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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Un-Indian? Anti-India?

Some people – even well-intentioned ones – have expressed concern that they have been reading too many anti- (or un-) Indian tirades on this blog. Well, I ask them to read this blogpost again. I wrote it more than two years ago, expressing my dreams about the kind of India that I would like to see, and the prospects of those dreams coming true are fading before my eyes: if I lament that, does that make me un- or anti-Indian?

Forget about matters relating to high culture and things of the spirit (the sort of things that Rammohun Roy and Gandhi and Tagore thought the world should learn about from India): can we say that we are doing well even materially speaking? The last time I was in the US was 18 years ago, and I saw long rows of shelves in shopping malls stacked with all kinds of goods, from shampoo to dolls to cameras, made in Taiwan or China or Hongkong, and I remember telling people that I would like to come back to see that they had all been replaced by things made in India. And I would love to see lots of Indians getting Olympic golds and Nobel Prizes every time. And that India does not routinely feature as one of the poorest and most corrupt nations of the world. And that educated Indians drool over jobs with American MNCs no longer. In these 18 years, nothing has changed that can make me glad. What is the point in pretending that we are doing well, and finding excuses for not doing well, and getting angry with those who point out that we are not doing well? 

11 comments:

Sayan Datta said...

I know that some people think your views are un-urban and I know the reason too, though I do not endorse their opinions. But anti-Indian?! If what you have said over the years is anti-Indian then I wonder what on earth is 'Indian'! Is it salivating over white collar jobs and believing that education serves no other purpose than to get them one, to think that it's 'hip' not to know who our real heroes were/are and it's the cricketers in the IPL and the fashion models who are doing the country a great service and shooting ones mouth off without knowing what he/she is talking about or caring to!
I hope Sir, that for every person who thinks that your views have an anti-Indian inclination there is at least one person who knows that you are among the few who know what being an Indian means and who realizes that without your constant exhortations,admonitions and reproofs, your motionary finger indicating caution and your persuasion to penetrate veneers for a deeper look there are many amongst us who would have lived far poorer lives both intellectually and emotionally.
Funny that your blogpost 'My India' fetched no comments.
Sayan Datta

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Un-urban? I didn't quite get that, Sayan. What does that mean - rural, rustic, or what?

Subhanjan said...

On this point of discusssion, I am reminded of the accusations that sceptics have made against 'Slumdog Millionaire'. It is so true that we are finding excuses for not doing well and getting angry with those pointing out to us that we are not doing well. One of my friends, recently, almost went to the extent of quarelling (he never listens to anything without bias and with patience) that 'Slumdog Millionaire' has destroyed the image of India. And he said this without seeing the movie. He simply echoed what his professor at the university said. What Indians have been bred in the country that had seen intellectual men and men of reason like Gandhi and Vivekananda? We boast of our country when we use mother boards made in China, cars made in Korea, and iPods whose internal parts are made in Japan. And when someone like you points out our false boasts, you become anti-Indian. What a tragedy! How can a nation progress if its people do not accept their faults?

Subhanjan said...

On this point of discusssion, I am reminded of the accusations that sceptics have made against Slumdog Millionaire. It is so true that we are finding excuses for not doing well and getting angry with those pointing out to us that we are not doing well. One of my friends, recently, almost went to the extent of quarelling (he never listens to anything without bias and with patience) that Slumdog Millionaire has destroyed the image of India. And he said this without seeing the movie. He simply echoed what his professor at the university said. What Indians have been bred in the country that had seen intellectual men and men of reason like Gandhi and Vivekananda? We boast of our country when we use mother boards made in China, cars made in Korea, and iPods whose internal parts are made in Japan. And when someone like you points out our false boasts, you become anti-Indian. What a tragedy! How can a nation progress if its people do not accept their faults?

Sayan Datta said...

I was trying to say that the fact that you do not endorse or approve of the aspirations of the general urban middle class which is pursuing wealth for it's own sake while most people are easily wooed over by the sense of economic optimism perpetrated chiefly by the media, is misunderstood and not taken lightly by quite a few people.

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

I am sure those who hurl criticism at you by calling you “Anti-Indian”, have never really bothered to spend ten decent minutes of their lives to think ‘ what makes them an Indian or rather what can make them a true Indian’. Sadly, these kinds of people are far too many around us who seem to think they are patriotic because they accept everything as the way they are, without even hoping to contribute to change a bit of them. They talk of India’s natural beauty without even planting a single tree to help the environment, they talk of Indian economy without establishing proper work culture in their offices, and they express sadness about India’s poverty after ensuring they overspend in shopping malls but not donate a single penny to charity. To me their criticism hardly matters. It only shows their inability and frustrations. As far as you are concerned, you are much beyond their reach. For so long, you have been trying to gift the nation ‘intelligent citizens’. If all teachers in our country start thinking like you perhaps half of our woes are solved.

Somehow I do feel, (please correct if I am absolutely wrong because this is just a perception), that historically we Indians (the natives as well as the influx from various parts which makes Indians) have never been united to build nation. I doubt even when we were ruled by the likes of Asoka, Chandragupta, Akbar or Harshavardhan most of the nation building (if at all) was because of the initiatives taken by these rulers. I doubt whether as Indians we ever were so motivated to work collectively towards helping community and in turn nation. This continued during British Raj too. While fighting for independence, we did get united by how far it was our own individual will, I doubt. Perhaps we found out we had no choice but to listen to our committed leaders.

Problems got magnified after independence. In those times we hardly got good leaders who could motivate us. Our inherent tendency to use the ‘short-cut way to success’ have progressive ruined our industries and somehow even now we are the ‘best back-office’. I can still understand, in a big country infrastructure development takes time, however what troubles me is the lack of ‘will to improve’. Nobody or nothing could make us cleaner, why? Nobody or nothing could make us less cleaner, why? Nobody or nothing could make us obey rules, why?

As I said before this is just my observation and I may be totally wrong. I just wonder whether it is a tendency that we have inherited ‘not to work upon our lacunas’. If it is an inheritance then I wonder whether even God can save us. You can tell a billion Indians what nation building is but to make them contribute would be a tough ask.

Regards
Tanmoy

Soumallya Chattopadhyay said...

Sir,
The points that you have held up in your blog "My India"no doubt provides the sense of what criteria must be fulfilled by a Nation to be called the "ULTIMATE PERFECT" state.
We know that India is counted amongst the developing countries in the world.Certainly,under the prevailing circumstances,you cannot dream of seeing American markets flourishing with Indian goods.
You cannot deny the fact that India too is trying to put up an endeavor to develop...The success of ISRO in launching the spaceship"Chandrayaan" is evidently a big leap in the course of development of our country.
On the issue of corruption.....do you really think that India is the most corrupted country in the world?Isn't America corrupted?Aren't the private banks of America responsible for the massive deflation that has affected the world?You cannot name a single nation(only except certain small Scandinavian countries)that is free of corruption.We must consider the size and population of India at first then we should write on such issues like corruption.
Now it is true that some people in our society are totally mad only about latest electro-gadgets,cars and IPL but that does not mean that the entire nation is good for nothing!Why are you thinking as a pessimist?Be OPTIMIST, be happy.
With regards,
Soumallya Chattopadhyay

Shilpi said...

I've been wondering whether to comment on this post, and have been veering from completely ignoring it to snorting about it. I'm not snorting at your post, Suvro da - I'm snorting at the thought of anyone calling you "un-Indian" or anti-Indian. It's a misplaced and a factually incorrect statement to make about you. In any case, which posts do the concerned individuals cite as being "un-Indian" I would like to know.

As for your last question....but that is what happens. People who would much rather live inside their comfortable dream worlds will point their fingers at you for telling them that things are not all well and dreamy and fine. What else can they do? After all you're the one who's being "rude" enough to shake them (however temporarily) out of their stupor I guess. I have a feeling that those people have managed to convince themselves that "things are getting better" and have never been so good - and so they don't much like it when you put down the bare facts in front of them.

One other thing: how would it matter though if Indian goods did replace the ones assembled in China and Taiwan?...I am asking this in all seriousness. Most linen goods and a lot of other fabric goods carry the label "Made in India" (a few are made in Bangladesh and Nepal) - but how does that help matters any? Or make anything better?

Take care....
Shilpi

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Oh, it would matter in a small but important way, Shilpi: a lot of Americans would sit up and take notice if they were surrounded by consumer goods all made in India (the way they have noticed in the last 20 years that China exists, and cannot be ignored or walked over), and a lot of Indians would find new pride in calling themselves Indian ... after all, far more Indians can identify with a country that can flood the world with cheap and good consumer durables than one which supplies the world with Kalidasas and Tagores, Aryabhattas and Satyen Bose-s, Buddhas and Vivekanandas: don't we all know that by now?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

... and besides, I did mention Olympic golds and Nobels too, and the wish that educated Indians would drool over jobs with American MNCs no longer! The dearth of comments here speaks very loudly of the fact that when asked to face unpleasant facts, most of my readers have nothing to say.

Shilpi said...

.....oh please don't get me wrong. The Olympic Golds and the rest didn't make me wonder - it was the other statement that did.

And I'm still wondering what the well-intentioned people expect you to say/write? What would they have you say? Is it anti/un-Indian to write the truth/direct attention to facts? I'm assuming that your post "They live beyond the lights" makes you un-Indian. And honestly, I don't understand what people mean when they say "India is progressing..." "India is developing...." Is the poverty level going down? Do the poorest have any rights? Do even the rich have a sense of genuine well-being and are they truly educated? Are people happier?
So much for now.
Shilpi