Thoughts and generalisations on India


by Sunny
25th September, 2006 at 4:51 am    

1) An Indian flu more lethal than a British one. I’ve had one for five days now and my head feels like a truck ran over it. Five times. I usually get rid of a flu in two days. Someone save me, please.

2) Indians love it when a foreigner comes over and speaks Hindi. Even better if you’re an NRI (Non Resident Indian, as they call us diaspora folk). And even better if you’re Indian but don’t look Indian *and* can speak Hindi fluently. You’ll be surprised how easy the bureaucracy becomes.

3) Democracy is often described as the rule of the majority. Except in India there is no real majority, unless you are naïve enough to believe Hindus can be vaguely seen as one group. This makes India an extremely vibrant democracy because people align themselves, quite rationally, along identity markers such as caste or tribe and then exercise block votes. Thus parties constantly have to weigh up and appease block votes, even on local levels.

What’s also bizarre is that the system is never under threat of being overthrown. The week I visited there were strikes all over the place (Chandigarh – farmers, Maharashtra – oil pump workers (bring that state nearly to a standstill), Kashmir – protests over the Pope’s remarks. Yet, no sense of national crisis. Instead some of the TV channels were quite vigorously discussing whether the country should repeal its act against homosexuality. This being the only state in the world where a Communist government has legitimately taken and lost power (in two states) without there being McCarthyite outbreak of paranoia. In fact nothing much shakes this mammoth of a democracy. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

4) Until a few years ago, Indians had generally resigned themselves to the ‘Hindu rate of growth (GDP)’ at around 2-3%, even after the liberalization of 1991. Over a decade later the fruits of that liberalization kicked in and suddenly the economy went into overdrive at 6-7%, even 8% growth.

Now with the Hindu rate consigned to the rubbish bin everyone in India talks of competing with China for its growth rate or even leapfrogging it with a focus on software and service industry development. Fat chance, given the terrible infrastructure and lack of education but at least Indians are aiming a bit higher.

5) The massive growth of the media industry has possibly been the best thing for Indian democracy. There around 15-20 news channels, four (maybe more) weekly political magazines (Outlook, India Today, Frontline, The Week), and untold regional and national newspapers. As they all clamour for attention they continue to dredge up weekly ‘exclusives’ and sting operations.

Although these sting operations are quite amusing sometimes, most of the TV channels seem to have taken their cue from the BBC in opting for entertainment style news. The newspapers, especially the Times of India, are rapidly going downmarket for whatever reason.

6) It’s still worthwhile avoiding Mumbai completely.

Ahh… there’s plenty more but I could be here all day and my head still hurts. A write-up on what I did out there will follow soon enough but I’m waiting on some pictures.

Update – These generalisations are nothing ground-shaking to be honest. I was going to write another one saying that of all the states, Maharashtra was the one like Germany because in a state of crisis it would be the first to embrace Nazism… but I won’t. Heh.

Instead I’ll tell you about the books I bought:
Amartya Sen – Argumentative Indian
Indian Philosophy (Vol 1) – Radhakrishnan
Mahabharata
Exploring Sikhism – McLeod
The Path of the Buddha – Renuka Singh
Covering Islam – Edward Said
Hinduism and Modernity
Exploring Indian Sexuality (couldn’t resist!)
Operation Blue Star – KPS Gill


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  1. Raja — on 25th September, 2006 at 6:29 am  

    I agree with Sunny completely. All the criticisms that he has posted about India are completely valid.

    But the question to ask is who is responsible for the sordid mess that India has become these days. The answer is obvious. It is the leftist idiots who have “misruled” this country for the last 60 years are the ones who have destroyed India.

    There is so much corruption that out of every 100 rupees meant for development only 15 rupees reach the people (Ex-Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi has said this in the Parliament). Rest of the money gets pocketed by the leftist and socialist politicians.

    So the only way out is that Indians should get toghether and throw these leftist scumbags out of power. Only a complete political change in India can alliviate the condition of its people.

    If NRIs like Sunny want to feel proud of their native land then the least they can do is stop pratting support for the socialists and the leftists. In India it is unpatriotic to vote for the communists and the socialists.

  2. nyrone — on 25th September, 2006 at 8:44 am  

    I need a trip to Mumbai like I need a hole in he head. That place still gives me nightmares…Im serious, I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about the stench of poverty and the professional con-artist rik-shaw drivers that terrorized me…what’s worse is that once again the ‘unthinkable is normalized’ and the next day you are expected to walk along crowds of limbless children as if was all normal, because, you know “it’s always been like this”

    Some thoughts on India…

    Nothing…
    Can’t think of anything, so….here are some photos …(reminds me, I really should get a yearly subscription to this thing and put my collection up!)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/asimhaneef

  3. Kesara / StrangelyPsychedelic — on 25th September, 2006 at 9:13 am  

    Interesting stuff Nyrone – just beware of the 1 year subscriptions at Flickr – you have to keep subscribing otherwise almost all your photos get ‘hidden’ until you renew membership.

    Sigh…I miss India…Im tempted to move there this year…

  4. Chris Stiles — on 25th September, 2006 at 10:31 am  

    The Times of India has been mid-market for a while though – at least for the last 15 years or so.

    AFAICR the Hindu was a lot better – and some of the regional newspapers (Malayalam Manorama) were not too bad.

  5. Robert — on 25th September, 2006 at 10:40 am  

    This makes India an extremely vibrant democracy because people align themselves, quite rationally, along identity markers such as caste or tribe and then exercise block votes.

    I worry about this. Is voting along ethnic lines really a democracy? Or is it just the lining up of two gangs and seeing which is bigger? What of ideology, or debating issues on a case by case basis?

    Although, I suppose in theory, if you are voting on religious or tribal lines then you would be voting with your philosophical beleifs; and if you were voting along caste lines then it is probably not so different with the class-alignment of political parties we see everywhere else.

  6. Vikrant — on 25th September, 2006 at 10:43 am  

    Sunny you forgot

    Indians think everyone in England speaks English the way Beeb does. Shit, people have been pesterinhg me like shit about my accent. My East Midlands drawl is an irritating source of umwanted attention at skool!

  7. Kismet Hardy — on 25th September, 2006 at 12:10 pm  

    Every Indian novel or magazine I pick up makes me wish Roget was around to see how well his guide is being used. I swear they use words last in common usage around the time of John Donne. Enough to make anyone feel illiterate

  8. justforfun — on 25th September, 2006 at 12:50 pm  

    Sunny

    1 – see a doctor quick.

    2 – Perhaps it was your sola topi and johdpurs that did it and not your Hindi :-) . Hindi , perhaps in the North but not so much in the South. Hindi gets you nowhere.

    3- This makes India an extremely vibrant democracy because people align themselves, quite rationally, along identity markers such as caste or tribe and then exercise block votes. Thus parties constantly have to weigh up and appease block votes, even on local levels.
    – uhh ? Vibrant or non existant?
    However I agree that democracy is pretty safely established in India as a concept, as the Army is very very reluctant to even get involved in politics. The top brass know that India cannot be governed by military rule as its just too big and diverse.

    4 – Its the countryside that counts – did you get out into the rural areas? Lets hope the infrastructure gets out there, especially clean water and proper facilities for banking, land tenure and credit that can allow the poor to break free from their bondage to the local money lenders and land owners. Look into the credit facilites given to women and how this has really changed lives.

    5 – India media – where to start?

    6 – How can you say that? :-)

    Vikrant – don’t get an Indian accent. Its unfortunate but true – there are very few that are pleasing to the ear. As for the phrases – they are very quaint and will no doubt one day be the lingua franca of English world wide, better than Americanism anyday.

    Justforfun

  9. AsifB — on 25th September, 2006 at 2:55 pm  

    no.8 Just for Fun – I agree its going to be how the countryside benefits in the long run that counts for the future.

    Sunny – hope you’re feeling better. I spent a fortnight in Bangalore this year – what was interesting given its image as heart of the high tech/outsourcing boom, was

    a) How pleasant and quite the centre is – an orderly cantonment town at heart
    b) Just how old school nationalist/ socialist/ caste-ist all the politicians were (I met quite a few at the Karnataka parliament) – it seems clear that it is not so much political will in allowing liberalisation that attracts the multinationals so much as the ability of the Indian education system to churn out millions of English speaking graduates each year.

    Best – and most Indian – part of my trip was being taken (against my will) to a ashram – it was the only place I found in the whole of India with lousy food (watery gruel) – but a truly magnificent marble building that Kim Il Jung would be jealous of.

  10. Neil — on 25th September, 2006 at 3:36 pm  

    I was there about 3 months ago and noticed a decrease in visible poverty around the suburbs or Mumbai and Bangalore. Though there is still a long way to go. The key is improving the lot of the indian farmer and villager.

    The recent initiatives to provide at least 100 days work for everyone in rural areas and the use of technology by farmers to get the best prices for their crops and cut out the middlemen is a step in the right direction.

    My cousins there also tell me that backhanders to get into the top colleges and Universities are a lot less common. So things are improving slowly but surely.

  11. Raj — on 25th September, 2006 at 4:41 pm  

    I always think that the one thing that should convince anyone of the folly of socialism is to have visited India pre Rajiv Gandhi & then visited again in the late 1990′s.
    The pace of improvement in India since the government loosened its grip is amazing.
    I wish there was some concensus to do more in this direction so that the improvements in fields like software, retail & Call centres could follow in other sectors.
    I recently spent 3 months in India and came away convinced that there is immense potential there but there is a danger of it being lost due to a combination of lack of progress in economic reforms and lack of investment in Infrastructure.

  12. Vikrant — on 25th September, 2006 at 7:01 pm  

    @justforfun: Indian accent is almost robotic… without stresses and stuff, it sounds… so artificial… neeways i think i’ll have to put up my best Bombay Public School accent just to live in peace without people bothering me about my accent.

    @Sunny: Have you ever been to New Mumbai? Its much better that your Lutlyen’s (sic?) and Connaught Palaces…. If auhtorities were to follow Supreme Court’s orders on illegal constructions half the urban North India would be rzed to ground.

  13. Sunny — on 25th September, 2006 at 9:05 pm  

    Stop being so jealous of us north Indians Vikrant.

    And for all the abuse the Communist parties get – let’s try and remember they are the only ones who focused on providing good education for their people. Education is the only way forward.

  14. sonia — on 25th September, 2006 at 11:12 pm  

    i don’t think ‘british asians’ are the folk referred to as NRI sunny!

  15. sonia — on 25th September, 2006 at 11:14 pm  

    “there being McCarthyite outbreak of paranoia”

    he heh i think one will find that Indian Capitalist is making up for that singlehandedly!

    Indian Capitalist = Raja = Amrevis..

  16. sonia — on 25th September, 2006 at 11:26 pm  

    indian illnesses are always worse than anything else! hope you get better soon sunny

  17. Sunny — on 25th September, 2006 at 11:41 pm  

    Sonia – yup, they refer to British Asians as NRIs too.

  18. Raja — on 26th September, 2006 at 6:17 am  

    “Indian Capitalist = Raja = Amrevis”

    —-
    So Sonia has done it once again. Now my new secret identity is revealed, I guess I will have to think of a new avatar once agian.

    As far as the issue of NRIs are concerned. There are good NRIs and there are evil NRIs. The NRIs who are far right, secular conservative and capitlist (those with big IT bucks) are the good NRIs.

    The NRIs who are in league with the evil leftist and environmentalist organizations are the bad NRIs. The capitalist minded NRIs have done lots of good for India, but the evil NRIs are always supporting the communist and socialist parties and are trying their best to send India back to the stone age.

    I am sick of hearing the prattling of the Evil NRI’s, we don’t need these sorts of leftist scum in India. Let them stay on in Britain and US and in Middle East.

  19. Vikrant — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:31 am  

    Stop being so jealous of us north Indians Vikrant.
    What is there to jealous of? Much of North, even my very own Rajasthan is a wasteland. Mired in casteism, as for South India i’ve hardly been there so cant comment. Neeways I’m pretty confused about Marathis and Gujjus… what are they considered to be? North Indians or Western Indians?

  20. Vikrant — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:34 am  

    let’s try and remember they are the only ones who focused on providing good education for their people. Education is the only way forward.

    Absolute bullocks, Communist and Islamists run West Bengal and Kerala in almost dictatorial fashion. Sunny you may be a top commentor on UK politics but i must say your knowledge about India is woefully inadequate. I’ll elaborate on my point later on… g2g

  21. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:35 am  

    Operation Blue Star – KPS Gill

    Why waste money on that book when its available for free on the internet.

  22. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:45 am  

    I was going to write another one saying that of all the states, Maharashtra was the one like Germany because in a state of crisis it would be the first to embrace Nazism… but I won’t. Heh.

    Onbviously Sunny despite all your pretensions of impartiality you do exhibit this typical snotty Hindi-Punjabi behaviour. Not every Maharashtrian is a Shiv Sainik. Heck this state your “secular” Congress govenment, our friends Gujjus on other hand.. oh well…

  23. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:46 am  

    Moreover i’d like to point out its not Maharashtra’s fault that much of its historic contribution to India has been misappropriated by Hindutvadis.

  24. Sahil — on 26th September, 2006 at 9:10 am  

    Islamists are running West Bengal??? When?? I’ve not gone to India in too long. ;)

  25. Raja — on 26th September, 2006 at 10:25 am  

    “And for all the abuse the Communist parties get – let’s try and remember they are the only ones who focused on providing good education for their people.”

    —————
    I really pity Sunny’s knowledge of India. I guess the Indian in his blood is now completely diluted with French Champagne and British Whiskey.

    I would like to tell Sunny that India has one of the HIGHEST illetracy rates in the world. Even Sub-Sahara African nations have done a better job of educating their citizens than India has. Thanks to the 60 years of “leftist misrule” today more than 50% of Indians can’t even read or write a single letter in any language.

    Huge hordes of Indian villagers continue to rot in an “Stone Age of No Education.”

    And it is the leftist politicians who are responsible for this mess. Because of the leftist corruption the funds meant for education of poor indians ends up in the secret Swiss bank accounts of these politicians.

    People like Sunny need to wake up to the reality of the enormous crime that the leftists have committed on India.

  26. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 10:43 am  

    I would like to tell Sunny that India has one of the HIGHEST illetracy rates in the world.

    Really? India’s literacy rate is 65% which though not something to be proud of, is respectable enough for a country of its size

    @Sahil: Google for Indian Union Muslim League and its commie cohorts in Kerala. AS FOR West Bengal, it has been the communist state govt, that has tacitly supported illegal immigrantion from Bangladesh. These legalised illegals form their loyal support base.

  27. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 10:44 am  

    also google for National Democratic Front in Kerala.

  28. Uncleji — on 26th September, 2006 at 12:29 pm  

    Dear Ranting Raja & Violent Vikrant

    Kerala has highest literacy rate in the country, highest life expectancy, least population growth, lowest infant mortality. Yet has been ruled by Left or Communist governments for most his political history.

    “guess the Indian in his blood is now completely diluted with French Champagne and British Whiskey”
    Oh Raj how Charmingly facist you are !

  29. Sunny — on 26th September, 2006 at 1:49 pm  

    Vikrant sees Communists and Islamists everywhere, poor boy. I think my point about Marathis above is becoming truer day by day!

    Communist and Islamists run West Bengal and Kerala in almost dictatorial fashion.
    And BJP run things in a nicer way do they? Shiv Sena believe more in democracy do they? Gimme a break. As Uncleji has already pointed out, Kerela has an impeccable social record among India.

  30. Jai — on 26th September, 2006 at 2:26 pm  

    =>”Marathis and Gujjus… what are they considered to be? North Indians or Western Indians?”

    Both.

    **************************

    It’s suprising how interested Vikrant is in politics for someone that young. When I was his age, I was far more interested in the antics of Dwayne Wayne & Whitley, along with watching Rough Guide to the World starring “Our Only Man on British TV during the late 80s” Sankha Guha. And posing around in my “high-tops” basketball boots.

  31. Raja — on 26th September, 2006 at 3:28 pm  

    “Kerala has highest literacy rate in the country, highest life expectancy, least population growth, lowest infant mortality.”

    Not because of the communists. Kerela has progressed inspite of the communists. The communists have done their level best to destroy Kerela, and turn it into another stinking mud-puddle like their Soviet Union.

    But Kerela has survived because the people of that state are hardworking and many of them are working in the gulf countries from where they send back to thier homes large sums of money. It is through this NRI money that Kerela economy is booming. Otherwise the local industry is nowhere. There are no jobs, no infrastructure.

    The stupid Kerela government has even banned Pepsi and Coca Cola. It is only a question of time before these communists ban life itself.

  32. Vladimir — on 26th September, 2006 at 5:12 pm  

    It’s interesting how we bought the same books while in India as I also bought Amartya Sen – Argumentative Indian, from a book shop in Connaught place!

    I also bought P Sainath’s ‘Every body loves a good drought’, which I would definitely recommend, though it can get repetitive at times!

  33. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:15 pm  

    And BJP run things in a nicer way do they? Shiv Sena believe more in democracy do they?

    Never claimed that they did, Comrade Hundal. Shiv Sena may be facist but that doesnt take away the fact that Communists do indulge in vote-bank politics when it suits them.

    Comrade, ever wonder why Taslima Nasrin is banned in West Bengal?

    Kerala & WB governments favour minority owned educational institutes, but place lot of restrictions on Hindu owned institutes. Ramkrishan Mission was forced to declare itself as a non-Hindu sect in Bengal to stop bureaucratic harrasment.

    @Uncelji: Stop unprovoked name calling.

    I think my point about Marathis above is becoming truer day by day!

    I can play the game too Hundal. You in turn prove my point about Punjabi-Hindi superiority complex. Your ignorant generalisations expose your bigotry Sunny. Marathis may be unsophisticated Hindutvadi warmongering deccan rats, but i’m proud to be one.

    If Mr-who-doesnt-know-a-fig-about-Marathis cares to look beyond his prejudices he will find that Marathis are normal fucking humans too… heck in some ways they are more progressive than you caste obessed North Indians. My Rajput family turned their backs on me for being a half-breed, Marathi side took me as one of their own.

    I dont demand apology, i demand dignity.

  34. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 7:19 pm  

    These generalisations are nothing ground-shaking to be honest. I was going to write another one saying that of all the states, Maharashtra was the one like Germany because in a state of crisis it would be the first to embrace Nazism… but I won’t. Heh.

    I thought PP was a quality site, i stand corrected.

  35. Vikrant Singh — on 26th September, 2006 at 9:52 pm  

    Its abt 2 am here, before i goto sleep, i’d like to add.. Sunny i’ve begun to feel as if YOU really arent interested in what I have got to say. You seem to have made up your mind just by reading sauve sophistry of Mehta, Mumbai’s English media. You dont seem to be interested in a debate. I for one atleat try to see things from all perspectives, you dont.

  36. Sunny — on 27th September, 2006 at 12:08 am  

    heck in some ways they are more progressive than you caste obessed North Indians

    Heh, I love pulling your leg Vikrant, just to get you riled up. I have nothing against Marathis, rest easy. I spent a few days in Nanded and quite liked it and even went to the Shiv Mandir a few hundred miles from there (on Nag Panchmi) and enjoyed it immensely. Never once felt threatened. Though I got talking to a Shiv Sena supporter on the bus to Nanded, which was quite amusing. I have nothing much in common with conservative caste-obsessed north Indians to be honest so that slur is not going to work with me :p

    doesnt take away the fact that Communists do indulge in vote-bank politics when it suits them.

    It’s not just the Commies. Congress, BJP, BSP, Telugu Desam, Akali Dal etc all do it. Such is Indian politics.

    You in turn prove my point about Punjabi-Hindi superiority complex
    But I love Malayalees and Tamils!

    I haven’t finished Maximum City either yet btw, and to be honest all that stuff about Shiv Sena in there – I know it before. You think I’ve only been introduced to their brand of hatred now? I travelled around India for two months in 2002 don’t forget, just after the riots. Anyway, I don’t think Mehta is being disparaging of Marathis in the book, the word (Ghatis) came across as affectionate to me. Stop crying now, enough!

    Vladimir – I have the drought book by Sainath too. Though it’s a bit too obsessed with individual stories for my liking.

    Having started Sen’s book, I get the feeling once again (after Identity) that he is a bit too verbose sometimes.

  37. Vikrant Singh — on 27th September, 2006 at 8:38 am  

    I haven’t finished Maximum City

    To be honest after that Bar Girl part, Maximum City slacken’s in pace.

    Anyway, I don’t think Mehta is being disparaging of Marathis in the book, the word (Ghatis) came across as affectionate to me. Stop crying now, enough!

    Naah, just look at the way he talks about Marathis. “Race of Clerks”, to me he merely represents the attitude of vast section of non-Marathis in Mumbai towards Marathis.

  38. Dr. PL JOshi — on 17th October, 2006 at 7:05 am  

    After reading all the above comments, it looks to me that you are either teenagers or your thinking is of a teenager. I would like to ask you what is democracy and then what is vibrant democracy? If you consider yourself true Indians why do you have regionalism bias in your mind? If you want to feel proud of your native country, put constructive comments, identify very meticulously the areas in which India is lagging behind, identify our true strengths and contributing characteristics. You cannot change India in one night or even one decade. No country can pursue a BIG PUSH theory of social and economic development. We Indians wherever are we in the world, certainly needs a change in our mentality and should be critical thinkers as to how we can maintain our historical glory.
    Thanks

  39. justforfun — on 17th October, 2006 at 9:54 am  

    Dr Joshi – you’ve been reading that book – “How to make friends and influence people” – admit it. You have.

    Thank you for your constructive comments and meticously pointing out where India lags behind and where our true strengths and contributing characteristics:-)

    I will change my mentality immediately – emmmmm – what do I change it to exactly? – as I like the idea of historical glory.

    Justforfun

    Dr Joshi – seriously – Care to comment on Comment 8 # Point 4? – Look into the credit facilites given to women and how this has really changed lives. .. its not my fault that only Asif spotted my steer on the Nobel Prize! PP could have had a scoop. As I sit on the Nobel Committee I felt, like President Musharaf and his memoirs, “honour bound” not to divulge Mr Yunus’s name before the publishing date , but nevertheless… would be good to hear your views :-)

  40. Joshi — on 22nd October, 2006 at 6:41 am  

    Please check next week WORLD PRES REVIEW the first ever survey on global NRIs on what makes them feel proud of India.

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