Shan, a regular commenter here, posts a link on his Facebook page, an extract from a “travelogue” titled “To Hellholes and Back” [Link] which in essence says that India is the “most annoying place in the world to be a tourist” with “sleazy dishonest” merchants, of the type that presumably cannot be found anywhere else in the Milky way.
And if this piece of “hellhole” bit of writing was not enough of the imperial Macaulian “those poor annoying subhuman bastards” perspective of India for a week, we had insanely popular US talk show host Glenn Beck (who unfortunately calls him GB) on the cable news channel Fox News saying that India does not have flush toilets, their doctors graduate from their less-than-reputable institutes and that Ganges sounds to him like the name of a disease. [Link]
Now this does not surprise me in the least. People like the “funny travel writer” and Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire have a definite image of India they want to market to their audience. They go looking for muck and they find it. Anything they find that does not fall inside the “hellhole” tunnelview is ignored. Their aim is to make their largely Western audiences feel superior, enabling them to laugh at, feel pity for and sneer at the “dark countries” and in order to do so they use different modes of message delivery—-Boyle uses cinema, people like the travel writer use humor and Glenn Beck uses pure and simple hatred because his audience might find it tough to parse anything more subtle.
What however never ceases to amaze me is the reaction of us Indians to such characterizations of our people. When Shilpa Shetty gets a bit of racial abuse in Big Brother, the reaction is “We Indians are the most racist people in the world. How dare we point fingers?” When Danny Boyle unleashes a gutter inspector’s report redux (the original being Mother India), the reaction is “He is holding a mirror to India and we are uncomfortable seeing how horrible we are”. When a travelogue makes sweeping negative statements about our country the reaction is “Geez. This man is soo right. We do treat foreigners horribly”. When Indian students are assaulted in Australia for their race, we are told that the Indians provoked it. And I am waiting for a comment saying “But yes desi-style commodes dont have flushes” in response to Glenn Beck.
This is what I had said in the review of Slumdog Millionaire.
But wait. Do Hindu saffron-clothed Senas not run havoc through Muslim slums? Do street kids not get taken in by beggar gangs and maimed? Doesnt rape happen in India? Are those slums specially constructed sets? Why do you, third world denizen, get so defensive about your own country? Chill.
Well yes these things do happen in India. However the problem is when you show every hellish thing possible all happening to the same person. Then it stretches reason and believability and just looks like you are packing in every negative thing that Westerners perceive about India for the sake of “crowd pleasing”. Because audiences and jury members “feel good” when their pre-conceived notions are confirmed. On the flip side, nothing disquiets a viewer as much as when his/her prejudices are challenged. So Boyle does the safe thing.
Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and The Geek”.
Even though each of these incidents have actually happened in the United States of America, I would be accused of spinning a fantastic yarn that has no grounding in reality, that has no connection to the “American experience” and my motivations would be questioned, no matter how cinematically spectacular I made my movie. At the very least, I wouldn’t be on 94% on Tomatometer and a strong Oscar favorite.
In the same vein no one would deny the existence of pestering beggars and sharp merchants in India. No one would say that foreigners are not harassed or they are not cheated. But here is the deal. It happens in every country in the world. A few days ago I was in a conversation where someone was saying how she was assailed by beggars in Cambodia and how children are disfigured by parents and made to beg (Sounds familiar?). In South America, organized gangs kidnap tourists, take out money from their ATMs and have been known to make kidnapees initiate wire transfers before killing them off.
A colleague of mine was ripped off by a taxi-driver in New Delhi of Rs 5000 who charged him that amount for going from one terminal to another. Similarly a taxi driver in Italy once drove our family round and round the city, running up a huge bill and then dropped us off two blocks away from where we had hailed the taxi because the hotel was there and we did not know it.
I have been accosted by panhandlers in Detroit, walking besides me threateningly and persistently. I have been abused racially in multiple cities in the West. A friend of mine was mugged by two people in Paris, one of whom pinned him down to the ground while the other cleaned his pockets. Another friend of mine was punched and then had his face spat in a German city in front of people, who stood silently. And I personally have had certain merchants not based in a country that can be referred to as a hell-hole who putting fraudulent charges on my account. How about that Funny Travel Writer, who seems to think “The irrepressible over-ambition of the country’s (India’s) merchant class stalks you like a disease”? At least the merchant class’s over-ambition in India did not drive the world into a recession did it now?
Lest this seem like I am trying to do to Cambodia, South America, Germany, France and Italy what people are doing to India, let me make it clear that I am not. These are all excellent places to visit.
Of all the places I have been to, the US is the most courteous and non-prejudicial when it comes to treating foreigners where I feel orders of magnitude safer than in Europe.
No two ways about it.
What I am saying is that that bad things happen to tourists and in general to people everywhere, perhaps more so in the poorer countries in the world.
Not that it makes what happens to tourists in India any better or justifies it. (Intentionally made bold, because I have seen people sometimes have difficulty in understanding this line)
It is just that we are not the exclusive hellhole or much worse than average as we are made out to be by certain Western observers and by many Indians themselves.
It is this last part—the “self-perception” which to me is the most important. Glenn Beck’s statements, if you bring up in front of an American crowd, will be brushed aside with a “Glenn Beck is an ass. No one pays any attention to him” without any attempt to generalize what he said as an opinion held by people at large. This is exactly the way it should be.
If however you bring up Rimi Sen’s despicably racist statement [Link] in a conversation, Indians will more often than not say “We Indians are the most racist people in the world. This is exactly how most people feel in our country” rather than “She is a marginal actress who is airing her own personal prejudices. No one pays any attention to her”. Though one can argue that Glenn Beck’s statements are more alarming than Rimi Sen’s because while Ms. Sen is opining as an individual, Glenn Beck is speaking from a pulpit provided by a corporation. And he is not blustering in an off-guard moment but in a carefully scripted way designed to appeal to his base as a representative of a mainstream media outlet, an outlet that has in no way disassociated itself from these despicable comments.
I have struggled to understand our innate ability for self-flagellation. Is this a legacy of colonialism? Or does it originate from a need to appear “liberal” and “exalted” in order to distinguish oneself from uber patriotism, which is frequently associated with the “uncool” Hindu right?
I really do not know. I guess a bit of both.
In conclusion, while we as Indians should be able to see our faults, we should not confuse “criticism” with attacks on us that stem from a feeling of superiority, a “We are better than you” kind of attitude which implies that all horrible things, the most dishonorable of merchants, the most flooded of toilets and the worst of doctors are found, most frequently, in India.
103 thoughts on “We Are Not Worthy”
hmmm… iPod please… all white!
reached here from your tweet, good post this. I started viewing the Glenn Beck video and then stopped midway as he didnt seem worth my time spent on hearing his drivel. He was talking from his arse, doesnt even know how to ‘attack’. Stupid guy, pity him.
However, the good thing from his video is that some of us would think about the whole thing – and we would have good thoughts coming up – this post inclusive.
We are either completely shameful of our ‘inglorious ways’ or chauvinistic about our ‘Indian’ness. There’s nothing in between.
“We Indians are the most racist people in the world” — exact words I heard from a friend when we were talking about the attacks in Australia.
“It is symbolic of the Indian society” — same friend, telling me why she loved Slumdog.
I think this is largely because people don’t know the ground reality in the west, like we do. To them, the west is rich, efficient, free of corruption, poverty, slums, petty crime, and all the bad things that make India disgusting and worthless. Our upbringing is riddled with deep distrust of our own our country – its people, its ways, its laws, its past and so on. ‘The other’ is always the better!
There’s a lot to say on this. You have managed to capture the phenomenon, but the reasons are too numerous to write in a blog-post.
I really don’t think Danny Boyle was trying to capitalize on a negative image of India as you keep on and on and ON saying. He wanted to make a film with a story, and so he did. I mean I’ve seen hundreds of films where terrible things happen to the protagonists all through out, and then at the end.. they die. Not just Indian films. I mean come on, I think you are getting just a little paranoid here. Sure Glen Beck is one crazy bastard, but I doubt he is part of some Western World conspiracy to make India look bad and destroy our rise as an economic power. This is just silly.
I often say Indians are racist. That’s because they are! My mother is always complaining about “dirty Muslims” and how they are ruining the country with too many children (although she has four siblings herself). She complains about people from different states, she complains about people from different castes! She is racist! So what is the problem in saying that she is. Instead of worrying about what others say of us, maybe we should look inside and try to solve our own problems. If none of these problems exist, no one will say anything.
And yes, people everywhere are (almost) equally awful… Who is saying they aren’t? It is self-obvious – then why do you keep bringing it up? What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to prove it to?
“A colleague of mine was ripped off by a taxi-driver in New Delhi of Rs 5000 who charged him that amount for going from one terminal to another.”
I suppose its safe to assume that colleague was an American/Westerner?
I am confused. Who is the “we ” here? How often do we find any Indian who does a self introspection before pointing the finger at others? Most Indians would not even think twice before utering” kalu”, “chinky”. Even in the case of “curry-bashing” , I found the media only harping on ” racism” while conveniently forgetting about the bad behaviour towards the foreigners as well as people from the other parts (especially north-east )in this country. So I do believe we are not worthy.
@Sonu: So then that means YOUR mother is racist. Not us. Why would you generalize an entire nation full of people as being racist because your mother is?
I am not. My mother is not. There. It must now mean we all are not. LOL what an argument. Also, the post has a viewpoint that you ENTIRELY missed. No one is trying to prove anything to anyone. Are you?
The point is exactly this that we generalize what one person says as being the opinion of an entire population. And it shouldn’t be so. The country has slums true. Slums in NY are bigger. How many times have you seen those? Do you know that the govt. sends of the homeless people to live in forests so that they aren’t visible on the streets? Of what I have seen (and not necessarily just heard) shit is everyfuckingwhere. EVERYWHERE. This country or that. Corruption? Yes! Mean bastards? Yes! Nice sweet people? Yes! All of them everyfuckingwhere. Even Reservation. I lost a job last month because a top processor manufacturing company had reservations for the “less privileged”. And no they were not for the disabled. The reservations were based on Race (and gender).
Point is shit is everywhere. Same shit, different place, different magnitude, may be. We have been so fucked by our ancestors and our zeal to find a peaceful place where everything is in abundance we don’t understand that there isn’t such a place. Its believing it. And some of us travel and misunderstand our own perception of that place for that place being awesome and our home being crappy.
In all a good post man. Point well received.
All that being said, I used to be one of those who said “We are racist”. But this has made me rethink.
I think there are two Indias that you are conflating. Ironically, the Indians portrayed in Slum Dog Millionaire would give a bloody nose to the Glen Beck types. The privileged upper class ones would accept and then write tomes on the matter, sell them to people seeking vindication as authentic descriptions of India, and/or live in the US or UK and complain about the system here. I have numerous examples of these types of people.
I am in Mexico City, now. This is no haven of peace: people try to rip you off for the most miniscule amounts (2 pesos, this afternoon). And, so it is in New Delhi or Rome (I have heard horrid stories of Rome) and Athens. However, a set of Indians automatically assume the worst of our society. The reason is, as you indicated but did not explore further, they are McCaulayites (sic?). I remember reading Wordsworth’s Daffodils and hearing about the Lake Districts from a teacher who had never been there and was preaching to students sweating their skins off on a hot Calcutta afternoon. We could have related to Hibiscus, better still, Jasmine, but no, literature from dead white men were the only standards of an Indian language. Yes, I consider English to be as Indian as the Aloo and Bhutta (potatoe and maize are from Latin America). We were basically told or insinuated to that being Indians we were somehow imperfect, not modern, not quite there yet. I despise the Hindutva agenda of the BJP, but in the words of Mr. Q. Murrugan, one thing they did give to the ‘aam admi’ is: “we are like this only, mind it!”
There is crime and inequality all over the world. One wrong turn in Denver in 2000 led me and my friends straight into a fire-fight in the midst of a gas station in a Ghetto. There are such parts of the East End in London and other fine places in Birmingham as well as parts of Bronx in NYC. Yet, to exrapolate from that to the entire British or US culture is fallacious, if not empirically then on sheer methodological premises. But the upper-crust Indians like to believe in it because it enhances their own superiority; tragically by embedding their inferiority to outsiders.
P.S. Pardon my grammatical errors; no time to proof read.
Your kidnapping reference to Latin America is actually about Mexico, specifically Mexico City. A kidnapping for ATM cash is called an ‘Express Kidnapping’, go figure!
Yes I know. But as you can see this is not confined to Mexico.
@Debashish: Yes you are correct.
To be frank, I too fell in these pseudo liberalists’ trap and used to hate our country sometime ago, but thanks to some of the posts in your blog and Prem Panicker’s blog, i was able to see the real facts. To be frank, this is the use of blogs where a person with self-esteem can write without any pressure. I saved all those posts from your blog in my system so that my future generations can read (because these type of posts are really rare). Yes problems are everywhere, different countries deal with them in different ways. Some psychos need targets to vomit their stress on. India is a soft target for such people. I was really flabbergasted by the amount of importance given to Glenn’s comments in our media. Do these people know what is the meaning self-respect?
I really appreciate your attitude and hope more and more Indians read such posts in your blog. Otherwise, there is only one option left. Blame ourselves, hate ourselves, and finally degenerate.
Is this a legacy of colonialism? Or does it originate from a need to appear “liberal” and “exalted” in order to distinguish oneself from uber patriotism, which is frequently associated with the “uncool” Hindu right? I really do not know. I guess a bit of both.
Both is correct, I think. However, for a while, colonial rule did inspire patriotism that was never solely equated with Hindu Right. Vidyasagar’s religious indifference, Bankim’s Hindu rejuvenation, Tagore’s Brahmo mysticism or Gandhi’s Christian pacifism all included elements of nationalism to varying degrees. Mutual respect and fellowship dominated their fundamental differences.
The missing link between that big-umbrella patriotism and current hopeless, cheerless surrender is probably 40+ years of socialist license raj and entrenched bureaucracy, which transfixed all of us in a perpetual us-versus-them (party, language, caste, marxist brand of the decade, religion – pick your poison here) mindset. Passive-aggressive resenment is prone to confirmation bias.
Ah – you seem to have hit on a pet peeve of mine – the budget backpacking tourist (of which Mr. Hellholes and Back seems to be a prime example). These people try to find the cheapest possible accommodation, take advantage of subsidized travel, live on literally peanuts contributing zilch to the local economy. And after all of this, many of them have the nerve to write trashy travelogues like what this Chuck Thompson has written.
A few days back, my husband (who’s Greek), an Indonesian friend of ours and I were discussing how these obnoxious scum behave in exactly the same way everywhere – whether in Mykonos, Bali or Goa. You’d have to a peculiar kind of misanthropic miserable sod to write such garbage after availing yourself of a country’s hospitality.
[Edited to remove some colorful adjectives 🙂 ]
The problem of course, is that criticism of your own country is seen here by most people, as somehow unpatriotic, ‘macaulayite’, even pseudo-liberal’! Never mind that India does have some of the worst tourist facilities in the world. Never mind that I have personally seen tourists being hounded, harassed, even molested on Bombay streets multiple times. But hey, how dare a foreign travel writer point these out? He must have an agenda – to portray the worst face of India to the world! It’s all a global conspiracy by these guys, led by Danny Boyle!
I find it funny when people question the right of writers to write anything about our country, as if it’s only our right. And if they dare to write, it has to be positive – otherwise they are a part of a global anti-India cabal. First, there are plenty of writers who write positive things about our country as well. If we have no trouble accepting their encomiums, we should have no trouble considering the negative opinions of some other writers as well.
Second, the theory that foreigners should not write about or that only Indians should write about our country is as silly as saying that only cricketers should commentate on a match, or only filmmakers should review films. Then all travel writing about India will become like Taran Adarsh reviews!
Third, the argument that it happens in their country as well is irrelevant. They are not writing about their country. They visited yours and wrote about it. If you want to ‘expose’ similar goings on in their country, pay a visit and by all means write an article. No one’s stopping you. It’s not a writer’s duty to counterbalance every negative details of a country visited, by saying – “oh, but of course that happens in America as well”. If you want to refute it go write a comment below his article doing so.
I feel no passive aggressiveness, of defensiveness, or craven inferiority in reading and examining the views of a traveler and seeing what impression they have of my country – are some of them true? Or is he talking through his hat?
So far I have not seen a single fact he has written refuted. All I have seen is blind fury at the writer and questioning of the writer’s motives, and questioning of the patriotism and political beliefs of anyone daring to support his right to have an opinion. In fact this kind of fury is very similar to the GWB argument – question of the President is unpatriotic!
And it is purely a rhetorical trick to conflate the travel article with Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck is a known clown. He has never paid a visit to India. He has no basis of criticism. He actually is far easier to refute than Chuck Thompson.
We may not like that Chuck Thompson wrote; such things may happen in other countries as well; but if we dismiss him out of sight; calling him an agent or a liar, we are doing ourselves a disservice.
“Never mind that India does have some of the worst tourist facilities in the world.”
How do you know that?
“It’s not a writer’s duty to counterbalance every negative details of a country visited, by saying – “oh, but of course that happens in America as well”.”
“Worst” is a word used in a comparative sense. Hence the need to draw in other points of reference.
“. Glenn Beck is a known clown. He has never paid a visit to India. He has no basis of criticism”
Someone can say that Glenn Beck does not need to visit India to think Ganges is the name of a disease and Indian doctors are substandard. It is his opinion.
And so since Beck is a known clown and this author is an unknown clown (he is a known clown to me now) I cannot put them together?
A very relevant point captured! Myself and my friends and relatives have also faced similar incidents abroad.
But I don’t mention these whenever I talk about other countries. We Indians always try to see the good things in others. I think its more of a habit. The same habit prompts us to talk unashamedly about our negative traits. But it’s high time that we should make proper protests in case people are trying to typecast/ malign us. This article is indeed doing that. Way to go, GB.
““Never mind that India does have some of the worst tourist facilities in the world.”
How do you know that?”
I have traveled a bit – seven countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Maybe that’s not extensive enough as a sample size, but it gives me an idea – enough to form an opinion.
““Worst” is a word used in a comparative sense. Hence the need to draw in other points of reference.”
Disagree. The writer has no duty to do that. It’s for others to refute. I can easily say – Indians are the worst fielders in the history of cricket. I have the right w/o providing details of how other teams are bad fielders as well.
“Someone can say that Glenn Beck does not need to visit India to think Ganges is the name of a disease and Indian doctors are substandard. It is his opinion.
And so since Beck is a known clown and this author is an unknown clown (he is a known clown to me now) I cannot put them together?”
The point is that Glen Beck’s opinion here is obviously misinformed and factually inaccurate. He is the easy target for you. Refuting Thompson is far more difficult. By associating him with Beck, you are putting them in the same category, and thereby making it easier to attack Thompson – giving people the impression that they are somehow similar. That’s what I called a “rhetorical trick”.
E.g. if X says “Muslims have been appeased by the state, because they have a separate Civil Code”, Y might reply, “Hey, the right wing fanatics say that too. You must be a Bajrang Dal member!” Y does it because even though it is difficult to refute X’s factual-based comment, X’s comment allows an opening to attack X anyway. 🙂
“The point is that Glen Beck’s opinion here is obviously misinformed and factually inaccurate”
I would say saying India is “worst” is also factually incorrect. I disagree. Worst is a comparative descriptor and not an absolute one. This isnt a matter of you vs me but a matter of the English language. And when you say India is the worst fielding side, you have seen every other team field and having seen everyone play, you can say Yes India is the worst fielding team. On the other hand, I can say Agarkar is a very bad bowler but if I call him India’s worst bowler then I am going out on a limb, having an obligation to show that he is say worse than say Raghuram Bhatt or Bharati Arun.
Where I find similarity between Beck and this travel writer is both speak from a position for, want of a better word, a sense of racial superiority. And yes Beck is also factually correct—-traditional Indian human waste disposal systems do not have flushes. Of course that does not make him any the less racist.
Shan – have you never been hassled by street vendors in India? Can you honestly say that this is restricted to only Western tourists? Try stepping outside the Agra Cantt. station and see how many rickshaw-wallas will assail you with offers to take you on a tour, to a hotel, etc.
It has absolutely nothing to do with them being Westerners – this is just how services and merchandise have always been sold in India. Now you may not like it and you’re very welcome to take refuge in the sterile malls that have mushroomed everywhere. But don’t beat up on a nation for a certain market culture.
And, as Arnab has very correctly pointed out, India most certainly does not have the worst tourist facilities in the world by far. Just like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. Don’t like your dingy roach infested Paharganj hotel? Well then pay a few 100 rupees extra and schlep for a decent hotel.
Don’t like being crushed in the rush of an unreserved general compartment seat? Pay a bit more and you can still enjoy a very subsidized reserved air-conditioned compartment. Have you ever tried using government run tourism development offices? I can speak from personal experience that at least the ones run by the Delhi and Sikkim governments are very helpful and professional.
If you are serious about moving beyond these vague generalizations about Indian tourist facilities and want to know about the experiences and reviews of Indians traveling within their country, may I suggest this website
It will be an eye-opener.
I’m not saying EVERYBODY is… I was simply giving what is called an example. I have met MANY Indians who have expressed similar sentiments about people of other backgrounds when those people were not there to hear them… Part of it is in jest of course, but not always. I just don’t understand why people are always trying to deny this fact. It’s TRUE. Let’s not get so caught up in nationalistic sentiment, always trying to show our best faces to the outside world while the inside is rotting away.
1. We have lived in USA, Canada, Australia. Our family has traveled in Europe also. My experience is that Canada is one country where the general population is more well mannered, patient, helpful than their US counterparts.
2. Problems are universal – any kind of problems does happen in USA also and in abundance – not just stray incidence. – The whole world knows that in USA so many ppl are without a roof on their head because of the unscrupulous real estate sellers who cheated naive buyers! However, will it be fair to brand all sales persons in USA as crooks?
3. My personal experience is that doctors’ offices in USA send false bills to Insurance Companies for reimbursement by changing the billing codes. In my case, they did just that and they also sent me the false bill as I am supposed to make the co-payment. Since I keep track of every detail visits that I make to the docs, I could find out their cheating. When confronted they said it was a human error!! As I am no Erin Brockovich, I only wonder how many of these “human errors” do take place in USA. We all know why Erin Brockovich fought – she fought against a giant corporation. Nevertheless, will it be fair or factual if i say that in USA doctors are cheats, all corporations in USA are out to make killing of a profit by compromising on the general health of the population they serve, and thus it is also a “hellhole”?
4. On a lighter note, thieves mark Indian houses for stealing during day when everybody is at work because they know Indian houses do have 22 carat golden ornaments and silver utensils and knickknacks– should I then conclude that thieves in USA are racist?:)
In my humble opinion – what we are talking about stem from negative human behavior which is not gender, geography, era specific.
well there’s a very simple solution to this dilemma — stop caring. Why the hell should we care about the western perspective; this urge for western approval has to cease. We know what we are. We may not have a place in Western moral definitions but we never cared for it anyway. People from the West have always been known to exert their superiority over others. American doesn’t even spare Canada as apparent from their tv shows. Imagine for a second that if Indo-Pak rivalry didn’t exist and some tv-person on Ptv reports a neutral opinion on the pernicious nature of communism prevalent in West Bengal , would we care for it. I suppose no coz there’s not much “White” or “Western-Backing” in it.
This whole story strikes to be some kind of training exercise for east from the GrEaT-west. The choice is ours to make. If we approve of this whole setup and sign-up for their class, you have to face the timely grading announcements. On the other side, if we are sovereign enough to not belittle our foundations in view of the popular trends, we won’t give a damn !
I see West as a child making mistakes and learning afterwards but the problem is that this loop never ends for them. On the grounds of ideology, I’d say they are the most inconsistent people on earth. From enslaving Africans to waging war on Iraq and Afghanistan, they never seem to have plans for the aftermath and later regret doing it. The devil in me really likes the idea of exploiting a sorry state of some afro-american fellow who feels alienated in the land of whites but makes it all the way through in the end, but I guess its too commonplace already but wait a minute .. people from the west might still have some room for these unimaginative works of (f)art as evident from the huge success of this genre-Christian movie (The Blind Side)http://www.imdb.com/chart/.. .. i just have to make sure they’re fooled into believing that the creators of my movie are Whites and carry Western values.
PS: BS !!
“Shan – have you never been hassled by street vendors in India? Can you honestly say that this is restricted to only Western tourists? Try stepping outside the Agra Cantt. station and see how many rickshaw-wallas will assail you with offers to take you on a tour, to a hotel, etc.
It has absolutely nothing to do with them being Westerners – this is just how services and merchandise have always been sold in India.”
I am sorry but that’s ridiculous. The amount of harassment that Western tourists face in India is nothing compared to what you or I face at Agra or Bombay or the tourist sites in the South. Indians have the advantage of a) language, and b) knowing how to deal with them due to previous experiences of a similar kind, and c) not having dollars/pounds to give out. Street kids run after them for miles, refusing to let them go till they buy/give something. Vendors charge them extortionate charges for knick knacks, beaides giving them gaalis in Hindi while smiling at them at the same time. In fact this problem is so widespread that the Tourism department actually came out with a campaign to educate people on how to treat tourists a year or so back, called Atithi Devi Bhava. If you stay in India, you might remember an Aamir Khan spot where he stops aggressive “guides” from harassing two female foreigners. (http://bit.ly/4QG9sQ)
My clients come here all the time and face this. And my (or any other business partners of organizations who visit India) clients are not backpackers who live cheap and not contribute anything to India’s economy. These guys actively help our economy.
But they sometimes complain about the harassment. Does this mean they are all racists? No. Does this mean they hate India? No. They accept it. They know that this is what happens to foreigners here. Simple. Writing about that does not mean they are part of a global cabal out to hurt India’s image.
Writers can’t catch a break from nationalists like you. If the writer is a foreigner (Gregory Roberts, Shantaram), he is out to get India. If he is Indian (Suketu Mehta, Maximum City; Pinki Virani, Once Was Bombay) he/she must be a self-hating, unpatriotic, Macaulayite suffering from Anglophilic colonial hangover.
I really am astounded at how quickly and how vehemently we tend to dismiss all criticism of India as being motivated propaganda. A little more self-introspection is warranted from all of us. It might help.
Specifically about Slumdog, what i fail to understand is why is the criticism limited to Boyle’s portrayal of India ? Boyle portrayed Scotland worse in Trainspotting but noone spoke about that. Trainspotting in my opinion was a brilliant film. Similarly Slumdog in my opinion is a bad film , not because of the way it shows India but because of inherent other flaws … the lack of continuity for one, the massive holes in the script from “too chancy” meetings to near flawless english by kids earning their living stealing in a bombay agra train route. I can go on and on. Those are the reasons i think Slumdog is a bad film. Also there are loads of indian movies which show India in much poorer state than Slumdog. 2 examples i can think of are Chandni Bar and Matrubhoomi. Depressing but brilliant movies no doubt. Are we singling out Slumdog for its portrayal because the director is Western ? Why do we ignore that the author is an Indian. Why isnt there any criticism of him ? Would we have the same amount of problem if the movie was not so hyped and had not won the Oscars ? Are we scared of the fact that Slumdog will be the only way Westerners view India ?
However I do take your point that Indians by nature are more self critical and self deprecating than what they should be and I myself am guilty of it personally as well.
On the other hand if people like Beck and the travelogue writer are using public forums to air their opinion and if there are slanderous views that can be proven , lets take advantage of the US legal system to sue them.
Well, things in delhi are a little marginally better.
My professor went to DU to give a lecture and found very little of the above mentioned ills when he was out on the streets, he is going back to delhi with his family, next summer.
I think a seasoned back packer will be used to all this as mentioned in your post.These things happen all around the world,They just happen more in India, well probably because of the shear population difference.PROBABLY
Are you really giving out Ipods….I mean really really….If yes then I was first in this one.
So let me know accordingly.
I think there is too much negativism in India today and it is stopping us from appreciating our own country. We have our faults but we don’t need to ignore our good points.
Excellent post! Agree with the views and experiences.
Just another instance of the same thing:
Cricinfo on the high scoring Aus-SA match: “Greatest match in the history of the game”
Cricinfo on today’s Ind-SL high scoring game: “But also remember that this was a substandard international pitch and a small ground.”
Arghhh….why do we have to be apologetic about everything. Both teams scoring 400+ makes it the greatest match if played in Wanderers. In Rajkot, it of course means bad/typical-sub-continental-pitch!!
These silly ‘Me first’ and ‘iPod please’ posts are annoying now. Please stop this.
The whole impact of excellent written peices by the blogger just vanishes when one scrolls down to see childish comments. After EACH post for last several months.
GB also means Gay Bombay.
For more details please visit: http://www.gaybombay.org
@great bong – good post
@shan – Sexy comments man! loved it!The way u argued Was classic n that Factual non-factual one was gr8!
We Indians are most definitely racist. I have on more than one occasion been treated like a second class customer in Indian restaurants in USA. The Indian waiters in those places have a snobbish attitude. They behave exceptionally nicely with white people, while treating fellow Indians with disdain.
A recent example of racism WITHIN India
“I really don’t think Danny Boyle was trying to capitalize on a negative image of India as you keep on and on and ON saying.”
C’mon. Slumdog was a whirlwind slum tour in 90 mins. But that is not to say everything in the movie is negative. I like the crux of the movie (which is again a stock Indian plot) of two brothers being from exactly the same background but ending up is absolutely opposite places in life (Deewar anyone?). It indicates that life is all about choice (as well as Option D: It is written)
This seems very much in context. Haagen Dazs, Delhi doesn’t want Indians in their store!
I think a person has all right to write what he/she has felt travelling through India. But it should not be generalized to the whole of India. I myself when being in certain cities have on a continuous basis encountered cheaters, liers, hypocrites, beggars, ignorant fools etc etc and rarely encountered nice and courteous people (maybe pareto principle is working here) and I believe I have the right to write “only” these 80% bad experiences. In the same vein, if I encounter nice and the best things somewhere in India, it’s my discretion to write about these as well even though I have written bad things about India in the past.
“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” James Baldwin
“Self Flagellation” as you call it, or criticism, as you put it does not always spring from pseudo intellectualism/liberalism or even a colonial hangover. I believe our generation is kind of fractured from that. I further believe that a society that is critical in nature is also intellectually healthy, as long as you recognize the other persons right to express his/her views.
Personally speaking I do not agree with Communism as an ideology and lean libertarian, yet their (communists/socialists) role as critical thinkers, within a society/government is important because ideally speaking their input makes policies and decisions encapsulate more nuances.
On a tangential note, does this also mean that anyone who criticizes the role of the Indian army, and links its human right abuses in Kashmir as being a big part of the Kashmir problem is a “bad” Indian, agent of Pakistan, and deserves being beaten up by Sunny Deol.
congrats on your indibloggies wins!!! thoroughly deserved.
To consider just how seriously the mainstream American media takes Glenn beck, check out this parody of GB and his style by the inimitable Jon Stewart of the Daily Show ( the video might not be available in all parts of the world ). As Fox news viewers will know, the tenuous stretches of logic beck uses are insanely laughable.
I did not know about the Rimi Sen thing, I think we Indians don’t really care about wat she says, do we really?
GB: i can feel the heat in your post. The wrong thing to do is “generalise”. If the writers content is not subjective and is actually true, we have to accept it. If 51 out of 100 people give a thumbs down for indian tourism, based on “true personal” experiences, its sad and has to be accepted. I live in Germany and to date have not experienced any racial vibes, infact not from any place in europe i have travelled to. Okay the one odd incident of being spitted upon you mentioned about cannot be generalised for the whole country. For instance, if a aspiring student reads such a fact about Germany, backs out from his chosen college to pursue higher education here, hes a bum..Its upon the person who reads it, to inform himself as much as possible, before coming to a conclusion. Thats the ideal way. But yeah, we are humans and unpredictable. I myself started cracking jokes on Woods from day 1 the news surfaced, without even knowing if it was true. I liked what “Agassi” said – ” I am just as curious as the other guy to know what happened, but its too early to judge him. Wait for the facts”. My comments are incoherent.
Bottomline – Make an INFORMED conclusion /Judgement / decision.
“Is this a legacy of colonialism?” Yes. That’s why we were colonized in the first place.
“I have struggled to understand our innate ability for self-flagellation.”
Self-flagellation swings both ways. Low self esteem leads us to demean ourselves (why do Indian 5-star toilets not have hygiene showers?). On the other hand, identifying our inherent flaw can only make us stronger. See these links
I have personally been racially discriminated against in my own country in Goa, Gokarna and Benares, always by little and inexpensive traveler hotels and cafes that have been highly recommended on Wikitravel, Lonely Planet and Frommers. At one cafe in Benares, I was kept waiting for 2 hours to get my order while other white customers kept getting plied with their dishes (others knew about this I guess, since I was the only native customer there). The hotels simply announce “no vacancy”. In Benares, one guest house gave me accommodation, but the owner’s son-in-law frankly told me that he was allowing me in because (a) It was off season (b)I had a Brahmin surname. He also frankly told me that had I tried to book on phone in advance, he would have said there’s no vacancy. I think he just wanted to be spiteful to his father in law though. My only other options were to go to a 3-star hotel at ten times the price or a dirty whorehouse that doubled up as a lodge, so I stayed there.
There are two kinds of self-flagellation. One decries fairness creams while the other kind eats rotis with forks when their white colleagues visit India. I hope you distinguish between the two.
@Shan – Great comments – very articulate and logical.
We need to stop being overly sensitive to comments from Westerners. The travelogue writer wrote his experiences and opinions – he is not required to make it India-friendly and this alone doesn’t make him a racist. India has problems with sanitation facilities and how it treats foreign tourists – it is irrelevant if other countries have similar problems or not. We need to get better, but with all the politicians, bureaucrats, and leaders of all kinds busy accumulating illegal wealth by every possible unethical/immoral means, it is not going to happen any time soon.
As another commenter has noted, it is annoying to see first few comments after every post demanding ipods. I request GB, to delete such comments from these beggars /mentally-retarded folks.
I don’t have anything to say on the topic. I think your writing speaks for itself. I just wanted to say your writing style is absolutely gorgeous. Very few people can summarize a complex issue like this in such a clear and concise manner. I do a lot of writing as a past time and think I am pretty good at it but have a long way to go before I reach your level. Keep these type of posts coming though..I learn a lot from them!
Shan, dude, it cuts both ways and methinks you are exaggerating the ‘harassment’ part a bit – pestering is more like it. On the other hand, if you are an Indian coming back home for a vacation, you get absolutely no love from the babu at the immi desk, while whitey is fast tracked with a smile. As someone else pointed out, they are also given preferential treatment at many tourist hotspots and I’m sure it’s not like they’re refusing it. Also read up on how a section of Israeli youth behave / treat locals in Uttaranchal and elsewhere. Generalisations are problematic.
GB’s point was mainly about self-flagellation, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s a good one. The reaction from a certain section of Indian expats in Oz and plenty of media garbage were nauseating in the aftermath of incidents in and around Melbourne. Regardless of whether race was involved in each attack, the condescension spoke volumes.
Are we scared of the fact that Slumdog will be the only way Westerners view India ?
Scared? Um, no. Annoyed? Hell, yeah. It’s the gratuitous manner in which Slumdog, a potboiler Madhur Bhandarkar would have been proud of, shows the ‘seamy side’ is what gets the goat. The Anil Kapoor character was an over the top oaf shown talking down to the (must be lower caste!) slum dog. Reality can be worse, far worse. However, if not done with utmost care (and compassion perhaps), it descends to voyeurism. Also takes craft that Boyle, a competent director, doesn’t quite have.
‘we are not worthy’ but ‘you are worthy’!!
Congrats for the win dude!
“What I am saying is that that bad things happen to tourists and in general to people everywhere, perhaps more so in the poorer countries in the world.
It is just that we are not the exclusive hellhole or much worse than average as we are made out to be by certain Western observers and by many Indians themselves.”
as a male your perspective may differ significantly from mine. i grew up in mumbai. i’ve never ever been able to board a DTC bus in delhi without being molested. my cousin (who is half-caucasian and looks 100% white) has never been able to walk on the street in any part of india or take a taxi alone without something lewd said to her or someone trying to touch her. she always ends up being swindled or paying more or worrying about her safety.
they minimise this form of abuse as “eve teasing”. constantly cheating people (try getting a taxi at any airport or railway station without getting swindled), constantly worrying about whether you can get into a taxi alone is a feature, not a bug.
there is fundamentally something wrong with the way things are in india. glenn beck’s a major league asshole, but if other indians say something’s wrong with india, i take them seriously. especially as a woman. i’ve never felt as unsafe in thailand or other “developing” countries as i do in many parts of india as a tourist.
with honesty i can say that as a woman i feel very unsafe travelling alone in india – more so than in other places.
@Shan: I’m surprised that you assume that those criticisng Chuck Thompson’s piece will also similarly criticise Shantaram (Gregory Roberts) I’ve read Roberts’ book – it is a relatively balanced account of India and its people, from a white foreigner’s perspective. Of course, its probably not a mere coincidence that Roberts spent a longer time in India, so he must have had a better chance to understand and get a feel for all the dynamics and circumstances at play. But anyway, I’m suprised that you seem to think of his account as at all similar in nature to that of Chuck Thompson’s – I think that the tone of Chuck Thompson’s piece comes across solely as complaining and negative and basically suggests that for a white foreigner, there is absolutely nothing pleasant about the prospect of a visit to India. Even if I completely disregard the possibility that he had any ‘questionable motivations’, it does seem that Thompson was so disgusted that he now pretty much loathes (and also loves to loath) India. That is quite in contrast to the tone of Shantaram, which on the whole does not across as complaining at all. It might touch on the negative and annoying aspects of being a white foreigner in India, but on the whole also expresses many positive sentiments/experiences. Do you see no difference between Roberts’ account and Thompson’s? Do you not think that is possible that many of those that didn’t find Thompson’s piece worthwhile may have found Shantaram to be a more holistic and balanced perspective?
I certainly do not think it is true that most people unimpressed by that Chuck Thompson article, are ‘nationalists’ and thus by nature dismissive of ANY writing that criticizes anything about India (as you assert). Some such ‘nationalists’ do exist of course. And so do some disdainful white foreigners with questionable motivations, and Indians with colonial hangovers. However, your comments suggest that any Indian who doesn’t exuberantly cheer every such criticism from a white person (like Thompson), is a ‘nationalist’. In that case, perhaps its a reasonable alternative perspective that any Indian that does in fact cheer every such criticism, has a ‘colonial hangover’ ? 🙂
This discussion reminds me of a quote from Katha Upanishada (one of the Hindu doctrinal documents)
“What is here is also there; what is there, is also here. Who sees multiplicity but not the one indivisible Self must wander on and on from death to death.”
One more example of demeaning ourselves in our land. Please read this:
Further unworthiness of Indians:
Gee, the author sure got bushwhacked by GB!!
I thought Shan’s comments were actually well reasoned!!
But even more so was “dada” proclaiming the “Who-cares” attitude. Frankly, that was exactly what struck me when I read about the accounts. I would believe that we remain a self assured generation, capable of discerning for ourselves the good from the otherwise.
Instead of declaring fatwa based on who criticized, it might be worthwhile to figure out what is being said and decide if the comment is worth our judgement. More often than not, it isn’t. If we find the diatribe anything close to what Chuck wrote (which, incidentally was a poor attempt to be satirical, more than anything else) wouldn’t it be prudent to simply laugh it off and get on with more pertinent endeavors (Conversely, if there’s merit, and if we are in a position to change the subject in question, we might as well thank the critique, incorporate the requisite modification and move on).
I mean, the author of this post just happened to term Mother India as “The Original Gutter Inspector’s Report”! Only an idiot would try and contest that with him. Why? Is it because that is what Mother India is all about? Of course not. The guy is simply not worth it! Why waste our time over such a loose remark that’d rank alongside Chuck and (presumably, coz I’ve not seen GB) Glen Beck’s in flippancy?
The day we feel that criticism stems from a feeling of superiority, is the day we actually accord the superiority to the critique!!
There are 2 parts to this story:
1> Is the writer justified in writing that piece? I think so. His opinion hardly matters though. In the US of A, the thing that matters is money. Now the old world is fatigued, and growth, as every economist is saying, will be from India China and other so called growth economies. So mony and business will continue to come here.
Is he correct? Probably so. What he has said is true, and I would tend to go with Shan on that issue. Trying to refute that would be tantamount to denial.
But you also have the right to question his piece, just like you questioned Slumdog, which, even without that questioning, is a mediocre film at best. Confirmation bias is what seems to be common to both these cases, just by the way the negatives are stereotyped.
An even better better way of defining confirmation bias:
GB: “Because audiences and jury members “feel good” when their pre-conceived notions are confirmed. On the flip side, nothing disquiets a viewer as much as when his/her prejudices are challenged.”
Personally, I did not have any reason to question the writer’s motives till I came across this very very very dangerous line:
“I’m not asking for change. India without its army of sleazy, dishonest, pushy merchants would be as lackluster and “safe” as America’s smoke-free bars.”
Now ironically, this sentence is the most positive thing that he has said in his entire article. So why do I think that this line is a give-away?
Think of a submissive girl. Guy 1 loves her, treats her with courtesy and respect. But she doesn’t like him. But Guy 2 swears in front of her, kisses her by pushing her against the wall with alcohol scent in his breath, and rips her dress off and says that he will make her f-ing **** scream. She has sex with Guy 2. She will never have sex with Guy 1. She will say that she wishes Guy 2 was like Guy 1, but it is precisely the way Guy 2 is that kinda turns her on, keeps her coming back to Guy 2, again and again. :))
You see this is exactly the case here. This guy wont like US like shopping malls, smoke free cafes etc in India, but an idealized version of his ‘vision’ of India. Probably a place where he can do Yoga in tranquility on a street corner in Mumbai, without being hassled by anybody…etc. Heh. So he does not do his homework, and is guided by his idealized vision. As Thallasa said above, if he had done a little bit of homework, he could have avoided all of that. Now if had just embarked on his tour in an impromptu fashion, then he got exactly what he deserved- ground realities of a third world country. Has he been to places where he has seen good facilities, comparable to the West, where no one hassled him, in India? You bet he has. But just like the submissive girl finds Guy 1 unattractive, he too finds this aspect quite boring.
The same thing holds about Slumdog too. It touched a subliminal chord amongst many foreigners precisely due to this, but they are blissfully unaware of this.:) Also just the way he described the massage experience in Kerala seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to experience something unsavory without knowing whats in store. Maybe he knew what was in store. 🙂 He just confirmed his confirmation bias. 🙂
But whatever it is, I agree with his opinions, mostly, and his right to opine. Some of his opinions are true. There are taxi drivers who returned money to patrons, but in general, people are looking for a quick rip-off. So India is definitely not an unplanned tourist friendly place. Denying this is being in denial mode.
2> Should we care?
Of course not. I mean some people are making such a hue and cry out of it, as if each of us has to rise to the occasion and do something about it. Couldn’t care less. It is the responsibility of the govt, or the tourism industry to make people aware of these things, assuming they care, of course. Things don’t always progress in a uniform and consistent fashion. Service industry is one area where we are woefully short, but if every area was advanced enough, we would not have been a 3rd world/developing country, but an already developed one.
Self flagellation, low self esteem etc. and all other issues have been analyzed in detail above and I really dont want to go into that, for this particular issue.
Glen Beck: Is neither an asshole, nor retraded, as many of you have said above. Its the same mistake that people make when they attack Rush Limbaugh. These guys have a target demographic. If you talk sane, truthful things to that demographic, it doesn’t sell. It all money and selling in this country. Also dont forget the IQ level of that target demo. So they are happy to give that target demo what they want to hear, like a river of disease and what not, and in the process making millions of dollars. Its like some failed reality start let who deliberately create a scandal to bring limelight on to them. Therefore, do not even bother to analyze the whats and whys in extreme shocking rhetoric from such people. By responding to the shock, you actually benefit them. Just my 2 cents.
arnab, congratulations on winning the indiblioggies awards.
sometimes, simply to put dumbasses like glenn beck on the backfoot, i used to say “i am better” when i heard “i am good” in response to my customary greeting “how are you doing”
I have to say you have a very incisive mind.
You have a talent for probing just below the surface of the “obvious” with the suppleness of an octopus.
This is a neat post. Few things I want to understand more clearly:
1. I concur from reading some of the comments to this blog, there are some people who believe Indians to be the most racist people in the world, unscrupulous cheats, corrupt, have no respect for women, tourists, children etc etc. Now, since India is full of such people, it can be classified as a shithole? I would think racists, cheats, women and children abusers would be more than enough to classify a country as a shithole. If this is the case, why do people who consider India to be the epicentre of every horrible thing known to the history of mankind, have a problem with India being made fun of and insulted by Glen Beck? After all, one cannot really expect people to show much respect to ‘shitholes’ isn’t it? Is it the fact that he belongs to the “extreme right” stopping people from agreeing with him openly?
2. My second point is that while Glen Beck and the travelogue guy get their points across differently, they both try to make the same point which is “India is a pathetic place.” Glen Beck goes on a long rant about India’s doctors and colleges while the other guy talks about India’s greedy merchants. In that case, why does Glen Beck become a racist but the other dude someone who speaks his heart out? Again is it because, Glen Beck is known as an “extreme right wing” personality while the other guy isn’t and by virtue of it Glen Beck is a racist but the other isn’t?
I am asking these questions not because, I want to argue about anybody’s opinions but because I am taking a course on Global Cultures, Stereotypes and Racism where we study a lot about what constitutes racism and what doesn’t and things like that. So I am hoping someone can answer my questions and help me out a bit here.
man – is that rimi sen sexy or what ??!! who cares what she says- if only i can poke her … sigh ..
@Shan: I invite you to come to Newark, NJ and spend a few days. First you will be bugged by a crowd of cab-drivers at the airport EXACTLY like auto/rickshaw-wallahs pester tourists in India. Listen to them, and you will be ripped off too (“Come with me sir, I charge the cheapest rate.” while charging double the normal rate). Then you may be knocked down by a car if you are too used to other cities of USA, because Newark drivers don’t believe in the priority for pedestrians rule, and you will very surely be mugged at gunpoint or knife point if you roam around too late. Call the police or 911, and they are likely to ignore you, scold you for disturbing them at odd hours, or even hang up (I’m not making this up, it has happened to me).
Does that entitle me to say Newark is the worst city in the US? No. Because I haven’t seen all of them.
what’s your profession / education ?
Might what to check this out 🙂
What most commentators are missing is difference between outright racism and a conditioning/prejudice.
Indians are rarely racist in the true sense of the word. We have prejudices, we have poor judgment sometimes and we are conditioned to believe certain things and most importantly we are not at all averse to acting/speaking on these prejudices.
Allow me to explain with an example
Indian waiters are snobbish at US restaurants to Indian patrons. The sole reason is tipping. Culturally, we have been brought up to tip less. When was the last time you tipped a waiter 40%. White people do that (some of them routinely).
If a lot of Indians started tipping 40% Indians waiters would walk you to your car even if you were darker than Bipasha Basu and uglier than Suniel Shetty.
A lot of Indians (myself included) exhibit these prejudices to varying degrees. I believe EVERYONE in the world has prejudices, some more, some less. Some can hide it better, some can’t.
This is very different from racism which takes generations to fix and arises from an intrinsic sense of superiority about your race and color.
INDIANS ARE NOT RACIST. We really need to learn the definition of racism. If anything we have a certain degree of inferiority complex which I believe is going away fast, at least in urban India
I tip the standard 15%. I think most Indians do too.
1) I am treated as a second class customer due to my nationality EVEN BEFORE I have taken out my wallet to tip. If this is not racism, I don’t know what is.
2) I have never been treated as a second class customer by a American waiter in other restaurants.
I am a bit conflicted on this issue. I can laugh at myself and my culture ’till the cows come home (how appropriate). Goratna aftershave, wisdom of Lalloo Yadav and all things related. But I get ticked off when some “outsider” criticizes my janmabhoomi. It is not because what they say are often colored by their personal biases, but because deep inside many of us are haunted by “what if” questions. What if India had/did [insert your question here]?
Country is criticized.
“F**k you!! You’re racist! You think yourself to be superior. Your country has many problems too! You’ll start squirming when I rattle them out. If you don’t like my country, get out of here! We love the way we are and we are not going to change!!”
“Huh what? Oh that? Our country is like that. Sh*t happens dude. You’ll soon get over it, and will get used to it. Just relax and meditate. Chill. Om Shanti”
“Bravo! You are absolutely right! This country is a damn hellhole. I wanna get outta here ASAP. People here just don’t care. We need more people like you to bring out all problems in the open, and rip apart the sense of contentment and false patriotism we have about our pathetic gutter country.”
“Hmmm. Okay, thanks” (Thinking: Just wait and watch assh*le!. Gets down to serious business and does his level best to be a model citizen and to rectify problems and issues around him to the best of his ability.)
Criticism hurts. Emotional counter reaction is natural. But, rather than defending the problem and letting it be, one should channelize the anger to rectify the problem so that no one in the future can point a finger.
I strive my best to fit into category 4, and I wish many others did too. One should ignore invalid criticism and take valid criticism to be a CHALLENGE instead of an INSULT. Work hard, educate people, improve systems and clean up the country so that outsiders are filled with awe and have very little scope for criticism.
@Rishi- lmao. I take that as a huge compliment as an Octopus is a very very intelligent animal. They also have 3 hearts- so next time anyone asks me why I am double or triple dating, I will show your comment to them and say that I have multiple hearts to share.
@Sunny- Lol. Why Sir? I am a graduate of Desibaba University in Bengal. My dayjob is as an errand boy, working for Savita Bhabi. In my spare time, I read RTDM. 🙂
a very cheap publicity stunt by a writer wanting to make millions out of his book(lying , cheating salesman!!!what an irony) on the other hand the self deprecation tendencies of Indians stems from the fascination of young Indians to project themselves as cool and hip, having ideas and thoughts similiar to their western counterparts.
@Anirban: As it happens I have been to NJ a couple of times and have actually stayed a month in the Princeton Hightstown area. I have not experienced the kind of pestering you mention. But that doe snot mean it does not happen. It could be because a) I take taxis from the official airport stand, and b) Because I understand and speak English reasonably well. (On a side note: I have however noticed that many cab drivers in NJ are Indians are Pakistanis. make of that what you will.)
But leave my experience (or lack of it) aside. If I did come to NJ and was accosted by a bunch of people speaking a foreign language (say, Spanish), tugging at my luggage and shirt, wanting, demanding my custom; and add to that some beggar kids touching my wife’s arm and body for alms; and if I realized that they regularly rip me off, and give me gaalis in the native language in the bargain, while making lewd gestures at my wife, I would be justified perhaps in thinking that NJ is the worst place in the world. Hell in fact I would probably write an article about it and send it to a mag, or publish it in a blog, publicly calling it the worst place in the world!
Would that be factually true? No, possibly. I am sure NJ is a beautiful place with many intelligent residents. And it is a center of learning.
But should NJ residents be justified in rising up against me in anger and call me a racist, gold-digger, vulture who feeds on negative images of other countries? Or someone who just has a bias confirmed because that is what he wanted to see?
Or should they think about why I had that experience and try and correct the situation so that all areas in NJ are as beautiful as say, Princeton?
Can someone tell me what Rimi Sen said?
BTW, GBbhai, we do fall in the ‘bad experiences’ for tourist. Definitely not the worst.
I wish people wouldn’t quote the TOI so often. They tend exaggerate a lot. Case in point, the articles wrt to online CAT quoted the same student continuosly for 5 days.
@shan – Plz responde and answer the questions,gr8 replies dude i admire u..
@gb – congras 4 india bloggies
I enjoy Reading Comments More Than The Post!!!
From my personal experience I can say that 80% Indians tip between 5-10%.
Also, I don’t get the logic of
“I am treated as a second class customer due to my nationality EVEN BEFORE I have taken out my wallet to tip.”
That is the whole point, since Indians usually dont tip well, so when you come into a restaurant waiters assume that you are also not going to tip well and hence the service. If you start frequenting a restaurant and waiters realize that you are a good tipper then you can see the difference in service.
I agree what the waiters are doing is wrong but that is not racially motivated, it is all about money.
If I don’t want to be treated as a second class customer, what should I do?
@shan – Dude, your replies are more balanced than the post itself. Tourists do make their opinion about the country from what they experience , which without doubt are not very pleasant in India. From airport where you arrive, taxis, hotel, trains , Railway stations ( Toilets specially)everything are in a constant state of negligence. Forget about outsiders, what about domestic tourists, go to Chennai/Bangalore/Goa/Pune and get totally rolled over by Taxi/Rickshaw drivers, eve teasing is common at almost all the famous destinations. Unless we accept these things, I don’t know how things are going to be improved.
If we go by the coverage of various rape cases in GOA, everybody is of the opinion that it’s not our bloody culture and the victims are themselves responsible for the crimes. This may seem off topic, but the central issue is the same, instead of focusing on law and order everybody is trying to paint a rosy picture and convince themselves that every thing is in order, rest are exceptions.
Again, case of any western bias will come when they see things in a different way from us, but all these problems are faced and realized by everybody, so what’s the problem if it is pointed out by someone outside the country.
Meanwhile we have Kasab the clown holding court back in Mumbai. I wonder what the people who lost family in the 26/11 terror strike make of the joke the whole trial has become. The media seems to find it funny. The worst thing about being Indian is that we have no pride – we’ll always be a bunch of third-world losers.
Well this is a very trivial thing. What else do you expect from a high school drop out like Glenn Beck? He could not even finish his high school that is the level of his mental faculties. And yes, probably he forgot to take his pills for his std, the one that has letters G and N in it. That std may be flaring up, so any word with G and N reminds him of his disease. Can you really fault him for that?
I expect Mamata di would transform indian railways to the standards of london…sweetjarland…etc. but all i see is bedbugs, cockroaches and low quality food at railways.
@Shan: Thanks for responding to my comment. Princeton is a beautiful place as are many other places in NJ. I was specifically mentioning Newark.
Your snide remark about cab drivers in Newark being Desis was uncalled for – we have as many Blacks, Hispanics and Whites as well. I hate to stereotype, but I have personally found Blacks the most aggressive “advertisers” of their service. And yes, they catch you before you reach the official airport travel desk. You can read about one traveler’s experience here – it is about JFK but you get the idea.
As for your calling Newark the worst place on earth if you did have that experience – let’s agree to disagree on that. I’m not particularly fond of this city, but surely there are worse places on earth. You could call it the worst place you have ever visited, but nothing more than that.
Does that mean I am saying India should remain the way it is? No way. We do have a lot of problems in this area (tourism) and positive suggestions for improvement are always welcome. However, negative comments like “hellhole” and “worst place on earth” are not.
Attaboy great bong.I feel happy in reading something that is logical, patriotic without being stupid.
I feel like saying “come to my arms” like Humerus’s son said to Obelix in “Asterix and the laurel wreath”. Is the reference accurate I wonder, must ask my daughter..
A couple of things:
1) My desi friends are the one who actually pointed out to me that NJ has the worst traffic in the US because it has the greatest concentration of desis! I had no such experience. The one thing I did notice was that roads had more potholes in NJ than any other US city I have seen.
2) The desi taxi driver thing was not a snide comment but a matter of fact. The truth is that the number of desi taxi drivers in NJ and NY is huge. In fact, IN NY every other cab I have sat in has had a South Asian driver, (some even asking me to sing hindi songs for them, and other offering to take me underground as an illegal immigrant, but that’s another story). Also I did specify that the comment was tangential to my main argument.
3) When someone says ‘this is the worst place on earth’ it would be silly to assume they mean it literally. We frequently say (ref: GB’s latest post) – “Mohabbatein/Black/Singh is Kinng” is the worst film ever made. Do we mean it literally? No, obviously. Similarly for a city. We know whether it is NJ or New Delhi, it is not really the worst place in the world. After all there’s still Afghanistan and Somalis etc. It’s just that our experience has been horrible.
But the point is I can still legitimately take that figurative leap and call it a “worst” place or a “hellhole”. That’s the way we speak; and write. There is no need to make an issue of semantics or demand absolute accuracy there. Agree?
Shan-“My desi friends are the one who actually pointed out to me that NJ has the worst traffic in the US because it has the greatest concentration of desis! I had no such experience. The one thing I did notice was that roads had more potholes in NJ than any other US city I have seen.”
No that is because NJ has the highest population density amongst all states in the US. Just see the masses in NJ Transit trains during rush hour and you will know. Also NJ drivers are horrible as the DMVs are not really anal about driving tests.
Michigan has the worst roads among all US states. That state, like Cali is bankrupt and losing jobs exponentially. So no money for any infrastructure, let alone roads. In fact, both states are now seriously thinking of legalizing marijuana, not because they had a sudden epiphany about the absurdity of banning it, but they envisage that pot money will help reduce the gargantuan deficit. Driving on some NJ roads, especially the turnpike can be an awesome experience. This also depends on what time of the year you visit. Road repairs generally take place in summer. So chances are that the road which was full of potholes is now in great condition.
Regarding waiters, I agree that I have seen the same thing. But I don’t blame the waiters. The point is that consciously or subconsciously, a lot of stuffiness creeps in with the Indian way of upbringing. I put this to British legacy. People don’t smile and ask people how they are doing. Like….you don’t smile and say Hi to your local grocer. Hence they probably adopt a dual behaviour- behave with americans the way they do, “Hi…how are you doing today? Good. Great! Whats your name? Ram.hey listen, the name of my friend Ramanujan,and your name…do they mean the same thing? So is your name Ram short for Ramanujan? ok. Hey whats that biryani thing all about? I was in Trenton last weekend and a guy from my office got it for the office potluck……..[end of meal]….niceties and have a nice day.”
Indian patron” Do biryani aur mutton curry.” “Bill lao”
So maybe they get inadvertently adjust to that kind of dual behavior.
The other day I was at the gym and I overheard a Desi guy saying,”I am here as I want to look good on the beach in Florida.” We were both going towards the bench to do some dumbbell crunches. Seeing me, he charged up to the place. I feel that this is a response to his Indian upbringing, like say…1 empty seat in the bus….lemme grab it…f u.
So fair enough. It was clear that he had never done weights before, and still he went straight for the 45 lbs dumbbells. So naturally he couldn’t do many reps and left exhausted. Later I saw him walking to an elliptical machine along with…. lets say a non-desi. he almost went out of the way and fawned while offering it up. “No no…please…please…its ok…”. And in the end, he even said Sorry.
The point is, that people tend to react differently. You cant help it. I used to think a lot about such things earlier. Now I just don’t care.
On the other end, I love meat a lot. So one of my american bosses almost fell out of his chair seeing me order beef. It seemed that he had dealt with mostly Gujrati people, and seeing their eating habits, he kinda got the idea that eating beef in India is like a sin. He in fact told me, “O so you are trying to be American. ha ha”. At first I thought of explaining to him that it had nothing to do with it, and that I would have eaten it even if I were in Timbuktu or Tibet, if available. But after a few years, you develop a “who gives a shit to what he thinks” attitude and just smiled at him. Ideally, people should treat you as individuals and not boxes and labels, but it is unrealistic to expect them to do so. Just act according to the situation and the person.
Good comments by Shan. Esp. thanks for pointing out GB is associating the travel writer with Glenn Beck.
“Hellhole” is uncalled for and the writer is clearly venting.
But I have seen significant sustained pestering of foreigners at much higher levels than directed at me, by locals (auto/ taxi drivers and other street vendors) of foreigners who are, at least initially, just too nice to be rude and brush them off. Maybe there’s a cultural disconnect- our pitchers take a nice No as possible interest, they’re calibrating against our gruff refusals.
I dont see why a backpacker (or any other tourist for that matter) should overpay for a good/service just because they look like they can afford it.
I guess you answered your question yourself…people like confirming what the want to believe. Most of us percieve the west to be superior and therefore would assume a needless guilt.
There is more to it as well. How does it look when someone says we are bad and we go on fighting? Defensive right? How does it look when someone says we are bad and we go..”og you know what…we are…damn we should do some about it!!”?? Elite!! Intellectual…its a different matter that after making the remark the chap would carry on throwing polybags on the road and overtaking from the left!!
@ Shan: two thumbs up
white girls in india have it particularly rough. and please dont tell me ‘she was asking for it’ like the MP of Goa did in Parliament.
@ wtf Ittabari
“..white girls in india have it particularly rough…”
Except for Sonja Gandhi 🙂
I am sure its a cumulative payback. 🙂
I guess having your mother-in-law shot, and husband blown up by a bomb having to raise two kids and survive Indian politics and constant carping about foreign origins is a pretty smooth life according to you.
Gee I wonder what a rough life would be like?
I somewhat agree with Shan.
Although his argument about the burden of proof lying on the negative side is utter nonsense. If you make a declarative statement about Indian fielding, it’s your responsibility to prove that it is so and not your detractors’.
If a journalist says India has the worst economy – it’s his job to prove that not his critics to prove him wrong.
As it were, I don’t think ‘worst’ is often intended as an absolute rather it’s mostly a figure of speech thing.
Anyway, that’s detracting from the issue at hand. I don’t agree with generalising an entire nation about sensitive issues like racism and xenophilia but there should be no fear of calling a spade a spade.
Indians are disproportionately racist (fair and lovely anyone?) and foreigners are also disproportionately harrassed.
These are my observations.
Secondly, Danny Boyle’s movie is not a documentary. If you put unrealistic situations in a movie, it makes a bad movie – not a conspiracy. It’s sad that Indians feel the need to get so defensive about comments made by a foreigner when they themselves would make them in the seclusion of their homes.
Not having billions in Swiss bank account and the remote control to the future of 1 billion people could be a good beginning.
Btw that was a joke.
Oh, a joke. Thanks. I get it all now. Of course it was a joke. Actually you really respect her.
You are correct. She must have all these billions. I just wonder when she sill get to enjoy them. She is already nearing 60, I think. I bet there are debauched Italian pizza parties at her home at night. And I am sure she runs away to Vegas every weekend to spend all her ill gotten millions on drugs, drinks and gigolos. You would of course have all the inside information, as wielder of the Sword of Truth. Hahahaha…
Another hilarious joke you made was when you called her Gandhi. That was really funny. Everyone knows it is Maino.
Hahahaha…Khujur. You really are a riot. All these jokes…
Phew!! you got it.
Now I wont be really serious about someone who gets to control the future of a billion people just by virtue of her surname …would I?
Of course not, you wouldn’t. Especially since the surname thing is clearly more important than the silly little fact that she is ably handling a huge organization on her own for the last 10 years. Similar to those jokers like Mukesh or Anil Ambani, or Kumar Birla. Incompetent nincompoops who got be CEOs only because of their surname.
You said it right.
Afterall India is a “company” she inherited.
I mean Congress as an organization, of course, not India as a “company”. But, of course, you are free to twist my words as you see fit. Death of the author and all that…
Not India as a company? hmm
Since you are taking this seriously, then you should know…
the Chairperson of a ruling “organization” without any Cabinet position should not be sitting in the meetings of Prime Minister’s National Security Council.
[Rishi: Edited. Can we have not have unsubstantiated facts that I personally have never heard of? Facts and opinions are totally different. Facts need support.]
Yes Bhattacharya saheb, bhul ghorar pithe chepechen eibaar.
Better to ride the horse than spew horseshit.
@shan & rishi khujur
so what changes you see in congress of past and present…as it has completed 125 yrs..
Please initiate completely off-topic discussions offline. Thank you.
The statement that you deleted out is a widely published media reprot from 1992 which is also referred to on Sonia Gandhi’s own Wioki page.
Nobody has been sued yet, do dont worry about getting sued.
Yeah! keep riding your way to self delusion.
The statement given by me about Sonia Gandhi’s Swiss bank account amounting to more than 2 billion dollars in 1991,based on Swiss newspaper reports from that year, was brought up in a lawsuit case by lawyers of Congress, at SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY, MONMOUTH COUNTY, LAW DIVISION – CIVIL PART, DOCKET NO.: MON-L-2533-08
The lawsuit was dismmissed with a decision agaisnt Sonia Gandhi’s P.O.V
Excellent GB ekdom Excellent…I agree wtih you!
Here’s something worth reading, though I doubt if Shan reads the comments on this post anymore: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/2010-03-13-taxi-scam-new-york_N.htm