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A Dust Over India (postmasculine.com)
633 points by Arun2009 on July 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 304 comments



The mistake the author made is that he lived in India for three weeks. Had he stayed for six months or a year, he'd have been able to figure out what makes India tick - India is the very embodiment of clever innovation to survive - it will ask you very tough questions and it will compel you to innovate, often rapidly, just in order to survive - not even succeed. This, in India, is known as "jugaad".

He missed the "jugaad" all around him - people, in their struggle for survival, do all sorts of things. Lying is jugaad, dishonesty is jugaad, the Cobra is jugaad, the marijuana in tourist places is jugaad, the beggar's strategic location is jugaad, the dump-heap is jugaad (not all jugaads are meant to make society better as a whole).

But maybe that's too naive. The most unfortunate in India are amongst the most fatalistic - they give up trying - after all, they never won the birth lottery by being born in Europe or the US, or even in a rich home in India - so why hope for social justice? Laws are meant to be broken in India, justice is meant not to be served (India is a study in legal arbitrage - it always has been). Life is meant to be tough in India, values are meant to eschewed. But even with all this, "jugaad" survives and serves its own brand of justice. The mistake most foreigners make in India is that they continue to believe in their ability to right the wrongs and make a change. A feeling of utter helplessness is very alien to them. It's coming to terms with that helplessness and digging out pockets of jugaad from that black mass of helplessness is what makes India tick.


I'd argue that this "jugaad" happens everywhere when people are under extreme pressure and have no good expectations of getting anywhere following the rules.

Here in Brazil there are lots of young people that gets into drug dealing just because they don't have nothing better to do. The grow up in extreme poverty and society would very much like them to be dead or in prision, so they take their chances... sometimes its better to risk a bullet to the head to get rich and respected than to know that you'll be always poor and risk getting killed by police or drug dealers.

And of course, this is just an example. I don't know if this qualifies as "jugaad", but sounds a little similar.


I would say you're off slightly. I think it's basically improvising very frugally to make stuff work when it should've been close to impossible. It can be dangerous, It can hurt others, selfish or just plain useful, but there's no way you can deny the ingenuity.

Here're some awesome examples of jugaad:

https://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/559248_35987216408...

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3231/2389399780_7e7c15f2d7.jp...

http://www.myindiapictures.com/pictures/up1/2012/06/funny-ca...

http://www.myindiapictures.com/pictures/up1/2012/06/funny-ro...

My personal favorite: (Steaming milk on the roadside with a pressure cooker)

http://sagarmukim.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/jugaad.jpg

There's tons more examples like this, but you get the point.


This is an universal trait of people trying to cope with limits. I've always know it as "ingenio mexicano" or "mexicanada", roughly translated as mexican wit. It is a matter of national pride and accepted wisdom that nowhere in the world people are as cleaver as we are.

See some examples at: http://quependejadas.com/tag/gracioso/page/2/

The most amazing thing is that most of these images are probably not Mexican at all, but stolen from redneck sites (search for: Look, I fixed it). That is 100% in character with the spirit of mexicanada. Why actually fix anything when I can find someone else who did it and steal the credit!!!


> He missed the "jugaad" all around him - people, in their struggle for survival, do all sorts of things.

What a colossal waste of human resources.

Imagine if all those poor people were instead lifted up to the middle class so that they wouldn't have to focus on surviving each day, and could put that "jugaad" to something actually useful - research, science, arts, creating things and doing work that benefits others as well.


If you've been to India lately you would see that this is already happening. There is a new, massive, middle class forming. Nothing happens overnight but it has certainly been improving over the last decade.


Yes , that is a good idea . Tell me which switch to flip...


Great comment. You have hit the nail on the head. One has to immerse oneself into the ocean of sweat, dirt and garbage to see the real india and what makes it tick. It is like swimming in an ocean of raw-sewage with a 1000 foot, 1000-headed serpent.

>> The most unfortunate in India are amongst the most fatalistic - they give up trying. : This is again so true. Experienced first-hand with some of my relatives. You might be initially surprised at their mindset and the self-reasoning, but then you will realize its part of their coming to terms with life.

If you consider the rain-forests of Amazon as an evolving experiment by nature, I consider the human-forests of India as an evolving experiment by nature as well.


It has been explained to me that it is common for many indians to justify another person’s plight by believing that a condition of suffering is that person’s ‘karmic destiny.’ Therefore it would be ‘bad karma’ to help such a person.


Well, that perception, if it has been presented to you, is false. In fact, in India, whenever someone is discouraged to help someone out, the most popular argument is "Why bother? It's not your problem!" or "It'll be more trouble than it's worth" - just like anywhere else in the world.


Justifying someone's misery as 'bad karma' was told to me by Eileen Weintraub, the founder of http://www.helpanimalsindia.org. She tries to teach local indian communities how to organize local community animal shelters... which helps with the cut down as animal dung littering the streets, among other things.


Anecdotally, about ten years ago, when walking down a street once, a poor girl started following me around. I reached into my pocket and gave her a handful of whatever loose change I had lying around in there. She continued to badger me for the next 10min, even while I tried crossing the street multiple times to get her off my trail.

I once got stopped by a couple that gave me a story about being left away from home and no means to get back etc... I gave them Rs.50 and they kind of stared at me with bewilderment like "that's all you're giving me"

(And keep in mind that I'm not a white guy standing out in the crowd - I look just like every other Indian on the street :) )

Small things like this make me slightly more reluctant to give money to people on the street. I prefer to donate via charities that I help out with instead.


Surely the belief in karma/reincarnation and the caste system are mutually reinforcing on some level though?

EDIT: But the part about it being "bad karma" to help some people and not others, that definitely sounds like somebody has misunderstood somewhere.


Well, the caste system exists and the inequalities exist - but they exist purely due to economic and political incentives.

Belief in karma and reincarnation has got nothing to do with it. And even the victims of this system know this.


I want to nitpick slightly, if I may, albeit the point is not related to the general discussion of poverty in India.

There is also some modern, relevant benefits to identifying someone's caste: it is an indicator that someone comes from a similar cultural or religious upbringing. That you speak similar dialects of Hindi. This is important when, say, marrying.

This says nothing of the caste system as institutional discrimination, but it's worth mentioning that caste is not "purely" an economic/political bit of culture.


Yes, caste system is embedded in the culture. It is not purely economic/political in nature. It is used by politicians because it is there, socially. This form is racism exists so deep in India. You can witness this:

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalit

* India Untouched - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1552060/

* India's broken people - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxJr0UlcNTA

There is whole sect in India which is segregated, tortured everyday for being born as a lower caste and it does not even end with their death. They have to clean others' feces by their hands (yes even today) and this is considered a norm. Rich, higher caste still instill this in their own kids to be wary of the "dirty people". Kids born into Dalit families are reminded of this by not letting them eat with other kids, not letting them wear same clothes and being asked for their caste again and again. This system is kept alive.

This all still exists and is in abundance. Point to note is that this is not just in rural, uneducated parts of India. Honestly, the concept comes from Hinduism. As a major religion for centuries, it has a code-of-conduct by Manu to divide the society into 4 major parts. But now it is a part of every sect in practice.

It exists and it is social.


It's going to be hard for the caste system to stay rigid because in larger cities there is no way of verifying any of this. In bigger cities like Mumbai, it's already pretty apparent with most kids growing up indifferent to the complex caste adherence of the past. Most of these kids would not be able to attribute a caste to people based on their last names as that knowledge has been lost. Going with the theme of this thread, this is definitely not true across the board but definitely applies to the large majority, at least in major towns and cities.


British found solution to the caste menace and promptly gave independence to Christians/Anglo-Indians/Sikh/SC/ST communities in 4th August 1932 Round Table Conference. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_Award


Caste is the most insidious poison to ever walk the face of the planet, far worse than all the wars, disease, famine and genocide committed, because the people on the right side of caste find ways to justify it.


This is just false.

I have been discouraged from helping people, mostly for the reason that it could turn out to be more trouble that it's worth, but I have never been given this reason. Also, your explanation makes no sense from a theological perspective. I've always been taught that helping people will earn you karma, so it's in your selfish interest to help those in need.


I did not say that this was 'right', I merely said that it is one justification that is commonly used. Google "interfering with karma" and you will read various interpretations. http://www.thubtenchodron.org/GradualPathToEnlightenment/wor...

Here's an excerpt "If someone is born in an unfortunate situation, for instance into a very poor family, we explain it as due to past bad karma. We try to do more good karma this life in order to ensure we have a better rebirth. Is this chasing after happiness in life after life correct?

Some people say, "Those people are poor because of their bad actions; therefore they are morally inferior. We shouldn't try to improve their situation because that would interfere with their karma. Rather, they should accept being in a lower class and try to create positive actions so they will be rich in future lives."


Say what you want, that is a disgusting justification for ignoring others suffering


Besides the point others have made that many Indians don't think like this anymore, I just want to point out that it is possible to believe in karmic destiny and not use that as an excuse to not help people. The 'therefore' part of your observation doesn't necessarily follow from the premise and is more of an excuse used by people to justify behavior.


I agree completely, my apologies if I made it sound like a mathematical postulate.


That is truly horrible.


I think we call that "hustling" in America. It is common amongst poor folks around the world and can lead to run-ins with the authorities. It seems more like treading water than a path to independence, to me.

It appears to me that the most unfortunate people eventually give up regardless of country. I don't blame them. Being poor is discouraging especially if you are older.


Jugaad: A New Growth Formula for Corporate America

by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja | 2010

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/01/jugaad_a_new_growth_formula_...


Still sounds a lot like "the hustler mindset" to me.

I like the comments from that page. Here's one I'll cherry pick:

Indranil Roy Chowdhury wrote: Seems like Jugaad has become a fad these days as I keep hearing the term every now and then in conferences and beyond..But the very essence of the term has been highly misplaced..To start with 'Jugaad' has a negative connotation to it and shouldn't be seen as innovation..I suggest Innovation should be kept away from the ambit of 'Jugaad'.

The problems with confusing Jugaad with innovation are;

(1)Jugaad is a short term mindset and doesnt serve anyone, while Innovation should be something that can have long term impacts

(2)Jugaad is a Tactic used in daily life, while Innovation is a long term Strategy..

(3)Jugaad is a way which corrupts the system or makes use of systemic loopholes, while Innovation is something that brings a solution which can in turn strengthen the system.

I shall quote an example here which is a classic example of Jugaad:

In India electricity theft remains a major problem. With govt's initiatives the problem has been curtailed to a large extent, hence the instances of theft have come down significantly. So what people have started doing is that they steal electricity from lines to TV antennas which take 49V..How? Simple solution..put a step up transformer in the way..convert 49 to 110v or 220V and light your bulb..

Now the question is would we like this to be seen as innovation ??? Or should it be left as 'Jugaad' ?????


All the con men the author seen in India, they are all jugaads. His post mentions several types of jugaads he saw in India.

Do you realize that majority of Indian population has no jugaad to provide food for their family. Well we "The Pizza Hut Kings" choose to overlook it and pretend that everything works.


"jugaad" is the equivalent of a 'hack'. When there are limitations imposed by circumstances, people try to 'hack' the system, without paying any attention to when they cross the legal line.


People should be aware that this:

He said Indians will rarely, if ever, resort to violence. As a foreigner, you never have to worry about being robbed, or having a knife pulled on you, or getting beaten up by a gang of thugs and having your kidney carved out of you. And this is true.

Is not true.

It would possibly be true if he changed it to read "As a foreign man.."

A female friend of mine just returned from six weeks in India a few weeks ago. I'm fairly certain that if Sanjay had met her, travelling alone as OP was, he would've told a very different story. He would've said, as my friend heard from Indians over and over, "Leave. Now. Get on a plane and go back to the U.S. You are not safe here."

She was lucky, and only suffered gropings, attempted kidnapping, and attempted break-ins to her hotel room. But violence against foreign women is on the rise in India. The U.S. Bureau of Consolate Affairs cautions women not to travel to India alone[1]. And "alone" in this case means "in a party without men".

Of course, none of this would be visible to you as a foreign man... you just get treated completely differently. But it's dangerous to spread the idea that women can just go to India and "not have to worry" about violence.

[1] http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1139.html


I just heard from a friend that her friend also stayed in India for 6 weeks and suffered exactly the same. Is that person you're talking about from Berkeley any chance? Could be a weird co-incidence.


I watched the endless poverty scroll by like a demented video game. I had an overwhelming urge to stop at an ATM and withdraw 25,000 Rupees and start handing money out to people at random.

"Nothing should be given free. Anything that is given free has no value. " - Padma Venkataraman

In May of this year, I spent time in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The exchange rate during my travels was roughly 53 Rupees : 1 US Dollar. So I can definitely understand how tempting it can be to "do the math" and rationalize that giving X Rupees to random person will "help". But it's absolutely not a sustainable solution to the core and underlying problem, and might even be perpetuating it.

I "get" the concept of jugaad. My small solution was to not give Rupees away, but to tip well: anybody who seemed to be working on improving their economic situation. (Tipping is not normal practice for most Indians, but I figured it was better than handouts.)

This video can be hard to watch, but it's an interesting film about an organization called Rising Star Outreach ( http://www.risingstaroutreach.org ) that is working on helping of the "worst" of India's beggars, those who afflicted with Hansen's Disease (AKA Leprosy) http://byutv.org/watch/d0f942b2-6b4f-4923-9f88-7ad8fde4a01c

Some interesting tidbits from the video:

- "70 percent of the world's leprosy is in India."

- "People with leprosy are treated as untouchables ... Every month, people from the leprosy colony travel to the city to beg. Once they have enough money to buy food and clothing for the month, they go back to the colony."

- "Begging reduces people to their lowest level. The worse you look, the better you're going to be successful at begging."

But the video has a somewhat happy ending: it is demonstrating a work in progress, and general proof that giving people a way to sustain themselves economically via microloans really does work.

As far as the general population goes, India is an amazing country: resourceful, intelligent. But its biggest challenge will be its ability to cope with population growth.


Indeed, if you're going to give out 25,000 rupees at random, be sure to give them to people doing productive work. Unfortunately, increasing the flow of money to the begging sector increases the number of beggars, it does not make individual beggars better off. There is no law preventing potentially productive people from begging, and if you go around handing out 25,000 rupees to people who look like beggars, more potential workers will dress up accordingly. Begging is also an industry, sad but true. This isn't to say that you shouldn't give away 25,000 rupees at random - just give them to people who look like they're working.


>> I "get" the concept of jugaad. My small solution was to not give Rupees away, but to tip well: anybody who seemed to be working on improving their economic situation. (Tipping is not normal practice for most Indians, but I figured it was better than handouts.)

Absolutely. Be generous to your domestic help, drivers, security guards and other people who work hard to improve their lives. It will reinforce their belief in hard work.


> But it's absolutely not a sustainable solution to the core and underlying problem, and might even be perpetuating it.

It reinforces their reliance on the upper class/caste, a polite form of beggary. The core and underlying problem is not lack of belief in hard work, but systematic corruption and exploitation of the poor.


Giving money to a beggar provides a sense of having done something. Even when it's actually not helpful it allows the donor to carry on with their lives with the undeserved feeling of having done something useful.


Thanks for saying this. I am surprised the author didn't see this when the DVD seller was surprised he didn't buy anything from him. The DVD seller is not less hungry or rich than the beggars, but just chosen to improve his situation by selling what everyone seems to be buying.


I am an Indian and I find this piece quite authentic. However, the OP and most of the other foreigners who visit India, visit places or deal with people that are known to be hostile.

I, as an Indian, will be utterly shocked if I visit a ghetto in downtown Detroit. Heck, there are more chances of getting mugged or shot in such ghetto. However, I will not visit such places as they are known to be hostile.

India is a weird place and to survive you need to live as Indians live. Some insights -

a) Yes, we have highest number of beggars. But most of them are cheats. Most of them will walk away if you offer them a job instead of money or food. Also, a lot of them work for beggar mafias.

b) They say that all of those 33 crore Hindu Gods, Buddha and Allah have left India ages ago. Religions are more customary than spiritual and Indians follow 'em just for the sake of customs. It's a common sight to see a young guy driving by a temple reciting a few shlokas while driving and offer a customary mini version of prayer.

People who come to India on a spiritual tour make me laugh. If you think that you can attain enlightenment or get more spiritual by travelling thousands of miles and spending a couple of weeks at a 500$/night resort near Haridwar, then you need some serious help.

c) Tourists buy "Indian" stuff that no Indian buys. The clutches or carpets or the wooden elephants are made specially for foreign tourists and are freakingly overpriced. The best way to buy Indian stuff, would be to go to regular markets with a local friend.

d) Garbage is a big problem. Its in our nature to litter. Take an Indian to US or Australia and he will not spit or litter. While the same person might even pee on a street back in India. The only option is to live/stay in relatively cleaner localities.

e) Drivers, hotel staff, guides, store keepers and public servants are dishonest because they are virtually unaccountable to anyone and the legal system ain't efficient enough to nab the dishonest. A "x" star restaurant can continue to function despite serving cockroaches or hair strands in their dishes. Apparently, identifying the trait of dishonesty is easier if you know the local lingo/culture.

People know a lot of about American culture because of Hollywood and American sitcoms. I am not an expert in American culture, but I can identify whether a person is playing me. I can not do that in any other country (say Italy).

Same logic applies to foreigners who visit India. You either need to know a few things about Indian culture beforehand or you need to spend some more time here.


"I can identify whether a person is playing me."

The giveaway in every touristed country almost worldwide is that they've approached and are talking to you. Exaggerating a bit, but not far off the truth.

Sadly, the things that tourists often yearn for - that natural, personal contact, the local insight - is exactly what you'll get from many scammers, and it leads you to shun so many approaches (e.g., the kids in Wangfujing who will eventually want to sell you art on commission or drag you to a tea ceremony) that you are forced to detach somewhat from your travel experience.


> Take an Indian to US or Australia and he will not spit or litter. While the same person might even pee on a street back in India.

I think this is the "broken window effect." [1] We Indians see so much litter / garbage around us most of the time, we don't feel it is wrong to add a little more to it. Also, we feel, "If nobody else cares, why should I"?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory


I'm interested in the garbage thing: how much of it is actually non-decaying stuff (plastic and such)? And how essential is the availability of such stuff to the economy (like, does food need to be transported in plastic)? I suppose decaying garbage is also a problem (somehow it has to be moved out of the way), but it seems solvable compared to plastic and such?


The problem is that, unlike other countries, garbage is not segregated by the civic authorities. Home owners aren't required to segregate their garbage, either. (Civic bodies of a few cities do segregate their garbage and dispose it properly). This prevents authorities from recycling platic/metal waste and decomposing decayable waste.

At home level, garbage is disposed by 3 ways -

a) Either it is collected from your door by municipality or a private contractor / sweeper

b) Home owners throw their garbage in a community garbage dump

c) Home owners dispose their garbage wherever they can.

The private contractors, who are supposed to take the collected garbage to the dumping grounds, usually don'd do it and dump it in open spaces (like this one -http://cj.ibnlive.in.com/slideshow7815.html). Worst part is that they aren't fined by authorities.

Municipal authorities mark certain grounds/wastelands away from populated areas as dumping grounds, dump the trash there and let it decay. (like this one - http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/08/0805_biggest_garbage...)

Also, Indians, in general, while traveling or commuting or walking, dispose paper wrappers, plastic plates, flowers, water bottles, chewing gums or any other garbage on road or in public places.

For example, it's a common site to see a family having ice creams or chips or peanuts or soft drinks in parks. But when they leave, they leave the waste as it is. Even when there is a garbage can in sight. (see this - http://rhetoric2reality.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/public-p...)

An example of trash thrown by train travelers - http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-BA99LRmPyaA/TYsZstie7fI/AAAAAAAACC...

Heck, we can't even keep our places of worship clean. These are flowers, incense sticks and other offerings thrown in Ganga river after worshiping (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cO-PjFR2Kcw/TjgKYEIQiFI/AAAAAAAABG...). Ain't this ironical? Indians can pray and pollute a same object.

Coming to the decaying and non-decaying part - Most of it is decayable. However, the sheer volume of it does not allow nature to work. Hence it starts rotting and stinking. Also, stray animals (cows,dogs and pigs) dig through the trash mountain to find anything edible and in turn spread it more.

Having said that, things are improving. I have seen many young people (my friends included) carry the plastic trash or water bottles with them till they find a garbage can. Also, a few educated people are running cleaning campaigns in their cities (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clean-Vadodara-Green-Vadodara-...). Also, shopping malls and large stores have started to charge for plastic carry bags. This has reduced plastic waste by bit.


Thanks! Having never been to India, I can not even guess at a possible solution.


Most of your insights are true for many European countries too. Especially professional beggars has become more common with the Schengen agreement.


"I, as an Indian, will be utterly shocked if I visit a ghetto in downtown Detroit."

Compared to what the OP described, a "ghetto" in old Detroit would be a paradise.

Also, just to point out, don't talk trash about a town unless you've been there. Detroit is finally bringing itself out of the pit. Lots of new energy running around. It's on the rise. Maybe you should visit?


Don't be defensive. I am not picking any particular place. What I am trying to say is there are places everywhere which violate the perception of a particular nation. The OP had some wrong perceptions about places like Agra or Gaya.

And, I am not talking trash.

My sister lives in Troy. When she was new to Detroit, she chose a wrong route while driving to downtown Detroit. While passing through a certain area (don't remember the name, will call her and ask) some gangsters tried to stop her car and rob her. Luckily she escaped.

My sister didn't crib about it like the OP did. She accepted the reality, changed her driving directions thereafter and moved on. Like thousands of her fellow Americans do. Likewise millions of Indians accept the harsh realities, change their driving directions and move on.

>> Compared to what the OP described, a "ghetto" in old Detroit would be a paradise.

Also, just to point out, don't base your comparisons on a blog post. People, here, may try to trick you but will not shoot you. Things are improving here as well. Though, at a slower place.

Update: The area where my sister faced gangsters was Highland Park.


"Also, just to point out, don't base your comparisons on a blog post."

As opposed to what you are basing you opinions on; "My sister lives in Troy. When she was new to Detroit, she choose a wrong route while driving to downtown Detroit. While passing through a certain area (don't remember the name, will call her and ask) some gangsters tried to stop her car and rob her. Luckily she escaped."

Down vote me all you've want... but unless you actually been to Detroit, recently, you are taking out of your ass.

From PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/is-detro...

I'll quote a part so you don't have to browse it: "Last weekend, the New York Times featured a story in its Style section about the onslaught of hip, young urban pioneers streaming into downtown Detroit. These “creatives,” as they are being called, are taking advantage of low rents and the opportunity to recycle this abandoned, blank slate of an urban landscape into something new and exciting. There are restaurateurs and entrepreneurs of all stripes living alongside environmentalists and urban farmers. ..."

If you want I can post many other links.. but i assume you can do your own google'ing.

Edited: typos.


a) You still don't get it. I am not trying to pick any place. Maybe Detroit has improved. Good for you, my sister, the USA and this world. But you may still warn your tourist friend of certain places in other American cities, right?

An uninformed tourist will be shocked if he/she visit such places just like India.

b) I didn't down vote any of your post. Hence, these replies.


In all fairness, what you call the poorest in US would actually qualify to be pretty rich people here in India.


Agreed.

I am talking about expectations and exceptions. In USA an uninformed tourist won't expect such places. In Somalia, a person won't expect a super friendly neighborhood with Audis and BMWs roaming around.


No, YOU don't get it. Maybe you should not reference places you've never been too in your posts.


Good to hear because I watched a documentary on French TV about 2 months ago focussing on Detroit and it didn't look great... drugs, gangs, foreclosures, abandoned factories and theatres etc.

Edit: just found a small clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WkfofSGFx4 [ not sure when it was filmed ]


This is a fairly honest unflinching piece. A visit to India can induce severe "Cognitive Dissonance" in the unprepared. There is obscene display of super affluence right next to shocking Poverty. I see this every single day -

A beggar & her naked child begging at the window of an Audi R8.

The salesman in a high-end TV shop taking the bus to work.

The Marriot main-gate where super high priced cars drive out to be greeted by a forest of beggars.

Mumbai City simultaneously houses the most expensive residence in the world [1] and the largest slum in the world [2]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antilia_%28building%29 [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharavi

and so on and so on...

The leaders and the bureaucrats of the Govt. of India deserve to be shot in a public square for their sheer corruption and incompetence. They rob the country blind; feather their own nests and manage thru coercion to get elected (or posted to plum postings) over and over again.


>The salesman in a high-end TV shop taking the bus to work.

This one kinda sticks out of the list. That would happen in many metropolitan centers worldwide, its simply more convenient.


This is basically what it is like commuting by bus in India: http://www.preetindersodhi.com/pictures/the-indian-bus/

Imagine being crammed in during a 100-degree+ summer just to get to and from work every day. Oof.

I live in NYC; we have a very tame definition of "taking the bus" as compared to India.


Come on, that picture is more exception than the norm. I travelled by bus for years when I was in school and college. There are definitely people hanging near the doors but nowhere as close as to what you mentioned in the picture.


> Come on, that picture is more exception than the norm.

The norm isn't too far from the exception.

I spent 4 years in Chennai, and this was a common sight.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_-4o_J8R8OVg/TIy3nfGUzdI/AAAAAAAAAo...

Though I have never seen the bent buses in Bangalore yet in the 5 years I have been here. That is not to say public buses are pleasant here - you still deal with being densely packed with other commuters of varying degree of hygiene.


I see that picture ever day in New Delhi (capital of India)


I was in Delhi a long time back(9 years), and when I came to Chennai, the Delhi buses started to look pleasant in comparison. The only buses which ran on the route my college was on were skewed to the side owing to the hanging passengers. In Bangalore, at least the damn door closes and no one is falling to his death.

When I was in Delhi, I was a broke student and took buses most of the times. Some routes were quite pleasant. Some were outright hell. The one that runs between south Delhi and Najafgarh is packed(especially after 8 in the evening), and people are knowingly and unknowingly thrusting their crotches into each other.


You guys should come by the Mission district or China Town or Lower Haight ( here in San Francisco ) or take public transit (any of the BART stations - 16th, 24th, Civic Center or Glen Park). The foulest stench of excrement anywhere. Some blame the Hispanic population and some blame the Hmong and others blame the street urchins. But I never expected to smell anything so odious in a major metropolis in the U.S.


Well, you may be exaggerating, but I found my stay in SF similarly disorienting.

We were staying at 4th and Mission, surrounded by luxury stores and hotels. At night, though, it was like Dawn of the Dead, with street-zombies wandering around talking to themselves.

Sadly (to me), they were almost all black. In Toronto, the homeless have the decency to be fairly racially inclusive (with Native Americans somewhat over-represented).

Travel, huh. Different places are different.


That's odd. I've been to these places and have never smelled anything unusual.


I always just blamed the systemic paralysis of sf bay government caused by poor design of the intersection between public power and private power over the commons.


Every time I go to SF, I take the BART from SFO, and travel through many of those stations. It's nothing like what you allude to; it's also completely underused.


I am certain that you have never been to India.

I question whether you've been to New York City, in the summer.


That picture is definitely o lot busier than average but in my experience the majority of urban buses were unpleasantly hot and crowded in India, particularly during the rush hour. I avoided using them if at all possible, and I generally really enjoyed most of the other forms of transport on offer there, especially the more dirty and dangerous ones.


Try using the london underground in summer. It gets a lot hotter than 100 degrees. It gets dangerously crowded sometimes too.

EDIT: Oh shit, it's you. You should know, heh.


I mean, the central point of the original comment was the stark contrast between rich and dirt-poor, who often sit side-by-side, and how we better hide these differences in Western nations.

I had just wanted to nitpick that the bus example is actually a very good one to highlight why "riding the bus" is not a bad indication of poverty, which I think we agree on!

None of this detracts from the fact that riding the subway during the summer is miserable for everyone, but isn't (in my mind, or in the parent's) quite the same as an Indian bus!


Its not that bad, I took public bus to school as a thirteen year old. It was as crowded as an MTA bus. Except there is no Air Conditioning, otherwise it is not that bad. Trains however tend to be much worse, since the doors never close.


Guess I was thinking more from a standpoint of the social status of taking public transport versus having your own car. But you're right, those considerations are irrelevant next to the aforementioned heat and overcrowding.


When I was growing up in Chennai I would lean out the bus doors (with one hand) primarily to impress the young hotties walking along the side of the road.


If you shot every corrupt person in the country , their would not be many men left. We have become a nation of people who would rather pay someone a little money than wait for our turn in a queue.

Corruption is a two handed process , one hand gives and the other takes. Both should be stopped.


> The leaders and the bureaucrats of the Govt. of India deserve to be shot in a public square for their sheer corruption and incompetence.

The Indian public deserves an equal or greater share of the blame. Government is the people's responsibility in a democracy. If governance sucks, the citizens are not doing their job.


You are living in a developed country, right? You got many years of language, writing, speaking, thinking and maybe higher education. You don't know what illiteracy means (when you can't read/write; and don't understand anything about democracy or the banking system).

Your average person in a developing and poor country is not Arun2009. It's a fairly ignorant person who doesn't know either his rights or his duties.


Yesterday an article made it to our frontage about what 'bubbles' we live in. By bubbles the author meant assumptions that shape how we see and interpret everything.

I think literacy & education is one of the biggest bubbles. I had to spend a lot of time thinking about it, and talking to people with experience in the subject before the vast idea of what it means to be illiterate started to dawn on me.

For example, teaching a class on how to use computers to people at the library. They all want to know how to 'look for a job' online. Show 'em how to use the mouse, what icons represent the internet, how to get email, and see they're having trouble. Slowly begin to understand they're only memorizing shapes and patterns of letters, and don't really know how to read or write.

We're all so hyper literate, I can say that about everyone here. We're practically a different species than people who don't know how to wirelessly communicate through space and time. It's impossible to hold poor people in india who basically only have spoken word communication, and oral tradition historical context, to our standards.


Easier said than done. You know it is more complicated than that. India is a namesake democracy, same families get elected all the time. With about 30% illiteracy rate, people don't even know they have a choice, thousands of years of oppression of majority of the population, ... so on.


Do you seriously think that the average Indian citizen is less politically empowered than the average American citizen?


The average Indian is likely making less than $2 a day [1] and likely illiterate with not having the ability to read or write ANYTHING[2]. Is a dirt poor, illiterate person "politically empowered"?

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_India [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_in_India (the numbers here are severely underrepresented - there is consensus among most NGOs that more than 50% illiteracy prevails)


Why does one have to be literate to be politically active? Do you think that most US voters base their political decisions (or their decision whether or not to vote) on something they read?


I don't know why this got down-voted to hell. You raise a very valid point. That democracy has to be representative is one of its basic tenets, and you cannot have that if you shut out a large fraction of your citizens. It is very patronizing to assume that the uneducated do not know what is good for them and the educated class knows what is better for them.


Another basic tenet of democracy is that its citizens must be informed. I think it's fair to assume that those who lack access to written knowledge are at a disadvantage in this respect. For what it's worth, I upvoted the comment. Downvoting it to the point of invisibility strikes me as rather undemocratic.


You shouldn't have been downvoted to hell because you were right on some account. Literacy is only part of the problem. Even if you have 100% literacy it won't stop corruption. Case and point: Kerala -> The only state in India with about 94% literacy and yet there is still a good amount of corruption! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala


bad example. Relatively speaking, Kerala has pretty low amount of corruption. I'm not sure that high literacy is the cause. I have a hunch that the high literacy is a byproduct of the common cause (whatever it is). Most people in Kerala have strong political opinions, politics is debated in an intellectual atmosphere. Isn't just literacy, the median Keralite is also a graduate (Bachelor's degree).


As the son of a military officer who has stayed everywhere in India (north/east/west/south) from childhood to adulthood, I can confidently and un-equivocally state that Kerala is amongst the _least_ corrupt states in India. My personal view is supported by several reports of corruption in India (Google them).


> A beggar & her naked child ...

Actually, a lot of the time, the child is not hers. It's rented from the child's real mother, so that the beggar can earn more money. But I'm sure you already knew that.


Sorry about the long post. The post by the author stirred up a strong emotion from me.

The author is right. It's an extremely honest account of the state of chaos that is India. There has been a culture of dishonesty that has grown over the last few decades, because that is the only way many people can afford to live middle-class lifestyles.

If you take an auto-rickshaw or a taxi, the only thing that goes through the drivers head is, whether he can scam you for more money, and if so how. It's quite sad, because on one hand dishonesty is the norm, but on the other that's the only way he can feed his family, send his kids to school, take care of his ailing parents and drink away his miseries at night. The middle class ignore this because they know it's all a game with winners and losers (even if by pure chance). They would be better off trying to achieve a comfortable standard of living, than to try and reform India. But these people are often really honest, and as courteous as the average busy employee in nyc.

Then you see the rich folks who live in walled gardens (literally and figuratively). They have comfortable lives and are protected from the stark realities by security guards whose sole job is to prevent beggars from entering places where they live.

The police here do not have resources to work on most of the civil problems that happen here. On the plus side, they are less corrupt than what they were before, maybe because of the fear of irrelevancy. The politicians care more about the gold in their coffers, than to try and find ways to reform society.

The authors' account, it seems, came from a person who expected India to be a basket of spirituality, but was then struck in the groin by reality. It's all well and good. That is the real India, unfortunately. Not the Ashrams or the Taj hotels or the private resorts.

The situation is changing. The spending power of the middle class is increasing, along with the awareness that they are the ones who can and should start the change. The population needs to be decreased or the population densities should be more evenly spread. People living below the poverty line need to find some way to sustain themselves, and elevate themselves to a situation where they can think about tackling societal challenges. These are hard problems, and need capable minds to solve.


Reading this article reminds me a story from "The Great Indian Novel" by Shashi Tharoor that explains the present state of Indians -

"A man, ... a symbol, shall we say, of people of India -- is pursued by a tiger. He runs fast, but panting heart tells him he cannot run much longer. He sees a tree. Relief! He accelerates and gets to it in one last despairing stride. He climbs the tree. The tiger snarls below him, but he feels that he has at last escaped its snapping jaws. But no -- what's this? The branch on which he is sitting is weak, and bends dangerously. This is not all; wood-mice are gnawing away at it; before long they will eat through it and it will snap and fall. The branch sags down over a wall. Aha! Escape? Perhaps our hero can swim? But the well is dry, and there are snakes writhing and hissing on its bed. What is our hero to do? As the branch bends lower, he perceives a solitary blade of glass growing on the wall of the well.On the top of the blade of grass gleams a drop of honey. What action does our Puranic man, our quintessential Indian, take in this situation?

He bends with the branch, and licks up the honey. "

No matter how desperate the situation, Indians will always find a way to adjust, to live with it. So despite all the filth, over crowding, corruption, inefficiency, Indians have learnt how to live and enjoy.


"No matter how desperate the situation, Indians will always find a way to adjust, to live with it".

Exactly. And this is NOT a good thing. Instead a putting up with all this they should be fighting back. That would be a good thing.


Sounds like a recipe for accruing the cultural or governmental equivalent of technical debt.


Exaggerations abound. While I agree with aspects of poor governance and garbage accumulation and many other observations, I realized the author was out to represent a preconceived notion of a nation, when I read, "homeless people sleeping on the tarmac, the city is so crowded and disgusting that people decide they’d rather sleep on the airport runway."

I will pick on that lie to state my point. If you have been to any of the smaller metros in India, you generally get thru immigration at Mumbai before taking a flight from the domestic terminal. Getting to the domestic terminal from the international terminal is cumbersome. You are escorted in a bus operated by the Airport Authority of India, accompanied by security personel.

The aspect of the ride that is of interest is the route taken by the bus. The bus operated within the premises of the airport often running along side the tarmac and taxi way thru numerous and repeated security check-points while it meanders to or from the domestic terminal. This gives you the best view of the runways at ground level in slow speed often around 15 kmph and includes a section of the ride around the cargo terminals.

Most international airlines operate to and out of Mumbai during the night often after 12 AM. I have taken this ride on at least 3 occasions and have not seen a single individual sleeping on the tarmac on even one occasion.

What the author might be referring to could be the people you find in a semi sleep state around the terminal, more so near the cargo terminals. These are employees in the cargo section often on a break. The employees are usually uniformed and any one can observe the security batches hanging around their necks.

You would then have to assume that the intent of the author is intentional mis-representation and sensationalism. Take everything written with a large serving of salt.


I agree. May be he was confused and mistook people sleeping on the side ways of the bus route.

Another glaring bias in the observation sequence is that all negative experiences have been told in a detailed, pictorial manner. And all the good experiences, on Sanjay cooking the meal, another guy refusing 50 Rs and the taxi driver being tearfully happy at the 50% tip etc., have been cramped into single liners or a couple of paragraphs, where as all the other negative experiences are allotted ample real estate in the article.


Westerners can easily relate to a home-cooked meal or vendors refusing overpayment. They don't really relate so well the the stuff about overpopulation, so given the intended audience, it's not surprising that there's more detail there.


I was going to say.. western airlines like BA operate flights into New Delhi, and I can guarantee you they would not be landing their 747s on runways with people anywhere nearby.


I don't know how much truth there is in this from the foreigner's point of view, but a lot of us believe (me and a lot of my friends included) that a vast majority of tourists who come to India want to witness this very same upon coming here.

It also fits one of the many reasons why the density of foreigners is maximum in areas like Pahar Ganj and Old delhi (the dirtiest parts of Delhi IMO). So when some "gora" (typically white people) complains that Delhi is so dirty the biggest wtf going on in my head is.. then why the hell are you staying near Pahar ganj or traveling by a cycle rickshaw in 42 deg near Nai Sadak. The place near the Airport is cleaner than New York ( at least after the common wealth games) but nobody wants to see that. Who wants to come here all the way to see some old glass building in neat and clean surroundings. What's unique about that right?


I think it is valid to judge a society on how it treats its least fortunate. You are certainly unlikely to learn much about a country from its suburbs and its CBDs, they are (relatively speaking) alike the world over in my experience.


Well, then why complain about it? When tourists come to US they may go to Disneyland, the Statue of Liberty etc. Most tourists don't take pictures of American ghettos, prisons etc.

Why is it that when you guys go to other countries you constantly focus on why that country is somehow different in a bad way? India: too filthy and chaotic. China: no freedom. Middle East: too oppressive. I could go on.

I've noticed that Europeans have a more nuanced approach to the world compared to Americans. They seem to appreciate differences instead of being smug in their superiority.


I haven't met any fellow USians that _constantly_ do this. Then again, I guess that's the problem with making wide generalizations about an entire group of people.


There was little else to do after nightfall in India but get drunk. hmm... OK http://www.buzzintown.com/delhi/events/category--nightlife/i... http://delhi.burrp.com/events/Film+and+Theatre#3

an Indian will lie to your face ... they’ll hand you fake business cards and offer to sell you something that they don’t actually have, so that you’ll voluntarily empty your wallet to them on your own accord. As opposed to DecorMyEyes.. sure

A couple Indians stopped him on the street, and with perfect English convinced him they worked for a travel agency. No shit. It's not like any Indian travel sites are listed on Nasdaq as MMYT right ?

Everyone of the problems has happened to me in various parts of South East Asia. India is not unique with these issues. With all due respect, I think the author had a "Gautama" experience. An experience of extreme helplessness when confronted with extreme poverty at a national scale. I completely empathize with him, but lets not get too hysterical with helplessness here.

It's hard to herd a billion people along... but we're trying.


It's hard to be sympathetic when walking through Paharganj in Delhi and have hundreds of con artists just outright lying and trying to scam well meaning tourists. I won't go back to India because of it. It's one thing to pay a guy to take pictures of you at Taj, it's another to have someone be helpful then demand a tip for it.

China has a billion people too, but life there is far less horrid, dirty and bureaucratic. While the Chinese government is pretty deplorable, something is going right there, compared to India. Another problem with India is the mind-numbing Colonial-era bureaucracy -- to start a small business in India it takes months of paperwork just to get a business license. You have to get papers signed, resigned, rubber stamped by ten different offices and then pay crazy expensive bribes to everyone along the way. The problem is the government. It's an obsession with administivia at the expense of entrepreneurs.


The comparison with china is, IMHO, pretty much apples to oranges. You are comparing industrialized portions of China with India's countryside (notwithstanding the forced removal of Beijing's slums for the Olympics http://olympics.scmp.com/Article.aspx?id=1419&section=in...). If you need to find fault with the slow pace of reforms, I give you democracy and cite US Health Reforms as an excuse - imagine if you had one billion rather than 300 million to work with.

As India's MoS-Small Scale Industries' Sachin Pilot once put it - "inclusive development vs growth".

Hoping that people will not cheat you at Bangkok's KhaoSan road is a bit too optimistic. Existence of ThornTree and Tripadvisor with their "Tourist Trap" sections is indeed because this is a human, not a regional phenomena.

I'm sad that you wont go back to India because of it - I really wish you had not stayed at Paharganj, but instead stayed somewhere inside Delhi. I wish you had skipped Taj Mahal altogether and instead taken a walk to Hauz Khas Village, bang in the middle of New Delhi - which completely epitomises India's bohemian kitsch, shopping, food, music along with monuments that predate the Taj Mahal by atleast 300 years. Maybe you could have dropped in to have a cup of coffee at one of the cafe's there that operate on an honor system rather than a bill.

Your tourist trap experience, colored the rest of your viewpoints and I'm truly sad at that.


Comparing downtown Delhi with downtown Shanghai is no comparison. I've lived an traveled in the Chinese countryside and that poverty is not even in the same ballpark as India.


It's easy to see why corruption in China would reduce. People are executed for it in China.[1] Hard to get scammers even behind bars in India.

[1] https://www.google.co.in/search?q=china+executed+corruption


I grew up in one of the biggest cities in India. If I was as good with words, this is exactly what I would write. Or maybe I wouldn't. The problem in discussing these issues with most Indians is that they quickly become defensive. Instead of acknowledging the facts (which is the fist step to finding a solution), the typical response you would receive is, "even in US there is poverty/crime/corruption... you are being hypocritical and should fuck off". I'm sure we will see a lot of it in this thread.


Pretty much any nation with a modicum of pride in their populace will have people getting defensive if a foreigner criticises their nation. I can't think of many first-world nations where I haven't seen symptoms of this.


Yup. Ignorance and arrogance masked as pride.


You would lump the entire country being a "fucking mess"?


I double checked, and according to Wikipedia, he's right. The homicide rate is 3.2/100,000/year for the most recent year with data, compared to 5.0 for US. Although many countries do have lower rates, India is nowhere near the more violent South American and African countries, which are the worst.

There's so much more in this article to process, I don't think I'll post a reaction until I've had time to mull it over (at which point, this post will be dead, oh well). It did strike me that my cousin has been in India for the last few weeks, and hasn't mentioned the poverty once in her travel blog. I think I'll send this to her and see if she has anything to say.

Also, am I the only one that finds it weird that a piece with this level of nuance is on a site otherwise dedicated to dating advice for straight, cis men? The kind of advice that divides behaviors into 'needy' and 'not needy' and claims that your behavior will determine what kind of woman you end up with?


This brings to mind New York City's horse-manure health crisis in the late 1800's (even though that crisis wasn't directly comparable to this one). Back then, according to the New York Times, there were up to 200,000 horses living in the city, each one generating between up to 30 pounds of manure a day, for a total of up to 6 million pounds of fresh horseshit every day. It just piled up, attracting huge numbers of flies and posing a serious challenge to the city's Sanitation Department. The whole city reeked of it.[1]

[1] http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/09/when-horses-pos...


It's also worth noting the correlation between the reduction in urban horses and the reduction in human cases of tuberculosis. TB killed up to 25% of the urban poor in the late 19th century; infective vectors included infected milk (from bovine infection reservoirs), poor living conditions that enforced proximity to TB sufferers, and proximity to TB-infected livestock -- of which horses would have been the main reservoir in urban areas.


It is hard to give a well rounded response to the post and yet keep it short. So I will not even try. A lot has been written about India, so people who want to know more will dig deep on their own, whereas many will be happy with poverty porn.

One thing that I do want to mention is that India is a very high variance country. For almost any statement one makes, there will be a un-ignorable part of the country where the statement is not true. To get a truer picture of India, always keep that in mind. A part of the variance is not only spatial but also temporal. Depending on the time you choose to travel, your impression of Mumbai's city train system can be poles apart.

In the post it was claimed that author felt safe in India. That automatically gave the author's gender away, especially given the names of the places he visited. India's capital and most of the north and western states (Gujarat excluded) are highly unsafe if you are a girl and alone. Even the locals will not venture out in the evening unaccompanied by the opposite sex. Sexual violence and molestation is a daily affair. It is even ethnically targeted. If you are a girl from the north-east, India's capital is not a friendly place.

On the other hand visit Chennai, Mumbai, Pune (by no means an exhaustive list) nobody will give it a second thought if an unattended girl has to travel in the wee hours of the night, even if wearing a mini fortune in jewelery.

Every so often in 7 years a north/west/central region of it will erupt in politically motivated inter-religion violence and riots of the worst kind. There would be thousands dead, injured, burned and raped (yeah, I am not making this up), but no one will get punished.

On the other hand states like Kerala, West Bengal havent had such violence ever since the creation of independent India. But measure them along the axis of economic growth, the latter will come up in very unflattering colors.

In certain regions of India, you will find bribes to be business as usual. In the south, (barring Karnataka) that is certainly not the norm. Sometimes the differences are so great that sometimes when you hear the stories from the other side you cannot help but wonder, "is it the same country !"

Some cities are poster-children of bad traffic, some are pretty decent compared to Indian average.

In some cities the form of the garbage disposal is that you throw it on the street, whereas in others you will have regular system that collects it off the dumpsters and empties it on the landfills. Furthermore it is not correlated with the perceived wealth of a city or town. Some of the poorer ones are cleaner and more organized.

Most of India is male-dominated and patriarchal whereas the north-eastern states are matriarchal. In many states it is still customary for the girl's family to pay huge amounts in dowry, and a matter of peer pride for the boy's family, whereas in many parts, (kerala, west bengal) dowry is frowned upon. It is not completely absent but when such a transaction does take place, it is sneaked in different ways and peer pressure works against it.

In the northern and western states girl child foeticide is rampant, not so in the other states.

Lastly: Corruption is practiced differently in India and US. In US there is this revolving door between corporations and the govt that legitimizes corruption, whereas in India it is closer to cash under the table. Not claiming that one is better or worse than the other, just making an observation about how it is practiced.


@srean, I support your post as a balanced view.

What the author has written cannot be the median view, given its paints India as full of hucksters, crooks and people struggling by the roadside with unwashed shit on their clothes. Though the author tries to give opposite instances, he has put most of his effort and emotion into painting a bad picture. If this is the median, whats the bad side :-)?

The original article is not factual (no one is allowed on the tarmac in any airport, its a security risk, and India has known terrorism long before it became a word in the U.S), but my sympathies are with the emotion behind the article. Visiting India can be genuinely overwhelming and the cognitive dissonance can drive someone crazy without some level of apathy towards people still living penniless on the street.

My suggestion to the author, try to see if there is someway he can help, either with his skills or money. And no, "thinking up ways I can help", is not the same. Charity is alive and well in India and though life is too hectic here to help in kind (by volunteering etc), most people help with money, facilities and simple deeds like giving business to people who want to make a living e.g. there are mega malls and big stores in most metros, but many people I know make it a point to give business to the street-side hawkers, small businesses and vendors on a daily basis so that their work is supported.

Now that you have had the time to vent, lets get stuck into actually doing something.


With so much variance I'm surprised you found the need to belittle this guy's singular experience. He told his story of India. It highlights both good and bad, but also in himself. This wasn't some rant against India. Get over yourself.


Eeeh, quote: "In a word, the place is disgusting. All of it. The entire country."

This is the most narrow minded I've read in a long time - and only shows not all people are ready to meet "foreign" cultures.


Does he actually have to spell out for you that he is one person who screams the blindingly obvious that he can only generalize on the basis of his experience? So when he says 'All of it. The entire country' that is an expression of his impression - the 'all' he saw. If you can't get that maybe you should leave off reading accounts where meticulous ( and unnecessary fo most of us ) qualification is absent.


All he has to do is give a rough impression of his sample (so we can guess how representative his impression is of the whole!), and say that every part of India he saw was overflowing with trash, or whatever.

Instead he went out of his way to emphasize that he was speaking about the entire country. All of it.

I'm not Indian, and I still found it offensive enough that I didn't even get through the entire article. I got the impression straight off that he simply went to Agra -- Agra of all places! One of the top tourist destinations in the world, and of course thus one of the top spots for people who feed on tourists -- and his travel on the route to Agra plus time in a hostel in New Delhi was the bulk of his experience.

Blargh. I've spent all of a few months total of my life traveling in India at different times, including Agra, and though I'd never want to return to Agra in particular, already my overall impression didn't match up well with his.

I'll leave people with more experience to battle over the details, but this was more than just someone omitting "I think" in front of everything they write.

Edit: the other dead giveaway that he didn't get around much is that he talked about "the Indian culture", and Indian people, as if India were small and homogenous enough that you could make useful summaries about the single Indian culture. Again, there are lots of people here who can address this better than I, but the traits he talks about vary greatly and noticeably by general region.


> If you are a girl from the north-east, India's capital is not a friendly place.

Barring north-east, there aren't many places safe for north-eastern folks. At best, they deal with implicit and explicit harassment; at worse, violence and molestation. And though the girls do have it worse, the guys don't have it much better either.

> On the other hand visit Chennai, Mumbai, Pune (by no means an exhaustive list) nobody will give it a second thought if an unattended girl has to travel in the wee hours of the night, even if wearing a mini fortune in jewelery.

I can vouch for Chennai giving second, third, and 1000th thought if a girl happens to travel after 10, let alone wee hours(jewelry irrelevant most of the times).

> In the south, (barring Karnataka) that is certainly not the norm.

What cities and what bribes are we talking about? I am personally guilty of bribing the traffic police, passport verification constable and TTE(train ticket examiner) in Chennai. I have friends who have bribed for driving pitch black drunk(I don't drive drunk and don't endorse it).


The question is not whether you bribed or not but whether you absolutely had to. In certain parts of India, even if you are a law abiding citizen it is hard to live without giving bribes, in some others, if you stay within the law you are not messed with. Having stayed in Chennai and beyond, I can vouch that it can get a lot worse than Chennai. A lot.

> Barring north-east, there aren't many places safe

If you are talking physical safety here that is patently false. Yes its never quite as comfortable as home. You would be stared at, but there are many parts in India where no one will grope you in broad daylight in public and not a sneaky surreptitious "feel". Small mercies. Delhi is not that place.


> Having stayed in Chennai and beyond, I can vouch that it can get a lot worse than Chennai.

Yes, it does get worse than Chennai. Bullock cart might be the fastest vehicle in your village, but that isn't a compliment for the cart or the village. I don't see how Chennai, the fastest bullock cart in India, is supposed to be cheered.

I can't comment about 'you absolutely had to' scenarios. I was never in one, in Chennai or elsewhere.

> If you are talking physical safety here that is patently false. Yes its never quite as comfortable as home.

I said "at best, they are implicitly and explicitly harassed; at worse, they are subjected to violence and molestation." Physical safety isn't the only thing that matters, and not quite comfortable as home isn't the same as being harassed and discriminated.

I find most of India xenophobic to varying degree. I found Chennai orthodox and xenophobic(frequently subjected to this is not tamil nadu culture and you north indians don't understand). I will be more comfortable in Delhi, not because Delhi is any better, but just because I will blend - someone who is visibly different will have a different experience. I find Kolkata the most tolerant city among the places I have been to - it hasn't seen any major racial or religious incident in long, long time.


> I find Kolkata the most tolerant city among the places I have been to - it hasn't seen any major racial or religious incident in long, long time. - it hasn't seen any major racial or religious incident in long, long time.

Hasnt seen much development either, this comes from a Kolkatan here. On the other hand things are affordable, most people use public transport if they are traveling say less than 10 km.

But its a bit strange 'cause for me that place has been Chennai. Culturally conservative yes, (same is true for Kolkata more or less) but not in an imposing way. It is more of the you dont bother me I wont bother you variety, atleast in my experience. It is not a terribly interesting place, but definitely liveable and you are likely to find a job in the city.

The funny part is that contrary to what many hindi speakers believe, they do not speak hindi, not out of malice, but because they are genuinely afraid that they will be made fun of. The autowallahs are mostly swindlers let lose though. In most parts people add a fudge to the fare, here, they multiply !

> and not quite comfortable as home isn't the same as being harassed and discriminated.

That was a deliberate understatement. Having spent a part of my life in the nort-east and having received such warmth and affection there, it really makes me mad when "mainstream" India treats them bad. And Delhi for some reason I have found to be particularly bad. Not sure why.

@irahul: Indeed I misunderstood. I am either getting slow or its getting late. probably both. Even in Delhi an autowallah will add say 10% to the fare if they sense you are not from around here. No big deal hapens in many places. But, Jesus! in Chennai they multiply by factors of [1 - 3] somtimes \infty (thats when they straight refuse) or worse drop you off at a wrong place and refuse to go further.

> People often try to shove their culture down your throats, and feel smug while doing so.

Heh! I thought that was a distinctly Kolkata trait.


> Was referring to urban ills rather than antiquated modes of transportation.

I don't know if you are being sarcastic, or you are misinterpreting what I said.

>> Yes, it does get worse than Chennai. Bullock cart might be the fastest vehicle in your village, but that isn't a compliment for the cart or the village. I don't see how Chennai, the fastest bullock cart in India, is supposed to be cheered.

You commented it gets worse than Chennai. I said "bullock carts are fastest vehicle in your village doesn't mean anything." Irrespective of their status in your village, bullock carts are still damn slow, and a shitty mode of transportation.

Chennai, though it might be better than other cities in India in terms of bribes to be paid, is still the fastest bullock cart at best. It might be slightly faster than other bullock carts, but that isn't something which deserves celebrations.

> Culturally conservative yes, (same is true for Kolkata more or less) but not in an imposing way. It is more of the you dont bother me I wont bother you variety, atleast in my experience.

My Chennai experience has been different. People often try to shove their culture down your throats, and feel smug while doing so.

> The funny part is that contrary to what many hindi speakers believe, they do not speak hindi, not out of malice, but they are genuinely afraid that they will be made fun of.

That would be least of my concerns. If people speak Hindi or English(the only two languages I speak), superb. If they don't and I am there for long term, I would try and pick up the local language. No one sane will hold a grudge against someone for not speaking Hindi.

> The autowallahs are mostly swindlers let lose though.

Auto drivers in most parts of India are full of malice. I understand they are living shitty lives on small incomes, but that doesn't entitle you to unfairly charge me. I don't know why, but the auto drivers in Chennai are the worst. May be it has to do with the fact that I didn't speak local language.


SHORT REPLY

Your theme throughout had been that there's variance in India. Of course! With any big country you would expect good amount of variance. I couldn't help but point out that although there is variance whatever the orignal blog post said was a very good reflection of the meidan. By citing the high variance you are making it sound like the OP has only seen the bad parts of India. That's not true. The OP has a very gentle (yes!) summarization of the median. That's how life is in India.

LONGER POINT-BY-POINT REPLY

> One thing that I do want to mention is that India is a very high variance country. For almost any statement one makes, there will be a un-ignorable part of the country where the statement is not true. To get a truer picture of India, always keep that in mind.

It is very high variance indeed. But for every mile of good road there are millions of miles of crappy road. Variance yes. But the median is pretty sucky.

> Depending on the time you choose to travel, your impression of Mumbai's city train system can be poles apart.

How is it different? During rush hours it's unsafe, super-over-crowded, uncomfortable, dirty, etc. When it isn't rush hour it is not super-over-crowded yes. But it still is unsafe (no closing doors, etc.), uncomfortable (plank seats which broken planks, etc.), dirty (very very dirty), etc.

> On the other hand visit Chennai, Mumbai, Pune (by no means an exhaustive list) nobody will give it a second thought if an unattended girl has to travel in the wee hours of the night, even if wearing a mini fortune in jewelery.

Well, I can talk about Mumbai, and I disagree that nobody will give a second thought. But girls being out late (around until 11:00 PM) alone ("unattended") in Mumbai is not that bad because the city is still busy and crowded. In Gujarat things are much safer. But we used to still accompany our female friends back home.

> In certain regions of India, you will find bribes to be business as usual. In the south, (barring Karnataka) that is certainly not the norm.

I have no first hand experience but that's very very hard to believe. Especially given how elections are conducted. Whenever there's an election in Tamil Nadu (of which Chennai is the capital) you free television sets being given out by the ruling part to votes who vote for them. Fairly educated people working in other parts of India like Mumbai would go back home to get their free TVs. Ton of universities are owned and operated by current or former politicians in South India. Admission criteria is how much money can a student's family "donate".

> Some cities are poster-children of bad traffic, some are pretty decent compared to Indian average.

That's just saying some are very horrible while other are not as bad (Indian average) but still not comparable to anywhere else on the planet?

> In some cities the form of the garbage disposal is that you throw it on the street, whereas in others you will have regular system that collects it off the dumpsters and empties it on the landfills.

I think all cities have a regular system that collects garbage and uses landfills. But these garbage collectors don't collect all the garbage and there's 10x fallen on the sides, overflown and just laying there around such dumpsters. They'll collect a bag or two that is inside the dumpster AND easy to grab. I agree there would be certain parts (and again, these exists; variance; but are in minority, very small minority; median) that are decently run. But would love to hear about examples of cities where you could say the city is clean and is cleaned.

> In the northern and western states girl child foeticide is rampant, not so in the other states.

Only two states have more females than males (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_states_and_territories_r...). Since females are expected to live 3 years longer than males in India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expec...) all states should have more women than men. Just because Tamil Nadu (say) has 995 females per male doesn't mean that's going very well. In fact, it's still pretty bad. Maybe not as bad as other states but is no way justifiable. Lastly, variance, yes. Median, still horrible.

> Lastly: Corruption is practiced differently in India and US. In US there is this revolving door between corporations and the govt that legitimizes corruption, whereas in India it is closer to cash under the table. Not claiming that one is better or worse than the other, just making an observation about how it is practiced.

If a cop stops me for not having a driver's license, not wearing a helmet on a two-wheeler, talking on the phone, etc. I pay the cop Rs. 50 instead of the Rs. 100 fine and not ask for the receipt. Job done. If in Mumbai I apply for a passport and that calls for police verification of address you have to actually go to the police station (they don't come to you) and bribe(?) them with Rs. 100 to do their job. They never verified your address and if you didn't pay up they would report that you don't live at your place. I could go on and on with this but essentially this is how the country is run. If you are saying that's the same as US then I don't know what to say.


This will need a longer debate, which I might join later tonight given the time I have. I agree that the median is bad, but disagree that it is as bad as the original post made it out to be, some amount of exaggeration is fine as a rhetoric device but overdone at the least it misinforms.

EDIT: Given the downvotes I must have rubbed someone the wrong way.

When you compare you do need to take into account all the axes, I would be interested in knowing a train system that carries as many commuters for comparable price and profitably (as far as I recall the train system is indeed profitable, dont know if they receive subsidies or not). You cannot isolate services from who are going to use it and their buying power.

I will also posit that that your perception of the median is very different from mine. I speak from personal experience living in several cities/towns in India. Now I have learned enough not to extrapolate. The other thing that we disagree on is that you brush aside the variance saying India is large and variance is natural. I think (a) the mainstream western audience is not familiar with this level of variance and (b) the variance is grossly un-reported.

So my post was mostly a way of caution not a rebuttal of the original. Your link illustrates my point well. I doubt that even after accounting for its size that people will expect such a variance in sex ratio.

Oh and make no mistake, it has nothing to do with being busy or crowded. Delhi is busy and crowded too, but for a girl that does not prevent one from getting groped. Forget pedestrians, when my sister drives in Delhi/Kolkata other drivers will be trying to harass her by driving aggressively, the traffic cop will try to take advantage. Absolutely none of that happens in Chennai.

I cannot speak about your compulsions, but all I can say is that I have obtained a drivers license, a passport and renewed them with not a single paisa paid in bribe. In fact I had to think really hard to remember when did I bribe anyone at all, that was to load a crate in a train (and it wasnt even against the law or something). Main point is that in parts of the country you can do just fine without bribes, whereas in others its a part of life.

I havent been there in 3 years, but in my usual haunts in Kolkata garbage does get cleaned up. But again it will vary in the city as well. Yes there are open dumpsters, but no household filth accmulating on the side of the residential streets, going outside of Kolkata this actually surprised me. Compare that to say Kanpur a prominent city in one of the larger states. Its not uncommon to find open animal cadavers, excrement of all possible kind: cow, camel, pig, elephant you name it, in your day to day travel. Yeah I would run into shitting elephants stuck in a traffic jam ! Thats the variance I am talking about.

And I think you completely missed the point of comparison of corruption in India and US. And by no means I am justifying the corruption in India. It bothers me deeply that now it has become so acceptable. It is the acceptance of corruption that worries me more than the corruption itself. But, how is installation of backscatter machines not corruption. The semantics are different, the means are different, but the effect is the same. I still have not been able to decide that dollar for dollar per capita which is more corrupt USA or India. I have argued countless times that India is by far the more corrupt one, but now I am not so sure. In India it is in your face all the time, in the US its a background daemon.


>>I cannot speak about your compulsions, but all I can say is that I have obtained a drivers license, a passport and renewed them with not a single paisa paid in bribe.

Generalizing individual experiences is never a good Idea.

>>In fact I had to think really hard to remember when did I bribe anyone at all

Which world do you live? You are either too rich or you living a too idealistic life impossible to the rest of India.

>>Main point is that in parts of the country you can do just fine without bribes, whereas in others its a part of life.

The main point is corruption is in India's DNA. The rich feel they can pay, get away and do anything because they can. The middle class hates to pay bribe, but is happy to receive it. The poor are always are at the receiving end of the stick.

For example to get a police verification certification, I had to pay no bribe in the police commissioners office. But I had to pay when the constable came home. And this is in Bangalore.

>>I havent been there in 3 years, but in my usual haunts in Kolkata garbage does get cleaned up. But again it will vary in the city as well.

The government can't clean up ever inch of land in India. As citizens we must learn to maintain the surroundings clean.

>>It bothers me deeply that now it has become so acceptable.

Because by now corruption is a part of our lifestyle. Like so many evil things. Like Caste system, dowry etc, corruption is wrong but its in deeply integrated into lives by now.


> For example to get a police verification certification, I had to pay no bribe in the police commissioners office.

> Generalizing individual experiences is never a good Idea.

Et tu :)

And no, neither me nor my family is anywhere close to being rich. My dad was a researcher in a govt owned research institute and I have no extraordinary streak of idealism.

It goes like this: they ask and I refuse and I observe what happens next. Usually it is not something that I cannot deal with. But a luxury it is not.

> And this is in Bangalore.

What did you expect! Among the different southern states I have been at, Karnataka seemed the most corrupt, but Bangalore takes the cake. For one thing there is more easy money floating around.

> Because by now corruption is a part of our lifestyle.

I would say travel more and refuse to give bribe as much as you can. It can get inconvenient (or even threatening depending on where you are), but its a matter of personal choice.

@ Kamal. Replying here: I am not making any moral judgement over your actions at all, for one thing I know how it goes in different parts of the country. The more people put up with some of the inconveniences more will the balance til in the right favour.

Imagine this: a policeman came in person from Lucknow to our dorm in Kanpur (the equivalent of coming from Dallas to Austin) hoping that he would a get a bribe from me for agreeing to OK my passport application. You should have seen the look on his face when I said no. I could say no because I had enough time to play with and wanted to see what happens next. Depending on circumstances I might not have had that luxury.

Screw idealism, I will do that just for that look on his face.


I've tried hard enough to be a good guy. But having my driving license rejected three times for no mistake of mine. I was forced to think of either forgoing my unpaid leaves endlessly or pay the same money as bribe and make things happen.

Economically paying the bribe became more more viable than all the hassles I was going through. This is a bitter fact. Or more appropriately, It has been made such.

Can you imagine how many such people are paying up at property registration offices, for FIR's and almost at the anyplace where waiting is not an option?


Brilliantly written dude. RESPECT The wittiest lien on this awesome thread "I have argued countless times that India is by far the more corrupt one, but now I am not so sure. In India it is in your face all the time, in the US its a background daemon."


Unfortunately what your post seems to say, to me, is this; everywhere in India has one or more major problems, of different types.

So even if the problems vary across the country it strikes me that their widespread existence reflects an underlying problem

I don't know, I dislike judging other cultures from my own singular perspective. But I can't help shuddering at some of the things he describes, and wonder how are people in your country not more outraged by them.

(with all that said; I equally dislike the snobby-western-judgemental attitude of the author... it smacks of colonial superiority, "the poor brown people staring in awe at the god like white man" (that's really not far off of a quote..). chuck)


In what way is regulatory capture corruption? What is the alternative? I'm reluctant to consider it corruption in the same sentence as bribery, despite that it is an inherent conflict of interest.


Regulatory Capture is, according to Wikipedia, a clear aspect of corruption, see "corruption" wiki template: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Corruption

Not sure how else to remedy your confusion here.


Its not confusion. I'm more qualified to talk about 'regulatory capture' than I'm leading on, but its a real question: how is moving from industry to regulation, or the other way around, inherently corrupt? I disagree that having a system with poor incentives necessarily means it's 'corrupt'. Bribery is undoubtedly corruption. But when a state power regulator lowers restrictions on pollutants and greenpeace calls foul play, how can tell that that they're doing it because they believe its prudent or because they're looking for a job?

A major complaint that a lot people have is that oh, when you leave your S&P job thats paying 60k a year for an IB job that pays 300k a year, you're a symptom of corruption. But hell, what if your experience working for S&P necessarily means your qualified to do derivatives trading?

If you're getting job offers that are conditional on you making certain regulator decisions, thats bribery. Eventually wanting to get into the business side of things because they pay more isn't the same thing.


> I'm more qualified to talk about 'regulatory capture' than I'm leading on, but its a real question: how is moving from industry to regulation, or the other way around, inherently corrupt?

It ignores human nature. People don't rat out their friends. If you're the jerk at the party, you stop getting invited to the right parties.


>>how is moving from industry to regulation, or the other way around, inherently corrupt?

Because regulations work only if regulators are honest.


Regulatory agencies are supposed to, by charter, look to the public interest in overseeing companies.

If they are captured by the companies they regulate, and serve the companies' interests rather than the public's, by definition their mission has been corrupted.

Your question is highly disingenuous.


Your assessment of my question isn't fair. Serving companies interests vs serving public interests isn't a dichotomy, and very rarely is a regulatory decision as clean cut as 'this is obviously bad and a net loss for the society, but we're going to let them set do it anyways'. Believing that to be the case is far more disingenuous.

Regardless, moving between industry and regulatory bodies isn't necessarily done in a corrupt manner. If you're the president of a state energy board, you don't need to break any rules to get a higher paying job in industry. you're already, perhaps necessarily, more qualified than almost any other candidates. This is not inherently corrupt, this is what OP was referring to (or, this is a common meme which is associated with what he described).


No, it's accurate.

What part of "when a state regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating" don't you understand?

That is the definition of "regulatory capture".

Note that regulatory capture is not "balancing the public interest with commercial realities" or similar such wording.

If you're perhaps debating some other term, please provide us with an accepted term and definition of same, rather than creating a Lewis Carrol "glory" (see: http://sabian.org/looking_glass6.php) and passing off as accepted wisdom.

On my planet, the appearance of impropriety is considered largely as bad as actual impropriety. Taking an example from a US government website: http://ig.navy.mil/Complaints/Complaints%20%20(Appearance%20...

If the revolving door consistently operates between regulatory agencies and the organizations those agencies regulate, then yes, I'd say that this comprises systemic corruption.


It might suffice to say that 'regulatory capture' is used more broadly in economic literature than what the wikipedia article you're referencing leads on. Maybe not. We disagree fundamentally on the 'appearance of impropriety' comment here. I don't consider the reason for changing jobs to be so cut and dry. I don't see this moving onto a productive discussion.


If you're finding an alternate definition, cite your reference.


>>Serving companies interests vs serving public interests isn't a dichotomy

It actually is, many times. Especially when companies are ready to pay up any amount of bribe to get their job done.

To give you an example. A manufacturer can sell, low quality transformers to electric board. This is goes against public interests. But at the same the manufacturer can argue he creating jobs by running a company, so he can cheat.

>>If you're the president of a state energy board, you don't need to break any rules to get a higher paying job in industry.

Regular job income is chicken feed for these people compared to the money they make in bribes, commissions etc.


I'm specifically not referring to bribes. That is undoubtedly corruption.

>A manufacturer can sell, low quality transformers to electric board. This is goes against public interests.

You're going to have to give more details than this in order to make that statement. Are they in a competitive market? Is someone picking winners? What effect does this have on prices? Moreover, is he creating jobs? How is that cheating?


In India its pretty common to have this scenario. We call it the 'License Raj System'- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licence_Raj

Licenses for supplies, manufacturing, export, services etc. Heck nearly everything is controlled by licenses. Which are in turn issued by the government. The Net result is heavy bribes are paid to get licenses. And then bribes are paid to regulators to by pass violations.

You might think lobbying and campaign funds are too much of corruption in US. Come to India, you have to pay bribe for everything and anything.

To give you a specific scenario. Lets say you bid for a contract to build roads. Lets say you tar roads. Firstly this can be won only through if you are licensed contractors(You have to pay bribe to get one). Then tenders are allocated for the road construction, you have to pay commissions to get selected.

Now after heavily bribing your way through all this. The only way you can make profit is by sacrificing quality. Therefore you now use low quality material. If saw you are asked to tar the road 8 inches, you do only 3 inches. You don't tar lanes. The quality of tar you use doesn't last one rainy season.

Regulatory authorities are severely bribed to over look all this.

This is the regular story in India, In nearly ever walk of life. This happens from birth to death. People even bribe for birth and death certificates, voter identification cards, passports. You name it, and there is corruption associated with it.


>> In what way is regulatory capture corruption?

Try getting a decent mobile data plan in Canada. It will be rapidly apparent to you.


I see what you're saying, but in what way is that strictly corruption? I think what I'm really asking is, where do we draw the line on what is corruption and what isn't? To me, regulatory capture, and a fair amount of public economics, is just 'how things are'. There are ways to try to reduce certain aspects of it, but are we really willing to ban movement between working in industry and the regulatory side of things like we ban bribery?


When a government created and sanctioned body has the effective ability to make or break players in an industry, and that body becomes utterly owned by the incumbents. It stops representing the public interests and begins defending the incumbents from market forces that motivate those incumbents to compete fairly, offer reasonably current services or even innovate new ones as a means to compete.

In short, they represent corporate interests while ostensibly being the people's governing body. This is imho, corruption. I don't know how exactly you regulate this away - perhaps mandate a percentage of the regulators specifically be from outside the industry.

Edit: for completion of sentence/thought


I have some answers to your questions, not all, and then they are my answers, not necessarily correct answers. But, I think it will not do much good to just state them.

I would say give the questions and their underlying assumptions some thought and also time. For me I had to fight of the tendency to just close the question with some answer and be done with it.


With so many variances (I have seen most of them), I just wonder if India was suppose to be like Europe with smaller countries rather then one big country with all these variances.


India was a bunch of smaller countries before John Company came along and conquered it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company


Well, that's just not true. India was unified all the way from Afghanistan to Andhra Pradesh for very long periods of time[1]. After the Mughal invasion, pretty much the entire North India was unified under the Mughals. The end of the mughal empire was when things started getting a little fragmented and the East India company was there to take advantage of it playing one king against the other. But to say that India was a bunch of smaller countries all the time is false.

EDIT: Wiki actually has a pretty good summary with pictures and the like. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_India#Early_Middle_K...

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maurya_Dynasty_in_265_BCE....


Depends on what time you are looking at it. India has had several large empires established before. Maurya, Gupta, Mughal, Pala, Maratha. But you are right, India as a nation state came into being as a consequenc of the British raj and yes Europe is not a bad metaphor at all.


This is the common ploy by the English to hide all their doings in the name of doing the 'greater good'.

Mainland India has been largely united throughout many 1000's of years throughout history.


I usually like your illuminating comments about India, but here I think emotion got the better of you. There is no such sinister ploy or conspiracy (English or otherwise) going on here and neither is it unfair to claim that India has existed as many smaller kingdoms in its historical trajectory.


>>There is no such sinister ploy or conspiracy (English or otherwise) going on here and neither is it unfair to claim that India has existed as many smaller kingdoms in its historical trajectory.

I am not claiming it either. But the British didn't come here to unite us and do the 'greater good' as often claimed. Was India made up of smaller states, yes it was.

But you need to study the geographical boundaries of Mainland India throughout history. They extend all the way till Iranian borders. To southern tips of Russia. Afghanistan was once a part of India(Kandhahar was basically Gandhara, Remember the Gandhari from Mahabharatha?).

In this mammoth period of time(lasting several millenniums). India has been ruled by people of varying ethnicity, language, color, culture, heritage etc. Therefore you have so many religions, languages, traditions etc. Sometimes the whole mainland India was united, sometimes it got split.

The difference between British and somebody like Mughals is the difference between. Mohammed Ghazni and Mughals. They are both foreign invaders. But Ghazni came here to loot and go back. Mughals came, captured, and stayed here and contributed a lot. So did many people who ever came to India. Including Aryans, they all came from outside stayed and contributed things back.

Apart from native Dravidians everybody else came to India and stayed here through some form of wars and conquering. But many of those stayed here.

Many looted and went back to their native lands. British just belong to Ghazni kind of invaders who went back.


> Mughals came, captured, and stayed here and contributed a lot

They came as Central Asians (Uzbek?), but stayed on and became Indians.

> British just belong to Ghazni kind of invaders who went back

Yes, but they did stick around for about 200 years. Quite a lot of the British who came to India stayed back and became Indians. With the British it was somewhere between Ghazni and the Mughals.


I would say calm down, no one here is disagreeing with you, or with the history or the geography of India, nor is anyone here claiming the opposite of any of those things that you are worked up about.

You probably read too much into cstross's comments, maybe you didn't, but your comment reads like you are very angry about what he said and are admonishing him/us for getting India's history wrong and giving us a history lesson.


>>Including Aryans, they all came from outside stayed and contributed things back.

Aryan invasion theory is a myth.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-09-25/india...

http://www.ibtl.in/news/exclusive/1625/aryan-invasion-theory...


Not realy there have been large States that covered a substatial part of what is niow India but never one that covered the entire subcontinent in the way that the Raj did.


Agreed.


I have spent years in India, and it's one of my favorite places on Earth. One thing I quickly discovered is how much Western visitors like to (ab)use their experiences to misconstrue a sense of superiority. Such a sense would immediately disappear, IMO, should they make an effort to overcome their own ignorance of the place.

The piece reads almost like a self-conscious parody of this usual Western tirade against India.


I spent three weeks in India last year teaching in a slum school, and this is the most candid and accurate description of the country I've read yet. Well done. I think some people are afraid to really be honest at the risk of being politically incorrect, and I appreciate the author's honesty.

I had the same reaction the OP did when I saw so many living side-by-side with the impoverished - especially children - and being so callused. But the reality is that poverty is everywhere in India, and because it's a way of live, people simply adjust.

But it doesn't make it any less sad. It's sad to see full-grown, gaunt men struggling to pedal their rickshaw in flip-flops over washboard roads for pennies. But it's devastating seeing small children who are really, truly famished.

We would buy food for hungry children whenever we could, and often they would stare at us blankly at first. They'd accept the food, but would have no reaction. I figured they simply didn't appreciate it or couldn't muster a reaction.

But then I started watching them after we left. And after they realized they weren't being had - and we really were giving them food with no strings attached - they were transformed. I looked back at one begging child to see him absolutely gleeful, grinning from ear to ear. Another child who I gave some candy and bit of money ran after our departing rickshaw - while holding his 1 year old sister - waving, smiling and dancing with joy. It almost most made me cry.

But I didn't cry, not until the night before we left. After three weeks in India, I was ready to to leave. But at the same time, I felt almost guilty that I was able to return to such a country of prosperity and wealth while the children I'd taught would simply stay behind. And while my wife and I had worked our ass off for 2 weeks to improve the school, the curriculum and the educational prospects for the kids, ultimately our effort wasn't going to move the needle, and few if any would ever leave the slums. They had almost no shot at making a life for themselves. With all these emotions stirring in my mind, my wife held me as I cried.

If you're living in the U.S. or any Western country, you are incredibly blessed / lucky. Don't take it for granted. If you haven't been to India, it's a trip that will forever change your perspective. Before leaving for India, I simply lived in a home. But I returned with the knowledge that I live in a luxurious castle.


Hey guys, I work for Postmasculine and just wanted to jump in quickly. First, thanks for sharing this Arun2009. I've been reading HN daily for the last 9 months and love it. Amazing to open up my computer today and see us as the number one link. I believe my reaction was something like this: http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/excit...

Anyway, I mainly wanted to ask what people thought of the site apart from that article. Did you read anything else and did you like it or dislike it? If so, what articles did you read?

Thanks!


I really enjoyed the article. I was already familiar with Mark Manson and the "pickup" scene, so imagine my surprise when I saw the http://postmasculine.com link on the front page of Hacker News. I highly recommend the book Models by Mark Manson [1] if you're a man at all interested in being more attractive to women.

[1] - http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1463750358


Pretty good site, and the content is refreshingly devoid of the PUA type garbage you'll read on askmen


Thanks. One of our unofficial goals is to not be an Askmen ripoff with better writing. I enjoy reading Askmen articles once in a while, especially when I need something very specific and practical like how to tie a bow tie, or when I want to waste some time on a 'top 10 hottest chicks in surrealist Angolian horror films' list or something equally mindless. But we're aiming to go a little deeper than that :)

Any more feedback, negative or positive is much appreciated.


It was my first visit to the site and I read a few articles - I've now added it to my feed reader. So thanks!



I have not read the article yet but I am saddened by the fact that the discussion , yet again,has become a US vs Them discussion. Getting mugged in Detroit does not justify any behavior here in India. Just because the US has poor people does not mean we can too.

The problem with Indians is we will say "I am proud to be a Indian" one moment and litter the next. We believe we are perfect thus do not work to achieve more. Yes as Individuals we would have done a lot for the country but we as a people need to be more patriotic and literally uplift the nation.


This is a very accurate portrayal of the hard parts of traveling as a backpacker in India. I'm not sure it's a totally accurate portrayal of India itself. I spent six months backpacking around India. A lot of what he said in the article resonated with me, especially eventually losing it about a few dollars with a taxi driver, hands shaking with anger over $4.

The thing the author doesn't mention is that being a traveler affects what you see and who you meet. There are places you go as a backpacker: Agra, Rajasthan, Bodhgaya, Goa, Bangalore and so on. And there are people there looking for you, expecting you, or at least someone like you. If you only speak to people who approach you, then you will meet a lot of dishonest people. Things tend to look pretty rough from the banana pancake store.

This is true in any poor country that gets a lot of wealthy tourists. Most of what he said was true in East Africa too. It's really true of anywhere you can get that damn banana pancake.

So, I don't disagree. It was spot on. But it's also possible that the 100% accurate description of what a backpacker sees in India is not an accurate description of India itself.

Also, I'm not advocating "getting off the beaten path" or trying to critique the "authenticity" of his "Indian experience". I hate that shit. But there is a bit of an Uncertainty Principle to backpacking. In my experience, you can't both travel a country cheaply and observe it objectively at the same time.


As an Indian, I'd like to put in a word about spirituality and "seeking" : getting trapped by the spiritual tourism hawkers is the worst way to go about it. Please do not just land up and ask, "So where is the latest and greatest ashram?". You'll probably get scammed, or worse, physically or mentally abused. Do not underestimate the charisma and level of brainwashing techniques that fake gurus are capable of. Even level-headed people can be made to "give up this wretched materiality" (i.e., write away their property to the ashram) after a few sessions of strange chemicals in your food, and some effective brainwashing / hypnotic sessions.

Before coming to India, please have an exact idea of the particular person / people (guru, gurus, enlightened people, etc;) you are going to meet, what you seek from them, etc; Please spend time researching the person you want to meet on the Internet, YouTube, etc; Please try to have Indian friends, or just register with someone who will check up on you regularly (ideally a local, or at least by phone) who can help as an emergency contact in case of any disaster (malaria, hypnotised by the scammer-guru, etc;).

It is a sad fact that this country has some gems of philosophers, but is equally filled with scammers and worse.

Lastly, a personal opinion : just read Jiddu Krishnamurthi and think for yourself, you don't need a harrowing India trip! :-)


I would also recommend a quick read of http://www.amazon.com/Karma-Cola-Marketing-Mystic-East/dp/06.... It'll give you a perhaps old, but still relevant list of signs to watch out for.


Why is this being upvoted and still on the front page? In addition to being totally irrelevant to the site guidelines: the guy goes to India, visits all the tourist hotspots, and eats at Pizza Hut. While traveling. In India.

Without accepting or denying any of the observations he makes, and at the risk of sounding like I "lack perspective," I humbly offer that if you travel halfway around the world and still eat at an American chain restaurant, your judgment of foreign culture is irrelevant.


> I humbly offer that if you travel halfway around the world and still eat at an American chain restaurant, your judgment of foreign culture is irrelevant.

Nonsense. For all we know, he ate there once. Homesickness is a common experience for travellers in a very different culture.


The idea that Mr. Manson's heart is brought back home by a visit to Pizza Hut is even more damning to his credibility! But seriously, he sounds like another lazy, judgmental tourist.


What would convince you that this is not true?

I remember going to McDonalds when I was traveling in Spain and feeling homesick and annoyed that everyone was on siesta. I guess I'm just a bad tourist?


Tourism != traveling

Tourists should keep their judgments to themselves. Traveling is about immersing yourself in the local culture, tourism is about observing it from a safe distance -- i.e. touring.

Making deep conclusions about the people of another culture while traveling around in hotels, eating at Pizza Hut (okay, just once!) and hopping around between tourist attractions and ashrams designed specifically to attract white people is like me trying to figure out if you would beat your wife, just by looking at your face. There is no correlation.


Because India is close to the equator, the environment has a greater carrying capacity than the kinds of first-world, northern nations that the author is used to.

Thus, for this reason alone, India is likely to have a different ratio of people to development, since less development is required to sustain one person's resource utilization.

Contrast this to the US where much of the country is snow covered for 1/3 of the year and without planning and infrastructure to enable it, there would be very little food available during the winter. In the US the infrastructure is a requirement for even moderate population growth.

The same applies to shelter. In India, a hut made of newspaper is adequate shelter year round. Try that in the Northern US and you'll freeze.

The result of this is that there are more poor people who do not rely as much on large scale planning and infrastructure for their basic survival.

Yes India's government is corrupt, but not all that much more corrupt than the US government.

If you want to talk about rights for the poor, in India if someone isn't using land and you set up a tent on it and start living there, you can't be evicted. The shantytowns that the author found so disturbing are actually a side-effect of India's weak property rights laws, which themselves are a result of democratic pressure from the poor to continue living where their families have lived for generations. Contrast this to the genocide the US conducted against native Americans who were in the way.

Basic infrastructure (roads, sewers) is lacking in India, but those are not easy projects to bootstrap. Bangalore has a massive sewer construction project going on now.

Frankly, it's not all that bad. Sure the garbage smells bad, but it's mostly just a matter of learning not to keep inhaling after you catch a whiff of something rank on the breeze.

If you are concerned about India's political infrastructure, notice that India's rulers are forming alliances with the US to help thwart Pakistan's nuclear ambitions. Note that once the US has a stake in one ruling party it tends to do much to prop up and empower that party, even if there are horrible human rights consequences.

When I go to India I notice the energy. People sit happily beneath a dirty tarp in a roadside food stand, enjoying Manchurian Gobi... sometimes 4 or 5 people sharing one bowl of the delicious spicy food. Smiles everywhere. These are extremely poor people. Also I notice the tiny businesses, some retail locations are only a few square feet in size but sell a variety of goods and are staffed by a single motivated shopkeeper who works 18+ hour days.

India is full of hard working people and ingenuity. I found the author's generalizations about dishonesty, etc., quite offensive.

Consider how much effort is undertaken in the US to hide poverty from view. Sadly the US ends up putting a very large percentage of its poor population in prisons and has relocated many to horrific housing projects, where the violence and horrors are contained away from view.

Consider how much effort is undertaken in the US to present the appearance of legit, non-corrupt institutions. Yet fraud abounds at all levels of government. The stuff Wikileaks exposed about the US is nothing more than fraud, dishonesty, and corruption.


This comment says more about India than the original article. Corruption? America's as corrupt (it's not). Poverty? They don't need houses - it's always balmy. Terrible land rules? It's humanitarian. Terrible infrastructure? It's difficult. Garbage and pollution? Well don't breathe it!

A (very wealthy) Indian relative of mine once explained to me that while Indians may come rich and poor they all have greater pride in their intrinsic existence. Thus, the poor Indian has more dignity than a rich American.

The Indian situation isn't one that I believe will be developed out of soon because the underlying reasons for much of the filth is cultural. The problems aren't seen as problems but as a Western perspective's mis-interpretation of the essence of reality.


Indians can indeed be very proud. We're always looking to blame the corrupt politicians, the system, but we forget that the people themselves form the system. But if an outsider points this out, we quickly get defensive and use and every counter-argument that we can. You will hear the success and achievements of Indians around the globe as proof that we're not that far behind. I've seen it far too many times. Startups claiming to be 'global', yet emphasizing their 'Indianness', a Indian actor getting 5 minutes of screen time on a Hollywood movie, or even Sunita Williams, who was born and raised in the United States. We are quick to take credit, yet get up-in-arms when someone points out our flaws.

Worse, when we do talk about those flaws, we don't necessarily do anything to fix them.


Unfortunately, this is not just an Indian trait, but a human one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error. Kudos to those who can look in the mirror and see their faults. It is a rare and valuable skill.


Because India is close to the equator, the environment has a greater carrying capacity than the kinds of first-world, northern nations that the author is used to.

Citation?

The same applies to shelter. In India, a hut made of newspaper is adequate shelter year round. Try that in the Northern US and you'll freeze.

If a newspaper is enough in India, why are so many people dying of being cold year after year? https://www.google.co.in/search?q=cold+wave+india+dead

The years that aren't very cold, there are heat waves that kill. https://www.google.co.in/search?q=heat+wave+india+dead

Yes India's government is corrupt, but not all that much more corrupt than the US government.

In India, if you walk into a govt office for anything, you will end up paying a bribe. Want a driving license? Bribe. Want a building plan approved? Bribe. Want to incorporate a company? Bribe. Maybe we can have HN'ers from different developed countries tell us if the situation is anything like this in their countries. From what I can see, corruption in developed countries is mostly big ticket, not every tom, dick and harry in the country trying to part you from your money every chance they get.

Contrast this to the genocide the US conducted against native Americans who were in the way.

Back when American natives were being killed, widows in India were being burnt alive by their own families in the name of tradition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice)

Sure the garbage smells bad, but it's mostly just a matter of learning not to keep inhaling after you catch a whiff of something rank on the breeze.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN SAYING?


asto wrote: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN SAYING?

My point was about carrying capacity. Hot or cold snaps do not significantly alter the base carrying capacity of the environment w/o infrastructure.

In the US things like parking tickets, DMV fees, etc. are levied with abandon. Why use this approach to generate funds to pay for municipal workers rather than just having them extract bribes? Because the US has the infrastructure to enforce the fees, fines, and penalties. Both constitute minor confiscation of resources and are abetted by the power of the officials involved.

Your point about widows being burned alive agrees with my overall argument. It shows a parity between the two civilizations that ought to give us pause when we start feeling to indignant.


Why are bribes inferior to levying fees, fines, and penalties? Seriously?

The latter involves due process. It also accrues funds to a democratic body instead of to random servants of the state. This removes conflicts of interest, e.g. I'm going to require a billion licences because each licence means I get a bribe.

Empirically, corruption hurts the economy and political system. An IIE paper showed that "a one-standard deviation (2.38 point) improvement in the corruption index is associated with over a 4-percentage-point increase in a country's investment rate and over a 1/2-percentage-point increase in the per capita [GDP] growth rate" [1]. Further, Campos and Giovannoni show in their paper Lobbying, Corruption, and Political Influence that while "lobbying and corruption are substitutes...lobbying seems to be a much more effective instrument for political influence than corruption, even in poorer, less developed countries" [2].

[1] http://www.adelinotorres.com/economia/Os%20efeitos%20da%20co...

[2] http://www.econstor.eu/dspace/bitstream/10419/33990/1/518050...


I have no disagreement with your point. Of course a codified system of fees is preferable to one that is completely ad-hoc and based on bribes.

But police officers and other minor officials (IRS workers, etc.) are given tremendous discretion about which violations to enforce and which to ignore. In that sense, the US system is quite ad-hoc as well.

And since the people who interact most directly with police officers are the poor, abuses of power are less likely to be reported... yet we still hear of them all the time.

I view it as a continuum of institutional evolution, with the US perhaps a small notch or two ahead of India in creating institutions that are resistant to corruption. It's definitely not a night and day distinction.


"Yes India's government is corrupt, but not all that much more corrupt than the US government."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_India

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/world/asia/18iht-letter18....

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2091100,00.htm...

People are holding hunger strikes to stand up against the corruption. When was the last time that happened in the US?

You are rationalizing away all of the author's points, and just because there is an explanation for things doesn't make those things okay. Just because "In India, a hut made of newspaper is adequate shelter year round." Doesn't mean it's alright for people to live in a shelter of NEWSPAPER.

"Frankly, it's not all that bad. Sure the garbage smells bad, but it's mostly just a matter of learning not to keep inhaling after you catch a whiff of something rank on the breeze."

I'm sure that will fix all of the disease and sickness that comes with festering garbage lingering about in public streets.

"Sadly the US ends up putting a very large percentage of its poor population in prisons and has relocated many to horrific housing projects, where the violence and horrors are contained away from view."

Even if this is true (which I'd argue that it's not, but that is neither here nor there) how does that justify having the poor out in the open begging for a living?

"If you want to talk about rights for the poor, in India if someone isn't using land and you set up a tent on it and start living there, you can't be evicted. The shantytowns that the author found so disturbing are actually a side-effect of India's weak property rights laws, which themselves are a result of democratic pressure from the poor to continue living where their families have lived for generations. Contrast this to the genocide the US conducted against native Americans who were in the way."

Besides the blatant non-sequitor about genocide (It happened, yes, but what does that have to do with India?), giving someone the right to squat on land is hardly "rights for the poor". Congrats on not evicting people from shanty towns, excuse me if you aren't awarded the next Nobel Peace Prize.


My comparison with the US was not intended to indicate complacency about the status quo. Your comment about hunger strikes underscores my point. It is completely inappropriate for any citizen of the modern US to express any indignation about the democratic process going on in another country.

In the US we are given a standard explanation about other countries: Women are mistreated there, children and the poor are victims, governments there are corrupt and ineffective, sectarian or criminal gangs run things, etc. We as enlightened Americans are supposed to feel indignant, and we're supposed to support bold action that will free the people in question from their oppressive circumstances, since the people themselves are too dis-empowered to do it for themselves, too clueless to realize they should, etc.

The author's story was strongly influenced by this kind of explanation, right down to the indignation he ever-so-confidently expresses.

This is why I mentioned a few aspects of American society that ought to put things into perspective a bit. If someone is drawn to indignation and feels inspired to allow his life to be motivated by its sharp pangs, he should look closely at the environment he knows most about -- his own city or possibly his own country.

The narrative/explanation above is used to promote meddling in other countries and is a hallmark of neoconservative thought. The problem is that it's horribly misguided and harmful.


I think the more useful distinction between your positions is one of moral relativism vs moral absolutism, rather than neoconservatism vs (any other -ism).


Well it depends on what you focus on. Yes the differences between the two countries are relative. But they are obviously different and so it's not a stretch to realize that.

The noteworthy aspect, in my opinion, is the strong indignation felt by the author which is amplified in its absurdity by the existence of many of the very same problems in the US.


When a person has seen only a single sociopolitical system, it is easy to just shrug and say "it just is this way.". It is often only after seeing the totally different systems active in other societies first-hand that it becomes brilliantly clear that not only are the wrongs back home unacceptable, but that the other society you have found also possesses its own share of injustices that the locals are indifferent to. It is not wrong to be enraged at the suffering and petty evil everywhere. It is simply uncommon and stressful to try to do something since a single individual's effort may seem like that of an ant.


True. That is a good point.


Western countries have merely professionalised corruption. Give a politician 10 lakh rupees in a brown envelope and it's a symptom of corruption, but donate $100,000 to his campaign funds and it's the sign of a healthy democracy.

Here in the UK, we are investigating massive corruption in the banking sector, the press and government. Every day we are seeing new revelations from the Leveson Inquiry on press ethics, or the Treasury Select Committee on banking. It would take a great deal of hubris to make any claim to the high ground.


Strictly: campaign donations are a legal transaction, though previously in the US the limits were set far lower. I'd strongly recommend you read Lawrence Lessig's Future of Ideas and Republic Lost in which he first develops and then greatly expands the nature and scope of corrupting influences of money in the US, particularly in politics.

A difference of degree remains a difference, if only of degree. That said, independent third-party assessments of corruption such as the Corruption Perceptions Index as of 2010 hold the US (7.1) rather better than India (3.1) (the index uses a 10 point scale). There's room for improvement for both nations. Notably, the US is comperable with two South American countries, actually falling behind Chile (7.2) and just ahead of Urugay (6.9).

Topping the list, New Zealand and Denmark (tied at 9.3), and Finland and Sweden (tied at 9.2). Worst? Somalia (1.1), Myanmar and Afghanistan (1.4), and Iraq (1.5) (So, how's that regime-y change-y thing going for ya, Sarah?)

http://www.transparency.org/cpi2010/results


"People are holding hunger strikes to stand up against the corruption. When was the last time that happened in the US?"

The last major one was July 1st, 2011 in the California prison system.


Not sure why this is being down-voted. The over 2 million Americans that are imprisoned do count as citizens, and the prison system is as corrupt as they come, from cases of judges being paid by private prisons(1) to give harsh sentences to minors to the blind eye given to assault and rape behind bars(2).

(1. http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/peopl...)

(2. http://www.hrw.org/news/2007/12/15/us-federal-statistics-sho... )


Very true. The US prison system is on equal footings with the worst gulags of history.


Now that is a serious exaggeration, and an unproductive one as well.


What percent of your lifetime income / net worth would you give up to avoid a 6 month term in a maximum security penitentiary?


A smaller percent than if it were the actual Gulag?


Ok fair enough, but considering that gulags are known to us via old propaganda stories and prisons are part of the modern human rights (intellectual) blind spot that most affluent western people suffer from, it's not surprising that you consider them drastically different.

In my opinion, the notion of almost certain rape and being locked into a cell with a violent individual in a system where violence is tolerated is about as cruel a punishment as one could possibly inflict. The worst psychological torture combined with brutal physical subjugation.


Going to take a wild guess here, and speculate that you haven't read any Solzhenitsyn.


I have not. I realize there are things that are more horrific on a larger scale of human suffering, but for the individuals involved at a micro level the US system is cruel and unusual to the extreme.


While I don't disagree with the validity of your statement, I feel like you are splitting hairs... I was mainly using that as a demonstration of the relative differences in corruption between the two countries.


how does that justify having the poor out in the open begging for a living?

What would you do? You can't magically produce houses, schools, hospitals and other basic infrastructure to service several hundred million people. Forget that, I doubt you could engineer an efficient distribution system that just provides these people with nutritious food. Keep in mind these people are distributed across a fairly large country, belong to many different religions and speak hundreds (possibly thousands) of different languages. The majority of these folks are illiterate, and the overwhelming majority have no education beyond high school.

If you think you have a good solution to the problem, I am all ears, because I've been thinking about this for a long time and I can't see one.


I never promised a solution. I'd completely agree with you that it is a hard problem.

Just because I don't have a solution doesn't make the fact that having the poor, out in the open, begging for a living any less "bad".


Efficient food distribution is an interesting topic with respect to India - Mumbai has an industry based around moving food from affluent workers' homes to their place of lunch and back again, moving 200k meals a day. Even more interesting is that the workforce is largely illiterate, yet the failure rate for delivery and return is amazingly low.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala


this is a very good point, but remember that there is an economic incentive for this system. The people using the services are the ones paying for it. If the govt. tried to implement such a scheme in, say, a village, the guy in charge of disbursing the money wouldn't do it, he would keep it for himself. The villagers, meanwhile, don't even know of the existence of this scheme.


I agreed with most of your post except for this point:

Doesn't mean it's alright for people to live in a shelter of NEWSPAPER.

Why isn't it alright? Honestly, if it's adequate shelter, why isn't it alright? I'm trying to think of some reasons, and I figure it has to do with inability to withstand rain and wind, effects of rot and mold, lack of security, or who knows what. But then I keep going back to the word "adequate". What does this mean? Does adequate mean these problems actually don't exist, and therefore it's adequate? Or is there a different level of what is considered adequate in the gp, compared to what I think is adequate?

You can't just come out and say that it's not alright for people to live in a shelter of newspaper just because it's newspaper. You need to have reasons for it. And if it is indeed adequate, I can't think of any reasons why I would dislike living in a shelter of newspapers. In the same manner, I cannot think of any reasons why I would dislike caves in western China, huts in the Amazon, or igloos in the Yukon. If it's a matter of getting proper Internet, well, let's just assume that if I'm living there, I must have chosen to forgo some luxuries. For example, many missionaries throughout history easily decided to go native and live like the people they were trying to reach.

I need to understand the details behind your point.


You're assuming too much. It's not adequate shelter. You'd get sick living in a shack in an indian slum or in a hut in the amazon without modern medicine plus expensive and time consuming precautions--precautions a slum dweller can't take. Read up on public health in slums, particularly slums in the tropics.

"many missionaries throughout history easily decided to go native"

Err, no. Missionaries (as well as soldiers and merchants) used to have crazy high mortality in the tropics.


I'm not assuming anything. I'm questioning what is the definition of adequate here, because whatever is the definition will determine whether or not I agree with the original statement.

Whether or not those housing conditions lend themselves to proper sanitation or not, missionaries decided to go native in spite of the high mortality, also knowing the mortality rate of their peers (until modern medicine came about to make things like malaria a much smaller concern). I don't see your point. Missionaries had a crazy high mortality in the tropics? So what? It didn't stop their decisions to go native. And they certainly didn't have a crazy high mortality rate after the arrival of modern medicine. What are you saying no to?


Maybe "alright" wasn't the correct phrasing.

I meant something more like: "Just because people can live in a shelter of newspaper, doesn't mean it's okay for that to be their only resort against the elements."


> When was the last time that happened in the US?

1960's.

No hunger strikes AFAIK, the 99% occupiers are our cultural equiv.


The 99% occupiers are a form of cargo cult. Sans a clearly defined specific goal it resembles pantomime. Soak the rich is not sufficient.


Why are the generalizations about dishonesty offensive? The author seems to draw conclusions from his experiences and those around him. Much of your comment seems akin to "Yes, there are bad problems, but look over there, they have problems too."

The defense against the poverty or dishonesty arguments shouldn't just be a juxtaposition against the US.


The term for what you're doing in this argument is "tu quoque". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

Examples:

"Yes India's government is corrupt, but not all that much more corrupt than the US government."

"Contrast this to the genocide the US conducted against native Americans who were in the way."

"Consider how much effort is undertaken in the US to hide poverty from view."

"Yet fraud abounds at all levels of government."

Even if this stuff were true (and it mostly isn't), your arguments don't answer the author's points.


My comparisons were not meant to logically refute the author's points.

I intended to point out the absurdity of focusing one's indignation on problems in another country.

Imagine if someone started expressing indignation about the bad breath of someone sitting on the other side of the room, when he himself had bad breath, though perhaps slightly fresher than the person whose breath he was outraged about.

For some reason, we don't view indignant rants about foreign political systems with the same eye for absurdity that we view indignant rants about other things.


Yes India's government is corrupt, but not all that much more corrupt than the US government.

Not really. The Transperency International which ranks countries by corruption ranks India at 95, where as U.S.A is ranked at 24[1]. Lower the rank less corrupt the country is.

1. http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/


Thank you for taking the time to write this. I come across articles and opinions like this all the time and always feel a little offended, but I do not know exactly what triggers that. Maybe its because I notice the progress happening, the hard work people put in, only to read articles and opinions that portray the situation so negatively.


Maybe because you are after all an Indian. Some foreigner talking shit about your nation, well, hurts.


Maybe you should let that emotion go, it will inevitably affect your thinking.


"Because India is close to the equator, the environment has a greater carrying capacity than the kinds of first-world, northern nations that the author is used to."

By that logic, Russia would have been the most advanced nation in the world a long time ago, yet it's historically been lagging Europe (and later USA) in development. Many in Russia actually use a totally opposite logic: because the environment in Russia is so harsh, warmer climates of Europe and USA have greater advantage in terms of agriculture initially, and infrastructure maintenance later on.

So I don't think it's as simple as that.


So I don't think it's as simple as that.

My take on it: in the US, the climate makes it possible to rise far above the subsistence level, but only with some effort and/or ingenuity. Motivated people have historically been rewarded with better lives, and that truth has influenced our entire culture.

In equatorial island countries, it's too easy. What, you think you can spend your whole life relaxing on the beach sipping coconut milk? Well... OK, I guess you can do that.

In Russia, it's too hard. If most of your energy and focus is spent just surviving the winter, there won't be enough mojo left to move your society forward.

Problems with this climate-centric outlook: African equatorial countries with good, human-friendly climate but problematic cultures, and Nordic countries whose weather rivals Siberia's and whose cultural and technological progress is often compared favorably to that of the US.


I think climate may play some role, but it's nowhere near as important as the OP stated. You've got Canada vs Russia, Singapore vs Madagascar, South Korea vs North Korea, Australia vs Papua New Guinea, etc. Basically, there are lots of other factors.


Canada and Australia are poor examples. Their cultures were developed in a totally different place, and only implanted to where they are now.


Yes, and the US is in there too. But before Europeans came, there were Native Americans who lived in North America's varied climates, similar to Europe's, yet they were severely lagging in development.


Of course there are other factors involved as well. Even with an ideal environment there is still a lot that can go wrong.


What ever you said is right but author perspective is also right. Keep it clean, have personal responsibility. There is nothing wrong.



When making judgements like this, it is good to remember that your experience of a place depends not only on that place, but even more so on your own state of mind. When you see confusion all around you, you should honestly ask yourself how much of it is coming from your side.


> you should honestly ask yourself how much of it is coming from your side.

That may be true. But I still think that candid, unapologetic appraisals of what's wrong with developing countries may be just what the doctor ordered for things to change.

I myself am an Indian and while I'm yet to see someone covered in his or her own feces in India, I'd agree with the general sentiment of that article: it's an honest, heart-felt piece. I'd like to change the state of affairs in my country, but the task is so f*cking huge that you don't know where to start or even whether you can do anything at all. If perhaps more Indians start feeling that things are NOT acceptable here, maybe we might see the beginnings of change, just like how it was with India's own independence struggle.


This may sound like a cliche but the it's what you do for your country that matters more.

I too was faced the same dilemma a few years back and on a whim I joined a small volunteer organization that teaches street children. Being a one trick pony I decided to teach them computers. In just 2 months those kids, who did not know the English alphabet learned to use MS-Paint doing stuff like Undo/Redo/Copy/Paste, etc. Seeing those kids learn was one of the happiest feelings of my life. I later heard that one of the girls got admission in a govt. school because of what she learnt in that org.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because I read an article a few months back (will link it if I can find it) about how in Western societies there is a very strong emphasis on giving back to the country. Even people who are doing well generally volunteer on weekends for community service, etc. They have a very strong feeling of patriotism and an in built societal structure that makes them want to give back.

Now I have never lived outside of India so I cannot say if the above is true or not but having lived in India all my life I have never seen anyone, any relative, friend, etc do any sort of community service ever (unless of course there is religious angle). So all in all we have a lot of people complaining but very few doing anything.

I think every person who has completed college has the ability to make a difference but because the problem seems to be so "huge" nobody wants to do anything about it or is maybe waiting for others to lead them the way. The thing is you don't have to change everything, you only have to realize that anything you do no matter how big or small still makes a difference.


India probably needs more startups; startups that are solving Indian problems, employing Indians and if relevant expanding the solution to places outside.

Despite the corruption and incompetence of the government, I believe that the government also finds itself in the same conundrum--"where to start, or what to fix first, or in what order".


And inevitably decides to fix the fact that those in power do not feel themselves to be rich enough.


I once took my client who was visiting from US to a city tour of New Delhi. It was routine India Gate, Red Fort, Jantar Mantar stuff. She seemed unimpressed. But we happened to pass through a slum area and her eyes just lit up. She was shocked and amazed, but happy that her trip was now complete. It was disgusting.


We marvel in that which is different?

(Had never heard of Jantar Mantar before - only been to a few southern parts of India - thanks. Will put it on my To Do list!)


As an Indian who has lived in North India for the entire 23 years of his existence, I can say that every single word that the author has reported is true, except one. It is not safe to roam about in wee hours not even for men. Except may be in Mumbai and a few more cities. I would advice any other visits against it.

Oh and people who have praised the word 'jugaad', in most cases it is a illegal-immoral solution. I hate it when people glorify the act. It is a reality and it is present everywhere in India - but I hope that we grow out of it.

You can divide the country into three parts: (A) The Powerful (who are always rich) (B) The not-so-rich and not-so-powerful (C) The poor and powerless. People of class (A) are leaders, businessmen and politicians who are also lawmakers. Class (B) is the middle to high income families who think political dialogue is a stinking business to be a part of. Class (C) is the overwhelming majority who vote and get paid for it - either directly or through improper political practices from caste/region/religion based arguments.

We have a huge population with few resources. We don't have enough fuel to dump our waste, not even enough ground to dump them on. We have very high unemployment and low literacy. Even the education system that we have is largely of very low quality. Cross Border Terrorism that is so not a daily part of western life is now too boring to be covered on Indian television. North India is so accustomed to it that people have even stopped demanding action - we don't think our government can take any. We also face Naxalism [1], a reality that a lot of us don't understand as it is largely based in Southern/Eastern India.

We regularly see large scale corruption ($1B+), as frequently as once every year. The culprits come back to power in a few years (An example: [2]). And people vote for them, because there is no better choice. This is unlike say USA when similar things would have been ends of political career for people involved.

BUT, please stop commenting on India as a comparison to the US and the rest of the western world. We get it, you have cleaner cities, healthier people, lesser discrimination and no unhappiness. We know it well, we live by it every day. These commentaries just seem unnecessary. We are innately handicapped in the race of development. We have started off late [3]. We have started off behind [4]. It is also very arrogant to impose your morality to the ancestors of others [5] as even if they may agree to what you say, they cannot comment on the situation in the previous era as they are unaware of the context themselves. It is very rude to use it as an argument against the present.

And let's make it clear. India is no more spiritual than any other country on earth. We just have a lot more temples and monasteries than most places. And they are also old and diverse. These exact things that attracts most westerners to India - the ancientness and the abundance, are also very closely related to what westerners hate about India. You cannot have orthodox, untainted and non-commercialized establishments without the perils of unorganized, corrupt and ill-managed institutes. Remove both, and you have a country that is working just as vigorously towards modern (and very western) ideologies and standards of living.

  [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxalite
  [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fodder_Scam
  [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Independence
  [4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Raj#Economic_impact
  [5] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4214998 [Sec: Sati]


As they say: "travel to a place for a day, write a novel. Travel there for a month, write an essay. Travel there for a year, write nothing."

This post, while certainly an honest account, is rife with generalizations and does not acknowledge the author's own cultural biases in the slightest.


What nonsense - he's constantly referring to his own cultural biases, including finishing on exactly that.


Can you please point out to me where, exactly, he finishes on an acknowledgement of his own biases? His analysis is based on a 3-week excursion around various parts of the country, with little to no effort to understand any historical context for what he critiques.

How about even a cursory talk about the historical context? Colonialism, the politics of development, the political economy of tourism, anything for that matter.

Mark talks about how emotionally overwhelming travel is, he doesn't talk about how, if he had stayed there longer or even done some basic wikipedia research, perhaps he wouldn't jump to so many base conclusions. Instead, we are left with a poetic bog post laced with comments like this one:

"Indian culture itself is quite disorienting."

Or this little gem:

"There’s no single sentence for India. The place is a fucking mess."

This doesn't even make sense. How can there be no single sentence for India, and then GIVE A SINGLE SENTENCE FOR INDIA?

Yeah, it's a fucking mess for a well-off Internet blogger. It's a fucking mess because Mother Theresa can't save the Indians from themselves, "And it’s just as well, Mother Teresa couldn’t save this society from itself." Critical development studies has been fighting this kind of arrogance for a long time.

And to be fair, I respect this author's work a lot more than most lifestyle blogs. I just have a low tolerance for generalizations like this one.

Does that sound like nonsense to you?


The reference to shutting out the congitive dissonance with his sunglasses and ipod is a tacit statement recognising that he is not of this place. If you don't see that in his writing, there's a lot in that essay you will have missed. A much clearer example of reporting on his own biases is when he reports on the email from his mother.

How can there be no single sentence for India, and then GIVE A SINGLE SENTENCE FOR INDIA?

Oh, for fuck's sake. You're choosing to be offended. He didn't give a single sentence, he wrote a four thousand word essay on it. An essay in which he covers a lot of variations in the parts of the culture he saw.

Really, you're choosing to be offended. Why should he report on the colonialism of India in an essay about his personal experiences; why is the essay bereft of value because of that? And despite your claims that he doesn't talk about the political economy of tourism, he does do that in the essay. He talks of the spiritual tourism, and his experiences and opinions of it.

Yeah, it's a fucking mess for a well-off Internet blogger.

And traveller to 40 countries, so a fair bit more experienced in other cultures than most. You're committing exactly the same sins of omission as you're accusing him of making, in order to reframe your argument so that it benefits you.


Fair enough. This was a comment to a short essay. I'll continue to hold my beliefs, and you'll continue to have yours, as these forums typically work.


Let me summarize the problems of India in my very limited capacity. 1. India is a very very old civilization. Hence, there are way too many ideologies, religions, castes etc in the way of a focused progressive thinking. 2. India ceased to be offensive long back - history is very clear about what usually happens with a non-offensive civilization - they get captured, robbed, systematically destroyed. It took 600 years to rob India from Moghuls to the British. In this very long process of invasions and slavery, something very critical to human survival broke down completely. We Indians do not care of our own well-being. We are happy with getting away with minimal suffering. We just do not care. 3. As India spent most of the modern time in slavery, India became fatalist - none of our actions are relevant - finally the destiny/wish of God/karma takes over. So, we do not care about our actions. There is no causality. 4. Post independence from the British, India fell into the hands of a very corrupt political system. Please understand this, to survive in power the Governments in India need poor people. How can you govern and control 1.2 billion people? - by keeping them in abject poverty. This is a very simple mechanism (read Orwell's 1984) proven and tested the world over. 5. India has a class of enterpreneurial people. They make money for themselves and help their own. India has no sense of public distribution of wealth or enterpreneurship. An Indian will NOT help a man living in his own street if the other guy is from a different caste/religion/etc. 6. Poverty is the worst form of violence - but India has no plans to eradicate poverty. Politics is usually the tool for the rougue to make quick money and loads of it and as I mentioned earlier, poverty is necessary for the political class to survive. I have 100 other points - perhaps I will write a blog about it and share with you people. This article talks about something that hurts me a lot on personal level - trust me, every Indian has tried atleast once to change things around him. Most have failed. Even Gandhi failed miserably - he never got the India he dreamed of.


This is why I have trouble relating to my friends' problems.

Oh someone at work got a bigger raise than you? Excuse me while I laugh in your face.

I'm not too good at parties. I don't know how to compartmentalize.

It also bugs me that talking about this seems like a status move when it generates negative things in my life.


A human is made for happiness the same way a bird is made for flight. If people don't feel happy because they are underappreciated or their social life is lacking, I don't think that should be mocked.


I am from India..Things that have been described is absolutely true.

But do you know one thing. The actual situation is worse. The beggars author is talking about actually represts only indian middle class!!.. yes they fall in the top 50% in economic ladder. If you want to see real poverty go to kalahandi or vidharba region

Do you know in last 10 years 200,000 farmers committed suicide just out of poverty. Just imagine 200,000 people (larger than the population of many European capital) committing suicide just out of hunger..That too is the official number. Some suspect it is around 500,000..It is a human genocide of worst form..So many people committing suicide just due to poverty

And you know what..Giving those 25,000 is not going to help. Charity by Mother Teresa or Diana or Bill gates is not going to solve this poverty of continental level..They may satisfy your ego..Maybe you can win a nobel prize but it is not going to solve any problem.

If you really want to help those guys just do one thing..Support outsourcing from your heart..support any policy that helps transferring millions of jobs from west to India..In this world only one country is solving poverty of indian scale and that is china and you know how they are solving it..So next time you hear that a company is transferring its entire manufacturing jobs to China or india just support that..it is at least going to save thousands of poor people from this abject poverty


I spent 3 weeks in India in February and have a totally different viewpoint. Amazing people, true hope at the prosperous future and an incredible will.

All about seeing the glass half empty or half full


This is an uber linkbait article from a pickup instructor turned internet marketer. Nicely executed.


Employee of the site here. Just want to point out a few things.

1. The submitter of the article to HN has no affiliation with Postmasculine as far as I know, nor did we request them to post it here. We're very grateful for them doing so however!

2. While the author of the site was involved in the pickup industry for a while, he chose to no longer identify with that scene over two years ago, and specifically moved his content away from its perspective, even going so far as to systemically deconstruct the flaws and failures of Pickup theory and the community it created. So we don't feel that 'pickup' really represents what the site has to say about dating. Although we definitely do talk about meeting women. A lot. :)

3. While we're dedicated internet marketing students, we're far from experts on the subject. We're putting a lot of time and effort into improving the site's marketing, but our number one focus will always be on providing high quality content that is as no BS and realistic as possible. Hopefully anyone who came from HN and spends further time reading the site will agree.

I realize your comment wasn't a criticism, but just thought I'd try and give a bit more context to the situation. Thanks for assuming we were so professional!


Fair points, mostly.

I would say that it is a new trend for pick-up instructors to distance themselves from the pick-up industry mostly for marketing purposes. I think it's mostly semantics and at the end of the day, you're just fearing the phrase "pickup industries" focuses too much on the negative and not enough about the positives.

On the otherhand, as someone who's spent fair bit of time observing pickup companies, I will say that your marketing page seems very reasonable and not full of false promises common on most PU sites.


Definitely agree that it was and still is a trend. I won't claim we were the first to distance ourselves, but I think we were the best!

Our POV on what defines 'pickup' advice versus regular dating advice is that 'pickup' is the decision to objectify your sex life in order to improve it. We don't believe that this is a healthy or effective mindset, hence we don't define our material as 'pickup'.

Honestly, I think if you read some more of the site, for example http://postmasculine.com/why-its-so-hard or especially http://postmasculine.com/pickup-artist (warning: long) you'd come to the conclusion that we're a far shot from what most people associate pickup with. But it's up to you whether you want to spend the time :)


Yes - the most horrendous thing about India is take-your-breath-away poverty. Kid are dying of hunger poverty.

That is the only thing which I really really don't like about India. It just seems wrong - very very wrong. Especially because it seems like there is enough money around to help these people.

All other things are ok and you can see in other countries - traffic is terrible, corruption, trash, ethnic violence, etc.


As someone who lived in south India for about 40 years, I can tell you that spiritual tourism is a good source of money.There are too many godmen and godwomen (some of them hugs people and some more sophisticated ones speak in the U.N... You will not find true Gurus here.True Gurus don't sell their wares in shops).

What you mentioned about dirty garbage strewn over the streets is true in most Indian cities and towns.If you wake up early enough,you will find women sweeping the area around their houses.They will not give a second thought before dumping that swill on the street.The same people will complain loudly about the local authourities not doing enough to reduce the garbage problem. Travel to Kochi by road.It is one of the fast developing cities in Kerala.Coming from Trissur side,the first thing you will notice is the huge dumps(about 3-4 mtrs high) of garbage on both sides. The people living in that area are definite candidates for cancer.I wouldn't wonder if another Plague epidemic happens in the near future.


Its the attitude. And its not because of 'jugaad' as quite a few other comments make here. Its because of another attitude called 'chalta hai' attitude. Which simply means 'even this is Okay'.

The reason for this attitude, I think, is because of being one of the oldest civilizations. Which is a fact, and often it used as a ego-massage and as a strong point in several discussions.

The point to note is that this building was built thousands of years ago, and is in a natural state of decay.

On the other hand, a country like US being a country of migrants was forced to start everything on a relatively clean state. So sort of a natural call to action - to build their lives.

If one takes anecdotal examples of families one may know of, one will see that the best ones in the families move on to a different place. The laggards are left behind.

One idea, comes to me as I write this, is what if we just ask people from two nearby villages, to just move their huts and belongings to the other village, and vice versa. Will it bring about any change in the attitude?

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