Me Indian?

Going through Priya Ramani’s much-talked-about article in the Mint, I was quite a bit confused. [Link]

Recently I’ve become increasingly convinced that I’m not an Indian. After all, it is possible that someone did a baby switch at Breach Candy Hospital where I was born, or that my parents have carefully hidden the truth about me for 40 years.

Quick proof that I’m not Indian? I have no furious loyalties to the Baganapalli or Alphonso. In fact, I can think of at least six fruits that I prefer to the mango. I have never eaten an entire paan or a pot of mishti doi (though I have tried both) and I don’t spit in public or private (except for that one time I tried a meetha paan).

I don’t understand that other national obsession, cricket, either. White is not my favourite skin colour. I don’t read Chetan Bhagat or Paulo Coelho. I feel depressed every time I wear a salwar-kameez. No sir, I will not discuss my private life with a stranger on a train journey. And I don’t think I’ve ever begun a conversation with: “You’ve lost/gained so much weight!”

I don’t like (or understand) a single Indian soap currently on air. I never talk loudly to my maid, stockbroker or random friend during a movie. I always wait to let people exit an elevator before I enter. I don’t believe that Mumbai’s moviegoers should be forced to stand to attention every time they want to see Shrek (or anyone else) on the big screen. I don’t feel pride—only impatience that my popcorn’s getting cold—when I’m forced to listen to Lata/Asha do a slow-mo version of the national anthem before every single movie I watch in the city of my birth.

Is being “uncouth”, as manifested through acts of varying degrees of distastefulness (spitting, liking Paulo Coelho, remarking about other people’s weight), synonymous with being Indian, as if being one necessarily implies the other? If that be the case, Bullah ki jaana main kaun?

I love cricket, have a genuine appreciation for subaltern music videos of the “Eh Buchi bolo seal kaha tuthi” type and do not feel bad that my popcorn is getting cold when I am asked to make a gesture, however symbolic, in honor of those people who have made it possible for me to sit in an AC multiplex and enjoy a movie. Which possibly means I am Indian.

But at the same time, I do not spit in public, do not inquire about people’s weights (purely to avoid any reference to mine), do not talk loudly to anyone, find Paulo Coelho grossly over-rated and do not refer to domestic help as “maids”.

So who am I? If you ask me to settle the issue, I would say I am unabashedly and proudly, yes proudly, Indian.

The confusion regarding identity is even more confounded when I think of my father, a former professor of Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and an intellectual legend in his time. He does not appreciate any of the lowbrow things I so admire and neither does he spit in public, nor does poke his nose in other people’s affairs. He also does not raise his voice.  By definition then, he should not be Indian.

But he refers to himself as an Indian.

So if I take him at face value (i.e. of being Indian) , does that mean he is automatically not “serious scholar” enough (Gurucharan Das is quoted as saying ““Basically, after independence we did not produce any serious scholars,”)?

Even more disturbing, has he been secretly reading Chetan Bhagat?

Today, when I was going to the airport from a client meeting,  I saw the driver, a non-South Asian true-blue son of the Pennsylvanian soil, spitting out from the driver’s seat onto the road. Should I have been convinced then that he was Indian and asked for a des-wala bhai discount? When I got stuck, a few weeks before, right behind two other pure red-white-and-blues who got out of their cars mouthing obscenities in a raised voice after a fender-bender in front of a College Park shopping plaza, should I have tried talking to them in Hindi?

I just don’t get it.

What I do get is this. And I agree whole-heartedly .

I don’t think we’re the greatest people on earth

Absolutely we are not. No country is. Yet everyone says they are. If I had a dollar every time someone on US TV, including intellectual powerhouses like Obama and columnists of the best newspapers in the world (and no I am not referring to Fox News anchors), say “There is no doubt that America is the greatest nation of all” and similar hyperbole,  I would have been able to buy myself a ticket in a major party to contest an Indian election.

Similarly outrageous is the chest-thumping  desi patriotism that makes us go “Ooh Aaah India” during a cricket match, a feel-good buzz as empty as the calories of the products of the companies who sponsor such slogans.

No doubt that.

However being proud of one’s country does not imply a belief in its “bestness” and its infallibility. As a matter of fact, patriotism lies in accepting our faults (and we have many, a few of which Ms. Ramani mentions). But that should not be taken to an extreme because then we lose sight of what it is we have got right. And once that happens, we stop working to safeguard it.

When I say I am proud of being an Indian, I mean I am proud of its culture of plurality and its intrinsic tolerance of contrarianism. This is why in a major newspaper someone can say this below, without any fatwa for boycotting of the paper or dire consequences of the Danish kind.

Personally, I’ve always believed Ram was a loser and I have no idea why Sita didn’t leave him many years before he threw a tantrum that resulted in her walking through fire. The first time I heard some goon in the Bharatiya Janata Party use the words Ram Rajya, I wanted to vomit. Vomit, not spit, I said.

As an example, in the US, when Sinead O’Connor tore up a picture of the Pope (mind you not Jesus Christ), NBC was fined by the Federal Communications Commission for USD 2.5 million dollars and the reaction of other stars, like Sinatra and Joe Pesci to her act, might be interesting to read. [Link]. The only time in which anything against the Pope or Christ would be allowed in the US on public fora would be if there was a humorous context and only when the comedian is an “equal opportunities offender” (i.e. skewers all holy cows). But the above paragraph, as far as I understand, was not one written in jest or with a creative purpose.

The Indian spirit of acceptance is something that is often not in evidence in some of the “freest countries of the world”. USA is a country that prides itself (and this is to a large extent justified) on its inherent egalitarianism. But still many people have a problem with Hillary Clinton becoming a President just because she is a woman.  When the Republican smear machine rakes up Obama’s Muslim origins, the Democrats say “He is not Muslim. No no not at all” rather than saying “So what if he is a Muslim? Why should that it be a problem?” South-Asian origin politicians like Nicky Haley and  Bobby Jindal have hit big-time only after converting and strongly advertising their Christian faith. And by the way, the US is not a Christian nation. [Link and Link] so there is no constitutional reason why there should be no realistic chance of a non-Christian/non-Jewish person holding positions of high authority.

In contrast, we in India have been far more accepting of our religious minorities and of women being represented in the highest offices of power. Can you imagine, a foreign-born woman having as her religion one not held by the majority and who speaks the native language in a very tentative way, becoming the most powerful person in any other land? I cannot.

However in today’s India it is this tolerance which is under the most attack. Violent gangs, of for-hire goons, under the guise of “taking offense” are terrorizing people who express their opinions or lead lifestyles “not acceptable”—-attacking pubs, raising fatwas and pouring invective on the Net. Books are being banned, offices are being destroyed in the conflagration of “spontaneous displays of anger”.  There is a justification for this too—“For far too long, we have taken insults lying down. Can so-and-so say the same thing in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan about their God without any kind of repercussion?”

Here is when I want to say in response—-“Yes but that’s why we are not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan”. And I intend for my country to stay that way. No politician, even if they born outside the country, should be deprived of their right to exploit and misrule the country. No speech, no matter how hurtful, should be met with threats of violence or crude language.

Unfortunately, we are marching fast down a path of competitive intolerance, one that will lead to us to become a mirror of Pakistan, characterized by bigotry of the worst kind.

When and if that comes to pass, then yes I am going to raise questions about my identity as an Indian.

But till that happens, it is vital, at least for me, to not only recognize what ails us but also what does not, to stay grounded between the extremes of self-flagellation and gratuitous back-slapping.

198 thoughts on “Me Indian?

  1. dont want an i-pod / i pad anything..just too excited to be the first one to read this 🙂 Loved your book btw ..Keep uo the good work 🙂

  2. A pleasant change in the tone of your article.. Long may it continue

  3. Ahh, ’tis the season of bashing Indian-ness. My life is much better again. Why is it necessary to bash a culture or even stereotype it, to come across as an intellectual? I was on a high today, after presenting about Indian culture, and how unique, yet similar it is to different cultures, and now thanks to Ms. Ramani now I’m questioning if I’m an Indian at all.

  4. Completely agree with you. Also, I found Ramani’s writeup a lil too cocky. Its all too easy to stereotype certain ‘indian’ things and extrapolate it across the populace. If perhaps written differently, her piece would’ve made for a humorous read. If anything, it just made want to go out and spit and read bhagat and perhaps feel ‘Indian’.

    That’s why I really liked your book. It does make fun of everything that we are. And that’s what it should be.. to poke fun, not ridicule. Certain issues do warrant sterner words. And there is no dearth of people sitting on their asses in comfy locales doing that. All the time.

  5. The point that Sonia being a powerful figure despite her origin is not because of our cultural intolerance. I would say it is rather because of the dynastic nature of the Congress politics. Even if the last gandhi left is a family pet- dog, even then it would attain sufficient political mileage 🙂 Thoda zyada ho gaya. But I hope you get the point. Rest of the article is pretty agreeable and nice.

  6. Many great points to take home.

    I liked your below mention on US:
    When the Republican smear machine rakes up Obama’s Muslim origins, the Democrats say “He is not Muslim. No no not at all” rather than saying “So what if he is a Muslim? Why should that it be a problem?”

    Finally..quoting RDB ‘koi bhi desh perfect nahin hota, usse behtar banana padta hai’.

    We are no perfect either , right.

    Proud to be an Indian.

  7. I detest most Hindi movies,
    Yet I cannot imagine an India without Bollywood.
    I deplore living conditions in India,
    Yet I will never sell my house.
    I am skeptical of most Indian political reforms,
    Yet I go home to vote whenever I can.
    I find nouveau cricket tiresome,
    Yet I facebooked Tendular’s feat with zeal.

    It isn’t schizophrenia,
    it’s being Indian.

  8. Respect! (delivered the Ali G way 😉

    Loved the mix of earnest anger and honest logic in this post.

    A very good start to the day…thank you, sir!

  9. ”Yes but that’s why we are not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.”

    You would think this simple fact would be grokked by most educated Indians. Unfortunately behaving like uneducated morons is considered “macho” in most quarters. As if by acting like savages we would somehow take “revenge” for centuries of “insult”.

    Oh and Priyaramani is a typical low intelligence filmi journalist. You need not take her seriously.

  10. Quoting from your post

    “being proud of one’s country does not imply a belief in its “bestness” and its infallibility. As a matter of fact, patriotism lies in accepting our faults (and we have many, a few of which Ms. Ramani mentions). But that should not be taken to an extreme because then we lose sight of what it is we have got right.”

    I couldn’t agree more! Country bashing has become an art form these days; even acceptable when in jest but people blame the country for everything from their jobs to their marriages to their obesity … endless list!

    Countries are made by their people. Cribbers in all countries are just that: cribbers. Period.

  11. Junaid,

    Even in monarchies, there are limits to what their favorite sons and daughters can do. In most countries, people just would not have been able to look beyond her foreign origins.

  12. Thanks arnab da, for putting up this post. Thank you for putting it so eloquently what most of us felt after reading her post.

  13. Greatbong, there’s nothing wrong in being Indian. However, if you reread your arguments againgst Priya Ramani’s article, you will find multiple instances that go “they suck at this as well, so why make a big deal about it if we suck too”. Shouldn’t our attitude be more along the lines of measuring ourselves against an utopian benchmark rather than saying how great we are because no fatwas have been declared against someone exercising free speech? Sure, a foreign-born lady is the most powerful politician in the land, but is that because of our welcoming non-discriminatory nature or the fact that she married into a political dynasty? Lets not go into talking about being “more accepting of religious minorities”. I’ve seen homes burn from the roof of our building secure in the knowledge that we lived in a ‘majority stronghold’. Your statement almost sounds like a favour that we seem to award to those of other religions. On the other relatively minor points of etiquette and courtesy, there is no doubt that as a collective, we suck. And its not just about GDP per capita that makes the difference, I’ve been to countries as populous as ours with traffic snarls as bad as our metros but where you won’t hear any honking because the people are calmly going about their business, people hold elevator doors open for others and are in general, less xenophobic.

  14. hmm.. nice article. ( Ah.. I did buy your book on Flipkart and when I am dull, I read it! 🙂 )

    may be I made a mistake moving out of USA?

    Also I dont here… see any articles or fun takes on job hunting in India.

    Like one article in ET… says that you should never take a job lower in designation than prior… forever… Duh!


  15. Indeed. It is perplexing that “we are the best” and “we are so inferior” attitudes, unaccompanied by any understanding, persist so long after colonialism… especially considering they had become rare soon after Independence.

    Forget the silly comparisons with Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, we can see competitive intolerance right here within the country. From a news article about banning some book on Sonia Gandhi:
    As for the BJP’s charge that it [the proposed ban] was transgressing freedom of speech, Singhvi recalled how the saffron party had expelled Jaswant Singh for his book on M.A. Jinnah, protested against M.F. Husain’s paintings and stopped the screening of Parzania in Gujarat.
    So this makes it ok? Competitive intolerance indeed… (Of course, the Congress party, simply by being in power longer, has banned many more books).

  16. Excellent post GB. Its almost as if somebody has read my thoughts and penned it down (sorry blogged it down). Though I was not aware of the interview you are talking about (in essence, this blog is rendering publicity to that interview), I can relate to the thoughts you have expressed herein. India, is a country founded on certain values and ideals which I am really proud of. We should be really thankful to our forefathers for bestowing this legacy instead of succumbing to the temptation of branding us as a Hindu nation at the time of independence.

    But to come to know that we are increasingly encircled by polarising tendencies, both internal and external, the very idea of a liberal and secular democracy is under attack and I shudder to think of the legacy we would be leaving behind to our posterity.

    An insightful piece..

  17. Loved your writeup. Priya Ramani is foolish to infer that being different from the masses is tantamount to being un-Indian. India still remains one of the most tolerant places to live and let live.

  18. @Anoop: Do you really believe in the feasibility of such a Utopian benchmark? Why should we actually do that? We are unique in our own way and there is no need to feel jingoistic about it nor to benchmark ourselves against some utopian criteria. No nation is perfect and can ever be perfect because a nation is made up of human beings. Just as no human being is perfect, so would be the nations. It will be foolish to believe in notions of utopian land and country as such lands will only exist in fiction and fantasy.

    As for your argument that a foreign born lady is wielding influence only because she became part of a particular dynasty/ family, do you really think it will be possible in any part of the world except in India.

    In a supposedly liberal democracy like USA, there is a strict constitutional provision that no person born outside USA can ever become President of USA.

  19. Awesome man! you gave words to all those who wanted to give an apt reply to priya.

    Which book you got published by the way? Could you tweet it on your homepage.. am following you.

  20. Hey Arnab,
    A fitting reply to a very racist article. People think they are very “secular” and “just” in bashing up their own kind. But they do not understand that criticizing some thing in a negative manner makes them equally racist or whatever the equivalent of that is in religion/nationality.
    If Karunanidhi asked who Ram was and which engineering college he went to, people who even dared questioned his authority to criticize, they were labeled as fanatics. Even the “news” channels termed m.f. hussain’s court cases as the end of justice in India, when all people did were slap him with cases and he ran away from the country dishonoring the courts. But all the fatwas and the call for beheading the danish cartoonist is perfectly justified, how dare we do something like that.
    and if we were to discuss any of this, we’d be called internet hindus or something referring to a fanatic. oh well

  21. Priya Ramani’s juvenile article was obviously intended to raise her profile in the newspaper world, where otherwise she is largely ignored. A little bit of controversy – not too much mind you; there should be no mention of any other religion – always helps someone get publicity.

    Her article reflects a lot of what we think, but then ruins it all by equating certain traits with “Indianness”. Indianness is something that no one, not even bigger and better philosophers and sociologists than her have been able to define. But that does not stop our lady from ranting against anything she can think of.

    Poor writing. Poorer thinking.

  22. Proud to be Indian alright…
    we may not be perfect, but whats the harm in trying??
    i’m tired sick of aspiring NRIs telling me “this is India, what did you expect”. The same shit heads who throw their empty lays packet out of the window while cruising in their cars, tell me how beautiful and clean Dubai is. And when i get hysterical about somebody littering or just not doing their work properly, they say “this is India, dont expect too much”.
    I’d say say with a little awareness we can definitely make India cleaner and safer. Better if not perfect.
    And that’s for the ones who are Proud to be Indian.
    For the rest of you, if not America or Dubai or Australia dont worry, there are plenty more countries that’ll be happy to have you. Bye, we’ll miss you and your pessimism.

  23. nandini samajdar June 18, 2010 — 6:17 am

    a good read indeed…even if it had no reference to priya ramani, people who strive for negative publicity get away with such articles, however am astonished that media lets people voice out their biasness…all the very best always

  24. ours must be the only country we bash our motherland in the name of free speech.I would like to ask priyaramani to change citizenship and write ths in another country.wait, no other country would allow to spew hate like this in a newspaper!.

  25. Priya Ramani’s article is obviously heavy handed, but I would think that quite a few of us are disturbed by the BPO fuelled, wrong-English addled, “IPL” culture that seems to be the predominant cultural choice in India today. It does not make me feel less proud to be an Indian but the intellectual bankruptcy is extremely galling at times.

    Also Arnob, your comments on this would be great to have. Its infuriating but also terribly sad.

  26. as for Indian-ness, its like cancer. despite it being the most widely studied and coolest topic, treatment for cancer is so difficult because of its variety. and so is India. each state has its own culture different from the rest. and that again of different religions. how can you explain all that under one word “Indian-ness”. i’m still busy being fascinated by the whole “Indian-ness” thing. planning a world tour for when and IF India ceases to amaze me. would like to know what exactly is great(er) abroad.

  27. as for priya ramani’s article…this is a free country…she’s free to say what she wants…and you’re free to say [Gb edits: no profanities]…it all ends there…peace…

  28. I do not have dollar dreams.
    I do not look down on fellow Indians as “Desis” when I travel abroad and say “What else do you expect” when there are some wrappers on the street in “Indian” areas….
    I do not want to “settle” in the You Yess but still teach my kids Barathnatyam and carnatic music
    I am not “fascinated” when my friend calls me up from foriegn shores and describe the different types of bread she gets there…
    I do not think that my life will be complete only if I step on the hallowed soil of the United States atleast once…

    Am I Indian?
    .. forgive that lady for writing her article based on the 2 decade old stereotype…there are newer ones

  29. GB,

    Go easy on Ramani. She usually has nothing much to say in any case. She has just returned from her annual one / two month break abroad and was feeling a bit more firangi than usual.

    The good part about that article is that you can not be / do all that she mentions and still be an Indian. This shows that being Indian can not be confined to narrow definitions or a idiosyncrasies. I guess she missed this larger point.

    You meandered into Manoj Kumar territory at a lot of places in the post while Priya was unadulterated Prem Chopra :). Does she wear a blond wig by any chance?

    About Sonia G I somehow don’t agree with your reasoning that it is our all embracing nature that allows her to be the most powerful lady in the land. It is in part what Junaid has said and in part a lot of small factors at play. In fact it would not be wrong to say that for every person who votes for Congress under Sonia the reasons are different and very few of them will be liking for her or belief in her abilities.

    It will be a proud moment for Priya Ramani. She has an exclusive post on RTDM. Certainly not deserved.

  30. who is this priya ramani? she doesn’t even have a wiki article..

  31. Question: Who is this woman? Why take her so seriously??? There’s loads of junk being written everyday, and people often come up with utter rubbish just to attract attention. Just ignore them. The silent treatment…that’s what they deserve.

    Nice article, btw.

  32. When the Republican smear machine rakes up Obama’s Muslim origins, the Democrats say “He is not Muslim. No no not at all” rather than saying “So what if he is a Muslim? Why should that it be a problem?”
    agree with this whole-heartedly. Have you seen the movie Gentleman’s agreement, which talks about something very similar?

  33. As I was reading the line – “As a matter of fact, patriotism lies in accepting our faults (and we have many, a few of which Ms. Ramani mentions)” – after “and we have many” I misread “one of which is Priya Ramani” 😛

    Great retort, Greatbong!

  34. @ AlhpaQ,Junaid,

    Regarding the Sonia Gandhi issue it may be interesting to remeber that when Sharad Pawar tried to play up her “foreign origin” issue he found no takers/ very few takers and did not get any major political mileage. That itself goes to show that the voting public is very tolerant about this issue. ( The voting public is also very tolerant about other issues like criminal backgrounds :-), so dont know that it counts for much)

  35. GB, in your answer to Junaid you say you cannot imagine any other country overlooking foreign origins like that. but imho, if it was any other person, no political party would have made her the most powerful. it is only because of her surname and not because of any tolerance that sonia gandhi is where she is today.
    in summary, i disagree with that particular example in your article.
    otherwise, good read.

  36. Dealer, very very rich for the Germans to be pointing fingers at someone else’s corruption after the huge corruption scandals involving their top corporations and banks lately. Pot meet kettle. Maybe they need to come to terms with how very delusional they are about the future of their own nation and Europe in general.

    Priya reminds me of a certain kind of South Bombay crowd at my university. The kind who groom themselves to fit into American popular culture all their lives. Only to realise when they finally arrive that to the average American, their carefully cultivated Cathedral School accents and the “vernie” accents they so despised sound exactly the same. Which is why Priya will never go back to the US, and would be miserable and whiny in India. Oh, the humanity!!

  37. Hi Arnab,

    I absolutely agree with what you’re saying, except on one thing: When someone says that Priya Ramani could not have said something similar about Allah with as much attitude in, say, Pakistan, it is right to say that that freedom to expression is what makes India different. The other side of the coin is that Ms. Ramani truly abuses her right to express as freely as she wants, with deliberate hurtfulness – and yet, she doesn’t make a solid point of Indian-ness.

    So yea, I guess, the “however hurtful” is the phrase I disagree with. You have to be tolerant of mostly everything, but not things and statements designed to only harm. I disagree because I don’t want to be expected to participate in a collective mentality of a doormat, in the name of being tolerant. Like someone rightly said on this topic on another blog, one’s right to stretch their arm ends where another’s nose begins. That said, though there needs to be a disagreement with what she says, violence is not the way to disagree.

  38. Nice Post…but was that article in Mint even worth responsing?

  39. priya ramani “gangbanged” on net…well.. she herself said that on twitter ..I love her choice of words. LOL 🙂

    “@surekhapillai @suddentwilight stop, pretty please…I’ve barely recovered from the previous gangbang
    10:02 AM Jun 17th via Seesmic in reply to surekhapillai”

  40. The current backlash against tolerance seems to me more of a last gasp effort of those who never had their dominance questioned in the past (akin to the “take America back” tea-partiers), rather than being an indication of increasing intolerance. Money is always the great equalizer, and more people of all walks of life have more of it in India.

  41. Great article . . . You have my attention !

  42. “The Indian spirit of acceptance is something that is often not in evidence in some of the “freest countries of the world”.”…Couldnt Agree more !! Very very Well Written !!! Loved reading it 🙂

  43. GB, thanks for your excellent rebuttal to Priya Ramani. I think her article reveals stupidity more than anything else. But the fact that a reputed newspaper thought it fit to publish it means it deserved a rebuttal. And who better than sarcasm king GB for the job? Well done.

  44. This blog was like a whiff of fresh air. Superb!

  45. Arnab,

    The values that you speak of-and the ones of your father-are personal. When you say that with these values, your father (or you) call yourselves Indian, its not because you possess these values, but because you were born in India. Does the society in India preach these values? As a collective, does it say that in a traffic jam, please do not weave between cars? Or please allow pedestrians to cross without running them over? No. We are cultured because WE as persons believe in those ideas, not because India as a SOCIETY instills them in us. Also, the ideas that you espouse come with education, something your family has had in ample measure. This is largely missing from the Indian society, and that is the society that one would meet on the road. To take the argument further, does being Indian refer to being born in India and therefore feeling good when Sachin hits a double? Or does it transcend to feeling great about an awesome game of cricket, the same way that I jump for joy when Lionel Messi weaves magic with his feet? At the end of the day, nationalistic identity is an accident of birth, and merely decides the color of your passport. What you admire and what you stand for is entirely personal and determined by your, and your family’s education and values. (I refer to you personally just because you start with that in your article. Also being an IIM-A grad myself, I have immense respect for IIM professors-so please don’t misunderstand me when I refer to your father).

  46. @Arun: agree a 100%- its not individual culture, individual pride that is in question, the question is, at least culturally, ethically is there a lot in day to day life in India today to be proud of? media, politics, sports, corruption, mass culture. Yes we can celebrate 4000 years of civilization, homogenity, multi-culturalism, but basic things, absolute disregard for traffic rules (as you point out), cleanliness, endemic corruption- are these not things we should not be concerned with? The idea is not whether other countries are as bad or worse … the question is whether we are going to recognize that there is an overwhelming problem, or whether we let a blind sense of nationalist jingoism overshadow that?

  47. Here is when I want to say in response—-”Yes but that’s why we are not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan”.

    Terrific Article Great Bong !! It said everything I wanted to say when I read Priya Ramani’s piece.. what bothers me is selective tolerance in India me a Hindu Fundamentalist if you want but what would have happened to Mint’s offices if it had called the God of you know what religion a loser? Davinci code faced more problems getting released in India than any where in the world; we are selective Liberals …i have no problem with anyone calling Ram a loser hey I am a liberal..but what if Mint had called god of any other relegion a loser in India?? I believe that a lot of liberals are extremely selective in their opinion..the same openness disappears when cultural fundamentalists of other relegions are involved

  48. all those things: plurality and non acceptance of Ram etc are things about the Hindu way of life -not necessarily moslem or christian really loves multiple gods or even wants to countenance their existence.this is by dogma. the ancient civilization is hindu -not the abrahamic deset bloc products.

    ergo,let me put it this way: you are proud of being part of the hindu ethos/culture. india -especially modern india?.naah.thats a step backward from the glorious past.

  49. Well now I have heard of Priya Ramani

  50. To priyaramani-absolute proof that you ARE an indian-you follow basic etiquette and then gloat that you do-and you find others that don’t reprehensible

  51. I think Ramani should replace India/Indians with human race 🙂
    Effect will be same…

  52. Oh puh-leez! Enough with the traffic whining already. I had visitors from Greece recently and I was showing them around Delhi for a week. They were surprised that the honking and weaving in traffic was a lot better than they had expected. “The people are a lot more calm than they would be in Athens in this kind of jam” – they said. Having been to Athens, I would totally concur.

    It’s the same story in Italy, Spain, Romania and so on. Do you think this reflects on the national characters of Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, and Romanians?

    I drive in LA all the time and most of the times it’s quiet enough. And yet, have someone linger even 10 seconds after a traffic light changes and the honking is wild. And lots of people jump traffic lights at night – especially when they make sure there are no traffic cameras to capture this move.

    No one likes to wait in traffic. Weaving is actually the most efficient way to have the traffic flow with such a crazy mix of vehicles that we have in our cities. Also, with the kind of mixed vehicle-pedestrian traffic on our roads, honking constantly is the safest way to drive.

  53. Nice one… I too hate all these generalizations bout being bong, esp when u move out of WB.
    Although there are few common traits… being bong is not only about those few traits for which the entire clan may be rebuked for…

  54. The last line you’ve written is a perfect rebuttal, that we need to be somewhere between ‘self-flagellation and gratuitous back-slapping.’ It is true that Priya Ramani has Slumdog millionaired India, by distancing herself from most of the silly stereotypes associated with us.

    Ms. Ramani apparently feels depressed whenever she wears a salwar kameez, but whatever does that mean? Nationalism has no dress code. If she’s trying to wave a flag of social liberalism by boycotting one type of dress, she is shooting herself in the foot there.

    Having said that, some of your points don’t seem altogether correct. That Sonia Gandhi is a women of foreign origin and is as good at Hindi as Sachin Tendulkar at captaincy is a fair point. Her ascent to power cannot be construed as a sign of democratic (separation of church/nationality and state) politics. Poor, barely-educated people are not loaded in trucks for voting in the USA. Their people are brainwashed in a different way, and if each person in India consciously voted after they thought they’ve really weighed the options, it would be possible to run an effective smear campaign against Sonia.

    I too hate the idea of standing for the national anthem (something I have immense respect for) just before watching a movie. There is no need to force patriotism out of people.

    What bothered me most about her article is not that her whole non-Indian thesis has a flimsy leg to stand on, but the tone of the whole article. So much condescension! Strange!

  55. Hello.

    Nice book, btw. I don’t frequently read your blog, the posts pile up in my Google Reader and then one day I sit down to read all of them at once, so while the name Great Bong did ring a bell, it was a very faint one. I bought it nevertheless and I’m happy it’s a good read regardless of whether I read your blog or not. 🙂

    Okay, about this post, Sonia Gandhi did become pretty powerful but stopped short of assuming PM-ship due to her origins. (I suppose though, that her rise to that kind of a power wouldn’t have been easy or even possible in many other countries. Still the backing from Congress shouldn’t be underestimated.)

  56. @Thalassa-yes, you’re right. Weaving is the most efficient option-for you. What would happen if everyone started to do that? Its like saying-No one likes to stand in line, so breaking a line is the most efficient option. If people were to be cultured as a race to be patient (which Indians are NOT), the problem would not arise in the first place.
    You also point out a very valid issue. That of enforcement. People in LA honk, or jump red lights WHEN cops are not around. That’s because enforcement is heavy. Is that the case in India?
    Honestly-given the size and diversity of India, its tough to put it together in one basket and label it as ‘something’. Priya Ramani’s article is quite biased-and stupid. However GB, at the risk of repeating what others have said-let me say this-India is tolerant-but only when Hindus are spoken against. The congress definition of secularism is appeasement of ‘minorities’. Try and write a word on your blog against some other religions and their deities, and see how fast a fatwa is issued against you.

  57. Ahh!
    Just discovered that this is not the first time Miss.Ramani has done India bashing.

    But at least in this article she says “I love India” if thats any consolation. 😛

    Very nicely written BTW!

  58. Really nice one..

  59. awesome article. quite different from your usual style

  60. Nice article GB!

    @Arun – totally agree..
    @Thalassa – you don’t make much sense!

  61. @ GB
    Nice and interesting.
    Now an article on Germany’s loss to Serbia.

  62. I really liked this Arnab.Only blog I didn’t like till the date is ur Flotilla’s incident.Still,I couldnt digest ur words in it but Ur logic and arguments are too good in this.Carry on

  63. Who is Priya Ramani? And honestly i feel we should stop feeling prickly about such losers. Regarding what will the average Yank or Brit, think, well there are Yanks who have not been out of their little county, and think California is another nation, so let us not get angsty over the impact this will have. As far as GE or IBM or Honeywell is concerned, they will keep investing in India, and Ms.Ramani’s views mean Jack to them. I guess we should deal with the world, the way the Chinese do. Lousy Human Rights? Ok so what? Tibet? Our own internal headache, none of your business, Sweatshops, Slave Labor? Yeah so stop buying at Walmart. Chinese give a jack about what the world thinks of them,do their own stuff, and if some 1 objects, they just show their middle finger.

  64. GB,
    I do not think Ms. Ramani’s peace was to be taken seriously (just like that telegraph article about Bong male). India is too vast to be stereotyped within a single newspaper article. Ms. Ramani may not understand that but apparently you do and there are better topics you could have chosen. This is like a debate on grammar in Kalidasa’s poems.
    Having said that, I found this quote strange:
    “No speech, no matter how hurtful, should be met with threats of violence or crude language.” – Do you know that freedom of speech does not cover libel? I am sure you do, but forgot in a flow. Please, allow me to expand on my “strange” attribute as well as my comment on “Rama” article in following paragraphs:

    As a part of society, one has no right to insult another human being because mutual respect and a concern for the common benefit is the binding bond of a society. When we say “insult”, what exactly do we mean? We mean, the denigration of the identity of the to-be-insulted person by accusing him directly without providing verifiable information or associating his identity with something that is established to be deplorable.
    Then, what is the nature of personal identity in a secular state? Because nation’s identity is the sum total of identity of the individual and secularism requires a detachment of religious ideolgoy from political (or policy-wise) consideration, one has to agree that an honest member of a secular state must detach religious consideration from his identity. As your example proves, it never happened with common Americans.
    In India too, such secular consideration never entered the psyche of the greater mass. One would wonder, then, why exactly no protest was registered when the consititution was changed to incorporate secualrism officially? Because secularism is marketed as a pluralistic principle and “separation of church and state”, Hindu population did not find anything to disagree since Hinduism itself is plurarlistic in nature and you can not show history of a single state under Hindu rule which tortured religious minorities. However, the religious/cultural framework created by Hinduism is deeply involved with the identity of Hindu Indians and it is difficult to disassociate them from the political identity of the average Indians.

    Rama is the form of ideal ruler to a group of people who never saw a strong or good ruler in recent history spanning multiple centuries. Rama therefore symbolizes the hope of good administration (Rama Rajya) and answer to their desperation in crude real life. So when some punk takes sadistic pleasure in insulting those symbols and hope of the greater masses who are mostly uneducated and unfamiliar with your goody-goody concept theoretical secularism that never delivered in the face of Muslim/Christian aggression, they feel a strong reason to take the responsibility of providing a response and people unfamiliar with the might of pen resort to the might of muscle.
    The article that you quote about Rama are read by mostly middle class or affluent section of the society most of whom have either an ignorant attitude of Hindu heritage or are bullied into silence by secular pseudo-intellectuals. Try pushing a single sentence like that in my village where Rama is the most revered God. So when you picture such agitated but direction-less people as “hired goons”, one actually wonder how you are different from Barkha Dutts of the media?

  65. Great article. Its sad that some people have so deep an inferiority complex that they deny their own identity – and what is worse feel proud of the fact.

    And I suppose she believes in swallowing her spit after brushing (I doubt if she uses a daatoon): “I don’t spit in public or private (except for that one time I tried a meetha paan).”

  66. Ms Ramani conveniently omits to mention the one thing that makes her more Indian than any of us commenting here: nepotism.

    With her scant talent, has none of you ever wondered how she can hang on to her job? The answer lies in asking who her husband is.

    She may nurse no other symptoms of Indian-ness but this one characteristic makes her undeniably Indian.

  67. The funny thing is, it’s a no-brainer to get away with anything that derogates Hindu ideologies and things germane to Hinduism like vomit/spit and stuff like that. Think what it would be like to say/do things far innocuous, say for example, about the “Religion of Peace”. As far as freedom of speech is concerned it’s reserved for Maoists & PSPA warlords and not for Varun Gandhi.

  68. @aylarmin
    Agree-100%. Its very nice for Congress to give freedom of speech to Maoists, or the ‘religion of peace’ as you say. but dare say something pro-Hindu-and you are labeled as a fundamentalist.
    So if I call someone a ‘shudra’, I am being Casteist, but if someone calls me a brahmin-he is not being casteist? Isn’t reservation another form of caste discrimination? similarly-isn’t Congress’s version of secularism another form of fundamentalism? In a truly secular society, religion wouldn’t even matter-either way in any discussion.

  69. Sid,

    You may want to look up the meaning of the word “libel”. If you cannot, here it is.

    “Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image.”

    Note the phrase: “that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual”.

    There is nothing here that makes a claim that is implied to be a fact. In other words, saying “Rama is a loser” does not imply “loser” as a fact. Libel would be “Rama picked Ravana’s pocket” which is a claim that purports to be fact, a fact that I will possibly not be able to prove (Truth is always the safest bet against libel).

    The bigger problem is however when you say “So when some punk takes sadistic pleasure in insulting those symbols and hope of the greater masses who are mostly uneducated and unfamiliar with your goody-goody concept theoretical secularism that never delivered in the face of Muslim/Christian aggression, they feel a strong reason to take the responsibility of providing a response and people unfamiliar with the might of pen resort to the might of muscle.”

    This is when you are recycling Arundhati rhetoric. She says exactly the same thing but substitutes “Muslim/Christian aggression” with “Indian state/corporation” aggression.

  70. C-mon GB. You got to take it well-Sid really got you there-and you respond with a dictionary definition or just recycling what he said-and finally going back to the Arundhati rhetoric? This is your blog. your space. But does not mean that you do not admit if someone scores a point over you.

  71. GB,
    The definition further states that:
    “In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images.”
    According to Merium-Webster dectionary, libel is mostly associated with written words too.

    Rama being a “loser” is not a fact, sure, but it was a written “claim” that was “expressly stated”. Thus it can not be covered by freedom of expression.

    I am not recycling Arundhati rhetoric, I am not justifying their action, I am stating the reasons why there are people who get mad when they hear about something bad about the image they revere so much.
    I do believe that when a claim against one’s religion (or belief system) is made based on twisted fact or plain lies or half-truth, one must come forward to counter it by showing the counter point-of-view without threat or ad-hominem attacks. Yet, you and I agree to this rather intellectual method of settling our differences because our education forms the background in our mind that it is wrong to threaten maker of the speech we do not like. What about those who do not have advantage of this education? I would not justify the actions, but I would avoid painting a picture of “hired goons”. Why? I am putting the reasons below:
    When supposedly educated people write trash like those “expressly stated” claims and educated as well as level-headed people like you to try to pass implicit approval in the name of “freedom of expression”, is it any wonder that uneducated, agitated and direction-less people would accept characters like Babu Bajrangi as their leaders? It is not just their shame that Babu Bajrangi is their leader, it is our shame that we, the educated and more privileged who should know better picture their desperation as “goonda-gordi”, condemn their unpolished way of questioning the secualarism and other fashions as “dirty-and-bigotic” and then watch IPL and Katrina Kaif’s dance under a waterfall completely forgetting the fact that if they are agitated there is a reason behind their anger.
    Lastly, I stayed away from insulting you in my response, please reciprocate by not comparing my response to Arundahti Roy’s paid rhetoric.

  72. Sid…(Applause)…while I am a big admirer of GB’s writing- there are times when he does go a bit overboard in taking the ‘moralistic’ stand. You put things in great perspective…

  73. So comparing your justification of violence with Arundhati Roy is an insult? I state you have insulted me by even commenting critically. So end of story right?

    I still say what you say is exactly what Ms. Roy says (quite a ring to this line–no?). This is not meant as an insult but as a simple fact. She asserts that the tribals do not have good political leaders to articulate their cause and they, being helpless innocent folk , have no other option but to take to violence. Not that she justifies violence, she claims, but she says it is the only option left for uneducated backwards to get their voices heard. She has also said, exactly like you, that if middle-class India were more sympathetic to their aspirations and India was really a democracy, then perhaps there would have been no violence. Isnt that what you too are saying, except for a different class of people?

    And by the way I totally did not understand your point about libel. So if I say “Sid is a loser” I am libeling you? If you say “yes” then I have to follow my dad’s philosophy of “Argue with someone who is half-right and stay silent when the other person is totally wrong” and not reply.

  74. At the cost of sounding unpatriotic , I enjoyed Priya Ramani’s little piece.More than anything else I read her article as a rant against how stereotyped popular depictions of “Indianess” has become.”Indianess” if any such thing really exists is best left undefined.Ramani’s article , puerile without doubt , atleast raises one important question -“Do we really need common traits to have a sense of belonging to your nation?”

  75. Read and be proud. THIS is India. Not IPL, Not Katrina-but THIS. This is the population that will vote Madam to power. This is where the next leader is coming from-

  76. @Sid-GB provides some advice for you in his last line. Please follow.

  77. GB,
    “So comparing your justification of violence with Arundhati Roy is an insult?”
    Yes, comparing my response (not justification of violence) with her writing is an insult simply because I would not accept money to write anti-national rhetoric. You are trying to paint my response ignorable by associating my response to something that is considered to be deplorable. I am neither talking about tribal, nor I have seen supposedly Hindu bigots running with guns killing random no of people every other day.
    I also fail to see how criticizing can be compared to comparing. If it is possible, you can attach “meaning-of-English-words-according-to-me” document with each post, so that I can see what I am missing.
    End of story? Sure, greatbong. Have a good weekend.

  78. Kumar,
    I just did.

  79. Shaswata Panja June 18, 2010 — 9:53 pm

    I just wish all Indians had access to sanitation…There are more people using mobile phones than bathrooms in India…At least 70-75 percent of the population perform their morning ablutions in the open..which leads to breakout of diseases..A comprhensive national sanitary project should be our top most priority after strategic defence expenditures May be the delaying of next round of salary increase for our underforming government officials might be give the necessary money to start this project

  80. Man I should say you ruffled bong a bit; I enjoyed the definitions given on society its bonding etc and was a little surprised when Mr Bong picked on some one who I dint knew that well, while most of us were awaiting a Raavan review. I will go thru the thread again as it provides answers to some questions that do trouble me but am too lazy to think for the answer;

    in the end the Ramani has done her job and can take credit like a deflected goal from a striker without any effort;

    great confidence to take the bong in his backyard & awesomely sporting on bong’s part to publish what ever has been opined (unless Sid is a preferred member of sorts and what ever he says gets published without any audit obligations)

    it’s good to see some resistance from bloggers, else most people like my flood the bong with accolades and i feel too cloned reading some praising remarks…

    hope such write up’s don’t mend the uniqueness of the bloggers perspective

  81. Shaswata Panja June 19, 2010 — 1:11 am

    I read Priya Mani’s article on saloni posted by Anon and the German article she pointed out to..I have been here in Germany quite a few years and my command on German has helped to gain an insight on German thinking on India …Basically if German want to talk about India most of them want to talk about caste system and sometimes want to give convoluted justification that even slavery is better than caste system..Nevermind that that they never have been to India and know India only from school textbooks!! The others who had been to India mostly as cheap backpackers want to talk about the beggars who jostle and heckle them….BUT their biggest gripe is that Indian girls are not easy and its extremely difficult to initiate conversation with them, diametrically opposite to girls in East Asia who throw themselves at young German men just as they land at the airport and become their girlfriends during the duration of their stay..But these days whenever a German wants to criticize India even if he is my buddy I just pick up my routine—quip in front of them—“You know what staying in India I always thought Hitler was a war hero venerated by the Germans and Father of the Nation for modern Germany just as Mahatma Gandhi is for my India”—That’s it Mamla Khatam They dare not speak about Caste system or dirt on the road or things like that the rest of the evening…

  82. @ Sashwata Panja
    Thats was so cool.

    @ Sid
    Let it go. GB has to stay politically correct. He is the one with his picture on the profile.

  83. hey nice blog….and aptly said!

  84. @Sid Saying ‘Rama is a loser’ does not come under any form of defamation primarily because it is not implying any kind of fact. I am sorry but you have not understood the meaning of defamation here. If someone makes a statement purporting it to be a fact (without providing proper source) about another person or organization such that it portrays the person/organization in a negative light, it amounts to defamation.

    Now if the dictionary definition of ‘loser’ was ‘someone who has terrible body odour’, it would be a type of defamation. Even in that case, if proof was provided of said ‘body odour’, it would cease to be defamation. As GB said, truth is the best defence against an accusation of defamation.

  85. Some Nostalgic Moments June 19, 2010 — 4:40 am

    atlast there is someone standing for what one believes in……great artcle GB……there is no shame in calling ourselves oily,smelly Indian….its the way we are…..

  86. @Thalassa:

    You forgot downtown Mogadishu, where the tanks really get in the way, or central Pyongyang, where the barbed wire is a bitch… sheesh…

    see the point is not whether other countries are worse off, the point is whether we have any reason to be proud of the actions of our countrymen…

    weaving is the best way to deal with traffic, wow… what about inching forward before the light turns green, so that you block the way of oncoming motorists? or pedestrians starting to cross the road immediately when the light turns green? or being honked at incessantly from behind when you are standing at a red light?

    but I am sure theres always a country where a situation is just a little bit worse…

  87. @Kumar: I would love to be “fundamentalist” if it does any good to my people and my land. If fundamentalism has got anything to do with eradicating the stinky weed of terrorism both homegrown and imported, if there is a law that prohibits cow slaughter, if it upholds the bliss of an Aryan society and of course, if there is a general uplift of India and Indians I don’t need to have a bleeding secular heart.

  88. @ Sid:

    calling Rama a loser is not defamation, why? because he does not exist… as you rightly said, he is an idea, a philosophy, a belief… if I say a belief is wrong or flawed or incorrect that does not make it defamation… calling Taj Mahal ugly does not mean I am defaming the Taj… defamation must necessarily relate to a “real” person…

    you believe in Rama, I insult Rama, therefore I insult you… sorry does not work… defamation has to be necessarily “personal”… so by calling Ram a loser… I may be defaming him… but not you…

    on all other points.. quoting Asimov… “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”…

  89. Agree with you.Though she does not spit outside, but took a forum to publish that and made comment in such a way that 2005 flood in Mumbai was occurred due to spitting.And she is talking about forcefully standing during national anthem,then I would love if she is not an Indian.Even Obama is criticized for not saluting during their memorial day ceremony.But she told that she does not like Indian soap, but did not clarify about “Sex and the city”.
    “Koi bhi desh mahan nehi hota hain, use banana padta hain” , so if I am a good citizen , I will try to maintain cleanliness and decency rather than giving lecture and declaring myself as a non-Indian.
    Lastly,can anybody clarify if in this football season(world cup) also Indians are still watching only cricket( though we are not within the world cup playing nation )?Does she means we don’t read novel of Sharatchandra , nobody watches news or other films.

  90. labor_day_sale June 19, 2010 — 6:46 am

    AWESOME. And the only apt adjective that can go before that praise ain’t written for the fear of moderation 🙂

  91. I find the symbolic, forced nonsense of standing in attention in a movie hall for natinal anthem puke inducing.. it might have started in Mumbai and people there may appreciate it.. dont force this kinda nonsense on others..
    The multiplexes in bangalore have started this pracrice of-late and I dont know where else do they do this nonsense.. i find this extremely insulting to our nation, its soldiers and everyone else…

    sorry… nothing Indian about it.. :(((((((

  92. on what accounts can one claim that Rama was a loser ?

    I am not debating whether he was a historical figure or not . But Rama is one of the highest ideals that one can have of a perfected being . Now we are all human beings so each concept of God will have some imperfections. The fault doesn’t lie with the absolute infinite , but it is our inability as finite minds to perceive the absolute.Rama is one such concept of God.

    The imperfections usually that are attributed to Rama is his abolishing Sita to the forest. But one often ignores the pain which he himself undergoes in doing so. Rama was striving to be a just king and the social mores of that time compelled to take that painful decision . If he really doubted Sita , why would he go to such great lengths to find her.

    C Rajagopalachari has tried to address the issues in his version of the Ramayana and I agree with him and quote what he has to say – “Let those who find faults in Rama see
    faults, and if these critics faultlessly
    pursue dharma and avoid in their own
    lives the flaws they discover in Rama, the
    bhaktas of Sri Rama will indeed welcome
    it with joy. If they exhibit the virtues of
    Rama and add to these more virtues and
    greater flawlessness, who can complain? “

  93. I am not saying that the person on whom this blog article is based is libelling by saying that Rama was a loser.
    It is an argument and I tried to provide a counter argument .

  94. Some time back, at a departmental store in Pune, an Indian lady went on and on about why she has to drive all the way from one end of the city to this other end every week – because they western food in the evening and does not get stuff like foie gras and bacon at that other end. And even the Indian food that they have in the afternoons (nothing fancy, just dal, chawal and beans you know) isn’t all that good at the other end – they are not well packed and vacuum sealed. The additional hassle is with parking a Honda Accord in the Dorabjee basement parking – but what would she do, park it out there on the road? – Indians are so callous and actually wicked – they’ll do whatever to inevitable dent her luxury sedan. Beyond that she profusely apologized to the man before her in the queue whose heel her shopping-cart’s wheel had accidentally touched – till that man almost gave her an “enough, now will you please shut up” look. It was around this time that a lady passed her by and in the rather narrow and sufficiently crowded aisle, their shoulders brushed. She turns around and tells her friend loudly why “India will never change, people have no civility here” and then says something, thankfully softly, under her breath but it doesn’t escape my trained ears. It rhymes with “bhooth” but is a letter different. I was flabbergasted.

    Completely desi by looks, she possibly doesn’t understand that a daily diet of processed red meat or animal fat is not what we our genes allow us to tolerate. I don’t know what kind of delusions some money, a western education and sheer good luck can bring to people. The real irony is that they talk about India and its people – of whom they are only ashamed if anything. I hear the same foolishly condescending tone in Priya Ramani’s diatribe. Unbelievably, these people don’t stop short of anything – having to stand up for the National Anthem, much less take pride in it, is a big pain in their bacon-puffed bottoms. Their tolerance for another Indian is zero, but they’d go drooling after a foreign guest at a club dinner wagging their tails behind them. The very perspective of the stereotypical Indian that Priya Ramani has is a western one, she is an unabashed western apologist – and she lies through her teeth when she says that white is not her favourite color of skin.

    There are many examples of societies that withstood great adversities and thrived even through trying times. The rich and the educated rubbed shoulders with the plebeians on the streets and at the battle front to build these nations. Look at Israel and look at South Korea as two examples. Unfortunately in India, the only thing that a privileged upbringing and educaction give people is snootiness. They consume off the land, but they don’t build for the land. They might be disgusted by the spitting millions, but what they do to the country is far worse.

  95. @Rags, in Israel they stand in circles at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff square in the evenings – old men, in their 60s and 70s and young ones in their teens too – hold hands, and sing HaTikva – their national song. People cry when they hear their national anthem. You know it is really not that big a deal. I have seen a 70 year old sufferer of intermediate stage Parkinson’s who has difficulty standing up more than a minute without assistance. I have seen him try hard to maintain his attention position while the song plays. He never complains, he just sings along. India is for these people – and it is also for enlightened (batti-wala) modern intelligentsia like you surely know who all, the very ones who disown her. That’s India’s inclusiveness. Honestly, if you are so disturbed by this non-sense, you should have the gumption to remain seated while the National Anthem plays – believe me, nobody would try to throw you out of the theatre and you surely wouldn’t be bothered by the few puzzled glances from the lowlives around you, would you.

  96. @Sid: Everything you said is great. Unfortunately it leads humans to abandon communications with each other. I will show you how.

    Where do you draw the line that distinguishes between an insult and a general statement? I am sure you would agree that different people draw this line of ‘what is an insult’ and ‘what is not’ differently. Of course you also know that there is a thing called short temper which makes people draw this line so that “insults” include almost every word that humans have ever uttered. Going by your logic, if no human has to make a statement which “insults” any other human, then how can we manage to talk/write/blog without insulting at least some humans?

    You mentioned secular society which respects all religions. But listening to preachings of other religion is considered an “insult” by many religions. They feel offended at the sight of other religious structures or sound of other prayers. Peace and harmony prevails when they don’t act on such ‘insults’ violently. They just don’t shout at others or use their muscle to stop the prayers or demolish the structures just because it offends them.

    There is a difference between getting insulted and reacting to it violently. Everybody gets insulted everyday but only idiots react to it violently.

  97. To all those arguing about the technicalities of insulting Rama-pls make a similar remark about another religion-and let’s see how far you get into definitionsnof ‘libel’ ‘defamation’ before you are lynched and your house is burned down. name one Hindu king from history who did not allow a multicultural society. And thereare umpteen examples of rulers from other religions known for their intolerance.

  98. And at the risk of getting moderated or being accused of taking the topic somewhere else-let me say why. True teachings of Hinduism always point inward towards you. There is no external God – Stories like the Ramayana are symbols of how no one is infallible-there is no God ideal-and the self is placed above everything else. If you really go deep-the core philosophy is that you ARE God-what you’re searching for. Therefore those who have truly internalized this belief, do not believe in denigrating other religions in any way, because everyone is seen as God-
    Most other religions however place their faith on something external. We are here-God is there-we can never get there-but he needs our protection from others. Which is why they live in perpetual insecurity of being insulted. To someone with true knowledge of Hinduism, an insult from one to another would simply be the self ‘insulting’ itself. It is all seen as ‘one’ and therefore there is no ‘you’ and no ‘me’ to insult or be insulted.

  99. Sarah Palin is an evil dingbat who thinks god opens doors but she never tried to poison gas a girls’ school as the taliban did this week in Afghanistan. . . Speaking of Muslims, it must be said in all fairness that the vast majority are law-abiding loving people who just want to be left alone to subjugate their women in peace. But I gotta tell you that civilized people don’t threaten each other; we sue each other. Threatening — that’s some old school desert shit. And I’m sorry you can’t bring that to the big city.

    . . . The Western world needs to make it clear that some things about our culture are not negotiable, and can’t change. One of them is freedom of speech. Separation of church and state is another. Not negotiable. Women are allowed to work here and you can’t beat them. Not negotiable. . . This is why our system is better. And if you don’t get that, if you still want to kill someone over a stupid cartoon, please make it Garfield.

  100. ummm…. Kumar, therefore the test for libel/ defamation is “will it get you lynched/ your house set on fire?” …. I am sorry… but what exactly is the point you are making?

  101. @Dealer-I thought I was quite clear-my point is simply this-you’re getting to discuss the matter so openly because of tolerance in the religion that is spoken about. Do this for someone else-and no one will care whether its defamation, libel-they will simply say ‘sentiments hurt’-and you’re done.
    anyways-GB-I will not say more on this

  102. About playing the national anthem before movies: This was a very standard practice after Independence. Every single movie screening began (or ended, I’m not sure) with our national anthem. For reasons unknown, this was slowly phased out sometime in the 1980s.

    The film that tried to bring this back was 1942 – A Love Story. If anyone saw 1942 in a movie theatre, they’d remember that the closing credits roll with the national anthem. And yes, everyone in the hall where I saw the film stood. No one complained. Many were old enough to remember the times when this was just part of the movie watching experience.

    In Thailand, they actually play the Royal Anthem before the screening of every film. No one complains. Every formal ceremony in the US I’ve ever attended has started with their national anthem. I bet Ms. Ramani wouldn’t have dared to have said “this sucks” and resolutely sit through the Star Spangled Banner during her US college days.

  103. Nice one !!

  104. Keep manufacturing posts out of thin air! Though unnecessary but both the pieces are enjoyable and that’s the point, no?

  105. Shaswata Panja June 19, 2010 — 4:07 pm


    Ohh Man just saw your video couldnot believe what Bill Maher said— Our culture is better than the developing world..He implied that Christianity and Judaism is a developed world’s religions and Islam is a developing world’s religion…He implied the same connections only a hardcore racist would make Developing World=Poor=Ignorant=Islam=Extremism=Terorism…And this Maher guy is supposed to be a top notch left liberal ..Just drives home Greatbong’s point he made in one article about racism that even the Western liberals are prone to make ugly racist comments and they don’t seem to be aware of it..It seems it racism for US intellectuals only of something is said against the blacks and Hispanics and not if its against Middle-East,South Asian, Central Asians and Muslims….

  106. One of your most beautiful posts. Thank you for writing this.

  107. @ Arindam :
    In Israel, they do many things which we do not do in India. I dont know whether they wipe their ass with a paper. I wash it with water. Israel as a country kils millions of people. I dont give a damn about who does what in Israel or Thailand (I dont know whether India has officially recognised Israel as a sovereign country. There may be many countries where they play national anthems in public places and people may die out of patriotism)….

    I am talking for myself..

    All that I am saying is there is a place and time for everything.. U dont need to sit inside a necesssarily elitist place like a multiplex and show off ur love for this country.. thats a load of BS.. I dont know whether ALL theatres do this.. I have seen this only in multiplexes… so, by ur argument, only patriots go to multiplexes..

    Very sorry, but thats not the way patriotism works for me. I dont consider playing national anthem inside a multiplex, where u get the entry to watch a 3rd grade masala film by paying an obscene amount, a patriotic act.

    well, what exactly r u proving by standing in attention inside a multiplex for a super slow-mo version of National Anthem ? Why cant they play the normal version ?
    What kind of a symbolic act is that ? Oh wait.. Its SYMBOLIC..

    u want to clear ur conscience.. u want to erase the guilt of paying 300+ bucks for a film in a country where more than 50% earn 1/5th of that amount by dispalying ur patriotism.. “I pay thro’ my nose for bull shit.. so what ? I am a patriot.. I love my country”.. thats a load of BS….

  108. Well, I have been watching movies in cinemas from 1980.. I have never seen this as a standard practice of 80s..
    They do play Jana Gana Mana or Vande mataram (the synthetic ARR version) in very few theatres in my native place since 1997.. I havent seen anyone standing up..

    The only time I saw people standing in the theatre was in 2009 Dec at fame cinemas @ value mall in Banagalore.. Frankly, I was shocked to see that..

    and to top it all, more than 50% of the people were wondering whats going on.. Yes, they were confused. some 10% stood up instantly..
    some of them slowly get up.. many people wonder what to do, for quite some time.. many of them are confused with that “am i supposed to stand up inside this theatre” look in their face.. some people get up hesitantly.. some attain the standing position almost towards the end of the song, (coz they dont want to be seen sitting. they too are scared of being branded as “deshdrohi”)..
    If this is hw u inculcate patriotism, tht too inside a cinema theatre, then god save this country..

    The point is – they are not unpatriotic.. they are caught unawares.. a film theatre is the last place they expect to show off their patriotism.. It tels me nothing about the country or it speople.. its as vacuous an act as a pepsi or coke campaign of “ooh aah India” (GB too writes the same)..

  109. liberalcynic/Dealer,
    Before we go any far, let us establish a few definition as it is important to know the context against which debate is attempted:
    Loser: defined as “One that fails to win” in . I am well aware of the fact that there are other meanings but this is the one that is close to popular perception of a “loser”
    Libel: “A false publication, as in writing, print, signs, or pictures, that damages a person’s reputation.” as in
    Please note, that there is a thin line between defamation and libel which is often obfuscated in the daily usage of these terms. For our discussion, I am willing to consider that thin line and only use “libel”.
    Semantic and syntactical discourse makes me sick, but I had to do this in order to avoid disambiguation.
    Now, I would leave the question whether “Rama was a person or not” open. Even prophet of Islam does not have any proof of existence ( ), but that does not stop more than billion people to heap prayers of peace (PBUH) on him. Apparently, the character Rama (as described in multiple versions of Ramayana and Ramcharit Manas) symbolizes a very respectable position in the mind of the people who call themselves follower of Dharma and are called Hindus by those who do not believe in their Dharma.
    Now, I have no issues if someone writes a book, researches relevant material and establishes him, beyond doubt, a “loser”. If such a book or article comes up, I am willing to debate on this one and willing to write another article showing the flaws of the argument, if any. Why would I do that? Because the statement with supportable evidence must be brought to light and be discussed under “freedom of expression”. When such a written statement is not supported by an acceptable fact, it becomes a claim (or a proposition as defined in logic or philosophy), a derogatory one to the person who consider the ideals of Rama to be a guiding light for his life. I am not such a person, but I know such people by hundreds. This satisfies the definition of libel as shown in the definition above.

  110. Rohith,
    Everybody gets insulted everyday but only idiots react to it violently.
    Funny. Silence and cowardice does not buy mutual respect, it buys disrespect. I do not remember any incident in history where a person was insulted and then later honored because he remained silent. Contrary to what you believe, violence and silence are not the only two ways a person have against an insulting person. The insult can be argued against in context of few established definitions (as I just did) or in context of law in public life (assuming judiciary functions at all).
    About violence, this ancient wisdom sums my viewpoint well:
    Ahimsa Paramo Dharma, Dharma himsa tathaiva cha
    Meaning:Non-violence is the ultimate dharma. So too is violence that protects non-violence.
    I think we are talking about libel here, not insult. Insult is subjective, everybody has a different idea about it. Libel, however is well defined and as I stated in my first post, libel do not come under the protection of freedom of expression. When I say a prophet of a religion in mid-east engaged a six year old kid in a sexual act, some people would feel insulted but this is not a libel because I can back that with proof (Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 5, #234).
    Then, “Going by your logic, if no human has to make a statement which “insults” any other human, then how can we manage to talk/write/blog without insulting at least some humans? – As I said, if you can write something citing Rama as a “loser” by citing proofs, I am not going to threaten you, I will come to your blog and argue using complete civil language.

  111. @Rags, Israel was just an example. The example is pertinent because like it or hate it, they have built a strong and fortified country against all odds – because of their nationalism, whatever its source be. I don’t condone the killing of Arabs or usurping their land, but that’s beside the point here – shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to see unless you want to argue on a moot point.

    The gist of your opinion is that elitism doesn’t go hand in hand with patriotism. Which was precisely the source of my grouse about a lot of wannabe-elitist Indians. You could even argue that you don’t need a national anthem at all and still remain patriotic – and I wouldn’t contest that. But as I said, why are you complaining. You have the freedom not to stand – no one will mess with you. I am just against people complaining about the practice. You don’t like it – you don’t stand up. But there might be others who don’t mind paying respect to a country whose sovereignty ensures that we are not thrown out of first-class multiplex theatres based on the colour of our skin. And to pay homage and gratitude to the nation for that before we proceed to enjoy our time isn’t a great deal for some people. You the “sitter” is not unpatriotic, but nor should the ones standing up and happily humming the tune be considered less elite, or the practice itself be ridiculed.

  112. In my post, I wrote
    Semantic and syntactical discourse makes me sick, but I had to do this in order to avoid disambiguation.
    Sorry, my bad, that should be ambiguity.

  113. I really do not want a situation where GB would start blocking me Mimi Sen style for asking too many questions 🙂
    This is regarding the comments made by Maher. I actually watched the show where he made that comment (probably Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN). What is so wrong about this sentence?
    . . . The Western world needs to make it clear that some things about our culture are not negotiable, and can’t change. One of them is freedom of speech. Separation of church and state is another. Not negotiable. Women are allowed to work here and you can’t beat them.
    Every self respecting person (except coconuts created by colonialism) believes that their own culture is superior which is the reason they stick to it. Culture or political beliefs, unlike mathematical equations or theories of physics, can not be proved to be correct or better or incorrect. It is also a belief. So why would then Maher would loose his reputation as a top-notch left-liberal? Or is the definition of left-liberal one who would hate his culture and welcome some other cultural beliefs even if the new belief system do not fit well with their traditions? What is so racist if you tell Talibans and their fellow travelers that they can not beat women in every place in the world?

  114. Haven’t read the comments above so what I write here might’ve been said earlier.

    This is the classic difference between strategic and tactical. You can sit in the US and be strategic about all macro things, while we in India are living the micro struggle. I haven’t read Priya Ramani’s article (nor do I intend to) but it seems she at least has a micro perspective to things on the ground. You seem to have it too though I haven’t read anything in a while that you wrote that made you proud of being an Indian in my recollection. Actually I did- the time when you wrote about how the rejection of Australian cricketers at IPL auctions made you feel so proud. You know, after all that has happened, cricket in India, on and off the field is so corrupt that it makes me feel WTF. You can argue how Mithun movies, vis a vis a Tarantino movie, are heavenly but that strictly is a matter of personal taste- nothing to do with nationality.

    I would like to ask your type… if you feel so strongly about India and are so nationalistic, why not stay here? You know you guys just lose the locus standii to make such comments the moment you leave the shores of the country. I dont know what you do for a living but I am sure this country can offer you some reasonable employment.

    I am sure you have solid counter arguments, but seriously unless you are on Ground Zero by choice and for good there is no point to them.

    Do not post any counters here… your fan following is much less than mine at least on this URL- it can only turn out to be a slanging match. Write to me. Lets debate. May be I am missing the point.


  115. Sorry… I meant your fan following here is much *more* than mine..

  116. my god it happens rarely that someone comes in the comment section and got so much attaintion. But ‘SID’ did that. though i odn’t agree with him on all accounts but he raise some very good points.

  117. Sid,

    Thank you for completely, “COMPLETELY” changing the definition of libel… from transforming what is a claim for legal action into some overwhelming monstrous hunting tool which justifies any action (including violence) against any statement or perceived insult, whether against a person, real or make-believe, or any belief…. WOW.

    There is a thin line of difference between libel and defamation (to remove the “obfuscation”) which is that a libelous statement “must be in writing or other form of tangible expression” (a statue, a drawing or a figure)… defamation can also be oral… in Indian law there is no concept of “libel”, defamation covers both the written and the oral aspects….

    A libel must be against a “person”- and since it is a legal concept, it must be against a “legal” person… which does not include a belief, a concept, a thought, an icon, a deity… there may be specific legal provisions dealing with such situations (for example, India has the scandalous hurting religious sentimentalities provision) but not libel…

    Your logic that people pray for an entity and therefore that entity is capable of being the subject of libel is frankly, a little silly, I can believe in Commander Zhark, he can occupy “a very respectable position” in my mind … but does that mean he is a real person and I can sue someone for libel if they say he destroyed millions of star systems… not likely…

    Belief and prayer does not, cannot elevate an entity from mythological to historical…

    You say if I have to call Rama a loser I have to prove it by researching books… umm… wrong… in New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686, the US Supreme Court held that when libel is alleged by a “public” person, the perpetrator can be sued for libel if it can be shown that he was aware that the statement is false or very likely false…*poof*… so I don’t have to prove anything… you have to prove that my “claim” was wrong… I believe Rama was a loser, you believe he was not… you cannot prove that he existed … an “opinion” is always a defense … ergo… no way a libel charge would stand…

    However, the second part of your argument is the more disturbing one… you say libel is an exception to free speech…fine… but once a libelous statement is made people can take things in their own hands and be violent or do what they want… now where did this come from?? libel is a legal claim with legal recourse… you think there has been a libel… you go to court get a remedy… thats law… that the principle of libel… to irresponsibly say that once there is a libel we can maraud the streets and kill babies is a concept totally alien to any civilized society….

  118. I have a simple question … how many of posters here live in US currently. And most importantly, are going to go back to India before they turn 40 to make ours a better country.

    Let the bashing and teeth gnashing begin.

  119. I guess there are equal number of uncouth and tolerant Indians. So how come her conclusion of identity is wrong ?

  120. After reading Ms. Ramani’s article and GBs post, and also reading the comments, I am very clear about one thing. Nobody understood the gist of her article.

    Her article is a loud protest against the absolute lawlessness tht prevails in this country. A protest against the medicority tht permeates everbody’s existence in this country. Tht needs to be seen in that perspective.

    Now, if someone says that the same lawlessness prevails in US, I beg to differ.

    1. Is the US hallmark for everything ? Is it as lalwless as in India ?

    2 weeks back, a bike guy rammed into my car. This guy plooked like a rowdy and it was clearly his mistake. He was crossing the road without even bothering to see whos travelling in the main road. he rams straight into the road and I apply a sudden break, he colides with my car, I getout and see what has happened. and he starts demanding money from me. showers abuses, kicks my car. My spouse and 2-3 family friends are there in the car. I am not physically strong and very thin. I am scared by even the faintest of the fights. This guy holds me by my short collar and throws me around. My car is seriously damaged and I AM FORCED to apologise and get out of the place. This can never happen IN US or Europe. This siutation wud prevail in all parts of this country and as years go by, this can only worsen.

    Coz, face it, India is a 3rd world country. we are ruled by agents and brokers. If u dont know someone higher up, u will never get justice. we will always remains scared of cops.

    I am not talking about global politics and abstract theories. I am a common man and I am talking about my experience on the streets.

    Now, Ms. Ramani says, why are we like this ? why cant we change ? The counter to that is definitely not what GB syas – “THEY are not as U think they are. such things occur there also”..

    The fact is such things dont occur in any developed country. Rule of law, fear of law, obeyance of law – etc are features in developed countries. Medicority may preavil in the mainstream media but people wud still have an option to switch their channels to a better one.. In India, we have nmo otpion.. all of them cpmpete on the same turf with each other..

    Well, in India , the larget selling english newspaper is TOI.. and educated elites dont have any qualms in buying tht and main their children read it.. what sdo u expect in a country like this ?

  121. GB,

    Request you to put up a comment rating system. I love the discussion here as much as your articles. But it is becoming to tough due to the increasing number of comments. A rating system would allow us to rate and read through the top rated comments.


  122. @Arindam..

    Ur arguments are not acceptable.. I, as an Indian, am required to show my respect to the national anthem by standing up in attention, when it is played.. Its not by choice but is required by law.. showing disrespect is a punishable offence.. so, ur argument of “be seated if u dont eant to egt up” isnt acceptable to me..

    U are not supposed to surprise me or test my patriotism by playing it at all irrelevant places.. tht too the synthetic-drawl-version of the national anthem..

    By insisting on playing it inside movie halls, u r insulting the song and also forcing people to insult the song… although unknowingly..
    I am sure tht nobody gives a damn about our military or soldiers when they are inside a multiplex.. this might have been a gimmick in Mumbai after the attacks of 2008..

    In Bangalore, I havent seen multiplexes like PVR doing it.. I have seen this only in fun cinemas, which is mumbai based company.. and its inside one of their halls did I witness the comedy of “national anthem in the mvoie theatre and the confused and hesitant response of people” … Maybe this thing MIGHT have some relevance in Mumbai of 2008 November.. but it has no context, relevance, importance in other parts.. Infact, it has no relevance in today’s Mumbai..

    This act is as vacouous as a talk show hosted by ‘answer-me Goswami” in Times Now.. as laughable as Shobaa De exorting tht India should fight a war with Pak.. as comical as Harsha Bhogle trying to convince tht “people in Jhopapdpattis have no access to information and hence news channels shd have
    24 hours coverage in the way they do it now..

    I am reminded of this campaign in the year 2000 by a few Bangalore MNCs on the “importance of clealiness”.. they got their employees and they all cleaned some parts of bangalore.. no no.. they didnt venture into Shivaji Nagar or KR market or some such places.. they CLEANED MG Road (as if tht lace reuqired cleaning) And then got into nasa pub and drank to their hearts content.. they think that their cleaning of MG road is a symbolic act and hence, slumdweller should clean KR market.. these “gentlemen” wont step into KR market and try to clean it..

    The mandatory national anthem inside amultiplex is on the same lines..

    Sorry dude.. symbolic acts doesnt matter.. Only real acts on the ground matter..

  123. And threaded comments feature too.

  124. @Rags, I was expecting you to say that, a lot of people are under that impression. However neither the Prevention of Insults to National Honour, 1971 Act nor the Flag Code of India 2002 Act actually mandate standing in attention to the Anthem. The 2002 Act does mandate standing in attention – when you pledge your allegiance to the National Flag – an act that mandatorily follows the National Anthem. (source: civil rights specialist)

    So be glad that you’re freed of the phantom obligation of having to stand. You could argue that not standing is tantamount to insult to national honour and could lead you to be convicted. Far from it the party trying to convict you would need to prove or at least point to prima facie evidence that your intention in remaining seated was to insult the anthem.

  125. @Rags, Whatever it is dude you have a penchant for coming up with shockers:

    “Maybe this thing MIGHT have some relevance in Mumbai of 2008 November.. but it has no context, relevance, importance in other parts.. Infact, it has no relevance in today’s Mumbai.. ”

    I had a colleague in my ex-company. From a middle class Jain family in Indore, she was the youngest of three sisters and had one younger brother. The cynosure of all eyes, this kid graduated from a prestigious management institute and joined a reputed Indian bank in Mumbai. He held a party at the Leopold Cafe on November 26, 2008 for friends and colleagues. His family could not trace him for two days and then on Friday morning (28th), they found him in a morgue, with a bullet in his neck. In another six months, the family lost the father. For these people, the relevance of that day will perhaps never change. They weren’t from Mumbai – and time wouldn’t have helped them forget what you can very easily forget.

    There was another such story, only much better known, and closer home to you. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who lost his life valiantly protecting the nation and its people (people mostly from across India and abroad) was from Bangalore.

    So the relevance of certains things aren’t really bound by time and place – not within a nation that calls itself one. Every nation has its share of nation builders who are usually few and far between and consumers – who believe the only purpose of a nation is to sustain its population with goodies – food, water, electricity, a thousand amenities and a million luxuries (like the delusion of elitism). You make them stand or take them by surprise, they really take it as a violation of their civil liberties. For such people, the need to remember past wounds and feel pained by them is as banal as having to move their asses a few inches from their comfortable seats.

  126. ^^ This sundararajan guy ^^ appears to be a spammer by all means … Please remove the post/ban him …

  127. @Saswat Panja- Your comment about Germany is very interesting. Many countries in EU are a bit xenophobic and are not as welcoming as the US. It is what it is. Plz read GBs post on Slumdog and about people trying to rationalize their perceptions and feeling uncomfortable when those perceptions are challenged. About your other comment, Bill Maher is a well known atheist and regularly abuses Christianity. In that segment, what he is trying to say is that no matter how bigoted some f-ed up C’s are, they do not resort to the same things that f-ed up M’s do. That is not picking up on M’s.
    There was a very touching article in the NYT once about a girl child in Pakistan who wanted to study, but could not as Taliban did not allow females to go to school. I am sure you would change your mind if you would have read it.

  128. Dealer,
    You may consider the following points:
    1. “libel is a legal claim with legal recourse” – Libel is not just a legal word. Libel is applicable in common debate too and it is generally not respectable as a serious debate tactic. If you (and some others) do not understand the meaning of the word “libel” in different contexts, stop embarrassing yourself in a public debate.
    2. I am not willing to take Priya Ramani or anybody else to the court. If I want that, I would not come here to write a big response, I would do that.
    3. “…defamation can also be oral…” – Defamation is oral by definition, libel is not. I am not going to talk about defamation and I only used libel with respect to the definition I put in my previous post. This is not a discussion on legality, I am not a lawyer. If you want to debate, either accept the fact that the sentence “Rama was a loser” without appropriate explanation is a libel according to the definition I put; OR you can show the flaw in my argument by either providing a new definition of libel according to you or showing me how my analysis does not derive the conclusion.
    4. “A libel must be against a “person” “ – Good. Where exactly did I say that Rama was a person and the libel was against Rama?
    You believe that Rama was not a person. I know thousands who believe exactly opposite. You also believe that you are correct in your belief. So do they. Their belief enable them to identify themselves with Rama, a libel against Rama is a libel against their very identity. Libel, here, is defined within the boundary I specified in my previous post.
    5. in New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686, the US Supreme Court held that when libel is alleged by a “public” person, the perpetrator can be sued for libel if it can be shown that he was aware that the statement is false or very likely false…*poof*… – I am not a US citizen, I do not intend to be one and I really do not give a damn on what US court said to someone about something. No US citizen or US court or US government are involved here. Stop making assumptions about me and then frame your arguments based on that assumption.

    I have tried to say this various times using various sentences, I am going to say this again and I have no reason to believe that this would be understood by fanatically liberal US-worshipping brains. If the sentence “Rama was a loser” was backed up by analysis of Ramayana and showing ample reasons to believe so, I would have criticised or appreciated the argument as applicable, but would not label the sentence as libel. It did not happen, the sentence “Rama was a loser” was put like an established fact and I would consider that a damaging publication on the identity of thousands of people.

  129. India is the only country I know as I have not stepped outside of it. But certainly I do know we are not the greatest of people and we are exasperating.
    Only PR in her article distances herself from India when letting out steam about certain aspects.

  130. The last para of Sid’s comment above appeals to me.

  131. 2Arindam : If u believe tht every movie goer in Fun cinems bangalore who reluctantly/surprisingly stand up does so n rememberance of the heroes of 27/11, dude u r so mistaken……..

    Pls get out of symbolisms and tokenisms.. if there is a uniformity in its observance, I culd understand.. some multirplexes in Mumbai started something.. they follow the sme thing in their branches in other citites.. other multiplexes based on other parts of india dont do it anywhere.. and u want me to believe tht everyone remembersw a Sandeep Unnikrishnana or a Hemant Karkare or millions of such great souls when they are about to watch a Priyadarshan or Aneez bazmee flick.. try a better joke..

  132. @ Sid: aha re…

    Your points above need no consideration…. their fallacy is self-evident, you use a word which you do not understand to advance an argument that does not exist…

    Your veneer of sophistication is wearing off and the bankruptcy of your intellect is becoming oh so evident… you end up… after so many seemingly intelligent comments… as nothing more than one of the thousands of hatred spewing, rubbish mouthing, public property destroying Bandar Sena which pollute this great country of ours….

  133. @Rags, I know by now that the point has been made. You know by now that you are not obliged to stand when the national anthem plays. We all know that you refer to 26/11 as 27/11 (but possibly still refer to 9/11 as 9/11 and not 10/11).

    And of course I did not mean any of what you’ve written – it’s your assumption. I merely mean that if, as you said, the national anthem being played in multiplexes was perhaps meaningful in Mumbai and that too in 2008 because the wounds were fresh, then it should still be meaningful and across India – because it was a crime against the country whose brunt was borne by people across the country, and it’s not something that people would forget – I mean pedestrian people like me that I can speak for and people who’ve lost someone close. I couldn’t be speaking for elites like Priya Ramani et al, could I? Enough said.

  134. =>
    “Unfortunately, we are marching fast down a path of competitive intolerance, one that will lead to us to become a mirror of Pakistan, characterized by bigotry of the worst kind.”

    Really? Care to list some specific examples/events with their dates that would conclusively prove your above point? If we are indeed marching fast, there should be an increase in the number of such events and/or their intensity over a period of time.

    I think you’re indulging in the same hyperbole here that you accuse others of.

  135. Dealer,
    Thanks, the last response enlightened me!! I found a mistake in my above logic. The mistake was my assumption that you can argue and are willing to argue on my points. Your last post showed your superior intellectual calibre to me and every other reader of this blog post.

    Thank you again and good job. A true Bengali.

  136. @ Sid

    Defamation is not oral by definition . Defamation is a general term. Slander is the oral form and libel is the written form. Anyway, the point is that even you know that in common language loser has pretty much turned into an insult and not a statement of fact. Saying, “Oh that guy is a loser” does not imply that that person has a steady record of not winning. Hence I stand by my statement that this is not a libel.

    If a lot of people believe in and worship a particular entity like Rama, there are some notional rights associated with that and hence one can probably make a defamation case if some negative statement was made against Rama without any proof whatsoever. Loser is not a negative statement of fact.

  137. Sid,

    Am actually sad that it got down to this…

    You were told you were conceptually incorrect… your response was you were correct because you CHOSE to define the concept in a particular manner… you were given arguments but you refused to be bound by them… instead you just repeated the same argument over and over again… unfortunately that does not make an argument stronger, or even relevant…

    And finally, you revealed the bigot’s ace in hand and made a slur against my community… thats where I stop responding to you… since its not worth it anymore…

    “You can drag a horse to the water/ you cannot make it drink/ I can give you all the facts/I cannot make you think…”

  138. liberalcynic,
    Cite your source. Here is mine:
    Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander
    Now, I am not blessed with a liberal thinking, therefore when I put following sentences together, I got very confused:
    …even you know that in common language loser has pretty much turned into an insult
    and then
    Loser is not a negative statement of fact.
    By transitory logic, insult is not a negative statement, then? Please try this experiment at home or outside: try to call someone a**hole and experience the positive outcomes that may follow.
    Few other points that you do not want to read (feel free to abuse if you can not answer, because a liberal has complete freedom of expression when answering to a Hindu, but apparently a Hindu does not):
    1. Because we are not discussing the evolution of languages based on the devaluation of certain words, I consider dictionary as the most authentic source if challenged in a debate. So I am not accepting the meaning of “loser” as you define.
    2. The “loser” statement was not a fact, it was a claim, expressly stated. It would have become a fact (as defined in the dictionary) if there was sufficient proof to back it up. Because there was none, it is a libel.
    3. As this relaxing weekend draws to a close, I realised why some self-professed liberals and self-appointed guards of freedom of expression are so agitated with my post. Freedom of expression is considered to be an western thought (not entirely true, but tomorrow is Monday and I want to work on weekdays instead of entering into a fresh debate). We are conditioned by the Maculite system to accept all western thoughts to be holy even when we do not understand them correctly. The stigma of psychological slavery is so strong that we also take extreme pre-caution so as not to step outside the boundary of thought as defined by former European masters. So, when that boundary is challenged by a man who attempts to defend much-reviled Hindu ideals, the audacity is not just acceptable, is not it? How dare I?
    Guess what? I will continue to challenge any attempt to denigrate my religious identity, let us see how strong is your resolve to accept other’s freedom of expression. I will revisit when I get time.
    GB, thanks for the opportunity for tolerating me this weekend. So long.

  139. Dealer,
    I saw your response when I posted my response to liberal. I already agreed to the demonstration of your superior intellect. So I have not read your response and see no reason to read anything from you in future either. Thanks.

  140. I loved reading it… everyone plant needs different nutrients and so do people from soil of there country. Its both unjust and unwise to cut trees that do not have same requirements as we have because for one it will deprive us of all flavors of food and second, if all need same things that will cause lack of those nutrients in soil.
    Celebrate diversity of India. Live and let live.
    Those who kill on name of religion are people who tell how shallow are their believes. no moral policing is needed in free world…
    Congratulations on writing such a good article.

  141. The national anthem is played in all theatres in Maharashtra before every screening. And it started much before 26/11. Link:

    I remember an occasion when I was anxious about being in time for a film and a friend of mine said, “Come on, we would be late by no more than three minutes. So it’s just the anthem we would miss!” Incidentally I also have a friend who sings, with utmost sincerity, to the tunes of the anthem every time she goes to a theatre. I have never seen anyone giving her a glance for the “symbolic” gesture. And no, 26/11 did not prompt her to do this.

    AFAIK when it was compulsory (across the country) to play the national anthem after each show some people would leave just before “The End” to avoid the anthem. The Government thought it was an insult to the anthem and stopped the practice. I would be happy if somebody proves me wrong here.

  142. I think Priya’s article was oddly weighted up against Indians. And in counter-attack, GB has very rightly outlined the scenarios that contradict / question her insights regarding identity crisis she is facing.

    I reckon the so called baby switch must have had happened 40 years ago at Breach candy hospital. Now that Priya has turned into such an intellect, she came to know of this baby switch with the help of an array of thoughts she has sprinkled in her post.

    Coming to the point – there are certain traits which are inherent depending on a person’s demographics / topography and shouldn’t be conjured to create such a futile chain series of discussions.

    While I can understand the earnestness against the politicians, what I couldn’t fathom was, why has she used many foul examples to prove the identity thing?

    Sloppy attempt to please the audiences from West!

    Better luck next time, Priya!


  143. it strange but i have noitced tht ppl like u who live outside india love india much more than ppl who have to live in india out of majboori,i guess u didnt have to stand on bus stand for 1 hour and then travel with 100 ppl in bus of 50 ppl ,poweer gone for 8 hours of 24 hours ,beggars at every traffic junction in every city of india ,and many other 1000 of things like that

    u guys live in USA takes the full benefit of faciliies provided by that gr8 country and keep writing blog how gr8 is my india ,its strange reallyu

    its my bad luck that my h1 got rejected or else i would be siting in usa and writng “how gr8 is my india”:)

  144. Shaswata Panja June 21, 2010 — 8:05 am

    @GreatBong I wanted to twitter this to you but since I donot have twitter account I am forced to write it here:

  145. Hi GB while I liked this piece of yours and agree with most of it (except maybe the SG bit – unless she did a pole dance or something on national tv the dynasty thing + manmohan desai was bound to carry her through)…I agree with some of the commentators above that Priya Ramani’s article has got more airtime than it deserves by featuring on your blog! She is a terrible journalist and sounds inane in most of her articles (this particular one I havent read)…they dont deserve to be dignified with a reply.

  146. There are 2 ways in which girls can get lots of free publicity :

    If they are seriously hot and have got the right assets, they can become a Bollywood item girl or do a photoshoot for Playboy, Penthouse, ToI photogallery etc.

    If however they are found lacking in the looks and assets department, then they need not worry. All is not lost. All they have to do is to publicly diss India in a poorly written column. This stratagem was originally pioneered by Arundhati Roy, but now has lots of wannabes like Ms Priya Ramani climbing aboard the bandwagon.

  147. @ Sid
    You are wasting your time at this point. Not worth all the effort.

  148. Rishi darling,

    Has it ever occurred to your warped Bong mind (your friend Sid has a particular liking for your lingual group—-shows how your Hindu nuttiness still lets you keep your butt raised even after he has expressed a distaste for Bongkind, but that’s another point) that you waste *our* time at the blog through your utter brilliance? I am kidding though, I love reading your comments.

    By the way I also wonder why the name “Sid”? Why does the shining Saffron knight carry a Christian id I wonder? Too uncool to say Siddharth? Or massive Dil Chahta Hai hangover?

    Please “Sid” carry on. I enjoy the way you write “This is what I consider to be libel” as if anyone cares what “you” consider to be libel, as opposed to what the legal definition is. I also enjoy how then you shout “You are a Bong” as part of your argument, a sure proof of your intellectual caliber and ability to debate.

  149. @ Anonymous

  150. Rishi darling,

    What’s the “Huh” part about? Did you not read Sid’s comments where his argument is essentially—“You are a Bong and you suck”? Or did you not just get the irony of you, despite being a Bong (that is what you professed to be once), supporting Sid? Or was that “Huh” just a moan you emit when there is action at your behind? [Did I just commit libel? Will I have Hindu vanguard Ram Sene, Shiv Sena, Bandar Sena at my door now?]

    On a serious note, I love my religion too much to see people like Rishi and Sid try to sully its tradition of acceptance and tolerance.

  151. @Sid: Do agree with you on the larger issues

  152. @ Anonymous

  153. @Sid
    Read your own source (the wikipedia article). It states very clearly that slander is verbal and libel is written.
    Also, I did not imply that the word loser while being an insult is not a negative statement. I said very clearly that the word loser is not a negative statement of fact
    You can choose to enforce the dictionary definition of loser (as one who does not win) even though common sense clearly points in the other direction. It just means that you’re being dogmatic, another clue to which is your Hindu chest-thumping even though I made no verbal attacks against Hinduism or Hindus.

  154. @ anonymous

    “Will I have Hindu vanguard Ram Sene, Shiv Sena, Bandar Sena at my door now?]

    On a serious note, I love my religion too much to see people like Rishi and Sid try to sully its tradition of acceptance and tolerance.”

    You do have a inflated sense of opinion about yourself.

    If you can proclaim that you “love” Hindu Dharma, and truely and honestly justify its tradition of tolerance(actually understanding what it means)and can go to bed with a clean conscience while thinking about it; where would there be ever the need for a wretched Rishi Khujur.

    Again, as long as you can sleep with a clear conscience.

  155. @ anonymous
    But do go back and read you unwarranted outburst against me, the past few comments while you are a bit more sober.

  156. “After all, it is possible that someone did a baby switch at Breach Candy Hospital where I was born …” Of course she isn’t Indian. She is from South Bombay, which is an entirely different country.

  157. @Rishi,
    I agree.

  158. Anonymous,
    Your “secular” credential is aptly proved when you viewed my id in the color of Christianity. My friends call me Sid, that is why I adopted the id. I am not Siddharth, I am Siddhartha and I am a bong myself. The only reason I said Dealer was a true bong because I observed that bong culture is increasingly becoming intolerant of any view that is not in line with the current fashion.

    Now whether I should call myself Sid or Siddhartha, is a question which great secular minds like you would try to decipher, but one thing is undeniable, it is lot more acceptable than “Anonymous”. stressing on words like “legal definition”, “Bandar sena” and a penchant
    for abuse makes me think that there may be a tender connection between you and Dealer.

  159. GB, waiting for Raavan review!

  160. I have a lot to say about the article you have written about but I will just say this. You have been doing a fantastic job these past few posts. I wanted to tell about this when I attended your book launch. You have a greater responsibility. Your opinion is important for your readers. Keep up the good work.

  161. @ Sid,

    ” … because I observed that bong culture is increasingly becoming intolerant of any view that is not in line with the current fashion.”

    Sad but true. I have lived away from bong land and any form of Bangali fraternity for a good eight years, but I thought so even eight years back and before.

  162. I completely agree with you. India has many faces. You could see the things that Priya mentions back to back on the same day, come home and write a furious article denying your identity. On the other hand, you could see a resounding positive Indianness on others. The balance is, like you said, in accepting both. This is true for all nations. Irrespective of their wealth, cultural heritage or progress.
    I also like your take on politicians in India. 🙂

  163. Sid… you honestly think I need to assume an anonymous identity to kick your butt? nah… i can do it well enough under my own name 🙂

  164. To Sid,

    You said libel (defamation) “must be against a “person” etc and that truth is a defense. Well truth may not be an absolute defense, but that is a pedantic point. However, I believe the new IT laws of India have been designed to clamp down heavily on expression as compared to the original common law definitions whenever a computer or computer network is involved. It certainly anticipates higher levels of citizen involvement in public affairs which is seen in all developed countries. The new Indian IT Act Section 66 steps beyond the common law provisions to cover words “causing annoyance, inconvenience” etc. These are further qualified with adjectives “known to be false”, adverb “persistently” etc but the point is that when criminal defamation is prosecuted, the process itself is the punishment and it has a chilling effect. For one of the first few uses (in my opinion, abuses) of this can be seen in this arrest: and further commentary at because this seems to be either whistle-blower persecution or some other way of settling scores through abuse of powers. This is to be watched, as it will also answer some questions about whether making an opinionated remark about a retired Judges is somehow specially actionable, that is, whether even retired Judges are “above the law” so to speak (for want of a better way to put it).

    In summary, my point is that, when much of the civilized world is scrapping criminal defamation laws ( – United Kingdom: Defamation Decriminalised) the new Indian IT Act and general “hyper sensitivity” in our culture will push India in the reverse direction.

  165. Dear Dealer:

    Agree with most of your points, except one about where burden of proof rests in libel. I believe Common Law and U.S. Law diverge in this aspect.

    The burden of proving the falsehood of the statement is on the plaintiff, in the U.S. case (and I believe only there). In Common Law which the British injected into India, the burden of proving the truth is on the speaker, and this can be quite burdensome actually ! Comments ?

  166. As a member of a religious minority community , its bugs me to hear pride in the acceptance of our religious minorities .It makes me feel like I’ve to be grateful for being accepted .Specially when my parents were born here and their parents and on and on and on way before we could call this country a country , and all the things that could make me as constitutionally Indian as the next person.

    If we take pride in religious equality , equality between sexes , it implies that we believe that we are acting over and above what we ‘actually’ feel is right and acceptable human behavior.

    I think we need to take pride in contributions made by our country in industry , arts and sciences or whichever avenues human progress is quantifiable , not things we didn’t do , crimes we did not commit and so on and so forth.

  167. @Sid: Sir, that last generalization was so uncalled for.

  168. Dear Mr. 2sid
    I would have appreciated if you read what I wrote before you write a lengthy comment advising me about common law and US constitution. Please note,
    “I am not willing to take Priya Ramani or anybody else to the court. If I want that, I would not come here to write a big response, I would do that.”

    It is ridiculous that I need to take Priya Ramani or anybody else to court when all I did is to register a simple protest by saying that my objection stands because an act of abuse does not come under the guarantee of free speech. It continues to surprise me how ignorant self-appointed guards of freedom of expression are !!! Free speech, even before first amendment arrived or ideals of french revolution were developed, existed in the philosophical traditions of Greece, parts of India and China. And abuse of or hate speeches were not even guaranteed then and not guaranteed now. Here is a Europe-centric historical view of history of free speech:

    The beauty of the first amendment was that it attached a philosophical tradition to a political system and freedom of expression arrived, legally.

    Mr. Abhishek,
    Look at my above explanation, read all of my other responses in this thread and look at the responses to them. People repeatedly advised me about common law, US constitution (but nothing on Indian constitution which also guarantees it) and demand that I need to ignore dictionary, take the meaning as they define it in their response. Almost all of these “debaters” (in the most relaxing sense of the term) are Bengalis. When they run out of arguments, they adopt plain abuse. After all this, do you seriously believe that my observation does not stand?

  169. Arnab Da, how about writing an entry about the general Mcchrystal fiasco ?

  170. loved ur article, great bong…and with my heads held high,i can proudly say that i am an Indian!and u were right about our tolerance level…no other country has that ability i guess…and i remember Mr Kalam giving a fitting reply to a question on why India was always under a foreign rule….Mr Kalam had replied with something like this,”that describes our greatness..many countries have tried to invade us..but we,Indians,never tried to invade others to snatch their peace”…i was quite struck by these words and found them very true…even today,Pakistan constantly keeps on violating the border rules..but not our country…so I am proud to be an Indian!

  171. screw her guys. no one even knew this priya bevdi till she wrote this piece of shit article.
    its obvious –
    1. she has no writing skills.
    2. desperate for attention.
    3. wants to please the pseudo intellectual fakirs like arundhati.
    4. was rejected by danny boyle for the screenplay of slumdog.

  172. Does all this even matter as long as we succeed.

    the same people who detest themselves on being called indians will trace they’re roots back.

    this is life!!
    Success is relative, the more the success the more the relatives 😛

    FYI: i love “jan gan mana” before the reminds us of our duties to our nation.

  173. Some of you may find this helpful (and it goes without saying that many others may not). I won’t say anything about the article or who ought to read it cos, well, it speaks for itself. Nationalism of Cerebral Tissue — diagnosis, treatment and prevention:


  175. all the talk of pseudo – crap apart….i am genuinely surprised that Bina Ramani is still unscathed and walking around happily after her comments about Shri Rama…should be interesting

  176. Very well put and a balanced view. When it comes to Priya Ramani, I believe most readers took offence to the self importance evident in her writing, rather than the issues raised by her. It came across as trying to distance herself from everything that might be wrong in India, and on top of that using some innocent stereotypes as if they are crimes.

  177. Can’t agree enough! Bang on! Good work!:)

  178. Jayanta – Do not post any counters here… your fan following is much more than mine at least on this URL- it can only turn out to be a slanging match. Write to me. Lets debate. May be I am missing the point.

    Wonder what your reply was;

    I am also a little amused at Sids penchant of getting dictionary/legal meaning of the terms and building up a case, though we cant deny the profundity in his perspective when he drifts away from the quoting definition mode; write a couple more books Mr. bong you’ll be lot more popular and have an equal number of impersonators and detractors and from a blog hold name you’ll be a household name..

  179. absolutely fantastic post

  180. Dude,
    This ain’t your best. I am sure you realized it after you poured it out.. Not particularly consistent and does not counter that “depressed” females vitriol..

  181. you are truly awesome!!! by the way, does Priya Ramani know about this article? think this can be emailed to her on

  182. >>>” No speech, no matter how hurtful, should be met with threats of violence or crude language.”

    That means person A can talk hurtful words but person B should not respond with crude language.
    The victim should not hit back.

    Was it Macaulay that taught you this ?

    >>>>”When I say I am proud of being an Indian, I mean I am proud of its culture of plurality and its intrinsic tolerance of contrarianism”

    Did it ever occur to you that this “culture of plurality and its intrinsic tolerance of contrarianism” did not arise in vaccuum ?

  183. cheesy… flawed and too emotional to manifest any shred of an intelligent thinking

  184. I have strong reasons to believe that Priya Ramani’s piece is much inspired by Manu Joseph’s damning article in the New York Times. However, she deliberately made it look personal.

    I would term the piece as a ‘load of total crap’.

    And, you are very right in what you wrote here.

  185. Hi GB,

    Am a bit late in reading and commenting on this post. But I agree completely with what you say. And though, as you say, India is intrinsically tolerant (and I live in India), I can’t tolerate this sort of B***S*** from people like Priya Ramani. I cannot be tolerant of her. If she has this much problem with living in India, then she should leave. Since she loves the US so much, why doesn’t she just get lost there. And hope she faces the tolerance (read it as racism) there. We don’t need her stupidity (which she thinks is her intelligence – and maybe so does Mint) in India.

  186. Nice article. Seriously, you need not have responded to such a poorly written self-loathing propaganda piece. It doesn’t warrant such a well-written objective response.

    speaking of rebuttals, I loved your rebuttal to Joel Olstein’s op-ed in the Time magazine. I read it a while ago and I’m unable to find it in your archives. Now that was something that was immediately needed. I was glad that so many Indian authors responded in a clear headed way instead of becoming over-emotional.

    About the Sonia Gandhi/Bobby Jindal issue I agree with you and Junaid too. She is in such a secure position in the INdian power structure because of the last name and her fat swiss account more than the other factors. But then, the Indian hospitality being exploited by the congress party, Catholic church and western countries is also a major factor at play. They couldn’t have put her there if INdians had learned weatern-style xenophobia. But then if we were as violently xenophobic as them, they would have exploited us in other ways and turned us into another banana republic like Pakistan.
    Anyways, Once you come to America and open your eyes you can see how deep-rooted their close-mindedness is. It is reflected in western media. Its as if the anchors are apologizing to their viewers for having to listen to and look at guests from other cultures and backgrounds. Don’t even start about brown characters in hollywood movies and TV shows.

    I read the original Ramani’s article after I saw this blog. It is just unbelievably sophomoric. Once I had to endure a stand-up comedy in an Indian Diwali party. A 11 year old girl was making fun of India “slumdog millionaire” style and her family members were applauding with tears in their eyes to see a budding Russel Peters in their family! She ranted about every bullet point covered by Ramani, namely cricket, Hindu gods, Yoga, bollywood. Ramani seems to be inspired by that material, She definitely sounds as immature as that 11 year old.

    Sorry about the lengthy reply.

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