Patriotism And The NRI

[This was published in Yahoo’s India@64. Original link here]

NRIs are unpatriotic.

Having stayed outside the country for many years (twelve and counting), I have heard this and its variations many times. If you are an NRI, chances are you have too. In some form or the other.

Let’s look at the first sentence, shall we?

We know what an NRI is. Kind of.

But what is unpatriotic?

To me there are two kinds of patriotism—-Type A wherein people paint the tricolor on their faces, scream “Jeetega bhai jeetega India jeetega” at cricket matches, get all misty-eyed at “Mere Watan Ke Logon” and click “Like” on the  “I hate those who hate India” page on Facebook. Then there is Type B, the ones who actually do something for the benefit of Indians, over and above the call of duty.

From my personal experience, I can say that the average NRI, in the US at least, is actually more aggressively Type A than their homeland cousins. So by the Type A definition, their patriotism is next to none. This is in many ways natural. In the US, where I stay, a first-generation Indian (the only type who may reasonably be expected to be “patriotic”) despite his best efforts, can never be white. Nor can he be black. Which is why, no matter what his immigration status be in the eyes of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, he will never be American. Definitely not as American as apple pie. Or as Tupac.

It’s not just the color of his skin that detaches the first-generation NRI from the American identity. It is the reality of his upbringing, the very fact that he grew up in India watching “Hum Log” and “Buniyaad” instead of “Gilligan’s Island” and “Addam’s Family”.

No matter how much he reads up on the rules of baseball so that he may do small-chat with his American colleagues, a baseball game will never conjure up for him images of walking in to the stadium holding dad’s arm and eating  hot-dogs at the concession stand. Which is why he will never truly be as emotional over the game as a true-blue. In addition, the almost prevalent ignorance about his country of origin (“Do you guys really drink cow piss?”, “Do you people have modern toilets?” “Would you be allowed to eat with a person of a lower caste?”) in his immediate social context, an ignorance strengthened by simplistic poverty-porn like “Slumdog Millionaire” that defines India in popular culture, makes the average NRI even more conscious of his roots. It makes him that much more protective of his Indian identity, sometimes to the point of being aggressive. Of course this pent-up aggression cannot be given vent to when boss does his best Simpsons-Apu “Thank you come again” accent.

At that time, he needs to smile (else he will be considered “not a sport”). But the anger does need out, else he will burst. Some give in to gratuitous self-flagellation in the hope that he can get rid of the brown tag. But most react to the incessant cultural push by becoming even more “Indian”. This strengthening of  identity is manifested through regular attendance at India Association meetings every weekend, threats to cut off junior’s allowance if he/she does not attend “Indian cultural workshops” and ceaseless trolling of anyone who thinks “Rang De Basanti”‘s vision of redemptive justice rather disturbing.

One would say of course that when an NRI is accused of being “unpatriotic”, it is in the Type B sense. In other words, jingoistic as he be, he does not do anything for the country. Since this accusation comes primarily from non-NRIs, the assumption is clear “The person who stays in India, by the very act of staying, does more for  the country than the NRI. ”

Whenever I have asked “How is the homeland Indian more patriotic by definition?”, the answer I get, most often, is ” We pay taxes to the Indian nation.”

My counter to that is “You pay taxes, because you have to.” You pay only the amount the law dictates, taking advantage of every opportunity for deductions.

Nothing wrong in that of course.

What however is “not on” is when this kind of altruism-out-of-compulsion is presented  as an act of patriotism, as if one had any choice to do otherwise. If there is someone out there who is paying more tax than he is legally obliged to pay then yes, that person is definitely “patriotic”. But can we agree that if such people do exist in this world, they are the exceptions rather than the rule? And that there is nothing that prevents a NRI, if he be so inclined, from sending an envelope stuffed with cash to the Indian exchequer.

Is that likely?


But then neither is the hypothetical homeland Indian who overpays tax intentionally.

The other argument I hear is: ” By staying in India, the homeland Indian works for companies that operate locally. Thus his brain is put to the service of the nation.”  Another closely related argument is that  “The homeland Indian  buys “Indian goods”, thus facilitating the flow of service and goods in the Indian economy.”

I have two problems with this.

One is that in today’s globalized economy, how is working for Indian company Wiprosys more “patriotic” than working for US company Microgle, when most likely the project you are working at Wiprosys is actually doing contract work for Microgle? Who is benefiting from your brain? The answer—the world.

As for spending money in India, whose economy do you think is benefited by the iPad or the Motorola phone you bought in Delhi or Bangalore? The answer—–the world’s.

I also fail to see the patriotism in providing a service and getting paid for it.

The only exception to this are people of the armed forces; their patriotism is beyond question. Why?
Because their calling carries with it the threat of death and serious injury and the salaries they receive do not compensate for that possibility—-it needs a special kind of person to be ready to make the supreme sacrifice and on the nobility of that, there can be no dispute.

And as for contributing to the economy, if we are going to be splitting hairs, I can say that the NRI also spends on their annual visits to the homeland. Spends quite a bit I can say from personal experience. Many send money back and buy property in India, thus oiling the wheels of the economy almost as well as the homelander. Again that he does so is driven by his personal interest and not from an inherent desire to go good for the country. Same then for the non-NRIs.

And if we are looking for true Type B patriots, you will find them outside the country as well as inside. And I am not just talking about the many who press a button and send a cheque to an Indian charity. Not that that in itself is not significant. I am talking about those NRIs who put in labor, taking time out from their jobs and their research, so that things may be better in India. I am talking about those running in marathons to raise money for Indian causes, those volunteering resources for organizing fund-raising events, those who take out time from the 2 weeks they get to go to India to trek to the backwaters and check on projects that are being supported, those who are working to supplement the Indian government’s meager lobbying efforts on Capitol Hills using their own resources. And many others.

Are there self-loathing, “India sucks” type here abroad? You bet there are. But for each one of them, I can show you one homelander who feels the exact same way. And for every NRI who does nothing for the country, you will definitely find one homelander who does exactly that.

In today’s globalized world, in which where one stays and works is merely an accident of convenience and opportunity, belittling someone’s love for their country and their contribution to it, purely on the basis of where they live, is intellectual laziness at the best.

And a  sneering “I am better than you” at the worst.

224 thoughts on “Patriotism And The NRI

  1. aah…populist agenda man with 15th Aug approcahing

  2. What does paying taxes have to do with patriotism anyway? Taxes go to the government. Even if one ignores that the Indian government belongs to the criminals and the corrupt, the fact remains the government is not the nation.

  3. Need I tell you its perfectly written 🙂 Super-Like and I actually became a bit sentimental too 🙂

  4. Very well written. I can now see other points of view on this matter. I’m surprised though that your movie reviews get more comments than something like this.

  5. “The only exception to this are people of the armed forces; their patriotism is beyond question. Why?
    Because their calling carries with it the threat of death and serious injury and the salaries they receive do not compensate for that possibility—-it needs a special kind of person to be ready to make the supreme sacrifice and on the nobility of that, there can be no dispute.”

    That is heights of naivete. In most cases, you will find that a job in the armed forces is the best they could get in risk/reward terms and that is the reason they took up the job. There is risk of death in any job you do. If my job requires me to travel abroad every quarter, it increases my risk of death. But I still do it, because I consider the reward worth taking the risk. So it is for the “noble” people of the armed forces.

  6. Mohan,

    That is quite simply the most “WTF” comment you have ever made. And that’s saying a lot. Your journey from Bangalore to Mumbai is as risky as a man patrolling the Siachen? Or manning a street corner in Kashmir? Rather an exaggerated sense of bravery you have.

  7. And irrespective of whether homelanders contribute more to the country than NRIs, there is one point which cannot be disputed – in majority of the cases, the NRIs definitely must have felt that “phoren” is a better place than India to live in. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble of migrating in the first place. Whereas, those homelanders who stayed back despite having an opportunity to go abroad felt the exact opposite. So at least in that aspect, there is a crucial difference in how the two sets view India. (Not saying who is right/wrong, but there is a difference)

    1. They keypoint here is “those homelanders who stayed back despite having an opportunity to go abroad”

      Since I see/hear everyday people crying to come to “phoren” places. I don’t see many who actually “have the opportunity but stayed back” unless they have a GF who wants that of course…..vice versa is true too 😉

      And still “phoren” people despite having chances to work for much higher salary in “phoren” places when actively try to get a same position in their job in the very few handful labs in India succeed (agreeing to much lower salary, just because they want to be in India). They are called fools or called “surely he didn’t get something there” 😛


  8. gb, you misunderstand. I didn’t equate the two risks. Just said that travelling overseas increases my risk of death, but I still do it because it is worth the reward. And the same applies to armed forces.

  9. Excellent post Arnab – having lived in DC and now having moved back to India can totally relate to it.

  10. Agree with you Arnab – Mohan is a jerk @)&^%

  11. I was derided in much similar fashion by my neighbours and relatives for coming to study in states. It seems by getting an engineering degree in India, u are supposed to work in India and if u have to advance ur degree, it shud be in India.

  12. GB, I don’t know which category I fit in, but living in US has made a huge change in perspective for me. As in, i feel like a global citizen. We have many presumptions about life in US before landing. But in 4 years, I have actually discovered that life more or less is the same. There are same insecurities. Retired US citizen don’t have to depend on their children, they have social security. But there are so many things that are so much same. So many who come from broken families have problems. Once you get close to someone, you realize we are much more tough mentally and psychologically. They are just regular people like those from India, Europe, Africa or elsewhere.

    The dividing line of ‘Us ‘and ‘Them’ is vanishing slowly.

    ‘Gori’ = beautiful complex is gone. I can now see beauty all around me when I visit India.

    I say ‘thank you’ to Rickshaw drivers and put a smile on their face.

    We don’t litter anymore. Whether we are in US or Mumbai.

    I have decided that when we move back to India, and I get a maid for housework, I will give her Sundays off.

    Don’t these things count even if I don’t get teary eyed over ‘mere watan ke logon’?

  13. @GB, I have to agree with Mohan on this point. Travel in India is more fraught with risk than serving in the Armed Forces.Every day, more than a 100 people die on Mumbai roads/trains. Can the Forces match this? Forget the forces, an ordinary traffic havaldar puts his life in jeopardy each time he’s on the job.

  14. Great Bong, I want to request you to write something on following topics:

    1) Delhi Belly-the movie 2) Anna Hazare movement (pros and cons).

    I hope you find time in you schedule to write about the above two things. If you have already written something on them, can you post the link in reply to this request of that article on your blog website.

  15. An Average Joe, You forget, oh brave human, that the Armed Forces also travel on roads/trains and are exposed to the same “normal” risks as you. Plus they fights terrorists, enemy soldiers and run rescue missions in disaster zones.

    And Harshal,

  16. ‘Immigration’ for one reason or the other goes way back in humanity. Europeans had no reason to colonize distant countries if not for the wealth of those countries. Spices, supposedly in India. They occupied whole of North America and Australia while destroying colonies of natives.
    I see the same happening in reverse now. Asians migrate to western countries in search of ‘better standard of life.’ Lot of people think we are here for money. And I always like to say to them, we are NOT earning hordes in USA. If we earn in dollars, we spend in dollars. How many in India have rented a truck, loaded it themselves, driven for miles, unloaded all the furniture and heave stuff to a new house and set up the new house? We never did in India. We did not know how much hard work it is to carry heavy boxes up two flights of stairs.

    How is it patriotic? May be not. But now appreciate anyone doing manual labor and not take him/ her for granted.

    Back in India, we put our garbage can by the door every morning. Someone cleared it for us and sweeped the floor. We did not care to give a second look.
    A maid came over and swept and mopped floors, did laundry, did the dishes. We did not care if she is being overworked. And cut 10Rs from her pay at the end of the month for one reason or the other. Lot of people don’t even pay them on time.
    We called up the grocery store with a list. They sent over a 9 year old kid import from Rajasthan. We grabbed the stuff from him and closed the door on his face.
    We had complete disregard for fellow drivers and pedestrians on the street.
    We honked like it was our birthright.
    We let our children be a victim of cut-throat competition at school and never appreciated them as people.
    We were too lazy to go get a litre of milk everyday. We PAID the milk-guy, yes. But we never appreciated that he gets up super early every morning, climbs thousands of stairs and delivers milk. We never thought of him while sipping tea every morning.

    This was me 4 years back. Living in US has opened my eyes to so many injustices we unknowingly do to our own countrymen. It would be more patriotic to work on mutual respect for each other rather than listening to patriotic songs and painting a tricolor on our faces.

    Disclaimer – No offence meant to anyone.

  17. I’m a secondgen Indian, so I’m not really expected to be a patriotric Indian. I also grew up in Europe, but later on moved to the US. I’ve always been confused by the question if I “love” my country, whether it is Sweden, India or the US they have in their mind. This question always implies the Type A form of patriotism, I mean there are tons of bad and good things to say about any country, especially a vast and diverse country such as India. How could someone claim an unconditional love.

    The Type A patriots. generally are those who would complain about the corruption and lack of moral character within in the Indian society as some form of class snobbism, in which they claim I am better than the average person around me. They see life as a pissing contest.

    The type B form of patriots are those who feel an obligation towards their community.

    Self loathers btw, is a sign of democracy and progress. I may not agree with them, and most often I don’t. But the very fact that people like Michael Moore and Arundhati Roy exists and are allowed to take place in respective country’s discourse is a tribute to both USA and India.

    Personally, even though I’m a sport jock, I’ve always had a hard time supporting the national team of the respective countries I have been living in. Because few thing annoy me as much as jingoism, and Indian jingoism around cricket is especially annoying. That is why I’m watching Indian complete collapse in England with some amusement. The team I support in cricket is West Indies, as an immigrant in Europe you are always the underdog (much more so than in US), and Windies are the underdogs.

  18. Mohan,

    Dude you have no idea. WTF indeed!

  19. Although I found Mohan’s first comment the epitome of WTFness, his second comment made absolute sense.

  20. You make a valid point GB. The latest twist this NRI bashing has taken is, “Now everyone is returning to India. They understand how futile it is to live there. India is great!”

    At the end of the day, as NRIs, only we know how much we do for India. And justifying it to someone who simply will not listen is pointless.

  21. Why is the defense necessary at all, GB? I mean, let people call you unpatriotic – why should you let that bother you, mate?

    USA has usually been good to me. You see, whenever I’ve been to USA, I’ve always had the feeling that this is temporary, and I shall be going back soon. Like a vacation. It was never MY country. Mind you, I don’t crave for desi food, I’m terribly unsocial and I hardly participate in festivals. But then, you can own multiple houses, but home is where you belong, isn’t it?

    Just my two cents. Er, paise.

  22. GB, I will refrain from replying in the same ‘sarcastic’ vein. Your posts are personal to you, the comments are public. Please bear this in mind.
    Coming back to the topic, it seems you haven’t been in touch with the reality here. The armed forces, when they travel, do so in special trains/bogies/vehicles. Please google commuting in Mumbai.

  23. An Average Joe,

    Oh really? How come I (and many others) have shared space with Army jawans and officers on trains? Over and above every risk faced by normal Indians, they face risks of the type one may not even conceive. Captain Kalia—wonder how many “civilians” are facing that fate on their daily commute?

  24. I state once more, GB, that the risks an ordinary commuter faces are much much more. Tell me in all truthfulness, have you commuted by a Mumbai local in the rush hour? Every day for 2 years? You might have made a journey on a Rajdhani, with a couple of Jawans standing at the door. That does not qualify you to make a sweeping statement. Not unless you see the ground realities day-in and day-out.
    And yes, I was an “NRI” for 28 years.

  25. An Average Joe, I have lived in India for 23 years commuting in commuter buses/autos/trains. Once I was involved in a road accident involving two public buses where my life was saved by the good fortune of falling between dead bodies. Since you do not know me, do not claim to assume my “ground realities” Oh Mr. Average Joe, NRI for 28 years?

    Even then the risks of a jawan far exceed than what I ever faced.

  26. And we don’t even have to talk about ordinary commuters. Given the high death rate on our highways, all those drivers of buses, trucks, matadors, etc face a high risk of death driving on those highways day and night everyday. Are they all driven by the nobility of their profession which allows them to take people from one place to another? Or, do they just do it because that is the best way they could find of feeding their families? What about high-rise construction laborers who have to work hundreds of meters up in the air without any safety net. Seems a pretty risky profession to me. Again, are they driven by the selfless desire to provide housing for the middle classes?

    Point is, risk of death on the job is a continuum and everyone chooses his/her acceptable risk level based on their circumstances.

  27. GB, your latest riposte fortifies what I have been trying to express.
    Yes. 4 years in London, 14 in Dubai and 10 in Toronto. 🙂

  28. An Average Joe,

    And still I believe I never faced any of the risks a Jawan faces. Who faces everything I do and still faces more. Now got my point?

  29. Sorry, GB. I still don’t get the point. I guess I never will, so I bow out from this debate gracefully. You are talking about ’65, ’71…..Kargil?. Not today. To each his own. 30 times more people die every month in commuting in Mumbai alone than all the soldiers involved in Kargil. Both sides. Not to demean their patriotism.


  30. “30 times more people die every month in commuting in Mumbai alone than all the soldiers involved in Kargil”.

    That’s because the number of people commuting in Mumbai on any given day is many many more than thirty times (assuming your number is right) that on the Kargil front-lines. Which means the probability of dying/getting injured in Kargil is more than in a commute. And my point is that among the people commuting in Mumbai are off-duty Jawans too.

  31. Gb: while I completely agree with you, I think your assessment of the two kinds of nri’s is a bit simplistic. There is no “typical” nri or nri mentality, and they come in all shades of patriotism or patriotic fervour. However I can also see the point you are trying to make, and as a result why you might want to focus on these two prominent groups. To generalise so broadly may not be the right thing to do in most cases.
    Unfortunately, mohan is also making the same mistake, more seriously so, when he makes a sweeping generalisation about most nris going abroad just for a better standard of living, or for that matter that many who don’t right refuse to go because they are by some idiotic measure more patriotic.

  32. And of course, the argument “you pay tax only because you have to” doesn’t hold. Point is, both sets had the option to choose which govt to pay tax to, one chose to go to USA and pay tax to Uncle Sam whereas the other chose to stay back and pay that tax to the GoI. So if a homelander says “we pay tax here”, he doesn’t mean he is doing something that he is not required to do, but that he chose to do it here rather than there.

  33. @Mohan

    You make an error in equating your risk/reward calculus to that of the risk/reward calculus of a soldier. Death is not an occupational hazard for you (if you think it does then that is essentially equivalent to believing that death is a side-effect of birth), your superior cannot order you to undertake an activity in which the risk of death is great. In fact if s/he does then you can resign from your job and look for other jobs. You are not expected to sacrifice your life for greater profits for your employer.

    For a soldier death is an occupational hazard, it is part of the job. A soldier is expected to die in service of their country. If a superior commands you to go on a suicide mission you do so. If you disobey or commit mutiny you will not only lose your job but will also be court-martialed for disobedience, mutiny, and/or desertion leading to imprisonment and even death in certain cases.

    If however your company does execute/imprison its employees who do not follow its orders (rather than just firing them, then you have my apologies).

    And one more thing, there may be some truth when you say that “you will find that a job in the armed forces is the best they could get in risk/reward terms and that is the reason they took up the job.” But are you willing to extend that to saying that there is NOT a single soldier who enlists out of patriotism and love for the country?

  34. @Mohan

    “Point is, both sets had the option to choose which govt to pay tax to”

    Actually you don’t. Generally you pay taxes in two jurisdictions —

    (in this example only income taxes are considered)

    1. The jurisdiction where you earn the income on which the tax is levied, and

    2. The jurisdiction where you live.

    So an NRI who lives in the US and has income in India (investments, income from rental property) pays taxes on the income generated in India to the Govt. of India.

    Generally nobody makes a decision to go to a country because they want to pay taxes in that country. E.g. An Indian goes to the US not because s/he wants to pay taxes to Uncle Sam but because s/he has the opportunity to pursue a better career (this argument breaks down for tax exiles cf. Lewis Hamilton and Switzerland, but then again the US is hardly a tax haven, is it now? In fact in India the marginal income tax rate is ~ 34% while in the US is it 35%).

  35. @Polevaulter,

    Yes, inability to pull out of certain-death situations is one way a soldier’s job is different from other jobs, but I don’t know if it alters the a priori risk of death to a great extent. The fact that they can pull out of the job when they know death is certain is of little comfort to a matador driver/construction worker/miner etc when they can’t predict when death will strike them. So, in the case of soldiers, we can consider the chance of getting into a certain-death situation itself of risk of death and then compare it to similar risk of death for other professions and then see whether soldiers are taking a greater risk especially when you factor in the handsome way government rewards the families of soldiers who die in action (

    I am not saying there is NOT a single soldier who enlists out of patriotism. But I don’t think that is true of the majority. Actually, I believe it is truer in the case of officers – they usually have pretty good education and can make a career elsewhere if they want to, some of them would have lost close family members earlier (a brother or a father) and still decide to join the army. But I don’t think they form the majority. Certainly in the case of most jawans, where the risk of death is higher, it is a pure risk/reward calculation. They believe joining the army provides the best way of making sure their family is set up for life.

  36. I find the whole concept of patriotism a little juvenile. After all, why am I obligated to love a place which I had little say in choosing. I didn’t ask to be born in India, why am I expected to be patriotic in the first place really? If anything, I should feel more patriotic towards US where I live now because that was my conscious decision to reside here. I don’t buy the argument that I have used India’s resources and thereby automatically expected to be patriotic. I have (and my dad has) paid taxes that were asked of me. So, there is no favor handed to us. It’s just a business transaction. I believe patriotism the feeling people get that their country is greatest for the sole reason that they are born in it. I like certain things about India, but I loathe a lot of things about it. Does it make me patriotic? may be not, but I don’t really give a rat’s ass about it.

  37. @Mohan

    I understand your contention that the risk of death is priced in.

    However the matador driver/construction worker/miner does not sign up to die for their employer. They may know there is a risk of death but they are not expected to die in the course of their job. Soldiers on the other hand are expected to die.

    As for a priori risk of death how do you explain the actions at Tiger Hill? The Indian soldiers knew that the risk of death was extremely high, despite that they went ahead. What do you think is more terrifying? Doing an activity where you know the probability of death is extremely high or doing an activity where death is not in the picture?

    One can argue that the psychological danger of death for the matador driver/construction worker/miner is low since they cannot predict when death will strike them. But for a soldier it is high. That is why soldiers have been diagnosed with PTSD even while unscathed because of this psychological risk they live under, especially when they see their comrades die all the time.

    Atleast I have convinced you of the patriotism of the officer class. For the non-officer class (since they hardly have other legitimate opportunities) how does this argument strike you, instead of becoming criminals, or starting/joining agitations for reservations, guaranteed government jobs these guys have decided to serve their country at risk to their lives? Is that something you can admire?

  38. Good article, GB.
    can totally relate to this. having lived abroad (US and Japan) and now in India. i hear these over-simplified arguments all the time.
    Interesting discussion on risks of army men and mumbai train commuters.
    You don’t need a PhD in statistics to know that the
    statements such as “Every day, more than a 100 people die on Mumbai roads/trains” are statistically meaningless.

  39. @Mohan

    I missed the Indian Army link in your last post. As for the “handsome” rewards the govt. gives to the families of those KIA would you be willing to die if the same benefits are given to your survivors?

    Another way of thinking about the “handsome” rewards is to think of them as life insurance benefits. Life insurance premia for soldiers is much higher (and may not be affordable for the typical jawan). The reward is one way to balance that.

  40. @Sabalil

    Good point re: statistical meaninglessness

    Ben Goldacre has a good article on this

  41. Though I permanently returned to India, leaving a tenure-track job at an ivy league US university many decades back, I should also mention that some of the best empirical works on Indian economy (not to speak of theoretical contributions) have been produced by researchers sitting in USA or Europe. So, location of the researcher is not important, what matters is the contribution to global knowledge – particularly in today’s world where anyone can have access to knowledge generated anywhere in the world and both NRIs and Indians can move back and forth more easily than ever before.


  42. You confuse nationalism with patriotism. What you describe as Type A – is a nationalist, while what you describe as Type B, with its altruistic tendencies is a communitarian – thats a political persuasion rather than a geographical or ethnic one.

    I wonder about this fetishization of the Armed Forces.
    “The only exception to this are people of the armed forces; their patriotism is beyond question. Why? Because their calling carries with it the threat of death and serious injury and the salaries they receive do not compensate for that possibility—-it needs a special kind of person to be ready to make the supreme sacrifice and on the nobility of that, there can be no dispute”

    The fact is that the overwhelming majority of employees in the volunteer army work there because it is the surest route to a secure life. It is invariably the poor, working class who wear the uniform. To celebrate poor, young people who spend their best years in uniform, most often not out of choice, but because it is a better life than being a migrant worker, is to ignore important political and economic realities.

  43. I would also like to contest the view that those how work in India “chose” to pay Indian taxes.

    I have plenty of relatives back home, who want to leave Kolkata or West Bengal for another state or another country, if they only got the chance to do so.

    It is usually a matter of 1) having the qualifications, 2) being lucky enough to get the chance, 3) having the courage to leave friends and family.

    I have yet to hear someone telling me they stayed for their love of their community. A few have gone back because of the family situation.

  44. @Polevaulter,

    “instead of becoming criminals, or starting/joining agitations for reservations, guaranteed government jobs these guys have decided to serve their country at risk to their lives?”

    Can’t we say the same for other risky professions I have mentioned – that instead of becoming criminals, they have become truck drivers. Should that automatically mean we should start revering them? I don’t agree that “death is not in the picture” in these other professions. I have probably seen more reports of high-rise construction workers dying and matadors toppling into rivers/canals in the last few months than soldiers dying in Siachen. I don’t know what the actual figures are in terms of probability for these various professions, but I don’t believe that that risk exists only in the case of soldiers and non-existent for other professions. We probably look at the Tiger Hill kind of situation where some soldiers have to knowingly walk into their death and assume that chances of death for a soldier is very high, but what are the chances of a soldier getting into Tiger Hill kind of situation in the first place? And how does it compare with these other professions, where they don’t even have the cushion of govt taking care of their families after death? It is not like a construction worker can get a life insurance easily – I would imagine most of them don’t have such a policy.

  45. Mohan, Average Joe,
    Totally agree with you, that many people join the Armed forces as it is the best possible option available – no patriotism here.

    When I was young (several decades back), it was quite common to see many Army officers and jawans who had so much money that they need not have done any work at all (my father was in the Army, so I had a ringside view). They joined because of patriotism, and the ‘izzat’ of the uniform.

    Thanks to people (and attitude) like you, such men no longer exist, because there is no longer any ‘izzat’ of the uniform.

    When you talk of risks, you only know of Kargil, and Kashmir, but have no idea about the daily casualties that patrolling our treacherous borders cause. Or, the risks an air force transport pilot (we are not even talking fighters here) takes as he flies daily from Chandigarh into Ladakh. Civil flights often turn back due to bad weather, but once an air force transport takes off – it never comes back without landing. Ever seen a plane taking off after being pushed by a few hundred men (like a car), because the engines were not starting due to extreme cold and low oxygen?

    Do you know why many trains have specail army coaches? If they did not, in most cases jawans would either have to travel ticketless, or forgo leave. And, take some time thinking how long it would take a jawan to reach his village from a forward area.

    Mumbai local trains!!! it would be a joke if it was not so tragic

  46. “In today’s globalized world, in which where one stays and works is merely an accident of convenience and opportunity”

    It is also a matter of preference and personal choice!
    How would you explain the love for India without the love for everything Indian? and I am not just talking about cricket, Bollywood and politics. People may or may not be able to contribute to their nation but the choice they made should also matter!

    Apologies if I hurt somebody’s sentiments but,as Americans say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  47. To all those guys talking about the risk involved in the life of a jawan let me quote a small discussion I had with one of my friend who is in special forces when we were chilling out over a drink.

    He: Dude, Let us hope that we can still enjoy the same way together next time. Hope, I am still alive then.please pray for that.

    Me: Don’t worry bro, nothing is going to happen to u, It could be me who could be dead by then. I could be run over by a bus in Bangalore.

    He: If you are going to die that way, it is because you are a fool and you did not look both sides crossing the road. My case is not like that!!

  48. A) There is a generation shift in thought process. When I speak to my uncles and people of my grandfather’s generation, they had a genuine intention of staying in India and providing to their community. Tend to be highly socialistic in their political thought and most of the times their contribution to their community would be developing a temple or organizing festivals or working in a Bank or serving in irrigation or electricity departments. For this generation, leaving your country implies that u lack patriotism.

    People who grew post 1990 have a different attitude – a more individualistic in nature (including yours truly). For us, patriotism stands for little. We may swear to give our life for the country if required, but frankly we would be loathe a hour to suffer a PM speaking or Parliament discussion.

    Frankly my problem with NRIs is they freaking suggest options which would make my life hell because I live here and get pissed off when I point out they are not facing the consequences of their suggested options and hence should have a lesser say in certain matters.

    B) Statistically speaking, More than 3,000 of Mumbai train Junta lose their life annually (these are just accidental deaths – forget bomb blasts). The average daily number of commuters is close to 70 lacs. Indian army has 13 lacs active army. The Indian Army lost 114 men in 2009 and 187 in 2010. So Mumbai Locals are 5-6 times more risky than serving in the army. Sources: wikipedia, Google searches etc

    My opinion is though statistically mumbai trains are killing more Indians than serving in Indian army, there are significant difference in both. Most deaths due to Mumbai locals relate to crossing railway tracks illegally. If you ask the folk traveling by Mumbai trains (I was for 4 years and really hated traveling in them for a month post 26/11), they are pretty sure that they will reach their destination safely (unlike an army mission).

    Regarding Army:
    Army folk know that they may have to put their lives on the line for their country. Their world is different. If they lose their life saving other Jawans, they know they will be rewarded. If you lose your life trying to save guy from getting killed by a train, your insurance will not hold good as you would be most likely termed as suicidal. The army folks take pride in what they are doing and the fact that they are willing to lay down their life for their country. They have a good life – subsidized stuff from soaps to booze to cars, subsidized housing, and if you are senior, you get a plethora of jawans at your service (which I feel should be discontinued – Raj era stuff) and respect from their fellow citizens.The army will be the first to bear the brunt in any war.

    By the way, the entire army is not at the border / patrolling streets in Srinagar (in fact, even in Kashmir most of the army is actually in the barracks most of the time). I have lived a good 15 years in the cantt. in Secunderabad and met enough army folks who have never faced any serious risks / faced risks for a very limited amount of time.

  49. Dark Lord,

    Not everyone in the Army serves on the front-lines. They are rotated. So at any time, the people exposed to mortal harm is much less that number (as you point out in the last line of your comment. But they know that any point of time you may be put in harm’s way. It is this “always available to die” that forms the core of their bravery. When people die on the streets, they are not expecting to die. So there is no bravery involved in walking on streets. This “doing my duty knowing that my next moment may be the last” is what bravery is.

  50. Nicely written Arnab. Patriotism or otherwise I’m not sure NRI’s have the same credibility when commenting on issues as people who stay in India. It’s like a manager who doesn’t write code telling me about the virtues of test driven development.
    Full disclosure: I’m an NRI myself and do say what I think about India but I don’t think it counts as much as someone “on the ground” in India experiencing things first hand.

  51. Kartikeya makes a very interesting point here. There is a difference between Nationalism & Patriotism. I agree they are very closely connected categories but I find your categorization of NRIs as simplistic. This is perhaps because your analysis is based largely on people living in the U.S. Let me tell you the story on the other side of the border is very different. In Canada no one asks questions like ‘Do you worship cows?’ and so on. Patriotism here is very different from what it is in the U.S and I am sure it is different for people living in Europe. Also, relationship between the NRI & people from homeland vary depending on the country they are from. There is a difference between ‘Dubai-return’ & ‘London-return’. The issue of identity & immigration is way more nuanced & complex you leave out a huge chunk of population when you generalize.

  52. Yet another NRI August 13, 2011 — 9:42 pm

    yar GB, what better way to remove an itch than getting it scratched by devotees!
    You an me are, by conscious choice, living a life comfort and convenience, which India cannot (may not) provide for proportionate effort/skills.
    Now why is not having an ‘Intellectual patriot’ tags such a bother? for right leaning bloggers are easy pickings.. why the fuss!

    hmm.. Actually if I were a right leaning American, I would be worried about the neither here nor there kind of leeches that cling on to MY economy under the garb of globalization and indispensable skill sets.
    To prove my patriotism, these kinds would be the first I would boot back in the direction they came from

  53. I am getting US citizenship to avoid any confusion in this regard.

  54. There was a news item somewhere in 2004 which showed how difficult servicing armymen in Iraq and Afghanistan were finding it difficult to get supplemental life/dismemberment coverage (over and above what came with their job). Insurance companies were refusing to provide them suppl. insurance or quoting outrageous premiums. Now around 40K died in auto accidents in the US that year and again doing that no of US dead/ total service-stength of US would not explain why insurance companies were not insuring servicemen. The reason they were not is once a person was assigned to Iraq/Afghanistan, the odds of his death/dismemberment was considered to be sufficiently high so as to make it financially unviable for them to insure.

  55. Confused on this point... August 13, 2011 — 11:08 pm

    I was waiting for this post from GB to come out for years. How many times has somebody derided GB on exactly this point in the comments section.

    The thought process behind this accusation of being unpatriotic by non-NRIs is something i have also tried to analyze, as well as my own reasons for leaving India.

    Probably what the non-NRI is thinking is that “Oh, this person is greedy for the dollar/ a snob considering himself above living with his unwashed fellow countrymen in their home country/ selfish…etc”. May be the non-NRI is correct in this evaluation or may be not, it really depends on a case by case basis.

    How about people who leave the country simply because in these days of globalization they dont want to be cooped up like a frog in the well, they want to see the world, get different experiences, broaden their minds?

    Finally to sum up :-

    1. To expect someone to give up a career/opportunity just because someone else considers it immoral/unpatriotic by some very ambiguous logic is silly, stupid and vain.

    2. I’ll bet anything that at least 60% of the non-NRIs who are most vocal about this issue would be found to jump at the first opportunity to go abroad.

    3.Taking a holier than thou attitude over matters of personal choice is in bad taste and not a very progressive outlook

    4. How come nobody brought in the angle of the “Colonial Hangover effect” present in all of us Indians, i.e. if its is phoren it must be better :D?

  56. I suspect the suspicion towards Chinese, Japanese and Koreans moving abroad is far greater than among Indians, I’ve read several articles about how people returning to Korea or china are treated with suspicion. In the east Asian case it is a much greater example of nationalism, while in the Indian case it’s mostly jealousy.

  57. To explain why servicemen are brave consider this. We all know we are going to die. And yet when most of us are on a train and we see a bunch of gundas teasing a woman, we choose to stay silent. Why? Because we are afraid of what the gundas will do to us. We do not think “Hey I am going to die anyway, possibly from a train accident tomorrow (since that is highly possible) so why don’t I risk dying now?” We just turn the other way. Some people like A B Vajpayee’s grand-nephew, however do interfere and find themselves dead. That is bravery. By some of your logic, you would say “Big deal. He would possibly have died a week later by being run over by a state transport bus. This was just another way to die.”

    When a person dies from a train accident, it is not a conscious decision to give one’s life. It happens. When someone swinging a weapon charges into the Taj hotel with terrorists inside, he takes a conscious decision of facing death, for the sake of possibly saving someone who possibly like some of the commentators here would possibly say “Hah so what’s so brave? I am braver because I walk the streets of Mumbai”. That is bravery. And if you think that people who serve in the Army come from the lowest strata of society for whom dying is the only way of making money, well then you haven’t met anyone in the Army. There are families in Punjab, with agricultural land that could feed them from generations, who serve in the Armed Forces for nothing but something other than monetary benefit. That some people on this comment-space would try to demean their nobility is unfortunate.

    What makes being in services special is working while knowing that death can come anytime. (I am not even referring to the very real possibility of the type faced by Capt. Kalia of being captured and being tortured to death). No matter what you say, no one sitting in a train in Mumbai is expecting to be ambushed by the man selling evening newspapers.The man in Kashmir patrolling the roads is. And no we do not pay him enough for that service.

  58. talk about an armyman’s are nonchalantly told that “things are serious” before embarking on…it’s inane to compare a maids/milkmans job with that of a teacher,each job has its challenges…the uncertainty is just higher in the army. that’s all.

    And India is better than any other country.It’s home after all.
    so GB,when doyou return? and why you still there for christssake?

  59. Conscious decision of facing death is at the point of such an incident (Tiger Hill, Taj, etc) when they don’t have a choice. As someone said, if they refuse, they will be court-martialled and sentenced to death and their family probably won’t even get the death benefits. So, getting into such a situation for them is equivalent to a construction worker slipping from a thin piece of wood 100m high in the air. But when they decide to join the army, chances of getting into such a situation is x% and they probably hope that it won’t be them, just as when someone decides to become a matador driver, he is aware that there is a possibility that one second of loss of concentration due to lack of sleep can mean death, but he still chooses to take up that job because he will be hoping that it won’t happen to him.

  60. @Polevaulter, when I said option to choose which govt to pay tax to, I meant option to choose where to work. If some people chose to work in India knowing that that way they will be paying taxes to Indian govt and contributing to the country, then you can’t turn around and say, “oh you are only paying taxes because you have to”.

  61. I have a friend working in CRPF, posted in Junglemahal for some time now. He is tall, athletic, smart and has a rather pleasant personality. His salary is not low. They have a nice house and other ancestral stuff. He and his family have not been able to find him a match even after some serious efforts. We all know why.

  62. “Conscious decision of facing death is at the point of such an incident (Tiger Hill, Taj, etc) when they don’t have a choice. As someone said, if they refuse, they will be court-martialled and sentenced to death and their family probably won’t even get the death benefits.”

    Really? I mean in order to support your argument you are going to have us believe that people join the Army not knowing they will face the possibility of fighting? That they join the Army thinking its a clerical desk job when suddenly someone comes to them and say “Hey you, log out from your computer. We are going to Tiger Hill to fight !”

  63. gb, I don’t know why you find the need to twist/deliberately misunderstand arguments. I wrote this just below the part you have quoted: “But when they decide to join the army, chances of getting into such a situation is x% and they probably hope that it won’t be them, “. That is, not that they don’t know they will face the possibility of fighting, but that it is not 100% (I don’t know what the chances of that are) and how it compares with similar risk of death in other professions. Surely, you agree that not every soldier in the Indian army gets killed on the battle field, don’t you?

  64. I wrote a long comment where I explained why the “imminence of death” is what defines bravery. I can only repeat you read that.

  65. ok, so let’s take some numbers to illustrate. Let’s say the chances of getting into such “imminence of death” situations is 0.1% in the army. Let’s also say that chances of laborers falling to their death is 0.2% in construction industry. Who is facing greater risk of death at the time of deciding to join either industry? Only difference in the case of army jawan is that he will be required to knowingly walk into his death, whereas for the construction laborer death catches him by surprise. But that doesn’t alter the chances of death. So, if both sets of people know these figures and still decide to join their respective industry, then to me it is the construction worker who is taking the greater risk. Again, I don’t know what the casualty figures are in various professions, but simply saying that, “oh there is risk of death and they still do it, hence they are patriots” doesn’t wash, because there is risk of death in other professions too and there are thousands of people taking up those professions and they (drivers, laborers, etc) are certainly not doing it out of patriotism.

  66. “Only difference in the case of army jawan is that he will be required to knowingly walk into his death, whereas for the construction laborer death catches him by surprise.”

    Yes. Exactly. This is why “death penalty” is given as the ultimate punishment. When death no longer comes to you as a surprise. Otherwise ALL of us live under a death penalty (since we will all die) but only on death-row does death not catch you by surprises. Hence it is the greatest punishment.

    Following your argument: “If I get death sentence in India, I will be on death-row for several years. But I wont have to commute to work. The chances that I will live for several years are higher in jail than while commuting to work. So let me commit a crime that gives me the death sentence”.

    Again the thing in a death sentence, death does not catch you by surprise. That is the punishment. Not the death itself which will come to us all.

  67. i put it to you that being willing to die for your country is not necessarily something that makes somebody superior or more ‘patriotic’ than others, unless that’s how you define the word.
    You easily assume that death is the ultimate sacrifice, but to some people other things might be much worse, and the danger to life not be such a dealchanger as you assume it is.
    A great example of an article that you think is rational but is based on what ‘feels right’ to YOU.

  68. “If I get death sentence in India, I will be on death-row for several years. But I wont have to commute to work. The chances that I will live for several years are higher in jail than while commuting to work. So let me commit a crime that gives me the death sentence”.

    Fallacious argument. My biggest loss if I am on death row is that I will no longer be able to take care of my family. I will no longer have the freedom to do want I want in my life. And that is why I won’t commit a crime. There is nothing I will be gaining by committing a crime, anyway. I think you are over emphasising the effect of facing death. It is not like in these other professions, death is a total surprise either. They are aware that by carrying on those risky jobs, they are facing higher chances of death. While I was on a road trip in North India, the taxi driver was playing a CD of punjabi songs specifically about the life of truck drivers. In one song, a truck driver’s wife will be pleading with her husband to quit the profession, “everytime you go on one of your trips, I won’t know if you are coming back”, “jaise bhi guzara kar lenge, mat jao” and he tries to convince her by looking on the brighter side (“I will get you this, buy you that” etc).

  69. “Fallacious argument. My biggest loss if I am on death row is that I will no longer be able to take care of my family. I will no longer have the freedom to do want I want in my life”

    Mohan, the same loss is if you are there for life. In that respect no difference between life imprisonment and death sentence in terms of deterrence. One wonder why death sentences get “commuted” to life sentences. Try again.

  70. @Mohan

    Re: Taxes

    Your original statement was —

    ‘And of course, the argument “you pay tax only because you have to” doesn’t hold. Point is, both sets had the option to choose which govt to pay tax to, one chose to go to USA and pay tax to Uncle Sam whereas the other chose to stay back and pay that tax to the GoI. So if a homelander says “we pay tax here”, he doesn’t mean he is doing something that he is not required to do, but that he chose to do it here rather than there.’

    You said — When I said option to choose which govt to pay tax to, I meant option to choose where to work

    So if I am correct what you are saying now is —

    ‘And of course, the argument “you pay tax only because you have to” doesn’t hold. Point is, both sets had the option to choose where to work. One chose to go to USA and pay tax to Uncle Sam whereas the other chose to stay back and pay that tax to the GoI. So if a homelander says “we pay tax here”, he doesn’t mean he is doing something that he is not required to do, but that he chose to do it here rather than there.’

    If you mean this then you are again making the error of conflarting the choice of where to work with the choice of paying taxes. You need to refer to my comment here

    Or otherwise you may have meant —

    ‘And of course, the argument “you pay tax only because you have to” doesn’t hold. Point is, both sets had the option to choose where to work. One chose to go to USA and work in the USA whereas the other chose to stay back and work in India. So if a homelander says “we pay tax here”, he doesn’t mean he is doing something that he is not required to do, but that he chose to do it here rather than there.’

    The second sentence does not really follow from the first sentence. Honestly the homelander if he was working in the homeland did not have a choice of paying taxes to India or to Uncle Sam. He definitely HAD to pay taxes to India. As to Uncle Sam that would be his choice (as long as he has no income from Uncle Sam. The only way for your homelander to actually have the choice of whether to give money to the government of India is if he had no source of income in India (and left India to boot, don’t forget the sales taxes)

    If I am wrong in the ahove could you kindly point out where?

    And what I said is — option to choose which government to pay tax to makes no sense, because in the vast majority of cases you don’t have a choice.

    One has no choice in paying taxes, one is compelled to pay taxes at the pain of punishment. By your logic either —

    1. @greatbong is workin in the US because he wants to pay taxes to the US, or
    2. @greatbong chose to pay taxes to the US and therefore he is working in the US

    Can you ever imagine that @greatbong works in the US because he really loves the work he is doing there? What has that got to do with patriotism?

    And as for “oh you are only paying taxes because you have to” —

    Do you know of anybody who loves paying taxes? Do you know anyone who loves paying taxes because they believe that it is for the good of the country? For argument’s sake let us assume you LOVE paying taxes (in that you don’t pay taxes just because you have to). Let us also assume that your tax assessed for the last fiscal year was Rs. Y. You loved paying Rs Y to GoI, you felt warm and fuzzy all over. So why didn’t you pay Rs. Y + 1? You would have felt even warmer and fuzzier. Why did you buy the foreign import car for Rs X? You could have given the govt. Rs X + Y in taxes. Why did you go on that vacation to Goa and spent Rs Z there? You could have given the govt. Rs. X + Y + Z in taxes. I hope you get my drift there. If you had the choice of paying Rs Y – 1 (legitimately) then you would not have taken it?

    The point is people only pay taxes because they have to. It is true for Indians, Americans and everybody all over. Did you follow the London Riots? Why did the looters loot sports shoes and plasma TVs? Because they could. It is human nature to want something for nothing. Another data point — In the United States thete is the Bureau of Public Debt which accepts donations from people to reduce the debt of the United States. in 2009 the debt of the United States was $11.8 trillion (note the t). How much do you think the Bureau of Public Debt had recevied in 1996-2009? $28 million (note the m). The 300 million people of the US decided to pay less than 10 cents each over a period of 14 years, or in other words less than 1 cent per year per person to help the US retire a debt which was 400 million times larger in 2009.

    So when you are offended by @greatbong saying to you — “oh you are only paying taxes because you have to” pardon me when I think that you doth protest too much. Otherwise instead of spending money to buy the laptop/handheld you are commenting from you would have given GoI the money on top of your assessed taxes.

  71. @Chirag

    So you are saying that you willing to reject someone’s proposal/argument not on any logical basis but solely on the basis of identity?

  72. An addendum to my post above regarding figures of the US Public Debt. Ths source for the donation to the Bureau of Public Debt is

  73. “One wonder why death sentences get “commuted” to life sentences.”

    Because, with life sentence, there is a chance that he may come out alive after 14 years on good conduct, or whatever. Whereas with death sentence, that chance isn’t there. That’s why life sentence is considered better than death sentence.

  74. @Yet Another NRI

    “hmm.. Actually if I were a right leaning American, I would be worried about the neither here nor there kind of leeches that cling on to MY economy under the garb of globalization and indispensable skill sets.”

    Cling to MY economy?

    Are you saying that immigrants to the United States are on the whole a drain to the economy?

    “To prove my patriotism, these kinds would be the first I would boot back in the direction they came from”

    Patriotism n. Hating those who are not your fellow citizens

    So according to you if a fellow citizen employs a non-citizen s/he is not a patriot? S/he is a traitor?

  75. Mohan,

    Actually there is no hard and fast rule governing life-sentences being 14 years. The chances they will be 14 is slim. And in most countries, the review isnt after 14 years.

    Look at different countries. And for India look what it says:

    “14 years or never; individually set by judge” [So yes it depends on the severity of the crime and many cannot hope that it will be 14 years]

    Also look at the maximum sentence column for countries. Note the regular occurrence of the word “None”. Also look at the minimums for countries (note it for France).

    In any ways, the life of the prisoner is exhausted even in 14 years and as you said “biggest loss” isnt the death but the not being able to take care of family part. (My biggest loss if I am on death row is that I will no longer be able to take care of my family. I will no longer have the freedom to do want I want in my life. And that is why I won’t commit a crime.) Clear? Knowing you, perhaps not.

  76. @Polevaulter,

    I don’t know why this is so difficult. ‘A’ has finished college and he has two choices – take up a job in India or take up a job in US. He figures that if he takes up a job in India, he will be contributing to the Indian coffer (which gets used in programs like NREGA, etc to help the rural poor), whereas if he takes up a job in US he will be contributing to the American coffer (which gets used in fighting various wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc). He figures that the first cause is more to his liking (not that there is anything wrong with the second) and factors in that point as *one of the factors* in his decision to take up a job in India. In other words, paying taxes in India was a factor which led to him to take the Indian job. Then, B comes along and asks A how he is helping India by working there. A tells B that he is paying taxes there. Then B tells him, “oh but that you have to”. What I am saying is, A didn’t have to. A too could have chosen, like B, to take up the American job and contribute to fighting petrol wars. He made a conscious decision to not take up that option.


  77. gb, yes, so there is a chance that you may get out alive in life sentence. The govt could have a change of heart, the constitution may change, you may be able to break out of prison, govt may run some amnesty program on some special occasion, anything. There is no such chance in death sentence once you are executed. Hence life sentence is better.

  78. Mohan,

    Now you are getting in the ridiculous domain. The Mayan prophecy may come true. Sorry my argument with you is over.

  79. Confused on this point... August 14, 2011 — 5:46 am

    The comments section on this post seems to have become lengthy debates on side issues. As I see it a non-NRI points a finger at an NRI and says “You left India, therefore it follows that at some level you do not love/care for India as much as I do”.

    Now the point is there is really nothing you can say in rebuttal to this unless you can categorically prove that the work you are doing outside of India is directly to the benefit of India and you could not have done this work while living in India.

    Somebody, please prove to me that I am wrong.

  80. ““You left India, therefore it follows that at some level you do not love/care for India as much as I do””

    My point was that “staying in India” by itself is not an evidence of love. “Doing something for India” is. And then the burden of proof (that one does something of use for India) is equal on both the NRI and the non-NRI.

  81. @Mohan

    As for Soldiers, construction workers and the probability of death

    Imagine this scenario —

    You are a jawan who has been working far from the frontier for a long time. One day your country is invaded and you are sent to repel the invaders. You and your colleagues are ordered by your CO to capture an enemy machine gun post on the top of a hill, the only way you can do it is by climbing the hill where the enemy nachine gun post can mow you and your colleagues down with a hail of bullets. Your CO’s strategy is that the enemy will run out of bullets before he runs out of men

    Now imagine this scenario —

    You are a construction worker. You have to transport material from Point A to Point B but unfortunately there is an unbridgeable chasm between the two and going around is not feasible (e.g. will take too long). The foreman orders you and your colleagues to jump into the chasm hoping that the chasm will fill up with your bodies (so that other can cross using the bodies as stepping stones) before he runs out of workers.

    Which one of these scenarios seems to be more fantastical to you? Now do you understand the difference between the death faced by a jawan as a proximate side effect of his job and the death by chance faced by a construction worker?

    Another way to explain this is that deaths of construction workers happen not because they work in construction but because of lack of safety precautions. If you look at jurisdictions with more advanced occupational safety laws and workers compensation mechanisms deaths on the job site are magnitudes lower than jurisdictions without. On the other hand even the most advanced military in the world has lost thousands of its soldiers to rag tag band of guerillas.

  82. My own two cents. Patriotism is a deeply flawed concept in today’s age. And as GB Shaw said, it’s a feeling that your country is superior to others only because ‘you’ were born in it. What we need today is love for the whole world and not for some arbitrarily defined boundaries. I know that it will never happen in my lifetime that all world be as one, but at least I can dream.
    “A dream you dream alone is only a dream
    A dream you dream together is reality”
    – John Lennon

  83. @somebody

    “i put it to you that being willing to die for your country is not necessarily something that makes somebody superior or more ‘patriotic’ than others,”

    I understand your point vis-a-vis superiority. But why shouldn’t such a person be considered more patriotic? S/he after all is walking the walk compared to most others (I agree that there are other forms of patriotism, so a soldier by definition while not necessarily the most patriotic will definitely be more patriotic than some others even through s/he would not be considered superior).

  84. @greatbong

    Re: Death penalty, life imprisonment and deterrence — Punishment is not solely anout deterrence. There is a retributive aspect to it (e.g. You wilfully took a person’s life. The only way you can now square your debt to society is by society taking your life).

  85. Wow. I have been reading the comments and find it very amusing that nutcases like Mohan exists. Mohan by any chance, did you get kicked out from the army ? or any army-man ever spilled beans on you ?

    GB is talking about patriotism. @Mohan Did you take the frequent flying job because you felt patriotic towards your country? Can you illustrate in what ways you have shown an iota of patriotism ?

    Indian army’s slogan is “Live for something rather than die for nothing”. You are trying to prove that a laborer is more patriotic than an army man. This is stupidity at its peak.

    Another flavor of Mohanesque argument: An army men fighting in Kargil cant be more patriotic than the journalist reporting that event live.

    Mohan, a simple mind exercise: From a Machine Learning point of view, patriotism can be broken down into several dimensions. GB has already mentioned 2-3 dimension: Bravery, Sacrifice (of life, family, etc), Joining ARMY, etc. Several of these dimensions are correlated but overall a regression function can be fit over the input (all people of the country and how they fare in each dimension). ARMY men would score highest (probabilistically) as per that function over average tom-(dick)mohan-harry.

    Personally – I am brave, i risk my life everyday as i fly very-very frequently, My eating habits are bad, so i am risking my life for a tasty food (reward), I drink desi beer so i am risking my life again. That does not make me more PATRIOTIC than a person enlisted in army who might be living exactly like me. Our minds separate us. Joining army would be a nightmare for me – even though you have made it sound like the most lucrative profession.

    If your kid joins the army and then you say that a commuter in Mumbai is more PATRIOTIC than your kid, then probably it would make some sense. Though even in that case, your doctor would advise you to take double dose of what ever you take.

  86. @Polevaulter Donkeyman

    In this case, yes. Take the Bombay bomb blasts for example. I feel strongly about it but I try to keep my mouth shut when talking to friends because I don’t live there anymore, don’t pay taxes to the govt. etc. etc. I’m not sure it’s my place to say anything. I lost that right when I left, simple. It’s a question of credibility and IMHO NRI’s can advise people in India all they want about things, I’m not sure they will be taken seriously. Before this escalates into a flame war – I’m not saying this is right or wrong, I’m saying this is what I *think*. It’s a question of credibility. 🙂

  87. gb, interesting. You asked me how is life sentence better than death sentence and I gave you a few and your response is, “I won’t argue with you”. Anyway, if you are still reading, here’s another way life sentence is better: you may still get to see your loved ones, you may get to hear from them and know how they are doing etc. That is certainly better than being dead. Point is, so long as there is life, there is hope. That hope won’t be there if you are executed. That is why people find it worth fighting to get their death sentence converted to life sentence.

  88. @Chirag

    Nobody is flaming anybody 🙂 But I do think that it is wrong to dismiss someone’s idea solely on their identity and not on the merits of the idea as such.
    As an example lets assume that the LeT launched a suicide attack on Matoshri killing the Thackerays and many other Shiv Sainiks. The Sainiks, as they are wont to do, go berserk slaughtering every circumcised man they come across. By your logic no non-Sainiks should say anything, after all they lost the right when they chose not to be Sainiks. Non-Sainiks can advise the Sainiks all they want but they are not taken seriously.

    Will you punt on the question that what the Sainiks are doing is right/wrong and whether the non-Sainiks are right/wrong? After all the non-Sainiks do not have any credibility in the eyes of the Sainiks?

    (Suggestions welcome for more perfect analogies)

  89. Nice article Greatbong. And this comes from a strong critic of yours.

    What I really admire is your patience with people like Mohan. They tend to argue just for the sake of arguing and in doing so are not able to think clearly. I would advice you to ignore such guys and not waste your efforts reasoning with them.

  90. I have one more question for you…

    If helping Indian economy or Indian case should be considered for patriotism towards India, I guess a lot more true blue foreigners will qualify then NRIs. I would say Mark Tully, Steve waugh and Mother teresa have done more for this country than any NRI…Does it make them “patriotic” to India?

  91. @Mohan

    I have no idea why this is so difficult. Lets attempt it again. I will answer your question and then you can answer mine.

    A and the Indian Job

    A is not doing anybody any favours by taking the Indian job so that he could pay taxes in India. If he chose to go to the US to enrich the US coffers with his tax money then somebody else in India would take the job, the government is not going to lose any revenue. You are seriously not suggesting that India has pefect employment such that everybody is gainfully and happily employed and that there is not a single surplus person anywhere who could do that job, are you?

    Your analogy would have more oomph if A gave up the American Job he loved for the Indian Job he loathes solely so that he could pat taxes to the govt (The next sections deal with why paying taxes != patriotic).

    Now was I able to answer your question? If not why not?

    A and Tax

    If A believes that he is helping India by working here instead of going to the US so that his taxes go to the Indian government, is he only paying as much tax as he is legally liable for or is he paying more? If the former then I see no patriotism, if the latter then sure. Since you did not answer my question ealier, how much money are you giving to the GoI? Is it your assessed tax or more than that? When are you going to seel your laptop/handheld and donate that money to the GoI so that under the NREGA an adult worker can get employment for atleast 50 days (assuming you sell your laptop for ~ Rs 6000)? Is your failure in doing so unpatriotic?

    Tax and Patriotism

    According to you paying taxes = patriotism. Not paying taxes = traitor

    So assume C does not like paying taxes. She believe that a large proportion of the revenue is wasted (Are you now going to say that in there is no waste, fraud abuse in India?). So C does not pay all her taxes,but withholds a certain portion which she uses start a fund to provide for scholarships and stipends for the children of jawans and havaldars who have died in duty, starts a network of schools in the most rural impoverished districts of India, starts sanitation programs in villages drastically reducing the amount of food and water borne diseases etc etc etc. Is she unpatriotic for not giving the government the full tax due? Or is she patriotic for actually doing something to improve the lives of people in India?

    As a final thought for this post the question (in this post) is not if the Indian worker paying taxes to the GoI is patriotic or not. The question is whether s/he can in good faith question the patriotism of an NRI (or the love the NRI has for India) (lets assume one still holding Indian citizenship) who does not pay taxes to the GoI.

  92. @shobhit

    The question is who do Steve Waugh and Mark Tully owe their primary allegiances to? If India then definitely the two of them are more patriotic than most NRIs and also most Indians. If not then the question of their patriotism towards India is asking what is 0/0. Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen so one could say she was definitely more patriotic than most Indians and NRIs, though one should definitely read Hitchens before one beatifies her. Also do remember that she owed allegiance to the Pope, the head of state of a forein nation. Could she then be a patriot?

  93. Dark Lord,
    The unfortunate fact is that civilians simply do not know enough about the army to comment objectively. Politics (there is great jealously from the IAS etc in the Ministry of Defence) make sure that the Armed forces are not shown in too good a light.

    The entire army cannot be in operational areas. They need to come to “peace stations” for rest, and training. The rest is little, the training a lot. Civilians will often see the former, rarely the latter.

    Since you stay in Secunderabad, you would have seen the most visible face of the army there – huge training establishments, and that too of non-fighting corps. There is also a fighting formation, but their activities would be invisible to you.

    Also, obviously, you have not seen next of kin running form piller to post while clerks take pride in stalling the process of their grtting thier dues on petty grounds.

    Are you aware that there is a huge officer shortage – each officer doing the work of three. Try doing that on a full-time basis (not just when a colleage is on leave). Not Raj-era stuff at all. The jawans working for them are essential.

    It is laughable when you talk of choosing to stay in India. Unless you are part of a very small minority, you are in India, because of circumstances, not much of “choosing” went into it. When you say Indians stay in India because they “choose” to be here, your India must be different from mine. Otherwise I would not see people going ga-ga over everything western.

    GB Shaw & John Lennon did not have Pakistan & China as neighbours, so they could afford to talk of world peace, and put down patriotism.

  94. @ mohan

    i really cant comment over the other issues u have raised on this particular topic (seeing that others are already working on it).
    with all due respect to your opinion about travelling in mumbai local trains, i would just like to say that fatalities occur cause we tend to be ignorant. you would fall off a train only if u want to fit yourself in an already packed train, if u dare to overhear the announcements of not to cross the tracks or travel on the roof of the trains etc etc …
    I have been using the mumbai local since may b 11 years now n so far haven’t seen a single incident happen due to any other reason.. death due to this is an ‘accident’, getting shot on the head at the border is seldom referred to as an ‘accident’ …
    Mumbaikar’s know exactly what risk they are at while travelling … so i think we let the argument rest !!
    @GB .. Good one as always !!

  95. Loved this post.

    The only type of NRIs I do not like are the ones that come back to India and tell us we’re backward (and not is a casteist way).

    Apart from that, I’m tired of NRIs commenting on news blogs with their doomsday predictions and patronising commentary.

    Indians abroad try to teach me teach me my supposed culture.

    That, to me, is crossing the line.

    Patriotism is subjective. Different folks, different strokes.

    Being Indian is not a privilege or a gift or a curse. It’s just a matter of who came and where.

    Uhm, pun intended, of course. 😉

  96. Is it possible to get an RSS feed for that hollers only when GB writes B/C-movie reviews and keeps silent when he dabbles in less consequential matters?

  97. @Polevaulter:
    “A is not doing anybody any favours by taking the Indian job so that he could pay taxes in India. If he chose to go to the US to enrich the US coffers with his tax money then somebody else in India would take the job, the government is not going to lose any revenue.”

    Sure. But that someone else would presumably have been of lower productivity (otherwise, he would have got the job ahead of A anyway), and hence the resultant GDP/taxes in India would have been lower if A went to the US. By staying back, he is increasing the Indian GDP. More importantly, he is making sure that the fruit of *his* labour is going into benefiting India. Sure, we can all say, if not me, someone else will take that position and there will be no loss, but we still have to give credit to the guy who does take that position.

    “If A believes that he is helping India by working here instead of going to the US so that his taxes go to the Indian government, is he only paying as much tax as he is legally liable for or is he paying more? If the former then I see no patriotism, if the latter then sure.”

    Even if it is only what he is legally required to pay, he is still making sure that it is going to the Indian govt. Maybe he draws a line at 35% of what he earns as the amount to contribute to the govt, so he may not feel like paying more than that, but when he had to choose which govt gets that 35%, he chose the Indian govt.

    “According to you paying taxes = patriotism. Not paying taxes = traitor”

    Not really. I am not claiming that paying taxes is the only way you can benefit the country. I am just questioning GB’s argument of “oh, you are paying taxes because you have to”.

    @Sudeep, I am talking specifically about those who have stayed back out of choice. It is not a small number at all nowadays. If GB feels that everyone who is here is because they had no choice, then that is fine.

  98. @Aditya, good job of proving that you haven’t understood an iota of what has been written here. For e.g.: where did I say that a laborer is more patriotic than an army man?

  99. Even if it is only what he is legally required to pay, he is still making sure that it is going to the Indian govt. Maybe he draws a line at 35% of what he earns as the amount to contribute to the govt

    Normally, the line is drawn by the govt which decides what % cut it needs to take. And why is paying money to the egregiously corrupt govt (which is not the nation itself) such an important yardstick anyway?

  100. Wonderful essay GB.

    It’s an unfair price some NRIs have to pay when their opinions about India or its current events are branded as patronizing discourse. I fail to see the connection between patriotism and the pursuit of better opportunities, whether in India or abroad.

    [Also, I am really awestruck by the naivete of some of the comments comparing the risk of death in the Defense services to traveling by road (!!!).]

  101. @GB As Mohan wrote in her first comment- that’s the best job they can have.

    For an average Joe, Indian Defense Service is the most rewarding/lucrative career that they can have. And that’s why you would hardly find ex-defense personnel excelling into academics, science or corporate world. Generally they just lack caliber to be counted among the cream and defense jobs are their best bet.

    On top an stable salary of an average MBA (25K t0 50K a month) + life time subsidized goods, stable jobs, decent brands, free vocational training… what else do you expect a regular BA/BCom/BSc with 60-70% to achieve?

    And that’s why you would hardly find a story of an IITian/IIMian who’d refuse a six figure salary to be an army man.

  102. In addition, the almost prevalent ignorance about his country of origin (“Do you guys really drink cow piss?”, “Do you people have modern toilets?” “Would you be allowed to eat with a person of a lower caste?”)

    Well, this might be a bit ironic but the answer to at least the first two questions is a ‘yes’ a large number of Indians. The third, well, that depends on where you live, Calcutta or Gaya.

    • Cow urine is drunk by large number of people from across the cow belt as a medicine. Try speaking to people from say, Balia or Jhansi.

    • Most Indians, by far, do not have access to modern toilets.

    • For most Indians, caste rules about food are a huge reality.

    I understand why these questions would grate and of course it’s wrong to stereotype people but at least going by your examples, these questioners know their India a bit better than your regular NRI. 🙂

  103. Confused on this point... August 14, 2011 — 1:43 pm

    @GB I agree with you. All I am trying to say is that I have seen some non-NRIs claiming higher moral ground simply on the basis of the fact that they live in India and nothing else. Which to me is a bit below the belt.

    Or when people say “If you have left India, then you have lost the right to comment on Indian topics”. Whats the rationale behind that? Why this anger against some who have left the country whereas a large portion of the urban population which lives in India really doesnt do anything for the country either?

  104. Confused on this point... August 14, 2011 — 1:47 pm

    By the way, i forgot to mention that i really enjoyed the article. Especially the part about the type A Indianization of the first generation Indian immigrant. So sad, but so true.

  105. people trying to pass risks of death in day to day life as bravery, desperately needs “deathly hallows”… 😉

  106. Aiyoh, given the recent African origin of modern humans, I cannot say if I feel very patriotic/matriotic towards my original land. Who are hum log? What is my buniyaad? Very hybrid scenarios. Knotty questions.

    Is homage to origin supposed to be lineal? Cultural? Linguistic? If lineal, then do I check in the racist/casteist baggage? What about admixture? Think border states like Punjab, JK, TN, NE. If linguistic, then we’re done for. If conceptual, you’re simply what you feel. RNI? Land-based, you say? NYC is now hosting an exhibition on Buddhist Gandhara art – is it Pakistani art? Cultural definition is only parochial/divisive and yet always changing, much to chagrin of culture police.

    Hence tax-based defiition of patriotism?! Jay ho!

  107. 15-i Aagost aschhe, tai desh-prem hothat jege uthlo bujhi :D?
    Ei lekha-ta apni-i likhechhilen bodhoy, tai na?

  108. @Mohan : Seriously your arguments are ridiculou. If you are trying to prove that the everyman on Mumbai streets are more patriotic/brave/risk-takers than the people from the armed forces, why don’t we send this “everyman” for rescue missions every time India is faced with a security threat? When the country’s security is threatened, why is “everyman” standing behind closed doors hoping that he and his family is safe, while the army man is in the frontline fighting the bad guy? Am sure you will have some convoluted and obnoxious explanation but what can you do with a petulant child but leave him alone with his “What If” arguments

  109. I think what Mohan has been saying all along, and what I have been trying to express too, is that you just cannot make a generalization and say an armed forces personnel is more patriotic than an average Indian. What qualifies you to make such a statement? Do you doubt the patriotism of an Indian who doesn’t serve in the forces? And who the hell is any person, whether resident or non-resident (or even an ex-citizen) an expert on patriotism? Like religion, love for your country is ingrained. Inside you. That won’t go away. And that doesn’t mean the other person is less patriotic, whichever country he/she has pledged allegiance to.

  110. Nandini, that’s because your “everyman” hasn’t gone through the years of battle training that army men have gone through.

  111. @Nandini… The first rescuers at any accident in India, be it the railways, or a road mishap or an airplane crash are always the neighboring and surrounding locals. Please brush up on your news.

  112. On a different note @GB. I read the inside in the TOI. (The boy prince..etc..etc..)I found it amusing on your blog, but it fell flat in the national daily. Maybe I’m used to a more higher standard. My bad.

  113. @ Polevaulter Donkeyman

    You got me right. What matters most is the “primary allegiances” not the material benefit somebody’s action brings to the country. The intention to help a country is very different from tying your life and death to it, even when you had the option to leave it.

    How many of you are talking about NRIs action of creating “Flight of capital” in 1991? That fiscal crisis could have been averted if NRIs had a little more faith and “patriotism” for their “Homeland”!

    Click to access NRI%20Deposits_14.pdf

    Please note I am talking about NRIs in general, no personal offense please.

  114. @ Polevaulter Donkeyman
    You got me right. What matters most is the “primary allegiances” not the material benefit somebody’s action brings to the country. The intention to help a country is very different from tying your life and death to it, even when you had the option to leave it.

  115. How many of you are talking about NRIs action of creating “Flight of capital” in 1991? That fiscal crisis could have been averted if NRIs had a little more faith and “patriotism” for their “Homeland”!

    Click to access NRI%20Deposits_14.pdf

    Please note I am talking about NRIs in general, no personal offense please.

  116. “Do you guys really drink cow piss?”
    A) Some people do. It is a popular practice during certain religiosu ceremonies.

    “Do you people have modern toilets?”
    A) Most people in India do not have access to modern toilets. In villages they do it in the forests (“jungle paani”) and in cities they do it on the road.

    “Would you be allowed to eat with a person of a lower caste?”)
    A) In many places I would not.

    Great Bong please do not become like your jingoistic namesake who runs Times Now. Please face the truth.

  117. Easily your most myopic post ever written Arnab. Very black and white and frankly disappointing cos you seem to be trying too hard to drive nail your point. People in staying in India by the very virtue of staying give more “opportunity” albiet with self vested interests to do good for the country. Please chew on that.
    Frankly a disappointing post.

  118. WTF?the comments section is much more interesting than the article.

    Havent had the time to read all the comments but I read Vannesa’s comment and I loved it.the way she wrote about us commoners taking some things granted was really good.never though it that way.
    Thank you Vanessa

  119. GB – it is sad to see a valid proposition put forward by you getting side-tracked by arguments of risks faced by our Jawans. However the argument as to risks faced by daily commuters compared to Jawans highlights one of the problems of daily life in India -the unpredictability of daily life and inability (or unwillingness) to address obvious problems in the hope that either it will go away or else everyone will get so used to it that it will cease to be a problem. (Indian roads have the highest road toll yet I do not see anything being done – apart from more roads which will increase the toll!)

    Some Indians have tried to avoid these problems by emigrating (which earns us the honorific NRI!). Emigrating as an adult is difficult enough but I think it is our kids who have the most difficult task – having to resolving their identity (eg Aussie vs desi) while going through the already difficult process of growing up into teenagerhood!
    Many Indians overseas make their homes into little islands of India – which surely does not help their kids resolve their identity of what they are.

    The Indian junta in general considers NRIs as milch cows and thinks it is ok to charge exorbitantly for everything – and at the same time lecture us on not “loosing touch with our roots”!! Hell if the freaking roots were so bloody wonderful then we would never have left at all!

  120. This is not to belittle your sentiments/question the need to work at the place of convenience/question your sese of belonging or patriotism.

    Just a line of thought you may want to say something about(unless you have said something about this already):

    ‘If you really liked India, you would have been here’

  121. @Mohan above-


    I don’t know why this is so difficult. ‘A’ has finished college and he has two choices – take up a job in India or take up a job in US. He figures that if he takes up a job in India, he will be contributing to the Indian coffer (which gets used in programs like NREGA, etc to help the rural poor), whereas if he takes up a job in US he will be contributing to the American coffer (which gets used in fighting various wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc). He figures that the first cause is more to his liking (not that there is anything wrong with the second) and factors in that point as *one of the factors* in his decision to take up a job in India.

    >> That is a completely fucked up statement. If someone does have altruistic motives, he/she will contribute to charities or school and not rely on the corrupt govt to give a millionth fraction of that money to the poor. And his choice to go or not to go could be dictated by so many factors, but mostly, it is PERSONAL. Get it?

    In other words, paying taxes in India was a factor which led to him to take the Indian job. Then, B comes along and asks A how he is helping India by working there. A tells B that he is paying taxes there. Then B tells him, “oh but that you have to”. What I am saying is, A didn’t have to. A too could have chosen, like B, to take up the American job and contribute to fighting petrol wars. He made a conscious decision to not take up that option.

    >> I mean if a person in 2011 makes such stupid statements, then I dunno what to say. The whole world is now connected. Financial systems, stock markets. Dont you listen to the news? It could be that the person in Bangalore is serving none but the CEO and CFO of an US company who have outsourced that job to reduce expenses. Again, no one wants to consciously pay taxes for helping his countrymen. No one. On the contrary, tax incentives are given to people who donate to charities.

  122. @ Polevaulter Donkeyman

    I recently saw a picture of a couple of Indian Army officers using a labourer to check for mines during demining operations somewhere in Kashmir. Do you think the labourer was doing because he was patriotic? I think he was doing it because he thought the benefits was worth the risk.

  123. The concept of patriotism becomes even more grey when you consider partition. Would you go and tell East Bengal refugees to support Bangladesh or Musharraf to support India. Many times, several people do not have choices. If a researcher goes to work in a lab in Japan for say nanotechnology, is he guilty if he lives on there for research. Is he unpatriotic. Could be that India does not have that kinda of facilities. So he should stay in India as his taxes will help the corrupt politician (maybe 1 rs to the poor, rest all gobbled up by people like Kalmadi)? The world is dynamic with people moving in and out. It is gonna be more like this in future. Saying NRIs are unpatriotic is no different from the xenophobic small talk that a Tennessee redneck may speak.

  124. Dude,

    Why are you guys fightin’ with this Mohan. This guy clearly has issues and likes to argue like a bickering housewife. Clearly he knows only a few programming languages and does not understand economics. He codes many hours a day in his small cube and from time to time, goes to his boss and says– Sir, if you send me onsite for 2 years, you can have my wife. I know a few guys like that: guys who are dying to go onsite, but would badmouth US after coming back here.

  125. A fitting reply to the one’s who keep on poking at you ‘NRI types who do not know about the ground reality’ or ‘it safe to comment from there’ etc. tripe.

  126. Did you feel a bit better about yourself, now that you’ve written this? For this clearly seemed to be the point of it.
    To think that those people who are “left back” in India feel jealous of those who managed to “break free” away to US or elsewhere and given the chance would leave India in a jiffy, is to miss the forest for the trees in a huge way. You may or may not believe it, but there are many who don’t chase the greenback dream even though they have the chance. Not just for money, even for their own career growth, or to be able to become a Prof. in a prestigious American university… some people would rather be HERE, contribute HERE – in India… in whatsoever a small way as possible. This is something many people would stubbornly refuse to concede.
    It is very easy to say there is corruption, there are bad civil engineers in India, bad civil servants and what not. Agreed, most people might become Govt. employed engineers or administrators because of circumstances rather than choice, but it is the few people in this field, working here – in India – who every so once in a while design good roads in non-urban areas, prepare the backbone for infrastructure spanning across cities, town and villages, remain steadfast in their resolve to not take bribe in their position of administrative influence. It is so many of these people, who are “left to rot” in India who end up making something of it, little by little. It’s just that not many them take the time to see such posts and reply to them.

    Do not belittle the efforts and intentions of others just to tackle your own insecurities.

  127. Greatbong – you rock. Agree with you.

    Average Joe, Mohan – get a life guys! Seriously.

  128. Yes, I agree with the writer not because he is my son. The recurring theme here is if you love your country then why don’t you stay in your country. Let me answer this with an analogy.

    My original sasur bari is in a village which is not accessible directly by bus or train even in 2011. My father in law who was a freedom fighter, whose major part of life was spent in that village, never thought of restricting my husband to go abroad ( we have lived in many parts of the world at different times ) in the era when the word “globalization” was not even invented !! At that time, most people wanted their offspring to live with them and not doing so was like not loving one’s parents, not being dutiful to the parents who brought them up, not loving one’s roots. But my father in law didn’t believe in that theory at all as he had that mental setup to understand that his son’s love, respect and duty towards him is not conditional on where his son stays.

    It shows that to love your parents it is not necessary to stay with them and some parents do realize that. Most of the adult children now a days cant stay with their parents as the jobs are in different cities. Does that mean they love their parents any less? No. Similarly, it is not necessary to stay in the country in order to love (to be “patriotic” to) your country.

  129. The general conception of this thing comes from experiences…. I am telling you what I experienced yesterday night only.. At Hard Rock Cafe mumbai, a group of NRIs with a firangi ladki came there…. And all those NRIs had that “firangi” accent… And the suddenly the DJ played Vande Mataram by A R Rahman as the last song of the day, as the next day was Independence Day… And while that song was playing that group was singing God Save America.. and making fun of the Indian National Anthem by singing it like Jana Mana Gana and then bullshit…..

    So by the above example I can say that those NRIs were not patriotic…

  130. Struck the right chord…very nice article…bravo

  131. @yourfan,
    “Again, no one wants to consciously pay taxes for helping his countrymen. No one. On the contrary, tax incentives are given to people who donate to charities.”

    The tax incentives allowed on charitable donations is a miniscule part of your overall taxes. Otherwise, no one would be paying taxes and everyone would donate to their favourite charity. So, you may donate to charities, schools whatever, but that will be mostly coming out of your pocket (for most charities you can only claim deduction for half the amount you donate – the other half comes from tax paid money – and even then subject to total limit of 10% of your taxable income). So, unless a person is willing to fork out another 35% of his income to charity on top of the 35% going for taxes, tax remains the most significant financial contribution you can make to the society. And it is not just income tax. There is petrol tax (which goes to build all those highways we use), education cess (which funds Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan – rural primary education program), property tax (which helps keep the city clean to whatever extent) and so on.

    I think it will be a good idea to get your facts right before talking about “fucked up comments”, “stupid statements” etc.

  132. And as for working for US companies in Bangalore – it doesn’t matter who is the ultimate beneficiary of your work. As long as you are working and earning here, you are paying taxes here. If you are working elsewhere, you are paying taxes there. That is the basic difference.

  133. I dont think most people who join the military do it out of a great sense of patriotism.Most do it because the services offer them great benefits and hence a good life as compared to others with similar qualification,so the argument that every soldier is patriot by default doesnt hold in my view.Take the job benefits away and i’ll be curious to know how many people prefer the services over other job sectors.
    True the few who join it to serve the country are patriots no doubt.

    Also I do think that it matters what the NRI thought before leaving India.If he thought he’d have a better living there and hence settling there is preferable over living in India than definitely it’s not patriotism.At the same time Indians who live in India are not patriots just because they stayed back.If they let go of any opportunity to migrate because they liked to stay here, then that is patriotic I think.
    Btw have seen this in bollywood movies but i ask the NRIs in this forum anyway-Do you guys feel a kind of guilt of leaving India in any way?

  134. @Rakesh, those are the exact two points I made. Now wait for some of the geniuses here to pounce on you for that.

  135. DNFTT

  136. Confused on this point... August 15, 2011 — 5:03 pm

    Ok, Ok… so the bottom line is NRIs are unpatriotic not because they left India but because they choose not to come back. For whatever their reasons may be.

    Fine, lets just accept that’s true (I really think it is).

    All I can say to people who have not emigrated is that just make sure you take a good hard look at yourself while you go around condemning others.


  137. Does the aura of patriotism emanate from only the things you ‘do’ as opposed to the things you ‘feel’ or ‘reflect upon’, without showing signs of apparent ‘doing’ or even speaking about the ‘doing’? An example: considering that neither of the following 2 people are actually doing something (like, organizing a rally, donating to Red Cross etc) person A puts up a Facebook status of ‘My solidarity with the people of Mumbai’ and person B bleeds silently and stands up in the confines of his/her living room when the Jana Gana Maana is playing on the TV. Is person A more patriotic than person B, just by the virtue of his/her displaying the assumed patriotism to the world? Surprisingly, we have come to this state that overt display of patriotism is considered the only way to be patriotic.

    My own story: After my bachelors degree in engineering, my first and only objective was to get into the IAF. I come from a middle class family, not the socio-economic background (that some people have said) from where a lot of the Indian armed forces come from. There were certainly other fields (for example, IT – which I currently work in) which were more lucrative – in terms of pay, less-threat-to-life, overall much better option. Only when I was rejected on a congenital physical disorder, did I even look at other options. Joining the Air Force was not really a ‘patriotic’ thing I was aiming for, it was my life’s ambition. Just like playing cricket for India is for some folks. Though it cannot be denied that serving in the armed forces IS one of the most patriotic things one can do – the obvious reason being the conscious choice of taking on the exponentially greater threat to life, not in the pursuit of your own indulgence (climbing mountains, charming snakes) but for the sake of something bigger – TO DEFEND YOUR COUNTRY. Through a combination of chances and my response to those opportunities, landed me where I am today, i.e. living and working in the US.

    And Arnab, disagree with you on this: “….despite his best efforts, can never be white. Nor can he be black. Which is why, no matter what his immigration status be in the eyes of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, he will never be American.” Though you said yourself, in the next paragraph, the sense of being an American doesn’t lie on the skin colour. I’ve known a few first generation naturalized Americans, originally from India, who are ‘American’ in every sense of the word. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. Growing up with ‘Buniyaad’ or ‘Circus’ or ‘Fauji’ doesn’t mean that you cannot imbibe in cultural aspects of the nation that you currently live in.

    There are obvious limitations to what you can do for your country of birth, if you are residing in a different country. Say of example, I used to coach football (soccer) in India. Not anything fancy, it was something I had taken up as a recreational purpose while I was working. I get a sense of fulfillment to pass down some things I enjoy and love to future generations. I’ve continued that in the US . It’s like giving back to the society and community, in my own small way. Would it be considered unpatriotic that I’m passing knowledge to Americans, rather than Indians?

    And there are certain things which one can do. Like being involved with non-profits like [I am not a member, just a donator]

  138. @Muktak

    Re: NRIs with a firangi ladki

    Did you know if those NRIs were people who emigrated to the firang as adults or as children? If they emigrated as children they would learn speakig in school and obviously they would pick up their teachers’ and classmates accents.

    As for A. R. Rahman and Vande Mataram could he be prosecuted under an law for destroying a rousing song (see It is the patriotic dutiy of all RIs and NRIs should make fun of the A. R Rahman version. Maybe then people will stop playing it.

    Two more questions —

    1. What song is “God Save America”? — The U.K.’s anthem is “God Save the Queen” The U.S.’s is “Star Spangled Banner”, though it has other patriotic songs such as “America the Beautiful”

    2. Shouldn’t the Indian National Anthem be sung like the Jana Gana Mana, since Jana Gana Mana is the Indian National Anthem?

  139. @Guddada Bhuta

    Re: Labourer — I definitely think he was showing his patriotism by checking for mines, knowingly taking on a substantial and foreseeable risk to his life. That you cannot see his patriotism and think that money was his only motivating factor speaks more about you and your patriotism.

  140. Interesting post GB. I have lived major part of my life in India and recently re-located to US of A for an assignment.I feel that Americans are much more proud of their heritage,nationality and country than we Indians are. and Iam not basing this fact only be seeing huge sized flags infront of their homes or ‘My son is in US Army’ bumper car stickers. May be years of self sustained growth or culture of ‘living in present’, they seem to enjoy every facet of the country withoutn

  141. Part IVA of the Indian Constitution, Article 51A
    It shall be the duty of every citizen of India –
    (a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
    (b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
    (c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
    (d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
    (e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
    (f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
    (g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;
    (h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
    (i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
    (j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
    (k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

    A Defence Personnel, NRI, constuction labour, truck driver….whoever abides by these duties in all its forms as per the Constitution is a ‘patriotic Indian’ to the true nature of its term. every individual and his dedicated contribution is essential to the proper funcioning of our country, and on a whole, none can do without the other. it is this sentiment of unadulterated harmony that has helped our country in withstanding the onslaught of history despite all criticisms.
    Patriotism is not a commodity to be measured, it is a value enshrined in your conscience and not dictated by social mores and it shall always find a voice and action when peoples tend to rise above individual preferences towards collective consciousness.
    and if you still cant refrain yourself from indulging in such demeaning “who’s-patriotic-than-whom” arguments rather than encouraging individual contributions for a sustainable future, i would suggest you read the above clauses once again and judge yourself accordingly, regarding it as a personal questionnaire.
    a note to GB – your blogs are entertaining to the core and the serious, political one’s are written with an intent to question the reader on his opinions…very few write with such genuineness and clarity of thought.

  142. I love India and I love America…in fact I love the whole world!!!

  143. @Confused,

    “All I can say to people who have not emigrated is that just make sure you take a good hard look at yourself while you go around condemning others.”

    Just for the record, let me state that I have not condemned anyone, nor have I questioned the patriotism of NRIs or their right to talk about India or anything. I don’t agree with the “you left India, what right do you have to talk about her” line of logic. I was just questioning the validity of “you pay taxes because you have to” reasoning. Those who are staying here out of choice are paying taxes here because they chose to earn and pay taxes here. Again, to make it doubly clear, the choice is not between “pay tax” and “pay no tax”, but the choice is “pay tax in India” or “pay tax elsewhere” and the volunteer residents have chosen the former.

  144. Dark Lord,

    Going by the numbers you put up, the probability that a soldier in the Indian Army will die is 87.7E-6 (this is assuming 114 deaths — the lower figure of the two you posted). On the other hand, the probability of death for a commuter on the Mumbai suburban rail is 1.17E-6.

    So statistically speaking, the risk the soldier is exposed to is 75 times greater than what the Mumbai local commuter is. At the best of times. When tensions increase or when the country goes to war, these risks multiply rather quickly.

  145. Interesting post GB. I totally agree with you on the types of NRI and thier feelings, actions, etc for India.

  146. I kinda doubt your whole everyone-contributes-to-the-global-economy argument. I mean if that was the case, then why do countries even have visa policies? Why is getting a visa to any of the developed economies easier if you have a skill which is in shortage in the guest country while that isn’t the case for someone with say lesser income generation possibilities?
    Here is the other thing, college education in India is aggressively subsidized. I was amongst the lucky few who was able to do a govt funded MBA where my annual fees was similar to my first monthly salary out of b-school. I also doubt if any of my foreign job offers would have come my way was it not for this degree. The reasons I chose to stay back were not really…ahem…patriotic..I like Mumbai too much….I grew up here, I like this little corner of the world…and I didn’t want to move. So yes…lethargy trumped patriotism for me.
    “patriotism” makes it sound like its something you do proactively. Which really isn’t the case. Jingoism aside, you contribute to an economy just by being around. I don’t have an iPad, but even the “Global” electronics I have bought, have been from Indian retail houses, and my humble credit card, does help in paying the salaries of ppl working in these malls. But again, cant call this patriotism, because I never go shopping telling myself that “I must get new shoes to help generate employment for India’s youth”…no…my reasons are fairly more selfish…The domestic help who helps keep my house clean, the dhobi who gets my laundry in with 6-sigma precision, the chawal-dal-sabzi I buy from the local stores…I think what I spend on everyday boring stuff is a lot more than what I would spend on any “Made-in-first-world-economy” stuff I would buy over a yr.
    My point is, you do generate a lot more value for the economy in which you reside…which is why it is easier to get a visa if you are income possibilities in the guest country are that much more generous.

  147. xyz,

    Exactly. To argue that “it is a connected world, wherever you are you are contributing to the world” is to ignore the reality that the world is still organized as separate sovereign nation states. No matter how much we have globalized, what has not changed is that govts still collect taxes separately and decide where to spend it. There is no single world fund that we are all contributing to. If that were the case, poverty eradication in Asia and Africa would have been the top priority for the American and European govts – they wouldn’t be spending a vast portion of their tax revenues on a bloated medicare system, their pork-barrel spending programs, etc. Fact that they do shows that it is not one happy, connected world that we live in.

    And yes, apart from taxes, there are other ways you benefit the local economy where you are staying. The world has shrunk thanks to technology, but it has not yet shrunk to the extent that where you stay makes *zero* difference. If you have a high earning job in India, at a rough estimate you are creating at least 5 full time jobs for other people (a driver or two, full time maid, cook, your kids’ school teachers, dance teachers, music teachers, the local grocer, vegetable/milk/newspaper vendor, dhobi, the mall employees, gym trainers, restaurants, the construction workers who built your home, travel agents, tax consultants, bankers, insurance agents, and on and on). Some of these you are supporting all by yourself (eg driver) and some others you are only contributing to a fraction of the job (eg mall employees), but when you add all of those fractions up, it could be as high as 5. Those are 5 jobs which wouldn’t have existed if you didn’t work here. And it is not like if not you, someone else will take that job and create those 5 jobs. India may not have full employment, but as anyone familiar with IT industry will know, for highly skilled workers there is a severe shortage of people. So if a highly skilled worker stays back/comes back to India, he won’t be taking up someone else’s job, but will be creating a job for himself and those five other ancillary jobs.

  148. sethuraman atisivan August 16, 2011 — 5:27 am


    What is the % of Indian population who work for the likes of Wiprosys. What is the % of people who stand in a queue to buy American junkfood?

  149. xyz —
    —– You really do get it; without getting unnecessarily worked up about it.

  150. @Madhav….aww geez thnx 🙂

    @Arnab…there is a difference between working for a Wiprosys in India vs working for a Micogle in the US…location really does matter…

    The top 3 indian IT giants employ around 4.5-5Lakh ppl….but honestly …this number is insignificant in a country of 1billion+. What we really need to be looking at is the secondary and tertiary level of employment it creates

    Case in point…look at how real estate prices, low end labour wages (and even traffic) in Bangalore/Pune/Hyderabad have shot up. I worked in an IT co. in Pune 5yrs ago…this suburb called wakad had poor roads & infrastructure, a few tabelas and lots of greenery…I visited a few months back…and the scenery had changed…. Because of the spending capacity of these young engineers, it became profitable to open cafes, stores, catering services even in the erstwhile remote corner called Wakad….thereby generating (lets say this word together) E-M-P-L-O-Y-M-E-N-T.

    Another example to prove how important location is…look at SEZ’s. Why do govt. provide access to subsidized facilities in relatively less developed parts of a city/district for large employment generating companies to inhabit? Because a Wiprosys office (or even a Microsoft IDC office in Hyderabad) may directly employ just a few thousands but that generates a lot of demand for auxiliary services and gives a good boost to local economy.

    @Mohan….my only point is, my choice to live here has very little to do with any love for the 1billion + people I share my nationality with….

  151. xyz, sure. Neither is it a predominant factor for me. But if someone says he *is* contributing to this local benefit as a side effect of staying back, I see little point in denying that.

  152. Good point made by Prof Alok Ray. Sir, (although this is not related to the patriotism issue or is it?) something that has always intrigued me is why do NRI academics become considerably less productive after they return to India! Would like to know your (or GB’s) take on it.

  153. Can we send this across to Gul Panag ? 😛

  154. Confused on this point... August 16, 2011 — 2:23 pm

    @Mohan: Sure, I wasn’t referring to you in particular. But I have known many who practically pass judgment on people who go abroad. Also, I am glad that you don’t believe in the “You don’t live in India, therefore don’t comment about anything in India” rhetoric.

    Like, I said it’s not the act of going abroad which can raise questions about one’s commitment to their home country but the choice a lot of NRIs make to settle down abroad and not come back. Most NRIs will be unable to give a satisfactory answer as to why they didn’t come back apart from career prospects. The only other reason I know of is that some NRIs say that my foreign born children don’t want to live in India and therefore I had no choice any more. In some cases I know that this is true.

    Anyway, the main reason I was waiting for a post like this was mainly to see a discussion about the “You don’t live in India, therefore don’t comment about anything in India” rhetoric. Unfortunately haven’t seen a lot of discussion on that.

    To me that is quite ridiculous, what next? Don’t watch Indian movies, don’t eat Indian food … just completely give up your identity as an Indian? Why? Ironically like GB mentioned in the first part of this post ; going abroad ends up making most Indians feel more “Indian” jingoistic or otherwise.

    Anyway , I am just rambling now and as usual cannot seem to get my discourse to come to any kind of conclusion. Just wanted to see how people felt on this issue.

  155. I have a question for all those who think that people work in defence services out of patriotism. Indian Armed Forces hire not only Indian citizens, but also the citizens of Nepal and Bhutan. Are these mercenaries patriots?

  156. Working in a local IT company is superior in two ways to working abroad from a purely economic perspective. I am sure many have already pointed this out – the income earned by the latter and the multiplier effect contributes directly and indirectly to the Indian economy. More importantly, the people who work here build capability within our economyy – both managerial and technical – thereby contributing to growth of the sector within the country. We have three homegrown IT companies with an organizational strength of more than 1 lac each; that is made possible only because you have hundreds of middle and upper level managers who have spent years in this industry.

  157. I am agree with your opinion. But still I can not understand one thing, i.e. why maximum percentage of NRI’s are trying to prove that they are patriot? BTW, I am a partial NRI, sometimes in India and sometimes in USA. 😉

  158. How come no one asks not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you?

    India is probably among the worst countries for the return on one’s taxes – and also has the highest percentage of population that immigrate/want to immigrate. That’s the reality, and it means that it’s essentially a bad place to stay.

    I can imagine a bunch of you getting annoyed and pointing out

    (1) “but i’m still in india” – yes but the majority want to leave, you’re a ‘noble’ exception,

    (2) “xyz country sucks” – irrelevant. for every great place to stay, there are hundreds of rubbish places

    (3) “some sort of patriotic/india-pride crap” – you didn’t choose to become indian, you became indian by birth, you had no say in it. you’d be equally patriotic if you happened to be born in pakistan or in zimbabwe.

    Why would I want to be patriotic to a country that took a third of my money and gave it to corrupt politicians, and then burnt/killed/maimed countless people of every religion. I can only think of Virender Sehwag as a good reason, but this is a bad week for saying that.

    Patriotism is over-rated.

  159. Loggers, fishermen, miners, construction workers and truck drivers have a higher chance of dying on the job than soldiers. Yet, we don’t hear them being described as patriotic…because…well, they aren’t. They are just trying to make a living.

    It is the same with soldiers.

    Soldiers, like most people weigh the risks against the rewards and make rational choices, primarily in their own self interest…. and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Also, as somebody pointed out, soldiers are prevented by law from leaving when the risk of death increases manifold (i.e when a war breaks out). If soldiers were primarily driven by patriotism as opposed to self-interest, you wouldn’t need such a law !

  160. Dudes, chill! Who cares if one is an Indian living in India or outside! As long as one is happy and does one’s job, it should be fine. If everyone in India did his/her job then it’d take India to great heights. So, relax and cut out the bantering. Jai Hind! 😀

  161. Hi, i usually dont comment on this blog even though i quite enjoy reading it. I read this entire discussion going on about people in the army being patriotic versus people in the army having taken up the job out of having no other alternative. Just got back from leh/ladakh/kargil etc where i stayed in an army guest house and chatted with a lot of jawans and officers while smoking at night. most of them told me they dont want to be here, they want to return back to a safer place, and were cursing the army for posting them there. these were 25-30 year old dudes, and they wanted to ask me what sort of money i make in london, whats the life like there, and they shared the same job frustrations that all of us have. if u’re from a mid level town in say, UP, and cant crack the JEE or think u have a shot at IIM /IAS later on in life, the NDA’s a fairly simple exam to clear and secure a shot at a good life. I’m not saying guys in the army arent patriotic, just that they’ve done an optimisation process in their head and decided on that career choice. As for officers in the army, they have a retinue of servants (jawans) who do their household chores etc i found it fairly sickening. At the end of the day people are people, they can be good or bad, and going to another country to work or staying in india to serve the army doesnt make either one of them FAR more/less nobler/patriotic than the other. As for army guys being more patriotic than the rest,yeah sure, thats a direct part of their job. BTW i’m very patriotic but i fkking hate standing up for the national anthem when i go to watch a movie in mumbai.

  162. Re: Jobs:
    Here are two lists of the most dangerous jobs in America/World. The lost is very similar to the worldwide lists you can find on the Net. I do not know how true, or correct this list is, given that the Armed forces are not on the list, and only de-miners are on the other. (Also, neither are RTI activists, which in terms of percentage killed, is probably the most dangerous job in India right now.)
    As for the Armed Services, this is a difficult discussion. I respect the Armed Services and their dedication. However, unlike Greatbong, I am not able to give them my unqualified approval or gratefulness. I agree with the fact that many Services personnel join knowing well the high risk of death. But I also believe that fact makes us overlook many of the unsavory aspects of the job. But that’s another discussion.
    Most “sipahis”, as can be gauged from interviews/articles join the Services as a career move but not necessarily due to patriotism – it is secure and provides for their families and children. The tradeoff is long months away from families and the constant risk of death. People still prefer that to rotting away as semi-bonded labour in the fields or a construction worker. Wouldn’t you?

    @Karaya: Excellent point. The only reason we feel angry when Americans ask us these questions is because they are essentially calling us out on our so-called progress. That’s also the reason that we deride Slumdog Millionnaire as “poverty porn”. Even though it’s exaggerated, as most cinema is – the kernel of truth it exposes (poverty, riots, child beggars etc.) is something that is “dirty” (like porn mags and dirty linen) and should not be shown to “outsiders”. It’s a very Indian attitude – defensive and indignant at the same time. Therein lies the basic pain of being an NRI – the feeling that they have to defend India at all times and the frustration that India just does not live up to the image they want to portray to the foreigners.
    For some NRIs that also translates into over-the-top extremism, either to the political left or, more crucially and jingoistically, to the right.

    @Pritam: “Hell if the freaking roots were so bloody wonderful then we would never have left at all!”
    That is an extremely valid argument and I wonder why more NRIs are so averse to making it! It makes excellent sense to leave India because the alternative country is just better by my standards – better food, easier travel/commute, bigger house, more time to yourself, better money, swankier car – these are all excellent arguments. People who live in India aspire to the same things! They might find it more difficult to, though. So why would anyone grudge another getting this abroad? No lack of patriotism necessarily involved here. Just self interest. Is that wrong? Then we are all guilty. The fact is that India is NOT a “bloody wonderful” place in many ways. We all need to accept that.
    I wish more NRIs were as clear headed and unself-conscious.
    “My point is, you do generate a lot more value for the economy in which you reside…which is why it is easier to get a visa if you are income possibilities in the guest country are that much more generous.”
    Wonderfully put!
    Finally – it is idiotic to say that just because I don’t stay in a country, I cannot comment on its politics or social problems. We comment on America’s greatness or Fascism (as the case may be) all the time. We have plenty to say about Israel, Palestine, UK, Canada, and Russia. So why not India? At least ethnically NRIs have far more in common with Indians than we Indians commentators do with the Americans, right? It is when NRIs profess a superior view of India – as if distance has given them greater clarity of vision and sharper focus (many NRIs actually claim this) that they might sometimes get the teensiest bit irritating and sanctimonious. I think that pisses resident Indians off a bit.

  163. Confused on this point... August 17, 2011 — 1:59 pm

    @Anon Troll: You said it!!

  164. Anon Troll: I agree. At least, it is an honest argument. I may not agree with it emotionally and may point out a few reasons (based on personal preferences) why I wouldn’t take your position, but at least at a logical level, there is nothing to disagree with your argument. Better than other arguments like “oh it is a connected world, it doesn’t matter where you stay”, etc.

  165. Nicely put. I don’t have the patience to go through the long list of stupid commentary.

  166. Arnab,
    I don’t know about NRIs vs Indiand who’ve never left.

    But what would you say abt people like me who have *returned* to India after more than a decade of living abroad ?

    Dude, my patriotic horse is so high, I can’t even see you li’l guys down there. 🙂 🙂

    However, in my experience, the people in India don’t really see it that way.

    Here the persistent question is “Why did you come back from A-me-e-rica ? (GASP) “.
    And whatever answer I give, there is a strong undertone of “Hmph, I bet its *actually* because he wasn’t good enough for the US” from the listener side.

    Many other returned NRIs have felt the same.

    IMHO, the first step for Indians to be truly patriotic is to get rid of our massive inferiority complex vis-a-vis the “phoren countries”.

    If Indians themselves think that the country isn’t worth coming back to, then it will very likely become that way.

  167. On a different note, what always amuses me about the whole patriotism debate is the ‘special pleading’ aspect of the whole argument.

    A vast proportion of Bengalis of my generation have moved to Bangalore. They are working and paying state taxes to Karnataka, which are being used to help Kannada people, who live very differently and speak a language we don’t understand.
    So have we all betrayed Bengal ? Should we now get jingoistic about our Bengali identity and culture ?

    When you raise this issue, people get all huffy and say things like “You are not a Bengali or Gujarati or Tamil. You are an Indian first”.

    But then why not extend the domain to the whole world and say, “You are not an Indian, or an American, or an Egyptian. You are a Human first”.

    A country, after all, is an artificially constructed domain on the world map.
    Why the desperate allegiance to this domain rather than something smaller or larger ?

  168. The huge debate about soldiers between Arnab and Mohan led me to search around for the most dangerous jobs.
    The top three typically seem to be lumberjacks, fishermen and airline pilots in some order.
    See here, for instance ( and there are many oher sites):

    Interestingly, soldiers, policemen and firemen are not even in the top 10.
    So, if we believe these lists, being a soldier isn’t that dangerous.

    The examples of soldiers patrolling the Kashmir border or occupying Iraq may not be statistically representative (although I couldn’t find any stats).

    Also, am not sure that everyone who becomes a soldier does so purely with patriotism in mind. In the US, at least, army personnel frequently come from relatively low education/poor backgrounds. I can belive this is the case in India too.
    So, for the people signing up, it might just be a relatively good job option given their background, rather than all-out love for motherland and countrymen.

  169. Arnab, what a beautiful post- and I must commend how well you have managed to touch upon almost everything around this topic

    Firstly, about armed forces – I couldn’t agree more with you on that. No one in India or abroad can ever match the sacrifice or dedication of people like Vikram Batra or Capt Kalia , or for that matter every person who’s part of the institution.

    A gentleman was once speaking to me on the streets of Bombay about how good America was (although he had never been there). He spoke about the discipline, cleanliness and technical advances. And then, he said , “India is India” – spitted the pan out of his mouth next to the bus stop , “Idhar aisa imagine karna bhi possible nahin hai “.

    In fact in an incident which I had blogged a long time back (, a number of my close relatives tried to smuggle food into a park which clearly did not allow food – with claim that “yeh ladka America se aaya hai, bimaar hai, bahaar ka food allowed nahin hai “. It’s ironical that even if you do not want to be branded that way, people will make sure you are 🙂

    Finally, with no disrespect meant to anyone, but ask most people why they want to return to India and the answer in a lot of cases is “It’s for my parents ” OR “I want my children to be raised in India ” Very good, very noble thoughts, except that – if you look at it a little more carefully, it’s for you and not for India 🙂 . And not that I am not a part of it. Probably if I move back to India, it would honestly be for my own selfish reasons first and the love for the country later.

    I have seen people moving back to India and giving up very good high paying jobs in multinationals like Google and Microsoft to instead turn to academia in IITs and other reputed schools. They are probably the people who I would say have true love for India and are ready to sacrifice a lot of things for the betterment of India .I would say that such actions are acts of patriotism – and I would say – those people are head and heels above me in terms of their affection for their motherland.

  170. Drinking is a bad habit and puts poor people in vicious poverty circle. It makes you loose control over mind you may commit heinous crimes.

    I totally support anna on this. drinking for super rich guy is seperate thing and even if u ask thier wives they will want him to give that habit for fear of addiction. We dont have to ape west …their weather is very harsh and it helps them stay warm.

  171. Reading the comments of people like Mohan and a few others make me wonder
    (besides making me angry) why our soldiers bother in the first place. Why risk their lives for scum such as these that make up the majority of our country ? It is precisely because of such people that our country was enslaved for a thousand years, first by the muslims and then by the British.We have no shame.

  172. Let us all agree on one rule, we may disagree on others. Anybody who either mocks the Indian soldier or seeks to diminish or trivialise him – must be shunned.

    One of the many things we have to learn from Americans is the way they treat their soldiers. Be grateful ar$eholes. They are fighting for you. Pathetic you.

  173. Belated “Independence Day” Greetings to all Indians, NRIs, RNIs, Indophiles, Indophobes et al.

  174. Let us also not forget people like the great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great H2B2, Rishi, Utsav, Bengal Voice, Hujur etc- all of whom at some stage contemplated/had to leave India due to the the results of extreme liberal experiments with psudo-secularism of people like Arundhati Ray, DK Bose Digvijay Singh etc.

  175. Let us also not forget people like the great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great H2B2, Rishi, Utsav, Bengal Voice, Hujur etc- all of whom at some stage contemplated/had to leave India due to the the results of extreme liberal experiments with psudo-secularism of people like Arundhati Ray, DK Bose Digvijay Singh etc.

  176. @bekaarbokbok
    All individuals have not one but several identities. For ex., you are a human, in particular a man (assuming), in particular an Indian, in particular from Bengal who belongs to a Bengali neighborhood and family.
    As you traverse down this tree the number of people you share a common identity with at that level and above progressively reduces. The affinity you have to individuals that you share more identities with also progressively increases. For ex. I am sure you care much more about your brother than your Bengali neighbor because with your brother you probably share the highest number of these identities. There is no shame in being partial towards people who we have more in common with. We do it all the time and it is quite natural. That is how it should be. You are more responsible towards your brother than your neighbor.
    However there are times when we give priority to one of our higher identities, example country over state, when the matter affects the entire country and not just one state. In the example you mentioned about tax. Betrayal is a harsh word but there is nothing wrong in saying that Bengal deserves your taxes more than Karnataka. Bengal is part of your upbringing. You owe more to it than Karnataka. So go ahead, love it more than Karnataka but don’t forgot you also are an Indian as opposed to a Chinese.
    As an aside, some people have some identities that are particularly close to their hearts. Being Indian is one for me. The steps in that tree are not uniformly separated. I am also just making a philosophical point here not pretending that this is a science.

  177. Ranger

    Are you a soldier? your brainless argument makes me suspect so.

    i will recite a line from my engg. college days. ‘pagle laude, fauj me daude’

    The fauj is full of officers who are too dumb to get any actual job. The subsidized booze and food is added incentive. The non-commissioned lot is usually in it because they are too poor and semi-literate. Unfortunately they get treated very badly. I have once seen a ‘batty’ (the fauj term for slave) clean the shit of a baby in an officers house. You would ofcourse argue that he was defending the country or something.

  178. Lets get some perspective. Since 1971, the country had just one war – Kargil. Casualties – just over 500. Tragic but then remember that our army is around 1.3 mn in size.
    The country is not saved because some good for nothing drunks stand on the border, it is saved because all the armies around the world are full of nincompoops and unless there is significant difference in the quality of weapons, their self preservation instincts ensure peace

  179. For me, patriotism is more in the attitude than anything else. If we really ‘care’ about what goes on rather than just shrug our shoulders and move on, we are showing a concern which which is much much more sincere than the ‘Hoo Haa India’ or the flags painted on your cheeks. Needless to say that this feeling does not depend on where you are located.
    However, there is one area where I do not agree with the post, a person residing in India does contribute more towards the economy, not by means of the ipad or the blackberry, but by day to day activities, daily activities like food, conveyance, entertainment etc that contribute towards employment direct and indirect, taxes etc. But then I doubt whether this is a contributing factor in any decision making process when an individual decides whether to move out or stay back.
    The decision to move out or stay back in an overwhelming majority of cases is very personal, guided by a mix of aspirations, opportunities constraints and timing where patriotism at most plays the part portrayed of the the hunks surrounding Katrina in Sheila Ki Jawani

  180. Yes manicynic, I agree with you that Indian soldiers are the biggest dumbf#cks in the world to risk their lives to protect a country full of (hutiy@s like you.

    (hutiye…who the fuck do you think you are to make a judgement on who is smart and who is not ? Your think your “engineering” education (which you so helpfully mention) qualifies you to make that judgement ? Dude….where I live and work every-f#cking-body is an engineer and most of them are (hutiy@s like you. I dont know which world you live in.

    And no I am not a soldier. Had I been one I wouldn’t spend my time interacting with anonymous (hutiy@s like you on some blog.

  181. I hope Arnab lets the above comment pass.

  182. Manicynic’s comments and those of a few others have inspired this pont :

    Indians and their superiority complex with respect to other groups and their propensity to be contemptuous of others belonging to different castes, religions, regions, professions – always amazes me.

    #NRIs always make a point about how they are superior and smarter than other Indians although in most cases their biggest achievement is getting out of India and living in a foreign land, it does not matter what they actually do in their life.

    #IITans and IIMians always harp about their education, although in majority of cases, getting a degree from IIT or IIM remains their biggest achievement even when they hit their 40s and 50s.

    # Same goes for engineers from the thousands of Indian engineering colleges. The superiority complex persists, although in a reduced form compared to IITans.

    # Government servants, bureaucrats of course consider themselves to be God’s chosen people, the new brahmins, and treat the rest of the country with disdain.

    # JNU type NGO jholawallahs consider themselves to be superior because they are beyond material things and consider themselves better than the greedy ugly businessman / capitalist / bania lot.

    # Less said about our Doctors, the better.

    #Then you have the academics, especially those in liberal arts departments – always contemptuous of the rest of the population and feeling superior about themselves for being “intellectuals” . (at least thats what they think they are)

    # Well off upper middle class Resident Indians amaze me too. Their biggest achievement is staying in India. And hence they are superior to their NRI cousins. What they do in India, how they live – is besides the point.

    #Then of course the media people, and nobody can ever come close to them, particularly if they belong to english language media or even better an english news channel.

    # Then there are Bengalis who feel superior because they are Bengalis, Maharashtrians who feel better for being Maharashtrians, Iyers and Iyengars – for being Iyers and Iyengars, Brahmins for being brahmins, so on and so forth.

    Its never about who you are, what you are, what you have done in your life and how you have done it. Its about which caste you belong to, which religion, which profession, your college. Really it is serious inferiority complex rather than superiority. You are not confident about yourself as an individual, you do not feel you have achieved enough and anything worth while, so you resort to harping about your caste, region, religion, college, profession etc and belittle those who are different from you.

  183. Ranger said
    – (hutiye…who the fuck do you think you are to make a judgement on who is
    smart and who is not ? Your think your “engineering” education (which
    you so helpfully mention) qualifies you to make that judgement ? Dude….where
    I live and work every-f#cking-body is an engineer and most of them are
    (hutiy@s like you. I dont know which world you live in.

    Given the gutter language you excel in, fauj would have been a perfect carrer for you. So you are surrounded by engineers but given your hatred for them, you probably are not one. That sounds like a janitorial job in an IT company.

    The list of whom you hate is too long for me to help you much other than advise you to see a good psychiatrist ( oooh sorry, you hate doctors too).

    Incidentally I went to an IIT AND an IIM, I am an Indian upper middle class Bengali. Hope this helps you puke out some more vitriol (you may want to google that word to find its meaning)

  184. Lastly I will just say that it is a sad day if people of a country see its professional soldiers to be worthy of contempt. A country like that does not deserve to exist, and indeed its existence is only temporary.

    I am not a soldier. I dont have a friend or a family member who is one. I am just an average Indian who is always grateful for our soldiers of the Indian Army who put their lives at risk, so that people like me can go about their lives freely without having to look behind our shoulders in fear. They have families too – parents, siblings, wives, kids – who love them the same way mine love me.

    It is the contempt for the soldierly profession that led to 1000 years of slavery for Indians, first under muslims and then under British. Continuation of this contempt for the military soon led to humiliation by the Chinese after India got freedom. Politicians disregarding the advise of soldiers led to the whole Kashmir issue and many other national blunders.

    It is easy to imagine what happens to the nation, or the policies of the nation does not affect us as individuals, but that is not true. Unshackling of the nation from socialism, albeit in a limited way, has transformed each and every Indian’s life for the better. Slowing down the economic reforms process, in fact bringing it to a halt, and bringing back socialism in form of gargantuan public expenditure by the present government (NREG, Food Subsidy etc.) will lead to an eventual decline in each and every Indian’s lifestyle (except for those of government servants, PSU workers, politicians, Babus) and every gain of the past 20 years will be foregone soon.

    Neglect of military by the present government, not allowing private investment in defence, not buy the latest military technology, demonization of the soldiers by the “civil society” – lead to demoralisation of those fighting for India, and eventual dismemberment of the nation’s defence – leaving our country open to attacks from every enemy, internal and external, big and small. I dont have to remind you people about the sort of neighborhood we live in. And trust me, when we are under attack, everybody will be affected – read books to learn of the devastation wrought in developed and civilized western countries by war. We cannot remain insulated and go on with our lives as normal.

    You think our software powerhouses will last for a week if India comes under attack ? What will happen to Reliance, or Tatas ? What about food supply. Nothing will remain as it is.

    The USA is the greatest country in the world, and there are specific reasons they are so great. One is that they respect their soldiers. Ever noticed how American passengers in an airplane clap and cheer when they see uniformed men walk their way ? (Happened post-9-11 a lot.)

    We in India dont do that. In fact I remember reading how soldiers called for action in Kargil had to bribe railway officials to get a ticket.

    This is the sort of country we are. This is the sort of people we are. We can still improve and prosper. First thing to do – respect our soldiers.

  185. Dude, congratulations on being from IIT and IIM. You must be worth like what, $1 billion , or 2 (and thats just for starters) ? How many dozen patents have you got already ? Surely you must have become the CEO of a fortune-500 company before you turned 30 ? Congratulations, all the same.

  186. And yes, I am just a janitor. Happy now ? Have a nice day.

  187. Ranger

    Don’t you think that you have overinflated expectations of what I should have already achieved? Especially when you are ‘just a janitor’.

    Incidentally I did not imply that you are a Janitor, I said a janitorial job (like HR, admin, security etc). I hope even you can appreciate the difference.

    And BTW your profession has no reason to bring happy or sad emotions to me. Have a nice day.

  188. Superlike!

  189. my 4 line comment is stuck in moderation for more than 12 hrs now

  190. I don’t think I have been contemptuous of our soldiers at all. I didn’t make any derogatory statement against them. To say that they are rational human beings who probably make career choices after weighing the risks and rewards isn’t to insult them. I would prefer that my country be protected by some intelligent, pragmatic people who know what they are getting into and are being rewarded for it.

    On the contrary, what has surprised me on this thread (or maybe not) is the absolute intolerance for contrary opinions. “He says something I don’t agree with, so let’s call him names and insult him personally” – and this from educated people?

    As for people talking about “corrupt politicians”, how it is a waste paying taxes, etc. – please do watch this interview. Note his comments on politicians: “Nandan Nilekani: I think it is a very unfair statement. You know I have been two years in public life and my respect for politicians has gone up. I think they are extremely hard-working, they’re juggling with a dozen balls, they’re very understanding of issues, you know, there’s enormous diversity they have to deal with. If the argument is that some politicians are corrupt we can say that about every walk of life.”

  191. @ Greatbong: You make some fairly astute observations and sound deductions regarding a wide spectrum of people. I have two comments, (1) it seems in your haste to compare or categorize groups you have made the classic folly of making a comparison by changing two variables at once instead of one at a time. With the knowledge that this is oversimplifying (and generally erroneous) generalization and even using your definitions of ‘patriotism’ you really have four groups to consider, (A) non-patriotic NRI, (B) patriotic NRI, (C) non-patriotic Indians and (D) patriotic Indians. You may only directly draw a comparison between (A) and (B), or between (A) and (C) and similarly between (B) and (D). You (or any other person) cannot draw reasonable comparisons between (A) and (D) or between (B) and (C). That is simply comparing apples and oranges.
    My opinion on this is that such comparisons are meaningless. Ultimately its what you do to contribute to any place you live or choose to live in. Its all about self-realization and service to mankind if you have been fortunate enough through the lottery of genetics to be able to do so.

    Regarding the core topic of your post, I have a slightly different take on things. I decided to not stay in the US (leaving a tenure track position, and no I did not get kicked out) among other reasons because I wanted my kids to be good Indians. In the fairly remote possibility that I would not have been able to return in spite of trying, I would (albeit being disappointed) have tried to raise my kids as good Americans. ‘Patriotism’ among first generation immigrants is often easier to analyze. It becomes harder (in my opinion) to deal with kids who have a different identity (cultural and political) than your own. The Indian ‘cultural’ identity was the predominant identity in the previous century. The fuzzy and malleable character of such identity can and has been successfully morphed in the great American melting pot. The Indian ‘political’ identity is likely to be equally or even more prominent this century. It is simply not possible to mix any other nation’s political identity with an American one.

  192. @GreatBong : Just as an after thought… if one were born, brought up and had the benefit of good education in India…wouldn’t it be nice to reciprocate and help children and youth back home…help in providing them with quality education too? Yes, one can send money etc but we all know how it is lost somewhere in between and never quite reaches the grass-root level.

    For instance, I’ve heard that there is a shortage of professors in IITs because they either prefer to work where opportunities are better (mostly,US) or get lured into corporate sector/consultancy where finances are better. I have nothing against either of them, especially the later who chose a diff path altogether. But for those us who want to remain in academia, how difficult is it to give back to the system what we got from it? Agreed, teaching in itself is a noble profession whether you do it here or anywhere else in this whole wide world.
    But the education sector in India has been long neglected and the government has only about woken up to do something about it. If people chipped in right now, the marginal utility of their efforts would be so much more. If Indian universities get talented teachers, the grants for labs etc would follow. And a lot of research could actually help the masses here. For instance, IIT-K helped create SIMRAN, which would be of considerable use to the Indian Railways. Outsourcing this would have been quite costly. On the other hand, most of the railway Locos in India are produced abroad (assembled here I suppose) since we do not have the blueprint of the latest technology? Or we end up paying substantially higher prices in form of IPRs. What if researchers decided to stay back in India and help create an environment which fosters growth and talent? Why not have more green revolutions in agriculture which is ailing badly? Isn’t that a win-win situation…you get to do good work, you get to help people around you, you get to be in a place you belong to(or atleast you think you belong to) and gradually you attract more talent and more projects.
    Why don’t most people…researchers/academicians come back? I find it rather strange that social scientists working on poverty, hunger, malnutrition, public finances, even public policy of India, teach and do research abroad. By that I mean, they come to India to do basic field work and write papers based on those. One would ask, how would staying in India help in this case? It might help in policy formulation for one. Now, this way the argument could go on and on…the point is, how much more is the utility of working “out-of-India”? And, if you did decide to come back…would that not be patriotism in some way? Then what stops the people in acads?
    (I do understand that my comment has little to do with the debate per se…)

    @ Bhaskar Datta – totally agree with you!

  193. @ Lipika: I would add physicians (medical doctors) to the list of people/professions you list. I believe you touch upon the sensitive issue here which is also usually the elephant in the room. I know of many folks who have returned to India after completing whatever they went to the US for because they simply wanted to contribute constructively to India and were in positions where they could at least try to do so. Most people (irrespective of their location) are not willing to accept that motivation for returning to India. The reasons always have to conform with specific set of tangibles: job prospects, money and intangibles: family, kids.
    I feel the age of political correctness makes it nearly impossible to state that one can return because of predominantly philosophical reasons. I have a problem with anyone who can not accept as such. If NRI’s or resident Indians want to contribute to any group/place/location (in the World) they want to, more power to them. The more such people there are on the planet the better it is. By the same token if I cite my reason for return as as a sincere willingness to contribute to India why does it not meet with equal acceptance and encouragement.

  194. @Lipika:
    Why don’t most people…researchers/academicians come back? I find it rather strange that social scientists working on poverty, hunger, malnutrition, public finances, even public policy of India, teach and do research abroad. By that I mean, they come to India to do basic field work and write papers based on those. One would ask, how would staying in India help in this case? It might help in policy formulation for one. Now, this way the argument could go on and on…the point is, how much more is the utility of working “out-of-India”? And, if you did decide to come back…would that not be patriotism in some way? Then what stops the people in acads

    Lipika, I am someone who left a lucrative career in industry abroad to join an ‘elite’ academic institute her. (One of those whose name starts with a double I). So, guess, I’d be a patriot by your definition. 🙂

    So, based on my experience over the last 3 years, here’s my answer to your question. Its all to do with skewed incentives.

    Modern academia rewards only one thing – publishing papers in approved journals which are almost all published in the US. The whole game is to get as many papers out in a ‘Category A or B’ journal as fast as possible.
    Yes, I know that’s stupid, but that’s the way it goes and Indian institutes are joining that bandwagon as well.

    As you can imagine, it is much easier – especially in the social sciences – to publish in such journals, if you are already in the USA. To begin with social science journals in the US are naturally biased towards analyses of the US and Western economies.
    Then there are issues like much greater availability of survey data in the US, high costs of journal submissions (often unaffordable from India) and most important, a huge body of existing academics and conferences where you can travel to easily.

    So, that’s the deal. Thanks to this system, even at my institute I find most researchers desperately trying to find/develop collaborations with the US and a frequent comment is, “If I had known this, I would have stayed there.”

    That’s the sad truth in a nutshell. 😦

  195. A very juvenile blog….seems like the author is getting confused between ‘contribution to the country’ and ‘being patriotic’…and also it seems that the write-up is coming from an NRI who is getting defensive about his role (or rather the lack of it) in Nation Building. What surprises me further are the debates raging post the article…an article coming from an NRI who is suffering from a chronic guilt of not being able to contribute to the nation that he belongs to! So stop fretting upon who is doing what for the country; everybody is and will contribute to the country, one way or another, whether you like or not! All you need to do is, work for yourself and contribute to the World Economy…if the World benefits, so definitely will India because India is the one of the big Economic Primemovers…whether you make a Missile for Uncle SAM or a Software for Hindustan, one way or another India will get to buy it or sell it. That’s how today’s World Economy works..
    As far as patriotism is considered, no one is patriotic, not the NRI nor the Non-NRI….everyone’s on the same boat of taking care of their own interest. Gone are the days where countries were run on a fuel called Patriotism, Nationalism….today it runs on pure numbers…financial numbers I the potential in terms of financial might, a great economy, GDP Growth and create lucrative jobs in India, every ‘sonofa NRI’ will come running back to India looking for the first opportunity to erase the N of the NRI and tone down their fake amriki accent. Today America itself is sucking upto China and India because they know that the future of the World Economy lies in here…so if the United States of America cant stop sucking up..where do you think the fake accented NRI would go?
    And please keep the Indian Army out of this so called Debate of who is more patriotic; I mean if an army guy were to see this naïve debate of his risk being compared to the risk taken up by the Marathi Manoos on the local commuter train, he would shoot himself dead (if not by the enemy bullet). Patriotism is a feeling in the heart…its an could contribute to the nation and not be patriotic or you could continue being patriotic while not contributing to the nation…so debating on whether an army guy is patriotic or not or a construction worker is patriotic or not or if greatbong writing blogs sitting in US is patriotic or not is an exercise which is irrelevant, futile and frivolous.

  196. Patriotism is a pretty debatable topic and quite hard to prove. Blowing up oneself at a NATO checkpoint in Iraq by an Iraqi to defend his nation could be patriotic for one group and might not be so patriotic for the group who’s family might have died accidentally in such an incident.
    So I would not get into that debate but since there was a heated discussion on Army personnel, I would just put in one of my observations lately. Some people I personally know joined the Indian armed forces with a lot of enthusiasm and spirit. After a few years of their commission, I see them quitting the armed forces to start their corporate careers elsewhere. It was pretty astonishing for me to see this pattern among other young middle class commissioned officers. So, I find it even harder to define patriotism.
    Mentioning the above, I don’t intend to offend any defense personnel. I have deep respect for the armed forces and my observation is only based on a small sample data (personally seen). Of course, the majority of them stick to their oath.

  197. I was appalled to read Average Joe’s comments. If you die in a road accident, its an ACCIDENT. If you die while fighting your enemies on the border, is it just another ACCIDENT? What incentive does the average man have to go and lay their lives for the country? And if it is “safer” to be on the Kargil than to be commuting in a mainland city, why aren’t more people there? A man going to work in a Mumbai local in the rush hours is not going to die(no matter how uncomfortable it may be and I know by my own experience that it is bloody uncomfortable)unless he is extremely unfortunate but a man at a war front knows every day that he may not see his loved ones ever again. How many times have you had that kinda feeling may I know? Leaving for work knowing that this might be the last day you will live? Really pity your thought process.

  198. @ Bhaskar Datta: I agree, totally forgot about doctors.
    I think people who come back to India to contribute to the system (however flawed it is/was) which helped them grow deserve more credit and recognition. However, even if one were to come back for personal reasons, it would still be of immense help. Either ways, talent is a valuable resource. 🙂

    @ bekarbokbok: your “bokbok” actually makes a lot of sense. A very realistic take on things 🙂

  199. Found Vanessas comment THE BEST! completely relate to it….

  200. I am posting my previous comment again, just to know what GB and others think about it –

    I have a question for all those who think that people work in defence services out of patriotism. Indian Armed Forces recruit not only Indian citizens, but also the citizens of Nepal and Bhutan. Are these mercenaries patriots?

  201. Well said and Great response “R U 4 REAL”. If this does not put an end to the debate..nothing will

  202. This blog makes ridiculous assumptions and comparisons. First of all, NRIs are different from resident Indians. An Indian by birth is just that…just by virtue of existing he or she is Indian. An NRI has to do some things in order to gain residence in a foreign country. Not all countries are equally helpful in this regard, but the NRI must have done something to gain access and set up residence abroad. That alone distinguishes the NRI, the fact that (in most cases) such immigration is by the free will of the individual. At that point what the NRI ‘feels’ towards his or her motherland cannot or should not be compared to what Indians living in India feel (or don’t feel) on a daily basis. To then extend the feeling of NRIs into the ‘patriotic’ realm truly takes the cake. Sorry, I don’t buy any of this bs, if you are so patriotic why don’t you come back. You can be a lot of things; and by your actions you may have helped many people, but a patriot you are not. You may still technically hang on to this debate for a while as long as you have an Indian passport, but once you take up citizenship of your chosen land (especially true for most NRIs in USA) you have consciously pledged allegiance to one land different from India. I suspect this blog is written not so much for the Indian passport holders pov but rather those who have taken citizenship abroad and now want to just say they were doing all this because of their love for their motherland.
    This is why economic immigrants from one nation state to another are always damned, they are damned if they say they don’t love their motherland the most (deemed ungrateful), and they are damned if they say they do (as I said if they really do they should put their money where their mouth is)…it is because their reasons for movement is money.

  203. You leave India because you think your standard of living abroad will be much better. These days lets accept the fact that it is not all too tough to go abroad and study and people who study in India have and do make decisions to stay back. There are a lot of reasons to stay back and one of them may be contributing to the country. To say that this argument is flawed only shows how disconnected you really have become and that you have been out of India far too long to really understand that the choices in front of Indians these days is far too many.
    What is your contribution to India either directly or indirectly except highly opinionated comments that are largely based on hear say. We live here, we experience it , we earn a right. You made a choice, accept the fact and learn to live with it. There is no pont trying hard to prove patriotism. Its a heavy word. Lets rather simply say who CONTRIBUTES more to the Country.

  204. Hey GB i love your post. Even if I may not agree with your views, I do agree that there is always another side to the story and people will be who they are and who they want to be regardless of where they live.

    as for the army debate happening here, its just ridiculous that whoever brought it up could even do that and in the manner that he did! I mean what a ridiculous comparison! I was wondering why you were even replying to it but I guess you have to be all nice and understanding of other people’s point of view :p

    I myself have tried to understand the meaning of patriotism and it is just so complicated that I have let it go. There are too many people defining it and now the boundaries have become blurred and filled with contradictions. The only thing I can say without a doubt is that in general (exceptions will be there), army men and women are patriotic. As for me, I will probably never lead the charge in a revolution, but i will never get in the way of those who want to.

  205. Arnab, your posts get so many comments that is it impossible to go through all of them.. But I had the misfortune of reading through what Avergae Joe and Mohan have to say.
    I serve in the Armed Forces, have lived in Mumbai for 23 years and have travelled by the local trains and buses there everyday of my college,engineering and pre-service life. To compare the risk faced by a person travelling in our trains or buses with that faced by a jawan at the border fighting infiltrators every day, is a shame.
    It is individuals like Joe and Mohan who make us question our decision of fighting for the nation.. A nation of ingrates, for whom a CRPF personnel being killed in Dantewada, an officer losing his limb in Siachen due to frost bite and a helicopter pilot flying obsolete single engined aircrafts in the thin air in Leh facing enemy bullets is the same as a matador. Climbling up the Quaid Post and recapturing it in -40deg centigrades with Pakistani bullets passing over your head while you slide inside the Siachen snow is not equal to a Second class travel in a Virar-Churchgate train.

    While we do not expect the junta to revere us, we atleast don’t expect them to belittle the sacrifices made by everyone in the uniform.

    I completed my engineering, scored well in GRE and Toefl , did reasonably well in CAT… but chose to join this noble profession not because ‘I wanted to secure my future for my family’ – but because my patriotism won over the play safe and follow the herd mentality. And while you may not have had the privilege of meeting people who still join fauj out of love for their country and patriotism- I have. And trust me , there are many.

  206. Frankly speaking you should stick to your reviews of third grade movies. Because rest of your writing like this DO NOT make any sense at all.

  207. Well written, Arnab … although there’s a bit of a Catch-22 here I think … if you live in the US or HK or London for as long as we have …. and you become (or stay) the “jeetega bhai jeetega” Indian you write about, there is a trade off between immersing yourself in a culture and staying true to your own … so while you could say that we’ve been very much Indian for the last x years, another viewpoint would be that we’ve not really experienced the cities we have lived in and the dominant culture that have surrounded us for x years. Not saying one option is better than the other … just that sometimes the “residence” changes to “home” after a point. Some would choose to stay on an island all (or most of) their adult lives quite happily … while others would choose to row out the dinghy boat to see what’s beyond the horizon … I guess what they do isn’t as important as the choice being there! (PS: this is NOT a koopamanduk analogy … just the best I could come up with quite late at night!) 🙂

  208. Boss…Staying out of your home and sending money to your parents in old age home. If it makes you true son..well you may be one.

    Nothing wrong in being a NRI.But please stop preaching and if you come here and spend something on you or your family this is max you can do, invest and reap profits (that’s the sole reason you are out).I would respect a guy staying abroad to be there and at least do not turn back at 65 and became a burden on youngest nation.

  209. Agreeing with Mohan here

  210. good post, have been waiting for this ever since gul panag’s tweet. however, i realised im being very patriotic here by subjecting myself to mohan’s logic (since ‘accidental’ death is = DIA) i might die laughing of the innate absurdity of the argument.

    Moving on, it has been a while since your last post. too busy with your latest book or has your brain collapsed after some fantastical logic from mohan and co. for the mythological india when the ‘patriotic indian’s’ dont work abroad not because they lack opportunities but because they have been humming “east or west, india is the best”, ever since JUDWA?

    p.s. : When is your book releasing?

  211. @puneet,
    Thats a wonderful reply. I hope mohan and co. can remember that or at least send one of their sons or daughters to the army, because “it is such a lucrative profession”

    And i do hope that the armed forces do get as lucky as Mohan thinks them to be…

  212. And I have decided to stop reading the rest of your comments, manicynic for one would be hunted down and killed if i do…
    all the profanities are applicable to him… for the lack of physical abuse that can be used on him/her… (then again one should not hateful to one another, it breeds even more hatred.)

  213. @Everyone
    Service in the Indian Armed Forces is voluntary. They stop all filthy elements from entering our country..Therefore guy who enlists is definitely patriotic..And yes, death is an occupational hazard in it…
    But, have you ever thought of the Municipal Corporation worker who cleans your garbage which we, homeland indians, (or atlest most of us) shamelessly litter on our roads and colonies??
    Have you ever thought of the Public transport driver who works a non-stop 8-hr shift/day, leaves his family behind and is constantly travelling, tired, battered??
    Have you ever thought of the policeman(please forget the movie-fed, stereotyping of policewallas)?? They do leave behind their families for quite a period of time, leave for jungles to conduct counter-insurgency operations and are perhaps far less equipped, trained and paid than the Indian Armed Forces, and relentless fingering by politicians…
    All the above government services are voluntary..Patriotic??
    The garbage man can die from the long term effects of the sewerage..
    The driver, over-burdened, might crash and die..
    The policeman? Equipped with .303 SLR rifle to face Automatic AK-47 assault rifle-armed terrorists??Naa…
    Occupational hazards?? Ever smiled and said ‘thank you’??
    The Sixth Pay Commission pays handsomely and provides several benefits to the Indian Armed Forces..What about the rest??
    Ask any kid in our country..Beta bada ho kar kya banega??Doctor?Engineer?Soldier?
    Find 1 kid who says, Desh ki seva karunga, without mentioning which service, without battling an eye-lid..
    Patriotism defined..Not your taxes, not your life..Patriotism is not simply dying for your country..Ask the dead heroes of the wars..They’d say “I will kill for my country”…
    Please not for a debate..My view..

  214. Does NRI mean: Never to Return to India... October 7, 2011 — 4:00 pm

    NRI on India…………. Does NRI mean: Never to Return to India…

    A typical conversation with a visiting NRI.

    Self: Hi! Home for a holiday? Are you going back.or?

    NRI: YesyesI am going back as soon as possible.

    Self: Butyour parents are here. There are also many new malls now where you can get everything you want. It’s even cheaper than in the US, Europe or Canada or Australia.

    NRI: Yes.things are real cheap here in Indiaproducts are very goodthe malls are also very good.restaurants are excellent. Butthe roads and the traffic are so terribleI can’t wait to get back.

    Self: YesI agreebutthat’s only one relatively small factorsurely you can adjust and put up with that. The situation would improve once the Metro is operational.

    NRI: NoNo. Why should I put up with the traffic and the crowds and the garbage? Why should I adjust? It’s impossible.

    Self: OKlets change the subject. How are your parents? I heard your mother had some health problem. Is she ok now?

    NRI: Oh yeahshe’s ok! Doctors have given her some medicines. Dad is there to take care of her.

    Self: But he is old how will he manage? Besides, both will be missing all of you so much. Loneliness is terrible. That itself can lead to so many diseases.

    NRI: He’ll manage. He has to adjust, I guess.

    Self: is life in America? What do you eat at home?. The usual Idlis, Dosas Upma etc. that you like so much? Indian food, particularly South Indian food is considered the healthiest! It contains all essential nutrients in a very balanced way.

    NRI: Wellnonot really. We normally eat cereals for breakfaststraight from boxes. I carry sandwiches for lunch or eat some salad at the cafeteria (everything is so expensive). For dinner we take out some food stored in the freezer and heat it in the microwaveand that’s it. Its difficult to cook every day, you knowso we cook once a week and store it in the freezer.

    Self: But that’s not healthy. Also, eating packaged & processed food every day could lead to many diseases. We read about this every day.

    NRI: Oh no problem. We adjust. We sometimes eat meat to make up for the proteins.

    Self: But you are traditionally a vegetarian, I thought. Vegetarianism is considered a better option for general health, animal rights and for spiritual reasons. and many westerners are now becoming vegetarians. Sowhy have you switched to non-veg?

    NRI: Wellits no big deal really. One has to adjust.

    Self: It must be cold where you have lived all your life in warm South India.

    NRI: Yesits terribly cold out there with months of snowbut we have central heating. We don’t go out muchbut its…ok. We learn to adjust.

    Self: How is your wife? Does she also work? What about the children?

    NRI: Of course! She has to work! We can’t manage with one person working. We have mortgages to pay. We both leave our home at 8 am and are back at 6 pm. We have only one child who comes from school and stays alone till we come home. He watches TV and eats something from the freezer. Some of our friends are even opting not to have any childrenso that they could save all the trouble. God!.Children are such a responsibility!

    Self: Yesthat they certainly are.

    NRI: Children are also very expensive. Their clothes, food, eating out, vacationsbuying new stuff every few months just to keep up with their peers in schoolits terrible!

    Self: So how do you manage? What about the culture? The sexual freedom, pornography, homosexuality and so on? Aren’t you worried about these adverse influences on your children?

    NRI: No one bothers about all that. Its part of life. If my son adopts that lifestylethat’s ok with me. We need to adjust and get on with life.

    Self: I understand that due to the recession and its aftermath there is a subtle antagonism towards foreigners and immigrants. Is that true?

    NRI: Wellyeahsometimes you do sense a mild discrimination and bigotry. Recently in fact, someone shouted out an abuse at my wife when she was out shopping. Someone at school called out ‘Paki go home’ to my son. But these things are rare because by and large, we keep to ourselves. We rarely interact with the whites or the other immigrants. Even they prefer to keep to themselves. We have our own small Indian groups with whom we socialize. Sosuch racist incidents are kept to the minimum. We adjust and learn to manage.

    Self : What about entertainment? Do you get Indian TV channels and programs? Do you eat out often?

    NRI: Indian channels are usually pay channels and very expensive. Sowe don’t have them. We manage with the local english programs. We do see Indian movies sometimes. They are expensive and you need to drive for an hour to get to the cinema hall. Sowe don’t do it very often. Eating out is very expensive. Indian food is even more expensive.

    Self: Where do you live in the US and do you own a house?

    NRI: We live in a locality with lot of Hispanics, Koreans and Chinese. We have bought a house on mortgage recently. Its not very big actually. Just a two bedroom twin home of about 800 sq ft. Unfortunately prices have dropped recently. But we like it.

    Self: But you have a fairly big home in India…

    NRI: Yesbut.what have I got in India? Nothing!

    Self: What do you do if one of you is ill? Do any neighbors help?

    NRI: Actuallyone of my neighbors is a Korean man who lives with his girlfriend. On the other side are twoer.homosexual men. We have to help ourselves most of the time. Our Indian friends live some distance away.and no one will help if we are ill. Everyone is so busy with their own work.

    Self: What sort of work do you do in the US? Is it some highly specialized cutting edge work. for which you cannot get a job in India?

    NRI: Actually.I am a software engineer. I had a good job till recently, but I got laid off and had a terrible three months. I have recently been called for an interview for a temporary contract position. I may get it. Things are looking goodyeah.I am ok!

    Self: But you would be able to get a very goodhighly paying job in India. India’s booming with a very high rate of growth!

    NRI: YesI know. I’ll probably get a much better salary than what I get in the US and maybe I’ll be able to save much more too butit’s so difficult to adjust to the traffic and the crowds in Indiayou know. Its impossible to come back.

    Self: OK then. goodbye and good luck!

    (I think to myself as I say goodbye)Yeah.. right! You can adjust to packaged food and poor health, small dark wooden home, heavy mortgages, terrible weather conditions, lack of family, lonely parents, bad cultural environment, racial abuse, loss of dignity & self respect, job insecurity and even your basic principlesbut you can’t adjust to simple traffic conditions in India!

    How incongruous can you get!

  215. To “Does NRI mean: Never to Return to India…”

    I hope that comment was a joke.

    If it was not, you really have no idea of what you are talking about. In fact, your comment reminds me of a blogpost by Arnab on slum dog millionaire about how India is portrayed in the eyes of Westerners (

    How would you feel if someone just said that India was about just the following things?

    “A character is booked on the flimsiest of charges and then he is beaten black and blue in a police station and given volts of electricity.

    What else? Let’s see.

    Child prostitution. Check.

    Forced begging. Check.

    Blindings of innocent children. Check.

    Rape. Check.

    Human filth. Bahoot hain sahab.

    Call centers. Oh yes most certainly.

    Destiny. Of course.

    But wait. Do Hindu saffron-clothed Senas not run havoc through Muslim slums? Do street kids not get taken in by beggar gangs and maimed? Doesnt rape happen in India? Are those slums specially constructed sets? ”

    You would just say – Boss, you really have no idea of what you are talking about! You have never been to India, never seen India, and you are just picking up points out of your own vivid imagination. Even for those that are true, they are a minority and you are missing the good things.

    And that’s precisely what I’ll tell you (or the person who wrote that email :)).

    And lest you forgot to read the post – especially with your “bad cultural environment, racial abuse, loss of dignity & self respect” comment, I beg to differ. As far as patriotism is concerned, here is some information

    -Sankara Eye Foundation helped in performing 105,000 FREE eye surgeries in 2009 (
    -Organizations like Asha , Vibha work towards children’s education in India and are responsible for the education of hundreds of children
    -A lot of NRIs sponsor a child’s education for years – it’s definitely better than staying in India and saying “Is desh ka kucch nahin ho sakta” 🙂

    And finally (on a lighter note), for your comment about eating salad and sandwiches, come to the offices in San Francisco,and you’ll be treated to idli sambar and palak paneer . The comment above is seriously
    ” intellectual laziness at the best”

  216. Mohan and the average joe guy? Stuff it. No seriously. Like absolutely. Risk of death/reward. You people are mad owhat?

    GB, why even give any “bhaav” to these people men haan?

  217. Mohan and Average Joe,
    Seriously guys, potshots at our security forces?
    No matter how lucrative the services might apparently seem to be, Joining the services is THE MOST PATRIOTIC act.
    Does your daily commute involve facing naxals or terrorists?…their daily commute does!

  218. Before starting off,a big applause to you Arnab for defending our men in uniform.thank you.

    The trivialisation of sacrifices made by our men for decades by the people is a tragedy of unthinkable magnitude.being thankless is one thing but comparing the dedication,hardship and commitement of these fine men for whom death is not a question of being careless or wearing safety.the first battalion dispatched to kargil was fully aware that no one is coming back alive yet they went ahead because doing so would halt the onslaught and buy the reinforcement some time.will any labourer/matador dare tread towards ceratain death?oh ignorant fools,do you think the rigours and pressure to maintain the kind of mental and physical strength is anywhere comparable?i applaud The Indian Forces not just for these reasons but for their spirit and patriotism(yes,bharat mata ki jai is a very powerful war cry) to snatch victory in face of insurmountable odds against enemy who is almost always better equipped,positioned and has more support.even after shedding blood no stone is unturned to portray them negatively and politically choke them,yet they go back to save the thankless junta.

    few like mohan,dark lord,an average joe,rakesh completely rule out any special thing in their sacrifices,choosing to harp their “to kaunsa bada teer mar dia” rhetoric.And these were milder ones.FYI PVC ,which is the highest military honour and 3/4th awarded poshthmously ,carries a cash of 2Lac .do you think the amount is justified for an act of extraordinary braveness?

    @atm buddy you need to brush up your gk big time coz retired army personel are hotly seeked for managerial posts.

    @guddada bhuta:I refuse to believe that army unit depend on labourers to defuse mines.ill treat it as a case of intentional mudslinging unless i see some evidence.

  219. @jayant:hey paragon of cranial emptyness,nepal and bhutani cadets are only trained here due to absence of such infrastructure there.

    @Yogi:but apparently you need something more than a fear of law to face death.

    @back from leh:yes NDA exam is very easy,hence 90% applicants get rejected.

    @shan @bekararbokbok :i salute you in bringing an american centric survey while forgetting the fact that outstationed troops are not included in the survey.
    did it ever occur to u that rti activist would be specific to its interesting to note mr bakbok proudly highlights airline pilot forgetting that Indian air force has aircraft mishap every month.

    @manicynic:ok so in one stroke you deny the existence of smart educated army guys who enlist for reason other than gluttony and by vanishing other significant variables like losses due to terror attacks and round the year insurgency you proved one thing that not only you suck at reasoning but statstics as well.

    @shekhar:another yes man.

    great going youngistan,you explain in a nutshell why srk is an idol in a nation where not 1% know who was Vikram Batra.

  220. I agree with Kamal above. 🙂 A desperate attempt to claim patriotism 😛

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