On being unconventional.

I have never met an unconventional Indian. By unconventionality, I don’t mean reckless; I am not talking about a person who does not take decisions by his mind but by his heart. What I mean is that Indians generally are really reluctant when it comes to thinking out of the box. Let me share with you two anecdotes before getting into the issue.

I was returning from a trip to Jaisalmer a day after New Year ’11. We (which included my parents and my little sister) were in a taxi which was taking us to Jodhpur and the road was passing through the desert. That was when I saw an auto rickshaw (a usual one, like the ones you see on the roads in Delhi except that it was painted white) which had three foreigners inside. One of them was driving and the other two were in the back- their luggage was tied on the top of the auto. The sight aroused some curiosity in me and I enquired my taxi driver. He told me that these fellows (like a few others) had hired the auto in Jaisalmer and were driving it all the way to Kanyakumari (a quick search on Google maps puts the distance between the two endpoints to about 2700kms)! I was amazed.

There is another story which had some impact on me when I heard it way back in college. Ishant was back from his trip to Australia and he told me about two teenagers he met there who were doing some small-time job to save enough money to rent an open jeep and travel along the entire west coast of Australia!

I was surprised on both the occasions. I can never imagine folks in India doing such things in their lives. If I talk about the first story, the biggest challenge in front of youngsters here is how to find time for making such a journey. Each one of them has many responsibilities in life- the biggest of these is of course doing his job. It is unthinkable to take a month-long break from office just to travel across India, let alone convince your parents why you are not insane and how doing this is important to you or find another crazy fellow who can accompany you on this trip!

Talk about the two teenagers in the second story. Indian students (in schools or colleges) never do a part-time job unless they are very weak financially (even in these circumstances, most of the students go for student loans which they repay after finishing their studies). The only job any of them is likely to take up is an internship for two or six months and that too, mainly because this experience can be put in their C.V. when they start hunting for jobs. Now try to imagine an Indian college guy who takes a three or six month break from college, does some low-paying job just to save enough that he can rent a motorcycle to travel across India: you know what I am talking about.

My point is why are people so reluctant to be a little non-traditional in their approach to things, to break a few rules or to be a little ‘crazy’ in their head?! One can think of many reasons behind our by-the-book approach to things. The ones I have cited above are just the ones I could infer from the two anecdotes I have shared.

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