Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Risk-Averse Indian

Indians are risk averse .  And that is because of the threat of violence in case they don't follow expectations of others.

Our conformity and mediocrity is not an inborn personality trait, it is a survival strategy that has proved viable in an atmosphere of intimidation and oppression.  India suffers from a severely oppressive state machinery which makes sure its citizens always stay docile and grateful for any little freedom that they are allowed.

Let's go over some aspects of our lives and how they are subject to control:

Speech and Freedom of Expression: Not only the society, but the state will come after you with sticks and guns if you say anything which offends someone.  There are strict laws against blasphemy and against saying something objectionable in India.  We have a censor board for movies which is a law unto itself.  Sending an email with a sarcastic cartoon as an attachment can get you sent to jail.

Relationships: Not only the society, but the state will come after you with sticks and guns if you fall in love with the "wrong" person.  The police is too happy to arrest you based on your in-laws' statements.  And you better make sure you get married to the "right" person the first time.  If your wife doesn't like you, well, the police is too happy to arrest you on her complaint.  If you want a divorce, well, good luck with that!  The courts will take decades to decide on your case.

What if you decide to just be on your own and to hell with the family and community?  If you decide not to support your old parents, in many Indian states you can be sent to jail.

If you are in a live-in relationship or are single beyond a "reasonable" age, you may be hard pressed to find a rented accommodation because landlords are a law unto themselves and a tenant cannot ask for non-discrimination.

Dispute Resolution: If you get into a conflict or a dispute with the wrong person, you will be subject to state terror.  The police will arrest your parents on some trumped up charge.  That person will come to your home and threaten you with goons and guns.  So better keep your head down and don't get into even a verbal fight with a guy who looks like he may be "connected".

If you are a businessman, don't hope for contract enforcement from the courts (India ranks pretty much on the bottom in the world on that).  You have to just trust that person and keep him in good humor.  In general, remain in people's good books otherwise they will not honor their obligations to you.  I wonder what that does to your free-thinking spirit.

Food and Drink: If you eat the wrong kind of meat in the wrong place, not only the society but the state will come after you with sticks and guns.  If you want to have a drink, you have to go to state sanctioned shops and watering holes.  You cannot keep more than a few bottles at your home.  You have to close your bar at 11 pm in most locations otherwise the police will come after you.  If you try to party at a place outside the city, the police can arrest you on suspicion of drug use.  You cannot buy eggs and meat in certain cities.

Health:  Public hospitals are dysfunctional and private hospitals are unregulated.  So you better not fall sick in this country.  Since eateries and shops are unregulated when it comes to non-adulteration and hygiene, you better just be safe and cook at home.  That leads to the attitude of not wanting to try out a new food/cuisine.

In general, don't do anything which may be a health risk.  Rock climbing, racing, athletics/sports, swimming are only for the rich.  Chess and Cricket are OK since they don't strain the body so much.  Since emergency response services are non-functional in most areas, don't try any physically risky adventures like gliding, skiing, surfing, skateboarding...

Business and Entrepreneurship: It is notoriously hard to start a business in India due to the multiplicity of regulatory agencies which want to oppress you instead of offering easy processes and guidelines.  So it is much safer to take up a salaried job, especially with the government where YOU make up (or enforce) the policies, and where pension is assured.  And in clear violation of Article 16 of the constitution of India, most state jobs are offered only to a certain age group.  So you better gather your degrees and figure out what kind of salaried job you want to do in your twenties.  After that, you are on your own.  You can't easily take a "risk" with your education and career.


These are just a few examples where our attitude to be "rather safe than sorry" is driven by explicit laws and state policy in India.  We are a subservient and mediocre population because the ruling classes have framed laws and policies which force us to be that way.

It is safer for them, too.


Anonymous said...

If you think that so much is wrong with India, then why don't you move back to the US?

Sukhjiv Singh Sodhi said...

We Indians are always fighting with ourselves to justify that, I am not being mistreated by State or its functionaries. Whereas, Most of the fortunate people, who are in Govt. service, think of themselves to be kings and queens of the affairs they are, ought to be obliged, to handle. The high headed Govt-Goons rob general public of their money, peace of mind, time, and harass everyone who unfortunately fall prey to them. The pathetic state of affairs in India is leading to most of the aspiring and promising Indians to try their luck overseas. This leads to further depreciating social composition. Most of the successful politicians, lawyers and Police officials are/were goons.

Sanjay Srivastava said...

- You bring out interesting point about age discrimination. I never noticed it.

- All Government jobs now do not come with pension benefits. They are gradually starting the concept of defined contribution rather than defined benefits.

- @Sukhjiv: Police officials (esp. in the officer category) do not come from "goon" background. All of them were probably toppers of their colleges.

Sridhar said...

wGood one. Perhaps this explains the obsessive addiction Indians have with movies. A world they can get lost in for a while, freedom for 3 hours. The saddest part is millions of people do not even realize that they are living in serfdom, the small pleasures of life keeps people going. Ignorance is bliss seems to be the case.

gt said...

Very well written, I must say. The post reminded me of a dialogue in the Movie "The Wednesday" and it goes like this "We are forced to be resilient". We should never let any body talk about our resilience, we don't have to be resilient for living in this country. I am sure the fresher generations, slowly but surely, are upstaging these age-old-beliefs and the risk-averse-mentality that is plaguing our society. And I for one wish to believe that the Indian mentality when it comes to taking risks is changing, these days. I could see it happening. But yes the process is going to be slow, very slow.