This piece has been in my head for a long time. I cannot pinpoint the right time but I've been thinking about it for a long time. This is about India and the society we live in. About 1/5th of all people in the world are Indians and we never had a choice. That's a lot of people crammed into the place. You'll know what exactly I'm talking about if you've ever traveled a lot of India in trains, more so if by second class. There are far too many people in here. And if this wasn't enough, we have the greatest diversity among people on the planet. Nowhere else in the world is society divided into these many classes and sub-classes based on religion and wealth. Infact, I sometimes wonder if we have more number of deities than all their devotees put together. Anybody can be a God and be worshiped. Also, India is a land of instantaneous friendships. You barely have to know anybody before you tell him everything about your family, crib about your work and talk Cricket. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to say that in no other country do we have a more trafficked many-many relationship.
But how do we sustain this? We live in a world where Nature has taught us that one life is just a minute entity in a web of lot of lives and everybody is interdependent on everybody else, directly or indirectly. Nobody has understood this more than our ancestors. I am no educated anthropologist but from what I've seen, if I had to deduce a theory of how all of us still manage to live together despite the millions of differences, it's because of the so very complex structure of society that has been handed over generation to generation. Everybody wants to be at the centre of the universe. At some point or the other, people would like to believe that they can survive alone. And anything said on the contrary would hurt their ego. It is for this simple reason that the whole structure of religion and God have been added into everyday life. I respect Indian tradition, atleast the little I know. And somewhere deep inside, I realise that Randian philosophy of every man for himself does not survive unless in a totally Utopian society. So, to prevent a man from crossing the threshold of selfishness and also think about the after affects of his actions, somebody had to create the notion of Bad Karma. One of my favourite lines I read recently in Mystic River is that, "There is no Guilt. There is only a fear of Bad Karma." I am yet to read a more honest line.
Unless in the most extraordinary of cases, for all us everyday people, what prevents us from vengeance or greed or lust is the fear of Karma. Guilt, might come, but only after the act. All of us believe, and Indians more so, that the Good Lord we worship has a table of all things good and bad we have done. That is why we try to please him, to coax him to get things done in our favour. And it is also the same thing which stops us form sinning more often because we are scared that someday, we will have to payback for all we have done. Honestly, how many of us wouldn't do all that we liked to if only we could get away without paying for it. I will give you a prime example, just think about it. Why do we have more number of voyeurs than rapists? Infact, that notion of Good deeds vs Bad comes into play in more ways than we can imagine. At the beginning of this post, I asked How all of us Indians manage to survive together. The answer is simple, We are the most accommodating society in the world. I have not been in any other place in the world than India but from all that I've heard, seen or read, I don't think that anywhere else do 500 people travel amicably in a compartment which is supposed to fit in only 100 people.
We are okay with sharing, with forgiving, with looking away because we know that one, if I help somebody someday, that would return to me somehow and two, we believe that the उपरवाला is a fair judge of all deeds performed by everybody. All this has been imbibed into us. I am not saying there aren't people who would be good just for the heck of it but I'll discuss that in my next post, which has been brooding inside for a long time. Anyway, that accommodating nature of ours is our biggest boon and the biggest curse. I don't have to specify the reasons why. It helps us, like I already mentioned above, into sharing and forgiving, giving people a second chance which more often than not, they deserve. But that also happens to be our biggest curse because we are far too outer-worldly to change things in this world. We don't really give a shit about anything because we believe in the great providence and his just trial system.
And that is why India is the land of contradictions. Good or bad, that is the way we live. And have been for the past 5000 or so years. We have our Mahatmas and Mother Teresas as well as the world famous 'politicians' and corrupted government officials. And it is only here, at the end of the day, an honest man, albeit a poor one, is so proud of himself.