Bad things about India and what I miss about America after R2I

Prashant in Smoky Mountains in the deep south, 2006
1. Earth

Life should be oozing from every nook in the Indian subcontinent with it’s rich soil, warm temperatures and yearly monsoons. But cities, towns and villages in India have long defaced this natural order. I miss tree lined streets, the daily walk home from the subway station and the state parks of Massachusetts.

2. A Constitution with teeth

    • Delhi Police have check posts through out Delhi where they randomly search vehicles and check ‘papers’. Mix this power to search at will with corruption and a legal system without redress, and you get a meek citizenry constantly pleading for mercy.
      4th amendment – you lose to hollow arguments of security everywhere in the world (including NYC).
    • Banning of books and movies, rioting religious groups, etc. are not uncommon in India. If your comments offend anyone powerful (or one of their goons), the law steps aside so that they can have a go at you. This isn’t only a philosophical irritant – on a daily basis, the Government of India’s has the time to block pretty advertisements in the Wall Street Journal. Now they are talking about playing moral police on the internet (New Delhi’s New Gag WSJ May, 2011, Google objected to Indian Internet Rules WSJ May, 2011).
      Freedom of speech, limited government and good old maturity – now I appreciate you!

For more, read this article on NYT about the quality and evolution of constitutions around the world

3. Sidewalks

Delhi roads rarely have sidewalks. Moving cars, parked cars, people, cows, dogs, elephants, goats, hawkers, tractors, camels, rickshaws, motor cycles, cats and bicycles ply on the same broken roads. Still, I tried walking to a market near by but did not return more relaxed.

4. Self dignity

Living the ‘might is right’ philosophy, especially when you are ordinary, pushes you to make expedient practical choices over better judgment. I don’t want to bribe, drive like I don’t care or not improve the community that I live in. On the other hand, I don’t want to be Gandhi by making this my full time job. A livable grey between these stark choices would be great.

But you see happy and funny things too. Here’s one from a cousin’s Facebook status:

Walking in Nehru Place…saw a man sitting and repairing the zipper of another mans trousers…while the man was wearing them…the other man was standing with his zipper open and the mans hands all over it…and he wasn’t the least bit embarrassed…wish I had my camera…

Comments

18 local comments so far.
  1. Gurmail Gill,

    The so-called “Fourth Amendment’ ifis a US domestic law. The mere mention of it in a foreign context shows a lack of understanding of the fact that different countries have different rules and regulations. Before commenting on any security restrictions in Delhi, you should consider the threat of terrorism faced by the city and the country. The the US not in act draconian laws such as the Patriot Act and operate illegal detention centres such as the Guantánamo Bay? Did not engage in illegal kidnapping, invasions and slaughter? 

    Before  ignorantly describing the citizens of Delhi as meek for allowing police checkpoints, you should consider doing some research on the matter. You will find that the police in Delhi have far less power then the police in the US. There is a critical protection available in Indian laws that limits the right of the police to arrest a person. The police can only arrest a person for certain very serious offences known as a cognizable offence. Hence a person in India cannot be arrested for simple things like a traffic stop on for arguing with the police officer. In the US, you have to comply or you face arrest and even risk being shot. You can read about US police shooting innocent housewives inside their homes on a routine basis. Such shootings are unheard of in most other countries.Hence please, come off of your high horse and stop writing in a manner that indicates that you have superior knowledge than the people who make the laws in the country you happen to be residing in at the moment. Your posts and the blog are very useful and interesting but the attitude needs to change to that of a person who respects and wants to learn from the nation she/he’s in rather than a person who believes himself/herself to be superior.

  2. Prashant,

    Pallavi – in several discussions with friends here, we wonder if the niceness and manners suffer because the country is poorer and people need to fight for everything. Or is it more of a cultural thing. Clearly, our debates haven’t yielded any answers.

    On the population front: Meenal and I were in Japan earlier in the year and Tokyo didn’t feel as crowded. For a comparison of population density, People per square km in Japan: 337, India: 368, Tokyo: 5847, Delhi: 11,297. I’m guessing the organization of Tokyo also contributes to it feeling more relaxed (it felt like a quaint town compared to NYC).

  3. Pallavi,

    I was traveling with family to a small town somewhere in Rajasthan. I was shocked to see how badly it was crowded and how even sparcely populated states like Rajasthan had almost no stretch of land left without people in it. I always get dizzy after a single visit to Delhi. Aaand the population is on the rise. I don’t know how the economic growth is going to help this fact.

    I’d like to add here- People are nicer in states, I mean more manners, if not intentions :))

    • Prashant,

      Pallavi – in several discussions with friends here, we wonder if the niceness and manners suffer because the country is poorer and people need to fight for everything. Or is it more of a cultural thing. Clearly, our debates haven’t yielded any answers.

      On the population front: Meenal and I were in Japan earlier in the year and Tokyo didn’t feel as crowded. For a comparison of population density, People per square km in Japan: 337, India: 368, Tokyo: 5847, Delhi: 11,297. I’m guessing the organization of Tokyo also contributes to it feeling more relaxed (it felt like a quaint town compared to NYC).

      • Pallavi,

        Haha, hope you guys have a smooth transition.
        This blog is very well researched (gotta say), my fav post would be the cost of living one.
        Good Luck.

      • Prashant,

        Thanks for the compliments Pallavi. My business is eating up all my waking moments now. Let’s hope I can keep this up another 5 months when we hit our 1 year in India.

  4. SS,

    Now if only pigs could fly… first world ignoramuses would know what they are talking about.

    Check out the Economist world survey of democracies and you will find India scores on par with places like France on civil rights, while the USA lags waaaaaaaaaay behind us. Freedom of speech…lol!

    You miss your US constitution so much; go to your US embassy or any of America’s NATO/SEATO slaves  and ask for “protection” from our system. Please leave our country and please note that our country is NOT part of the American Empire. America’s writ does not run here. This is not England or Pakistan or Korea or Germany, but India. We are not slaves or lapdogs of America.

    Perhaps one day, if America can have an election without massive voter fraud, you will appreciate something in our constitution.

    • Prashant,

      Hate mail! Folks, Delhi Ledger has arrived.
      Thank you SS.

      • SS,

        True…this is the most attention a Rs 2 consultant has ever gotten in his life anyway… .

    • Gurmail Gill,

      well said. Some people simply assume that anything American (or Western) is better. As a comparison, the vaunted US constitution cherished on this post allowed slavery and did not provide equal rights to minorities until 1970s. Remember Dr. King’s million man marches for black rights- right to simply sit on the same table or same bus seat. The Republic of India provided equal rights to all citizens from the very first day it came into being and the constitution was implemented in 1950. How can a person cite a country as a defender of “civil rights” when it operates illegal detention centres like Guantamo and regularly invades and bombs entire nations? 

      • Anonymous,

        It doesn’t matter whats in the constitution when the laws are not enforced. Thanks for letting me know there are people like you in India. Eye opening.

  5. kathy,

    Prashant, you captured exactly how I felt when I visited Dehli in 2006. Any open space seemed to be stripped of vegetation. On the street I traveled every day, people had pulled up the bricks from the sidewalk and built little structures to live right on the sidewalk. There was no where to walk if you wanted to!

    • Prashant,

      Kathy – You were in the nicer part of Delhi if there were sidewalks. The shacks along the road are somewhat understandable given that it’s a poorer country. But many other problems are not the result of more or less money. And those really rankle…

  6. US Constitution Lovaa,

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect
    Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the
    common defence,

    promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to
    ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution
    for the United States of America.

  7. Pawan Marwaha,

    Prashant – I have been following your blog for a while as I was planning to move back to India and found it quite helpful. I thought your blog and my previous experiences in India had mentally prepared me to have realistic expectations, but man I was soo wrong 🙂 nothing can quite prepare you for the chaos that awaits you here. I came with a very positive mindset but am losing my patience with corruption, bureaucracy, adulteration, traffic, lack of infrastructure, civic sense, common sense, ethics, and basic courtesy! I can go on and on …….. Unfortunately, I din’t have much expectations, yet I am disappointed with what I see here. Not to get me started on the work ethics; as a start-up it’s hard enough to find employees let alone quality employees!

    • Prashant,

      Pawan – Its surely no walk in the park. What brings you to India? And what kind of startup are you doing? Ping me directly if you like by using the contact form – it’ll send an email to my personal account.

    • Gr8mavla,

      Is the problem demographic? I was in India in December, of course I
      didn’t traveled to North India, I traveled to South and Maharashtra,
      problems that you guys are experiencing are not there or far less.
      Corruption is a way of life in India, just accept the fact. May be you should plan your start up some where else, where you will get what you need, South India seems a good choice I can suggest. 

    • I hear you. Pawan. Lack of basic courtesy really upsets me. I mean people rarely smile and it’s difficult to start a conversation with strangers waiting at the bus-stop/airport without making them think you mean no harm.

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