“India’s not for beginners,” they said.

Jay Mavani
4 min readJun 2, 2024

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The dark side of romanticizing resilience.

“India’s not for beginners” is a phrase often uttered with a mix of pride and amusement, hinting at the bewildering array of experiences that make the country uniquely challenging yet endearingly unforgettable.

It conjures images of chaotic streets, vibrant markets, and an indomitable spirit of improvization. While the phrase might seem to celebrate the humour and resilience needed to navigate India, it also glosses over the deeper, systemic issues that compel people to adapt in extraordinary ways.

Much like the “Spirit of Mumbai” evokes a sense of community strength during crises, it inadvertently normalizes the frequency of such crises, overshadowing the systemic failures that cause them.

In India, the concept of “jugaad” epitomizes the creative solutions people devise to overcome daily challenges.

From makeshift repairs on everything from bicycles to buildings, to ingenious methods of conserving scarce resources, jugaad is often lauded as a testament to Indian ingenuity.

However, this celebrated resourcefulness often masks the reality of inadequate infrastructure and services. For instance, in many rural areas, people create elaborate rainwater harvesting systems not just out of innovation, but because they lack reliable access to clean water. What is seen as a quirky cultural trait is actually a response to systemic neglect.

India’s traffic is legendary for its unpredictability and sheer volume.

The sight of families piled onto a single motorbike or commuters hanging out of overcrowded trains makes for amusing anecdotes. Yet, these images highlight severe deficiencies in public transportation infrastructure and urban planning.

The ingenuity people show in getting from point A to point B underscores a system that fails to provide safe, reliable, and efficient transportation options. The humour in the chaos often masks the daily stress and danger involved.

Frequent power outages are a part of life in many parts of India.

People have adapted by investing in inverters, generators, and a stockpile of candles. While there is a certain romance and humour in stories of families gathering around candlelight, this adaptability points to significant gaps in the country’s power supply infrastructure.

Celebrating the resilience in these situations often diverts attention from the need for substantial improvements in energy management.

Air and water pollution in India are among the highest in the world, with major cities frequently recording hazardous air quality levels.

People have adapted by wearing masks (even before the pandemic), using air purifiers at home, and taking other protective measures. The humorous image of a person jogging with a pollution mask on reflects a grim reality: severe environmental degradation and insufficient regulatory measures to control pollution, which pose serious public health risks.

India’s healthcare system is a study in contrasts.

On one hand, there are state-of-the-art private hospitals catering to the wealthy. On the other, millions of people in rural and impoverished urban areas lack access to basic medical care.

Mobile health clinics and community health workers are often celebrated for their efforts to bridge this gap. Yet, these initiatives highlight the systemic inadequacies that necessitate such measures. The ingenuity and dedication of healthcare workers should not obscure the urgent need for a more equitable healthcare system.

Waste management is a critical issue in India.

The sight of individuals and communities taking up the mantle of cleaning their surroundings is often highlighted as a sign of civic responsibility and resilience.

However, these efforts point to a lack of effective government policies and infrastructure to manage waste and control pollution. While the actions of these everyday heroes are commendable, they also underscore the systemic failures that require citizens to step in.

The stark economic disparity in India is evident in the proximity of luxury high-rises and sprawling slums in major cities.

The resilience of slum dwellers, their vibrant communities, and the informal economies they create are often romanticized. However, these stories of survival also point to severe housing shortages, lack of affordable housing policies, and the socio-economic inequities that force millions to live in substandard conditions.

“India’s not for beginners” captures the humour, creativity, and resilience of the Indian people in the face of daily challenges.

However, it is crucial to look beyond the surface and address the underlying systemic issues that necessitate such adaptability.

Just as the “Spirit of Mumbai” should prompt a closer examination of the city’s recurring crises, so too should the phrase “India’s not for beginners” inspire a deeper reflection on the systemic reforms needed to ensure a more equitable and functional society.

By acknowledging both the ingenuity of its people and the need for systemic change, we can work towards an India that is fairer and more accessible for all.

An India for beginners.

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Jay Mavani

Jay Mavani (aka jaymavs) loves to express his passion for problem-solving, creativity, philosophy and humour by playing with various canvases.