Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Why am I the way I am?

I was recently reading a blog where the author mentions her feeling of being an ambassador for the US, and that in many places the locals "are quite willing to make sweeping judgments about an entire country just based on a single encounter."

I have several such experiences since I make friends outside India via social networks or electronic media. It is true that many of them are fascinated with the exotic image of India (well, India has been such an attraction even from the days of Columbus), and they keep asking me about food, climate, yoga, practically anything. There is one particular friend with whom I was associated since a long time. She has some understanding of India, but is not willing to accept us as a developing nation. She instead choose to instill her internal belief that India still, is a land of snake-charmers.

Recently I was reading ad guru Santosh Desai's book "Mother Pious Lady." Many points that Santosh highlights brought about a sense of nostalgia, e.g. the scooters we used to have (I wish I still had my old Lambretta on which I learned driving; she was a gem!) or the television programs that influenced our thoughts and lifestyles as a people. But it is equally true that we are evolving as a nation, true to the international levels. There are drawbacks in our economy equally as it happens to any developing nation with a spawning population. Therefore in some sense it is not possible to say that we are "advanced," however given the effort and the rate of changes happening around us on a daily basis, I feel "yes, we have arrived."

Going back to friend and her fascinations, I remember some of her frequent questions/comments:

(a) Why do you have a Christian name?
Preliminarily because my forefathers are Christians, and has been so since several generations.

(b) Why don't you believe in a caste system of society, while it is practiced socially in India?
I am brought up in a neutral way of upbringing, and I never (even today) felt the differentiation between castes. Differentiation of people by castes was an ancient practice of governing the society, developed by a then social reformer. Such a practice does not add value to a democracy which believes in social equality. Finally, I'm not a politician to believe and practice this system and develop a vote-bank of my own.

(c) Most Indians follow the practice of arranged marriage. Indians never have love marriages.
Yes, it is true that arranged marriages are part of the societal norms here. We as a nation has close family ties. Even though the old lifestyle of joint families is less existent in our cities, we are close to our relatives at heart. Marriages, therefore are events of families getting together, and arranging an event for one of their relatives. But it is foolish to totally deny that love marriages does not exist in India. A lot of people do have love marriages (my parents included). And this practice is a growing norm here and is slowly being accepted to the society, though there are some negative incidents also.

(d) Indian women are not career oriented
It is to this comment that I disagree the most. It is true that our womenfolk are attached to their families. That doesn't mean that they are not career oriented. And truly speaking, work-life balance is a big quality that all big bosses around the world profess about. In that light, our womenfolk are the specialists of work-life balance.

My friend is visiting India a few months from now, to speak at a conference of scientists in Hyderabad. Chances are high that she will stay in Delhi for a couple of days. Let me see if I can open her eyes.

I have the above-mentioned questions thrown open to my readers. Have you been to India, or have friends here? With your knowledge and experience of India and its people, what are your opinions about the questions/statements mentioned above? Please mark your comments below. I would love to hear from you.

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