A bit more than two weeks into this, my second India visit, I think I’m ready to proselytize a bit, maybe even pontificate! I’m not ready to explain the world, and I’m probably not really doing anything but rehashing the thoughts and comments of 30 or 40 people I’m talked to over the last few weeks. But I think I have a few thoughts on India and I’m ready to talk… (And we all know I like to talk)
There aren’t just millions of people here, or even hundreds of millions. There are nearly 1.2 billion in fact. And people in India are NOT timid. The push, shout, protest and generally exercise their democratic rights full tilt. Labor is available, land is expensive, but here. The educated mix with the indigent, the hard workers with the lazy. This is truly a place for everyone.
During my stay, the headlines have been rife with talk of censorship of Rushdie, the Supreme Court striking down the current cell phone (2G) licenses and the Australians playing the Indians a few times at Cricket. Passion is rampant! A striking worker was killed by the police, and the workers revolted and killed a factory manager in response. 20 minutes on the roads and you see it. Despite the heat and humidity, the people are driven.
Traffic here is an elaborate dance, a contact sport you might say. It has a fluidity. A friend described it like walking on a busy square, but that’s not quite right. To me it’s like walking in a crowd, each to his own beat and path, combined with surfing. You duck under the big waves, crossing the first lane, finally reaching the middle, then you catch the wave as and surf home, as you enter your lane. People yell, blow their horns, bump and jostle, but in the end, there is restraint in the midst of the chaos.
I’ve been reading the US news at the same time. Watching Romney and Gingrich go at it. A win for Romney, then a surprise for Gingrich, two more for Romney. Through it all, realizing that there is only one America. A bit to the right for the Republicans, a bit to the left for the Democrats. The rest of us realizing how closely aligned the two voices. We all seem to be pulling in the same direction, we just can’t agree which that is or should be. That’s not India. India has may thoughts, directions, factions, groups. When put to the test they are all for India. But they quickly, and cheerfully show their colors and tell their stories.
I’ve been talking politics and business with many people here; business associates, friends and acquaintances alike. China comes up a lot. There seems to be a worry that China is the future and that India has missed the boat. I have a few thoughts on that. Let’s take India first.
It can be incredibly hard to get things done in India. Like swimming upstream in thick batter. But a billion people have spent the last 40 years doing just that. So they are good at it. They quietly wait. Working diligently. And the get things done! There is huge strength in a quiet anarchy. India itself is beloved. But the true strength is the combination of that love for India merged with the underlying factions and disorganization. You might say that one is the cool that combines heat to build, form and temper steel.
Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Christian, Jain, Muslim (even me??). It is this mixture and co-existence that is the strength. The classes may fight and complain. The state of AP may want to split. The teaming tides bring strength.
So where does that leave China (or even the United States)?
China (to my more limited knowledge, ergo the pontification) has striven to build ONE CHINA. Any voices that are raised (or even whispered) in opposition are struck down, hidden and feared. I wish for the sake of the ruling class in China that I felt this fear was miss-founded. However, I agree with them. They should fear. Not us, but their own masses. For someday, with success will come freedom of speech. And with freedom of speech, will come angry chaos. Or at least those who have ready their history (any history, of any peoples) can see.
Finally, don’t count the Americans out. Remember, we have plenty of the best and the brightest from India AND China. Not to mention, Germany, France, England, Russia, Ukraine, etc. And even our homegrown corn-fed hordes count a bit, tongue in cheek, so to speak. Somewhere there is rumor that Americans don’t work hard. That we are lazy. To my way of thinking this is a rumor that is based on anti-union fear mongering. Somewhere, the world picked it up and believes it. But it isn’t so. My experience is that Americans are great problem solvers and our strength is in our ability to be, at the same time, hardworking, lazy, diligent, hard-headed, clever and fearless. We aren’t afraid of much, except ourselves.
Just a few thoughts…