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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Aaker Patel: Observations about the urban Indian

The urban Indian's behaviour unfolds from his cultural values. The first value of the Indian is his belief that the world is zero-sum, where there is no gain without loss. Each man looks out for his best interest, and there is no understanding of a collective good. This makes the Indian an opportunist.Because they do not understand collective good, Indians will litter if they are not policed.

The second value of the Indian is his tolerance. Few other nations in the world have been as accepting of the foreigner and his religion as India. The Parsis, persecuted by Arabs who defeated Persia under Caliph Abu Bakr (RA) in AD 627, found prosperity in India. His tolerance comes from a belief in relativism: that there is no one truth, which he believes, is an essential part of the Hindu religion.

The third is his value of his culture. This is seen in received terms. He does not engage with it or try to understand its nuance. Someone, somewhere has done or is doing something wise, which is to be followed. Indians earnestly recite a classic prayer -- say the Gayatri Mantra -- but will not know what it means. Indians revere Gandhi and Nehru but do not read their works and cannot really say what they stood for or against. Honouring something and holding it to respect is good enough.

The fourth value is his inclination towards the communitarian or the collective. The correct word is actually communal, but in India it is understood negatively to mean religious bigotry. Indians operate by consensus. The smallest unit of consensus is the family. Families agree through living together. Parents and grandparents are cared for better than in most cultures and kept within the family. Dissent is unacceptable. The political party, a larger unit of consensus, is undemocratic in India and its leaders not elected internally. The Congress is run by what is called a coterie. Many leaders -- Bal Thackeray is one -- are elected 'for life'. Because he inclines towards the collective, the Indian's individualism is low. Individualism cannot exist without respect for the individualism of the other. Harmony is two disparate views engaging without friction.


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