Jugaarh is one of my favorite Hindi words. It means “to improvise” or “to make do with whatever is at hand.” Indians are the grand masters of this art.

This morning while cleaning up, I dropped my blender. In the US, I would almost certainly have had to throw it away, as it would probably cost as much to fix it as to buy a new one. In India, that would be almost unthinkable. So I packed it up and took it along to the local thik-karne-wala for appliances. A thik-karne-wala is simply a repairman, but the Indian version is amazingly resourceful. With my blender, for instance, the part that supports the buttons so they stick out of the appropriate holes had broken, and the buttons had disappeared deep inside the unit. The resourceful Mr. Gill, lacking anything similar, simply fashioned new parts out of a business card and some glue. Voila! Now it works perfectly. I hope it continues to do so, but for 30 rupees, getting it fixed is not a big deal. Maybe next time, he’ll use something a little sturdier.

A marvelous example of jugaarh is the vehicle of the same name, invented by rural farmers. It is a strange-looking vehicle, but immensely practical. It is powered by a pump, and it’s designed so that the pump can still be used to pump water when it’s not in use hauling people, sugar cane, or whatever. And, since it’s made from whatever is available, it’s really cheap. Attach a cart and you have a minibus for maybe 20 people.

Kishore Biyani, Group CEO of Future Group, defined jugaad very well: “Jugaad is about creative improvisation, a tool to somehow find a solution, ingenuity, a refusal to accept defeat, initiative, cunning and resolve  […] The ability to improvise against all odds is again something that is built into the way we grow up, and those who are able to live by it will succeed in India.”  (Source: www.livemint.com)

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2 Responses

  1. Monty on 12 Mar 2013

    While Jugaad is a great tool in many cases, it becomes a great hindrance in creating something of quality.

    I have seen many people trying to improvise and find workarounds instead of actually trying to fix the situation (not comparing your situation). In India, if something is not working OR there is a glitch in a system, people love to – not actually go to the source of the problem, but to use Jugaad. I have worked in many projects and lived here for 27 years and it pains me to see that many times the root of the problem is not solved.

    But ya, in many cases, when it works, it looks very intelligent. 🙂

    • JD Viharini on 14 Mar 2013

      Yes, you are completely right about that. Jugaad doesn’t usually fix the underlying problem, but I really enjoy much of the ingenuity that is displayed in solving problems when people have few resources to work with. I think I probably didn’t go much into the other really negative meaning of the word in my post, which is to get things done by hook or by crook, using means such as bribery and intimidation.

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