Hard work a way of life for Indians

As world becomes interconnected, Indian ethos of hard work beacon of inspiration

The young cricketer Yashasvi Jaiswal articulated an important insight about our country at the end of the third Test against England, where he scored his second double-century at the tender age of 22. “In India, when you grow up, you work really hard for each and every thing,” he said when asked about his approach to batting, after helping India take a 2-1 lead over England. “Even when getting the bus, you have to work really hard to get the bus. You have to work really hard to get to the train and auto [rickshaw] and everything. And I have done that since my childhood. I know how important every innings is—and that’s why I really work hard in my [practice] sessions and every innings counts for me and for my team. That is my biggest motivation to play for my country. And I just make sure that whenever I’m there I need to give my 100 per cent and then enjoy.”

Jaiswal went on to embody his own words, scoring 712 runs in the five matches and winning the man of the series award. But this column is not about cricket; it’s about the hard work young Jaiswal was talking about.

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Hard work is a universally acknowledged virtue, but for Indians, at home and abroad, it is often a way of life. As Jaiswal—who slept in a tent on a cricket ground while honing his talent, and sold pani-puri to make ends meet in his formative years—understands only too well, hard work is ingrained in the Indian ethos. It emerges principally from the pressure of population: millions are striving for academic and professional success in a population that exceeds 1.4 billion. So Indians grow up facing intense competition for everything—from getting a place in school or college, to catching a bus or a train, to finding a job, to excelling at a profession. He who doesn’t strive is doomed to fail, because he is up against too many others who are trying very hard indeed.

In India, hard work is not just a characteristic; it is woven into the cultural fabric. From a young age, children are taught the value of perseverance and effort. The Indian education system, known for its rigour, instils in students the necessity of industriousness to outshine their peers. Hard work is indispensable.

When Indians venture abroad, they carry this trait with them, often amplifying it in response to the challenges of navigating a new country. The Indian diaspora is renowned for its work ethic, which has enabled many to achieve significant socioeconomic progress, rising to levels of prestige and affluence their parents could not have dreamed of. This is particularly evident in countries like the US, where Indians hold prominent positions in technology, medicine, academia, and business, and enjoy the highest median income of any ethnic group (even higher than white Americans or Japanese). Indians have excelled in fields that demand not only intellectual acumen but also an enduring work ethic. The success stories of Indian CEOs in multinational corporations, leading scientists in NASA, and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are testaments to this fact.

Consider the story of Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, who came from a middle-class background in Hyderabad and rose through the ranks by virtue of his dedication and diligence. Or Sundar Pichai, head of Alphabet Inc., whose journey from a modest upbringing in Chennai to the pinnacle of the tech world is a narrative of relentless effort. Or the inspiring tale of Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, whose ground-breaking work in molecular biology was achieved through years of meticulous research. They are innovative thinkers, but they also worked harder than everyone else. Countless Indians across the world have reached formidable heights without any advantages other than their hard work. Their stories are a powerful reminder that while brains and talent are distributed evenly, access to opportunities is not. It is hard work that bridges this gap, turning potential into achievement. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the Indian ethos of hard work continues to be a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating that with perseverance, anything is possible.