My personal experience is that if you are prepared to open yourself up, India can teach you a lot. Again, this trip has reinforced that Europe and the west (as a culture) is in considerable danger. Primarily the danger of laziness, but also the danger of self righteousness and the danger of self absorbing ego where life is often defined (and measured) by the insignia on your clothes and your iPad 2.
Kolkata has a population that exceeds 20 million. More than 5 million people come in and out of the city each day to work. Walking around you can both see and sense the driving imperative to work hard and to learn. I am always amazed by how clean (in a relative sense) this city is. Everywhere there are people sweeping up the rubbish, the mess, the shit, forming piles. Those piles are then collected by another group to be taken to another larger collection point where others go through all of that and extract anything at all that can be used again and sold. I stood on Howrah Bridge yesterday looking down at the area of the flower market watching a lot of this happen and wondered what would happen if you put 25 million English into one city and came back 2 weeks later. You wouldn’t be able to move, quite literally, because of the accumulated rubbish. There is more rubbish on an English high street at the end of a Saturday shopping than I have seen anywhere in Kolkata.
I then travelled up to College Street which is an area for second hand books. Its is not a single street but a whole area with millions of books. As I wandered around looking at the stalls I realized that I didn’t see any popular novels (I concede that there may be an area for these), but the overwhelming percentage of books were to do with education, sciences, IT, programming, medical, accountancy, engineering etc and again I didn’t see one copy of “Idiots guide to xxx”. The drive and desire to educate, to learn and to work is everywhere and it gives this country a momentum that will eclipse the west much sooner than we realize. I think about living in Holland where overwhelmingly a significant number of people consider it their birthright and therefore entitlement to work 3 or 4 days a week and to be able to have 2 holidays a year, a 50” flat screen TV and the ability to have a least 6 months off (with pay), to have a “nervous breakdown” from the stress of simply existing. Unrealistic expectations, laziness and materialism is rampant in much of Europe, the UK, the US, Australia and NZ.
I am going to make a prediction. Within 150 years, the west will provide the majority of the sweatshop labour for both China and India. The path is largely set. The western nation states are becoming so indebted that both these economic powerhouses will “own” and define the future of the west.