Why do THEY hate us? Us, the Indians…

Why do they hate us? Why do YOU hate us?

Why, despite our much touted-diversity, are we treated as ONE? The whole bunch of a billion plus of us. Do our numbers threaten you? Then how come the Chinese get away with it?

Why are you so surprised by those of us who are successful? You don’t think a civilisation that dates back a few thousand years, and centuries of foreign influence should give us an edge?

Why is the way we speak English so much funnier than say, the way the French or Spanish or Japanese speak it? Or even some Americans. When most of you ‘native’ English speakers can’t get your plurals, apostrophes, Me and I right, why are our quirks so irritating to you?

English is the language of our business and education, of our laws and policies, so yes, we have earned the right to design our own idioms, and unique usages.

That’s Indian English, so live with it.

Ok, ‘the’ Indian accent is difficult to understand.  But, when you say things like “I can do the Indian accent”, you merely sound pompous and ignorant. Because–sorry to burst your bubble–there is no ‘the’ Indian accent. At best you might be able to do ‘an’ Indian accent.

Even in our accents we have diversity. Every state has a unique Indian-English accent, based on what the native language of that group is.

The only reason I can see why you find us and our English so funny and ridiculous is because you can’t accept that we have achieved success despite the bigoted opinions you might have of us.

Yes, there is poverty, corruption, sectarianism, murder of the girl child… any number of issues that make me cringe when I talk about being Indian. None of which gives YOU a frigging right to treat us poorly.

Despite all this, what you will find in EVERY household in India, from the poorest to the richest, is the altar we have built for education. Yes, we’ll live in slums and crap on the streets, but we will still have a revered place for books in our homes. We know that’s our ticket out of the rut we might find ourselves in, or that that was the ticket that got us out of it. That’s the ticket that will help us build personal toilets within the four walls of our homes.

Next time you say ‘those Indians’ with disdain, or treat me or my countrymen/women poorly–we who clean your homes, teach your kids, drive your fancy cars, do your accounts, write your books, fix your computer glitches or sell your produce–keep in mind we are laughing at you too.

Every day, every year, we are  all making ourselves indispensable to the way YOU lead your life. And every racist, bigoted action and word against us will come back to bite you. Because one thing you won’t accuse us of is taking the easy way out, taking our education lightly or doing ‘nothing’ to earn our living. We will work our asses off and we will make our kids study as if they were in a boot camp everyday (even if it’s Indian English along with Indian mathematics and science that they learn). Along the way we’ll learn from you too. We’ll have them focus more on arts and entertainment… we are already there remember?

We’ll be there in your faces everyday for the rest of your lives.

We will buy your supermarkets from London to Sydney; We will make the viruses, we will get the antidotes; We will clean your streets and lavatories; We will also own your banks and steel mills; We will take your sport, and make it our own megabucks venture; We will teach your kids, in your own countries, subjects that you brought to life.

And yes, we will make use of every immigration opening available around the world and move.

So get used to it.

I am sick and tired of the supposedly polite–and deeply racist and rude–questions that are thrown my way.

Am I to take it as a compliment that you are surprised I speak English well or read ‘your’ classics, or that my kids know more about Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl than yours do?

Am I to take it as a compliment that you can hardly hide your shock that I occupy the seat I do, just because you speak a European language? Even if your country is in debt so deep it will not be cleared in your life time, and it rarely ever moves away from the brink of another civil war? Am I to cower because of my Dravidian frizzy hair and brown skin, as I stand before your Aryan greatness?

I know there are some valid reasons for hating us. But that’s true for the rest of you as well. Am sure not a single one of you or your group is beyond reproach or annoyances yourself.

My next question should be Why do we hate OURSELVES so much. That’s for another day, another very long post… our actions unfortunately mirror our grievances.
Sorry Mona Eltahawy for borrowing your now famous line.

The Falsehood of Patriotism… and the bulls**t about diversity

As tempting as it was to post yesterday, in respect for all the jingoistic good cheer yesterday, I desisted.  What is there to celebrate, pray, tell me? I found all this Happy Independence Day wishes going around jarring.

We Indians (and our erstwhile brothers in neighbouring countries) are big on rhetoric and gestures. We like the tamasha of public displays of emotions. Everything is larger than life. Births, deaths, weddings, honour and patriotism.

We are corrupt to the very core, and most of us can’t get by even a day without being party to a crime, big or small. Jumping Qs, paying bribes, clamouring for that which we haven’t earned, finding legal loopholes that will make our lives easier… Yes, let’s blame the system, and say that there is no other way to be. But there are people who have made sacrifices, to avoid compromising their principles. People like Anna Hazare, on whose integrity every media-savvy activist wants a piggy-back ride to fame.

I am not in total support of Anna Hazare’s current campaign—the civil society should not be ‘in’ power, it should be empowered—but I have nothing but respect for a gentleman of his community service record.

But many of those who speak in support of him are only indulging in rhetoric. Look at the people who support him. Analyse how they lead their lives. Pay attention to their prejudices and partisan views. I am not talking about public figures, I am talking about your family and friends…

Don’t equate your need for drama, desire for limelight and hunger for public applause with patriotism.

What are you patriotic about? The language YOU speak? The food YOU eat? The colour of YOUR skin? The culture of YOUR state? The habits of YOUR community?

What exactly are YOU ‘Proud’ of, when you say you are PROUD to be an Indian?

Is it diversity? Really? Yet we want one community to imbibe the culture of the other—to ‘fit into’ our larger plans. We want one language to be given precedence over the other.  

We were enraged by the US diplomat’s dark and dirty comment, but isn’t that how most of us see the ‘dark’? Diversity? Ha!

We call our countrymen from the North East ‘chinks’ and other derogatory terms (explains why Irom Sharmila’s cause is not a ‘national’ cause), because they don’t look ‘Indian’—how exactly are we supposed to look. Light skin, straight black hair? Dark skin liberally powdered, curly hair brutally straightened? Big kajal-rimmed eyes? What diversity, really?

And don’t get me started on the great ‘Tambrahm’ pride that’s all the rage now, thanks to humour blogs and some really smart marketing. How much more casteist can we get—even if it’s clothed in self-evasive humour that talks about the intellectual superiority of a group of people. Similar pride marches are conducted by those from West Bengal and Kerala too!

Intelligence is not genetic. It is about opportunities and hardwork, and comes in many forms and manifests itself in different ways.

So, we are celebrating our independence from the British, is it? Yet we will prostrate before the white man even today. And we show the scantest respect to those who got us that freedom, spewing pop opinion on leaders about whom we know little or nothing!

Am I patriotic? I don’t know… when our soldiers are being killed at the borders I feel morally troubled to buy produce from our neighbours. But that is rhetoric too right? A statement for the sake of it.

I support our sporting teams. Is that patriotism?

And when people ask me where home is, I don’t think twice before saying India, and then Madras. Is that patriotism?

I do get goosebumps when I hear our National Anthem. So?

I really am wary of attributing the term Patriotism to these emotions… it’s just a preference, a  habit.

Every bloodbath, every war, every strife around the world boils down to Patriotism, a highly overrated concept. What we lack, and desperately need is Humanism…


Ps: Quite poetic that I brought my Independence day non-celebration to a close by watching Aarakshan. Do watch it, a post on that coming up soon. And no, I am not pro-reservation in its current form.
Ps2: Yes, I am often called depressingly negative. Though I don’t see myself that way even for a minute.

Mental maths

I never thought much of it till I came to Doha, and I definitely didn’t realise what an amazing ability it is till recently.

The first time it hit me was when I went to an expat-group bazaar, where folks were selling trinkets and snacks from their home countries. Even for the simplest addition and subtraction either the calculator was whipped out, or fingers were pressed into service. 

These were well-educated, well-placed men and women from around the world.

However, those from India and the Far East were doing complicated calculations mentally.

Shall we attribute it to our education system? Or is it **jingoism alert** the brilliance of the race?

How can we explain the ability of otherwise illiterate or semi-literate folks to do complicated mental calculations?

The kaikari-karan (vegetable vendor) on the streets of Madras, the milk lady, the domestic help, the puncture shop assistant, the waiters at the roadside dabbas…

Baalama is about 70 years old now. I’ve known her all my life, and her daughter, Anjalai, is the one who cared for me as a child, and subsequently my kids, and even now is the main support for my ageing parents.

They cannot even sign their names.

Baalama is the milk lady for the colony. She has about 20-30 clients. Milk accounts go into decimals, eg Rs 482.45.

At the beginning of the month she would calculate how much money each household owed her. If on certain days neighbours traded milk bottles (before the day of private milk producers, a common practice. When one household had guests they would borrow milk from another that had excess), she had to deduct and add accordingly. She did it all, to the last decimal point, without ever using pen and paper.

The same with Anjalai. She would go to the market and deal with the vendors who either like her never attended school or had the most basic education. But all her calculations, sometimes toting up purchases over a week, were done mentally.

I can give endless examples…

When I was living amongst these mathematically inclined brains, I hardly ever noticed how fantastic this was. Now I do.

One explanation could be skill driven by need. Because they cannot use pen and paper, do not have access to calculators, they are forced to use what they have?