Saturday, October 29, 2005

Glorious Indian Culture

Do people still throw things out of the windows? Here it was a New Year's Eve custom to throw out all the old stuff before letting the new year in. There was a woman near here once, who used to throw all her rubbish out the window and when somebody complained she said, what else am I supposed to do with it?”

Sounds like India? No that was a remark from Julia who lives in Savonna, in Italy. Julia had just read the first chapter of “Memoirs of a laidback Rebel” and figured out that Indian customs were similar to those in Italy.

Well, I looked out of the window yesterday afternoon and these are the things I saw lying scattered in the compound: a pile of chipped tiles, a large marble something or other (from where I was I couldn’t quite tell if it was a tub or the top of a table or what). An untidy pile of black gravel. Some untidy weeds sprouting in the gravel. Cardboard boxes. Piles of stones. It’s all been there for days. People in Bombay are constantly having their flats renovated and of course the entire mess lies outside the house, for the whole world to see. Inside it’s marble and parquet flooring etc. but the same people obviously DO NOT CARE A FUCK how the outside looks. I have actually seen people sitting in the back seat of a Mercedez Benz and spitting out of the window. Maybe the very idea of cleanliness is a Western import.

The other day, sitting out on the balcony of my grandmother’s house, which overlooks the sea, we were assaulted by a foul smell. It seemed to be burning rubber or something. The next evening a neighbour who dropped by informed us that the building secretary had attempted to keep the premises clean by organising a huge bin for the hutment dwellers who have taken up residence just outside the garden walls, on the seashore. To start with, he himself, together with a few people collected fifty big bags of rubbish from the shore and put it into the bin. That was probably the only time the rubbish was collected and thrown into the bin. To get to the bin people had to walk about fifty meters. That's too much of a walk of course. Thereafter rubbish has been collecting again on the rocks – paper, plastic bags, rubber tyres, boxes, you name it – and all this is periodically burned so as to be got rid off.

Well, I tell myself it is all part of our great Indian culture. Maybe to even suggest we clean up, that we put an end to this burning of garbage as and when, and wherever we feel like, to suggest that we stop spitting or pissing around the place would be an infringement of public rights. And of course we want to be faithful to this centuries old culture and not inhibit our people in any way.

Jai Hind.

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suresh said...

Glorious Indian Culture Indeed!

I love it when somebody kicks empty coke cans lying around on our roads and shouts ‘Jai Hind’.

Yes, you have neighbors who are always spitting around and throwing garbage out of their windows. But are they the representatives of Indian Culture?

Culture is a trait of Civilized people.

There’s no Indian Culture worth the name existing around you and me, Miss.Therapist! When you point at people and say “Damn! Indian Culture!” you are actually pointing at a cross-section of society that has lost touch with Indian Culture, their roots, their home.

And perhaps you are one of them.

Most of the people whose empty coke-cans you kick on the road don’t have that luxury of time and Grace (of inclination) to find out about Indian Culture and become cultured. If they did, they would not be throwing garbage out of their windows onto your balcony, in the first place!

suresh said...

Uma said in her article , "Maybe the very idea of cleanliness is a Western import."

I have great love for the US for their belief in Individual liberty, dignity of labour, the sanctity of Human life. I admire American Public Institutions, their social –security system, their police, their administrative set-up and the core values enshrined in their Constitution like Free Speech etc.

However, if you thought that Cleanliness was a Western concept, think again!

Americans use 50 million tons of paper annually -- consuming more than 850 million trees.

On the average, the 140 million cars in America are estimated to travel almost 4 billion miles in a day, and according to the Department of Transportation, they use over 200 million gallons of gasoline doing it.

About 1% of U.S. landfill space is full of disposable diapers, which take 500 years to decompose

Many banks lent large sums of money to developing nations. In order to pay those debts plus interest many nations have turned to the mining of their natural resources as a source of financial aid.

If you call that Cleanliness (!!) God save America, and the Western world indeed.

P.S: I always suggested a movie at the end of many of my articles. This time I suggest you see the movie: The Day After Tomorrow.


"Climate change is already happening now, not the day after tomorrow," said Janet Sawin, director of the energy and climate program at the Worldwatch Institution in Washington, D.C. "I'm hoping more people will become more aware of this problem and start thinking about what we can do to address it."

There is little doubt that global warming is real. In the last century the average temperature has climbed about 0.6 degrees Celsius (about 1 degree Fahrenheit) around the world. Most scientists say the higher temperatures are a result of an atmospheric increase in carbon dioxide, caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum.

Sea levels have risen 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) because of the expansion of warmer waters. A study in the science journal Nature this year predicted that climate change could drive more than a million species toward extinction by the year 2050. Many scientists also warn of a link between global warming and extreme weather events, like El Niño.

Think again, Madam !

umarang said...

Suresh, I agree with some of what you say. But the people in our building are definitely not poor. They can afford to clean up their mess. I also think dirt doesnt have to do with being poor or rich, it is a certain attitude.

Sharat's said...

I would not wholly agree with Uma and Suresh. I have seen quite a few cities in India. Cleanliness as an attitude exists in all homes in the cities, including the poorest of poors. I have visited slums in Calcutta and Mumbai. Some of them are extremely clean on the other hand some posh localities have the same issues what Uma wrote abote. I havent come across an Indian home which inside is not clean. However what we do with are waste is of concern. I believe thesociety we create arround us contributes greatly to the same. Some communities are very concious os keeping the neibhourhood as clean as their homes and recently I have experienced that in Timbaktu. The farm on which about 10 families stay is in sharp contrast to the villages arround. That is their sense of collective cleanliness and commitment comes from within.


You seem to be stuck on this rich versus poor and India versus the rest of the world. All have something to learn from and if you visit not US andEurope but so called third world countries like China and Korea you will realise that they are far superior to any city in India as far as clealiness is concerned. I think it is also a sense of impoverishment. We are not proud to be whateever we are, the Chinese and Koreans are. Its not a question of religion but an innate self belief and a feeling of being responsible for what we are and create.

suresh said...

We recently had two communities rioting on the streets of Mau in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, killing people. Natural disasters have had a field day killing people. And now the terrorist attacks.

Sharat tells me that I am stuck with "this rich vs. the poor" attitude. I never thought I was, but then now when you made me think about it, here's what I feel...

The people who were killed on the streets in Mau in rioting, or whose homes were attacked were of poor people. The blasts that hit Delhi yesterday killed basically poor people who had come to do some shopping before Diwali. When Mumbai was flooded, it was the hutment dwellers and poor people who were affected. Yes! perhaps IT IS the rich vs. the poor story. Because the rich are anyways well-protected. I don't blame the rich for being rich. I am just telling you the facts.


When I criticized Uma's article, I hated her for blaming it on the "Tolerance" that our culture is known for, which I knew she was sarcastically pointing at in the name of littering.

In my detailed article on my blog, I explained how this 'secular tolerance' which has been a hallmark of our culture provided succour for my Spirit when our own so-called "guardians of Indian culture" failed to provide me with manna for my spirit. All they were doing was, bringing down mosque and killing people in the name of Ram. It was the Catholic faith that provided me succour then, when I did not know anything about my own Hindu Faith. And lakhs of people in India, like me find succour in Religion, a wide array to choose from- because there was tolerance in our country for different faiths to take root and prosper. So to blame Indian culture, and our tolerance, for the garbage around, to say the least - was not funny.


Coming back to the matter of Cleanliness, sharat said, Indian homes are quite clean even the poorest ones. Cleanliness has nothing to do with one's Standard of Living in India. Yes that's what my professor of Economics in college used to say, and I quite agree.

When I speak of lack of culture in the city, and blame it for lack of cleanliness; I am saying that Culture (which is largely defined by religious faiths) and Awareness (as taught in the scriptures) is capable of inducing civic manners in people, by waking up Compassion and Concern for others and one's Environment.

However all that remains in the city in the name of culture is not true Knowledge but dead rituals and stale commitments to one's family and relatives and gross neglect of one's own spiritual upliftment. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as they say.


As far as India vs. the World is concerned, her statement that Cleanliness is a Western Import, and my facts about the "clean western world" do the talking. I am a patriot, not nationalist as Sharat writes. I was just putting the facts straight.

Its too easy to make standard comments like, "Cleanliness is a western import", "Damn, Indian Culture"(which does not stop at your building premises), and "rich not vs.poor". But what is needed is getting to the root of the problems like littering , so as to find real solutions. We like to use these standard "statements" to delude us, to run away from issues by ridiculing them (in "sarcasm"). It was indeed not funny.


umarang said...

Yes I know. I just have a peculiar sense of humour and I can quite understand somone not finding it funny. And that is okay too for me, I dont expect everyone to laugh at everything I say. At the same time I dont want to be muzzled out of fear of offending people. The way I write is just part of my expression I guess, not an attempt to hurt.

suresh said...

i wish i had got to read a little bit from you about indian culture, before you spoke against it. It's like judging somebody, when you hardly know him. That's my point Uma. I sometimes feel you are so distant.. in your own ivory tower, or some palace in the clouds... unreachable. It seems as you don't know me, can't decipher my name.. And I feel scared if you would ever know me, to be able to listen to me................