Jugaad: India's duct-tape ingenuity

Dave sez, "I'm an American who blogs about life in New Delhi. I recently published an essay about 'jugaad': the semi-untranslatable practice and philosophy of jerry-rigging that is one of the prides of India. Once you look for jugaad in India, you see it everywhere: water pumps converted into cars, wrappers converted into rope, and so on.

This essay also explores the broader implications of a culture that embraces jugaad. Jugaad is how so many people can survive with such stoic patience in conditions that would drive Americans like me crazy. "

No two jugaad vehicles are the same, because each one is an improvised solution using unlikely parts. These vehicles are the purest representation of this spirit of ingenuity, and everyone we spoke to swelled with pride at India's capacity for jugaad. "We are like that only," my boss Murali would tell me when describing solutions to situations that would send most goras scurrying for the nearest five-star hotel.

The variety of solutions to seemingly intractable problems we saw supported this patriotic esteem: motorcycles chopped in half and welded to carts to create centaur goods haulers. The way families would fit mother, father, and three kids onto a single scooter. The clever repurposing of used water bottles as cooking oil containers. Rope spun from discarded foil packets. Cricket wickets made from precariously balanced stacks of rocks. And, as Anurag sardonically pointed out in a political statement I don't understand but assume to be insightfully hilarious, Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government: a duct-taped coalition of thirteen political parties.

As one blogger put it when describing those diesel water pump trucks, "these vehicles reflect the true spirit of innovation in rural India."


(Thanks, Dave!)

(Image: Jugaad in action, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from Chromatic Aberration's Flickr stream)