India: A native of the country responds

December 12, 2013
Tuk-tuk in Jaipur, my favorite of the cities we visited.

Tuk-tuk in Jaipur, my favorite of the cities we visited.

I was delighted to hear that my nephew and some of his fellow grad students in Syracuse were following my blog posts while I was in India and those posts that followed upon my return. It was especially great to hear since several of his colleagues are from India.  Last week, I had a brief phone conversation with one of them and today, he’s agreed to answer some of my questions.  His responses provide some interesting insights into the country and some of its challenges.

Let me introduce you to Dakshesh Patel. He’s graciously agreed to answer any questions YOU might have, too. Just ask them in the Comments section and he’ll respond. Many of you have commented or emailed about my trip to India and this is a great opportunity to hear from someone from the country. I hope you’ll ask away.

Q. Where are you from? How long have you been here and why did you come to the US?

 I am from big city, Ahmedabad, a population of approximately 5.8 million and largest city in the state of Gujarat. The city is located on the banks of river Sabarmati where Mahatma Gandhi used to live in his ashram. I came to Syracuse three and half years ago to pursue my Doctorate in Pharmacology at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Q.  What was your first reaction to the difference between the US and India when you got here?  My first reaction when I landed in Syracuse was its cleanliness and organization. There are several stark differences between both the countries but would like to enumerate a few: Language and Law Enforcement. In States, every individual from janitors to CEOs speak English. It is the common and the official language for any sort of communication. Unlike India, which constitute of 22 languages and hundreds of dialects with active speakers across the nation. This creates a huge hassle for enforcing policies or laws to create any order in the nation. A common joke that is amusing said about India is, “India functions by the grace of Rama (God)” which is practically true.

Q. How do you view living conditions in your country and your country overall?

 Undoubtedly, living conditions in States is better than India. However, in India living conditions, upbringing, education and standard of living markedly depends on the income of the individual family.

Q. What stands in the way of India’s progress? What needs to happen?

India is the second largest populated country in the world after China and will surpass China in a few years. Bigger population trails to a vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty, policy making and   anarchy. US have been independent for 237 years and India has spent only 66 years of independence from the entanglements of Britain. It will take a few generations for India to rise to the ranks of US because new generation is more aware, educated and responsible. The gap between standards of living between India and US has been shrinking and significant numbers of people are going back to India after pursuing their higher education abroad. This was not the case few years back.

Q. What’s the best thing about India?

Cogitating for the best thing of India is like looking at two sides of the same coin. On the flip side the diversity in religion, food, languages, Gods will make you adore this country but on the flop side this creates immense pressure for the policy makers to accommodate everyone with diverse backgrounds. Out of all, the most prominent quality that stands out about India is “Family Ties and values”.   

Q. What else you want to say?

In Sanskrit, a common Hindu saying is, “Atithi Devo Bhava” which literary translates to “Guests are equal to God”. We embrace every guest as God and that’s why Britain ruled India, cause, we welcomed them with our open arms.  (Note from Carol:  This is absolutely true–we felt welcomed by every single Indian we encountered. Namaste is more than a greeting in India.)

Now, dear readers, it’s your turn. What would you like to ask Dakshesh?


7 comments on “India: A native of the country responds
  1. Corinne Rodrigues says:

    Living in India as I do, I agree with everything that Dakshesh says. I’ve never visited the US, but having traveled to the UK, I do appreciate the order compared to our wonderful chaos! 🙂
    And the family ties are wonderful, but sometimes bind too much. I think the best think about us, is our ability to be accepting of everything, but sometimes our acceptance borders on complacency and indifference.
    I’m so glad you felt welcomed here, Carol. 🙂

    • admin says:

      Corinne, as I told you today–we were certain we’d never return–it was a challenging trip — and yet, here we are, talking about going back.

  2. Laura Hall says:

    I appreciate your comments, Dakshesh (and your questions, Carol). My question for Dakshesh is, how do you think India might have developed if it hadn’t been colonized by Britain? I realize there’s no way to know, but still I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Thank you.

    • Corinne Rodrigues says:

      Laura – I’m taking the liberty of responding to your question. I guess it all depends on what ‘developed’ really means. India had a science, Math, religion etc way before many nations that we now call developed. I would point you in the direction of a great series called ‘The Story of India’. It’s very enlightening, indeed.

      PS: Carol – please feel free to delete this link – if you don’t allow links in your comments:

      • Laura Hall says:

        Corinne–Thank you for your reply and for the reference and link to The Story of India series. Oh, I used the word “developed” in the general sense, not in the United Nations’ sense. 🙂 I could have used “evolved” or “changed.” I’ve been interested in this discussion since meeting an Indian architecture/landscape architecture/planning student at UC Berkeley named Preeti Chopra. She is now at University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she teaches, researches and writes about the oft-unsung native contributions to the architecture and urban design of French Colonial Pondicherry and British Colonial Bombay as well as about today’s architecture in postcolonial Delhi. Here’s a link to her on the UW website – I recall wonderful conversations with her in graduate school about colonialism and Indian urbanism through her eyes, though I was unable to grasp all of the concepts.

  3. Frances D says:

    I have enjoyed visiting Indian homes here in the States where the “guest is God” policy is in full force. Nice to meet you Mr. Patel.

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