How to change "we-are-like-this-only" perceptions of India

Certain Indian scholars have pointed out that there are popular perceptions of India in the minds of those from abroad and even within our own country. We do have strong beliefs on what is right or wrong. The cumulative conditioning of millions of Indians gives rise to certain common patterns of our behavior. This article is an attempt at focussing on some levers of change in this direction.

It often turns out that years of conditioning teaches us certain things and these things never change. For example, the blind belief in fatalism in most parts of India. The tendency to cheat others. The tendency to think that any public property can be totally destroyed. The tendency to assume and openly talk about corruption as a global phenomenon. These, and a few thought processes and actions concerning these beliefs or values, gives rise to set behavioral patterns.

It does turn out that setting right these kinds of behavioral patterns and perceptions of "we-are-like-this-only" can become a reality through a) Getting back to celebrating Mahatma Gandhi and his core beliefs b) Preserving the secular fabric of India c) Fighting against corruption in all ways d) Having fine role models e) Imposing heavy fines on any public nuisance f) Communicating all good work done and f) Getting foreigners to appreciate good aspects of our culture.

Getting back to celebrating Mahatma Gandhi and his core beliefs

We have people in our country who do not even allow a decent burial for those who have died from COVID. We attack the health workers, doctors, and nurses who have been working tiringly to save our lives.

This is not all. We have murdered people of different faiths for some reason. We are not showing signs of increased tolerance towards others and their religious practices. We have a horrible record of domestic violence. Yet, we still have thousands who live simple lives. The same people do great service to humanity without any publicity. They are attracted to service, the Gandhian way. We need to have Gandhian thought taught as a subject throughout school and college studies. We need more communication with Mahatma Gandhi's principles of non-violence and trusteeship and such other teachings. We need to show to the entire world that we can change for the better.

Preserving the secular fabric of India

We have had people destroying mosques, temples, and churches. We have had selfish politicians who have managed to derive political capital through atrocious practices of playing with people's emotions and mobilizing public opinion about one particular religion being in danger.

The global press has been severely critical of some of our practices. We need no-nonsense leaders who can set right all the wrongs of selfish politicians. We need public figures who can boldly speak out against dangerous designs of communal elements, whoever they are. We need to be really appreciative of any leader, journalist or public personality and even any celebrity who voices their concern about certain unhealthy practices, based on objective evidence. That is if they are sincere in their attempts to do their bit to secure the secular fabric of this nation of 130 crore people, who belong to different faiths and the greatest variety of religious and spiritual practices.

Fighting against corruption in all ways

In the past four years, there have been concerted attempts to fight corruption in our country. For one, the advent of the most advanced technology has eliminated corruption in so many places. For instance, the moment someone buys rations, he or she gets the electronic message in his or her registered mobile number. The guys who manage the ration shop can be held accountable quite easily and the advent of the one nation, one ration card practice might as well make this far better and more inclusive in terms of benefits actually reaching the poor. Corruption has been eliminated through advanced information technology. Similarly, IT-based solutions have effectively eliminated corruption in the reservation of bus or train tickets. The massive computerization of Government records is a big achievement and one does hope the good work continues.

Yet, we need to question the atrocious ways of our politicians who make money through Government contracts and in matters related to the appointment of Government servants and even transfers in the case of teachers and so on. Once the gaps are plugged, we will see some positive changes here.

Having fine role models

Thanks to the active social media and a good press that controls the print media in Tamil Nadu, the people do have a good role model in one IAS Officer, Mr. Sahayam. His impeachable record of public service is now the subject of discussion everywhere in India. We do have such role models in each State. We still have public servants who are good role models.

What needs to be done is to publicize the good work done by these role models in a big way, and make people believe that good will come out of the good work done by the role models. We also need to give such role models some political space so that their contribution can reach the people and they do not become pawns in a chess game. Once we keep on multiplying the good work done by the role models, we will have far-reaching changes in the "we-are-like-this-only" perceptions at least to a large extent.

Imposing heavy fines on any public nuisance

With COVID around, in some parts of the country, any person who spits in public is fined Rs.100/-. Even in the post-COVID phase, this fine should be raised to Rs.250/- and the concerned person should also be sent to a week's stay in jail. Only then can we improve the standard of public hygiene in India.

Of late, the courts have asked the political parties to reimburse the State, the damage to public property like buses. Once we start doing these things more systematically, we can really change and also make such a change more durable in terms of whatever it takes to make good hygiene a habit among a much larger section of Indians.

Communicating all good work done

We need to celebrate any success and good work done anywhere in India. It is not only that the State is involved in doing good work. Hundreds of voluntary organizations are doing good work. For example, social workers are involved in giving a big boost to work being done by the self-help groups. Such work should now become part and parcel of our culture and the entire world should acknowledge such good work. Already, the way Kerala State has managed to control COVID has become the subject of an international discussion. Even the most advanced countries want to study this model.

We need to communicate all facts and all truth about such good work being done anywhere. Only then can we change our perceptions and bring about change.

Getting foreigners to appreciate good aspects of our culture

Come January, the Pongal season starts in Tamil Nadu. Millions of foreigners come to Madurai and hundreds of rural areas. They get to experience the culture as it is, without any change in traditional practices. Such encouragement should continue with every single passing day after the virus scare dies down and it is normal business in India.

Once the foreign tourists understand that we also have several good aspects of our culture that can be emulated by others, they will buy into such practices too. For example, in dozens of advanced laboratories in the USA, there are billions of dollars that are being spent in research into various aspects of Ayurveda, and this has come about, largely through the influence of Ayurveda in Kerala, the God's Own Country and the number one tourist spot in India. We need a lot more communication about our music, our dance, our rich cultural heritage, and our history. We need to keep on making everyone in the world understand these aspects. If we do this, the perceptions about India can change for the better.

The game of cricket has been one game-changer. It has unified India like never before. The passions seen in cricket grounds reach billions of people all over the world. However, we cannot and should not rely only on cricket. We have too many things that we have still not made famous. For example, Orissa does not get the share of tourist traffic that it should. We have some of the finest temples in the world, only in this State. Yet, the world does not know its intrinsic worth. We need to improve our global communication far better.


The perceptions and our own beliefs of "we-are-like-this-only" are often the results of our own making. We do not make concerted efforts to bring about lasting change. Certain dimensions of such a change that can possibly happen in India, have been discussed above. It should be noted that any effort in this direction is always a work in progress. Hopefully, we will be able to change negative perceptions and change the way we live in the years to come.


Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao29 Apr 2020 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

A good write up from the author. We see many people of this type these days. 'We-are-like-this-only, come what may' is the mindset of some people. For example, they say they will not wear a helmet while driving and that they will pay the fine if necessary. They will never understand the problems the others face because of their attitude. To change their attitude we have to use all possible ways to change them. One way is to punish such people. The punishment should be so exorbitant that people should fear to do that mistake.

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