India is Shining

This post is a direct response to Patrix’s post on his blog here. He writes about “are we headed the right way?” vis a vis his recent return to India after three years for a holiday. Before you continue reading, I would recommend that you read his post. I completely disagree with every thing he has to say on that post and I will explain why. This post is not against Patrix as a person, but his perception. I hope he will not take it personally. Patrix does put a disclaimer saying that his post is a rant, but then there are no rules about not commenting on rants !!

This post is not only a reflection of what I read on Patrix’s blog, but an attitude I see in most desis returning to India. And it rankles me a lot.

It is very easy to be critical of India, and to question whether India is really shining or are we there yet. But doing so is in such a subjective realm that any accurate analysis has to take all of the conditions one encounters before making a judgement.

Power cuts have been a regular in India since a long time. Of course Bombay was the only exception, thanks to TATA’s. But from what I hear, in recent times, the duration has lessened and is not as bad as it was before. Therefore to say

smack in the middle of regularly scheduled daily power outrage in the early hours of the morning. No wonder Indians don’t seem to sleep late. I entered my home in the dark, fiddling around with the keys but thankfully, the inverter installed in key locations made it a little less frustrating.

is not a very accurate portrayl. The electric power outages are there, and fewer. What has changed is the comfort level of oneself. Used to having full power at all times in US, lulls one to a certain sense of taking things for granted. That the permanent energy comes at a humonguous cost to the environment is something conveniently forgotten. India does need to improve on the continuous supply of electricity, but that does not mean, we are not there yet !!

I find the next point equally surprising.

I just hate it when you aren’t the only person in your own home and your privacy is intruded upon so especially when you need it the most.

Again, does 3 years being away bring about such a large change that privacy becomes something so important? We as Indians have a very relaxed attitude about privacy. It is a very American concept, and hence to demand and expect that in India, is something that does not gel well.

As for

But nowadays, I have stopped arguing with dad even when he makes no sense at all.

At the end of the day, this is your dad’s house, hence not much to choose from !! But on the other hand, I am sure the only reason the house is getting prepped up is because the favorite son is returning back for the first time. It is a cause of celebration and sprucing up the house is one of the many actions.

Internet connection, sadly is something we take as our birthright here in the US, much like the air we breathe, or the gas we put in our cars at dirt cheap prices (in the US at least). In India, it is not so pervasive, and in many a ways, I can feel patrix’s frustration on this.

As regards population increase I think that is again a relative perceptual change. Except for maybe NYC, nowhere in America do you see the crowds that one encounters in India. The crowds have been there and always will. This is nothing new. What is different, is that living in Atlanta, or College Station has dulled Patrix’s reaction to larger number of masses.

Infrastructure, is one thing that I have to agree with Patrix on. There needs to be a war path to better infrastructure. Not only roads, and rail and air, but on the info superhighway too. That is probably the only point on which I feel we ain’t there yet.

Pollution is something that India has to counter, but then I have always heard highly exaggerated versions of how bad the pollution is. The first time I returned from the US, every single person asked me if I felt as if I was choking etc, when I went on my bike. Expecting me to say yes, they were really taken aback, when I said no. Again pollution is subjective. Someone from middle America comes to NYC and finds the pollution a lot. But then no one says NYC is a polluted city. Therefore, unless I see technical data that speaks about this, I feel that its a fashionable thing to blame pollution.

Bad public behaviour like honking incessantly or directing traffic with no authority, is something that I disagree with. However being tolerant is one of the qualities that define us Indians. We as a nation are very tolerant. Pakistan comes and fucks us up the ass every few years and we still extend a hand of friendship. So is the way in day to day life. You know that the guy behind you is honking away, and its best to let him pass and be with it. He will go away, and so will the noise.

Living in the US, makes you very intolerant. I can say that with authority. Everytime I return to India, I feel irritated by something. But then I try to think of what my reaction would have been to the same incident, before I left for the US. And in there lies the answer. Living in a society here that is litigious, incendiary, and very very intolerant, spoils one.

In the NYC subway, if you try to get into a crowded train coach just as the door closes, you will get dirty stares and outright indignation. In India, ten hands will grab you in first and then scold you at your stupidity to board a running train. That shows a temperament of a culture. You know where my preferences lie.

Traffic by large is the greatest problem, but it’s not something that can be sorted out by just being disciplined. Infrastructure upgrades are necessary as the booster to start that process.

You can jump out at me and say that it is easy for me to say what I am, while sitting here in NYC. But then everytime I go to India, I am all the more sure that what I write is not just for the heck of it, but something that I truly believe in. Ask anyone who knows me.

So in ending this post, I urge Patrix to rethink some of his rants, and to look at them through the relative eyes of someone who has got used to living in a very easy and privilaged society. A lot of India is the same or better than when you and I left it. What has changed is our vision. literally and figuritively.

Related post: Adobe Desis



  1. You are right that living here makes one intolerant and take certain things for granted. While Indians by nature are tolerant people ( that’s why “Pakiston fucks us up every few years…” ) but i hope you’re not suggesting that’s a virtue by itself.

    Granted there are times when walking away from a fight is the better option but the indignation and the dirty stares you talk of is what makes you think twice while driving in usa if you don’t follow the rules.

    Indignation at the mess from overflowing trash in a McDonald’s is what makes people point it to the operator rather than try to balance your trash on top of the waste bin rather than just hum to the tunes of yeh hai india.

    And of course the fact that doctors in india have got away with murder quite literally without being punished or reprimanded in any way at all presumably to get their next victim.

  2. Good reply there. Opinions are always subjective, so I guess Patrix has a right to his opinion, whether we agree with it or not.

    Even I am pretty sure that I really wont find anything missing from my country when I get there, but then, I am not expecting anything either hehehe – but I completely agree with ya abt the Privacy bit lol



  3. I think you misread the source of my rantings. I may have been responsible for not putting it forward though. Most of my rants are more personal than I would like them to be especially one about my dad but I didn’t want to say more hence I stopped. Same goes for the privacy bit which also is along the same lines. Regards other inadequacies, I have lived in Panvel for most of my life and am well aware of its shortcomings and pluses. However, I am still frustrated with the sense of apathy. Trust me, this is a feeling found even in residents who haven’t moved away from Panvel. More later.

  4. Arzan,
    I do not wish to comment whether Patrix is right or you are. It’s very subejctive isn’t it?

    But I really enjoyed this post for its sheer objectivity and for putting things in such clear perspective.

    I’m going to send it out to most of my friends who have been living abroad for 4-5 years post-college and hope they get some perspective before they begin their India bashing:-)

    India is not perfect and it will take aeons to reach USA/UK status. The hygiene, the cleanliness, the discipline etc.But somewhere I see it taking place in short steps and that is heartening.

    Infrastructure is the most important issue that needs to be sorted out and I do hope the Government takes some strong stands.

    And to end, though I don’t comment often, your blog I must say makes up for good interesting daily read:-)

  5. Arzan,

    I appreciate your response.
    Though every person is entitled to have his or her opinion, the matter of fact is India is definitely changing, it has seen tremendous change in the last few years.
    What everybody needs to realize is, it will take time for that change to percolate to the different sections of society.. reason being the huge population of India that drains on the available resources.
    If you compare the population and resources ratio of India and US, it is very obvious that US has a very low population with an abundant pool of resources.
    Comparing India with any other country’s development is totally improper. India has to be compared against what it was a few years back.
    The change may not be obvious or apparent if you start with what is lacking rather than start looking at what has changed or improved.

    Apart from that, i really liked your reply on “Privacy”. In India, we grew up with so many people around the house. We never thought about Privacy when we were back in India. Maybe we didn’t like it, but we learned to live with it. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, noisy and intruding neighbours.. most of us had them all in our one point or the other in our lives in India. Once we came here, it is just tht we started living on our own and now we complain abt it when go back home. I am myself pretty scared of losing independence when i go back home. I have made every decision myself in the last couple of years and i suddenly feel i would be losing all my freedom. To me, “Privacy” is a very alien or western concept to Indians.

  6. Good post.
    every single person asked me if I felt as if I was choking etc, when I went on my bike.
    So true. I have seen people returning from Germany after 6 months and complaining about the pollution here as if it puts them to death. They forget that they have lived here for last 25 years and were still alive.
    Pakistan comes and fucks us up the ass every few years and we still extend a hand of friendship See this – another traitor

  7. Maybe the power cuts in Mumbai are not as bad as they were, but rest of India has power cuts for 4 hrs or more everyday. There is no justification for this – we need to look at other sources of power, deal harshly with people illegaly using powerlines. We also have the shittiest infrastructure – bad roads, union troubles and power outages are not incentives for companies to come to India. My dad owns an industrial company and as far as I am aware the situation has not changed much. For a nation with lot of potential, we see to be happy with being a “potential player in Asia” on paper rather than work to make it be true.
    I agree with the Personal space and noise and the traffic, yet PAtrix has a point. We do seem to ignore rules to many a times. Maybe we can all make an effort to change.

  8. arzan
    what dod you read suketu mehtas maximum city?
    I flipped through pages at borders but i gave that one up…
    The reason i bring it up is that this post reminded me why i gave that book up. Too much whining about difficulties etc.

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