14 August 2005

The Indian way

Whether at work, at home or somewhere else, while attempting to accomplish a task – and perhaps encountering or anticipating difficulty – we often say, “Let’s do it the Indian way.” I’ve often wondered what this means. I mean, is there a specific way Indians do things? Do we solve problems in ways which are so unique that they set us apart from others? Do we, Indians, follow a set of principles different from the rest of the world?

Of course, the context in which the comment on “the Indian way” is made gives it meaning. For instance, it could simply mean greeting someone with a ‘namaste’. It could refer to wearing Indian clothes to a social gathering – a sari and a blouse for a woman; a dhoti and a kurta for a man. It could refer to cooking up a menu of Indian dishes at a party or a picnic. It could point to the use of toilet facilities – which would mean squatting on a flat pan dug into the ground and using water and soap, instead of the Western commode and toilet paper.

The Indian way could also mean a whole lot of customs and practices deeply rooted in our lifestyles and in our psyche: respect for elders, family attachments, worship of all things and creatures, spirituality, nurturing a rich heritage of arts, music and literature… even conducting business with another person, entirely on faith.

And, on the negative side: being late for appointments, a disregard for deadlines or commitments to tasks at work, dropping in to see friends and relatives without prior notice, embarking on a journey or an important task unplanned, breaking into a conversation with a friend or a kin in a local language in front of others who do not understand that language… to practices concerning health and hygiene.

Yet, these instances or practices are not uniquely Indian. Many others around the world follow similar practices routinely. Moreover, over the years, Indian culture has been greatly influenced by many other factors: growth of several religions in the country, invasion of the Mughals and the British, tribal traditions which remain strong from days gone by, and the economic changes happening around the world.

What, then, is the Indian way? Is there one unique way that joins us Indians together?

From the perspective of the city dweller to the small town aspirant to the rural farmer… from the perspective of the older educator preserving ancient traditions… to the perspective of the CocaCola, McWorld and MTV generation… “the Indian way” is likely to have different meanings.

What’s yours?

1 comment:

kaa said...

and btw I forgot to mention in my last comment that I find your blog informative, thoughtfull as well as interesting. :) a very difficult task to accomplish