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My friend Asha works at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC. Her boss has asked her to find out how India’s powerful people have not been affected by swine flu—known here as H1N1.

She asked me for my views on this interesting subject. I said that the reasons are obvious. She insisted that I address a departmental meeting. I agreed since I enjoy enlightening Americans on such subjects.

I give here the gist of my talk

‘Indian politicians have a habit that is much discussed in the US but is rarely practiced. Several studies by your institute have shown that many ailments are caused during the patient’s stay in a hospital in the US. Pradoxically doctors in this country far from healing a patient actually cause diseases, If only the habit I am referring to is acquired by hospital staff the savings to the Healthcare bill in the US will be at least $100 million a year I am not counting the loss in terms of leave of absence, fall in productivity loss of morale etc’

At this point the audience got impatient and asked me what I was referring to.

I said that I was alluding to the habit of frequently washing hands! Indian politicians are known to wash their hands almost hourly. For example Laloo Yadav has washed his hands off the fodder scam and the daily allegations of misrule and corruption during his 15 year rule in Bihar. 6 months from now Mayawati will wash her hands off the allegation that she had used tax taxpayers’ money for self aggrandizement by building statues of herself in ever street corner in UP.

This is why India ’s ruling class has remained unaffected by swine flu.

‘What else can India teach the west?”I was asked.

At this point I drew the audience’s attention to an Indian tradition that the west may gainfully emulate. In the west it is common for people to greet each other by kissing, rubbing cheeks, embracing. I suggested that they abandon such unhealthy practices and adopt the Indian namaste or the Muslim Adab arz hai.

The audience nodded appreciatively and wanted to learn more from India. I told them the results of some informal research I had been doing in India and the US.

In the Tamil Brahmin community it is customary to invite a priest to conduct ceremonies and pay him in cash and kind. The latter usually includes dhotis and towels. I was curious to know what the priest did with the over hundred dhotis and towels he receives every year. He replied that he sold them to a textile shop and received cash! I realized that I may well have bought the same dhotis and towels repeatedly. Recycling indeed!

In Mumbai one sees youngsters selling flowers at street corners. Readers may not know that these flowers are taken from graves where people leave garlands in memory of loved ones, Recycling again.

In the US Indians customarily offer wine bottles to the host of a party. These are inexpensive — as low as 5 dollars — and are easy to pack and carry. I performed a small experiment. I made a small mark at the bottom of a bottle indicating my ownership and date of purchase. I found something revealing about Indians. The same bottle kept coming back to me every six weekends — it is in the weekends that parties are held. The interesting thing is that I got back my wine bottle from a totally different person! Indians here recycle the same gift over and over again. Talk of 6 degrees of separation.

How about shaking hands? I suggested that American bureaucrats learn several lessons from their Indian counterparts — known as Babus. Babus are not as obese as Americans are. The reason? American bureaucrats consume enormous quantities of high sugar coke. Indian babus are content with chai paani. At the most he will accept bachhon ke liye mithai.

The babu does not like to shake hands since his palms have been greased as a protection against the scorching Indian sun. This accounts for the absence of swine flu among bureaucrats in India.

‘I hear India has poor infrastructure and very high corruption How then do Indians prosper? Asked a doctor.

I replied ‘Indians are innovative and will seize any opportunity to go ahead in life. Right now millions of Indians have lined up outside the American Consulates in many cities in India. They refuse to listen to the consular officials shouting that


k.r. ravi

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