Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Infantile India: an editorial from the Times of India

LEADER ARTICLE: Infantile India-Editorial-OPINION-The Times of India

In a very well written piece, Jug Suraiya has brilliantly analyzed the reactions of several members of the Indian public. Some of his observations are spot on. But generalizing this to a national and civilizational level is probably stretching it a bit too far.

I tend to agree with his characterization of the typical Indian fan.

"..Many of the most demonstrative of Indian fans would be hard put to distinguish between off-spin and leg-spin. What the Indian fan is looking for is the adrenaline rush of winning, never mind the hows and whys.(Divine intervention is also seen as a legitimate source of victory: on Sunday night/Monday morning, prayers were being offered that Bermuda triumph over Bangladesh, thus enabling India to effect a back-door entry into the Super Eight.)"

He makes a jump after this point. He says that instant gratification without due effort marks most of India. He compares this behavior to :

The child wants a treat, an ice cream, and it wants it now. Not after it has earned the treat, by completing its homework or fulfilling some other form of compensatory obligation, but right now. And if it is denied the immediate gratification of its desire it will resort to the non-rational, magical behaviour of a tantrum: a wordless shriek of outrage which precludes any possibility of argument or negotiation.

It is at this point that he begins to generalize this. He takes this to denote the gain-without-pain attitude that is to be seen as a mark of infantilism or lack of maturation. For his data point, he brings in the examples of Singur and Nandigram and chastises the CPM for getting "fixated on reviving the state's moribund manufacturing sector".

But he has a point. In the system of democracy, where a party can garner votes only by promising and trying to implement such populist measures, both people and politicians look forward to getting something done just like that. But this definitely does not gel with real Indian civilization. For example, there is this famous subhAShita -

"gacchatpipIlikA yAti yojanAni shatAnyapi |
agacChan vainateyo.api padamekam na gacChati ||"

which says that even an ant that is moving can cover hundreds of miles, but even the king of birds, vainateya (garuDa), if he is unmoving, does not cover even a foot.This particular verse, known by several people, indicates the preferred behavior over the non-preferred. Indian civilization has always been for "necessary deferring of gratification" which Jug Suraiya holds to be a sign of "maturation".(I definitely agree with him on this).

When Jug Suraiya says that this infantilism is not compatible with "a republic that lays claim (emphases mine) to ancient civilisational values", it looks like he is actually saying that India just is laying claim to but doesn't really possess ancient values. I don't agree with that. Stupid people have been born at all times. The act of a few stupid people can cause big things. The following image from says it all

But as in this picture, stupid people are few. The vast majority of India doesn't care about things such as cricket. They have themselves to take care of.

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