Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Do Indians deserve less? The absence of outrage - Part1

Recently I had a conversation with my cousin. TamilNadu CM had donated Rs 5 Lakhs( or 40 lakhs) from government coffers, tax payer money. I asked my cousin would he accept, let's say, George Bush donating 5 million to Ronald Reagan's family from federal funds. The reply I got was "why are you confusing both countries, thats India, this is USA". That was my Eureka moment. I asked him why does expect less of a TN Politician than he would expect from an American one. Do Indians deserve lesser from their leaders? What I say going forward is not just with respect to my cousin or this particular chief minister.

Sometime back, writing about how India produces the best coffee but sets it apart as "export only" (there are many like that, 'export quality not for sale in India'), Abdul Rahman termed what we consume as "swadeshi trash". Indian living in India does not have access to the best product that India produces, that was the case a decade ago, may not be true today. However, THAT in a nutshell captures the dichotomy of Indians.

Indian's living in US expect the best from America, they will accept nothing less but for Indians in India, the response is "that's India". What I find fault with is the ABSENCE of outrage. Even that least honest reaction is absent.

Here is a different twist to this. Even in USA itself, Indians expect to be treated a certain way in American stores but will take any abuse from Indian store, "its an Indian running it". Now the store owners themselves show a different dichotomy. The owners as customers elsewhere in an American shop expect certain "rights" (courtesy, respecting the line at the counter, 30 day return policy, accurate and detailed billing, ability to test, rep to answer doubts etc etc) but will not bat an eyelid if they provide any lesser service in their own stores, servicing guys who cut a line, shoddy billing, video stores are notorious for bad DVD's, electronic stores have no return policy, the icing on the cake is their response "Oh you know our guys" (Only Indian stores sell stuff without sales tax, over the counter). Here is a flip question, why do Indians feel free to cut lines in Indian stores but would stand respectfully anywhere else, why do Indians feel they are less obliged to to take care of DVD's rented in Indian stores than they would if they rented in Blockbuster?

Hurricane Katrina,2005, was a national shame in US. Hurricane Gustav in 2008 was a non-event. What changed? The outrage of Americans at their government was heard loud and clear. Note that the lives lost in Katrina were very few compared to lives India loses in every natural disaster. The chief outrage of Americans was "this is America, this does not happen here, we are ashamed". Whereas Indians happily or many times sadly say "this is India, do not expect anything else".

All of this comes round to one final question why do Indians expect less from themselves and accept less from their country, their leaders and their own fellow men?

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