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Saturday, March 16, 2002

A friend of mine was telling me that my column is always about what is wrong in the country or in Hyderabad – maybe giving impression to readers that I think there is nothing good in our society. It’s precisely because I see so many good things in our society that I think that we are not a doomed country and our problems are not intractable. Far from being a prophet of gloom and doom I am an optimist to the core and a very cheerful one at that. My anger is only at the gap between what is and what could easily be, and at the gulf between the promise and performance.

Having said that, let us now recount all the wonderful things in our society or city. Unlike the western countries our country is not a pressure cooker. The daily planner does not control our life. We can do to-day’s work to-morrow or day after or whenever or never. If my secretary does not feel like working she can always hospitalize or kill her grandmother!  Jokes aside, there are really many wonderful things we can cherish.

We all have families and relatives who are pillars of support in times of need. We are not cold and impersonal in our relations. We are not plagued by emotional insecurities. We are not a lonely society. Very few in India would be going from work to an empty home. Children are not left to themselves or babysitters after school.

We are surrounded by many people who are simple, warm, caring and affectionate. Anybody coming from the west is taken in by this warmth and affection and hospitality. Because people are not rushing from one thing to another, they always have time for others. What is the point in rushing anyway?

Most people are contented with what they have, and make the most of it. And we see all around us cheerful and happy faces, where we least expect them in the midst of all the squalour and poverty. People who earn less than a dollar a day actually laugh about things!

For a society with such inequities and injustice there is remarkable peace and quiet, and very little anger and violence. Our women and children are not afraid to walk the streets alone. There is no real fear of mugging and molestation.

And most of all, the elderly in India are not petrified of old age. They are sure of their family’s love and acceptance. Grand parents, children, and grand children live under one roof fusing into a seamless web of a civilization. And when the end comes, we can be reasonable sure of breathing the last in the lap of our loved ones.

These are great things in any culture in any age. Hyderabad with its composite culture and languid style represents some of our most cherished legacies. There is much that requires to be changed. But there is also a great deal to rejoice and be grateful for. We need to preserve the best and reject the bad.