Sunday, August 19, 2007

Living in my Indian skin

Rajendra Aneja, an Indian based in Dubai, wrote a piece in 7Days – on the India Independence day, Reader’s birthday wishes to land of contradictions. [I am highlighting Aneja's text in blockquotes.]

It seems to me that quite a few people in Dubai have started to miss the ‘Dear reader column’. Aneja tries very hard to be as bad as the original; he wears many hats and the first one is that of an economist. Through the letter, you’ll find that he is trying hard to keep the ‘economist hat’ on. He plays with numbers trying to sound like a learned economist.
Aneja writes: We are the tenth largest economy worldwide, but 25 per cent i.e. 250 million Indians, subsist below the poverty line, and cannot afford breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. We spend 4.8 per cent of GDP on health, 4.1 per cent on education. But we spend 8 per cent of budget on defense, for not having made peace with neighbors.
Aneja (the wannabe economist) has no basic understanding of what GDP is all about. GDP includes not just government wealth but also private wealth and things like the value of a Nuclear Warhead (Atom Bomb). How 25% of the Atom Bomb can feed the poor is beyond me – unless you are a Pakistani nuke scientist selling the technology to Rogue nations and terrorists. Luckily India does not sell its nuclear technology to terrorists. Oh Aneja! The minimum you could do was to use the non-American version of Microsoft Word (neighbors!)

It is true that India is a poor country. The notion that 60 years is a long time in a nation’s history is utterly rubbish. India is a young nation; the colonial Brits destroyed India with their “Divide and Rule policy”, and after squeezing the blood out of India for more than three centuries they left the country in a shambles. A broken economy, a partitioned country… the legacy of the British Raj is not too easy to wash off. Many brown Indians still try so hard to be the White Moghuls.

I wonder whether Aneja secretly applies ‘fair and lovely’. Don’t worry about me mate, I am comfortable in my Indian skin (my bottom is raven black).

India is not perfect; we are a young developing nation. India has no grand visions of conquering the world; we have never been imperialists or never had the wish to set up colonies across the globe. India is a BIG sovereign republic trying to make progress. We are not a tiny city like Singapore which can be transformed overnight. India is a democratic country – where we all have a say in determining our future.

Some Non-Resident-Indians have the temerity to blame India… simply because they earn dollars, dirhams or euros these days. They have turned their back on the Indian-ness. Eating Chicken Tikka or Masala Dosa doesn’t make you an Indian.

“For not having made peace with the neighbors,” writes Aneja. Perhaps Aneja was in the middle of a ‘fake intellectual orgasm’ when the letter was written. India has never attacked any of its neighbours. All the wars India have fought, including the one with China in 1962 were forced on us. We were attacked first, even in the Kargil war. The audio recording of Gen Musharaf giving instructions to his deputies (the General was visiting China at that time) on how to make Kargil war succeed was intercepted by the Indian military intelligence. Yes, if you wish to – blame India for Musharaf too. Even Musharaf acknowledges that India has been good to him. India are not the trouble-makers – so why should we manufacture peace?

These sicko NRIs just won’t stop discrediting India.
Aneja writes: Transnationals select directors/chairmen, from India, but we cannot identify a Prime Minister, who is not a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist. We swear by non-violence, but religious groups indulge in shameful rioting, every few years. We are a global economy, but pay the President and Prime Minister, pathetic salaries of $1,250 pm!
Who cannot identify a Prime Minister? Is it you, Aneja?

Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, VP Singh, Chandrasekhar, Devegowda, PV Narasimha Rao, IK Gujaral, AB Vajpayee – none of them are from the Nehru family.

People are poor, uneducated – they are easy targets for religious loonies. These poor people are mere pawns in the bigger power struggle. The religious fanatics in India are a very small minority. How many people does it take to riot anyway? A salary of 60,000 Rs (not your dollars dude) is just fine. The president and the prime minister of India are not presiding over a big corporation. Just don’t be constipated about it – read this one: We’ll miss you, Dr Kalam

Fali S Nariman writes, “In May 2006, President Kalam's relatives from the south decided to descend on him (as relatives tend to often do). On instructions of the President, they were welcomed by his personal staff at the railway station and were looked after right up to the time they departed. But the Controller of Household was under strict instructions to keep a meticulous account of all the expenses incurred on behalf of the relatives — all 53 of them. Not once was an office vehicle used for any of them.

It was made clear by the President that he would pay — not only for the transport of all his relatives to and from Delhi, and also within Delhi, he would also pay for the various rooms occupied by them at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the food that was consumed by them — the rooms at the prescribed rate, the food on the basis of expenses actually incurred.”
Aneja writes: We foster entrepreneurship, yet New Delhi is a bizarre maze of licenses, controls. Leaders of integrity like Buddha, Mahavir and Gandhiji were born here. But a sheet of paper does not move, in the corridors of power, without financial lubrication. We had a woman Prime Minister for years, now a woman President, but we kill thousands baby girls a day, before birth!
India has been a social welfare state and remains to be one even today. According to your admission more than 25% of the population lives under the poverty line, which means they don’t live under any roof.

Licenses are part of the checks and balances required to run a big and diverse state like India. Imagine removing the driving license system in Dubai… Government intervention is a must to protect the weak, minorities and the poor. Government has to protect the economy from being looted by perverted individuals who are looking for quick profits. Why is there a powerful central bank in the USA if it is a free market?

Financial lubrication, eh? Corruption, graft – call it whatever you want. For corrupt businessmen and government officials to be exposed, arrested or put behind bars – there has to be a political will – more so Social Justice. For that to happen, the society needs to be in good economic and intellectual health. The small state of Kerala embarked on land reforms to ensure social justice, the results are known to all. Just that you need to look at the positives of Kerala, which many people refuse to.

Corruption exists in public sector and private sector of almost all countries. Corruption has become a way of life for all. I am not justifying it; only trying to explain why corruption exists. Consumerism, which is the only prevalent culture in the world today, is the root of that evil. Greed is the fuel of every consumerist society.

In America corruption in public offices is called “Lobbying”, in the Middle East it is known as “Wasta.” Even if Indians try hard, even the best criminal mind in India wouldn’t be able to pull off a Worldcom or Enron like the Americans did. No prime minister of India would have been able to convince the nation that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

As for the abortion/ murder of baby girls… it is a shameful act. But, then, in a poor country with a huge herd of uneducated people – the economic realities of having a girl – makes people do the heinous crime. Take a look at Kerala; how many girls are killed there?

As I said before, India is not perfect. But there is hope in India, unlike the hopeless situation that exists in Pakistan or for that matter USA. A nation like the US has had a corrupt regime since 2000. Not to forget the situation in Saudi Arabia – with all its oil wealth.
Aneja writes: We send our troops to embattled countries, under UN umbrellas to save lives, but 100,000 farmers committed suicide in a few years, due to financial insolvency. Our President lives in a palace of 300 bedrooms, but about 40-50 million Indians sleep in the streets or fields every day.
It is the state of the economy which has driven the farmers to commit suicide. That has nothing to do with our obligation towards UN, which for all sake is the only hope this world has to find some meaningful peace. Signing the WTO & GATT agreements have affected poor farmers. Their livelihood has been threatened thanks to the “competition.” There is only a fair competition when the playing ground is fair to the players.

Vandana Shiva, who knows it better than most of us, wrote an article in 2004, titled, “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation”
Aneja writes: We have talked of metamorphosing Bombay into a Shanghai for a decade, but the annual monsoons transform the city into a stinking pond. All the global fashion brands are speeding to India, but we cannot get rid of our ancient brand image: poverty!
Sad isn’t it?

Our brand image as a poor nation is better than a brand image of a Terrorist state. Poverty is not a choice we made; it is the sum result of too many economic factors and conditions.

That all global fashion brands are speeding to India suggests that the new open-door policy is helping them come in and sell goods to the nouveau riche in India. When there is a part of India that is shining, there is a big part which is in Dark. A lot of work has to be done to deliver social justice to all.

As explained earlier, one cannot see India as an isolated case. The trail of damage the Tsunami of Consumerism is leaving behind is scary.

Another enlightened Non Resident Indian, Mita, posted Aneja's piece in the UAE Community blog. Some of the comments goes to show how people parade their ignorance as facts.

We in India are glad that our land is not branded as a safe haven for terrorists or as a big heartless whorehouse for tourists. India is not a country for instant nirvana.

I am sad that India is poor. I am sad that most Indians who can make a difference to the lives of others in the country don't do enough. I am sad that some of my countryfolk evade tax, blame the politicians for all the problems, and shout for privitisation of everything including the government. Most of these people don't even vote or participate in the political reality of the country. Democracy and secularism are the cornerstones of the nation; we are not hypocrites like the Americans who say their form of government is secular and yet write "In God We Trust" on every dollar bill.

India is not run by religious bigots. India is not India Inc. India is a big democratic country. India never wishes to be a Singapore, Sweden or Dubai.

As any State, the Indian government finds it difficult to deliver Social Justice. The governments rely on Big Money these days; they have to follow World Bank, IMF diktats. Having said that, India as a nation has come a long way from where it was in 1947. Still there is plenty of work to be done - for which you need people participation. India is not a failed state.

Being critical and asking the difficult questions have always been an integral part of the Indian ethos. I am glad Aneja has asked the questions, even if those questions lack a certain sense of honesty and sincerity. I am glad we don't just shut up and put up with it like many nationalities.

Gandhi taught us one thing - not to be ashamed of our Indian skin -- even if we are branded as a poor nation. We have never wanted to be imperialists like the Europeans, Japanese or the Arabs. India has not invaded any neighbours or nations far away like the Americans and Europeans.

NRIs, if your poor countryfolk make you feel ugly - help them help themselves to do better in life.

Some Indians have forgotten the core value of our Indian-ness; Our Dharma is in giving without expecting anything in return. It is even better than "To give more than you take."

I am not ashamed of my Indian skin.

Footnote: Many illustrious Indians, including my leftist comrades, attacked George Fernandes (the then defence minsiter of India) for being irresponsible for saying China poses the biggest threat to India's security... Please read this one by Arun Shourie: China’s economic growth is not just ‘economic growth’

"China builds 39 transport routes from its interior to the borders with India, and upgrades 15 of them for heavy vehicular traffic, including a four-lane highway right up to the border of Sikkim, all that too is ‘economic growth’; but that ‘growth’ should awaken us to what it implies for our security."

Another interesting read is an article "The Shade of the Big Banyan," published by TIME Magazine in 1959, three years before China attacked India.

As for the pseudo-sympathetic-patriots who shed a tear for India's 'poverty brand', no one can save your soul.

*McMenon currently lives in the Middle East.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for breaking it down, piece by piece.

Few things: You think only the British plundered us? Why is it that all you leftists never talk about 800 hundred years of Islamic rule? Every raiding invader from Ghazni to Babur plundered our country on horseback, murdering and looting by the hundreds, but you lefties never bring that up.
Why is it that we allow Muslims to play up to some kind of victim complex? They're intolerant bigots in their own country, you can see how secular they are by their demographics, if not anything else.

"I wonder whether Aneja secretly applies ‘fair and lovely’. Don’t worry about me mate, I am comfortable in my Indian skin (ref; my bottom is raven black)."

What does your black ass have to do with this argument?

And for all your derision towards NRI's, why are you working in the Middle East, like half the men of working age in Kerala?

5:13 PM  
Blogger McMenon said...

Hmmm an Anon leaves a comment. I have disabled anonymous comments.

With regard to the colour of my skin, refer to the title of the post.

If you are calling me a leftie, cause I haven't rubbished Muslims - you are a fuckwit.

What I care to do in any part of the world is my problem. At least, I don't call my hosts "intolerant bigots" like you.

6:46 PM  
Blogger nathuramgoatse said...

Hi. I intend to follow this line of thinking with you.

I call you a leftie because you're a keralite, and we all know the political bent of the people in your state, and since you're proud of your state's achievements, I hope I'm allowed to assume that you're in agreement with the political order there.

I don't want you to "rubbish Muslims", all I'm saying is that I've never heard you pseudo-historians acknowledge the massacres and forced conversions and violence on Hindus for over 800 years.

Was Spielberg "rubbishing the Nazis" when he made Schindler's List? And hasn't the world learnt an important lesson from the Jews, who remember their dead, the violence and persecution that they were subjected to?

Yes, the Brits were a clever ruthless bunch, they plundered India for all it was worth, but about the PR campaigns by Aurangzeb, Ghazni, Babur? They were proud enough to have poets record their massacres, their campaigns against the unbeleivers.

Why do you choose to omit it? Who's the hypocrite?

Just because I'm an expat doesn't mean I abandon my right to free speech, thought and expression. IF it were saleable, I'd would be selective in my criticism, just like you.

7:33 PM  
Blogger SevenSummits said...

Thanks McMenon for this interesting break down. [No serious scientist would ever comment in such a medium anyhow!] As an expert in development policy, I can only say one thing: Standing ovations for India and a special thanks to a nation, along with Brazil and Mexico that will give us some hope for the future. India has some internal problems to tackle? Of course, and so does Germany and the US! Please, guys take a look at all those failed states, trouble zones and future hotspots out there and give some credit to those that have already managed to become a newly industrialized country.

Regards from Germany :- )

2:57 PM  
Blogger McMenon said...

Thanks for your comment, Nathuram.

"I call you a leftie because you're a keralite, and we all know the political bent of the people in your state, and since you're proud of your state's achievements, I hope I'm allowed to assume that you're in agreement with the political order there."

Would that mean the Muslim League, RSS, BJP, The Catholic Bishop are all Leftists?

That statement reveals the underlying prejudice you have towards Malayalees (Keralites.

I don't prescribe to everything left or right. I use my intelligence than borrow it; I am no second hander.

The Marxists historians of India have their own agenda; they are also part of the propaganda machine like any other fundamentalist groups operating in India.

I don't follow any religion. I don't need an intermediary between me and God. Marxism is like any another religion; the structure is pretty much the same - with a well-defined hierarchy.

Anyway, if you are here to discuss some sort of a neo-hindu agenda, you are in the wrong place.

How long back in the history of India are you willing to travel?

If you think it is important to talk about the Afghani/ Muslim invasions of India... Wasn't there an Aryan invasion a long time before that?

It is that Aryanism which transformed Krishna into marble idols - making a dark man look milky white. (The same applies to Ram as well.) Before the dark man turned white – he went through a phase of being blue!

You have to understand one thing; this post was in reaction to a letter written by Aneja on independent India. Why should I discuss the crimes and atrocities committed by Muslims in India? If that is the case, Shouldn't I also discuss the crimes committed by Brahmins and other castes which are classified as Hindus today?

I don't intend to allow anyone to use my blog as a propaganda machine for hatred. Be critical, there is nothing wrong about it. If you insist on writing about the crimes of Muslims and share it with the world - start a blog. I will be more than happy to share my thoughts on what you write in your blog.

Anyway, for the record, the Mughals did not convert many hindus to muslims. If they did, most of the muslims in India would have been Shi'a.

It was Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan (No Freedom fighter he was!) who undertook a violent ethnic cleansing in Kerala. Tipu's orders were to "seize, circumcise and convert the Brahmins to Islam."

If Marxist historians do not wish to write it, it is their problem. If some North Indians think that Tipu was a freedom fighter - it is their problem. As far as the Kerala History goes, Tipu will always be known as a criminal sultan.

Nathuram, you ask, "Why do you choose to omit it? Who's the hypocrite? "

When discussing a letter written by a person on independent India, I need not bring in all these things - just to make a few fanatics happy.

How do define who a Hindu is, when Hinduism is not even a religion? You and I can believe in Krishna as a God even with our differences of culture and traditions.

Sevensummits, welcome to chayakada.

4:38 PM  
Blogger nathuramgoatse said...

"I don't prescribe to everything left or right. I use my intelligence than borrow it; I am no second hander."
If you're really the fully actualized individual you said you were, why do you bring up Kerala in a critique of a critique of India?

"The small state of Kerala embarked on land reforms to ensure social justice, the results are known to all. Just that you need to look at the positives of Kerala, which many people refuse to."

"Just that you need to look at the positives of Kerala, which many people refuse to."

A self actualized individual would take no pride from mentioning the acheivements of his community, but you do. Ask a mallu where he's from. He'll never say India. He will say Kerala.

This hypocrisy of yours is further exposed when you talk only of Tipu Sultan's atrocities, caring not a whittle about your neighbors.

Coming back to your Aryan Invasion theory. This was a theory suggested by the British, to legitimize their place at the top of the pecking order, and to undermine Hinduism, by making it seem foreign.

We all began in Africa, and split into two groups. The group that followed the coastline into India retained its dark skin because they ate fish, a rich source of vitamin D. The group went deep into Eurasia lost their darkness because they needed sunlight to make Vitamin D.

Maybe the Brahmins lost their skin colour because they were vegan for a few thousand years? It's one of my theories.

Nevermind that. Refer to this link.

Shrikant G. Talageri (1993: 47) thinks that the question of whether the Aryans came from outside India is not very relevant to Hinduism itself, whose holy places are all in India (in contrast to other religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam). He noted that "Even if it is assumed that a group of people, called 'Aryans,' invaded, or immigrated into, India,... they have left no trace, if ever there was any, of any link, much less the consciousness of any link, much less any loyalties associated with such a link, to any place outside India."

Hinduism is not a religion, but I cherish the idea of polytheism, pluralism, and syncretism. If you don't like the idea of a white Krishna, you can imagine him in dark skin, depict him in dark skin, or blue skin.

Let me leave you with a quote from Aurobindo
"Spirituality is the master key of the Indian mind. It is this dominant inclination of India which gives character to all the expressions of her culture. In fact, they have grown out of her inborn spiritual tendency of which her religion is a natural out flowering. The Indian mind has always realized that the Supreme is the Infinite and perceived that to the soul in Nature the Infinite must always present itself in an infinite variety of aspects. The aggressive and quite illogical idea of a single religion for all mankind, a religion universal by the very force of its narrowness, one set of dogmas, one cult, one system of ceremonies, one ecclesiastical ordinance, one array of prohibitions and injunctions which all minds must accept on peril of persecution by men and spiritual rejection or eternal punishment by God, that grotesque creation of human unreason which has been the parent of so much intolerance, cruelty and obscurantism and aggressive fanaticism, has never been able to take firm hold of the Indian mentality. "

7:29 PM  
Blogger McMenon said...

Goatse, thanks for your comments. Now that you established I am a hypocrite, it will be a good idea to stay away from this blog.

10:57 PM  
Blogger rosh said...

WOW am speechless & breathless, on reading this blind support/faith response.

Why wouldn't you want to talk about:
-treating your fellow citizens with zero respect or
-have zero value for an Indian life
- kill or abort an infant or unborn girl/fetus
-living your life to the epitome of being superstitious, inspite of being educated
-keep the country as corrupted as possible
-blind faith with movie clowns, sorry *Stars*
-for the cleanliness in your cities/villages/towns
-brothels in B'bay and other major cities

I could go on, but wouldn't want to get personal. Nobody's perfect, so let's just do away with this false pride.

I am part Indian, and I grew up in the UAE - a country which has provided opportunities to many Indians, that India couldn't provide them.

So try and have some perspective and if possible transparency/fairness when you claim UAE is tourist heaven for brothels or terrorists!!

4:18 AM  
Blogger McMenon said...

Rosh: On one hand you say you don't want to get personal and on the other hand you try to set the agenda for me on what to write. Also claim I have written things which I have not.

There is a limit to being superficial, dude. My post is a response to a letter written on India's independence day.

You have a very limited attention span, where in the post have I mentioned that UAE is this or that?

Yet, you post a comment saying - you don't want to get personal.

I am not blinded by some faith or some ultra-nationalist spirit not too see the ugly side of India.

If you want to have an understanding of my post, first read Aneja's letter - and then my response to it.

I would definitely talk about 'the list of ills' you have provided, in the near future.

It is perfectly fine to be critical, if it helps improve my thinking and yours. That is the whole idea of sharing our views in a public domain.

That you have made the effort to comment in my blog; at least get your facts sorted. It is your imagination that I have claimed UAE is this or that.

I don't know what you see as "false pride" I have about India. Yes, I do have some self respect - and I tell you what - India is not a failed nation as Aneja made it sound.

If you want to discuss within the framework of Aneja's letter and my response to it, you are welcome to comment in this thread.

11:02 AM  
Blogger rosh said...

McM - I did post a response, and cannot seem it in the comments section? Hope you got to read it.


10:30 PM  
Blogger McMenon said...

Thanks for the comments. I have had to moderate the comments to keep most of the nonsense out.

With regard to the "terrorist state," I was talking about our neighbour Pakistan.

I used the word 'brothel' not in relation to the sex trade. I call states that have embraced capitalism as a'Freemarket Brothel'. Again, I used it in the context of India having regulations to protect its own economy.

As far as I know, UAE cannot be called a Freemarket. There are laws and regulations in place to protect the local interests....

Plenty of Indians are a part of that "Gulf Economic Miracle." Most of us, who have chosen to pursue a career in the Middle East, have played a defining role in building these modern Oil economies.


11:52 PM  

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