Monday, March 8, 2010

Indian psyche

When I encounter and observe the modern Indian, I see a brain dead person and wonder how our ancestors could have written the Bhagwada Gita, Vedas or the Upanishads, and where was the disconnect.

So, I analysed about what aspects about us, have made the country so bankrupt in ideas and economy. Most of the conclusions are simplistic, but there is an element of truth.

1. Indians are very emotional and react more with the heart and hence issues like the creation of a 7th Century temple in Ayodhya are taking center stage. All the actions are mostly symbolic. All our Gods and rituals are symbolic.

2. We are not good planners and our thought processes leave too many loose ends, they say in the chaos theory - that out of chaos comes order...well we are still waiting :-)

3. We are the most lazy( the urban Indians), suspicious and cowardly people. Afraid and suspicious of each and every one. Doubting integrities, branding people, nit picking, conspiracy generation, blowing own trumpet, throwing names, not knowing when to stop, a bloated ego and getting "hurt" at the smallest whiff of criticism and making wild allegations, but not having the stomach to take any. Making pre judgments and not having the intellectual honesty or courage of conviction to accept things in the right perspective. The privileged urban Indian, brought up with doting family, fawning servants and access to the facade of a western world view is completely arrogant and a bastardised mixture of the worst of a complex Indian mind and the dregs of a western one. Not for him the discipline and the work culture and structure of a western process, nor the principles of truth, non-violence, renunciation, the "we" unselfish thought process of an Indian one.

4. All our mindsets are based on generalities and divisive thought processes. There is a divisiveness between religions, castes, regions, languages, English and non English speaking, rural and urban, literate and illiterate, locals and outsiders etc etc. And we have pre conceived notions about each of these sections.

5. Even though, we have one of the finest minds - able to work in layered, nuanced, grey areas, as opposed to a structured black and white mind of a westerner, it is completely occupied in mundane and sly matters. We use our minds to subvert the system, to make money out of the system, to exploit people, to do things in a round about manner. We just dont think of doing things in a straight forward manner. That is why when Indians go abroad and where the systems are in place and things can be done in a relatively straight manner, we excel. We just cannot do anything in a normal manner including carry conversations. There are always hidden meanings that you are supposed to add and decipher. If, for example, one is told to sing a song in a party, he will say no and smile and make a joke about what an idiot he is and all that. If you actually override him and go to the next person,. he wont forgive you all his life.

6. We are extremely servile. While bitching about everything on earth, the moment we are confronted with officials and others in higher positions, we completely lose our spine and start touching feet and waiting for a smile from the person. When they made Indians, they forgot to put the spine in his body. The hundreds of years of caste based hierarchy could be the culprit. Very rarely would you find an Indian believing / operating on a 50: 50 relationship, he is either a bully or a spineless recipient of one. And this, in a world view which talks about "Vasudeva Kutumbikam" - we are all equal and connected.

7. There are just two stages of our perception of fellow Indians. One, that he is the scum of the earth. When all that he does is filled with selfish purposes and where he is not better than any garbage. The other type is when he is elevated to a stage of a demi god. They would defer to him, touch his feet, idolize him, but they will not understand him. No one will try and analyze why someone does what and why, but just either push him far below their own levels or idolize.

8. In a transactional analysis, we are still in the 'Child mode'. We sulk, feel hurt, react with anger and lash out on small, petty issues, have fragile , childlike egos, call names to people, run back to the safe confines of home and generally behave as dependent children. That is why you see difficulties of working in a adult frame reference in a democratic, equal basis - in work places, in homes, in citizen groups,in housing societies - every where. We would either be able to work as a child - taking orders and trying to please or giving orders and becoming a bully. That’s why when we have a modicum of discipline in all work places, because like driven sheep, we would be able to work, not because we have the integrity and the conscience to do full justice to our work, but for the fear of the man on top. That’s why government offices don’t work, there is no danda (fear of losing job) and private enterprises are successful, where there is a danda. Having been protected by the mother syndrome, when a man goes out in the world, he hasn’t learnt how to deal in an adult and unjust world and so he goes in the child mode - blaming, cheating, getting angry, bullying, screaming, manipulating till he reaches the safe confines of his home, where he would take it out on his poor wife.

9. Because we do not have the creative thought processes and have the mind of a child, we are totally numbed by the immensity of the problem facing our country. Instead of a Westerner who would sit and analyze and try for a solution, we thrust our head in the sand and get involved more in the family set up and a social setup which has clear lines like religious and caste based relationships. And all the frustrations that one feels when he sees and feels the pain of the nation, is vent out in negative bursts of energy like blaming politicians, talking about killing them, hanging them etc.

10. Most critically, Indians love the feel-good syndrome. Creating castles in the air, being surrounded by people who praise them, refusing to face reality, happy endings and closing the senses to the stench that surrounds. For example, a 8% growth on a $1000 GDP is something that we gloat about, little realising that it would be just 80$ additional per year as opposed to 1% growth of USA or Japan on a GDP of 35000$, or say $350, so the difference is not narrowing and the speed to get close to them is nowhere near the appropriate level. But thats unpleasant, so lets look at the optimistic scenario and stay happy.

The point , that I am making here is that under developed countries are poor and badly managed not just because of the politicians and people in power, but because of the people living in the country. So, changing mindsets and behavioral patterns is a very important exercise.


  1. Hey Mayank,
    Excellent analysis and i must say it's another completely different dimension to the cliched thought-process that has either been thrust upon us or the second-hand opinions we are comfortable with, as far as India or Indians are concerned.

    Suffice to say like evolution,our re-genrative capacities have been lost in the process,with merely vestigeal loud-mouths left behind. I hope we can resurrect the mammoth !

  2. Dear Mayankji,

    This is a complex topic for a blog I guess and may need a detailed deep dive sufficient for a small book. (if not more :))

    I agree that a lot of aspects that you mentioned are actually traits of a lot of people. But I see them more as effects and if they were actually facts then probably we are making a statement at genetics or essential nature of human beings in India which might not be appropriate from a biological or scientific stand point.

    Yes people are like that. And before we talk about changing, it may be useful to even probe on the 'Why' of it for a while. Why are we like that?

    Lets see a simple value of lack of trust amongst people. Citizens don't trust govt. Govt doesn't trust voters. People don't trust police and vice versa. Women don't trust men and hence they will avoid to look straight while standing on railway platform just to avoid getting any lewd remarks. Rich doesn't trust poor and the poor always feel rich is callous, cold and heartless and willing to arm twist the poor like that Shylock of Merchant of Venice. And its not completely false.

    People don't get into fight with hooligans because 1. no unity amongst us and 2. poor law and order situation and several related factors. We can be termed cowards too.

    People are extremely insecure in this city atleast and hence the trend of trusting people only from one's own community or Almighty.

    And the biggest of all is the absence of understanding what is Education in the true sense of the word as expressed by any of the great thinkers of the world. And that so very clearly determines our social, political and economic conduct.

    This discussion can go on and on but the key would be to unravel the underlying drivers of all these societal social realities and then probably we may get to understand something which may give clue as to where to start from.

    This brings an interesting idea. If the above is taken to be a fact. Where can one begin to change things from?

    On all the above realities rests our great pedestal of democracy. I am not surprised the way it is at all.

  3. Perceptive:) Its a clear headed evaluation of confused Indians. The insecurity of survival has bred negative traits, losing touch with the loftiness of their real being and instead brought our countrymen down to their knees, not just physically but in their soul. Which is why recovery seems a never land. Lack of maturity in thought processes has made us a nation of toddlers whatever be the age. Paucity of role models who exemplify high thinking while a deluge of heroes with nothing but fame, money and looks as credentials has stunted aspiration.