Xenophilic Indians

I wonder why there is so widespread adoption for anything foreign and apathy for local. Why are we so ignorant or ashamed of our own culture and heritage?
Last week I went to Concorde Manhattan, an apartment complex in Electronic City Bangalore. The project had 10 towers each named after a great person. Unfortunately none of the names were Indians.
Outside Bollywood & cricket, almost all celebrities became widely popular first abroad then domestically (rather than the expected other way around). Notable names being Mahatma Gandhi, Amartya Sen, Arundhati Rai became overnight celebrities only after the rewards and recognition abroad. Some of the most famous Indian industries flourish because they don’t do any business in India. Take Lakshmi Mittal or IT Companies of the world. Even in Bollywood, no viewer will watch a movie unless the movie has western clothes, songs shot abroad. A month ago, I met an NGO activist Harish Hande during the recent I5 talks in this campus. He sadly admits that his NGO is neither the best nor the most revolutionary. Yet he was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award only because he is eloquent in English and has worked so hard promoting his company Selco internationally.
English language skills has become the only scorecard to judge how a person, the universal language for the high class gentleman. Your family and friends will hold you in high esteem if you work for a MNC. If you happen to be working for an Indian company, then number of foreign trips will determine how successful you are professionally.
Many products carry a tag “export quality” signifying that produce for the local market is inherently inferior. Even traditional Indian practices and philosophies gained relevance abroad before we Indians even understood its value. No wonder even today we use the western names which has ‘a’ attached towards the end of Yoga, Ayurveda etc. rather than the original Indian name. At ISKON, which is probably the biggest temple in Bangalore, they Chant “Hare Rama! Hare Krishna!” not “Hare Ram! Hare Krishn!” because of its international image.
Why is it that we are constantly and often blindly following foreigners? Can’t we make a judgment for ourselves? Why is it that local talent and ideas are being starved domestically in our quest to adopt anything foreigners. I would like to end this note with the famous story of a couple on the donkey.
A man and wife along with their donkey were returning from the forest. The man was riding the donkey while the woman was walking. The passing-by commented on how the inconsiderate man was making his wife toil in the hot sun. So the wife mounted on the donkey which was immediately followed by comments on how the man was henpecked and cuckold etc. Frustrated they decided that both of them would ride on the donkey. Now the passing by commented on how heartless the couple was and how they are doing to over-work the donkey to death. So both of them decided to walk. No, wonder the donkey ran away and the couple was too tired to pursue. Gist is that its important to listen to others, but there is no wisdom in blindly aping the society.


But what is it that you want?

I was raised in an environment where we did not have much of a choice. The major decisions are made easy because in reality you are not taking them. Its governed by the norms and expectations of the parents, society, relatives and even teachers.

You study hard because the neighbor’s kids have higher grades. You speak English and not your mother tongue because that is a sign of being educated. After schooling you have no choice but to pursue engineering or medicine because it is hard to support oneself on art or sports. After the bachelors one has to pursue MBA. Not because they want to but because that is expected of them by others. Jobs, marriage, kids, house, cars everything is governed by one big question “What is expected out of me?”

Indians have a greater external locus of control than most people from other countries, however things are changing. It is easier when we are told by our family, spouse, boss or society what to do and what not to do rather than take a plunge ourselves. We judge our success not by how much happiness it brings us, but by the eyes of the others. Surprisingly the system works and the country is growing by leaps and bounds. However the question is when we are going to rise above the Maslov’s basic needs of materialistic success and security to pursue our passions. When are we going to take a time out to fully understand ourselves and take time to develop our hobbies and interests? The goal of life is not material success.


ABCD (American born confused desi)

One of the hardest things to be is being a second generation Indian immigrant. The parents still tend to have the same set of values and expectations that they witnessed in India 20-30 years ago, while the fantasy world of Bollywood movies show a kind of society that is quite similar to the west or their adopted country. They don’t realize that Hindi movies are a fantasy land and often bear little resemblance with Indian culture and society, while the parents don’t realize that over the past 20-30 years the culture and values in India have modernized quite considerably.

Indians unlike the folks from China and Middle East try extra hard to mingle with the local population of their new country. There a conflict of the values and culture which they need to have to be cool enough in front of their friends and what they are expected to practice at home.

Most likely it is a short transitional phase which most people in societies facing rapid changes and development face.