Indian population by and large tends to be as materialistic in its daily life as its Western counterparts. India is known for its heterogeneities and contradictions. As a frequent visitor of India I have noticed that the most spiritual connection I felt was when visiting temples and Ashrams. Other than these places it seems that everyone tries to trade, sell, or push the household goods to foreigners without bothering if the customer needs their products and services. Do these people take time to reflect or are they workaholics? This is a positive perception at least compared to the beggars 20 years ago when I first visited India: seeing beggars left foreigners feeling very uncomfortable especially when they were approached by beggars who were severely disabled children, something we in the West have never seen or imagined. Foreigners, such as my husband while traveling along with me, me having a PIO card and treated like an Indian and he and our children being asked to pay 5 times the actual price when they would like to buy on the streets, shops or when they have to hire a taxi. What amazed me the most is that this phenomenon is not only limited to streets but most of the official government attractions such as museums have different fees for foreigners, most often 3 to 5 times higher. The idea behind it might be that foreigners can afford higher prices, so that the subsidy goes to locals who need it the most. From a Dutch person’s perspective this sort of discrimination will never be accepted. Such a case would lead to the installation of several committees against discrimination and will become news in the media in the European context. In India this is a daily practice. Thus Indians tend to cheat you openly.
Big malls are rising as flowers so fast, bigger ones compared to those in Europe, full of Indians shopping, buying the most expensive designer dresses like Gucci and Chanel. Women seldom wear sarees. Often only older women wear tikkas. Youngsters are more used to Western clothes and food. Western companies do good business in fulfilling these needs. The recently opened airports have all relevant tax-free designs shops you can think of. Aspirations for searching for materialistic wealth are increasing. In a way change does always have good and bad attached to it. It is good to realize that poverty is decreasing, and that more Indians can afford a higher living standard. More new shops mean more job creation for the Indian people. In that sense the quantitative growth is preferable. But growth in qualitative manner should not be neglected. Human values should be there to give employees a feeling of meaningful work in a highly ethical valued framework as that will be the most sustainable way of doing business. Kautilya endorsed such high values.
The pressure amongst peers is increasing as parents compare their children with other children and wants them to realize the highest achievements. In a way this is not in line with the basics from the Vedas which gives the foundation for Indian civilization. It states that actually in life there are infinite differences between man and man; some are more inwardly evolved, others are less mature, many if not most are infant souls incapable of great steps and difficult efforts. But each needs to be dealt with according to his nature and his soul stature. This individual space for development is core to the Indian civilization but due to its tendency to copy Western models it has been lost. The need for achievement is a good character but it has its best impact if it comes from the child himself. Pressure produces high levels of stress amongst youth with many negative results. Some call it the topper mania labeling it as type of psychic disorder. Indian psychiatrists warn that this development results in the fact that youngsters do not have time to play, to reflect and to be creative. In general, their cognitive talents are being exploited while their emotional and spiritual talents are being neglected. Taking care of the needs of all kinds of people in society is considered as the genius of Indian culture because it is the only culture that provides an organizational scheme of individual and social life through the system of varna (social divisions) and ashramas (stages of life).This system was meant to facilitate an individual’s progress towards self-realization. Kautilya has given a management framework as well containing of guidelines and schemes so that individuals based on their responsibility can contribute to society and simultaneously work towards a dharmic basic of their actions though it was not a dharmashastra he wrote. His active sanction policy (danda) worked as the hand which managed and governed. Such policy was adequate in those times as nowadays we can’t think of many of the sanctions he applied. India should be capable of developing an intrinsic motivation to live according to the dharma because in the past 2400 years it has evolved. However, strong leadership with strict policy can have an added value.