The Third World Groove

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Shailaja Neelakantan of GigaOm (one of the world’s top blogs with an international audience) writes in the context of the recently concluded blog-camp.

And some of them were, thanks to Sify providing WiFi and the organizers Kiruba Shankar et al ensuring plug points for everyone to connect their laptops to—a rarity in electricity-starved India’s buildings. Getting into the first world groove, the first thing most did on entering the large auditorium was to whip out their laptops and check their mail

Am I the only person here who finds this more than a little patronizing? I wonder why in a report on a conference on blogging, does Ms. Nilkantan need to suggest, not so subtly, that the so-called first world ambience of WiFi and electric plugpoints (Duh!) is something that poor Third World, electricity-starved Indians are unaccustomed to.

It’s something you can never escape in the West. Despite our status as a fast-growing, economic superpower, whenever we get mention in the media it is almost always as a weird, desperately poor nation of magicians, snakes, elephants, strange gods, venerated cows and boys who have flies coming out of their urine— condescension being the underlying theme of most of India-centric coverage. [And the other times we are mentioned is as cheap labour, speaking in pidgin English, who have taken American jobs because so poor are we that we don’t mind working on a slave’s salary—-what’s almost always forgotten is our competence.]

And I am not talking about media asses like Bill O’Reilly of Fox News whose ignorance of anything outside US is only matched by his pomposity (he referred to Pakistan’s ISI as SIS) or borderline-racist Lou Dobbs on CNN. I am talking about the so-called smart people—the Jon Stewarts, the Steve Colberts and the Bill Mahers of the world who regularly tag on the worst kind of stereotypes to anything Indian and Hindu and consider it to be funny. And indeed it seems to be. Pictures of Lord Shiva or Lord Ganesh provoke uproarious laughter from the studio audience with Jon Stewart’s goofy grin implying: “They worship that?”

Things would be fine if they were equal opportunities offenders. Which they are often are not. They make fun of right-wing Christian conservatives like Pat Robertson and right-wing constructs like “intelligent design” but never of Christianity and Christian symbols. Islam they wish they could but they value the heads on their necks. So it’s open season for India and Hindusim (which to them is indistinguishable)–because we are, as always, easy targets.[To be fair to Stewart, he is the only person who has run a positive piece or two on India—-when he once interviewed Thomas Friedman. That’s about it.]

Unless the news item is totally bizarre, India is never ever considered newsworthy. Sometimes it gets to the point, where we do not even exist. Whenever I hear acts of Islamic terror being mentioned nowadays, it’s London, Madrid, Bali…..and almost never Mumbai. But when it’s the opening of a school of magic in a tribal region of India, it’s on Keith Olbermann’s countdown as we are witness to a scene from Indian daily life—an emaciated Indian man in a white langot setting his tongue on fire. Issues of importance that affect India are never covered or at best, relegated to the inside pages. But when it’s Sushmita Sen pacifying a snake on the sets of “Zindagi Rocks” it’s on friggin CNN !

Okay so perhaps they are ignorant. Perhaps they don’t really care about people who are not white and don’t have oil. Perhaps India as a nation of dark magic and flying sadhus is a more comforting stereotype than of it as a vibrant, progressive democracy with a booming economy, a nation that no longer holds a beggar bowl.

But what about Indians themselves ? Why do Indians, the moment they write for a foreign media outlet, start pandering to the stereotype rather than trying to puncture it? Why don’t they define their own vocabulary instead of talking in the language of condescension? Mind you, India has many problems and highlighting them is essential. A post about the power problem in India (a fair one, not suggesting that it is abysmal compared to other regions of the world) would be fine. Criticizing what we do wrong (and there are many things we do) is kosher too. [I am the last person who equates grounded-in-fact self-criticism with unpatriotic].

However this “poor Indians salivating over first world facilities” is not criticism. Hardly so. It’s a dash of “first world” patronizing injected ironically into a piece that should have been celebrating India’s embracing of the ‘new information age media’ (wonder how many of the non-snake-charming advanced nations would have so much enthusiasm for a conference on blogging). [Incidentally, my first world apartment has a woeful paucity of plug points]

And the tragic thing is that the GigaOm piece I led with is relatively inoffensive considering the other muck that is churned out about us, often by Indian and India-born writers.

In case there are any first world people reading this piece let me make it clear. We do not have a cow racing C1 circuit in India. We do not have motherf**** snakes in our motherf*** houses. We do not fight on the streets about caste. What you see on TV as “India news items” is as symbolic of today’s India as the cross-dressing man, who comes on Jerry Springer confessing to having a secret affair with his midget brother-in-law, is of American/Western society.

Please do not misunderstand. Do write about the crazy things that happen in India. After all Sushmita Sen, with sand in her chest, seducing a snake is as newsworthy a thing as anything else in the world. But then be even-handed and also highlight the more mainstream things–like bomb blasts, terrorism, elections, progress– just like you would do for England. And even France ( a country US loves to hate).

Okay that’s enough for today. Let me now get into my third world groove by partaking a bar of cow dung before I start practising for my show on Saturday—-pulling a bullock cart with my moustache while a snake plays around in my white, stained dhoti.

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154 thoughts on “The Third World Groove

  1. Dear Arnab,

    The negative perception of India in the West exists soley due to the “secular intellectuals” and “phony liberals” like Arundathi Roy, Pankaj Mishra and the whole Commie ilk. They would love to mortgage themselves to the White skin in order to sell their tripe piece of literature. Remember “verbal terrorist” aka Arundahti Roy routinely criticizes India in Western forums and newspapers are ever eager to swallow it up. Whoever tries to portray a balanced view of India, its culture, tradition etc. is immediately branded with choicest epiteths like “fascist” “hindu fundamentalists” and so on.

  2. You pull a bullock cart with your mustache while eating cow dung? Bah. I pull a bullock cart with my trunk and third and fourth arm while drinking my own urine.

  3. whose father what goes ?

    America as a whole is pretty much where is was in the 70s – look n feel and what they like to hear.

    There – that was my stereotype of them 🙂

    I guess the media just gives them what they want to hear. Their events, fears, politicians are news, and the rest of the world is for entertainment.

    Thats ok. Why should we get so bothered they dont cover us ? Its their loss, not ours. Jaane do – we’re going where we want to – if we’re good for a couple of laughs, fine. And, we can keep “surprising” them with the same stuff over and over again 😉 Helps tourism and creates positive vibes with the first interaction so easily!

    Do we have similar coverage of the Sub Saharan Africa here ?

  4. When I first read the report, the patronizing tone did put me off and that too coming from a Indian made it even more bad.

    Well, your post covers most of the points excellently!!

    Cheers,
    HP

  5. I remember this anecdote someone (a desi of course) recounted while our group discussed this topic;
    Obnoxious white guy asked him-“So there wus a lot of dem cows on tha road in yer neck of woods, eh? Hyuk Hyuk Hyuk Har Har Har…”
    Desi bhai replies with a straight face: “Yeah…. and I went to school riding my pet tiger.”
    The gora is dumbstruck (and wary) and asks if he’s kiddin’ him…. to which our desi says-“Well, how else would a small kid like me survive with all those cows galloping down the roads?” 😛
    —————————-
    Western views of India are directly borrowed from the “observations” of the British explorers (the victorians…. you can guess) and later on the spins given by the Raj….. and even after independence the stiffs couldn’t let go of all that baggage. Images of archaic constructs, exotic things like fakirs, starving villages etc which perpetuate the image created in western minds finds more readership than a news item of the success of the PDS, resettling of the former dry-latrine employees who came from the lowest castes by the wet latrine scheme, the Mark II hand pump which helped hundreds of millions of villages, the Lijjat Pappad co-operative or the Mumbai tiffinwaalahs. Otherwise it has to be that of Ashok the geeky intern coming to “steal” your job or someone “Bangloring” you or some dot-head rat-eater calling herself “Steena”…

    On the other hand;
    Shashi Tharoor in his book “India” called people like this Nilakantan (and folks worse than she is), Pornographers…. a really apt term if you compare what they do to the “vision” of the porn industry luminaries. There’s an entire chapter devoted to Indians belittling India. Nothing earns more moolah and condescending “understanding” than a native telling the big white hopes how screwed up their homeland is…. how lucky they are to escape the hellhole and come to the land of the free or whatever. The differential in life style might be true but it’s when they grind the home country underfoot that it becomes unbearable… don’t these assholes realise they are lowering THEIR OWN standing in the eyes of the furriners? The Italians didn’t do it when they came in droves to the US in the late 40s-50s (even though Italy had lost every single battle and the war in WW2), even the Boat People of Vietnam don’t do that in Hong Kong, the Cuban refugees trash Castro and not their homeland…. but it is we Indians who stand out in this respect.

    Perhaps our own inferiority complexes, caste system, infighting, Indian variety of Feudalism and centuries of servitude to invaders is the reason behind it…. When we find our feet and get a trillion dollar economy, these same pr1cks will wear their heritage like a medal and you will see Hollywood churning out panerygics on the glory of the Mughals/Mauryas/Vijayanagar and what not.

    PS: There’s a saying in my native tounge-“Saayippine Kandal Kavathu Marakkum”, which means native infantrymen (otherwise competent and well drilled) will lose their step/forget their drill (military drill = “kavathu”) whenever a white officer (“Saayippu”) comes to inspect. Quite telling comment on our percieved inadequacies while measuring up with even some shmuck from Podunk Town, Mississipi.

    PPS: A famous scene from a national award winning movie from back home, quite telling and relevant here;
    A foreign car speeds by splashing muck on the simpleton-villager protagonist. He shakes his head in puppy eyed admiration saying “Enthoru Speeeeeedu!” (Wow… that car sure is faaast!)

  6. Although I don’t have a first hand experience of how India is generally mentioned and percieved there…but somehow I would like to believe that attitude is changing….atleast that is becuase I have seen stuff on this side of the Atlantic that seem to suggest that the attitudes are changing…..even if they weren’t my recent experiences with the place has led me to believe that the country is headed up a road of self destruction because of its obese obscene and obnoxious people….so who cares….big deal….

  7. I think what just reinforces how the people in west look down on people from not only india but from other religion is the latest speech from Pope Benedict XVI.

    How can such a celebrated religious leader condemn other religion on a whole like that.

  8. Dada,

    I think you missed ‘Kama Sutra’ apart from snakes and magicians.
    Invariably, any conversation involving India also involves KS.All of us must have seen the famous “Ash on Oprah” clip wherein the first topic that Oprah starts with is KS. And our dumb Ash plays along with her in discussing it instead of giving it right back to her.

    What say?

  9. I dont know whether this is a US centric thing or not since I have never been to the US. But i did spend three months stuyding in France, and I found the people were fairly well-informed about India.

    They were aware about poverty in India, our vast English speaking population, our age-old problem with Pakistan, terrorism, Bollywood and Aishwarya Rai (änd her tag as the “most beautiful woman in the world),

    They also had some perceptive questions to which I had no answer (why do people in Hindi films start dancing and singing suddenly 🙂 )

    An incident I would never forget is when in one cultural awareness class we were asked to list common characteristics of Asian people there was a complete omission of India from the discussion. When i brought it up, they said, “Oh sorry, we consider only the far -east when we say Asia. India is so different and big that it has to be considered separately!!”

    One more prof we had was an absolute India-fan. He kept raving about the World is Flat and almost became lyrical when he spoke about the IITs. He used to tell the class, ‘watch out, these Indians are gonna kick your ass”
    The small Indian contingent there definitely loved him!!

  10. I once convinced an American lady that the Gulab Jamuns that I reheated for her (bought at an Indian store at Richmond) were red because they were made of goat’s blood. The microwaving was, as I explained patiently and with a straight face, “so that the blood does not coagulate.”

    She obviously swallowed more than just her first mouthful – hook line and sinker – and then refused to swallow a bite more, till my roomie decided to put her out of her misery…:))

    She later had the grace to laugh at her own ignorance though.

  11. Parag: I’m assuming you were on exchange in France….;)

    Anyways, I had an experience similar to the one Parag described – I was in Belgium for 4 months on an exchange program and met quite a lot of students from across Europe during that period. They were surprisingly well aware of India – our current PM, Sonia Gandhi (!!!), Vajpayee, our problem with Pakistan,our relations with other neighbours, the economy – a whole range of topics, in fact. This was quite a surprise to me for I expected the standard questions related to snakes, elephants, yogas etc. However, I got quite a handful of questions on the Indian economic and political scenario – questions which were intelligent and probing and quite a few of which I did not have answers to.

    Of course, a large majority of these people were students of politics, economics or international relations – so their awareness levels must have been much higher than the average.

    Also, K3G was quite the rage in Europe then – a large number of these students had seen K3G. And they were curious to know whether we actually broke into dance and song at all our weddings!And they had endless questions on arranged marriages – how common they are, what do parents do if you dont agree, the whole process.

    It was not just their awareness but their genuine interest to know more about India which made them such a refreshing change from most of the Americans I know

  12. I’ve been travelling in Uttaranchal for a week and finding a cybercafe in Lansdowne and Pauri has been like finding snow in the summer. The patronising attitude, I can tell you, has some justification.

  13. i so so agree with you. and you know why the so called intellectuals pander to the stereotypical image of india.. their writings/projects get better funding.

  14. Should we really care Western media and their coverage?
    Why don’t we leave them to their own fate?

    After all they are covering news items which interests their own audience.

    If they are covering the news items which is reminiscent of india’s past, then let them do so. The media will have to take the blame later on to put their audience in the dark about what is changing around them.

    More than TV and news paper coverage in United States, it is NRIs who are changing the perception about India among Americans. Remember India is everything poor, rich, developed, under-developed, caste free, caste-hit. It has cities like New York and also like places like darfur.

    We should not really care about what the projection is about India. What we should try and work hard is how to change the ground realities.

    There are several things i have noticed in the Indian media
    1) Attach immense importance to western coverage.
    2) Tune news items to the western tastes.

    I have also seen Bollywood going Hollywood. It is irritating. Why should our actors/actresses change to western audience? Their play field is Asian in general and Indian in particular. Why should our Aishwarya Rai (who cannot present well on TVs) tune to Western Audience?
    I don’t understand the numbers here?

    I do see a reason, if Hollywood goes Bollywood to attract huge Indian audience. In large, Western audience do not care about indian movies. They simply can’t imagine a movie with songs.

    My mantra is “Stick to what you are and the rest will follow”

  15. Hey GB,

    MAN u sound pissed….although it is justified but relax….
    What the Americans or anybody else thinks is besides the point,
    what NRIs think about India can also be explained, after all they got in their adopted country what they didn’t in India….but the scary part still remains the kind of acceptance and importance any regular Indian gives to the opinion of people from US or Europe….Till the time we do not seek their acceptance (not approval) these things WILL continue!!

  16. Very very interesting post and interesting comments too esp The wanderer’s!
    when i saw the Sen news i wanted her to need plastic surgery on her nose too ,she inspired that kind of violence in me.

  17. @Vamsi
    That was a great read; just that it was 3 years old. Wish Dr.Vidyasagar could write more often.

    @GB
    I know that you respond to user comments whether they agree with you or not but what would be super is if you could help lead or moderate a real time discussion on a particular topic or two that affects Indians or India.

    P.S – My optimism that a forum like this would change something for the better is from the fact that if an older generation of Indians could throw the British out; who knows that this generation of Indians can do.

    P.P.S – A discussion need not be about something worthwhile like betterment of India; it could be about anything like the latest cricket debacle or even about KJ’s movies (not that KJ’s movies are not worthwhile)

  18. You know what is the real problem? The Indians (Arundhuti Roy etc.) who write about India in a patronising way don’t really think themselves as Indians. Deep in their heart they think themselves as firang and other Indians as ‘natives’. And their writing is an effort to cry out -‘See, I’m one of you, not one of them darkies.’

    Remember the poem “Taashgoru?”

    Taashgoru goru noi, ashole to pakhi she…

    Fits them rather well.

    Arnab, why bother about them? Their attitude will not change till we start feeling confident about ourselves, and think that an Indian living and working in India is as good as an NRI, (Before your readers start flaming me, look at the matrimonial ads in any Indian newspaper) or a firang.

    And it’s not worth thinking about what the firangs think about us. If they want to think that we are a land of snake charmers, let us just take their jobs away, till they need to come and get a job in the land of snake charmers. Methinks it would be a better revenge.

  19. Here’s a recent letter of mine to Washington Post (I believe they did not publish it; anyway, the list of misrepresentation based grievances is endless. I guess we have to wait a while longer till we start delivering steadily and remarkably on our economic promises, and as the norm of capitalist worlds goes, academic and media respect will automatically follow the market, while the Mishras and Roys will stealthily switch camps. Just chill.) as a piece of evidence about how some Indians unfairly demean their own society (I do not care about the demeaning if it were fair: logical fairness is my picking issue here) and get published perhaps precisely for that sensationalization –

    Dear editor,

    This mail is about the Washington Post article ‘A Brutal Lesson in Humanity’ (August 18, 2006) by Prakriti Badoni whose experiences during the tragic 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India were indeed most shocking to learn about.

    It is well known that the horrendous 1984 anti-Sikh riots and pogroms in India were carried out – (a) by the violent supporters of the firecely secular and then ruling political party Indian National Congress under the blind eye of administration and police, (b) never in the name of religion (i.e., it was not a Hindu-Sikh conflict), (c) not by any of the Hindu fundamentalist parties.

    Therefore, my question is as follows: if the act of humanity by the writer’s Hindu family (sheltering their Sikh neighbors during the riots) is not attributed to Hinduism, how come do precisely the antithetical acts of inhumanity by activists of a staunchly secular political party (hunting for these Sikh neighbors) get attributed to Hinduism (which eventually led the writer to become “a human as opposed to a Hindu”)?

    This seems to be unfair judgment to me.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely yours,
    SP

    Here is the Wash. Post link –
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/18/AR2006081800807.html

  20. India is like Egypt, stuck in the glory of its past.

    While I am proud of my country, and what it has had to contribute to the world, but I do have the right to bitch about it.

    On occasions I have told white folks that I work with that it’s the second fastest growing economy of the world, and I also tell them that many work for a dollar a day. They had worried expressions.

    A propoganda war is like any other war, and winnning it is a matter of having more artillery. More positive voices will drown out the negative, if that’s how the nation’s mood is.

    I remember when the New and Resurgent India was on the cover of Newsweek, the mood was really positive. I really wanted to go back to India at that point. That was good propoganda. The stock market boom? Good propoganda.

    But I’ve been feeling really negative about the recent crap that the government hath wrought. What the fuck is with them stirring ancient communal hatreds, bringing back the reservation system into popular consciousness, and then this whole Vande Mataram thing.. This is Bad PR, and nobody feels good about such things.

    Regarding the Journo’s comment and her jibe on electricity, Yes, India is suffering from poor infrastucture, and we shouldn’t try and gloss over that fact. It’s freakin obvious to everyone. Foreign companies tend to figure that out when they are stalled a few hours in Bangalore traffic.

    The Great New Resurgent India will get a backbone only if fantastic new infrastructure is built. Something as awe inspring as the Brooklyn Bridge, a work of art and commerce. We’re proud of the Taj Mahal, of India’s great temples and palaces, what modern monument can we talk about with such pride?

    India is stronger than it was a thousand years ago, its people are more populous and more industrious in this generation than ever before, adapting and adopting to new technologies, and leading them. But it needs ego stroking reminders. It needs grandeur, manifested through monuments that will commemorate this time in history, and stand tall for a thousand years from now.

  21. Oh man,
    This post says a lot about my current situation as well. I’m in UK and I get a lot of stupid questions from people here who actually think what you have just accused them of here. There is a friend of mine who is so out of it that he thinks Indians are not allowed in the football world cup because we would come equipped with black magic!! The idiot doesn’t realize the simple eventuality of us never been good at the game. No. It’s always has to be the snakes, the human sacrifices, the jobs we’re stealing, the asylum we are seeking abroad, the population, the dogma of the religious indians (i’m an athesist by the way)and such nonsense. Sadly, the world at large is so busy being themselves that they don’t realize the possibility of them not seeing everything. Only time will tell where this stupidity will end and a globalized civilization of little unevens begin. Something tells me, it could take a while.

  22. My Desi TA at G Tech should be given a thumbs up. He is the only desi ive met who dared (?) to talk abt sonia gandhi and indian politics during his lectures. It was rather brave becuase many indians feel shy or embaressed to talk about their country in front of others. In fact I dont blame them, beucase a british colleague seemed totally disinterested and used to turn his head away if I got the topic of india up. :-S

  23. Soon after landing in US, I was asked by an Amru,
    ‘Do you still ride on elephant for transportation’
    I replied ‘ya, when I was in Microsoft, that is how I used to commute from home”

  24. First of all, love the title. Conveys your point very well. I see many examples around whose writing suggests they are in the ‘third grove’ with lifestyles matching those in the so called ‘first world’. This is what is most saddening. The very people who enjoy luxuries comparable to those in developed countries complain about what’s lacking. Frankly, I find little difference between my life in Pune, and in the US – its disparity within the country thats the bigger problem. And as you say, a fair, well-grounded criticism is rarely seen.

  25. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Reminds me of an incident during my Master in US. One of our profs was harping on about world economy and somehow the conversation ventured into driving. He daftly said to indian students, ” Hey, don’t you guys drive on the wrong side of the road”. I practically growled, ” Mike, we don’t drive on the wrong side of the road. We drive on the left side. The opposite of ‘right’ in this context is left, not wrong!”. he profusely apologised for his behavior after that.

    Another of my friend studied in wisconsin where, on being told that he was an indian, was routinely asked, “which tribe?”. He came up with this story. ” My actual name is Charlie Three-feathers. I am from Eastern sect of the Navajo, the fookavi tribe.” People will ask, “which tribe is that?”. His response,” Oh, there is a long story behind the name. Long time ago when my forefathers were searching for the final frontier, they somehow got lost. They went around saying- where the fook a’ we??”

    Always used to shut people up. 🙂

  26. “We do not fight on the streets about caste.” etc etc

    What are you smoking, greatbong, other than what is implied?

    really…do you even follow what happens in India, while you sit in your first world apartment that dopesn’t, sorry, doesn’t, have enough plug points?

    We don’t fight on the streets about caste??

    Get REAL and if you really are such a huge India lover, be honest.

  27. @Sri- on your comment on “Western audiences…can’t imagine a movie with songs”, Hollywood has a strong tradition of successful musicals, from 42nd Street through Fiddler On The Roof to Chicago, Rent & Idlewild in the immediate past (as also its cousin the ‘dance’ movies like Flashdance, Dirty Dancing & the movie that was # 1 on US BO for a week last month, Step Up). I think they have a problem with the immense length & that every movie irrespective of genre has extended song & dance sequences. Movies like Devdas & Veer Zaara got a lot of critical acclaim in the US.

    To bring it back on topic, I had commented previously on GB’s posting on Born Into Brothels how in the movie Rent a character sings to a fellow starving artist in New York City that “This is Calcutta/ Bohemia is dead”. Some perceptions die hard.

    Om Malik used to write for ET before he came to the US & became a journo guru around when outsourcing became hugely popular, writing for Red Herring, Business 2.0 & now with his own blog which has recently got VC funding.

  28. I read somewhere that somebody asked Swami Vivekananda in the US, “Is it true that children are thrown to crocodiles in India?” Swamiji laughed and said , “Yes, I was also thrown. The crocodiles couldn’t eat me because I was fat.”
    The situation hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years!

  29. venom – aah, that’s quite a venom GB!! i understand the blastings. but then who cares? let those say whatever they wanna say. good things are always mocked. coz they are worried at a sub-conscious level. and btw, we dont want to be the center of attraction, anyway. and we wont beg for that, right?

  30. Spot on GB. I agree with you completely. And folks who are saying stuff such as “who cares about the Western media”. Well, my friend when a media like BBC takes such a condescending stand we have to notice. It’s not just some XYZ news channel, but BBC, read by millions across the world. The negative stereotype would have been acceptable if it was properly balanced by positive insights. But that happens rarely. I am a regular at the BBC site and do not fail to notice the regular reports on “dog married to girl” and similar stuff. And we are not alone on that. I think the entire South Asia is projected in a similar way.

    My understanding of this is that the Brits still suffer from a huge colonial hangover, which probably tranlsates into a patronizing attitude. Americans are simply ignorant and they could not be bothered about it either. But the Brits do it deliberately, often to have a “feel-good” charity work in the midst of their Goa vacations.

    Thankfully, the mainland Europeans are lot ahead on this. My experiences in Netherlands and Demark was rather pleasant. I was surprised to know that these guys (normal people, not economists or MBA grads) were quite aware of the various aspects of India and a significant proportion have actually travelled here and had a great time.

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  32. @dipesh: I still say “who cares about the western media”. They dish out what their viewers want to see/ hear. When we are confident about ourselves,comfortable about oiur skin and as a community we make it big in the world, we’ll automatically have a greater say about how the western media portrays us. No use bitching about stupid Americans and their insular worldview till then. Bitching won’t change their viewpoint – sheer economic power will.

  33. around perestroika time, the russians adored india and indians b’cos we have a wonderful HOT climate all the year round.

    oh! they adored ‘awara’ and the 80’s kids swooned over ‘disco dancer’.

    and in central asia, uzbekistan and the like, india was seen as the land of milk and honey. this is an age old belief and gives an insight into babur’s actions.

    as for americans, they are unable to see beyond their own noses. the monroe doctrine just about sums up their attitude towards the rest of the universe.

    if ‘they’ persist in believing in holy-cow-snake-charmer-elephant-in-the-garage-myth, should we enlighten them?

    NO!!!!!!!!!!!

    lets just work hard, work better and steal their jobs.
    then let bollywood make a fillum, ‘The Revenge of the GEEKS’, three hours fifty minutes long, crammed with every imaginable song and dance routine— and let it win the filmfare award.

    oscars are just an item of bric-a-brac.

    my daughter finds ‘koi mil gaya’ far more entertaining than ‘e.t.’ She belongs to the new generation that is proud to be unabashedly desi and finds more than a few western customs utterly ridiculous.

  34. Are you getting too worked up? It is correct that most of the reporting about India and for that matter any other “third world” country is very superficial in the US. Most of it goes on to reinforce the stereotypes rather than deconstructing them. But the same is true about most of the reporting in India! Have you never heard of the “progressive” Pakistanis complaining that not all women on Lahore streets are burka clad, as it would appear from the reports in Indian media?

    I think this patronizing is just a generic phenomenon across boundaries. The westerners feel smug about their technological advancement ( btw, my friend who just arrived from India was mighty disappointed with the cellular service out here in the US of A. “It sucks”, he says.) On the other hand, it is easy to find Indians being smug about their culture and family values; ever heard Indians talking about the American marriages.

  35. I can only thank you for writing this post and so well.I was furious when Mumbai rains and a death toll in thousands didn’t make it to BBC news for more than 30 seconds, where as they had been crying over the death of 53 people in a Bomb blast for over a year.Almost like our lives didn’t mean anything.It was just infuriating.

    Like you said, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and regard them ill-informed.But what happens to our own people who turn around only to condemn.

  36. I pretty much disagree with everything in this post. Just to give you a few examples,

    1.> India is electricity starved. That is the reality of the situation. In my town they have load shedding every three days of the week for at least 3 hours a day.

    2.> we are a nation of magicians, elephant gods, flies coming out of urine and snakes. again, it is a reality. Yes, we are also the fastest developing superpower and this gets covered in the media too, just watch Lou Dobbs.

    3.> Jon Stewart makes fun of everything under the sun. If anything, he ridicules Christianity more than Hinduism. And I fail to see why the audience shouldn’t laugh at an elephant God, hell I find it funny too. And I also find it funny that people worship the image of a corpse hanging off a cross. Or the fact that people throw stonesat an imaginary devil. I take it you do not watch Colbert and Stewart regularly, otherwise you wouldn’t complain about equal opportunity ridicule.

    4.> we have cows racing around on our roads. That is a fact. Nothing to be ashamed about.

    5.> We have caste wars. Are you saying we don’t? Hell lets make it easier. Just try marrying someone outside of your caste. In the US there are class wars. They get adequately covered in the media. eg : Katrina. Are you saying caste should not be covered just because it is in India?

    5.> We do have mothereffing snakes in our mothereffing houses. Again, nothing to be ashamed of, so do many people living in Arizona, Australia and Africa. They all receive equal media exposure.

    6.> Sushmita chanting hymns to pacify snakes recieves as much media exposure as does people drinking water magically appearing from a tree in Texas, people seeing Jesus Christ in the drywall of an Alabama Church or a chocolate virgin Mary in California. The media looks for strange and bizarre stuff, regardless of the country it originates in. There’s no need to get all self-defensive about it.

  37. well, about who cares, we do, everytime a misguided american asks you the most ignorant question he/she can come up with.. even worse than those with straight out prejudices are the people who know a little about india, like indian cuisine and have a few indian friends, and therefore think they knwo more about india and its way of life than someone who’s lived there for 21 years. i have a colleague who routinely dices indian movies, indian roads, pretty much everything indian, because that’s what she’s fed by her indian boyfriend, presumably one of the types we are bitching about here…

    and for people who think there are no traffic jams here in the wonderful first world country that is the US, last week, the main freeway connecting D.C and maryland, was jammed for over 3-4 hrs.. and i routinely get caught in traffic… the grass is very very green when we live in india, with stars in our eyes…..

    -madhu

  38. I do agree that the post is condescending, but I had to reread it, and imagine if I could ever write something similar to see that. I get my hackes up when I hear people deride India (fairly or not), but that doesn’t give me a reason to gloss over facts (caste/justice/infrastructure etc.) . What is true is true and what is not can be explained reasonably. Seemingly odd Indian customs have very sane reasons, or originated because of valid needs and they should be explained as such. No point getting het up over the coverage in the US/UK media. You only have to watch the local news to see the topics which they think merit interest.

    I haven’t met ignorant people asking me about the Indian elephants/cows (yet) and I’ve lived here about 10 years – hence the placidity 🙂

  39. Well….to throw in my 2c’s, most news corporations need news that will “sell” to their market (sad but true).

    Cows and snakes in India sell. Exotica sells. Normal life, local trains, progress and bomb blasts killing a few dozen brown people doesn’t.

    You serve your market (and that’s for any market…..liberals serve theirs, conservatives feed other conservatives conservative stuff, Fox feeds its viewers/readers fiction and so on……)

    I don’t think there’s a major conspiracy theory here, or an acute need to be condescending…..not a big deal. When (if) India really matters economically in the world (i.e. when it’s trade is worth more than 3% of the world’s GDP) the stories will change.

  40. Yup,okay agreed that the Western media has a stereotype.and that is because the customer of this is the middle class American, who would not like to come out of this stereotype of India,and because it also gives the average American something to feel good about.”You see, the Indians are still uncivilized”….

    But however, can you deny,Arnabda,that even the most sophisticated restaurants in Blore do not have wi fi, while we cannot imagine the cafe in the next street noty having a wi fi.
    Can you deny, that inspite of what India has achieved in the software sector, this country has a long way to go, before it can reach the standard of living of the United States?

    Look at the unusually long lines in the US VISA consulate anywhere in India. It is impossible to get dates two months ahead.Does it not signify “poor Indians salivating over first world facilities”.Yes, it does.and I see nothing wrong with that. I am myself a poor Indian, who would love to live in the first world, simply because of the “first world facilities”.

    So yah, the stereotype is not all false. They are stereotypes for a reason.

    And as long as India has fanatics like Narendra Modi(who was refused an entry to the US ), how can we expect that they will think any better about us.It is because of such right wing fanatics,that Hinduism gets denigrated in the West. And we should not complain.Any day, an Arundhati Roy is better than a terrorist like Modi, as India’s brand ambassador to the US.

    So,let us also accept that there is some truth in the stereotypes, and merely fuming and fretting at CNN presenters wont do us any good.

    And yes,there are caste wars in the streets in India today.In the great State of Bihar.There is no use trying to hide that.

  41. I had drafted a reply to all the comments and then Firefuck crashed …in the process making me lose everything I typed. Might be some time before I am able to redraft that…

  42. GB

    Brilliantly put. But you have to understand that the US is essentially a land of stupid people who cannot see beyond their picket fences or very oily places. I remember an anecdote from an NRI relative who was studying in Austin sometime back. He said that a lot of Texans believed that Texas is the only country in the world. On the other hand, there were a handful of people who were aware that Texas is but a state, but thought that the US is the only country in the world!

    It is common knowledge that an average American high-schooler’s sense of geography is zilch. I guess it’s an outcome of an intrinsically isolationist attitude to the world. The US politically came out of that status in 1939. But deep down it still remains a country that couldn’t care less about the world, unless it affects the running of his SUV.

    Compare that to the Europeans (and hence the difference in outlook). They have been going around the world, interacting with alien civilizations while the Americans were busy stealing land from the Native Americans.

    As for those fawning journalists, the overriding diktat these days is, give them what they want, as opposed write what is right. GigaOm was a reflection of that. Every media entity panders to its constituents. Be it a Hollywood studio exec who sees no value in an edgy indie-drama, a Karan Johar who cannot make a movie based in real India with real people or a TV host who has to potray India as a land of cows and snake-charmers!

    Let them be.

  43. Kind of sort of connected, saw this on Cricinfo today, on the worst cricketing excuses –

    Indian smog

    After England lost heavily to India in the first Test of their 1992- 93 series at Calcutta, England’s chairman of selectors Ted Dexter suggested investigating the effects of the local smog on the players. Their bad luck continued: the captain Graham Gooch missed the next Test with a stomach bug after eating some “dodgy prawns” the night before the match. His team-mate John Emburey later produced a different version: “It wasn’t the prawns. It was a plate of pork.”

    Reminded me of the Aussies crying smog in Delhi a few years back, I think the same year Warne flew in baked beans from home. Must have been 2001…

  44. GB,
    Agree with you mostly.
    It was very evident when they lost their sleep over terror of one day or two, while we have been victims of it over years, but that created huge roar and we were never noticed.
    But like the ohter commenter says, “whose father what goes” is my attitude.
    The only thing that bothers, is the “Indian” writer/journo sticking to the same “outsider’s” language.
    Here is a related post

  45. Dear GB,

    I will talk about your wonderful post in while, but first Id like to respond to Suyog for his comment:

    “This is very typical of desi journalists or “blog journalists” as they call themselves. ”

    You are absolutely right Suyog. And…when these so called Blog pundits read anything positive being said about India…say a Tom Friedman in the NYT ….they write a post….”I disagree….the country lacks this and that…”. Many of these bloggers then propose a panacea, “Privatise everything and glory will come thy way. ” Some of them , if they happen to write an OP -ED for an american publication , will link back to it in a 1000 succeding posts and say ” see I told ya “….never mind if the writing is shallow and superficial. Now heres are 2 nasty lil secret about these bloggers which they would not like to hear:

    1> These bloggers want international fame and spotlight. They will do it at any cost or compromise. In short their views are where the moolah is. After a close scrutiny of Western perception of the Indian media, they have quickly and intelligently guessed that if they project a cynic view about India’s developments and beat about the line “Muslims are victimized in India “…which really projects them as “secular” people….they get more and more OP-ed space. Also knowledge is not a requirement…just give a bird’s eye view..that any class 8 student can give after a few hours of googling..and paint a bleak picture…and always think of how your writing will elicit ” wow…this guy looks really smart and not religious at all….next time anything on India….well make him write it”. The blogger then smiles and thinks of newer ways to attract more attention to his blog and how clicks on his blog can translate into dollars.

    2> They draw exmaples from India’s telecom sector and pass a generalized verdict- Privaise everything….open the minds of the people…let us have fancy coffees, coacine parties and threesomes and in the process rural India will grow by leaps and bounds. Now here’s a nasty little accusation- they dont actually care if India’s poor are suffering- they just want better quality cappuccino. This self -centered attitude of theirs hidden by protective cloak of “Liberalise the country and the poor will get rich “. 🙂 Of course when they look back at their own lives, they becomes ashamed of the fact that they are Indians and lament on what they have not had….and then start blaming the govt….of course they are against any kind of protectionism for benefit of the poor….all these are cheating schemes…they shout…and bring out their magnifying glasses to examine where their taxes have gone….but when their cell phone or credit card company calls up and says: ” sir we have charged an additional xxx amount ” they pay happily…that of course aint cheating…..private companies are never corrupt. Its the govt who is the culprit…Enron who?

    Id then like to say that Wanderer’s comment was truly fantastic. Regarding Gawker’s comment, all I can say is that what hes saying is true…but GBs grouse is against the baised coverage and stereotyping – people seeing only the cows and not the glass buildings.

    And now GB, regarding your post…if I was in proximity to you…Id have given you a hearty steak treat for writing such an unbiased and beautiful article. We are lucky to have you you know…men like you are rare..otherwise a traveller in the blogosphere would get lost in the quagmire of “pandering to western humour” kinda views. As is your hallmark, you are rational , unflinching and objective.

    “Islam they wish they could but they value the heads on their necks. So it’s open season for India and Hindusim (which to them is indistinguishable)–because we are, as always, easy targets.”

    Shabash GB Shabash….all I can say is that who else is there in the Indian blogosphere who would have had the guts to write that?

    Regarding the TV shows….you know how they are …and how dumb the average show on American telly is…..so this is to be kinda expected. Consider the the foreign snippet columns of newspapers where you find queer bits of news….you”ll find news snippets like ” A man from Texas has set a world record for eting the max no of well done steaks”….similarly the people in US want stereotyped news snippets like that about India….it has to come with cows and snake charmers etc….you see Infosys making Nasdaq 100 aint much of a news….the average viewer will suck his thumb…he probably doesnt know what the Nasdaq 100 is..but the man who rode the cow to school is the kind of news that they look forward to. I can even predict that even after 25 years from now, when all villages of India will have electricity and the country will get even more modern than its now…still they “ll dig out such news from jharkhand or mizoram and project India that way. I know its sad…it really is…but Im even more angered at the Indian journos who try to make a fast buck by pandering to that kind of cravings and not being bold enough to defend the country and her achievements.

    So when on BBC radio, some Indian correspondent is asked, “so what has changed in the last 5 years ” about anything from politics to tiger conservation, they”ll get brownie points if they focus on the negatives obfuscating the positives. They can defend themselves by that “not resting on one’s laurel’s ” line, but they cannot hide that submissive “yes sir, as you know its the same old story…this is bad and that is broken line”. Very few are bold enough to say ” Yes we have this and this shortcomings, but we have acheived that and that too and we can only go up from here” without inferiority complex. Its unrelated but tied to one of your previous posts….take a survey of those people who write cynical articles about India….generally they are the ones who say “I dont have to sing a song to project that Im Indian “…and sometimes…just sometimes I just feel that this refusal to sing is more a case of divorcing oneself from ones own Indian identity than a case of individual freedom.

  46. Just as I was going thru’ the blog and the replies, I get a mail from a colleague (White and European) who is in India on a bussiness trip, and the subject of the mail is “Hello from the World’s biggest Outdoor Toilet”!Needless to say it was marked to other colleagues as well,from different countries, and unfortunately I am the only Indian…and everyone else is only too happy to agree.And I don’t have any arguments to prove that just because some people are peeing outside in delhi does not mean that the whole country is a “Big Toilet”.
    Being poor is understandable, but uncivil,poor hygene ( like sh****ng in the open, spitting everywhere)etc. are not explainable to others. And you can’t shrug it off also as a small percentage of the population, because they are what u get to see on the streets! No matter how well you do elsewhere, when it comes down to India it will always be the same …. uncouth, dirty, naked! We Indians feel at home in such situations because we know where to cover our nose, and where not to step and where not to look… but for others it takes too much of an effort just to step out of the room, on foot !

  47. YOURFAN writes:
    @Sayon, Swati, Ankan, Dipesh and others who think that ‘Bitching won’t change their viewpoint – sheer economic power will’. I agree partially with you. Yes, the economic power is one important factor to change their viewpoint but definitely not the only factor. Raising voices of protest (“bitching”) is another very important factor which by the way was the point of this post. Example: Till 80’s the usage of “N” word to describe the black community in US was not a big deal. At that time the negative connotation of the “N” word was not known to all and sundry. But the voices of protest or ‘bitching’ about it changed the whole scenario. Now if anybody uses the ‘N’ word then he/she is branded as racist. In final analysis, now nobody uses the ‘N’ word anymore – not even in literature unless of course that is specifically used to mean racism. Please don’t tell us that economic power of the black community has improved so much that other people has started ‘respecting’ them and that is the reason why ‘N’ word is not being used any more.

    @GB: I honestly believe that we should protest and raise our voices especially when our own people present our country in bad light in the name of reality. Which country does not have problems? The negative aspects might vary from country to country but then why pick on one? I have a NRI friend (born and brought up here and then married to an NRI) who often grumbles about everything after coming here for visits and says that the only reason she comes for a visit is for her father!! She pisses me right off. But at the same time I have a NRI relative who envies our life style, our togetherness, and our ceremonies in short all the fun stuff. I know everybody will jump at me and say that it is a matter of perspective. But we sure should raise our voices to let the concerned people know that we are not liking it. And as charity begins at home, we should protest at those Indians who belittle our own country in the name of reality and impartiality. As some of your readers suggested that the news/views are presented in media/literature depending on what the audiences want. Fine, whoever is belittling our country in the name of reality and impartiality should take note that we don’t want to hear it, we don’t like it – if not for any other reasons (as they won’t understand the concept of love for one’s own country) but at least for the simple reason that we already are aware of our own problems. It will take time but it will work. The “N’ word worked – didn’t it?

  48. YOURFAN writes:
    @rick: My comments crossed yours. Here is my reply to you. If I were you then I would be sending the reply to the same person (White and European) with cc to everybody for them to read the reply as “to the World’s biggest drug addict den”. Obviously that is a gross exaggerated generalization. But the fact of the matter is that they have the problem on that account or any other account. We have our problem on a different domain. Only if you protest in that logical manner they will understand that everybody/nation has its own problems but that does not allow anybody to belittle others. Criticism is a both way street. If we don’t shy away from protesting logically then things will definitely change.

  49. @anon – yes you are right about the N-word. Except that the negative stereotype of African Americans (pardon my ignorance, but I believe this is the current politically correct terminology) has not disappeared, and why periodically a new politically correct term has to be invented. The words may not be used, but the thoughts remain the same.

    The advantage of using sheer economic power to remove a stereotype is that after a while the people who used to stereotype you are too busy licking your feet to look down on you.

    Bitching may get Americans to grudgingly shut up, but money will make them glad to sing paeans in praise of India. Which the Israelis and Japanese have managed to do, and the Chinese are well on the way to doing.

  50. I understand what you mean by India and Hindusim being indistinguishable to the westerners. Many ppl I met in the US would join their hands and go naa-maas-Te, on being told that I was from India. Like how they bow down low on meeting a Japanese person. but Namaskara is a hindu greeting and I always wondered how the non-hindu Indians wud react to this, and sadly never got a chance to find out.

  51. @rick

    I understand your feelings when you receive a mail that says “Hello from the World’s biggest Outdoor Toilet”. Completely agree with your feelings. We can be poor, but we need not be unhygienic and all that.

    Now for a few suggested email subject lines if you are writing a mail from US of A

    “Greetings from a country which elected George W. Bush President ”
    “Update from a nation whose President cannot pronounce ‘nuclear'”
    “Hello from a country that was discovered by mistake”

    Point is, nobody’s perfect. Of course, we are working on our flaws. Things being optimistic, a hundred years from now we will have a nation that craps and pees in indoor toilets. But hundred years from now American children will have to study about a stupid President in their History classes!

  52. People, the fact remains that we are hypersensitive to any critical evaluation of our country. The fact remains that there are many areas we need to improve, and our standards of living just do not compare with the developed countries. No point being an ostrich about it.

    The only reason we have started bristling indignantly rather than examining ourselves, is because some of us, in some areas have just begin to compete, especially in IT and scientific research. Even there most of our so-called prosperity is dependent on developed countries.

    This veneer of ‘development’ that we wrap around us also blinds us to the real problems that India as a country faces everyday – political, social, infrastructural. So instead is getting our panties in a bunch about what some random blogger/writer-turned-activist/reporter writes, we should probably see how much of it is true.

    I have lived for the last many years in Bombay and Pune, two of the most developed urban areas in Maharashtra. I have worked briefly in Bangalore, and go to Kolkata regularly.

    – Pune does not electricity for long stretches every day.
    – In Bombay, if you travel from Kandivili towards the much vaunted IT hub, SEEPZ through the Western Express Highway, you will have enough reasons along the side of the road to realize why it is called the “shitpot” of India. Besides having the maxumum number of potholes per square kilometre in India.
    – Bangalore – going from any random point A to B takes a minimum of an hour, and no – the coffee shops, barring a few, are still not Wi-Fi ed.
    – Kolkata and its “shorboharar dol” is still struggling to provide its citizens with basic facilities and and infrastructure. The new-ish road leading from the airport towards Salt Lake Sector 5 (The IT SEZ Area with grand names like Millennium Technology Park) has signs saying “Beware of livestock on the road.”

    And these are just some of the great cities – the urban areas of our country.

    I am sorry – what are we angry about again?

  53. Greatbong,
    This is a welcome change from your usual satirical posts. And I loved every bit of it.
    These posts are an important step to spread awareness in the west about the India of today. I applaud your effort.

    Sanjay

  54. @Vikram: Well matters arent as simple as that. Though undeniably filth like Arundhuti Roy’s meal ticket comes from denigrating India, her meat and drink comes from showing that Muslims/Christians are being persecuted in India, Pakistan is the real hero etc etc. rather than showing that India is a land of snake charmers and elephants.

    @SD: Too much clicking is injurious to the errr hand.

    @The Graduate: Urine drinking only on Tuesdays for me…thank you.

    @Sameer: Yes of course…their insularity is amazing. But they look upon Japan, South Korea and even China as part of their “civilized” world while the rest are all JingaLala.

    @HP: Thank you

    @Wanderer: I have often wondered as why other expats are so possessive about their origins (a Swedish friend of mine sends his kids to Swedish school and himself teaches there on weekends) while many Indian expats are exactly the opposite.

    @Ookephunti: Maybe in europe it is changing. Not here in US.

    @Anubhav: The Pope is an extremist figure. End of story.

    @Vishal: KS is fine…”I am an expert in the arts of the KS” has got many a desi laid in foreign lands.

    @Parag: Yes I understand that. Europeans are in general much more well informed about the world than Americans. Whenever I am in Europe, I am surprised to see CNN cover so much world news while in US, the same company has almost none of it. In spite of that, I have seen that Europeans are more racist than Americans—at least from my experiences of racial profiling in airports.

    @Shan: Scene straight out of “Fear Factor”.

    @Ramya: I too was surprised by the airing of “Mohabbatein” on Austrian TV at 9 in the evening and the omnipresent promos.

    @Shivam: I understand. Try finding cyber cafes 40 miles out of Rome. But then you loathe Hinduism (as you said on a DP thread) and God-knows-what-else, so maybe reasoning with you is unreasonable.

    @RS: Oh of course.

    @Sri: It’s very fine to say to “not care”. But I do. I am well aware of India’s problems and have faced flak/abuse from trolls/commenters for highlighting only problems. Which I do. What I dont do is drag in stereotypes at every possible opportunity. Mainly because I do not have a foreign entity bankrolling me.

    @Vamsi: Excellent piece.

    @Akash: Ho hum.

    @Gourav: Thanks for the concern. No I am not bursting a vein. At least not yet.

    @Varsha: Pre-emptive surgery. A new concept !

    @Rohith: This has been suggested before. The problem is that maintaining a BBS consumes a lot of CPU cycles—something that is at a premium in shared hosting plans like mine. And I cannot afford to go onto a dedicated server—considering the meager amount of money I make from ads.

    @Suyog: Oh yes remember. The guy who had never heard of Paris Hilton.

    @Sayon: Ideally I should maintain a zen-like detachment from ignorant people. But I cannot.

    @S.Pyne: That’s a killer letter. Obviously Washington Post won’t publish it.

    @Sriram: Hmm

    @SirPyscho: Well the truth about why we never qualify for the World Cup is more embarrassing…maybe you should have let him stay under that impression !

    @ND: Yes wish we had seen that disinterest 250 years ago.

    @Krishanu: Didnt you tell him about the robotic monkeys who eat up the elephant dung on the roads?

    @Ajay: Indeed it is not. Again no problem with criticism. Problem with “dragging in stereotypes”.

    @Tintin: Exactly. Have had that “wrong” side conversation at least twice as I can remember…I also take pains to point out that there is no “wrong” side, only a “different” side.

    @Paromita: So have you also hit the bottle along with Devdas? Because as far as I remember, I never saw a single caste riot in Kolkata in my 23 years there. And leave aside a few states(which numerically do not represent India), I have not seen caste riots in the newspapers also. By the same token, there have been race riots in the US…as late as in the 90s. So do we call US a nation of race riots? So wake up.

    @Tipu: And of course Kolkata is the hell-hole even by Indian standards…thanks to the work of Mother Teresa.

    @Anonymous: As per the link you provided, the Daily Show principally makes fun of right wing conservatism (Christian) but not Christianity. As an example, they wouldnt make fun of a corpse on a cross. Or question about the virginity of Mary. I am not saying they should—I am just saying they won’t. Sinnead O Connor’s career was finished when she tore a picture of the Pope calling him the real villain and NBC spent millions on damage control—do you think Jon Stewart doesn’t know where the line is when it comes to Christianity? He does. And he also knows there is no line for Hinduism.

    @Joy Forever: So it hasnt.

    @Vuttaa: No we want our news to be covered too. If a death of a Jewish student in Gaza is headline news, so should be the death of 25 Indians in a bomb blast.

    @Purushottam: Ah well.

    @Dipesh: And to think that the BBC is the best of the lot—at least they do have some India coverage which balances out the “dog marries girl” news-stories.

    @Swati: “Steal” their jobs. heh. I don’t think they were “theirs” in the first place. They were just jobs. And they always go to places which strike the right balance between cost and competence.

    @Ankan: Well progressive Pakstanis may want to explain why the existence of Hudood shouldnt be sufficient cause to call them a medieval country.

    @EducatedUnemployed: True.

    @Gawker:

    1)If you would kindly go through my post, I have said that if power is indeed a problem, write about it. But do not mention it, in a deprecatory tone, on a topic where that doesnt even need to be mentioned. And I would think that citizens of Chennai, at least the ones who came to Blogcamp, do enjoy electricity, plug points and WiFi and arent actually salivating over the “first world facilities”. Again if someone who is always “interpreting” Bush is unable to interpret this bit of Macauley-ian superiority then nothing much to say.

    2) What makes India a nation of snakes? As you say arizona also has snakes. So why does not that make US a land of snakes? Mormons marry many times…often family members. Why does not that make Americans polygamists and worse?

    3) Please. The reason he ridicules right wing Christian conservatism more than Hinduism is because he doesnt know enough about us to keep on making different kind of jokes. Incidentally I do watch those shows mentioned and I also have seen enough episodes of SNL to see what “actually” happens when you step on the feet of the Church. (I am referring to the OConnor incident.)

    4)That’s not the only thing we have Gawker. Except that’s the only thing that’s covered. Besides the snakes.

    5) We have caste wars in the state of Bihar. In US, lonely farmers reportedly have sex with goats in some rural states. Do I need say more? Bihar does not an India make.

    6) My house didnt. And neither of anyone I ever knew. Again snakes in Arizona doesnt make US a land of snakes.

    7) The point is only weird news items about India are covered. And almost nothing else. If a gunman had come onto the sets of “Zindagi rocks” and Sushmita Sen had seduced him into dropping his gun, that WOULD NOT have been news—though it still would be weird. It’s the snake that pulls it on CNN.

    @Madhu: Again there may be a lot to criticize about India and Indian movies. But that shouldnt be the be-all and end-all.

    @Sunil: I wonder what constituency GigaOm was serving. Well there used to be a market for depicting African-Americans as dumb “missa wants” characters in US media 40 years ago. Then how did that market change? it changed because people realized it was wrong. The market for India condescension exists because the market propagates it….a vicious cycle.

    @Anonymous: Maybe Washington DC does not represent the US…but McDonalds and Wendys dont have WIFi. (as far as I know B&N, Starbucks etc only have WiFi). And if you salivate for First world facilities, then speak for yourself. I for one am not here for “First world facilities” simply because I don’t miss much of any of these first world facilities when I am in Kolkata. In other words, I find most of the same physical amenities in Kolkata nowadays—some of them are actually better.

    @Sudeep: True.

    @Bonatellis: No I won’t. And thank goodness for that.

    @Rahul: “But you have to understand that the US is essentially a land of stupid people who cannot see beyond their picket fences or very oily places”.

    That again is a stereotype.

    @Tipu: Yes of course. These people have no problem playing in England after the London bombings and the shooting down of a civilian by the police. They have no problem playing in South Africa where Pakistani cricketers were beaten up by criminals. Their only problem is in playing in the subcontinent.

    @RK: It bothers me too.
    @Yourfan2: Right on the money. Can’t agree with you more.

    @Rick: Again my point is whether that’s the only fact about India. Whether the entire India is nothing but an open air toilet.

    @Yourfan: Exactly the “N” word worked. Even though there was a “market” for using it (as per Sunil’s comment). That’s perhaps because African Americans are less self-loathing than Indians perhaps. And of course I wish to draw a distinction between self loathing and self criticism.

    @Sudha: And that’s the ignorance. But it’s not disrespectful.

    @Shan: Again my point is whether that’s the only thing about India that merits talking about.

    @Sanjay: Thank you.

  55. Firefuck crashed. Ha ha ha ha ha ha

    I am alone sitting here in this huge hall. The pain that is there in the post. The irritation

    in the form of words. The beauty of the post. With you.

  56. GB:

    Great piece of writing.

    I agree completely with The Wanderer: nothing pleases these renegades more than a pat on the back from a white hand.

  57. Pingback: Blogcamp.in at Indian Media Bash Blog

  58. @ Anonymous – you said – Any day, an Arundhati Roy is better than a terrorist like Modi, as India’s brand ambassador to the US.

    I think you might have mis-spelt here. I think you meant Rajiv Gandhi instead of Modi.

    Since i think 3000 Sikhs were butchered in a pogrom lasting well over a month right under Mr. Gandhi’s nose. Or may be you were refering to 1000 Muslims killed by Congress government in Bhagalpur,Bihar [1989] when Rajiv and his wife were enjoying a picnic right in the neighbourhood.

    aa aa.. don’t bother for documents and references on those. They won’t be as easily available as the Gujarat riots. Our secular media did not want us to know more on that so they simple removed them from public memory unlike in case of Gujarat where they kept changing death counts every article.

    Talk of steortyping. Well a good example is stereotyping gujarat. Most *Indians* and not americans have done that.

  59. so Kolkata not having a caste riot is the basis of your rather sweeping statement? hee hee…what an effin’ joke…all you people, OPEN YOUR EYES…America is BAD, so is INDIA…this is not a friggin’ competition…if you are such an India lovehound, friggin’ leave the US PRONTO and go live in a village in India, heck, even in a town, where female foeticide is rising, people still don’t get basic vaccinations and middlemen eat up any aid sent to famine or drought-stricken towns. wait, they also eat up everything else. Oh,wait they also kill young men and women of different castes who wanna be together. They ill-treat widows in the name of god knows what..ah, yes, in the name of Manu, they fuck themselves by taking bank loans for marriages and then kill themselvs…etc etc etc…
    why does everything have to be about how the WEST sees India. Can WE see India the horrible way it is and try and fix it? And end this fixation with how the WEST is depicting us? it ISN’T about THAT! LISTEN TO YOURSELVES!

  60. Paromita, why dont you open your eyes instead and see how India has changed over the past few years and how it is changing as we speak. Inter caste marriages, emancipation of women, education, better health facilities, better educational opportunities are everywhere. I am married to a person of a different caste, so is my sister, and so are my cousins, in fact some have also married outside their own religion. It is this reality that many Indians see today and the descriptions of India that they see in American popular culture simply dont match the India or Hinduism that they know.

    Lastly, if India and Hinduism is in such a horrible way, why dont you change your name to Paula and leave us blind heathens alone ?

  61. think it’s right to have a positive propaganda too, sply when there are many negative ones. after all, every thing needs to be sold, why not our good things. do we expose the shortcomings right away? there will be many for any country as you pointed out.
    here is an interesting read: india – the next giant?

  62. @Sudeep: Wonderful rejoinder.

    @S. Pyne: Have you read E.M. Forester’s “A passage to India”? If you have then it shouldnt be difficult for you to fathom as to why your brilliant letter wasnt published by the Washington Post. Your views are not consistent with the Forster kinda view…hence its hardly surprising that your letter was not publsihed. There is a brilliant chapter in Ghosh’s latest book “Incendiary circumstances ” about an instance of the extended helping hand even during that period of atrocity. The trouble is…the E.M. Forester’s of our own media will twist any incident like that to pass a sweeping generalisation about the country, and use it to optimum effect to paint a crude picture of the country to satisfy the hand that feeds.

  63. it’s funny I was looking for some stuff on ISRO and found this link. Needless to say, it corroborates most of what you say in your post. When one is looking to justify a snake-charmer / cow-on-road impression, you can’t really help even if it’s ISRO. See the first picture for crying out loud!
    Some of the comments, however, do reflect an open mindset, but the general impression, by far, stays.

  64. Nice post. Agree that India is not projected very positively by the media. But I am even more amaze by some of the comments on this blog – denigrating the US as a nation of ignoramuses. The fact is that the US would not have become the richest nation in the world if it was full of ignoramuses – as if that helps ease the pain inflicted by a one sided potraial of India. Instead of merely having a superior attitude and being hypersensitive about crticism of our country, we must recognize our failings and others strengths – and work hard to improve our lot.

  65. @Paromita:
    U want to talk abt the problems and fix them??? But the problem with pseudos like u is that u only know the problems…. and tom tom it to all and sundry…. or would u like to change the stereotyping that i did here and offer some practical solutions to the problems that u just informed us of????

  66. Excellently written Aranab. I dunno how Shailaja Neelakantan has become a ‘journalist’. Forget about her report in question here; did you see how she writes on other issues?

  67. Unfortunately, this condescending image of india is largely burgeoned by the Indian immigrants to the western nations who migrated at a time when poverty and squalor was nearly synonymous with india… ie: the 60’s & 70’s… and that is the image that has been sealed into their brains and that is the image that they pass down to their following generations of western-born Indian kids…. unfortunately, many of the relatively contemporary Indians (like Arundhati Roy) seem psycophantic enough to stick to the 70’s view of India in spite of living in 21st century India.

  68. Dudes and Dudettes: I am shocked at your priorities, that you choose to ignore the most burning issue of the day… That the Himess blog comments are teetering around 170 and our own J. Pizza Dean is being forgotten! Bhuter Raja smiles. Indian Chinese in New Jersey rules! Himess to 200! Come on, all….

  69. Well Arnab this feeling of being subjugated exists among all minorities. The majority seems to over-power the feeble minority. This is what is happening in US, as far as Indians are concerned. But the irony is, inspite of claims of being open-minded and liberal, Americans still have that ego of being superior from the rest. This ego is fed my their economic prowess over the rest of the world even though they are culturally corrupted but for them its modernization.

    I was there at the blogcamp. It was really impressive to see the arrangements and kind if facilities that was provided. But you would agree to this fact that India has a huge economical divide. If people inside the blogcamp were typing on their laptops then there were people, just few blocks apart, who were fighting fire! The slum nearby was under fire and i could see the desperate dwellers trying to put off the fire. (see my blog for a video) Until and unless this divide is bridged, India will continue to be backward for the rest of the world.

  70. And i forgot…this is not my first attempt at posting a comment here…on a previous ocassions my, as you said, firefuck crashed. I am now moving to another F blowser..FLOCK 🙂

  71. hmm. i would presume somebody up here in the comments would have raised this, but, why again *must* the US media highlight -all-good-news-from-india? since when are they obligated to do that? Whoever claims *fair* coverage? For all the *global-war-on-terror-since-9/11* (if the mid-east can be called global tht is), had anyone bothered about all the terrorism prevalent in India? So why rant about sad media coverage?!

    they will make fun of whoever ppl want to laugh about. its a no-holds-capitalist economy! Besides ppl here care more for the john benet case than anything that does not concern america in europe/india wherever. thats just the way it is.

    when we rise (as we are) we will find/are finding rising standards of media coverage. i had not seen that cnn coverage of sushmita earlier..but i do find coverage on critical issues such as the bomb blasts, technology advances etc on cnn/others. these channels dont have correspondents all over india. they pick news from Indian news agencies barring handful others that have minimal presence india. the problem lies there, if they have no bettter news to report than what sushmita did, why blame cnn!
    that said, i have never encountered anybody with “snakes-&-elephants” picture of india.

    besides, if no caste-issues-in-kolkata implies most of the nation does not have them – then by the same token, given @least 50-60% of India has power shortage – why is the cited person wrong/incorrect in saying ppl at the blogmeet got 1st world facilities because of unlimited power supply there.

  72. Well, in my humble opinion, we ‘desis’ need to get off our high horses and stop blaming the western media for everything. It reminds of ignoramuses who conveniently offload everything that is wrong to ‘foreign culture’ perverting our sacred and holy 5000 year old culture.
    What about the Indian media???? How often do we see articles about the happenings in the Eastern states other than West Bengal. How often have you heard educated and so-called modern people refer to someone from anyone from the Eastern states like ‘Chinkys’.
    Yes, I agree with a lot of the posters that the western media does come across as incredibly dense and insensitive when it come to the Asian perspective, but we have our own stereotypes about the western world.
    We need to do something about our own backyard before we complain about the neighbours.

  73. Sometimes (Not always) i just think it is best to let the westerners keep that perception of us as magicians, snake charmers and beggars. (Though i do not personally write about those crazy things about India). This way, they will never get too much excited about India and we can discourage them from coming here. (I think Tourism is anyways not a big industry in India) And we maintain this low-profile (,Shameless – Here i get angry and start thinking just like everyone else – Hatred), go to Americas as salivating Indians, learn technologies, take the good things and come back here to grow ourselves.

  74. I think that our achievements as of now are not such that others would stand up and take notice of them, they would rather prefer to see our country as a land of snake charmers, sadhus, blind superstitions and all.
    It is important for us to know how good or bad as a country we are, we need to look around ourselves for that and not form opinions on the basis of biased blogs and news items.

    And for those Indians who speak only bad about their own country while praising other countries, well they must be made to live the life of the opressed people that they claiim certain sections of the society to be. Fish, if we could really do that 😦 .

  75. “After all Sushmita Sen, with sand in her chest, seducing a snake is as newsworthy a thing as anything else in the world.”

    wow! third world actress turns snake charmer for supplemental salary. now she can get a real silicone gel job instead of just sand … and seduce a snake reincarnated as a gora.

    – s.b.

    p.s.: i understand some of them continue to visit this blog, so i had better apologize to the humor challenged.

  76. g.b.:

    this is to supplement your exchange with gawker:

    i don’t know if you missed it but are you going to analyze the drunken rants of mel gibson vs. the when-he-was-sane comments that schwarzy made, and the corresponding after-effects? or would you do something like that only if there is a desi spin to it?

    – s.b.

  77. Pingback: BlogCamp Chennai 2006: Update « Swadeshe

  78. GB, I think you chose a great topic.
    We Indians have this habbit (or whatever you call it) to belittle our country and our own culture and traditions.

    And who are these people. These are no uneducated folks. They are educated people who take pride in denouncing their own origins and heritage.

    They have just one thing in their mind – how can they become closer to West and get rid of the legacy they are carrying with them.

    A few days back I heard somebody claiming that the only infrastructure that’s good in India is that created by British before 1947, and according to him this was done to benefit India and Indians.

    I could not stop myself and had to explain that it was created so that they could have a better and efficient suction system that could suck every drop of Indian wealth and take it to England as fast as they could.

    The American listening to this was satisfied with the explanation, but not the gentlemen that I was talking to.

    But that should not stop people like you and me correcting any misconceptions being spread, on every forum that we have access to.

    Which country does not have problems.. No deny, India is facing tough challanges, but that does not mean we should disown it…

    I love India… and I will keep loving my country!
    We call it our mother, and I will never insult or belittle my mother. For me, she is the Best!!!

  79. Hi Arnab da
    Great post. It struck me when I went abroad how much Indians love to criticise their country. Often with no sense of debate or contructiveness. Actually it’s of little use blaming the western media, as you rightly point out….most of the damage is done by Indians who have no sense of self respect. China is never portrayed in the same way. In Switzerland the only time India got mentioned in the German newspapers was when a bullock cart overturned in some UP village, or a politician went out to campaign sitting on a donkey. China on the other hand gets mentioned only for economic news. Even when Indians talk to the firangs, it takes about 5 minutes for the topic to veer to insanely comparing the great water and transport system of the west to the abysmal Indian standards. And this in very negative terms. Never did I hear anyone (other than me 🙂 )speaking about the phenomenally high numbers of cell phone users or the high political awareness of people here.

  80. @GB:
    “My house didnt. And neither of anyone I ever knew. Again snakes in Arizona doesnt make US a land of snakes.”

    Just last week my parents house in Mysore was visited by a six foot long cobra. Luckily, the dog alerted my parents, they called “Snake Shyam” who came and caught it within an hour. During the torrential rains last October, we had a baby snake in the kitchen in our first floor apartment in Bangalore. When I was discussing this with my co-workers, I learnt that two others also had snakes in their houses that month. Around the same time, while going back from work on Hosur road, I saw something rope-like hanging from the bottom of the car in front of me. Traffic was crawling as usual. Few minutes later, the rope-like thing fell down and slithered across the road to the grassy divider.

    Though, to be fair, that is the sum total of direct encounters with snake for me personally or those close to me in these 35 years, so it is not like we come across snakes everyday.

    Agree with your larger point of negative projection by media though.

  81. When I reached the part where Ms. Nilkantan menioned about the plug points, I closed the browser tab on Gigaom and decided not to read anything by her again. She needs a reality check.

  82. Hey “The Wanderer” cool anecdote man!!!
    Now, Why did i say man? is that a western thing? am i westernized too much?!?!?!
    i am confused now!@##@$%

  83. The vitriolic reaction to people like Paromita (“go change your name to Paula” et al) makes me almost fearful in posting comments. What if they tell me to change my name to Sean and desist from commenting on India’s demerits?

    Whatever be the GigaOm or the Arundhati Roy view about India, I feel that the anger should be channelised correct. The reason we [i]should[/i] be angry with people like them si that they exaggerate the misfortunes India has and then present that to thr West as normality.

    But I suspect that the reason we ARE angry with them is we feel that somehwo they are airing OUR dirty laundry for the world to see. The “ghar ki baat ghar mein hi rehni chahiye” type of thinking.

    At least I hope this analysis is true. Because the alternative is to think that the people angrily denouncing the writers somehow actually are delusional enough to believe that India is a land of milk and honey and that everything Ms.Roy says is totally fabricated. That would be a real tragedy, because that would be totally false.

    Caste problems (regardless of a pitiful urban few like me and at least one other commenter who have married into others castes) DO exist, and people do get killed for marrying outside social boundaries. Poverty DOES exist and in extremely large numbers. People DO die of starvation. There IS religious discrimination and there IS religious appeasement (yes, both). There is power shortage and large parts of the country still have electricity only in name. A MAJORITY of Indians are illiterate, and the fact that some of us go and complete brilliant PhDs and get Nobel Prizes in the US hardly detracts from that fact.

    And we get angry because there are a couple of news items focus on exotica like snakes and Kama Sutra! Believe me, the way India is right now, there should be more important things to get angry and frustrated about.

  84. @Shan: No it’s not the ghar ki baat et al which is the cause of the anger – it’s the fact that people who could help India be seen in a more positive light are reinforcing the purely negative stereotype.

    Unfortunately, imho, the reality of India is too complex to be understood by a majority of Westerners. Those who are not too lazy to try and recognise the complexity do admire the good things about us, while also noticing the things we are not proud of. The majority unfortunately find it easier to believe in stereotypes – Brits are stiff lipped, The French are lazy and decadent, the Germans are methodical and mechanical, the Indians come from a land of snakes…

    I understand GB’s anger at these stereotypes – he has to face it every day. Fortunately my interaction with firangs is relatively limited, and I can afford to laugh at their mental laziness when I occasionally come across their stupidity.

    So whether you feel anger or amusement, I still feel that the best way to beat them is economically, and in the process help improve the situation in India – so that the negatives Arundhati Roy et. al. love to portray no longer exist. Am I too optimist in hoping for that?

  85. Hey Bengali Guy!

    Sorry if I offended any of you Indians with the portrayal of your country on my blog, but I was just giving my observations. I was over there visiting my boyfriend, who is, by the way, Indian.

    I was an international flight attendant for 8 years and visited over 30 countries, including most of Latin America, but India caught me totally off guard.

    -Ellen aka Queen of Sky

    P.S. My BOOK Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant: The QUeen of Sky Blog is now for sale!

  86. Sometimes it does help if India is projected the way it is. Ask Prashant Modi 😀

    A quote from Telegraph:
    “Judge Jeremy Roberts accepted submissions from Sasha Wass, QC, defending, that being alone with three good looking women was an alien situation to Modi, whom she described as “shy, polite and geeky”.

    She said Modi had dedicated his life to his father’s oil business and had little time for girls in India, where he had been brought up to consider sex outside marriage as wrong.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/08/11/ngeek11.xml

  87. >@Rohith: This has been suggested before. The problem is that maintaining a BBS >consumes a lot of CPU cycles—something that is at a premium in shared hosting plans >like mine. And I cannot afford to go onto a dedicated server—considering the meager >amount of money I make from ads.

    @GB: I am not sure what that would cost in terms of resources (time and money) but if it something worth doing, I have no problems opening my wallet and/or making time for helping out in this direction.

  88. @@Shan

    The vitriolic reaction to people like Paromita (”go change your name to Paula” et al) makes me almost fearful in posting comments. What if they tell me to change my name to Sean and desist from commenting on India’s demerits?

    The advise to change her name was given in response to her asking other people, “if you are such an India lovehound, friggin’ leave the US PRONTO and go live in a village in India, heck, even in a town,”

    Since she is uncomfortable with Indians in US having any kind of pride in Indian achievements, she sets herself up for a comment asking her to leave the Indian community, if it so repels her with all the caste wars and female infanticide. Yes, somethings are bad, some age old evils have been armed with modern technology, but there are bright spots as well, why is it Standard Operating Procedure for MSM to drag in the muck while talking about the bright spots ? Why take the gratuitious swipes at Hindusim ?

    @@ But I suspect that the reason we ARE angry with them is we feel that somehwo they are airing OUR dirty laundry for the world to see. The “ghar ki baat ghar mein hi rehni chahiye” type of thinking.

    Are you a Pakistani ? They are the guys who think the way you insinuate, the rest of us think. Last I heard, India is a free society, and discounting exceptions, no one stops anyone from talking about any issue.

    The issue simply stated is this: Why bring in the poverty, caste wars, female infanticide etc in a report about a blog meet ?

  89. India is India and shes too big to be understood by even us Indians, something like the blind men and the elephant, imagine if a blind man were to put his hand into the elephants a__hole….
    Another thing, why is it that most indians who stay in the US (like most of the ones that have posted) never tire of running that country down and have nothing but contempt for its people?

  90. @KM – I thought Arnab was in the US, and has a strong objection to India being run down by the Shailaja Neelakantan brigade! Don’t generalise – you’ll find India baiters and lovers among Indians on both sides of the pond.

  91. The problem you point out is valid: news organizations should strive to report Indian realities more accurately. Even strong financial interest in the region has not prompted news gatekeepers to conclude that generalized affairs in India should be used as a lead headline. Focusing on the lack of Indian coverage in the press, I think one must question how a news organization can encourage its subscribers to care about international news. I advocate more coverage of foreign affairs, but I must admit that I myself will skip reading the entirety of an internationally important article if I can’t immediately identify what consequence the issue will transpire onto me. In today’s conglomerate media world where large corporations compete for the largest market share, news that does not have punch or generate a high magnitude of interest gets tossed. The profit stakes have risen. News’ audience needs to first become invested in Indian issues before reporting tasks will be assigned. Only after international news is identified as a revenue-generating topic will news corporations be willing to spend money to educate and train reporters and editors. Until then, spending money on what is seen as inconsequential news is not an investment that will bring quarterly profits to the pockets of publicly-held news corporation managers. Sadly, continuing to neglect a schedule of complete international coverage will only cause more Americans to stop nourishing their curiosities of foreign affairs later.

  92. Queen of sky – she looks more like a hooker than a flight attendant. y give too much attention to a hooker’s words? May be she was soliciting during dark in Texas highways to notice how low their moral values are. Fuck anyone at any time even if it is a stranger dont mind…thatz the culture they have and that stinks. When individuals themselves stink and are filthy, i do not understand how they talk about filthiness of another country. this goes to ramonster who commented in her blog. who invited u to india? dont set foot there. u mofos will spoil indian soil even if ur foot touches it.

  93. KM says:
    “India is India and shes too big to be understood by even us Indians…”

    How true! A particular example that I think is relevant here is about the Kumbha Mela held in Allahabad. I don’t know what the western media thinks about the event, but most of the people I know think “Kumbh Mela is a crowd of naked sadhus and there are stampedes and people die there”. Nothing could be further than the truth. Take this from somebody who has grown up in Allahabad and has seen the Kumbh Mela from inside. Yes, there are naked frenzied sadhus there, but people don’t die of stampede. (That happened only once in the ’50s under some special circumstances).

    But how many people know that it is a wonderfully managed event? Does the western media have even a remote idea what 7.5 crore people look like? That’s the figure that took a dip in the Sangam in 2001. 2.5 crore in a single day. 50 lakh extra people were staying in a city for a month or two whose population is 12 lakh. Did we face any exceptional inconvenience? Not at all. How many people died in the Mela? 70! All natural deaths. Managing an event like The Olympics or the FIFA World Cup are nothing compared to the Kumbh Mela. Here we are talking about a crowd that is essentially poor village folk, and illiterate. Does anybody know that these people are far more decent, disciplined, and honest than their city brethren? (OK, this was a bit generalised, but that’s what I have seen there).

    I’ll write a detailed post about the Kumbh Mela in my blog sometime. This is not the proper place to discuss that. But anybody who wants to see the true India can visit Allahabad this January to see the Kumbh Mela. Yes, the TRUE India, in all her glory. Complete with naked sadhus and snake charmers AND hi tech satellised based technology, amazing administration, superb management and unbelievably hardworking people. That is India for me.

  94. @Sayon

    “So whether you feel anger or amusement, I still feel that the best way to beat them is economically, and in the process help improve the situation in India – so that the negatives Arundhati Roy et. al. love to portray no longer exist. Am I too optimist in hoping for that?”

    I agree. However till that time, we cannot and should not brush these negatives unbder the carpet just because suddenly we have become a force in the IT world and started thinking big. So big that we have started to actually think that we can compete with the developed countries based on our IT skills alone! The fact is that, in every other field, we are woefully behind, and till we reach a comparable standard of living for the average Indian (no, we people who have access to computers and comment on blogs are NOT average Indians, sorry), we should not portray this type of righteous indignation when others (Indians, or foreign) prick our bubble by pointing out our deficiencies.

    @Sudeep

    “Since she is uncomfortable with Indians in US having any kind of pride in Indian achievements, she sets herself up for a comment asking her to leave the Indian community, if it so repels her with all the caste wars and female infanticide.”

    Three things.

    First, I am truly sorry that caste wars and female infanticide do not seem to repel you, as it does her, and as, IMHO, it should every right thinking Indian.

    Second, from your words it seems that a person who criticizes his/her country does not have the right to live there any more. This a dangerously fascisitic construct, and one that is followed, you would like to know by all totalitarian regimes. By this analogy, all Americans who oppose the war on Iraq should leave the US and all dissidents who criticize the Chinese regime should be expelled…oh, sorry forgot – they are killed instead. Please get a perspective. The right to criticize wrongs in your own country is the cornerstone of democracy and a free society. But I suppose this is an outdated concept in a time when Narendra Modi is the ideal.

    Third, no I am not a Pakistani. Though it is funny that you think so, just because I criticize injustice in India, because it proves my second point about you. 🙂 It also shows the typical habit of generalization all intolerant people have, classifying people as homogenous groups to be reviled like “Pakistanis”, “Muslims”, or for that matter, “Southies”.

    I’m afraid you have revealed a lot about yourself in your vituperative little diatribe, Sudeep, and not much of it seems to be either reasonable or likeable…

  95. Forget the Om Maliks and the Shailaja Neelakantans. You must appreciate that with the brown skin the wear, only by licking the bums of their white audience they can hope to earn their livelihoods.

    If you had been reading Om’s blog for sometime, you will find that whatever he writes and however he does so can be bettered by any Tom, Dick and Harry (or Ram, Shyam, Jodu, Modu) with an education. The point is, Om got so big just because he started early.

    You can write equally well if not better than him. One more thing; Om is an insufferable snob. Try criticize him through a comment and he will never publish it. However, if a white questions his journalistic qualities and compares his articles with Valleywag and praises the later, he will publish it. He has to do it; he doesn’t have any choice!

    Om thinks he is too big for guys like you and me. He has not come up with a statement even despite the kind of lashing his blog got all over owing to Shailaja’s post. In fact, if you read Om’s older post, he is not above rewriting news articles and stooping to the borderlines of spamming. Rarely does Om gives good insights to news or presents a good analysis. The only time his posts look original is when he visits some fanciful place like the Googleplex and writes a commentary on what happened there (rather whom he met and what he did). Unlike GigaOm, Valleywag at least has original and creative content.

    I have stopped reading GigaOm since May this year. The only time I visited it after then was the day before when I went through your post.

    Don’t believe me? Just check for yourself. I won’t give links here, I just want you to discover it yourself.

  96. Hi Greatbong, coming back to your blog after a long time. Was a lil busy.

    By the way, you mentioned GigaOm.com has a large following. I found it rather boring. Is it the “Times of India” effect? The paper is dumb, but it still is the largest selling.

  97. @Sudeep

    “Since she is uncomfortable with Indians in US having any kind of pride in Indian achievements, she sets herself up for a comment asking her to leave the Indian community, if it so repels her with all the caste wars and female infanticide.”

    Three things.

    @@ Shan

    >> First, I am truly sorry that caste wars and female infanticide do not seem to repel you, as it does her, and as, IMHO, it should every right thinking Indian.

    They do, but I am not repelled by India.

    >> Second, from your words it seems that a person who criticizes his/her country does not have the right to live there any more. This a dangerously fascisitic construct… The right to criticize wrongs in your own country is the cornerstone of democracy and a free society. But I suppose this is an outdated concept in a time when Narendra Modi is the ideal.

    I am surprized that you could not see the “fascism” (your words, not mine) in the other persons comment where she asks someone to leave the US if they dare compare her adopted homeland to their country. Secondly, I did not ask her to leave India, she is already in the US. The comment to change her name is made along the same lines as her previous comments and is an oft employed rhetorical device. Its surprizing that you cant get this.. But then, its “The Shan” I am talking to.

    >> Third, no I am not a Pakistani. Though it is funny that you think so, just because I criticize injustice in India, because it proves my second point about you.

    In your dreams sugar 🙂 I did not make that comment because you were criticizing anything Indian, only because you insinuated that the rest of us who find MSM reporting about India patronizing and racist – are motivated by a “Ghar ki baat andar hi rahnee chahiye” feeling. I have often seen Pakistanis make the same argument, e.g. their president saying the rape victims not getting justice in their country should not communicate with “outsiders”. Since you seemed to be familiar with that line of thinking, and people who think along those lines, I asked you if you were a Pakistani.

    >> It also shows the typical habit of generalization all intolerant people have, classifying people as homogenous groups to be reviled like “Pakistanis”, “Muslims”, or for that matter, “Southies”.

    I asked you a simple question. I wonder where you deduced all this from a question, “Are you a Pakistani ?”

    >> I’m afraid you have revealed a lot about yourself in your vituperative little diatribe, Sudeep, and not much of it seems to be either reasonable or likeable…

    I give a rats arse as to what you think about me. 🙂

  98. GB,

    My observations on the topic you’ve chosen.

    1. While India bashers come from all states and communities, but certain elitist groups (few Kolkatans predominate…few names like Sugata Bose, Sharmila Bose, Somini Sengupta and Angana Chatterjee prop up) have made their religion out if it. The JNU crowd is most prominent among them, and so is the group of so-called ‘historians’ led by Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib. You might want to dedicate a post on that topic.

    2. World view – This matters. If you have been brought up with a Western world view, you won’t find anything wrong with anti-India trash (certain characters that have replied to your post display this trait), furthermore you’ll see and describe India with that frame of mind. Again it is a elite section of the society coming out of certain category of schools (which teaches them to denigrate anything India).

    3. We have a scalability and timeline problem here. Can you compare India with UK or India with France/Germany? With Scandanavian states?
    In other words if the Europian countries (-Russia) unite overnight will it be fair to take the socio-economic profile of Albanians or Bosnians to be the representative picture of entire Europe (-Russia)? The point is India is a continent (in logical sense) by itself with N number of communities each progressing at its own pace. We have the political unity; the wet dream of xenophobic Europians. Yes there’s a trade off, gains by top performing states is negated by few loser states.
    On the other hand continent sized comparisons with USA and Australia too will be irrational. They don’t have the burden of history as we do (which brings along all the goods and bads).

  99. Hey, Greatbong, can you login into your cpanel account? I am also using bluehost but I cant and when I visited their forum I understand they are going thru some serious problems. I dont know how to download my database and what will happen to my sites. I haven’t expected such un-professionalism from them. If you can still access your cpanel, backup/download your database immediately else you’ll be also in soup. One more thing as you are living in the states do you personally know anybody working in that company?

  100. @Sudeep

    “I give a rats arse as to what you think about me. :-)”

    Sudeep, charmingly put. Your language alone bears out all I said about you, but you are absolutely right in not caring. All we should care about is what some two-bit journalist writes about some bloggers’ meet in some part of India, and what a one-book author writes about her ex-country of citizenship.

    On the other hand, they probably, and rightly care tuppence about what you think of them. Fair’s fair. 🙂

  101. im a novice at bloggin,i liked ur style,but feel if u r so gruntled with US!!then why use mother****,use our desi gaalis.Before commenting on goras atleast dont ape!!!
    Lets communicate in a way that makes the west pick our lingo!
    and btw blog is pretty good,u make people realise that india is no longer a country of snake charmers and potmakers!!!

  102. Not surprisingly, we have a flaming war here. People are going off at a tangent and conflating issues. This post is about stereotyping of India and its people in the West. Regardless of whether India faces monumental challenges, it is of course the right of every Indian to take umbrage at such causal racism. People who are trying to explain it away by saying “oh, but we ARE starved of electricity” cannot tell their anus from a hole in the ground. That is NOT the point. The question is, how was it relevant to the context?

    I spent a year in the UK a while ago and there was not one single story about India on the Beeb that said anything positive. Conclusion: India is a shithole.

    To be fair, there has been a lot of positive coverage in recent times, especially in the context of grwoth, but it tends to equally simplistic and hyperbolic, not to mention shallow.

    PS: I agree with someone who said you are being harsh on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They may not be the most knowledgeable around when it comes to India, but they seem to be fair, IMO.

  103. Also whats interesting is how Indians see Americans as only immoral, divorcing, people who dont care about their family people. Like all of culture and love belongs to India and nobody else has culture. (i just dont feel the need to talk about condenscending pieces on india because arnab’s post already talks about it and I dont need to say somethign about it just to look like I am really pissed about it.)

  104. I think you are getting worked up about nothing in my opinion.I don’t think when Indians think the grass is greener on the other side it is such a big deal.

    I will tell you my opinion.Americans are the most self hating people on Earth.Honest.Just visit any internet forum and you will get endless replies about how America sucks and so on. The posts are by Americans.

    Americans think Japan,Brazil,Sweden are much better countries. They keep forever whining that they were not born in those countries.They keep saying that Americans are conservative and prudish and this is pissing them off.

    Also Americans keep saying they are the stupidest people on Earth.

    I don’t really care about their opinions on India because their opinions on their own country is so bad.

  105. Americans are the most self hating on Earth.They keep whining that they were not born in Japan,Brazil,Sweden and so on.They have these wierd fantasies about how Japanese life is.They keep saying that Americans are conservative,prudish and so on.

    They doubt that 9/11 was done by terrorists.They have a suspicion that Bush admin is respnsible.This conspiracy theory is famous in US.

    Also Americans think that they are stupidest on Earth.

    They have a low opinion on American culture,cinema,politics and others.

    Now YOU TELL ME:If Americans have such a bad opinion about their country,do you actually care about their opinions on India?? At least the opinion on India is better than the opinion on their own country.

    I am happy I am not born among such self hating creatures.

  106. @sudeep,

    ignore shan. he seems to have all the time in the world to argue endlessly. And also, he has a whole lot of pretensions about being liberal secular intellectual types. I once got into an argument with him,and i was left wondering why did i waste my time on someone who has nothing worthwhile to do. I have come across him on some other blogs too, and he is the same.

  107. generalizations, generalizations, generalizations!

    what a wonderful debate this has turned out to be.

    India is about multiplicity – everything and its opposite being true – and being comfortable about the opposites even as you question them. Things are rarely black and white – in which case where’s the debate ?

    Don’t defend it or explain it.

    If u can, sell it ! 🙂

  108. The final comment got it right – whatever you think of India and its opposite is true.

    Between, I dont think many of the posters who has issues with Arundhati Roy has read what she has written. I do not agree with everything she says, but it is very important for you to hear before objecting to them.

    Can any of the posters recount/recollect what exactly the pseudo-secularists said/wrote was denigratory? I would to know what exactly they said offended you.

  109. Well just now ,I was chatting with a kuwaiti female. Seeing me well placed in a big company she wanted to know more about my country of origin. But i was amazed to hear her talk of yoga. Yoga has come in abig way and made inroads into high society kuwaiti life. They may not know what OM means but they chant it to get peace of mind. They hope to visit India and kerela one day.we as ambassadors can do our bit to spread goodness of our country plus the knowledge and expertise

  110. See what I had written in my book – An Area of Darkness(1964)

    It is better to retreat into fantasy and fatalism, to trust to the stars in which the fortunes of all are written – there are lecturers of astrology in some universities – and to regard the progress of the rest of the world with the tired tolerance of one who has been through it all before………The aeroplane was known to ancient India, and the telephone, and the atom bomb;there is evidence in the Indian epics. Surgery was highly developed in ancient India. Indian shipbuilding was the wonder of the world. And democracy flourished in ancient India. Every village was a republic, self sufficient,ordered,controlling it’s own affairs……….In India the easiest and the most necessary thing to ignore was the most obvious.Indians are unable to look at their country directly, for the distress they would see would drive them mad…….,for how long would they be able to squat amid the ruins?……

    ……”Interesting! you are lucky.You should live here.We are trapped here, you know. That’s what we are. Trapped. Corruption and nepotism everywhere.he said.Everybody wants to go abroad.”……..

    ……India,it seems,will never cease to require the arbitration of a conqueror. It is a history whose only lesson is life goes on……….

  111. V S Naipaul,

    You realise ofcourse that your namesake has revised his opinion of India from shithole to a contender.

    May be it is time to move on from 70’s, as much admirable they were !

  112. Some BPO businessman recently remarked that he has to inform customers he doesn’t ride an elephant to work and his house does indeed have electricity.

    However, working broadband in my Bombay neighborhood is nonexistent, so *some* stereotypes are true.

  113. Thats a great article dude. Makes moi very angry when I read the regular hammering Indians get on websites such as craigslist. It usually ends up with me screaming my guts out and then the guy who wrote disappears only to be replaced by another pronto.

    The problem at the core is how we Indians have represented ourselves. We have noone to blame but ourselves for the current state of affairs.

    I think it comes with our attitude of bouncing back and forth between complexes… that we are from an ancient civilization, learned.. we suffer with a superiority complex. Yet the daily realities of life makes us feel inferior.

    A poverty ridden country, brain-dead dhoti clad politicians walking around in white sneakers, a movie industry that lacks a spirit of creativity and would rather cut and paste another movie, mindless egotism that is omnipresent, a lack of elegance in anything we do from planning our cities to building our roads to any kind of expression or the dress sense or smell sense of our comardes and the most important of all, giving respect to a fellow citizen of India…… hardly appeals to our sense of patriotism. I use citizen of India rather than ‘indian’ coz the word has become synonomous to ‘injun’ due to its wide misuse when referring to native Americans.

    Did you read about the Indian reporter who was slapped by our lathi-charge cops for handing his business card to Jolie in Pune?? Surprisingly the American security guard did not show such passion rather stood and watch these SOBs slap their own countryman. I hope such cops who act like thugs be disciplined and I mention it as an example of how we don’t respect our own countrymen yet ironically expect others to do so. Well thats not going to happen.

  114. (neelakantan something)is plain bitter …heres why (!)
    i wear jhola eat granola(US mae weak lil indian ko free milta hain , delhi mae 60 rs ) and was taught how to write these articles by the americans in some gora university where they took pity on my third world roots and decided to accept me ..and me (charmed by the fat of the first world land huh !! ran ,licked gora ass ,even put on an accent ,disowned and exploited my ethinicity …(i so terribly want to impress people with my cultural imperialist views …i’am the sort who calls naipaul a bigot but secretly underlines those deliscious hateful lines in my lil pink book cause i cant really come up with anything unsaid, turning ,twisting… mediocrity …i embrace you ,i will be you forever …because deep in my lil hindu third world mind …(really affects me …) i am what i fear the most … a once upon a time starved lil indian(who did street protest plays for all i care and predict ) who has tasted sum junk (meal ticket taste eh..??)…(Thats Potty in urban north india …tattti in hindi and kakka in most of the other languages the villagers in quaint lil inde speak) and will sell out in a heart beat … dont hate me ..at the end of the day im a frustrated, unhappy ,hungry (Indian…gosh now im being exploitative …reeely how many times am i gnna use that one on them) journalist (READ CHEAP ASS REPORTER )…who needs to make ends meat till she comes out with her bite the land that feeds novel ….btw my souls on sale …

  115. yee.. i just re read what i spluttered , bitterness seldom improves people i guess ..and anger and spellings dont go hand in hand (meet , Meat ..eargh!!) …dunno …wish the article was’nt so school yard insulty , so cruel , so stupid, so irresponsible (i know ,i know its journalism and not a moral science lesson ect …) but c’awwwwn which blithering idiot comprimises on something you call your own ..how Faustian of you to do that Shailaja , you may have learnt to write in degree from a firang university (I googled you ) …they may have paid you keeping in mind there desperate need to embrace a third world charity case …but somethings gotta give hon …
    Besides being utterly devoid of any humor, the “article” most closely resembled a schoolyard insult: the cruel japes are tailored to any “weak point” that can be identified in the a group much lesser (how severely elitist ) , just as they were in back in grade school. All textbook stuff; so stereotypical and true to form, in fact, that one wonders how the writer of this “reprt” can take herself seriously — or if indeed she does — while creating something as essentially formulaic and predictable as an RSVP note she might as well be employed by some even-more-infernal version of Hallmark.
    There’s an inimitable gloating, gleeful quality to the obnoxious reprt, however stylistically barren and unimaginative it may be otherwise.
    I suppose we could have rationalized this casualty of Neanderthal thinking and rolled with the punches/been the bigger person(s)/not taken it personally. But you see, this WAS personal, so try as we may, even “taking it” with generous dollops of salt doesn’t diminish the magnitude of its offensiveness. In good conscience we cannot let this slide and we need to say something; sure it may be critical, provocative even, but at least it won’t be a slimy-assed piece of non stick potty .
    so is this the “in style” or how badly are you out av it …schmuck …
    im better with punches …

  116. dunno abt jhumpa…but sooni taraporewala has sooooo done it …watched the “namesake’ promo …8 lumps in my throat to be precise…cant hardly wait to watch the film…this stuff looks good …really !
    Actually its been a while …i thought interpreter ws overdone and sucked ,but namesake had a sort av signature to it ..something instinctive …(i know its unfair to compare the two forms …but then…i’am an unfair person …,opinianative ,judgemental etc etc..)
    so that way …

  117. HOMAGE TO JHUMPA
    I like to read Jhumpa’s work reclining on my nut brown frayed sofa, adjusting the hard green half pillow on my back with my left hand that has on it my Titan 1990 watch with the dial pointing tiredly to Roman numerals, with my right hand delicately balancing the hardly marked book with the red spine, and the pappadums, the crisp yellow lentil snack flecked with tiny black-green jeera, the cumin seed of the corner mudir dokaan, the grocery shop with the half pink shelves. I languidly walk to the off white oboe shaped wash basin of my partially ivory apartment and gingerly wait for the message to wistfully come rising up through my churning insides. It does not disappoint. In a rush of broken peach coloured liquid studded with green and golden and mauve spots, it splatters all over the basin. Swarthannyeshi. Self centered, self obsessed, self interest driven. Shubidabaadi. Opportunist.

  118. ummmm..gee ranjan
    are we suffering the consequences !!!
    i go to the dippa dee doo dah school of un intellectual heavy weights …breathing in breathing out !!!!

  119. Beenu, I think Jhumpa Lahiri is the Himesh Reshammiyya of writing! (See GB’s Himesh Reshammiyya posts). No intellectual heavy weight, her.

  120. I did’nt mean her …i did’nt mean intellectual … i meant cornflake ….hmmmesh resh the angst ridden poet of our times..he makes good zeitgiest ! i like him ..i also like the monkey man , silk smitha and am making a film (budget 30 rups ) the mega which project …monkey man meets silk smitha in a forest ..OST ..Super trooper ABBA .
    jhumpa tht …

  121. Ah, I get it….
    Zeitgeist and Himessbhai, Concept hai. I am blown away Boss, since I am the lifelong fane of the Himess dud I mean dude.
    Dude, for Mega Witch you can do casting right away: Ravi Kishen as Monkey Man, Rakhi Sawant as Silk Smitha and Arjun Rampal doing Souper Trouper as Priscilla in the background. All will cost you Rs. 30 including bribing the hawaldars, and you can get the choreography thrown in for free from Aunty Farah. Music Anu Malik, he won’t deviate from the original. And I’ve heard they’re all available. Pay them when it is a super hit in the northern territories, Monark Distributions (owned by Prabhuji Mithun) does it on contingency.

  122. @Ranjan..Rakhi Sawant is a funny girl dude (apart from being a schizophrenic on prozac with every personality disorder of hers being slammed with a Personality disorder !!)..silk smitha on the other hand is stuff ravi verma paintings are made of….talent i tell ya ..so am bringing in the ghost ….ok now im all groooled ..you be the casting director…and we’ll make Shailaja neelakantan our official media representative …heh heh heh!

  123. @Beenu: count me in, look at the post on Himesh Reshammiyya (GB’s earlier one, that is) and you’ll know that we are cool with ghosts and I am cool with casting. GB has to do script though.

  124. hmmm the post is old, but as long as we exhibit: the “fiery” antics of mamata with nandigram and associated maladies, the gujjar uprising in rajasthan on caste reservation, the depiction of vasundhara raje and vilasrao d as hindu gods, the pig headed, misguided motions of karunanidhi and his ilk with respect to caste reservation and anything progressive, the karnataka political zoo with it’s zero based kannada and kannadigaism
    we’re going to face ignominy from international press. let’s face it, india’s PR is pathetic! Pakistan and China have done much better jobs

  125. Let me start by saying that I don’t disagree with the post. What I do disagree with is stuff that went on in the comments section. Some people here, no doubt with the best of intentions, said that the media should cover more and more of positive stories. No problem with that. I do disagree, however, with their assertion that we have somehow forgotten ‘our’ ancient culture leaving vultures like ms.roy free to dissent(Gasp!)and present an alternate picture of all that was and is, India.
    Let me inform you that I’m not a leftie or a psuedosecular liberal or ‘macaulay’s child’ with no goal but to spew venom 24*7. I’m very libertarian and think that the way forward is more opening up to the rest of the world. Now, on the issue at hand, it seems, somehow that the argument that these people make, stressing at once, our “ancient” culture, 5000 years of an uninterrupted one, no less, and our dynamic modern image are being trashed by sinister figures working overtime.

    [edited by GB: Removing this portion of religion-referencing only to prevent a “your religion sucks” argument that many people are itching for]

    All part of the hideous conspiracy masterminded by the “convent educated” indians and “ungrateful” dolts, in collaboration with the evil media to subvert the ‘celebration’ that is india?
    Wake up, people . Arundhati roy is delusional(seriously)and yes, the lefties suck, but do you just want to keep repeating the old *India shining* rhetoric of the BJP? Yes, we are the second fastest growing economy in the world, a rising power. Wonder why it’s not fashionable to be talking about our pathetic HDI ranking or the widespread corruption or the poverty line. Of course if you believe that these rankings are also influenced by the *india hating* media or it’s sinister minions, then I have nothing more to say.
    Don’t get me wrong. I know these are age old things and have been covered a lot and yes it is true that western media is biased, but why do we want to rush to cover these holes with silk rags? Isn’t the job of the media to cover the negative aspects as well? Or does it have behave like Pravda or Xinhua and their propaganda(covering up serious issues in the USSR and china)? It’s our choice.

  126. Its very simple. The right wing news get their newbytes about India from christian network. The left wing media gets it from the likes of Arundathi Roy.

    Bill Maher always invites uber leftists. Look at his other foreign (especially 3rd world) guests, They are the ones who say “I am ashamed of my culture/country/religion”.
    The only ones that show something positive about India’s growing economy and hinduism are independent internet news channels like RT (Russia Today), NPR. There was a wonderful documentary about Hindusim and the lost city of dwaraka on PBS (totally devoid of ANY propaganda). Fareed Zakaria’s GPS is pretty decent. He had done a moving documentary on the Mumbai shootings. Deepak Chopra represents Hinduism the way any self-respecting Hindu would love to do.

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