Desi habit of Jugaad

Is the Indian way of thinking, a unique contributor to our success? YES! As Indians we are all aware of how “jugaad” works. For those who are still not aware of what this term implies – it is basically a means to innovate or find a low cost yet quick and effective solution to any problem. This is a very Indian thing. Sometimes the stuff that people come up with is really admirable and they should probably patent and market it. There are innumerable situations where “jugaad” has come to my rescue but in this post, I Am going to highlight a particular situation where jugaad was really helpful when I was outside India and needed to use my Indian skills.This incident is from 2002 when I was in Japan for 2 months, on site , as part of my IT industry life. The very opportunity for going on site to Tokyo had come my way due to the fact that no one, yes NO ONE, in general wanted to go to Tokyo. There were a lot of issues with such a  long stint at Tokyo. Apart from the usual cultural difficulties, most outsiders in Japan face (or at least faced in that “era”) two particular problems the most. The first was the language barrier. There were barely any people who spoke English. And if at all, all of them happened to be working with us. So if we actually needed some help outside of office, it was nearly impossible to communicate anything and one had to be really good at “dumb charades” to attempt communicating anything. The second issue was food. It was really really really difficult to find something palatable, let alone vegetarian. For the Japanese – chicken, egg, pork etc counted as Vegetarian fare and seafood was what was considered Non-vegetarian. Thus even if you would confirm from someone if the thing you were buying was vegetarian, there actually was no guarantee that it really was. So the only way to get through was to cook oneself.

Now comes the interesting part. Most of the time, we used to get by on things like sandwiches & salads or the Japanese versions of “curry”. Trust me you don’t enjoy it especially with sticky rice. So an Indian meal was a luxury and very tough to find. For my own food supplies, I had taken Atta (whole wheat flour) with me from India , since I knew it would be really tough to find there. And I had taken a pressure cooker along. I had been provided accommodation arranged  by the Japanese organisation I was working for and it was available to me till 31st december 2002. Before leaving for new year celebrations, I wanted to exhaust my food supplies and also have a celebratory new year meal. In other words, I had to use ALL the atta I had and also make something really nice. So I invited some of my Indian colleagues over for Aloo ke paranthe. It took them NO time to say yes, because none of us had had a proper Indian meal in months.

The issues started cropping up when I had to actually make them. Not only does the entire world use electric stoves which take painfully slow to heat up, but they also obviously don’t have the usual utensils Indians use. In this case – those were Tawa (flat pan), chakla & belna (Indian style circular board & rolling pin ). So after boiling potatoes, I kneaded the atta in my precious cooker. In lieu of a tawa, I used a shallow pan. And to replace the Chakla, I used a thin chopping board. For belna usage, I needed something evenly cylindrical and at that point all I had was a glass bottle. So I used the glass bottle to roll out the paranthas.

As a result of all these jugaad items, a “lavish” (by our Japanese standards then) Indian meal was prepared for new year celebrations. My colleagues really appreciated the Aloo paranthe they had in Tokyo, and till this date they remember them fondly thanks to this!

Jugaad is certainly one skill that all Indians inherently possess. When the situation comes up, thinking out of the box is all it needs. We are more Indian than we think. Just like this TVC for Lufthansa shows how our Indian values are now being recognised at a global level.


** This post is part of a #MoreIndianThanYouThink contest being run by Lufthansa Airlines



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