Welcome to India: a land where passion comes to die

I’ve lived in India all my life, and I’m not proud of my people. But I’m not giving up.

Here’s why.

Reality check for 1/7th of the world’s population

We Indians are 1.2 billion people on Earth. Yes, many of us are still extremely poor. But a lot of us in that fat middle and upper class have means beyond survival. Hundreds of millions of us have disposable incomes, we have weekends for ourselves when we go to movies and eat expensive popcorn. Yes, we have cars and ACs. Heck, now we even have Netflix, iPhones and Macbooks.

One would imagine that multiple hundreds of millions of this middle class will at least have a million passionate people. Or at least a hundred thousand people who aim for perfection in their chosen field. Or maybe ten thousand people who aim at being absolute best in the world. A thousand people who have dedicated their lives to making that tiny dent in the universe? How about just a hundred people who the world looks upto? Or just one person who will change the course of human history?

How many Indians come into your mind who have actually defined mankind’s potential?

Zero – that’s what we’re proud of

Consider India’s performance:

  • Nobel prize winners from India in last 100 years: 5
  • Indian Olympics medal tally this year: 2
  • Global brands from India: 0
  • Michelin star restaurants: 0
  • Top indian university: not in top 100 globally

Let me remind you: I’m talking about a country that makes 1/7th of Earth’s population. Isn’t it an oddity? Why, then, Indians are so chill about it?

I can go on and on about India’s standing globally. And by this point many (Indians) readers may become defensive or angry as this post may come across as rant. But there’s no denying that it’s fantastically unexplainable that almost 20% of the world’s population is OK living a life of mediocrity, a life of following rather than leading, a life where past achievements are celebrated ad nauseam, and a land where every night is another day survived.

What’s perplexing is why so many of us don’t see the absurdity of what India has become today.

Free speech is a joke, government postpones spectrum auctions because of ‘shradds’ (pointless, superstitious religious events), half of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, people get run over on a road and are left to die, a women gets raped in India every 15 minutes, farmers are hanging themselves, one in five young adults in the most prosperous state are drug addicts.

Why are we OK with all this?

We keep our homes clean, but feel comfortable rolling down a car window and throw trash on our roads. While other countries are racing ahead with their highways and railways, we celebrate when a massively delayed flyover gets inaugurated. We’re comfortable running over pedestrians by believing only losers obey traffic rules, yet we’re okay stuck in traffic for hours. We foster our little dreams in childhood, yet we’re okay listening to our parents that a Infosys job is the best they can hope for. We don’t question why the hell meat shouldn’t be eaten on Tuesdays or why cows are sacred.

This is our country’s capital.

Yes, you may cringe at this image here, but this is what Delhi is

And this is our country’s biggest city

No special effects. Actual footage from Mumbai

All this is every day life that we’ve come to accept unquestionably.

Yet our feelings are hurt easily, our egos are big and we have deference to authority and tradition. Forward looking ideas terrify us. We have become inward looking, defensive and take pride in whatever little we can latch on: spirituality, invention of zero, invention of chess, Taj Mahal and… and what?

We’ve become meek. And our souls have collectively died.

I can’t go on. I must go on

There’s no point of running away from this – where will you go anyway? Better to die trying than living a comfortable cocooned life elsewhere. Sure, like most Indians wanting to go to US, Australia, UK or Europe, I could also settle “out of country”. But that’ll be shameful. The one life I’ve got can’t be lived with this clear realization that haunts me every single day:

Over a billion people are living on Earth without a soul, without passions and without an aim to make a difference in the world

A smaller country can take solace in a variety of facts: lack of natural resources, lack of enough young people, an autocratic leader. But what do we have apart from excuses? We have a working democracy, land filled with natural resources and more young people than anywhere else in the world.

If the India paradox doesn’t infuse anger and drive into a person, I don’t know what will.

What’s the sad part? Some of us Indians may tweet about this article or share on Facebook or get angry or inspired for a little while. But most of us will go back to business as usual in a day.

And our business as usual is being mediocre. Day after day. Mediocre until we die.

I’m trying to do my part by pushing myself and those around me to seek excellence by setting eyes on being the global best and by fostering a culture of criticism-led improvement. But we Indians defer to authority, plus we have egos that get hurt easily. We don’t have a tradition of criticism which forms the base of all progress. We have a tradition of acceptance of the old ways.

Only if a few of us dedicate ourselves to free thought, encourage a culture of improving through criticism and aim for perfection in our chosen field, then maybe in a few decades we might be able to change the course of this trawling ship just by a tiny bit.

This ship carries 1.2 billion people and it’s directly heading towards not an iceberg – but into a cold, desolate and endless ocean which makes sucks souls out of people, leaving them to die out of mediocrity and boredom.

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  1. Slightly acceptable in spirit but scarily limited in evaluation criterion and reasoning.. You may have demonstrated the very characteristic you seem to despise.

  2. Hi Paras,

    100% in agreement on the stark comparison that you have established. I love the fact that there is ‘this feeling’ of creating and spreading goodness.

    I would love for you to invest your time in 2 quick searches:
    1. YouTube – documentaries on money and how the world works. How the Michelin star restaurant means only next to nothing.

    How the extreme disparity in financial awareness and ability exists and how a few are driving decisions that affect your life without you knowing of it.

    #2: read the lost wisdom of the swastika (book by Ajay Chaturvedi).. what we the Gen X, Y don’t realise is our existence and how whether it’s the shradhs or other things they are scientifically explained matter and phenomenon.

    Anyway, I can go on and on. Of course I am incredibly happy of your decision and choices. I personally have the mission to ignite 100 million people to change the world for the better.

    Like you I do my bit in many ways.

    Power to you.

  3. This article seems to resonate with me quite easily, mediocrity is what i have seen since as far as i can remember and maybe there was a time when i rebelled against this but on this day i have conformed.

  4. I recently talked with the guy who is from brahmin cast, his future is already determined in his early twenties. He will be one of the rulers of the contry. He says that India in ten years will be greater than China. Produces lot of statistical, historical and philosophical “evidedence” to support the claim. Shame that elites are so delusional ๐Ÿ™

  5. A crisp summary of the state of the nation as of today. Although you touched upon a number of problems that the country has, the most horrifying of them is that people are okay with mediocrity. The idea that people in the millions can be okay with being mediocrity is absurd. Mediocrity prevails because we don’t give our people a chance to thrive. We don’t have the societal and mental infrastructure to support newness and innovation and revolt. This is at least true for the arts, if not technology. We’ve all seen what happened with Salman Rushdie, M.F.Hussain, and Arundhati Roy!

    In fact, it is quite true for technology too. The best of out tech people are usually grabbed by one of the thriving tech companies in the bay area. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If people had the same opportunities with the same kinds of rewards in India, they’d have stayed back. I don’t think the onus of repairing the nation lies with the people who leave to work somewhere else.

    Having said all this, I think the nation is on the move. There are a few people as motivated as you want them to be. But, the abundance of mediocrity kills the vibe everywhere. It hampers progress like nothing else does. Once this abundance goes down, the progress will accelerate. We’ll head towards a better and brighter future. Who knows, one day, we might have tens Nobel prize winners in theoretical physics who studied in India and worked in India, we might do something on the lines of Mangalyaan.

    All this won’t happen unless people stop caring about superstition, religion, cult, astrology and all such things. These things are regressive by nature. They can’t, in any way or form, help the nation progress.

    India needs a consciousness-raising. More people will talk like you’re talking. More people will think like you’re thinking. Let’s keep our hopes alive. Let’s make everyone aware of the mediocre life they’re leading. Even if it hurts their egos.

    But first, let us fix ourselves. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. No university in top ten but lots of ceo,s in fortune five hundred from india.
    bad article not showing true spirit of india

  7. What you have written is absolutely correct. We believe more in following rather than leading.

  8. Our main problem is corruption as accepted way of life and indifference. If these are tackled than things will start falling in place

  9. Hi Paras
    Well written opinion bordering on but never really becoming a rant. I wholeheartedly support the need to rise above mediocrity, acceptance of the average is the death knell of innovation. However, the last century or so we have been left scrambling for survival, for fulfilment of the basic. We can grow only after we achieve some sort of sustenance, right? Yes, we are 1/7th of the global population. But per capita pressure each of us 1.2 billion bear is unimaginable. Here are some scaled figures for per capita land for your perusal:
    Russia – 113.
    USA -28.
    Brazil – 40.
    Australia – 323,
    even is at China 6.5.
    We stand at 2.3.
    These establish how hard is for the population to compete for the given resources This may sound like an excuse or a rant in itself but excuse my passion against your myopic pessimistic view, imho ;). Whilst nobel prizes, olympic medals, global brands and michelin stars are measures of global success (really?); we have consistently succeeded in giving far more to the world. Wouldn’t you consider yoga a global success? Agreed we haven’t produced an Apple but I’m sure if you’ve read “Outliers” it sums up that case beautifully. When the world needed Microsoft, it also needed Infosys. Both came up around the same time and made the best of the available circumstances. There may not be a michelin star but that is created for and by the french palette. The world swears by the desi curry and they know it. There may not be a top ranking university, but the top CEOs worldwide come from the IITs. When you talk about the lack or death of the soul; i urge you to really rethink. The west never even had a concept of the soul. They have always been material and physical. We in-fact are and always been the global custodians of the spiritual. Definitely not in the the way popular religion is conducted today, but on a deepest level of our polytheist philosophy. We, our generation, are witness to the most exciting and important phase. I am confident that not just one, we are home to plenty more individuals who WILL change the course of history. We shall know that impact sooner than later, in our life times definitely. I know I’ve been going on for long, apologies for that. I’ll rest my argument with the case of ISRO who conducted a mars mission at a fraction of the cost of NASA. Would you even start comparing the resources these two agencies have? Is it possible to do so without any passion?

  10. Problem is religion and deep idea of Karma Theory.

    This world is picnic spot to grow and have moksha. Bad karma and kama gives u rebirth in this picnic spot. You are not responsible. It is your past life karma which is reponsible for your state and country state. This logic has made us responsibility free.

    Moksha can only be achieved by inner cleaning. (Reason for clean homes) Our ideals are people who denounce Kama(work) and external world. They say it is manifestion of your mistakes. Our ideals are not business mans. They are crony criminal according to middle class.

    So we dont have incentive to be excellent. We have incentive to pass life and reduce karmas to be free frm this cycle of life.

  11. True. Even though our society is evolving slowly but some good changes are apparent. Collectively, we need to work in good spirit for the betterment of our society.

  12. “Global brands from india – 0”

    Not True Paras: Tata, Reliance and many more. 0 in software maybe (Not really Infy, TCS etc.). Very few global brands but definetly not zero.

    I am not saying what you said is wrong or right. I am just pointing at slightly baised opinion.

  13. This is exactly same what I think everyday. There are so many disadvantages of being in india and not that much positives. Spirituality and all religional stuff doesn’t help us to prosper. Its a quest of survival rather than quest of excellence for most of the people but still very less people think beyond mediocrity. Indian mentality is not proactive or productive. Only people who have started startups/businesses in india can understand this when they face real side of india. Until that point india is the best country for everyone.

  14. There are enough Indians who are doing a lot more than what the author wants. Needless to say many more are helping other countries grow. I came back from USA after 10 years and can understand the frustrations of the author. One thing I realised is that you are living in a democracy and majority of people have no or negligible IQ/common sense. Most are focussed on short term gains and most don’t want to sacrifice or have patience to compromise for the greater good.

    Bottom line is when you are living with a majority of fools and all decisions are based on what majority wants then to expect wonders is your naivity. Just do what you can.

  15. I share the same feelings. I don’t see anything happening in India that actually defined an era in the history of mankind, USA went to the moon in late 6os (damn), Apple, Google, Microsoft; they all actually changed how we humans live our lives today.
    ( referring to @Sanjay Raturi) Surely Infy and TCS are big companies but they are not doing anything that can actually add up a page in the history books (no offense bro).

    (somewhat similar to @Anubhav) In my opinion, what’s holding us Indians back (just one of many) is the pursuit of money (better life). We tend to settle for less. USA has always been a wealthy country. I have seen people here working on an idea, they have everything in their life, they are not going after money because they already have it, they are going for perfection, something they can be proud of.

    I was once a budding entrepreneur (and I still am) and talked to different people about an idea. Usually my discussions concludes on a rather delusional and pathetic assumption which goes like this: “Kam se kam itna to bana hi lenge ki month me XXXX amount of money to aa hi jaega, AUR KYA CHAHIYE”. This ‘aur kya chahiye’ is the reason we don’t strive for perfection and it slowly became my judging criteria for an individual’s mindset.

    Reality check:
    Yes, We Indians don’t have the best of the living standards, and we do need to have a job to support our families (I share the same story), but dude, you don’t need an entire lifetime to achieve that, once you do that, at least DARE to move a bit further, go for perfection, make a difference. You don’t need a ton of money to live a good life. Having a fat bank balance is not at all worth losing a chance to create a legacy. We need more people who are striving for perfection rather than money.

  16. I commend your desire to stay in India and to be apart of a change rather than running away. You are an inspiring person and I have great respect for how you have found a vision and purpose for your life amidst all the influences that deter others from doing the same. #neverquit

  17. I completely get the soul of the article, but it feels too biased for my taste. The stats are definitely not correct (no global brands, 1/7th = almost 20%, really?) and somehow I don’t see how Michelin stars can be a parameter for excellence of a country.

    I agree with your view on mediocracy, but I would enjoy a more balanced view.

  18. @Paras I have been following you on Twitter for a few days now. Thanks for writing this. Some of us are so exasperated that we don’t even want to bother any more trying… There is one simple reason for ALL our ills. Education. Yes Education, period. We either have no education, OR superstitions being taught in the name of education OR Rot learning for some silly paper degrees. What India needed three decades ago was a comprehensive nation wide policy and implementation on a war-footing of “Critical Thinking” in Education. Think of “The Trivium” in classical education. How many out of the 1.2 Billion Indians have learnt formal logic? Heck how many can even define a logical postulate? Who even understands the difference between a rhetorical statement and a factual statement?

    It’s no wonder that any Tom, Dick or Harry politician or religious or cult leader takes millions for a ride. The present situation, I am afraid, is continuing on a rapidly declining downward slope. The sillitards in our govt recently came up with the magic number of “50% reduction in syllabus”. And we have the highest voices in the country echoing ancient vayuyaans and prehistoric cosmetic surgeries… The silliness is so tragic it is funny… You can really do nothing but laugh. Indians accept mediocrity because they don’t know any better. They don’t know any better because well, they don’t know. They haven’t learnt and there is no system of teaching…

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