Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence – Unknown
A safe guess would be that this Unknown person was not an Indian. Look around yourself and you will understand what I mean. Be it roads, drainage, sanitation, water supply, electricity, health care, public transport, education and just about everything is shoddy at best and unreliable when functioning. However, the most deplorable part to this ubiquitous shoddiness is our response to it. From “Chalta hai” (anything goes) to “Jugaad” (hack) our responses are essentially to either accept the low standards because “what else could you expect in India” to somehow find a passable workaround for the time being.
It would not be a stretch to say the only standard prevalent in India is substandard.
A society’s standards are nothing else but a set of behaviours of its members. These behaviours get hardwired in our heads, built upon the expectations we have from ourselves and others in a variety of situations. These societal standards are reflected in the promises we keep, the way we dress, the way we behave, how we treat others, in the quality of the work we do, our ethics, values and commitments.
Infact, everything we say or do gives an indication of the personal standards we stand by. And if our standards are so low it must mean we don’t think too highly of ourselves or our fellow countrymen. What could be the reason for this malaise?
We can proclaim “Saare Jahan se achcha” proudly and get all jingoistic with “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” but we don’t think we have arrived until a TIME magazine decides to do a cover story on how we are poised to be the next superpower, until our age-old tradition of YOGA is adopted by Westerners we don’t find it fashionable, until the time first world countries tout the benefits of AYURVEDA, it remains for us an archaic science.
How come a land once synonymous with fabulous wealth, great intellect, splendid literature, scientific temper and empowered women views itself so poorly now? A thousand year of all round subjugation and plunder, earlier by Muslim invaders and then by British colonialists combined with the stagnant, caste ridden Hindu nature of the society caused a steady downfall of a once great civilization. So much so now we need constant reaffirmation from white skin gods to feel worthwhile.
Though the Muslim invaders and their descendants ruled India over a far larger time span than the British, in terms of their impact on Indian psyche it was limited to ruthless, forcible conversions and plundering of wealth. Muslim invaders could not stamp out the core ethos of India – its language, art, culture and traditions – despite often being diametrically opposed to most of it. To the contrary, India enriched Islam and it was the moderate Indian version of Sufi Islam which was one of the reason why the religion became so popular.
The British were very different. They rarely used sheer, brute force. For them, ruling India was a “white man’s burden” – a divine right ordained to them by the Church and the Monarch to civilize the savage natives of this “uncultured” land. For the British, their homeland was the most enlightened, developed, civilized, industrialised, philanthropic and advanced nation in the world. To achieve their nefarious motive, the British rulers had two simple plans:
On one hand, they encouraged an English and Christianized education in accordance with the well-known Macaulay doctrine, which projected Europe as an enlightened, progressive heaven, and on the other hand, they pursued a systematic denigration of Indian culture, scriptures, customs, traditions, crafts, cottage industries, social institutions & educational system. In the words of Thomas Macaulay, there was a need to produce with the help of English-language higher education -” a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” who could in their turn develop the tools to transmit Western learning in the inferior, vernacular languages of India.
The British would never spare a chance to indoctrinate all and sundry about the greatest possible awe of their power and with the least possible suspicion of their motives.
Till date, the bruised and battered psyche of India is yet to heal, our self-esteem yet to recoup, our identity yet to be rediscovered.
But still there is hope, if our very own bunch of semi-literate Indians from rural background can achieve 6 Sigma accuracy (3.4 defects in a million transactions) for 125 years without any training or help of western tools (you are right, I am referring to Mumbai Dabbawalas) why can’t the rest of us stop using, “I am doing my best” as a stock response for doing sub-par work and start aspiring to actually demand better and give better as individuals and as a society.
“If I don’t, others won’t either.”