Learnings from South Africa

As I leave this country, I was thinking what can I have as a parting blog post ?! And finally, I decided, it would only be fitting that I could list what India could learn from a country like South Africa. And actually – there is lots !!

Some people may read this and go – “Sala ‘foreign-return’… Shana banana ke koshish kar raha hai” – but nonetheless I would take the effort as I feel it would be worthwhile for an “open-minded” Indian to read this.

Ok … Let me list things as it comes to my head.
  • Dignity of Labour – I have seen many instances where I have found that people have immense dignity for labour.
    • I have seen restaurants where the owner’s son was waiting tables – can’t imagine that happening in India.
    • I have seen people in senior positions in office environment talk to workers at lower level or housekeeping etc with such respect – Can’t imagine senior officers in talk to anyone but their subordinates (anyone else is practically too low to even look at, leave alone talking to them)
  • Respect for Individuals – At work environment, people are treated with lot of respect. Never have I seen loose talk or disrespect. People are never forced to do an overtime. If required, it is requested and the leaders lead from the front and are present when you are in on a weekend or are working overtime. Also people work normal hours here – I mean normal – Start at 8 finish by 4 … at max it can stretch to 5 … That’s it. It would probably never happen even in dreams in India.
  • Civic Sense – This is something that Indian have to learn from South Africa. I am not saying that situation here is like Singapore – but its definitely much-much better than India. Streets and public places are so neat. I feel that one of the main reasons for that is the absence of Gutka in South Africa (I feel that it should be banned in India). Apart from that also there are many garbage bins in public places and people really “use” them. They hold on to the waste and walk up to the bin before disposing it off. People use designated smoking areas and smoke and drink responsibly without inconvenience to general public. How I wish I could see India like that !!
  • Wonderful Traffic Sense – Anyone who has seen India and South Africa would say this. It goes without saying that people here are organized and follow traffic rules. But what is amazing is that people have this automatic way to organize themselves even in a traffic jam situation or a deadlock situation. In a four road crossing where the traffic signal is not functioning also people would take turns (one from each road) to resolve the problem. All this without the intervention of a traffic cop. Even when traffic in one direction of a road is in a jam and the other side of the road is even empty – no one dares to even cross the divider line to hijack the opposite lane. This is traffic sense – and this is patience … I mean .. wow … This can never even happen in a dream in India. Can it ?
  • Wonderful Road Planning – This is something that is present in all big nations of the world. I am yet to see anything even close to this in any part of India. There are some main roads (freeways) that cut across city north to south and east to west. Similarly, there are ring roads that circle the city’s perimeter (Please click on teh hyperlink to see what I mean). These are really wonderful high speed roads with typically 4-6 lanes for each side of the traffic. You will not have any traffic signals on any of these roads. You only have entry and exit points to these roads that happen at interchanges (this is something people don’t even understand in India) - where traffic crosses over main roads using multi lanes multi level roads without any traffic stoppages at traffic signals. The speeds limits on these roads are typically 120kmph so that ensures fast transport from one end of the city to the other. Because of this system people here coolly travel 50-60 kms to work and back home. Just waiting for such a thing to happen in India.
  • Less Corruption: I am not saying that there is no corruption in South Africa. But I feel that its much less … when compared to India, people at the grass root level are more ethical and honest here. I have never paid a traffic cop money – even when I was at fault (now imagine that India). I was not able to make fake parking bills because the parking attendant told me it was “wrong” and he wouldn’t do it even when I tried to “bribe” him (shame on me to try that !!). I have dealt with government offices and got work done without bribe. Now I don’t know .. There would be corruption at the higher levels but at the lower levels people are generally honest and maintain their integrity.
  • Happiness Quotient - This is last but not the least – I have seen that people (rich or poor – high or low – young or old) are generally much-much more happy than any average Indian. The well-to-do people work hard and when their normal working hours end they pursue other interests – cycling, biking, boating, gambling .. or anything. This happens regardless of age or physical condition. I have seen really-really old people taking the pains to come to the casino to play and enjoy themselves (In India, I have never seen people of that age even come out of their houses, leave alone have interests – the older folk there have sort of given up on life itself). Even the poorer people that I see on the roads - I find them dancing and singing and enjoying themselves. I don’t know them personally but I get a feeling that they may have problems too but they seem to be happy when they can and enjoy life when they can.
I am not saying South Africa is the best and has no problems. There are problems in this country too - but what I am pointing out here is some really good and basic things that are “right” in this country. If India can take up even a few of the above, it would go a long way in making India a better country.

1 comment:

Poornima Srinath said...

Really touching post Hari.I feel the patience level is different for people living in these two continents. I have felt these ppl never show cross faces. Disappointments are also taken with a light sense of humour. But I wonder how ppl with so much good qualities can't tolerate/ live with single partner?...As you say a coin has 2 sides. Well compiled! Kudos