Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Typical Indian Trait

It was late in the evening and we were returning home after a good dinner at my cousin’s place. The traffic from South to North Bangalore at 9 pm is generally moderate and flows smoothly – provided all the traffic lights are functioning. Traffic lights in Bangalore represent an invisible superior force controlling and regulating our movement. Ninety percent of the people obey the rules without a second thought. They stop when it is red and start moving when it is green without any additional prompting. The presence of a policeman is another effective motivator.
We were cruising along Kasturba Road listening to some exotic Latino music that night. As we reached the end of Mahatma Gandhi Circle, all hell broke loose. The most dreaded thing happened – the traffic lights failed.

The moment the invisible superior force was removed, the ever dormant primordial behavior – to grab, rush, sneak, squeeze, took over the entire fleet of cars, buses, two wheelers and autos. Within a minute, orderliness gave way to random chaos and Mahatma Gandhi Circle, a junction of six roads resembled peak hour traffic on a suburban train in Mumbai. May his soul rest in peace. A traffic grid formed within a very short time and all vehicles came to a grinding halt. Every inch of real estate was occupied by extra eager drivers elbowing their way out ahead of others. No maneuvering was possible. To make matters a whole lot worse, there was no policeman in sight.

If you look closely at this incident – one thing stands out loud and clear – ‘the moment there is no supervision we lose all self control – group behaviour is replaced by each individual’s survival instincts – each one for himself and to hell with rules, orderliness and teamwork. The same type of behaviour is true in bus stands, self help food counters, reservation booths and so on. This type of conduct is a typical ‘Indian Trait’.

In a macro sense this trait applies to every aspect of our daily lives. Without supervision students copy in exams, we forego official receipts to skip taxes, throw garbage anywhere we like, a deserted spot becomes a certain and convenient urinal and so on. We care for ourselves and are least concerned about the community we live in.

I am beginning to believe that as Indians, we require supervision at all times. Somewhere in our genetic coding ‘self discipline’ has been left out. Supervision and policing helps tremendously in turning an Indian from a greedy individual to a team person. If the supervision is from a foreign source it is even better.

There is nothing else that can explain our phenomenal success on foreign soil. Uncle Sam’s omnipresence has helped Indians to excel in every field in the US of A. Strict Singapore laws ensure that we obey all the rules and regulations to the ‘T’.

The time has come to stop blaming the BJP or Congress for our fate – it is up to each one of us to work without a ‘danda’ (stick) behind us or a carrot in front of us.


  1. Hi ! Pubs, always enjoy reading your posts. Gets me a feeling of being in your midst.

    With regard to your post of 21 Sep, I would like to say that it is NOT just an "Indian Trait". Having lived in the US now (I have been driving here for many years) and in the UK, I feel that others are as selfish and greedy, if not more. The ONLY thing missing in our environment is DETERENCE. The social and financial penalties in cases of violation of civic norms here are stringent, swift and most important UNFAILING. This keeps them in check.
    Maybe it is also because of very high density of population in urban areas and unchecked construction without civic and other infrastructure in India, that people go "crazy"
    Here in the west, when there are natural calamities, like floods, people go on a rampage sometimes - looting. Whereas in India, I have personally seen people focus only on helping people.
    Since time immemoral, people dont conform unless there are systems of DETERENCE, social, legal and financial. Good governance MUST establish them. No one else CAN.
    Warm regards always.
    Sunil M Kulkarni

    1. Hello Sir,
      Nice to hear from you. Thanks for the input. I still remember Katrina looting in New Orleans - as compared to the recent Kashmir floods.Agree.