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On The Move...But Static

On The Move...But Static

September 16, 2011

Are Indian mindsets and systems keeping pace with the changing times?

Living in changing times can be a challenge in the most unexpected of ways. This I have discovered from my experience of living in modern India.

For instance, a friend of mine told me the following story:

The multinational he worked for had provisions for working from home. This was a cost saving option for the company, and for the employee it worked out really well in terms of saving time by avoiding the commute and energy that went in juggling traffic everyday. Moreover, since his spouse was also busy building her career, it made perfect practical sense that he was there when the kids got back from school. They had not bargained for anything going wrong in this win-win scenario as they had overlooked one vital parameter - the maid. The domestic help soon drew the conclusion that the man of the house had lost his job and was quick in expressing her sympathies to the mistress. When her assumptions were corrected by the latter, she became doubly convinced of the correctness of her deductions and shared her concerns with other apartment owners, many of whom were housewives. These ladies in turn expressed their concern if not in direct conversation, through oblique allusions to the ‘situation’ that my friend’s wife was undergoing. To cut a long story short, societal pressure ultimately got the better of them and the guy went back to working from his office.

Change is the only constant they say, and yes, India is changing. These are times of rapid change and different segments of society are moving at different paces. One has to bear with it all and do the best under the circumstances. Take for instance the case of very young couples with parents who are still working and therefore not available to baby-sit. While recruiting a young qualified woman for a certain job the HR has often not thought of what is best for her baby or toddler. Hardly any of the offices have any provisions like a crèche/ day care where she can leave her child in safe hands while at work. The only feasible alternative for my young female colleagues is to leave their wards in the care of a nanny-cum-maid and pray for the best. Sooner or later however they realize that there is a price tag: the infant carries the indelible mark of the personality of her caregiver and is often either identified as a slow learner in school or shows signs of emotional imbalance. There is also the welcome new trend of adopting diversity as a principle in hiring insofar as disabled people are routinely encouraged to come on board. Sadly many of these same offices are ill-equipped to accommodate their needs as the buildings have no ramps and no rest-rooms designed to suit special needs.

In this context of modern urban India where at least one in every five households has people out of the house for the better part of the day, it is surprising that the postal department refuses to deliver your letters, etc. on a Saturday. The same goes with the gas agency delivering your cylinder. If you call them and try to explain the exigency, very often you are affronted with, “Koi bhi nahin rahega ghar pe?”[“Will nobody be there at home?”], as if this is something beyond their imagination. Only a few banks have now introduced banking hours on Sunday, others still reluctant to follow suit. Institutes and Universities offering courses galore in the so-called “flexible mode” to working professionals ironically refuse to do any business with you over the weekend insisting that you must be available within 9 am to 5 pm[ read 11 am to 3 pm] on a weekday.

Another aspect of change is the constant move from city to city. This entails providing the so often called for “address proof”, be it while updating your passport or applying for a bank loan. How does one prove that you are not a terrorist, just an average citizen with the right to relocate as often as required? Then again, when on the road, we are constantly pulled up by traffic cops wanting to see our ‘lifetime road tax’ receipt as the car carries a number plate from the state where it was originally purchased. Three times already we have paid the ‘lifetime tax’ with full cognizance that we are unlikely to stay put in one city even for the ‘lifetime’ of the car, let alone our own ‘lifetime’.

Talking about change from a political/social platform is easy. But living out that same phenomenon in your daily life is quite another story. If you rave and rant, you will only be crying in the wilderness. The wiser stance is to be as accommodating as you possibly can and expect the least from an infrastructure and a mindset that have not kept pace with the times. 

1 Comment

  • Shalini
    16.09.11 11:39 AM
    The first account could be hilarious if I didn't take cognizance of what the couple must have gone through. The whispers, the knowing glances, the sympathetic smiles...ugh! However on the flip side...just to introduce a thought, I was so aghast when I discovered I didn't know that my neighbour lost her mother-in-law until I saw a crowd at her place (which was there in the morning when I left to work incidentally) when I came back from work. The tendency to not interfere in others' affairs sometimes is carried so far that there is a disconnect.

    The other thinga about the address proofs and the lifetime well I know that!

    Great observations here.

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