This article was in The India Times yesterday. This really sums why this amazing place with all it's contradictions and dichotomies actually works.
"Its often said that India is functioning chaos.That seeming contradiction in terms is,in fact,not a contradiction at all.On the contrary,it is a confirmation of the truth about India and Indians : we,can only function because we're chaotic.
The dictionary defines chaos as a state of disorder, a condition where no rules apply.This is certainly true of India, at almost all levels.Wherever you look, there is not a vestige of what more ordered societies call discipline, an adherence to regulations, norms and codes of behaviour.
Indians,all Indians, literally do their own thing.Take traffic. India's road traffic (where there is the luxury of a road ) is among the most chaotic in the world. It has to be in order to function. At any given time, a typical urban thoroughfare can simultaneously have on it some 17 very different types of transportation, from buses to bullock-carts, limousines to elephants. If all these various modes of transport, moving at different velocities and in different directions, were to follow some abstract, codified rules of the road instead of their own basic instincts,no one would ever get anywhere.
Out of apparent chaos emerges progress : in the end,they all BMW s and bullock-carts,elephants and autorickshaws get to their respective destinations with,generally speaking,the minimum of mishap,considering the sheer volume and diversity of the numbers involved.
Democracy and the art of negotiating traffic find a perfect parallel in India. Both involve extempore adjustments in order to traverse a common space (be it a road or the larger community of the nation ) where often conflicting interests BMW s-bullocks,SEZs-farmers must negotiate with each other without colliding head-on.One step forward and three steps sideways Perhaps.But its better than terminal gridlock.Or fatal collision.
Other societies go by the inflexible exactitude of rules.We,all of us,write our own rule books as we go along.We function by that uniquely Indian concept called andaz,approximation.Other cooks use exact recipes;we use inexact,and creative,andaz.A pinch of this,and a dash of that.How much precisely?, Arre, use your andaz,bhai.Other musicians use written score sheets;our music is based on constant improvisation on basic ragas,on andaz and all that jazz. So are we forever doomed (or redeemed,take your pick ) to be a thoroughly undisciplined,chaotic lot? Certainly not.We do follow discipline; you follow your discipline,and let me follow mine. Except we mightn't call it discipline.We might prefer to call it dharma,which is the other name we give to chaos."