Life in India · Opinionated

If you are not Indian, then don’t talk about India

I understand that the title of my essay is a very harsh one indeed. But it has arisen after much observation.

India is a very beautiful and different country, it has so many colours and shades that it is impossible to know which one we should adorn. One can be a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, or Jain, and still live in India. But there are a lot of problems within the nation, plaguing it, threatening to tear it apart. It’s a very difficult country to survive in, but a country which will make you realize the importance of everything you have earned.

Unfortunately, the people who talk about India the most, in the most derogatory way, are none other than our beloved NRI’s (Non- Resident Indians). I don’t have anything against NRI’s, but there is a certain kind of them that believes that their first world country is absolutely awesome and India is a shit- hole from which they are glad to have escaped.

But the thing is – if you visit your ‘home country’ on vacations, you will see the dirt, the poverty and start calling India ‘backward’. I have had people asking me, “can you speak English?”. It’s unfortunate how little people know about my country, and it is even more surprising when these questions come from a fellow Non- Resident Indian.

The thing is – if you don’t live in India, then don’t talk about it. If you don’t know what people are going through here, then don’t try and interfere. India is not a “completely” corrupt nation – our democracy is so strong that it tolerated a nation- wide anti- corruption movement against it. I am aware that there are many “Indian- somethings” out there who make use of India’s destitution, India’s poverty in their art to garner praise and receive adulation in the Western media, which is obviously really ‘mesmerised’ by this ‘third world exotic country’. Take for example, Slumdog millionaire. I loved Mumbai, but I started hating it after I watched that movie. What if the director had tried showing the better side of Indian society? That wouldn’t have got him the Oscar, would it? So ironic that the movie was labelled the ‘feel good film of the decade’. I am surprised that no ‘Indian’ movie (Bollywood is currently the biggest film industry in the world, quantitatively) has ever got that tag. Was it because this movie was an unadulterated western portrayal of a poor, backward and socially conservative and completely screwed up country, full of thieves, prostitutes and illegal child trafficking? Agreed, the writer of the book is Indian – but honestly speaking, a book does lesser damage than a movie – a movie reaches out to the world. No wonder India is a dream tourist destination for it’s slums. Has anyone ever given a thought that maybe some slum dwellers aren’t that poor in the first place? One of India’s first colour televisions came first to a slum, then to an apartment block. There are rehabilitation apartments for slum dwellers, but no one ever writes about that!

Source: Wikipedia

Another good example of world adulation of India’s destitution was the award of the Man Booker prize to Aravind Adiga for his absolutely undeserved book, ‘The White Tiger’. Compared to Kiran Desai or Salman Rushdie, the book was poor in prose, lacked coherence and was absolutely lacklustre in terms of story telling. So I am surprised why the Booker prize awardees decided to lower their standards for once. Aravind Adiga is an Australian, educated in Oxford- what does he know about a poor driver who killed his owner and the became a millionaire? If doing this was so easy, then our streets would be filled with convicts. But unfortunately, India still has loyal servants- people who can kill to save their masters’ lives. No one everĀ  writes about that. We get a Man Booker winner, but that too someone who again talks about the ‘dark underbelly’ of India. Thankfully now the writer lives in Mumbai – lets see what his next book is going to be about. Hopefully it will be a better critique of India, rather than the one we have been fed too much already.

Source: wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

India has brought out over 5 million people out of poverty, into the middle class. India’s middle class is rising and there are opportunities for ‘poor’ people to move out of their poverty. There are many social issues along with the economic ones because of which the poor are not being uplifted, but the world out there just looks at statistics and prefers to label Indians ‘backward’.

India’s education system is one of the best in the world – The IIT JEE entrance examination is one of the toughest exams in the world. The amount of rigour a 17 year old child has to go through to get into the most elite engineering institute in the country is commendable. Any Australian Indian or Canadian Indian claiming that India is a ‘shit hole’, should try and give the IIT JEE exam and see if they survive. Or in fact, just give the boards and try to get admission into DU.

Those who have left India, have left it forever. They are not the proponents of change in the country – people like you and me are, who have been there to see change – who know the issues the country faces because we have seen it first hand. I never say anything against PM Modi – because at the end of the day, even though I have ideological issues with him, he is the Prime Minister of my country, and I respect him for it.

How many Americans will give up their citizenship for an Indian one? Then why do we do it? And when we do, why do we keep coming back to the country, and yet keep abusing it? There are sectarian issues within India, there is an economic divide, there is gender disparity, corruption – but those complaining about it – try and do something. The AAP was the first brick in the wall – it’s now our turn to turn things around.

The new Indian generation can speak English, we study in English medium schools, we are capable enough to compete with the world’s best candidates anywhere. Indian students even watch Hollywood movies and American TV shows. We have already become enough westernised. But what is still constant about India is the togetherness. One never feels alone. I have experienced loneliness abroad, and I understand the need of always having friendly people around you – people who are as deep emotionally as you. The Western world is very different in its approach towards emotions, and for us, its very different. But its sad to see Indians going abroad, discarding their heritage and then saying things like – We love the concept of India but what it has degenerated into is depressing.

If you don’t live in India, don’t talk about it. Stick to your own first world country. I may sound like a right wing, Samajwadi party type person here, but honestly, if someone doesn’t see everything first hand, nor experience it, they should not go around brandishing their ‘book or newspaper’ acquired knowledge like a sword. I once met a man, who claimed that India was full of perverted men, to which I told him, “are you even a woman to have faced any kind of perversion? Because I am a woman, and I never faced anything”. India is now becoming a hot destination for foreigners who are revelling in Hinduism and ‘ashrams’. I am so used to seeing a foreigner wearing rudraksha beads and chanting ‘hare rama hare krishna’. But Indians tolerate these things because we believe this improves the image of India. I have met foreigners who love India because it loved them back. But it’s sad to see our own people slaying us from the back. They will talk about India, attend international conferences, write plays, do theatre, but talk about India’s “rubbish” everywhere. It’s as if they are carrying this huge burden of shame which gets lighter when they dispel their own heritage. Wow. Amazing that this is what they learnt in their ‘first world’ country.

India is full of contradictions yes. But educated people nowadays are rising up against fascism and fighting against it. We all want to create a better country, not see it degenerate into a failed state. If you can join India in it’s fight against everything, then you are more than welcome. Otherwise just have fun in your own “first world” country.