Interestingly, while I felt intense pain about Mumbai and tried to write my private thoughts on this blog, I have been on the receiving end of some stinging criticism, some of it for what I have been writing, but most of it for who I am and what I do. That strain of criticism ranged from affectionate - 'you are a third party regardless' - to downright hostile, like this one from a friend [which I have edited a bit to make it impersonal]:
Do you really think that, people who are sitting in London,NY,LA and writing about Mumbai are true INDIANs? Well, you may argue that from the bottom of their heart they are Indian and it's their country. What a joke indeed . The gentleman who called them third party is absolutely correct.
These people who left this country, are still licking the feet of already snooty West for their due residency or citizenship are of course not true Indians. These people have no positive contribution to Indian welfare. Just don't tell me all of them are very bright and they are doing phenomenally well in West....don't tell me that all of them have to pursue their global career. A number of NRI's who are now making sound was not doing soooo..well here and left this country.They should not pass judgments now.
Yes, we Indians are corrupt, we take bribes, we are suffering from severe leadership problem, complete administrative failure is there, we have coordination problems, we are not united, this is not the proper time to declare war against Pakistan, we can't only blame the outsiders,we don't give value for lives.......everything is true.....but sitting in London and thinking only about India's crisis ........what say?
There indeed is a personal story here, but the feeling, I suppose, is widely shared: Indians living abroad do not have the right to lecture about what the country should or should not do, at times like this. Despite my personal situation - I am very much an NRI and stand accused - I can understand the pain, and agonize that I have done my bit to evoke this reaction [talked about all the evils that plague us everyday in India].
However, the point is that I did not even realize I am third party till I have been told I am a third party. With most of my family and friends in India, I never thought I am an NRI before being told I am indeed one. But the correspondent is indeed correct - my claim to the Indian identity is surely less than her. Or, is it?
We are back on to the original debate: what makes an Indian? Residency? That will make me British, and some of the mafia who abetted the crime more Indian than me. That can't be right. Bureaucratic definitions apart, is it okay to count out the Indian diaspora across the world and say that they have no right to feel the pain and say what they think can be done right?
While I was on the subject, I read the objections again, and discovered something else. That whole thought about 'doing well', which sits almost irrelevantly in the context of the argument, is actually the central point. That's the new definition of whose opinions are acceptable in India - those who are doing well. Who do not contribute means who do not contribute financially, and more than residency or birth, it is actually the income, the property and the visiting cards make the modern Indian.
This is unlike any other country though. I am not certain that an expat American would be treated the same way. Or, British, for that matter. Kipling famously said that wherever there is an English soldier buried, that little stretch of land is England. Or, the Japanese, or the Chinese - who thrive on their diaspora and built their global businesses on the basis of these connections.
In fact, so did Indians. Indian-Americans and other members of Indian diaspora surely helped spread the message of India. Many of them invested in India, but more so - many more opened the doors to travelling Indians, helping students, job seekers and family visitors to study, work and travel abroad. Many implanted parts of their culture and religion in other parts of the world, many times in the face of local resistance, and enthusiastically educated their foreign friends about the values Indian. I know many non-residents who watched TV as anxiously as anyone during this crisis in Mumbai, felt as angry and grieved as much. So, I am certain we are not very different from any other community/ race in the world. [I recalled a very poignant story in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Interpreter of Maladies, where an expat Bangladeshi family watch Dhaka burn on TV.]
Except that doing well bit. Nirod C Chaudhuri, a brilliant commentator of the Indian diaspora, talked about how we endlessly keep talking about the successful members of our families and treat any discussion about the less successful ones with disdain and apathy. We are addicted to success, we worship it.
So, we have long denied people who are less successful than us the right to be 'equal' Indians. We have always frowned at failures, and were embarrassed by difficulty. We have excluded them from the rights and rituals of modern India, and built an who's-who society. Interestingly, terrorists knew that too - they knew that by walking into our poshest hotels, they will create the maximum impact. No amount of bombs around the city, which kills our less successful citizens, would have made us feel this desperate.
And, the solution is actually right there - building a more inclusive society. Caring about citizens, without considering whether he is someone or not. I watched this story on TV where a doctor, who was staying in the Taj and who actually looked after an wounded Taj employee during the seize was describing, how, after the wounded man was handed over to the rescue team, the hospital wanted to know what is the person's division/ rank in the hotel, as if the care will depend on the same. However, if we sat up when bombs were going off in our cities and pavement dwellers and scavengers were getting killed, we could have possibly repulsed the terrorists who stood victorious over dead bodies in the coveted Chamber inside the Taj Mahal hotel.
So, there I go, lecturing again, a less-than-successful NRI. But I know that when I am counted as an Indian like every other person in the country and in the diaspora, the country will stand stronger and prouder than today.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.