Just reading about the practice of sharing children and families with extended family in We Are Like That Only was foreign to me. But seeing how far this practice penetrates seeps into Indian culture and society is mind-blowing. At first a foreigner is bewildered by Indian traffic. But after our rickshaw rides, and spending everyday in our luxurious bus, has shown us why Indians are comfortable driving how they do and why they do. A unique combination of a community-minded society, wherein nothing is ever personally owned, including space, and Indian practice of complete utilization of products and opportunities creates the spectacle of Indian traffic for foreigners. Because they share the road. Not in the American sense of driving on the same roads in our individually owned cars with air-conditioning and tinted windows, but rather in the Indian sense of making the most use of the space allotted. The white lane markers painted on the road are just for show. Or perhaps to not make Indian traffic unbearable for foreigners to stomach.

Honking is never-ending on Indian roads, alleys, and stoplights, but lacks the social insult we Americans interpret with honks from fellow travelers on the road. It seems to be more of an alert that a fellow driver is alongside the other’s vehicle or reminder to “get on with it” and allow fellow drivers to get to their destination, so that ultimately its one billion people can move together to continue the dramatic shifts they have caused in their economy and therein the world economic stage.

Perhaps in the same way lives the dichotomy between Indians’ intense drive to get ahead and their eternal sense of community. Achievement is so much more meaningful in India because of the intense waves of pride which are created by just one achievement. As a daughter graduates from university, an entire family, immediate and extended, carries immense pride. Thus, as each Indian seeks to individually “get ahead,” their ultimate cause is community-oriented. Perhaps their motivation and drive to “get ahead” is that much greater than ours because it stems from communal, rather than individual, reasons.

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