Monday, May 31, 2010

Ten years ago

I remembered suddenly that more or less ten years ago I explicitly forbid my daughter to wear a small nose piercing. What I cannot remember however, is the exact reason why.

This photograph was shot at a wedding ceremony near to Nainital.
The number of small jewels at the bottom of the ornament is representing the number of sons the woman has, they told me. After counting them, I doubt however that is true. Anyway, who cares, it's a nice story and these are beautiful people for sure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Belgian Belly

or ... the Revenge of Mother India

After years of complaining about the danger of eating Indian food and warning visitors against eating out in India, I managed to give my wife, myself and - that is worse - a business partner a hefty "Delhi belly" (= infection of the intestines with diarrhea).

Indeed, finally we moved to a more homelike office with a good kitchen in it. So we bought everything we needed to start cooking ourselves.
The first meal on my planning was a spaghetti bolognese. In absence of a minced beef/porc combination (after all: this is India), I thought that a goat/chicken combination would be tasty.
Well, tasty it was! Even so that my wife, our guest and myself did eat a good amount of it.

After the meal our guest had to head to the airport, which is only half an hour from our place. And by the time he must have arrived there, my wife and I both already had gone to the toilet twice.
I can assure you that I never saw more sense in having a toilet connected to each bedroom than in this situation.

I didn't dare to think about the condition of my guest.
But on Monday morning I heard that he had been so sick during the flight that he almost fainted a few times ...

So far my first experience of cooking myself in India.

The moral of this story ?
I think I will watch my words a bit when discussing things happening in Mother India as she seems to have her own strange (I cannot use the word "subtle" for this) ways of taking revenge.
I feel that she told me very clearly: "If you're such a big shot and you think you know everything better, then proof it to me before criticizing my people!"

My belly whispered to me for two long days: "Didn't you ever think there are reasons why Indians are how they are and do what they do".

Always be aware for the good advices from expats: they always are based on limited experiences and consists of stupid generalisations. This applies as well to everything you can read in my blogs.
Perhaps these attempts to rationalise, explain, find reason and give advise are all nonsense.

As Westerners we prefer to live in the illusion of rationalistic control above to cope with the irrational aspects which are there in life.
I can easily refer to the movements of the stock markets nowadays and the endless analyses of the same by "professionals". Especially the short half-hour panic last Thursday in which the stock markets in the US fell almost 10% in just half an hour. Despite all the computerisation, giving the illusion of full control, this illusion is confronted hard with reality whenever something unexpected happens (a human error?). It looks like the illusion itself is even causing the unexpected!

Mother India confronts you with many aspects of life overlooked in the "developed" world. It's my honest belief that Hinduism is the reason behind that fact (there I go again !).

The world should cherish Hinduism !

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The waiting Indian

One of the things that came in my mind lately was that I observe Indian individuals often have problems with serial thinking. When confronted with a rather complex task, a lot of Indian individuals are unable to analyse the task into logical/serial steps to take. Of course this depends a lot on the length and quality of their education.

Because splitting up complex tasks in parts (process/serial-approach) is a common practice in Indian businesses, a manager can be fooled to think that serial thinking is typical and well-accepted in India.
Well, it isn't.

The problem in the Indian approach is that every step in the serial chain is assigned to separate individuals. Often the employee who is active further in the serial chain has no idea at all what is happening before him or what is done with his work after him. I often experience that they don't even care about the broader picture. It's like if Indian youth is trained to do a well-described individual task. Without an explicit order from someone higher in the hierarchy, nothing is done or undertaken.

As a consequence the Indian employee prefers always to have a written-out procedure. If such a procedure is available, then of course he follows this procedure meticulously until a slight variation is needed. Suddenly, the guy then is paralysed and doesn't know what to do or how to proceed any more. This paralysis is a bad thing, because in combination with a strict hierarchical work organisation, often the guy doesn't dare to ask for advice or take a decision except when it is decided by his direct superior. If that superior is not available right away, the employee tends to wait until he is available again.
Such a scene can take hours.

Indians have a special talent for the broadly practised Indian activity of waiting. In fact, they have to wait their whole lives.
- When they are born, they have to wait between 1 and 12 months to be given a name;
- When going to school, they have to wait every day to see if their teacher shows up;
- About the time their hormones start to demand attention, they have to wait till their parents tell them it's about time to marry someone of their parent's choice. Often then they have to say farewell to their lovers and wait for the suffering to end while they are married already to someone else;
- In supermarkets they have to wait in endless chaotic "rows" and every time an article is not labelled (which I estimate is the case with more or less 5% of the products sold) the waiting can extend to almost an hour. I experienced this myself one more time yesterday, when "a problem occurred" and all 7 of the cashiers left their row and went staring at the problem "being solved";
- In traffic they discover that buying a four wheeler is perhaps good for their status, but not good for reaching the place quicker;
- Once they got their degree and are full of expectations to land in a good job, they have to wait before they find out that the heralded 8% growth a year can't make even 20% of Indian youth get a suitable job;
- If any decision must be taken, however small it may be, they wait till the whole family discussed it and agreed;
- They wait for the power cut to end, they wait for the next water supply, they wait for their wives speaking again to them after a fight, they wait till summer's over, they wait for winters to end, for the next promotion, for the next salary increase, for the fast to be over ...;
- They wait for a Sir, a Boss, an American or a Crore Pati to give them a positive remark, they wait for a radical change in karma, they wait for Ganesha to notice their life, ...

They dream about a better life for their kids.

They are waiting for an Indian summer.

The Italian man who went to Malta

If an Italian visiting Malta already faces such problems, then you can imagine what communication problems an expat in a completely different culture can have.
Very funny audio.

The Italian man who went to Malta ...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

To die and let die

Indians like to describe the basic attitude in their society as "To live and let live". I think however "To die and let die" is a more honest description.

Indian people have learned to live without power supply.
"Na problam Sir !"
"We just buy inverters, batteries and if possible gensets to overcome the problem. Who needs power anyway? Around 50% of our population still lives without power at all! So we are the lucky ones, Sir. You must understand Sir that supplying of power is technical difficult to achieve: 25% of our installations go down regularly because they are so difficult to maintain. Sir, we know that our good government is providing budgets for maintenance, but of course the administrators also need to buy food for their kids."

They know how to live a few days without water.
"Na problam Sir !"
"Even in cities like Gurgaon which can be considered part of the Indian capital Delhi, we have organised water distribution in 25 liter bottles ourselves. Every morning 6 hours sharp you can even go to a distribution point to buy your bucket of water ... but please, bring your own bucket. It's 1km maximum from your home. If you would like to, I will walk the way for you."

They are used to pay high admission fees to get their kids to a decent school.
"Na problam Sir !"
"If we can pay at all, we pay even for admission in a good private school. How else can we be sure that our kids really get teached. It was still last week in the paper: classes in a public school were being used for doing laundry and served as sleeping rooms. What else can our kids do if 50% of the public school teachers don't show up anyway, Sir ?"

"They are accepting they have to pull out substantial amounts of money to get even the most evident things done by state administrations."
"Na problam Sir !"
"We try to do as less administration as possible, Sir ! But in most cases, the administrator is a good man: he charges himself less than what I would have to pay officially to get the same thing done ! If you look at it this way, then these administrators are real fine social servants, Sir."
"Need a driver's license, Sir ? Ah, I can deliver you one Sir. Don't try yourself ... that would become very costly for you, Sir !"

They learned to live with policemen taking small sums in exchange for more expensive fines.
"No problam Sir !"
"Our police is very honest, Sir. They're always ready to discuss things. And those good men always charge less than what the fine would cost me, Sir! How's that? Are the policemen also so friendly in your own far away country?"

They also know that they cannot pay good doctors, so they have to do with barely educated ones.
"No problam Sir !"
"We have no good understanding of health issues anyway. We don't understand the difference between a viral and bacterial infection ourselves ... so how could an Indian doctor know the difference, Sir ? Let's just take these antibiotics, which we can buy by the pill."
"And in case my kid suffers from serious loose motion and dehydration, Sir ... we just follow the dietist's advice: "Give him fresh fruite juice"."
(This last advice was actually given in an (expensive) hospital to a fellow expat-mother whose kid became really ill by food poisoning!)

They realise that they can be killed in traffic every day and that nobody in the society will help them if they get in real trouble.
"No problam Sir !"
"My family will take care of me in any situation."
(I remember my bookkeeper being shocked to find out that nobody of the tens of people standing around him was helping him or did not even phone an ambulance. He had a traffic accident and laying on the road bleeding. He told me: "I was so lucky I was still conscious enough to phone my brother in Delhi so that he could come and get me."

"Na problam Sir !"

Indians are friendly people, realising that India is a tough country to organise.
They don't complain ... they adjust.

After all ... politics is a hard profession; economic leaders are supposed to strive for their own wealth and religious leaders are of course always short of money because they build temples and pray for the sake of the country and for the souls.

I'm curious if they also will accept that their own life and their children's lifes are directly endangered by pure irresponsible and negligent behaviour of their intellectual leaders ?

Some so called profs at Delhi University who got a license to educate youth at the highest level of education in chemistry must have lost their mind. At least if they ever were in the possession of something resembling a mind. Read the next article about a story which started 4 weeks back and has led to the death of one man already.

I myself have a hard time to accept that even supposed intellectual leaders don't give a fuck about their fellow citizen's health and life and can show such irresponsible behaviour. As a consequence I really question the quality of Indian education in general.

The following questions about Indian society must be taken seriously, because even a very modest positive answer is highly discussable:
- Are Indian (intellectual, political, religious, economic) leaders capable of leading their country into a better future ?
- Are there sincere Indian leaders able to take up and live to the responsibilities they get from the people ?
- Are Indian leaders able to fight against the immense irresponsible behaviour, corruption and disorganisation of Indian society or are they themselves the starting point and perhaps main cause of it ?
- Is India as a culture able at all to evolute into the "developed" society they would like so hard to be ? Or is all this "growth" and "development" only leading to more wealth for the richest, while the regular people's life is of no value whatsoever;
- Would the world still feel safe if they realise that a country as disorganised as India possesses mass destruction materials and weapons ? I even don't dare to think about Pakistan...

If something like this would happen in the Western world, there's no doubt that:
- the University department responsible for this would be closed at least for the time of investigation;
- the complete potentially infected University campus would be closed to check as long as would be needed;
- a thorough investigation would analyse and rectify all procedures regarding waste management;
- the direct and indirect responsible people would be fired immediately by the University itself;
- the direct responsible people would be arrested by the juridical system.

Indians, get your acts together ...
Will it be "Live and let live" or "Die and let die" ?