Saturday, July 11, 2009

Desis And Denial

Sometime ago, I had blogged about coaching centers in India and the reports of them having inside access to questions for the entrance exams to the top-ranking engineering schools in India. As expected, several Indian readers commented that I was making sweeping generalizations based on this one reported incident that I had linked to in my post. There have been other reports since besides reports of the inevitable brand dilution. The flaw is as systemic as it is old even if we don't want to believe it and look the other way.

At the risk of being accused of making yet another generalization, I will say that Desis are prone to being in the state of denial about far too much when it comes to India. Most recently this has been the economic meltdown and the notion that it will somehow leave India unscathed.This attitude is probably a proxy for patriotism that is not expressed in any other tangible way. In their minds, denial somehow equals non-existence and defending India against criticism (even when well-deserved) equals national pride. Maybe it has something do with what Dr Ambedkar said about our delusion of being a nation :

There is no nation of Indians in the real sense of the world, it is yet to be created. In believing we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into thousand of castes be a nation? The sooner we realise that we are not yet a nation, in a social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us.

Maybe we try to over-compensate by posturing national pride when in fact we can't even fully articulate what our nation is in "a social and psychological sense". At any rate, for every hundred thousand desis claiming that our college entrance exams are completely sacrosanct, that our education system is able to help our best and brightest get ahead, that our hobbling infrastructure will not put the brakes on even the most powerful growth engine, that crimes against women are an aberration and not the rule, that women have just as much freedom in India as they do in the developed world and indeed the upward trajectory of growth that is helping the a very small minority of the country's population is completely win-win ; there is one desi who is taking a good hard look at what is really going on, calling a spade a spade and what's more doing his or her bit to bring about meaningful change in an organic way.

They would be the ones who will gladly give up a promising corporate career home or abroad to improve the lot of the poor, neglected and disenfranchised in some remote backwater. In my mind, they are the real patriots and unfortunately we have woefully few of them. I must make haste to point out that I do not claim to be in the model desi minority that I have just described though I have been fortunate enough to be acquainted with a few who truly are.

There a far too many of the garden variety India Shinning Kool-Aid drinkers who will flip into denial-mode the moment someone shows them a blemish on this shining patina. They would love for all things that all ail India to be automagically set right. Until then, they could live in their picture-perfect walled off communities, waxing eloquent on the myriad of possibilities that India is and not have the dirt and grime in direct line of sight. I don't see find myself fitting in this demographic either.

Considered from a desi world view, denial seems to the next stage after resignation. When you believe there are no alternatives and that you have no control over things that determine the quality of your life and the future of your motherland, the best course of action might be to go into denial if only to ease the pain.

It is at this point that you read the news of women being molested in broad daylight everyday, of call-center workers being raped by their car drivers, of a five kilometer commute to work taking two hours each way or kids cheating their way into top-ranked schools and calls these incidents one-off and not representative of the state of India as a whole. You really believe this to be the case because the alternate hypothesis is too painful to bear or even consider possible - it shatters the very foundation of your existence.


Anonymous said...

this is the true picture of india . i live in india may be i will die in india . so i know it so well . i like to be proud of it .still i am trying , i am nearing sixty ,hope one day i will achieve it.

sherene said...

Rest assured that it's only a matter of time before someone comes by and declares that you have no right to make such statements about India or Indians considering you don't live there, about you are unaware of how things have all changed and how you believe everything the media portrays - if I had a penny for every time I heard that...