Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are We Indians Over sensitive about frivolous issues?

The monsoon has arrived with a bang. I too felt the bang and was down with fever for the last two days.

I had to avoid using my laptop to avoid straining my eyes. With nothing much to do I turned to the Idiot box to kill time. Just as I was surfing, a debate caught my attention.

There was a debate going on about an article in TIME magazine about American Indians.
(,9171,1999416,00.html). I was amazed to see the hyper and somewhat vitriolic comments. The panel was frothing at its mouth and branding it racism of the worst kind.

My thoughts went back to a couple of years back when they were showing a clip of a documentary made in India on the BPO business on CNN in the USA. In one of the call centers, the team leader was exhorting his trainees to be patient. He was giving them a formula suggesting that the mental age of a 35 year old American is less than that of a 10 year old Indian. ( not sure about the exact words but it was something to this effect). Imagine if the reverse had happened. We would have branded that nation anti Indian, racist an what not. But the newsreaders took it very sportingly and were smiling and making jokes about it and left it at that. I waited for someone to object. Nothing of that kind happened. The news deserved the respect it got. Now notice our response.

One agitated member of the panel ( I couldn’t get his name) suggested that half the amercians are poor and cant afford TIME and half of them are illiterates. The only people buying this magazine was Indians residing in New Jersey and the TIME magazine would do well to remember this. Perhaps he doesnt know about the demography of the indians working there.Most of them are software engineers who prefer reading it online rather than buying. Besides, lets stop being churlish. America is a big country and TIME is a big magazine.

If this wasn’t silly enough, the response of the moderator was sillier.

It left me wondering. We had problems concerning the spiraling price rise, there was a successful opposition sponsored bandh in which for the first time after a long time all the opposition came together, there were law and problems in J& K.

Here we were sitting and discussing a silly article. We can debate about it being in bad taste. But Racism! No way. It was just a spoof.

Are we really that frivolous and over sensitive of non issues?

Another instance that comes to mind is the shilpa shetty episode on Big Brother. It wasn’t as if Shilpa Shetty didn’t know what was in store for her. She did it for money. But journalists asking about this to the PM of UK was really silly. There were other serious issues like Immigration and its effect on Indians, about world economy, recession.

The third issue was stopping of Shahrukh Khan at the Newark airport by immigration officials. The response was incredible. It was as if it was a huge diplomatic row was commited. Racial profiling is nothing new. They have been attacked once. Besides, if they are careful about their country’s safety whats wrong? Again the actor had gone there not on the invitation of the country but to further his business. If he has a problem, he can stop visiting it in future which I doubt he will.

Surprisingly the response was much muted when a similar incident happened with the President of India, who in my opinion is truly an icon. We could have condemned it more vehemently but we didn’t care.

But President Kalaam being President Kalaam ,unlike the actor, downplayed it in his signature dignified way.

Even in the case of Greg Chappell, our response bordered on hysteria.

Instances are many. The question remains the same. Are Indians over sensitive about frivolous issues?


  1. food for thought....
    I dont think they are really over-sensitive, its nothing related to emotions in my opinion, infact maybe it is like certain section of people who really want to be in the limelight.

    Now about the racism thing I think I have some idea about it. Ofcourse you live there in the states so you definitely know alot about it, but as far as I have heard from my folks in the states/canada, all of them complained that their initial few days in school were hard... people calling them "Sand Niggers" and small "u knw what" people, and later on they did adjust. Also true that talent is really valued there and you shall get the results of your hard work too irrespective of how you look. But I wondered, do these people really have distinctions in their head but manage to cover it once they have spent some time with you?
    Siddharth (thelogicbrigade)

  2. Hi Hrishikesh/ Siddharth,
    Thanks for your comment. Well i dont deny that there is racism. But it is a universal phenomenon.I would honestly confess thatI find more racism here than any where else.

  3. i didnt find the article that offensive but yeah some of the parts i dint find amusing or in good taste.. what really offends me is that in the comments many not only agree with him but are actually abusing the NRIs; one guy goes on and on about the gujarati community n how Patels should not be allowed in US anymore.. i find these people more pathetic.. i couldnt care less about what Stein thinks..many of us have similar views on bangladeshis n pakistani immigrants (in India) n ya there is more racism here than anywhere else in the world.. couldnt agree more with you on that!!!

  4. well to me too it appeared not in good taste as i mentioned in the post. but def. not racist.

  5. Sudir,

    I read this post a few weeks back when someone mentioned the link on twitter. Fine, I agree that the article was not in good taste, but why to make a hue and cry about it.

    Also, we(Indians) are hyper active in taking say something and someone will take offence.. Racism is something that is there and no sane person would deny its existence, but why such fuss over things..and moreover we are the biggest racist of all..Forget about caste and creed we even differentiate between class, region and religion..why don't we look within..What Shilpa Shetty got out of the so called racial abuse, that she wouldn't have otherwise..SRK got huge publicity for MNIK..where were we when KAlam was frisked and George Fernandes who was the then defence minister has to go thru humiliation.. Our discussions are convinience based..

    Nice post..

  6. Exactly my thoughts Anand. Thanks for stopping by and posting your valuable comments.