I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Sidin Vadukut, but i found his latest book “The Skeptical Patriot” to be mighty interesting. The book is about a skeptical look at the claims that Indians make about our past and rating it on accuracy. Surprisingly, a lot of the claims to our past have some merit to it. And this came as a surprise because growing up, I didn’t look at India’s past with such reverence.
I have always looked at patriotism with suspicion. I think I lack the passion that most people do when it comes to defending their country. Because, I felt every citizen in every country would obviously argue that despite their faults, they have it good.
After spending close to 6 years outside of India, I have come to a depressing realization that nobody despises Indians more than ourselves. I found this sub culture to be interesting. Students pretty much stuck with their clan when they arrived and apart from a forced acquaintanceship I didn’t see people becoming friends just because we hailed from the same country. The term “Desi” was a pejorative verb unless it referred to cuisine.
It seemed more like we had this collective moment when where we said to ourselves “Phew we are out of India, we can finally pretend we don’t like each other”.
Back home, patriotic emotions were limited to Cricket and the occasional times when Pakistan would ‘allegedly’ bomb the shit out of Mumbai. It is a phenomenal task to view our country as one.There are so many languages, sub cultures casts beneath the canvas of polytheism which ensured that all of us were walking on egg shells. But you know that, don’t you?
But, now as cliched as it may sound. I think I like my country more than I thought I would. I have gradually become that obnoxious “desi” who swears as “son of the soil” but refuses to acknowledge reality.
This summer, I visited New York for the first time and it was quite eventful. We had sometime before disembarking from the flight and I struck up a brief conversation with an old lady next to me.
Old Lady: Where are you from?
Me: Well, basically i am from India.
Mentally thinking “I have lived for about 21 years in India, But now that I have spent close to three hours in NYC, you could say that i am still searching for my roots”
When you read books such as Origin of species, Guns, Germs and Steel and Cosmos you realize that we(human species and some parts of France) have undergone tremendous evolution culturally, religiously and politically. There are few things which were achieved in complete isolation and the flux of people in search of livelihood made sure that the cultures underwent a slow but sure metamorphosis from time to time.
I find inclusivity to be rewarding which unfortunately is fast becoming a controversial opinion. After US blocked the move for immigration reform, I felt a little sad for the people who couldn’t make it in the land of the big apple.
The people who argue against immigration constantly throw loaded yet baseless allegation that we, the immigrants are the prime reason for
• Cultural/Religious Decay
I have based my opinions on fact from sources who i consider reputable and they are available in the appendix. But before diving into them let us look at the logic behind these statements
Don’t you hate it when the immigrants from Mexico, India and China throng the wall street and run away with all the profit? Well I do. Don’t you hate it when these foreign bodies play with the derivatives and sub prime mortgages which left a huge economic ripple across the world for short term benefits. Don’t you hate it when the immigrant lawmakers lobby against the senate to have any discernible regulation on how industries such as Banking, Energy and Education and Healthcare must be conducted.Well I do. Damn immigrants.
I have always found this claim that the immigrants whether local or across borders contribute to a siege in unemployment to be a bit farcical. The immigrant workers can be either
- Skilled: Such as doctors, scientists, engineers, farmers, tradesmen, daily wage laborers, cooks, taxi drivers etc…
- Non skilled: Such as technicians at Best Buy, Apple store and customer support at Comcast.
To use an analogy. Let us think of a hypothetical organization, let us call it Chevron.
Now when it uses its advanced technology in trade for natural resources in Nigeria, they effectively killed labor unions, undermined democracy and created economic gap to get more profit. They do so without any hurdle or tuppence for international law, because that is the root of capitalism. Profit at any cost.
But when profit doesn’t proceed to building infrastructure and instead is diluted among the political cabals the citizens are naturally frustrated and seek to migrate to greener pastures.
Now when they come to the shores due the policy of the afore mentioned companies,which out of pure coincidence reside in US and UK, they suddenly become frisky immigrants. These people seem to be taking your job only because the local companies and mega companies are willing to pay them the minimum wage with little benefits rather treat them as locals. They find a cost benefit in hiring the immigrants who have little understanding of the local labor laws nor are ballsy enough to question authority which would risk their employment. And how dare do I question capitalism. I am not, i am merely outlining the disadvantages.
So in essence you face the sweet repercussions of capitalism where the economy goes along with the ones who are profitable and not sustainable.
But when their people go to UK or US they aren’t exactly welcome with the same enthusiasm.
This is by far my favorite accusation. They come here, don’t speak our language and don’t respect our values. While this extends from religious grounds more than anything else, I have little energy left in me to sympathize with people who justify their hate on ignorant bigotry.
The problem arises when we view culture as a monolithic edifice which was magically built by one person and we promised to preserve it for years to come. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. I would like to refrain from controversial examples such as evolution of language, influence of literature, music, science or textiles.
I believe, the best medium for communication is English because that is what i have been taught from age 1. Our parents encouraged us to learn it as it was like getting a passport to the better quality of life. English is often more marketable than the local dialect in most asian countries, so affliction towards the victorian language was merely a commercial choice.
However, friends and family never miss an opportunity to call us as cop outs when we are critical about something that happens back home. They associate us as unpatriotic and cowards who forgot Indian roots in exchange for some dollar bills.
So lets take a pause, you send me to an English speaking school, enforce me to be good at it, take pride when I put on a fake accent, insist that I take up GRE/GMAT/LSAT and get an american degree. And when I am about to embrace adulthood, and all of a sudden, Epiphany! Now, you are struck by fleeting paranoia that our culture is about to die?
The more I read about our eventful past both Indian and global, the more evidence i find in support for multiculturalism and harmony. I don’t want to enforce anyone to learn my culture or be respectful of it. I feel like the world is an unlimited buffet and with the license of education, I have the ticket to taste it all.
And that is why I am proud to be a “Desi”. Historians often look at India as a continent than a country. *A land mass extending from current day Pakistan to as far as Indonesia. When you read about the advances in Education (Takshashila), Medicine (Ayurveda), vedas (mathematics) and military (Chola navy) occurred in societies that were open, turbulent yet peaceful, well administered and curious.
*These innovations were children to amicable curiosity and spirit of enquiry. Jataka tales, tell us that students at Takshashila were often taught for free, and students from places as far as China and Arabia travelled by foot to get a chance to study there. The advancement in these fields were not divorced from faith but energized by it.
We were nailing science eons ago when the church were burning books and heretics for challenging their ignorant beliefs. I am proud that i am a descendent of an institution that promoted enquiry, criticism and skepticism. And I hope with time, I encourage people to be more harmonious with each other despite our cultural/political/religious differences.
- This article was penned by a Proud Indian. Wait, no I mean south Indian, I mean Tamil, fuck the kannadigas, goltis and mallus. Lol. And when i say Tamil i mean I am proud to be a Brahmin, not SC or ST. Lol coz their great grandfathers used to clean toilets and give really bad haircuts. LOL
*- P.S: Excerpts from Sidin Vadukut’s “Skeptical Patriot”