There’s a lot that India can and should learn. For example, our terrible lack of civic sense. We think that public spaces are enormous garbage bins, spittoons or even toilets. People are treated no better than these public spaces. We have no qualms about stepping on other people’s toes in order to move ahead in our life.
The most terrible vice is what I call the Indian missionary zeal. That is our typical instinct for poking our nose into other people’s affairs and then giving them unwanted and unwarranted counsels. Like the missionary who is consumed by the divine zeal to save souls, we go around seeking what’s to be corrected in the other person’s behaviour.
I too possessed this obnoxious zeal for some time in my life. But I was fortunate enough to have too many people around me who possessed it a million times more than I did. So they kept a tab on me with a religious zeal that would have put the real missionaries to shame. And there were the real missionaries too who did pretty much harm. When religious missionaries and lay missionaries join hands together, you are doomed for sure. Those were my days in Shillong. I ran away from the missionaries of all sorts and landed in the populous wilderness of Delhi.
One of the biggest advantages in a city like Delhi is that its very size and crowd provide you with an anonymity that small towns can never afford. However, you can never escape from the great Indian missionary zeal even in Delhi. Somebody or the other will anoint themselves in your workplace or your mohalla as your redeemer. There’s no escape from this great zeal in the collective Indian soul to redeem others.
Some of these redeemers appoint themselves as the ‘moral police’ or ‘religious zealots’ or ‘gau rakshaks’ or whatever and do immense damage to the social fabric of the nation. Though I was quite lucky to have escaped the attention of such moral and religious redeemers, I have had an unduly large share of private missionaries who did much harm to me over the years.
In one of her novels, Ayn Rand says that ‘Hands Up’ was the savage way of gaining victory. ‘Hands off’ is the civilised way. I wish the great Indian missionaries learnt that and left people alone.