Like a true patriot, I would say everything. But here I want to talk about the things I am most appreciative about in the Indian culture. Disparity is ubiquitous, may it be developed world or developing. Your approach towards life in general, is guided by culture, geography, relationships etc. Born and brought up in India, followed by living in extremely diverse places, economically and socially, highlighted great things in the Indian culture for me while appreciating the great things in other cultures.
They say, the real mettle of a person is tested when he is in true despair. Here is where, I have seen most fascinating examples in India. No offense to anyone else in the world, there are fighters everywhere. Here, the sense of calm though, even when they are trying to make ends meet day in and day out, is what has fascinated me over and over again. Poverty here doesn’t necessarily equate to sad faces, unbathed and disheveled people, people on drugs, or people with rage issues. More often than not, they have everything going against them and buckling under pressure would be an obvious option, but you don’t see many people doing that. A major part of this is probably having a big support system, never financial, but always human. Your neighbors, your family, your much bigger extended family, and just humanity that touches you at every level. There is rarely a second thought about taking care of neighbors children or family members, no appointments taken to see people you love. Somehow there is a natural authority of people around you on you. It harbors a safe feeling even in the biggest chaos going around. Few years back, Mumbai streets were flooded with incessant rains and people had to leave their vehicles and walk in stomach deep waters. The scene on the street, though not fun with all the dirty and potentially disease causing stuff flowing around, was of some unique opportunity. People who were lucky to be home, cooked meals, hot tea, and gave snacks to complete strangers passing by. For me, this is just a glimpse of what true Mumbai spirit is and with an extension Indian spirit.
One more thing that fascinates me about India is the spirit to do well in life. People falling prey to depression can take a leaf from the spirit of life of these people. You might be at the very very bottom of the ‘food chain’, but you don’t have a defeated demeanor. It goes to show a million success stories that you get to hear in India daily. If not me, then my children, is the natural thought process. And people strive for that. I remember, I was 21 and after a lot of convincing, I had finally got my own PC. Our maid, who is not classically educated (though I think of her as one of the wisest people I have ever met) came to me and asked me all about how it might be useful for her kids. They were probably 10-12 then and she did not have the resources to get them a PC. But she was planning ahead. And jotting down in her memory, how it might be of use. They grew up to be smart kids going to great colleges and every time I see her, she has the glowing pride on her face that she did well for her kids. Only yesterday, I was talking to her and she was feeling so relieved of her responsibilities, she offered to come to the US to take care of me and my future family. An amazing influence like hers, is something I would love to have around my family.
Another thing I am truly appreciative about is this part of the Indian culture where you respect the elders endlessly. Not everyone would agree with this notion, but for me the best lessons I have learnt are from not just listening to but almost feeling like a devotee in front of my parents, grandparents, teachers, and tons of learned people I have had the pleasure of sitting and listening to and discussing things with them. I am not talking about celebrities. Just people with a lot of clarity about life, because of their vast experiences. You don’t have to experience everything yourself, and these people surely have saved me a lot of time. Probably, stemming from the Gurukul system that existed centuries back, where the students would stay with the teacher for years and he would be everything for the student, he taught them life. Now it’s probably reversed in the way that everyone around is a teacher and thankfully there are many of them. One of the reasons, I don’t hate India’s huge population..
Another thing I absolutely love about India is the color. And I am not just talking about the clothes. I remember the scorching 48 degree celsius day when my maternal uncle who owns a little book store in a village was confronted with a boy unwarily asking him for ghee (butter) for 50 paisa (~0.001 dollar). The boy was obviously unaware (and probably sunstroked) asking for butter in a book store for a price that was not even enough to get small candy. My uncle smiled, did not get angry and took some ghee on his finger from the little temple diya (lamp) he had in his store and put it on his cheeks. We all vacationing cousins and the boy, had a big laugh and later we treated him with a glass of sherbat. It’s just these little instances, the ability to get joy from whatever is at hand is what I would call spunk. That twinkle in the eye on seeing something you like, however, small it is, the ability to be able to enjoy the day, with what it brings, and adding your own flavor to it, is a beautiful way to lead life.
For this sense of calmness despite despair, ambition besides lack of resources, undying respect for people around, and to make it perfect, a sprinkle of spunk and quirkiness, is what makes me feel blessed about my home country.