Marion Schneider

India

February, 2009

It was my first time in India, and I stayed only in one particular state: Goa. So what I will write is limited. Moreover, Goa is not a typical Indian state (which one is, anyway?), as several Indians and non-Indians informed me. Goa has a Portuguese colonial history, so today a remarkable percentage of catholics live in Goa.

I came from Pakistan. Several days there had accustomed me to the Pakistani life-style which expresses itself in the traditional Pakistani outfits of men and women, in strong family bonds, and comparatively little experience with foreigners. So when I entered the Indian airplane, I felt as though I were in a completely different world. To be honest, the plane was a bit shabby, but the stewardesses radiated such a free spirit, were so spontaneous, natural, and open that I knew: I am out of Pakistan. And this first experience accompanied me throughout my sojourn in Goa: the people there are free, daring to say and express what they think and feel.

Many people work a very hard, being in service 24 hours a day. This attitude towords income and serving others is significant: I am always there for you, and I want to earn money, whenever possible. Employers make sure that their staff has this attitude for a low income.

It works because work is seen as useful and enjoyable, as necessary and achievable. Everybody seems to look for work, and seems to find something. In Goa, they often stay in their shops for long hours, selling similar products day by day and side by side, hoping for a good mood on the part of of some tourists. This is what I experienced with the inhabitants of Goa. They are very helpful to and well connected with each another so that they always find the best solution for their clients.

India urgently needs politicians willing and able to take care of the garbage. Garbage lies around everywhere. It is left up to every household to dispose of for its increasing waste – and for the most part, it is privately burned – but what a challenge for businesses in the hospitality industry! I saw one town which was different. There, the town administration had obviously given special attention to this issue, as you also can see signs asking to maintain cleanliness. This town is only a few kilometres away from the main airport and is a nice place to stay because of its pretty houses and historic places bearing witness to its Portuguese past.

I talked to the Indian people I met about Pakistan, and they felt that it was like a divorce: they left us, ok, we didn’t want it, but now, we can’t do anything about it. There was interest in Pakistan as well as eagerness to visit their neighbours and have a good relationship, but no interest – under the given circumstances – in actively promoting the relationship. Their interest and openness is rather directed towards western life-style, also due to the deep longing for freedom and self-expression which I found in the Indian people. I am very impressed by the outspokenly liberal attitude and great tolerance I encountered and by the Indian people’s wish to nurture and develop this. I am also impressed by their self-confidence, by their eagerness for communication, and their interest in other cultures and lives – and by the Indian people’s certainty that their lives will get steadily improve – and by their pride in their achievements and their country, including themselves as individuals. This is a good foundation for a prosperous future.

One very important thing makes India the current and future booming service market for the developed countries: the mother language of all Indians is ENGLISH! It is a very particular kind of English, but it is a vital source of income and of global connections.

What I always heard was that the politicians are very corrupt and take whatever they can get for themselves. One taxi driver explained to me that only 40 % of the sums designated for constructing roads or public buildings end as income for the companies who build them: 60 % is kept by the politicians. Therefore, he said, the quality of the outcome is so bad that it has to be renewed very soon – under the same difficult circumstances. Everyone who talked about this problem saw no way out of it, but rather viewed it as a given fate, about which they did not complain, but merely reported.

Life in India is not very political. You can see this in the pages of the newspapers which write about film stars and regional issues, but very little about politics. So, I cannot see from where the necessary political change for more management, better quality of service, and the abolishment of bribery and corruption could come at this time. Something new has to come about, or be created.