Friday, May 23, 2014

There are Many Desirable Things for Us to Learn from Others!

Let me share with you three incidences which show how people progress in their attitudes. We know that some nations are much more developed than many others. Nations show overall progress when more and more of their individual citizens progress in mind and body. 

My own country, India has a rich tradition, culture and civilization. However, for various reasons, this richness is not evenly distributed among the people. India remains as a developing nation, rather than a developed nation. Unless the majority of its individual citizens from its massive population reach to some desirable levels of mind capacity, it can never hope to become a nation devoid of corruption, ugliness and chaos. And that is a great challenge to every Indian. It cannot happen miraculously overnight. It would take a few generations. But even for that future possibility, each and every citizen of India need to have desire to get rid of our negative qualities. We need to learn many things from others.

Unlike the past, many new generation Indians are getting much opportunities to go abroad for studies, jobs, etc now-a-days. More and more number of Indians are seeing the world beyond their own villages, towns and cities of India. 

While they get such opportunities, many of the Indians are getting opportunities for bench-marking themselves with the so-called westerners, the Americans and the Europeans of the present times. While many get jealous of the progress of the Westerners, quite a number of them also get an opportunity for introspecting. 

With the advent of the internet and the social media, some of the Indians have courageously taken up the task of sharing their own mistakes or errors in the hope that it gives some opportunity for more people to introspect for possible corrections of attitudes and outlooks.

Now coming to the episodes which I wanted to share. The first one is one told to me by one of my colleagues a few years ago.

His son became an outstanding IIT engineer and got employed by one large Silicon-valley company in the USA. Soon, the boy also got married to a girl of similar standing working in the same place. The young couple invited my colleague to visit USA. So he went to visit his son and daughter-in-law in the USA.

On a holiday, the young couple took their visiting dad to a nearby park. They sat their enjoying their ice-creams and chocolates. Unlike the Indian parks, this US park was spotlessly clean. There were dust bins placed at few locations for the visitors to put their wastes.

Indians as a matter of habit or culture are reluctant to observe civic discipline, in general. Throwing litter any where out side their own homes is practiced even by the so-called educated Indians without any shame or sense. For many, it gives a kind of pleasure to violate the rules. If the authorities take harsh steps they resent it. If they are liberal they violate it. 

It was nothing different for my colleague as well. He knew about the American culture and civic discipline in the park where he and his children visited. Yet, he did not bother to use the dust-bins to throw the chocolate wrappers. He slowly rolled them to a ball and quietly dropped the ball to the grass. He thought no one noticed and felt relieved. 

A few minutes passed. Then our Indian group in the American park observed an old white lady approaching them from quite a distance. The lady came straight to the place they were sitting. Quietly without telling anything she took the rolled chocolate wrapper, gave a momentary stare on the Indians, proceeded to place it in a dust bin and disappeared. 

While narrating this incident to me, my colleague- a senior technocrat in a renowned Indian organization-told me that he felt ashamed and naked before the old American lady. 

The other incident was told to me by an young businessman from Mumbai. It was the time when electronic products like laptops and cameras were too desired items in India. The Indian customs authorities used to charge heavy customs duties on these products brought to India by returning Indians from abroad. 

My young businessman friend went to the US for some purpose and was about to return. He went to a US shopping mall to purchase a laptop. He selected an expensive brand and quietly made a personal request to the American salesman. He requested him to prepare a bill showing a less expensive model with a lower price. The American could not understand why such a peculiar request from this Indian customer. So he asked him the reason for this odd request. My Indian friend has to explain a bit about the tax laws of India and the advantage he would get back in India by way of reduced customs duties if he had such a bill showing a lower price.

The American retorted spontaneously: " So, dude! You want to cheat your country?"

My rich Indian felt as if naked before this ordinary American sales boy! That is what he told me.

Way back in 1988, I was member of an Indian project team entrusted with the task of designing and executing a large manufacturing facility for my employer jointly with engineers from a large East German company. As per the memorandum of understandings (MoU) the Germans were to work in our Indian office for many months while some of us would  be in their German office if need so arose for some days.

The Germans worked with us  in our office away from their families for months together. We traveled to various vendors in India together for various purposes. My German counterpart was one Mr.Sommer, a mild spoken German engineer who toiled hard to communicate in English as they had only one interpreter for the whole group. 

Though we had occasional official parties, we Indian seldom invited our German friends to our homes during the off days. Perhaps I was one exception, because I took Mr Sommer to my home for dinner once. Towards the completion of the project during the end of 1989, the Berlin wall fell. I still remember the extreme happiness our East German friends had that day. We all had our last official dinner that night as our German friends were returning back to their homes in Unified Germany next day.

In the next month or so, a few of our Indian team members ( me excluded) were to visit their office in Germany for the some final formalities. The work was almost completed at that time and the Indian team had more leisure time than work time at Germany. The Germans showed their extra ordinary hospitality to the visiting Indian team not by hosting any official dinner, but by personally inviting each one of them the respective homes of those engineers who were now in Germany but had been in India with us for several months earlier.

The Indian team members felt very bad now, even while they enjoyed the personal care and hospitality of their German counterparts. They felt ashamed because they never thought of taking care of those German friends while they were in India. And now there was hardly any opportunity for the Indians to reciprocate and repay their obligations! 

My friends after returning to India, told me how the Germans humbled them. We felt too humbled by this act and perhaps we learnt a new lesson.

While you took time to read these, I hope you could realize what I wanted to convey.

Please share your experiences of this kind with others using the comment facility below.


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