Today I read an article in the International Herald Tribune(there’s an entire world beyond the TOI- and there’s no Saifeena in it) about the Indian conept of ‘jugaad- how jugaad has led to a value system of practicality over idealism.
I have a cousin from Delhi(unsurprisingly) whose claim to fame is the ability do anything for anyone from anywhere. Literally. You tell him that you have to go from west Delhi to New Delhi station in 20 minutes and he will get you there.Somehow. (that he will proclaim he can get you there in 10 minutes is another story). You tell him you want to get your daughter into that impossible IB school-done! You want a new mobile for Rs50-done! You want to get your son out of police custody for rash driving-done! His job profile remains vague, it steers between contractor to interior decorator to architect but he gets by and how. His last ‘project’ was for a cabinet minister and after that his daughter got into the most sought after IB school in town. Somehow.
If there was a recognised professional jugaadu, he would have been it.
We have envied people such as him. ‘Jugaad’ has become a source of national pride repackaged and sold as ‘frugal innovation’ and touted as the way for the world to go in times of recession. Indeed I have myself felt a sense of superiority over angrez who dont seem to question rules or wheedle their way through. Day after day, I find that I am the only one questioning check-in queues, traffic rules and documentation requirements. My constant refrain is , ‘but cant we do it this way?’ much to the pained amusement of our colleagues/ friends.
But the article forced me to think. At its most basic level ‘jugaad’ is about putting yourself first., getting your way through anyhow, legally or illegally, maybe at the cost of others. Indeed one of the symbols of jugaad is Dhirubhai Ambani who oiled the palms of anyone as long as he made profits. The petrol pump worker turned mammoth industrialist is a hero, no doubt but yes, his ways propogate corruption and make a mockery of our value system.
The individual has dominated the collective and distorted into collective chaos. In the name of a few innovative entreprenurs there are millions who cut across lanes to reach the airport to the or bend rules for to get licenses. From police to politicians to the media, everything is infested. With no one but the individual to decide what is right and wrong, India is really truly the only democracy. A free country
Free markets did not survive without controls- how long will a country without regulation last?
Having said that I wish I was in India right now. I would have done some hardcore jugaad and got my new home ready in a week!
PS: Did you know that ‘jugaad’ is actually the name given to a locally-made motor vehicles that are used mostly in small villages as a means of low cost transportation in rural India. Originated in Punjab.