroad? And how do we scrape the bottom in achieving minimum standards back home?
Time was when India was a poor country. We were dependent on World Bank loans, germ-filled PL 480 wheat imports from US, and volunteers from Peace Corps to show and teach us basic things. Now we are almost up there, rubbing shoulders with the likes of G8. We have Jaguar and Land Rover in our kitty. Arcelor-Mittal’s Laxmi Mittal is the wealthiest Indian and biggest steelmaker in the world.
Both at the individual and collective levels we have done well and we are admired and appreciated in most places of the world. We respect the rules, obey the laws, we are peaceful.
Yet, we have failed in achieving exactly those basic things back home.
We have, it seems become a Schizophrenic Republic that lives two different lives at the same time.
Which is one is real, and which one is a put-on?
Outside our borders, we have shown the world that we are second to none. We have demonstrated a strong work ethic, we have shown we are very disciplined, law-abiding, punctual, clean.
But back in our own country, we care two hoots for the law of the land. We break ever rule with impunity, we cannot follow lane discipline, we drink and drive and kill, we loot and steal because there is not a law we do not how to circumvent.
We take utmost care in personal hygiene (some with three baths a day- in the peak of summer when there is water shortage), but will have no qualms dumping things in our neighborhood. Our dustbins are fairly clean inside, but their peripheries are lined by a smorgasbord of leftover food, plastic sheets and all the dumps that you can think of with the stench reaching the skies.
Whether it is a banana peel or a chocolate wrapper, we throw it on to the ground and walk off nonchalantly. People driving fast cars and SUVs have no qualms opening the window a bit to throw whatever they want on to the road and accelerate faster!
The list is endless. We continuously honk while driving even if the road is clear and no traffic is obstructing us. We talk loudly on our mobile phones in hospitals and ICU corridors, and in theatres and auditoria while a movie, play or concert is going on.
In the process, we seem to have evolved our own philosophy of life on our soil.
1. I will live the way I want, to hell with your rules, etiquette, grace etc.
2. I will spit, throw things anywhere on roads, on footpath, on railway station or outside my house.
3. I will drive at any speed, drunk or fully sober and if somebody gets killed, too bad.
4. I will not follow the rules. I have connections. I have money. I know so-and so, the Minister, the Police inspector who will get me out in quick time.
In short, the ‘Model Indians’ that the world knows and likes are ‘Ugly Indians’ back home.
How then can things improve?