I received an interesting mail from a friend who compares the Chinese to Indians and wonders why, even though we both have similar socio cultural traditions and similar traditional baggage, the Chinese seemed to have overtaken us in many fields. He traces it to the principles of Hinduism like Karma and Fatalism and our pre occupation with the life after rather the present. The stress seems to be on GOOD life rather than a good life.

In contrast, the Chinese seemed to have easily adapted to the western way of life which seems to have helped them in placing a much higher priority to working hard, being disciplined, more organised and focused in their lifestyle on acquiring wealth, embracing easily modernity from any source, enjoying more the pleasures (food, material things, travel, etc) that this life gives on earth, and not spending too much time worrying about the next. Being in tune with today’s world makes them get the best out of it. .

The conflict that he seems to be talking about is between the fatalism of the East and the aggressive self-determinism of the West. Perhaps the latter is what contributes to the ”killer instinct, that many find as lacking among Indians. The Western mindset is focused primarily on the need to attempt to control the external—leaving little to chance. By contrast, the Eastern mindset is focused primarily on the need to attempt to control self—leaving the external to chance. For this reason, the culture of the West is far more structured and systematic while Indians are far more relational, ad hoc and spontaneous. In other words, in the Eastern Hindu system, the focus is on reducing one’s attachments to desired outcomes; In the Western Christian system, the focus is really on self-expectations.
Detachment to results does not necessarily mean indifference to the job at hand. It only means that one should not be motivated by the results but go about doing one’s job well irrespective of the outcome.

If the ethnic Indian community in Malaysia and Singapore is not doing as well as the Chinese, the roots of the issue probably lie in the kind of leadership that is available within the community rather than their religious practices.
Similarly if Indian companies lag behind the Chinese in manufacturing , the roots lie in the policies of successive governments in protecting indigenous industry from market forces than in the emotional make up of the people or the religious philosophies. Where the right environment has been provided, Indians have proved to be equal to the best in the world.

I think with all the problems we inherited at independence and the constant turmoil the country is in with problems – man made and natural – we are coping pretty well. And rather than pulling us behind, our religious convictions ( I mean all our religions) give us the strength to handle it all well. Things take a little longer when they have to work in a democratic way. This could be another reason for the fast paced growth in China. There is no denying that we have not realized our full potential yet but certainly we seem to be making all the right moves.
If anyone thinks otherwise all I have to tell them is:
please do not compare us with others.VEE ARR LIKE THIS ONLEEE.
6 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Chinese Vs.Indians - Issues worth pondering:
    why it is so much easier for the Chinese to produce Olympic stars, have the 'killer instincts' to become tennis stars like Michael Chang, to produce by now,world class western classical musicians like Yo-Yo Ma,Yundi Li.
    They seem so much more successful at embracing Western-style film-making techniques to produce Academy Award winning commercial movies, while India does not yet have a single winner in this category.
    Why do they play Western Classical music so easily when India, which is gifted with such depth of richness in its Hindustani and Carnatic music forms,has yet to produce a single world class western classical musician (apart from conductor Zubin Mehta)?
    Why are they so effective at becoming the world's centre for manufacturing, of every type of machinery,textiles, electronics, heavy industries when India,
    despite its longer tradition of internal manufacturing, cannot obtain the same level of
    sophistication to achieve such success on the world stage?
    Why is a visit to Shanghai so revealing in the ordered way of life of the Chinese, as they all seem
    to be healthy, wearing clean clothes, and the environs are generally devoid of the kinds of slums and terrible conditions of living that one observes while
    visiting say, Mumbai?


  2. Shashi Iyer Says:

    couldn't agree more. but the mistake we probably commit is not following ur traditions properly... they become "meaningless" traditions because we haven't realised their worth. also i believe that the indian way of life primarily emphasizes the need to work hard (or we would not have even got to this state) and making our money (dharmaarthakaamamoksha). and isn't it true that inner development, in the true sense of the words, and "outer" development go hand in hand?

    p.s. nice post... reminds me of Tagore's Freedom

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I do agree about Indians and cleanliness. It may have a lot to do with unauthorised and ilegal housing colonies and slums which are not provided with sanitary facilities. But the indifference of the educated people to their surroundings is inexcusable. They feel it is all someone else's responsibility. I think we need laws like singapore to make our people comply.


  4. Usha Says:

    It is possible that I am seeing it from inside and do not get a complete picture and my vision is myopic. Perhaps my friend who has lived outside all his life has a better perspective of our mindset as compared to say, the Chinese.
    But I am certain that religion or our religious philosophies are not a major determinant in the way we are because most of the young people do not actively practice any religion. They are just people born to parents belonging to this or that religion.
    Like all people we are good at something and not so good at something else. As Shashi says , may be we are not so good at business becasue we are not so astute at "smart" business practices.
    We do not make movies aimed at academy awards - our grammar and our themes are different. Our music is different and if it has not been accepted or understood in the west, there is nothing to worry about.
    Cleanliness - you got me there! I cannot understand it myself.
    Yes, I need to think on how much the caste system has held us back from rapid progress. Perhhaps that will be the subject matter for another post.

  5. Swapnil Says:

    Lets not compare ourselves to China we are worse than Burkina Faso and Tanzania when it come to retention rates for Primary schools. We have higher infant moratality than our neighbors like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Higher percentage of our population doesnot have an access to clean drinking water then any so called "Developing" countries.
    China has its own follies, we at least have a democratically elected government. And we as a nation are more commited towards social justice i feel. In the log term it will show.
    I dont agree wih Narayn when he says we need stricter laws, the change HAS to be cultural. We, Indians make great noise about our culture and religion. I am yet to see an active traditional religious leader who stood up to say "Keep the city clean". If any did, i think the "indian culture" will reject him/her. Mother's who teach shlokas to their children starting age 3, throw grbage out of windows and "Thread-round-the-Torso" fathers bribe for school admissions. If these things dont clash with Our Culture and Our religion, its time we redefine Our Culure and Our Religion.
    We once visited a gram panchayat, Bailakuppe. This place has a one room primary school with all classes under one roof. It needs a bigger building and a playground. Across the road is a HUGE temple run by a trust. I dont think it would've been too dificult for he Temple to expand the school and provide access to its premises for the children to play. Indian culture, never thought of it.

  6. As an intellectual of the first rate, I must say that "My Car-ma ran over your Dog-ma" :D