India: Shifting Perceptions

Posted in India, Media, politics, Satire by Anuraag Sanghi on May 7, 2013

Pakistanis want to pass of as Indians; Brown Americans want to save India and the British want to be born as Indians. What’s on with India, these days?

This probably is the start of complete loss of respect for immi-grunts. | Cartoon by Subhani on Monday, December 7, 2009; source & courtesy – subhanistrokes.blogspot.in

This probably is the start of complete loss of respect for immi-grunts. | Cartoon by Subhani on Monday, December 7, 2009; source & courtesy – subhanistrokes.blogspot.in

It evoked a smile, when the market leader (arguably, a thought leader also) of the Pakistani satire industry, Majorly Profound wrote how ‘Indians are Indians and Pakistanis when caught in tight situations (like in Airports) are Indians too.’

When Things Get Tough

But, on a more serious note – and a more recent case, a Pakistani health worker in the US, in an intensive care unit, caught in the Boston Marathon bombings, recounted his thoughts and reactions.

As a 20-something Pakistani male with dark stubble (an ode more to my hectic schedule as a resident in the intensive-care unit than to any aesthetic or ideology), would I not fit the bill? I know I look like Hollywood’s favorite post-cold-war movie villain. I’ve had plenty of experience getting intimately frisked at airports. Was it advisable to go back to pick up my friend’s camera that he had forgotten in his child’s stroller in the mall? I remember feeling grateful that I wasn’t wearing a backpack, which I imagined might look suspicious. My mind wandered to when I would be working in the intensive care unit the next day, possibly taking care of victims of the blast. What would I tell them when they asked where I was from (a question I am often posed)? Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell people I was from India or Bangladesh?

via Living Through Terror, in Rawalpindi and Boston – NYTimes.com.

Can Western Islamophobia be calmed if you are from India?

Something, somewhere, someone must have done the right things, to be in this situation.

R K Laxman, The Times of India, Jan 10 2003

R K Laxman, The Times of India, Jan 10 2003

Come Home To London

Not many remember how in the late 70s, British immigration authorities subjected Indian women to virginity tests – to prove what, I could never understand.

If you thought that only Tories, Right-Whingers and Conservations were racists, the Prime Minister of UK at that time was a Labour leader, Jim Callaghan.

But London is a strange place.

As Vir Sanghvi found out a few years ago, dealing with rather rude and surly staff at Heathrow – seemingly, only to Indians. Turns out that Vir Sanghvi was talking of rude and surly British-Indians manning the counters at London Heathrow.

More recently, a Brown American blogger, was found in the blogosphere, nonchalantly referring to Indians as dogs. In writing, openly and publicly. When challenged, obstinately, he chose to defend his uncivil attitude.

Just shows that culture is nothing to do with genes. It is all about satsang.

Keep bad company …

Big Stories From Vague Questions

But rather indicative was a recent poll by a British advertising agency.

One of those vague polls that PEW Centre specializes in. Do Hindus Hate Muslims more than Muslims Hate Hindus type of polls. Where people at PEW judge a nation by asking 2000 people out of 20 crore (200 million), very broad questions – and seem to get rather precise answers.

But all said, these polls can be indicative. Sometimes at least. OK. Rarely, if you must insist.

In this case, turns out rather to the dislike of British media who has been rather quiet about this poll in the last one month. A tweet message to the ‘Insight Director’ got no response – seemingly because he accesses his Twitter account

After a year-long study, a British media agency, OMD revealed that 32% of Britons in the 16-24 age group think that India is probably the country they would prefer to be born in as India afforded more opportunities. Younger Britons who think that India would be best, is higher at 36%.

Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; on bamulahija on January 09, 2010

Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; on bamulahija on January 09, 2010

India beat off not only the other major emerging economies, but the US too. Cool Brazil was the choice of 29% of those polled, followed by Russia (28%), China (27%) and the US (26%), according to the study conducted by the communications agency OMD UK.

“It’s not that people are rushing to exit England, but there is a sense of people being aware that Britain is no longer the power that it was economically, and that growth will be driven by new economies.”

via Brits would rather have been born Indian – Hindustan Times.

A man should know his limits.

Now Britishers are a tough act. After 200 years in India, it made no difference.

They are still in the same game. Of war, killing, loot, fraud, murder, etc.

23 Responses

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  1. SS said, on May 7, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I think there are far more bigger things to think and write about – like the report of “Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report” where India is ranked around 140 of 170 countries and UK is at 23 and they feel sorry for falling off 13 places from last year….and press and people in India don’t give a damn about it ? That too with 40% of all the worlds children’s death is from India by first-birth-day. Opportunities ? For whom ? How many women make it to Parliament ? The rich of the country can keep boasting and India-shining stories….But have they made any change to the reality in the Indian villages and to the woman in villages ? Unless woman take their rightful place in the society and in running and administering the country, the Govt. will be more keen to run Govt.-approved wine BAR than to open hospitals and neo-natal care centres in every pincode / postal code zone of this country.

    • Vinod said, on May 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      There you go! I was wondering when a comment like this would appear.

      Dear Mr. SS, there are plenty to speak about likes of what you mentioned and very few speak of topics like the author does. So, while there are many ills in India, but its good to read about things like these as well.

    • JS said, on May 29, 2013 at 3:16 am

      Nah, there are plenty of sites like BBC,Guardian,Time of India to do the whining, let’s also try and bring out something good once in a while. I would also appreciate it if Anurag brings up more such topics… it’s time to see both sides of the both story instead of concentrating on just one.

  2. masculineffort said, on May 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    The thing about India is marketing. Indians are the world’s greatest marketeers and salespeople. We may be the world’s most cost effective engineers (not the best or the cheapest), but we sure are the world’s best at marketing and sales. The whole slogan “India Shining” and “incredible India” are examples of this marketing brilliance. Younger Brits seem to have been taken over by this sort of marketing just the same way as I was once taken in by “India shining.” God, when it comes of catchy sloganeering, we really are the best. Let those Brits just come over for a visit. Boy are they in for a surprise (surprise being an understatement) !

    Our country is nowhere near as great as our perception of it. It used to be great once upon a time when Superman such as Shakyamuni Siddharth Gautam preached the incomparable Dhamma here. But right now, whatever it is, it is not great. And whatever path it is on, it is not the path of greatness.

    I travel round the world on work. For the first time, I visited countries such as Nepal, thailand and philippines, indonesia and vietnam. And it was not just the capital cities, but also the provinces. And guess what? Each of those places is infinitely more livable than India. The air is cleaner, the water table is higher, the electricity situation is better, the infrastructure is better, the internet is faster, people seem happier and more prosperous. Words can’t describe how depressed I was when I visited these countries. When I used to visit the west, it was not so bad. I always convinced myself that these were first world countries and India was third world still getting over the psychological ravages of colonialism. Surely we would get there soon. But Nepal and the SE Asian countries really shocked and depressed my system. Here are fellow third world countries, some of which were also ravaged by western colonialism, which are so far ahead of India that perhaps India should be classed a fourth world country.

    Nepal shook me the most. Here was a country whose per capita GDP was supposed to be 40% that of India. When I visited Nepal, it seemed to be the other way round. Something is very very wrong with GDP as a measure of a country’s economy and prosperity. Something is very wrong with the economic profession as a whole. I feel that when Indians travel abroad as tourists, they should not travel to the west. They must travel to other third world countries in SE Asia to get a true picture of how far behind we are even other third world countries. Travel to these countries when you get the time.

    While we must strive to get ahead and must be confident of our prospects, we must stop boasting about how much progress we are making and how we are soon going to overtake the west. It makes us look foolish. Let’s overtake Nepal and the ASEAN countries first. And given the way Indonesia and vietnam are roaring ahead, it does not look like it will happen any time soon. Certainly not with the kind of self congratulatory tone this article seems to have struck. Let’s not put down other people. Let’s be confident, but humble. And for the love of all that is sacred and holy, let us try to live with reality (instead of fantasy) for a change.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      The air is cleaner, the water table is higher, the electricity situation is better, the infrastructure is better, the internet is faster, people seem happier and more prosperous

      I have no response to a comment centred around this kind of measurements.

      • masculineffort said, on May 10, 2013 at 11:59 am

        It may sound incredible to you, but some of us plebeians care about little things like that. We have not yet reached the high state of mind where we stop caring about things like food, clothing and shelter and focus on the “big philosophical issues”.

        • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm

          Pls take a look at your comment – and see it not as your comment but as a thirds party comment.

          I suggest you take a 2ndlook.

          Once again, no offense meant.

          • masculineffort said, on May 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm

            Sorry friend. I guess I just got emotional. That SE Asia cum Nepal trip really messed up my nervous system causing me to become despondent and despair about India.

      • JS said, on May 29, 2013 at 3:19 am

        Actually you should have, it’s not as if India doesn’t has that,except maybe clean air, but it’s because India is in it’s industrial development phase, once that passes, we can get that too. As far as marketing is concerned, I think most of us suck at that. India hasn’t been able to exert the kind of influence that it should’ve been by now. It’s still pretty introspective and needs a lot more work on marketing. But yeah, polls don’t lie my friend..

  3. balai_c said, on May 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Indians have a massive inferiority complex vs-a-vi any any other country, or other ethnic disposition. This is especially true for english educated macaylayputras, as exhibited by the two posters hitting back anuragji with such righteous indignition. Long conditioning under foreign over-lordship have convinced these people, that stuff like confidence, pride are loathsome burdens. We must be meek and obsequious to any foreign nation or people. Everyone is better than us! It has to be true! Indians cannot be prideful of anything , right? Anything else is blasphemous!!

    While i do not share his euphoric mood right now, I refuse to mope and wallow in despair, like the countless mentally enslaved Indian (or should i say Indian wannabe). This trend of psychologically shackled denizens of this great land, has been a common feature through out the the period of independent India. There is indeed solid reasons behind the trends that anuragji posted. British economy , along with most of europe, is tanking fast into a deep abyss. In several decades, UK indeed has a very good chance of reaching 3rd world living standards. If anyone has doubts, just look at the pictures of Detroit city.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 10, 2013 at 3:15 am

      Indians have a massive inferiority complex vs-a-vi any any other country, or other ethnic disposition. This is especially true for english educated macaylayputras, as exhibited by the two posters hitting back anuragji with such righteous indignition.

      Why label all Indians with an inferiority complex?

      There are some Indians who have it. And feeding this inferiority are a whole lot of Brown Americans who feed this serpent of inferiority by parroting silly Western cliches of what India is and what India is not.

      This idea of faultless perfection is such a Desert Bloc idea. Unless India is ‘perfect’ – and all people are: –

      1. Rich, powerful, moral, upright, honest
      2. Educated, sensitive, well read, smartly dressed in Western clothes, speak faultless Queen’s English
      3. Living in large houses, with a fast internet connection, with two cars, three televisions
      4. One personal battle tank, four personal machine guns, enough ammunition to wage a private war
      5. Hold patents to every modern technology and gizmo – from bullet trains to fighter jets; from microchips to satellite

      This list keeps on expanding. If we don’t have any one of these things, we are a failure.

      Yesterday, there was comment from an international traveller that India is so backward, because while even small Asian countries have fast internet connections, India does not have fast internet.

      But the majority of Indians are: –

      1. Patient, optimistic people, who have seen the country rise from an economic and social wreck that it was in 1947 to a semi-functional economy that is beginning to take off.

      2. See a tomorrow that will always hold out a new challenge – and we will address that challenge with the confidence of our past achievements.

      3. Know that we have come a long way – and we have a long distance to travel.

      So let us not lump the large number of Brown Indian winners with these desi and videshi losers who are also Brown in colour, That is the only similarity these Brown losers have with us winners.

      • balai_c said, on May 10, 2013 at 4:46 am

        I commend your patience, anuragji, dealing with disruptive elements. Yes, you are quite correct, we should not conflate such whiners, with millions of patient, hardworking Indians are pushing India against such insurmountable adversities. There indeed is a long way to go. However, mindless complaining and dejection would not help anything. The changes we see today are indeed undeniable , and unthinkable even 20 tears back.

      • masculineffort said, on May 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

        Sorry, you guys are not winners. You are just rebels against reality. You mention my comment on the internet. Why not mention the air quality, infrastructure, water situation? You’re just trying to make me look like some ivory tower elitist completely out of touch with the people, aren’t you? Like I am some guy who never ever worked on a farm or fixed tractors or ever installed micro turbines for farmers so they can generate their own electricity without relying on the State. That’s part of my job, BTW. So whatever patience, optimism, honesty, resourcefulness you have seen in the Indian people, I have seen more of it and much closer than you have and in much more desperate situations than you have . And guess what, people all around the world have those qualities.

        It’s interesting you label me with all the other guys who make a career out of criticizing India. I have posted several comments on your blog, one of which you even called incisive.

        Swami Vivekananda is a brown loser as per your definition.

        My advice, relax. I not trying to “get” you or demoralize you. Just that your article comes across as having a boastful tone. This over sensitivity to criticism is not becoming.

        • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm

          I suggest before you transfer your anger, read your comment.

          I mean c’mon who will judge a country by the speed of internet connection. The need for internet or the speed is not the question – but the method of evaluation is!

          I suggest, very respectfully and sincerely, take a 2ndlook at your comment.

          No offense meant.

          • masculineffort said, on May 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

            Agreed that judging a country solely by internet speed is silly. That, however was not my intent. Internet speed is not a technological issue. It is a governance issue. It is a symptom of a larger issue. The fact that India’s internet bandwidth is still in government hands is the real issue. The fact that so many of the aspects of our lives is in government hands (and not our own) is the real issue. If the government stops interfering with the minutiae of our lives and standing in our way every time we try to better our lives, we would have been a first world nation long back. To me the internet is very important because it allows a free exchange of dissenting opinions unlike the mainstream media which is heavily regulated.

            Now there is a personal twist to my rant as well. Given the fact that Indian cities are so polluted these days, I would like a fast internet connection so I can work from home and not spend the time commuting and developing lung cancer. Agreed that we are rapidly industrializing and so some amount of pollution is unavoidable. I am no fan of the lefty environmental whack jobs. My grouse is that in my province some of the most polluting factories would not have been set up at all if the local people had a voice. No surprise that the most polluting factories belong to the most politically well connected.

            My apologies since I was not more clear about my evaluating parameters. I guess I was just very depressed when I returned from my SE Asian trip and lost the usual balance of my mind. Do you believe that speaking about India’s comparative shortcomings gives me some sort of pleasure?

            But tell me, how else can I comparatively evaluate two countries apart from living in them, working with the people there, talking to them about their hopes and aspirations, using their facilities? Should I believe my eyes and ears or sundry newspaper and journal articles from writers who in order to meet a deadline have probably never even been to the places they write about?

        • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

          My advice, relax. I not trying to “get” you or demoralize you. Just that your article comes across as having a boastful tone. This over sensitivity to criticism is not becoming.

          The ‘data’ on this post is in a category between anecdotal and quantitative. This was written more as ‘interesting’ rather than positional, defining, seminal or profound.

          It is indicative of where India is going. And it is good to know the direction. It is premature to have ‘victory’ celebrations – but surely you can see the markers on the way are pointing in the right direction.

          • masculineffort said, on May 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm

            In some ways we are going ahead. The employment/industrial situation is good. Certainly the corruption is government offices is lower than when I was a child. The government shows more spine in dealing with the Chinese. The government did not bail out Vijay Mallya (more a politician than a businessman) the way the Americans bailed out their incompetent companies.

            In other aspects we are going backwards. We seem to be losing our freedoms. There is the whole national ID thing going on. The government has equipment to monitor our conversations which they boast about. Business permits are being denied unless you have political contacts. In my city, a majority of the businesses are directly owned by politically connected people. Earlier, you could at least bribe a politico and get the permit. Today, it seems they just want to own the business for themselves.

            I guess I am just impatient with the speed of the changes. I want more changes, now. Also, we need to know that even though we are moving ahead, the rest of our third world cousins in Asia, Africa and South America are not exactly standing still. They are moving even faster than we are. Yes, the west is moving backwards, but we must not compare with them. We must compare with the other third worlders. While comparisons are not necessary, I guess this is just my competitive instincts speaking. I just want India to leave everyone else behind and roar to the head of the table.

        • JS said, on May 29, 2013 at 3:26 am

          What about air quality, water situation? They are not bad,maybe you want to assume so… it’s your problem not ours. As for internet speed connection, it really depends on your provider, there are some which are pretty slow, then there are some that are pretty good, not sure how that rejects or accepts this article. But good for you. As for infrastructure, it is developing as we speak.. this decade would be the decade of infrastructure. And also of manufacturing. In some sense, the article that you call “boastful” isn’t so, the article doesn’t assume things, it states facts and reports.

          • masculineffort said, on May 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

            Decade of manufacturing and insfrastructure. I certainly hope so. You know exactly what keeps India from going further in manufacturing, don’t you? Or are you one of those people who does not understand the root cause of an issue but just believes that miraculously everything will work out because we are special.

    • JS said, on May 29, 2013 at 3:20 am

      The post independent education system and the hijacking of the media and perception makers by macaulites has a massive role to play.

    • JS said, on May 29, 2013 at 3:21 am

      These are not Indians per se, Indians don’t really care about their position in the world, they are busy in building their world and improving their lives.There are two other types, NRIs and RNIs and they both suffer from massive inferiority complex that has gone way out of control.

      • manu said, on May 30, 2013 at 6:37 am

        “There are two other types, NRIs and RNIs and they both suffer from massive inferiority complex that has gone way out of control.”

        well said JS

      • masculineffort said, on June 4, 2013 at 12:20 am

        More sloganeering.

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