Friday, August 14, 2009

Selective Adaptations

Aping the West or rather the Americans, seems to be second nature for us. Be it language, food, fashion, or lifestyle—what is good for them, is good for us. But there is more to America worth embracing than jeans, burgers, and rap.

Topping the list is the glaring contrast between the efficient and orderly public transportation network in that country and the inefficient and reckless one in ours. For Mangaloreans, a typical trip by bus, in particular express service, is a gut-rattling experience which involves boarding and alighting the vehicle while in motion, rattling through every available pothole, and clinging on to the hand-rails for dear life.

And this is applicable without discrimination to young and old, the able and the physically-challenged. Add to this the inevitable scramble for seats, cramped space, and bodies slamming into you with every jerk of the vehicle, and it is not surprising that you are ecstatic when you alight at your destination.

Compare this with a bus journey in Milwaukee, an American city of similar standing as Mangalore. You notice the difference the moment the bus arrives at the stop and passengers start filing in in an orderly fashion. After paying their fares and collecting their tickets from the driver, the commuters leisurely make their way to vacant seats.
There are no conductors to yell out the stops and when you have to get off, you indicate it by pulling a cord that lights up a warning to the driver. Flexible ramps are provided to facilitate a wheelchair bound person to board the vehicle. What is more astounding is the fact that when such a passenger gets on or off, the driver himself gets up to secure the wheelchair to special clamps made for the purpose or to unfasten them, as the case may be—an occurrence inconceivable of in our country. Leave alone the driver, fellow passengers can be so inconsiderate as to occupy seats meant for the physically-challenged and even refuse to vacate them.

Blatantly, we blame the western culture for corrupting young and impressionable minds. But whose fault is it that we choose to adapt what is convenient to us and prefer to ignore the finer points of that society? This attitude is not confined to a single situation or one incident. It is a malaise which exists throughout our society.

If we are to become truly ‘developed’ and ‘broad-minded’, it is of utmost importance that we learn to admit and rectify our faults and appreciate the positive aspects of other cultures.

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