Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Happens or Sh*t Happens?

In Hindi, there's a famous, and just as infamous, phrase that really captures the default attitude of Indians: Chalta Hai , roughly translated to " it's alright" or "it happens". This phrase is uttered a million times a day around me, usually when the quality of some aspect of life is in question or more so when something of importance is under-delivered or under-performed. It is used to describe and mitigate all the myriad problems of India such as, but not limited to, lengthy electricity blackouts, shortage of water, poor roads, horrible infrastructure, the inequality, the destitute poor etc. Its a perfect euphemism which can come handy when you cannot perform or deliver a made promise. Its a bit different from the American phrase "Sh*t Happens", as that is more apt for a situation that went awfully wrong, and that something negative to your interest occurred. But "Chalta Hai" declares that pretty much anything in life goes, even the most basic human rights such as equality or sanitation or pursuit of happiness etc. It has a very apathetic and passive connotation; not that sh*t happens in life and you have to deal with it sometimes, but that substandard way of living is just fine, and it is accepted as the norm. It is unfortunately the mainstream attitude of Indians because they have been subjected to these problems for decades ever since Independence in 1947; People use it as a self pacifying mantra. instead of questioning why the things are run the way they are; they accept it, even with a smile! Nothing surprises people in India anymore when a political scandal or ridiculous corruption is exposed, as it is almost expected. This is the reason that despite the recent unprecedented economic growth, India still fairs worse than most sub-sahara African nations. It still has about 300 million living (and breeding happily) on $2 a day, its one of the 4 countries out of 187 with polio, it has the highest number of maternal and infant deaths, highest in child malnutrition etc. etc. etc. We have to switch from this Chalta Hai attitude to a rather Nahin Chal Sakta or " This cannot happen", or else it will keep on happening...

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