When members of the next generation of a family, born in First World countries like Norway and Switzerland, visit their roots in a Third World country like India, the poor souls are left clueless at times. Often, much hilarity ensues, as they try to cope with the realities of day-to-day life in such a delightful country as ours.
The best countries to be born in
Some time back, The Economic Intelligence Unit had compiled an index on the best places to be born in 2013. As many as 80 countries had been ranked on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 standing for ideal living conditions. The rank took into account 11 indicators, like crime, trust in public institutions, health infrastructure, family life, besides fixed factors such as geography.
As per this reckoning, Switzerland was at the top, scoring 8.22. Norway was ranked number 3, scoring 8.09. Amongst the top 10 were not only Sweden (rank 4, score 8.02), Denmark (rank 5, score 8.01) and Netherlands (rank 8, score 7.94), but also Australia (rank 2, score 8.12), Singapore (rank 6, score 8.00), New Zealand (rank 7, score 7.95), Canada (rank 9, score 7.81) and Hong Kong (rank 10, score 7.80). Incidentally, India was then ranked 66, with a score of 5.67.
Hard core patriots in India may derive some comfort from the fact that Russia was ranked at 72 (score 5.54), Pakistan at 75 (score 5.17) and Bangladesh at 77 (score 5.07).
The side effects of a visit to India
What do such kids discover when they visit their roots in India?
First off, there are objects which invite wonderment.
A ceiling fan sounds like an alien object. A manually driven rickshaw is looked at with unmasked curiosity. An auto rickshaw evokes a sense of novelty. A horse-driven Tonga comes in for ardent admiration. A bullock-cart gets viewed with wide-eyed wonder.
Insects and reptiles like cockroaches, lizards, ants, spiders, snails and worms of all sizes and shapes come in for close scrutiny. So do creatures of all kinds, whether bovine or porcine, especially when found exercising their democratic rights on Indian roads. Flying objects – whether unidentifiable or otherwise – get looked up to with a sense of awe and respect. Squirrels and chameleons generate much merriment.
A splash in the tropical rains uplifts the tender souls. Jumps into puddles on
the streets generate much excitement. The seagulls flapping about their sonorous wings leave them mesmerized. The wavering reflection of a pale yellow uprising moon on the pristine waters of the Bay of Bengal makes them attain a heavenly bliss.
Kolams outside homes arouse their curiosity. A classical dance performance leaves them spell-bound. Depending upon their own areas of interest, a keen desire to learn some form of fine art or a cultural activity gets enshrined.
An encounter with Lakshmi, the famous temple elephant of Pondicherry, invigorates them no end. A dip in the sea comes about as a blissful experience. A visit to the Planetarium and the Science Centre proves to be highly instructive.
The Incredible India
Then there are things which invoke ridicule and pity.
A power cut which disrupts a Tom and Jerry show on TV invites a strident protest and needs to be explained. When a beggar gets sighted, or when the vehicle passes a hut by the road side, the parents get called upon to explain the rationale of peaceful co-existence of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ of Indian society.
The absence of dustbins ready to receive the wrapper of a chocolate arouses curiosity. The garbage, as well as the generally poor civic sense, invites an adverse comment. Smelly trains and railway stations get negative rankings.
The absence of courtesy and discipline on the roads and the density of vehicles on our roads, all come in for sharp criticism. To ensure parking space near a favourite ice cream joint, divine intervention is prayed for.
Crossing a road is a trying experience. Use of public toilets, if any are available, leaves their souls in torment. A rat feasting on a dead bird lying on the road side comes across as a traumatic sight, explained with great difficulty by an accompanying adult by invoking the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Within the confines of a home, unquestioned obedience on part of the juniors in the family causes some surprise and amusement. The rights of the younger ones – to decide which flavour of ice cream to have for dinner – can simply not get curtailed. This is an experience which is quite alien to their value system.
Expansion of the family nucleus
Other than feasting on Indian delicacies, the pampering by all seniors they come in contact with leaves them assured and self-confident. A sense of belongingness comes about. Stories from scriptures fascinate them. Narrations of the lives of great men and women of the country leave them awestruck.
They also end up imbibing some values of a joint family system. Sharing, caring, a sense of responsibility towards juniors and a healthy regard for the elderly gets implanted in their thought processes.
The twin advantage
This generation has a unique twin advantage – that of having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. Their analytical abilities are getting nurtured in a more scientific environment, while their hearts carry the seeds of compassion, empathy and love. From their working parent, they imbibe a sense of professionalism in whatever they do. Through their folks back home, they understand the importance of togetherness and team work.
A truly balanced human being they are apt to make. Unknown to them, they take humanity further on its path of evolution.
(Photograph of cycle rickshaw courtesy http://www.shabnamphoto.wordpress.com; link: http://shabnamphoto.com/2014/10/28/pondicherry-a-certain-sense-of-gallic-glory-gone-by)
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