Being Indian

greatbong (gotto love that name…captures the true Bong spirit!) doesn’t like Priya Ramani’s article in the Mint in whichh she explains why she doubts that she really is Indian. A couple of particularly sarcastic excerpts from Ramani’s artiicle first –

…and I don’t spit in public or private (except for that one time I tried a meetha paan). I don’t understand that other national obsession, cricket, either. White is not my favourite skin colour.

I don’t read Chetan Bhagat or Paulo Coelho. I feel depressed every time I wear a salwar-kameez. No sir, I will not discuss my private life with a stranger on a train journey. And I don’t think I’ve ever begun a conversation with: “You’ve lost/gained so much weight!”

I don’t think we’re the greatest people on earth. I don’t understand our sense of fake pride and nationalism. 

and finishes with

I feel increasingly alienated from this country as I grow older. Sometimes I wonder why I came back here after I completed my master’s abroad in 1993.

 greatbong rebuts Ramani by claiming

I love cricket, have a genuine appreciation for subaltern music videos of the “Eh Buchi bolo seal kaha tuthi” type and do not feel bad that my popcorn is getting cold when I am asked to make a gesture, however symbolic, in honor of those people who have made it possible for me to sit in an AC multiplex and enjoy a movie. Which possibly means I am Indian.

But at the same time, I do not spit in public, do not inquire about people’s weights (purely to avoid any reference to mine), do not talk loudly to anyone, find Paulo Coelho grossly over-rated and do not refer to domestic help as “maids”.

So who am I? If you ask me to settle the issue, I would say I am unabashedly and proudly, yes proudly, Indian.

Further, he wonders –

Today, when I was going to the airport from a client meeting,  I saw the driver, a non-South Asian true-blue son of the Pennsylvanian soil, spitting out from the driver’s seat onto the road. Should I have been convinced then that he was Indian and asked for a des-wala bhai discount? When I got stuck, a few weeks before, right behind two other pure red-white-and-blues who got out of their cars mouthing obscenities in a raised voice after a fender-bender in front of a College Park shopping plaza, should I have tried talking to them in Hindi?

In the second half of his post, greatbong reverts to his staple right-leaning nationalistic fervour. I did enjoy reading his rebuttal though. He makes a very important point towards the end –

However in today’s India it is this tolerance which is under the most attack. Violent gangs, of for-hire goons, under the guise of “taking offense” are terrorizing people who express their opinions or lead lifestyles “not acceptable”—-attacking pubs, raising fatwas and pouring invective on the Net. Books are being banned, offices are being destroyed in the conflagration of “spontaneous displays of anger”.  There is a justification for this too—”For far too long, we have taken insults lying down. Can so-and-so say the same thing in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan about their God without any kind of repercussion?”

Here is when I want to say in response—-”Yes but that’s why we are not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan”. And I intend for my country to stay that way. No politician, even if they born outside the country, should be deprived of their right to exploit and misrule the country. No speech, no matter how hurtful, should be met with threats of violence or crude language.

All that I would add is that Ramani is entitled to her views and her apparent disgust with India’s problems doesn’t make her any less Indian in my eyes. Neither does greatbong pointing out India’s liberal heart (in comparison to other countries) make him any more Indian than Ramani.


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