Realm Of Randomness

March 15, 2008

News you (don’t) need to know

Filed under: Humour,India — Randomizer @ 3:59 pm

Here are some Indian news articles this week that have totally changed my life, and I am so proud to be Indian especially after reading them.

#1 – IIM student from UK prefers working in India (link)

This priceless NDTV article starts ‘Jann Gabriel wants to stay on in India … ‘ and goes on to talk about just that, how this student from UK will accept a job working in India rather than one abroad. Now that this British student has officially forsaken Europe for India, I am filled with immense patriotic fervor towards my mother India and now feel that it is worth something after all. I wish they also ran an article about how she prefers wearing the Indian kurti (like in her photograph) instead of the firangi t-shirt – that would have made me feel great about my Indian culture and dress as well. Alas, a golden opportunity was missed, but I’ll take whatever I get. One shouldn’t be too greedy, right?

#2 – 36% of NASA scientists are of Indian origin (link)

The Minister of state for human resource development, in making his case for higher education in India, quoted in parliament the figure that 36% of NASA scientists , 38% of doctors in the US , and 34% of Microsoft employees are of Indian origin. I was once again filled with great pride at this figure, but read that he got this news from an E-mail forward, and the figures were wrong.

Still, I have learnt to look at the positive aspects of life. Since this act clearly demonstrates that our Minister had the technical expertise to work probably a Microsoft machine, connect to the internet and check his e-mail from an internet site, it shows tremendous improvement in the scientific abilities of our politicians. Since he was making a case for higher education, I think his point must have been well received – that if politicians are able to handle the ground-breaking technological advancements like reading email forwards, then surely regular Indians can do at least something close to this?

I am very proud of this politician and technology whiz-kid. Though his figures were wrong, he has very cleverly got his point across to the nation that higher education definitely has a future for us desis. I wish his critics were clever enough to understand this bigger picture and shut the hell up.

#3 – India is 6th most positively viewed nation, according to Americans (link)

I am very happy that John Smith and Jane Smith think positively of my nation, though I must admit I am a little jealous of the Canadians, Britishers, Germans, Japanese and Israelis that beat us to the much-coveted affections of American civilians. Like our fore-fathers rightly said, “there is nothing better than the acceptance of the white world”. I follow this religiously and try my best every day to beat those Japanese at my work place, and I think I am making a lot of progress with Molly, our 60-year old receptionist. I should ask her some time to revise her nation popularity list … and verify if I have made any headway on this chart.

When my Sri Lankan colleague noticed my efforts at impressing Molly and asked me why I was not making that much of an effort to push India up his popularity charts, I had to give him the bad news: that he was not white and that the browns don’t count.

Tough luck, man.

February 19, 2008

Why we end up caring

Filed under: America,India,Opinion,Politics — Randomizer @ 2:27 am

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(Indian Parliament, src: Wikipedia Commons)

A long time ago back in high school, when I was probably in my 9th or 10th grade, we had an essay writing competition on ’50 years of Indian independence’, which I took part in. Having been abroad for a lot of my childhood, I did not harbor as much patriotism for my country back then as most of my friends, and was often very critical of India, often annoyingly so. Anyway, I remember writing in that essay that the Indian government really meant nothing to me, and that I felt no patriotism towards a country that was corrupt and sustained societies filled with stone-age customs like the caste system and dowry. 50 years since gaining independence, I argued, we have nothing much to be proud of.

To say the least, my essay was controversial :-P and I really thought that I would be summoned by the vice principal… in fact, my English teacher even told me that this very summoning was going to happen pretty soon. Word went out far and wide and I was asked about it by a friend in church that Sunday (who wasn’t even studying in my school anymore, but heard of it through his sister’s friend!). There were thinly veiled comments at me all through that week during English class, and I was quite nervous about the whole thing, quite frankly.

Luckily for me, nothing much happened and the incident was slowly forgotten by everyone… whew!

The reason I remembered this a few days ago was because one of my good friends from school who recently saw this site was shocked that I was following politics so closely… You see, I have always been quite apathetic towards politics, and to me, it was always a dirty ‘word’ , and a dirty ‘world’ as well. I blame Indian politicians for this, for the crores worth of scandals they were involved in at the time made me hate the system so much that I was just left with nothing more than apathy for my country.

It is true that American politics is relatively ‘cleaner’ than Indian politics, but in concept, both are much the same. It is still ‘politics as usual’. If Indians have bribes, the Americans have lobbies. If Indians are bogged down by caste politics, the Americans are bogged down by race politics. So what has really changed, and why have I stopped ‘not giving a damn’ about politics any more? Some might say it’s all a part of growing up, but that is actually a very broad answer… there is something a lot more specific than that. Well, the answer is simple:

It lies in another dirty word, called Taxes.

When we were back in school, it was ‘them’ against ‘us’. But now that we are earning, it is ‘them with our money‘ against ‘us’. Reading the Fountainhead has all the more increased my awareness of what is really going on, and seeing things from an individualistic point of view, I am forced to ask myself – what do I gain by giving a portion of my wealth to society through taxes? I will get back to this at the very end.

Universal health care is a system where the government helps reduce the costs of health care… those of you in the United States will know how exorbitantly priced a visit to a doctor is, or the cost of a simple X-ray or test. The following is a diagram of countries attempting Universal Health Care. Please enlarge this and spend at least 2 minutes looking at the countries and the description on the bottom-left corner of the image before you continue:

worldhealth2.png

(src: Wikipedia commons)

If the above diagram is to be believed, and I hope it is, for the editors would have surely been careful on such an important topic, then there are two very interesting observations to be made:

  • The US is the only developed country with no universal health care in place
  • Iraq and Afghanistan have universal health care paid for by the US war budget

So what does this mean to every person currently employed in the United States, myself included? It simply means that I will:

  • Pay for the bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Pay for the injuries of the Iraqi and Afghani civilians
  • but I will be left fending for myself if I get hurt here in the USA !

.

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And that, my friends, is why I follow politics… to be aware of how my money is being spent – not my country’s money, not my government’s money, not my parents’ money – but mine. To know who is out there to rip me off, and who is out there with policies that benefit me and the people I care about. It really can’t get any more selfish than that – to hope that the money you worked so hard to earn benefits you in the best way possible. After all, we expect ‘value for money’ in every product we buy and every service we pay for – There is no reason that we should expect any less from our government.

[ Please read the amazing collection of ‘Where your taxes go‘ articles by Amit Verma from the India Uncut blog to see how else your money is being spent, if you are in India. This one was particularly alarming ]

January 29, 2008

Desi dilemmas in a pardesi land

Filed under: Humour,India,Introspection — Randomizer @ 3:25 am

A good friend of mine from back in school, Prax has reached the American shores from work, and shares some of his new adventures in his blog. You can find the link to his blog on my blog roll in future as well. One note he makes, which I have always wanted to talk about is:

” Accents change – couple of days here, and already my accent is changing. But strangely enuf, whenever I talk to indians here, the good old bangalorean accent comes back.”


All of us desis discover this at some point early on in our stay here… that we are one thing with Indians, and another variation of ourselves with non-Indians, more specifically, Americans. I spoke about ‘DBCDs – Desh Born Confused Desis’ some time ago but cannot find it now on this blog, for some reason. It must have been taken off during my first phase of cleaning out my blog for political correctness.

Anyway, there are always very interesting situations with desi group dynamics, a set of unwritten rules that go without saying, but all follow, in varying degrees. A lot of this post comes from observations of my desi friends and personal experiences over the last 2.5 years in the US.

dilemma2.jpg

The Accent

The desi who arrived here and started talking to other desis in any degree of the american accent is instantly detested. Almost immediately, the universal thought is, ‘He’s just been here for X years, and look at his accent … ‘. The funny thing is that X can be anywhere from 1 year to 10 years … you are simply not expected to change, and any sort of ‘in-between’ accent gives people the impression he/she is faking. You either have a perfect American accent, or an Indian one, nothing in between.

It is really strange/funny to see desi group dynamics in play. Like take a conversation in a mixed group of Americans and Indians, with interactions between everyone taking place. Typically, most Indians switch to some degree of a borrowed accent when in a mixed group – I find it very strange and very fake to interact with a desi friend in this group, in our new accents… do you switch back when addressing your desi friend or do you go on with the weird accent?

Who hasn’t come across the annoying desi who’s been here for just like 2 weeks and speaks to us in a borrowed accent? :)

The friend circle

Inevitably, our closest friends here are desis, and there really isn’t much we can do about that. It is a combination of the ease of getting along, the common topics to speak about, and the shared experiences. However, no one likes to admit it. Everyone ideally wants a mixed group, a whole bunch of diverse friends, but everyone typically ends up with a core desi group in the end, anyway :).

There are of course, people on both sides of the spectrum. On one end is the Kannada/Tamil/Gujrati/Bengali speaking super exclusive group, who converse in their mother tongues, eat traditional food and have been like a rock with respect to the people they are and the environment they are in. They are mostly happy with things, their friends, and so on, and don’t really feel like they are missing anything, or that they should be doing something else. On the other end of the spectrum are those who avoid fellow desis at all costs to ‘move away’ from who they have been.

I would say that a good 70% of the diaspora are swimming somewhere between these extremes, not wanting to appear ‘clannish’ or exclusive, but ending up in an all-desi group anyway.

How Desi do you wanna go?

There are lots of people who genuinely miss their motherland and ache for some aspect of their day to remind them of home. And on the other end, there are those who badly want to feel like they are in ‘a new place, away from all they know’.

A classic incident to illustrate this is my first trip on the train from Mountain View to San Francisco. This being my first mini-adventure on my own, I was excited about the whole thing and looking forward to a pseudo-modern experience. I was looking forward to being awed by the cleanliness/’hi-techiness’ of the train, and sat on a seat next to the window smiling excitedly, expecting a pleasant ride ahead.

Enter Kannada-speaking desi wife with kid and family, who take the next seat. No, it was not fun listening to hard-core Kannada(my state’s language) being spoken over the next hour :) … and similar incidents have happened at many times over the last three years as well… where something ‘new’ is almost spoiled by something ‘familiar’….

I wonder if this whole thing is some sort of ‘reverse-exoticising’ happening with all of us. Just like maybe a British(replace with any western nationality you know) family go to India to see elephants and snake charmers, but instead end up next to MacDonalds,KFC, and the Intel office in Bangalore, and go ‘what the $@# ?!’, we are roaming around wanting to see the America from Hollywood…

The lifeboat syndrome

The lifeboat syndrome is basically ‘once you have found yourself a life boat, you do everything to keep others from hopping on’. A variation of this is to ‘close the door behind you’. Most desis feel this way about other desis at at least one aspect of life. For instance, if desi A has found a city where there aren’t many Indians, he doesn’t like more desis coming into the city! Literally every desi who lives in the bay area complains of ‘too many of us’. This feeling could translate to pubs (too many desis in that pub, man, let’s go somewhere else!) , cities, universities( I wanna join a university which isn’t filled with Indians), and so many other things.

Also, I wonder how many desis in the US right now with jobs will scream for joy if the government decides to raise the H1B quota from 65,000 visas to like 3 million visas a year. Are you imagining the opening of flood-gates with tons of desis pouring in? :)

Why are we not so excited to see so many of our own folk? Should we not be, technically, happy ? And if not, are we in some weird sort of way, racist against our own race? These are questions that have had me thinking, and no, I don’t really have the answers. It would be great if we got a dialogue rolling here, with your thoughts and experiences from whichever country you are currently residing in, of diaspora, assimilation, and the innumerable dilemmas we face away from home.

Also, type away all those things you wish your fellow desis did/didn’t do when abroad! That should make for some fun reading :)

[ Update: This post has recently been linked from DesiPundit, a popular indian blog, and I am very grateful for the recognition and the traffic. Welcome to the Realm, new readers, and please do add to the discussion! ]

October 16, 2007

The bitter

Filed under: India,Rant — Randomizer @ 2:18 am

I watched the movie Parzania last night … for those of you who haven’t watched it, it’s a very powerful, emotional movie about an incident we have all conveniently put past us but which continues to haunt the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens every day – the carnage in Gujarat that occurred a little over 5 years ago. The direction and acting is superb, and you find yourself lost in the tragedy of the movie. Reading more about it and the role that the government and the police played takes away all or most of the pride with which we hold our country dear. Arundathi Roy writes an essay about this carnage, which makes for a very intense read.

Well, I guess after the last couple of ‘sweet’ posts about India, the bitter was just waiting to be tasted. I sure did get a very big helping of that from Parzania.

October 3, 2007

36 hours of Gandhi Jayanthi

Filed under: India,Opinion — Randomizer @ 5:52 pm

gandhi.jpg

As a fitting end to a great month in India, I ended up traveling back to the US on October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanthi, resulting in nearly a 36 hour day beginning in Mumbai and ending back in Texas. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I finally watched the movie ‘Gandhi’ this time in India, and it opened my eyes to so much behind our nation and its father.

Learning about the freedom struggle via a history text book through at least 2 years of high school somehow didn’t really affect me the way three hours of watching the movie did. I guess the fact that having to write exams about the freedom struggle and memorizing the dates and details of it took away most of the raw emotion involved in learning about that time not too long ago. The very term ‘freedom struggle’ seemed bland , though it contained in it a word as painful and powerful as struggle. A fight. Something you were trying desperately to get but was so hard and painful to attain. The freedom struggle.

To think that just 60 years ago, we were ruled and exploited by another race from a foreign land, forced to submit like slaves to their wishes, seems utterly revolting to me. Just 60 years. Our grandparents were adults like you and me then, with aspirations and opinions just like we have right now. They were alive and conscious and frustrated with their occupier, and they fought it out. Our grandparents lived in those times, thought in those times, wrote in those times, cried in those times.

We owe our lives to Gandhi and his followers. He granted us our freedom, the same freedom which we take for granted everyday. While protestors in Burma are shot dead in broad daylight, and middle-eastern countries continue to oppress their women, Gandhi gave us a fair and just nation, a nation that has been propelled on its way to overtaking its very occupier’s economy (hat tip Salman for the link). More importantly, Gandhi made us win with our heads and not our swords, and we can look back on those days with a sense of pride, of not only where we came from, but how we came to be.

As women security guards partrol our institutions, young minds work meticulously in their high-rise offices, judges decide the fates of the rich and the powerful, representatives argue away at the parliament, and everyday laborers send their children to school for free, one thing is strikingly clear – that we have made the future our forefathers were fighting for worth every drop of blood, every second of humiliation and every tear of desperation.

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