The great Indian psychotherapy - Chetan Bhagat

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Countless articles, books, thesis, papers and research reports have tried to
answer the question, ‘what is wrong with India?’ Global experts are startled
that a country of massive potential has one of the largest populations of poor
people in the world. Isn’t it baffling that despite almost everyone agreeing
that things should change, they don’t? Intellectuals give intelligent
suggestions – from investing in infrastructure to improving the judicial system.
Yet, nothing moves. Issues dating back thirty years ago, continue to plague
India today. The young are often perplexed. They ask will things ever change?
How? Whose fault is it that they haven’t?

Today, i will attempt to answer these tricky questions, although from a
different perspective. I will not put the blame on everyone’s favorite punching
bag– inept politicians. That is too easy an argument and not entirely correct.
After all, we elect the politicians. So, for every MP out there, there are a few
lakh people who wanted him or her there. I won’t give ‘policy’ solutions either
– make power plants, improve the roads, open up the economy. It isn’t the lack
of such ideas that is stalling progress. No, blocking progress is part of the
unique psyche of Indians. There are three traits of our psyche, in particular,
that are not good for us and our country. Each comes from three distinct sources
– our school, our environment and our home.

The first trait is servility. At school, our education system hammers out our
individual voices and kills our natural creativity, turning us into servile,
coursematerial slaves. Indian kids are not encouraged to raise their voices in
class, particularly when they disagree with the teacher. And of course, no
subject teaches us imagination, creativity or innovation. Course materials are
designed for no-debate kind of teaching. For example, we ask: how many states
are there in India? 28. Correct. Next question –how is a country divided into
states? What criteria should be used? Since these are never discussed, children
never develop their own viewpoint or the faculty to think.

The second trait is our numbness to injustice. It comes from our environment.
We see corruption from our childhood. Almost all of us have been asked to lie
about our age to the train TC, claiming to be less than 5 years old to get a
free ride. It creates a value system in the child’s brain that ‘anything goes’,
so long as you can get away with it. A bit of lying here, a bit of cheating
there is seen as acceptable. Hence, we all grow up slightly numb to corruption.
Not even one high profile person in India is behind bars for corruption right
now. This could be because, to a certain extent, we don’t really care.

The third trait is divisiveness. This often comes from our home, particularly
our family and relatives, where we learn about the differences amongst people.
Our religion, culture and language are revered and celebrated in our families.
Other people are different – and often implied to be not as good as us. We’ve
all known an aunt or uncle who, though is a good person, holds rigid bias
against Muslims, Dalits or people from different communities. Even today, most
of India votes on one criterion – caste. Dalits vote for Dalits, Thakurs for
Thakurs and Yadavs for Yadavs. In such a scenario, why would a politician do any
real work? When we choose a mobile network, do we check if Airtel and Vodafone
belong to a particular caste? No, we simply choose the provider based on the
best value or service. Then, why do we vote for somebody simply because he has
the same caste as ours?

We need mass self-psychotherapy for the three traits listed above. When we
talk of change, you and i alone can’t replace a politician, or order a road to
be built. However, we can change one thing – our mindset. And collectively, this
alone has the power to make the biggest difference. We have to unlearn whatever
is holding us back, and definitely break the cycle so we don’t pass on these
traits to the next generation. Our children should think creatively, have
opinions and speak up in class. They should learn what is wrong is wrong – no
matter how big or small. And they shouldn’t hate other people on the basis of
their background. Let us also resolve to start working on our own minds, right
now. A change in mindset changes the way people vote, which in turn changes

And change does happen. In the 80s, we had movies like “Gunda” and “Khoon Pi
Jaaonga”. Today, our movies have better content. They have changed. How? It is
because our expectations from films have changed. Hence, the filmmakers had to

If we resolve today that we will vote on the basis of performance alone, we
will encourage the voices against injustice and we will place an honest but less
wealthy person on a higher pedestal than a corrupt but rich person. By doing so,
we would contribute to India’s progress. If everyone who read this newspaper did
this, it would be enough to change voting patterns in the next election. And
then, maybe, we will start moving towards a better India. Are you on board?