Should be reading more and writing less, but well...

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Long time

It's been a long time since they left us. It's been somewhat long since we allowed them to send stuff back to us again. Now, we are also doing things for them at half price. We love their football, we love their movies, we love their currency, we love their literature, some of us even try to speak like them, notwithstanding that we are already speaking their language.

It hurts.


I don't know. In spite of sustained efforts, I cannot rationalize a few core principles of my life - this hurt being one of them. This inability used to bother me a lot before. It bothers me even now, though not as much. But the hurt still remains.

Why again?

After all, my being here is just a geographic coincidence. I could've been anywhere, anyone. Now, the I-could-have-been-anyone thought is a digression worth its own space, and it will get some here later. So, I could've been anywhere, and would I be lamenting about my current home's state of affairs today? As an academic, maybe I might have, and the hurt would have remained academic. But it wouldn't have hurt this deeply. This one cuts deep. There is something that ties me to my origins, to my people; Part hereditary, part cultural, part self, part randomness: all of these contribute. As for now, I have succumbed to faith and don't question my origins, I am just thinking of the next level problems. It won't surprise me if I, in the future, succumb to other faiths as well. Leaps of faith seem to be inevitable.

So, what is the occasion? Oh yes, we are free! Free as in entitled to free beer? Free to install software? Free to make money? Free to think? Free to think fair? Free to rule ourselves? Free to defend ourselves? Free to participate in the the economics of the flat world? Free to do what we want?

What is it that we want? We wanted to be free. Now what?


I, for one, want the rot in the public sytems to be cleansed - the corruption, the adulteration in everything, the inefficiency, the apathy, all of it should end. The quality of life of ordinary citizens should improve. There will probably always be inequalities among the population - but the imbalance shouldn't be as gross as it is now. Everybody should be able to afford the necessities of life - a shelter, food, clothing, healthy living, and education. And I want us to be free of the differential, racial, discriminatory, communal and all those kinds of narrow-minded thinking. But, hey!! Am I just dreaming!!
A frank expression of cultural identity issues. The bottomline is it hurts. The Angrez (Brits, Americans and similar peoples) have inflicted an irreparable damage on the Indian identity. I understand that this was not their intention and this is not their intention even now. I understand that these peoples are angels when it comes to anything outside economics. The tragedy is that it is economics that is hurting our identity just the way it did in the colonial era.

Let's start by asking ourselves questions. We all know that the Brits robbed us continually for close to two centuries. That's bad economics for us, isn't it? Yet, they managed to sell it as good economics to us. That's the reason they survived for so long. I doubt if the Brits would even have lasted a two decades if they had to rely on their own human resource. Yes, I'm talking about labor markets. The Brits could carry out their administrative tasks by creating a white collared, decently paid middle class that didn't exist before. They could carry out their military adventures by offerring secure, respected, pampered jobs of 'jawans' to our strong but starving youth. The lifetyles of the jawans and the govt employees did improve, albeit at the cost of the lifestyles of a majority of their countrymen. In return, these people had to learn English. What is happening right now is not very different. The IT/BPO boom is having a doubtlessly positive effect on a significant chunk of our society. But I'm not sure if we are not aiding neo-colonialism in the process. And now the payback is not just in terms of language but in terms of culture starting from music to movies to food habits. If you don't know that a hamburger is made of beef and not ham, chances are that you will be deemed a lesser mortal by your own coutrymen working in IT/BPO who know more about the hamburger. A peer pressure develops and we all eventually end up as dandies, willingly or otherwise.

Well, there is more than economics to it. We Indians are always inclined to selling ourselves to people from other (that we perceive better) cultures. It struck me like a thunder the moment I stepped on the US soil. Desis in the US treat every piece of nonsense here with more religious fervor than they have ever treated Cricket (the unofficial religion of India). There is a concept called credit history in the US. Desis who earn less than $500 a month are willing to bankrupt themselves so that they can have a good credit history the next year! Not just this. It is painful to see how seriously Desis take American futbol, not because they like it, but because Americans like it! We behave so courteously with Americans that we haven't behaved that courteously with anybody in India we have known. Not that Americans don't desreve the courtesy. But Indians deserve the same courtesy from fellow Indians too! And we are not courteous because we like to be. We are courteous because Americans like it that way. Surprisingly, Chinese, who outnumber Indians in the US, maintain their identity to a much greater extent. Some may argue that what Desis do in the US or the UK or Canada is about survival skills. It is not. The Brits who came to our country left our country teaching their language and habits to us and did not end up learning ours. Who ruled who is history. Think about it.

Not that I have maintained perfect Indian identity. I have always been an advocate of speaking English the American/Brit style. In fact, these days I find it tough to speak English the Indian way. I have always been biased toward hollywood and have looked down upon Indian movies without taking into account many social considerations that go into making movies. Perhaps the reason I don't connect with Indian movies is that I'm less Indian at heart.

India rocks. But Indians don't. We need a cultural revolution to help us actualize on who we are apart from people getting paid by Bank of America and British Airways.
I agree for most part with Samba's comments and have a few of my own to share. It might be hard for me to write this because I have so many thoughts and not sure if I can put them all together well. I will try. Just a disclaimer - I am as passionate about India, its cultural heritage and more.. But these are just my thoughts.

1) India Rocks, Indian don't - I do not agree with this to some extent. I am saying this as Indian living in US for a while. Things are changing a lot here. When I say I am Indian, Americans here do not say to me if I am a "Red Indian", they do not say to me - "Do you ride elephants to work in India". In fact, they say to me - "Are you from North or South India?" OR "What is your feeling about Outsourcing" OR "Have you seen Kerala"... or something to that effect. So, the awareness is spreading.

2) Awareness might be spreading due to the fact that lot of jobs are being outsourced to India. But is it bad? I am not very sure. At some level maybe it is good. I have to think more on this.

3) I think we do not need a massive cultural revolution. We just need to raise beyond our normal thinking or easy going way of life. Which is easier said than done. I am the living example of it. If am so passionate about India etc..why am I still living in US (Another topic for another time). But here is the deal, just because I enjoy American football does not make me American. I am still Indian at heart. I do Pooja at home, go to temple, wear Indian traditional clothing, think like Indian (in more ways than you can imagine). Just because an american colleague of mine loves Indian food, she loves to wear salwar suit (went and bought a few outfits here) or wants to come to Anand Bazaar (Indian Independence day celebrations) does not mean she is not American. We can be what we are and appreciate and like other things and faiths too.

4) British occupancy might not have been the best thing that happened to us, but unlike Chengez Khan and other people who raided India with the sole purpose of robbing us, at least with the British rule, we got something too, like the Railway system, Postal System, Education etc. Which I think are all good for us.

5) As Jo said, for us to be in that position where the inequalities are balanced and everybody can afford the necessites, we need for everyone to start thinking and start participating. We have to get out of our Philosophical thinking of - "Oh This is our fate", or "What has to happen will happen" or "We are happy with what we have" Or "Shivana icche iddange agutte".. We have to start thinking, utilizing, waking up, participating, voicing - not just one or two, all of us for changes to happen and I think it will. Maybe not all at one shot, but it will over a time period. We were not able to get our freedom within one day. I mean just look at that- the drive we had in us when we were fighting for our freedom, I feel like it is gone. I mean we are now just like - let us run along with the flow. If we are getting outsourced jobs, can we not take advantage of that and do something? We have the intelligence, resources, capabilty, vision and more...

Everything in life is not fair, but let us look at the postive side of it, we have a upper hand because we have the English education, background and other things. Why are not utilizing it? What can we do more to take us up one more notch (atleast if not more)...
((sigh))...sorry did not mean to go off here.....just that this is close to my heart.
"It hurts."

Really?! So, what are you doing about this pain?Gulping down pain-relievers?No?

Let me tell you what you do! The pain starts subsiding. It does recur with the same intensity sometimes, but you learn to ignore it!

Isn't it?

PS: "You" does not necessarily mean the author alone.
It hurts, but I learn to live with it, which is the sad part.

I might get used to it or I might snap and do something getting rid of the hurt - we will see.
I love this post. Rather than questioning the rational behind this, admire the honest expressions. And it sounds better abstract.
And for the change, we must be the change that we want to see. How, when, soemthing I myself can't answer. So I enjoy the hurt!
A comment long in the making, so long that the discussion has moved on to more posts and even more comments to that... anyway, i'll make my comment here...

I agree with samba on some things and bhanu on certain other things...

The idolization of all that's western has been going on almost forever... I don't understand all of the psychology behind it, how it all started (just because they ruled us? just because they are more developed than us? i don't know) etc...

About the awareness thing that bhanu was talking... i don't know how widespread it is... just want to quote a few anecdotes from my visit to US... I work in the indian subsidiary of a US based company and there are a lot of Indians in the US office (as direct employees there, not visiting from India)... There was a kind of group there of Indians and non-Indians (some of them were immigrants from other places and some were americans)... They kind of go out together as a group, enjoy Indian food, go for Indian movies etc. among other things.. This could very well be an exception, and doesn't really mean that these people really understand India, its problems, its people, its culture and all that... in fact, it is no big achievement or anything for us... But just wanted to point this out, as i found this interesting... Oh, and they also have a cricket team which is headed by a non-desi... and they play in the evenings or over the weekends... but then, where did cricket come from? It can't exactly be called part of Indian culture either... Anyway, all said and done, to be fair, I've to bring out the other side too... there were people who asked me whether bangalore was India's capital...

Another thing I want to mention is about the organization I work with... Being an indian subsidiary of a US corporation (which is in turn a subsidiary of a Japanese company), we are not just working on a services model supporting the teams in the US... It's outsourcing alright... But they are outsourcing entire products to India, and not just bug fixing or maintenance... That is there too... And we still take support from the US for quite many things... But we are a company with a vision to develop complete products from India... It's just baby steps for us, there are lots of parameters, equations, delicate balances which can tilt either way... The whole thing may not work out also, I'm no business strategy expert... But at least, there is an effort in this direction... We could be an exception, in fact, I'm told that we are among the few Indian subsidiaries which are actually seeing end-to-end action of product development...

The point is it is not just BPO/call centres that are happening... There are other oppurtunities too, may be we, as a nation, as a people should try to tap them... But there are lots of people in our country who need jobs... There is nothing wrong in utilising some of those oppurtunities available to improve the lives of at least some sections of the society... But at the same time, there is no need to get over-excited about it as if we've conquered the world or something... And it is not THE career either... It's just one of the avenues we have to utilize to reach our goals, which in the end, for me at least, is a society where all of us can live with some minimum gauranteed standard of living...free of the fear of poverty or persecution...

Another thing I wanted to point out is... Not everything in the Indian culture is good either... Like samba mentioned, if we are not as courteous and well-behaved in India or to Indians, as we are abroad, then it is not right... We could improve ourselves by showing that courtesy in our homeland and with Indians... Then again, there are quite a few things that is good about the western culture... the concept of dignity of labour (though many of our leaders did extol this virtue, how many of us truly believe in it?)... respect for people's privacy... the professionalism they bring to work... There is no harm in internalizing some of these things for ourselves... But, yes the obsession with anything from west, just because it is from west, doesn't make sense...

If our culture is taking a hit, losing its identity in the whole play of economics as someone said somewhere... Then the problem is again within us... We should know where to draw the lines... I don't really know what you guys have in mind when you say a cultural revolution... Creating an awareness of our cultural heritage, our achievements, our past, our history, creating an appreciation of the Indian literature, Indian art, Indian cinema(??), cricket... Is that it? What else?

I've seen quite a bit of vehement sentiments expressed here across the many posts on this topic... The British were no angels... I remember when I was a kid and had read about the jalian walabagh massacre, i was so infuriated, I wanted to bring back that general (dwyer??) from grave and shoot the bastard... later, i grew up... What is the point nursing old grievances and injustices (even i seeth from the sheer magnitude of it at times)? But why waste our energies in negativities? What do we want, do we want to correct all the historical injustices? Is that possible? And how do we propose to do it? Is it worth taking the trouble? How long back in history do we want to go? And are those people who were actually responsible for it, going to pay back? You read all those chicken soup kinda stuff which says, don't hold on to the grouches of the past, move on etc... We need to move on too... what's done is done, let's learn the lessons and move on... we have other things to worry about now, than what the british did to us... we have to solve our internal problems, provide a better living to our people, make ourselves a strong and self-reliant nation... there is lots of work to do, people... unfortunately, the threads don't seem to be in the right hands... may be all of us (since all seems to be pretty passionate about the cause that is India) should keep it in mind, be in this industry or wherever else we all are, make as much money as we can while we are at it, then see if we can do something to change things at least a bit... at least make a beginning...
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