When the entire world was cursing and cussing at India for the record level of unpreparedness and rampant corruption and siphoning of CWG money, I had this audacious smile on my face.
For I knew, India, much like it is for anything else, will rise up the occasion. And no, I am not taking opportunistic pride in how the media now says the event turned out to be.
India is many things for many people — there are the believers, there are the kafirs, there are the cynics, there are the naives, there are the intellects, and there are the intellectually challenged. There is India the myth, there is India the reality and there is India the dream.
Reading a book on Indian history that covered the past 60–80 years has permanently changed my perspective of the fabric called India. The name called “India”, it now seems to me, is an artificial blanket put over what was never meant to be one country. We have too many differences, too many (different) motivations, too many ideologies and too many dimensions that are adding to the friction (population, languages etc…)
But whatever the differences are, our leaders have delivered excellent results — considering we were nowhere in limelight and are now being talked about as the 3rd largest economy and a future superpower.
But an event like CWG highlights many things that are so typically Indian. For example,
- Corruption — No further explanation required
- Indians are generally love-hate people: Few days ago, the people (media for sure) were fuming against the government and the organizers, putting every aspect of the event under a magnifying lens, attributing their performance as shameful. With a largely successful opening ceremony, those very people are now screaming “India has arrived” (another variant of India Shining) and singing national anthems. It appears that if they feel any more proud, they will have a heart-attack.
- Few people want the truth: An extraordinary amount of workforce and money was spent in the last few days to get everything up and running, so what is the true cost of the event? Including the looted money, overage money and wasted money, how much taxpayer money has been spent on this event? Well, I guess people are too busy to even ask.
- There is also an impasse discussion about whether India really needs an extravagance like this. Some others think we may never bubble up, if we wait for our last man to liberate from poverty. Both are valid points and you may belong to one of these. Don’t bother articulating, because as I said, it is an impasse. A stalemate.
- Jugaad attitude — Amidst the initial mess, I heard some official saying, as late as 2 days before the grand opening, when we obviously were unprepared, “48 hours is a long time…we will make it happen”. While it sounded ridiculous to me (it still does), the opening ceremony did turn out to be, generally speaking, appealing. This to me is the single most amazing aspect about India.
Whether it is India the country, or the businesses in it, or the people in it — if there is a single widespread attitude in the minds of people, it is that everything will somehow work out well in the end. It is not just an empty hope, it actually works. I have had incidents in my life as well as witnessed others’, where the level of preparedness would nowhere be close to the expectation of the big day / big moment, but somehow confident that things “will happen”. And most of the times, they do.
Western cultures tend to want to see “continuous progress” or “progress against plan”, whereas Indians wait until the penultimate moments to make miracles happen. An average western stakeholder (of a project) would like to get ongoing status of progress to sleep well at night. An average Indian stakeholder would not even be in the scene (or the know) of the progress made. He, like Manmohan Singh did with CWG, would step in at the last minute, announce an emergency, bring in the muscle power to make the last hour the most productive hour of the entire project.
This may look too chaotic from if you look through the westerner’s glasses, but this is likely how most projects are executed, most successful ones were executed. This miracle is what keeps India moving forward.