Monday, October 4, 2010

Living the American Dream in India...

I think I am beginning to get a glimmer of understanding into the secret for contentment in India vs the US. India has much to offer the person who plays by the rules whereas the US has a lot to offer the rebel rather than the conformist...OK this is some pretty strong stereotyping, however, consider this;
In India, if you belong to the very poor or the very rich classes, you can get away with a lot, either because you are poor and you have to do what it takes to survive or you are wealthy so you have a right to behave the way you want to and use your money to smoothen the consequences, not so different from the rest of the world!
If you belong to the great Indian middle class, your duty is to get a degree, a job, a spouse, a car, two kids and a maid and spend the rest of your life saving your money for your children and your retirement and raising your kids without breaking the mold. Majority of the people who follow this formula appear genuinely happy and why not? Society beams its approval and makes subtle allowances and adjustments to enable the family to continue this lifestyle without becoming dysfunctional. People talk about rising divorce rates in India but it is still relatively minuscule compared to the US and the biggest issue seems to be that the woman has moved on while the man continues to struggle in the caves...don't expect me to sympathize with that!!
In the US, playing by the rules appears golden but for the most part seems to end in two or three mortgages, a spouse without the "sparks" or "chemistry", unhappy kids, stagnant career because you are too busy running the circus to focus on yourself (this happens in a land that worships individuality...go figure!) obesity, divorce, stress and burn out, drug or alcohol addiction, as how else would you cope with steadily increasing disillusionment?

How is it different when a person refuses to play by the rules?

In India, all hell breaks lose...everyone from your nearest and dearest to the stranger in the streets who strikes up a conversation with you is worried about the "lack of progress" in your life. Any attempts to explain why you have deviated from the norm simply results in a lot of arguments, counter arguments and snide much so that you feel like catching the next bus from here to nowhere! The really bothersome thing about this is the way it can drag you down and prevent you from accomplishing your goals, thus inevitably provoking "I told you so" comments. Whew!
In the US, as long as you are "doing something" with your life, nobody cares if you are playing by the rules or not. For the most part, people are too busy running their own show to have much energy left over for yours! In such a sanguine atmosphere, you can focus on you and accomplish your dreams without going through the enervating process of justifying them every step along the way and collapsing in a heap before you are halfway there!

Although the American Dream is a much maligned concept, it still attempts to pervade the country in its simple essence, To quote James T Adams from "Epic of America",
"The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class"

It is just too bad that the American Dream is a travesty of its true meaning today and has generally come to signify expensive and exhausting house keeping within the borders of the white picket fence!It is even worse that there is no such thing as the Great Indian Dream! However, what really takes the cake is trying to live the American Dream (in its true sense) in India!

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