Doubt and confidence

Jun 01 2014, 22:32 IST
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SummaryEvery milkman mixes water in the milk the good cow gives. This anecdotal example sets the ambiguous doubt-confidence paradox we live under.

Every milkman mixes water in the milk the good cow gives. This anecdotal example sets the ambiguous doubt-confidence paradox we live under. Confident about the milk’s source and quality, we habitually doubt the milkman’s integrity. As we cannot do without this intermediary function, we accept the inescapable delivery of tainted milk. There’s a French proverb, ‘On fait des affaires dans la confiance, pas dans la méfiance’, which means business is done in confidence, not in doubt. In India, these diametrically opposed contradictions are married in our minds.

Social context: Historically, from being subjects under a variety of Hindu dynasties, followed by the Sultan-Mughal Raj to British Raj to Licence Raj and now the liberalised economy, many fractions have ripped open our social fiber. One can say doubts have captured more space in our minds than confidence has. Is it our cultural heritage in India that we love the divergent mixture of salt, sugar and pepper (as I wrote earlier /article/opinion/columns/from-the-discomfort-zone-salt-sugar-pepper-politics/99/) like no other culture relishes it? Or is tackling ambiguity a skill we picked up for survival, up to and including colonial times, when we had to always face and handle the incongruous, divergent social and political elements that were at odds with one another?

An arranged marriage is full of doubtful factors. The couple that barely knows each other suddenly goes to bed after socially accepted religious rituals. From various research with women on different subjects, I’ve gathered that they experience profound anxiety in spite of their parents confidently assuring them that the two families are highly compatible by culture.  Inside the joint family system, each and every person lives to doubt the other (as you saw in my column Even in the contemporary trend of ZAP generation, girls and boys sharing total freedom, there’s grave doubt about what will happen if they marry. Doubt is constant about the breaking down of marriages within a year or two, although the couple may previously have lived together for many years. Actually, high divorce rates among working couples is a global phenomenon that arises from economic development. When European wives started working from the new 1970s consuming age, more infidelity happened on both sides. With urbanisation, more disposable incomes and better living standards in India, the scope of doubt is increasing.

Even in consumer interactions, I’ve heard that consumers buy branded yoghurt fresh every day, like milk. That’s because they doubt

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