Infosys Emeritus Chairman, NR Narayana Murthy addressed the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy this week (Sep 2012). His main topic was what can we as Indian society and people learn from western society. Like all positive learnings, these should be taken in the most positive spirit. Listed here are summarised key take-aways. Hope useful…
1. Our wonderfully caring attitude towards our families is not reflected in our attitude towards Community Behaviour. We are apathetic to the common good of the society, manifesting itself in rampant :
a. littering of streets, parks, railway stations, airports
b. corruption – micro, mega, transactional, monumental
c. breaking of contractual obligations (enforceability of legal rights and contracts is the most important factor in the enhancement of credibility of our people and nation).
In the West – the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand – individuals understand that they have to be responsible towards their community. The primary difference between the West and us is that, there, people have a much better societal orientation. They care more for the society than we do.
2. Our intellectual arrogance has also not helped our society. I have travelled extensively, and in my experience, have not come across another society where people are as contemptuous of better societies as we are, with as little progress as we have achieved. No other society gloats so much about the past as we do, with as little current accomplishment. If we have to progress, we have to change this attitude, listen to people who have performed better than us, learn from them and perform better than them.
3. Another interesting attribute, which we Indians can learn from the West, is their accountability. Irrespective of your position, in the West, you are held accountable for what you do. However, in India, the more ‘important’ you are, the less answerable you are. For instance, a senior politician once declared that he ‘forgot’ to file his tax returns for 10 consecutive years.
4. Dignity of labour is an integral part of the Western value system. In the West, each person is proud about his or her labour that raises honest sweat. On the other hand, in India, we tend to overlook the significance of those who are not in professional jobs. We have a mind-set that reveres only supposedly intellectual work.
5. Further, we are the most ‘thin-skinned’ society in the world – we see insults where none is meant. This may be because we were not free for most of the last thousand years.
6. Finally, we seem to extend this lack of professionalism to our lack of sense of punctuality. We do not seem to respect the other person’s time.