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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Red , Brown And White

Churchill once remarked when the British left India ,” Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low calibre & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues & silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power & India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water would be taxed in India."

If this statement was made on they day of independence we would have take offence. But viewed in today’s context this seems to have a certain degree of credibility in it.

Lets see,
  1. Is power in the hand of rascals, rogues and freebooters; Mayawati, and Reddy brothers.
  2. Indian leaders – Manmohan Singh , sweet tongue, silly heart and a man of straw, Indeed
  3. Taxing of air and water; well thankfully not yet.
Let’s face it, we Indians cannot take care of ourselves. We are destined to be laborers, the ruled instead of the rulers. We cannot govern, lead or do whatever the white people do. While in the cultural perspective this is an advantage (father and mothers are remembered around the year than just with one bouquet a day in a year!), in the political and social perspective it is definitely a handicap.

Why is this so?

Let’s seek some light.

Capabilities differ across individuals, no doubt about it. Also, a sense of herd mentality exists, at the primeval level; we flock to the place/people that evoke a sense of familiarity somewhere from our formative years of childhood or with people who we can identify some commonalities. By this logic, if there are no external unbalanced forces at play you can see regional concentration of capabilities of a particular kind. And it is true as well, Gujratis are good business men, south Indians intellectually inclined, Haryanavi’s men externally virile, Punjabi women genetically well proportioned and so on and so forth.

Hence from an individual to a region, from a region to a nation there exist some generalities. I do not derive a vicarious pleasure in discussing a nation, and a race’s shortcomings. But yes, if you do generalize race, nation, blood or lineage they offer some surprisingly casual predictions.

Leadership, innovation and clearing a path where there is none does not seem to be our nation’s capability.

Our current processes, rules of governing and our public bodies at the national & administrative level are all British’s gift to us. The fact that we are up and running is to a certain extent the soundness of the rock solid institutional procedures we have. Our lives are comfortable not because of our ruling government it is the institutional resilience of administrative procedures. The Indian contribution to administration as us instantly recall is the Constitution. I am not an expert on the constitution or its contents but again the instant recall of its only claim to fame seems to be its size!

And of course on the flip side we have used these procedures to find and exploit loopholes. (That again indicates that once a path has been established we can optimize it, for personal or for professional gain!!)

We are good at following rules set by someone apart from us. We have scant regard for our own capabilities our own judgment of right or wrong but we happily lap on to it if it comes from a different place/person than ours. How else do you explain an Indian waiting patiently at a deserted traffic light in the states but merrily dashing through one here?

Our current growth at an economic level is because of services/processes. Somebody makes a car in Germany we code the processes required to support it. Someone opens a bank in UK, we structure their banking model to help them do their work. And at a personal level, someone makes a warship I make them wires to power it!! But ask us to make a technically advanced car, or a state of the art warship, or when and where to open a new bank; we begin to fumble.

But hey, Sabeer Bhatia gave the world Hotmail, Dhirubhai the mammoth Reliance, the Tata’s the Nano car. So how is it that we are not good at innovation, not clearing a path where none exists?

Well I do not have an answer for that. There are some outliers in any race, and the above seem to be an example of that. But again when I look at the above, I do not really see a Nano coming to the level of an Apple Ipad, or Reliance generating the kind of brand equity that say Google has. Agreed the above comparisons are akin to an apple to a banana one, but they serve well to highlight the cultural disparity that exists.

Again look at the recent Anna Hazare phenomenon. When he was at fast , the nation rocked the government. All of us queued  to his stage because we could  sense a clarity of purpose, we could sense a leader somewhere in the making and Hazare personified the kind of domestic version of leaders we love; self denying, non indulgent and uncharismatic. It also helped that the ruling government looked contrastingly lost.

But Hazare was short lived. He quickly faded into the backdrop and allowed Kejriwal  and Bedi to take the process. He lacked the foresight, discipline iron clad rule of law which leaders posses.

And look what happened later, the educated second rung of leaders, the smart, intellectual kinds wrecked the foundation of trust due to infighting and “difference” of opinions. Whether the bill will pass or not, if it makes a difference or not, there is no denying the loss of momentum that was built in the Ramlila Maidan.

To summarize,the presence of leadership skills are hence a function of race, I would say they are weakly causal and the the cultural fit of Indians seems to be that of servitude

It is not a good or a bad thing to be from a place that scores low on the presence of leadership skills. If there are only leaders in the world then it can’t function. For the simple reason of who will they lead?