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 Role of Western Values in Indian Society 

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As it is said in the Vedas" Man can live individually, but can survive survive only

collectively. Hence, our challenge is to form a progressive community by

balancing the interests of the individual and that of the society. To meet

this we need to develop a value system where people accept modest modest

sacrifices sacrifices for the common good.

A value system is the protocol for behaviour that enhances enhances the trust,

confidence and commitment of members of the community. It goes beyond goes beyond the

domain of legality It is about decent and desirable behaviour. Further, Further,

it includes includes putting the community interests ahead ahead of your own. Thus, our

collective survival survival and progress is predicated predicated on sound values.

There are two pillars of the cultural value system loyalty loyalty to family and

loyalty loyalty to community. One should not be in isolation isolation to the other, because,

successful societies are those which combine both harmoniously. harmoniously. It is in

this context context that I will discuss the role of Western values in contemporary contemporary

Indian society.

As an Indian, I am proud to be part of a culture, which has deep rooted

family values. We have tremendous tremendous loyalty loyalty to the family. For instance, instance,

parents make enormous enormous sacrifices sacrifices for their children. They support them

until they can stand on their own feet. On the other side, children

consider consider it their duty to take care of aged parents. We believe" "Mathru

devo bhava, pithru devo bhava" (Mother is God and Father is God). Further, Further,

brothers and sisters sacrifice sacrifice for each other. In fact, the eldest brother

or sister is respected by all the other siblings. siblings.

As for marriage, it is held to held to be a sacred sacred union husband and wife are

bonded, most often, often, for life. In joint families, the entire entire family works

towards the welfare of the family. There is so much love and affection affection in

our family life. This is the essence essence of Indian values and one of our key

strengths.

Our families act as act as a critical critical support mechanism for us. In fact, the

credit to the success of Infosys goes, as much to the founders founders as to their

families, for supporting them through the tough times. Unfortunately, our

attitude towards family life is not reflected in our attitude towards

community behaviour. From littering littering the streets to corruption to breaking

of contractual obligations, obligations, we are apathetic apathetic towards the common good.

The primary difference between the West and us is that, there, people have

a much better societal orientation. In the West the US, Canada, Europe,

Australia, New Zealand individuals understand that they have to be

responsible responsible towards their community.

They care more for the society than we do. Further, Further, they generally

sacrifice sacrifice more for the society than us. Quality of life is enhanced enhanced because

of this. This is where we need to learn form the West.

Consider Consider some of the lessons that we Indians can learn from the West"

* Respect for the public good In the West, there is respect for the

public good. For instance, instance, parks free of litter, litter, clean streets, public

toilets free of graffiti all these are instances instances of care for the

publicgood.

On the contrary, contrary, in India, we keep our houses clean and water our gardens

everyday but, when we go to a park, we do not think twice before littering littering

the place.

* Attitude to corruption This is because of the individual's responsible responsible

behaviour towards the community as a whole. whole. On the contrary, contrary, in India,

corruption, tax evasion, evasion, cheating and bribery have eaten into eaten into our vitals.

For instance, instance, contractors bribe bribe officials, and construct low quality roads

and bridges. Corruption, as we see in India, is another another example of putting

the interest of oneself, and at best that of one's family, above that of

the society.

Society is relatively relatively corruption free in the West. It is very difficult to

bribe bribe a police officer into avoiding a speeding ticket. The result is that

society loses in the form of substandard defense equipment and

infrastructure, and low quality recruitment, just to name a few

impediments. impediments. Unfortunately, this behaviour is condoned condoned by almost everyone.

* Public apathy apathy Apathy Apathy in solving community matters has held us back held us back from

making progress, which is otherwise within our reach. We see serious

problems around us but do not try to solve them. We behave as if the

problems do not exist exist or are somebody else's. On the other hand On the other hand in the

West, people solve societal problems proactively. proactively.

There are several several examples of our apathetic apathetic attitude.

(i) For instance, instance, all of us are aware aware of the problem of drought drought in India.

More than 40 years ago, Dr KL Rao an irrigation expert, suggested

creation of a water grid connecting all the rivers in North and South

India, to solve this problem. Unfortunately, nothing has been done

aboutthis.

(ii) The story of power shortage in Bangalore is another another instance. instance. In 1983,

it was decided to build a thermal power plant to meet Bangalore's

powerrequirements. Unfortunately, we have still not started it.

(iii) The Milan subway in Bombay is in a deplorable deplorable state for the past 40

years, and no action has been taken.

To quote another another example, considering considering the constant travel required in the

software industry; five years ago, I had suggested a 240 page passport.

This would eliminate eliminate frequent frequent visits to the passport office. In fact, we

are ready to pay for it. However, I am yet to hear from hear from the ministry of

external affairs on this. We, Indians, would do well to remember Thomas

Hunter's words" Idleness travels very slowly, and poverty soon overtakes

it.

What could be the reason for this? We were ruled by foreigners for over

thousand years. Thus, we have always believed that public issues belonged belonged

to some foreign ruler and that we have no role in solving them. Moreover, Moreover,

we have lost the will to proactively proactively solve our own problems and have got

used to just executing someone else's orders.

Borrowing Aristotle's words" "We are what we repeatedly do." Thus, having

done this over the years, the decision makers in our society are not

trained for solving problems. Our decision makers look to somebody else to

take decisions. Unfortunately, there is nobody to look up to look up to and this is

the tragedy. tragedy.

Our intellectual arrogance arrogance has also not helped our society. I have

travelled extensively, extensively, and in my experience, have not come across another another

society where people are as contemptuous contemptuous of better societies as we are,

with as little progress as we have achieved. Remember that arrogance arrogance breeds

hypocrisy. hypocrisy.

No other society gloats so much about the past as we do, with as little

current accomplishment. accomplishment. Friends, this is not a new phenomenon, phenomenon, but at least

a thousand years old. For instance, instance, Al Barouni, the famous famous Arabic logician

and traveller of the 10th century, who spent about 30 years in India from

997 AD to around 1027 AD, referred referred to this trait trait of Indians.

According According to him, during his visit, most Indian pundits pundits considered considered it below

their dignity even to hold arguments with him. In fact, on a few occasions

when a pundit pundit was willing to listen to him, and found his arguments to be

very sound, he invariably asked Barouni" which Indian pundit pundit taught these

smart things!

The most important attribute attribute of a progressive society is respect for others

who have accomplished accomplished more than they themselves have, and learn from them.

Contrary Contrary to this, our leaders make us believe that other societies do not

know anything!

At the same time, everyday, in the newspapers, you will find numerous numerous

claims claims from our leaders that ours is the greatest nation. This has to stop.

These people would do well to remember Thomas Carlyle's words" "The

greatest of faults is to be conscious of none."

If we have to progress, we have to change this attitude, listen to people

who have performed better than us, learn from them and perform better than

them. Infosys is a good example of such an attitude.

We continue to rationalise our failures. No other society has mastered this

art as well as we have. Obviously, Obviously, this is an excuse to justify justify our

incompetence, corruption, and apathy. apathy. This attitude has to change. As Sir

Josiah Stamp has said" "It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we

cannot dodge the consequences consequences of dodging our responsibilities."

Another Another interesting attribute, attribute, which we Indians can learn from the West, is

their accountability. accountability. Irrespective of your position, in the West, you are

held accountable accountable for what you do However in do However in India, the more 'important'

you are, the less answerable you are.

For instance, instance, a senior politician once declared that he 'forget' to file

his tax returns for 10 consecutive consecutive years and he got away got away with it. To

quote another another instance, instance, there are over 100 loss making public sector units

in India. Nevertheless, Nevertheless, I have not seen action taken for bad performance

against top managers in these organisations.

In the West, each person is proud about his or her labour that raises raises

honest sweat. On the other hand On the other hand in India, we tend to overlook overlook the

significance of those who are not in professional jobs. We have a mindset

that reveres reveres only supposedly intellectual work. For instance, instance, I have seen

many engineers, fresh from college, who only want to do cutting edge work

and not work that is of relevance relevance to business and the country.

However, be it an organisation or society, there are different people

performing different roles. For success, all these people are required to

discharge their duties. This includes includes everyone from the CEO to the person

who serves tea every role is important. Hence, we need a mindset that

reveres reveres everyone who puts in honest work.

Indians become intimate intimate even without being friendly. They ask favors of

strangers without any hesitation. hesitation. For instance, instance, the other day, while I was

travelling from Bangalore to Mantralayam, I met a fellow traveller on the

train. Hardly Hardly five minutes into the conversation, he requested me to speak

to his MD about removing him from the bottom 10 per cent list in his

company, earmarked for disciplinary action.

I was reminded of reminded of what Rudyard Kipling once said" A westerner can be

friendly without being intimate intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate intimate

without being friendly.

Yet another another lesson to be learnt from the West, is about their

professionalism in dealings. The common good being more important than

personal equations, people do not let let personal relations interfere with interfere with

their professional dealings. For instance, instance, they don't hesitate hesitate to chastise chastise

a colleague, even if he is a personal friend, for incompetent work.

In India, I have seen that we tend to view even work interactions from a

personal perspective. Further, Further, we are the most 'thin skinned' society in

the world we see insults where none is meant. meant. This may be because we were

not free for most of the last thousand years.

Further, Further, we seem seem to extend extend this lack lack of professionalism to our sense of

punctuality. We do not seem seem to respect the other person's time. The Indian

Standard Time somehow seems seems to be always running late. Moreover, Moreover, deadlines

are typically typically not met. How many public projects are completed on time?

The disheartening aspect is that we have accepted this as the norm rather rather

than an exception. exception. Meritocracy by definition means means that we cannot let let

personal prejudices prejudices affect affect our evaluation of an individual's performance.

As we increasingly start to benchmark ourselves with global standards, we

have to embrace embrace meritocracy.

In the West, right from a very young age, parents teach their children to

be independent in thinking. Thus, they grow up grow up to be strong, confident

individuals. In India, we still suffer from feudal thinking. I have seen

people, who are otherwise bright, refusing refusing to show independence and

preferring to be told what to do by their boss. We need to overcome overcome this

attitude if we have to succeed globally.

The Western value system teaches respect to contractual obligation. obligation. In the

West, contractual obligations obligations are seldom seldom dishonoured. This is important

enforceablity of legal rights and contracts is the most important factor in factor in

the enhancement enhancement of credibility credibility of our people and nation.

In India, we consider consider our marriage vows vows as sacred. sacred. We are willing to

sacrifice sacrifice in order to respect our marriage vows. vows. However, we do not extend extend

this to the public domain. For instance, instance, India had an unfavourable contract

with Enron. Instead of punishing the people responsible responsible for negotiating negotiating

this, we reneged reneged on the contract this was much before we came to know

about the illegal activities at Enron.

To quote another another instance, instance, I had given recommendations to several several students

for the national scholarship for higher studies in US universities. Most of

them did not return to return to India even though contractually they were obliged obliged to

spend five years after their degree in India.

In fact, according according to a professor at a reputed US university, the maximum

default default rate for student loans is among Indians all of these students

pass out in flying colours and land lucrative lucrative jobs, yet they refuse refuse to pay

back their loans. Thus, their action has made it difficult for the students

after them, from India, to obtain obtain loans.

Further, Further, we Indians do not display intellectual honesty. For example, our

political leaders use mobile phones to tell journalists on the other side

that they do not believe in believe in technology! If we want our youngsters to

progress, such hypocrisy hypocrisy must be stopped.

We are all aware aware of our rights as citizens. Nevertheless, Nevertheless, we often often fail to

acknowledge acknowledge the duty that accompanies accompanies every right. To borrow Dwight

Eisenhower's words" "People that values its privileges privileges above its principles

soon loses both."

Our duty is towards the community as a whole, whole, as much as it is towards our

families. We have to remember that fundamental fundamental social problems grow out of grow out of

a lack lack of commitment to the common good. To quote Henry Beecher" Culture is

that which helps us to work for the betterment of all.

Hence, friends, I do believe that we can make our society even better by

assimilating assimilating these Western values into our own culture we will be

stronger for it. Most of our behaviour comes from greed, lack lack of

self confidence, lack lack of confidence in the nation, and lack lack of respect for

the society.

To borrow Gandhi's words" There is enough in this world for everyone's

need, but not enough for everyone's greed. Let Let us work towards a society

where we would do unto others what we would have others do unto us. Let Let us

all be responsible responsible citizens who make our country a great place to live.

In the words of Winston Churchill, "Responsibility is the price of

greatness." We have to extend extend our family values beyond beyond the boundaries of

our home. Let Let us work towards maximum welfare of the maximum people

"Samasta janaanaam sukhino bhavantu".

Finally, let let us of this generation, conduct conduct ourselves as great citizens

rather rather than just good people so that we can serve as good examples for our

younger generation.

Thank you

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