Once, I was staying with a nephew of mine at New Jersey in the USA. I used to get up early there also, and go for a morning walk. The place around was very clean and scenic but there used to be hardly any person on the road. Even if there were any, there was hardly any exchange of words except a greeting by waving of the hand and, that too, from a distance.
One day, during such a walk, I saw a lady with her small pet, on the other side of the road. As usual, I greeted her by waving my hand. To this, her response was different and she responded by uttering some nice words. Somehow, I felt that she was keen to talk to me and since I also find such conversations very educative, I also made the same gesture and we started walking together. Soon, I noticed that she was interested in India because her father had been an army officer during the British rule. As a result, she had spent a few years of her childhood in India. Perhaps, that was the reason why she showed interest in me, as she had guessed that I was an Indian. Anyway, we exchanged many things about India and British life and overall, it was a very good exchange.
While we were walking on the footpath, she noticed that her pet was about to attend to the nature’s call. I also noticed the same and was keen to see how she would handle the situation. But I was pleasantly surprised to note that she had came prepared for the same and immediately took out a polythene bag from her pocket and took the excreta of her pet in that bag. This was her reflex action without being conscious of my presence. Then she wrapped the polythene bag and put it in a paper bag and kept it back in her pocket. When she finished all this, she was back in conversation with me. I was amazed to notice all this and conveyed my feelings to her. It was a surprise to her that in India people take out their pets only to use roads and pathways as toilets for them. What a difference between the two cultures! While we may boast of our ancient culture and spiritual heritage, we fail badly in displaying modern culture and civic sense in our day-to-day living. This is the reason why our ancient values are losing their meaning and in the process life is becoming difficult.
Who says we have nothing to learn from the West? Culture is not a monopoly of one country or race. Each society has a culture of its own and in modern times when the world is becoming smaller and smaller in terms of communication and reach, we must take the best from every society. Then only our scripture’s message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’ will have any meaning. Otherwise, it will remain just a scriptural phrase.