Timeliness, frugality, good skill and experience, deep subject knowledge, work ethics and love for labour – all of these factors contribute to the efficiency of a task. Over the last one year, during the course of purchasing many products and hiring many services for our farm work and house construction, we discovered a worrisome fact: Regardless of the price one is willing to pay; patience and leniency one is willing to show; and even the loss one is willing to accept, most people are not interested in any of the factors that contribute to efficiency. Not the maximize-everything kind of efficiency but just plain-old, commonsense efficieny. Any presence of quality in a product or a service in our area is mostly happenstance. To be fair, there are a few products with good quality but they are very few with their origin dating back a few generations. From talking to people in their 60’s and 70’s (our parents’ generation), we find that this apathy has largely grown only in the last 30 years. Our grandparents did farming, our parents built homes. They did not have to fight with every person they had to do business with and lose sleep at night. No doubt they had to be careful but they did not live in complete distrust. To what extent is our little village representative of the conditions in the rest of India? We wish it were a small percentage. But our informal inquiries suggest that it could be a large percentage.
This apathy confronts us every day in many ways creating increasing friction with everyone we work with. Our farming guide joked one day that by the time we finish building our home and finish our first farming season, it would be considered normal if we had made enemies with just about everyone we involved in those activities.
What is even more challenging is this: at a personal level, everyone we deal with behaves so well and expresses such lofty thoughts and feelings. So they are not ignorant of values, virtues, tradition, quality etc. In fact, before we engage in business with these people, their sales pitch is full of such amazing rhetoric that it will make a car salesman in a developed country look like a rookie. They are so blind to this separation between their personal and professional life that any mention of their lack of values provokes “righteous” anger in them.
We don’t know how to handle this non-violently, tactfully and constructively. We know that wise people would suggest unconditional love and compassion as response. We do that anyway at the personal level. But at the professional level, we don’t know the right way to channel our compassion so that it is not taken advantage of (as it has already happened with a few). With a couple of people we had helped in their personal matters, their sudden efficiency with our work seems to stem from their gratitude and loyalty towards us and not because it is the right thing to do (they cheat others as usual).
We think that there is no direct solution to this situation. We are taking a long term view of such initiatives because these are quite similar to planting a tree – the benefits will be reaped by the future generation. Meanwhile, our house must be built and farm must be shaped with the status quo. We need to accept inefficiencies and the losses that accompany them. Thus meditation is becoming not an elevated spiritual activity but a basic necessity!