Monday, February 28, 2011

Let us not steal credit!

Daily News and Analysis has recently started a campaign where it labels the positive news stories as ‘India Positive’. While this is indeed a commendable initiative, I just hope that they dont get carried away as in the past where media has celebrated as ‘Indian’, feats and events of people who are only nominally Indian or related to India. Also we must take care not to create false positives by glossing over facts and taking pride in small things. 

India had a female PM and female President before the United States
In 2008 when Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was making headlines, I often heard some people point out with pride that India already had a woman president (Pratibha Patil became the first woman president of India in 2007). While the above is factually true, it is a gross misrepresentation to then go on to conclude that India is more accepting of women in power.

Pratibha Patil was indirectly elected to a largely ceremonial post and ironically Indira Gandhi is the exact opposite of being an example of how women can easily make to the highest echelons of power. She is the fine example of how family ties and connections are the most important political assets in India. Ours remains a patriarchal society and women still face gross discrimination and lack of opportunities in India. We must not kid ourselves and gloss over these facts by idle boasts about Indira Gandhi.

Sunita Williams & Bobby Jindal
I am always amused to hear the name of Sunita Williams as an Indian who has been to space. Here is a woman who is a US citizen, who was born and brought up in the US and who went to space as a part of the US space programme. Yet the Indian media played up the event with a lot of hype. She is Indian only by race (ethnicity) and has no link to the modern Indian nation. I feel that it is completely inappropriate to hail her as an Indian icon. Same case with Bobby Jindal often mentioned as the first Indian to be a state governor in the US.

India has low divorce rate = Indians are happy people
Another argument that I have heard, mostly from elderly Indians is that since India has a super low divorce rate as compared to Western countries where it is very very high, it is a sign that Indian culture is much better and Indians are a happy lot. One must be rather wary of this argument because while at first look it seems very true, the underlying assumption is not really solid.

A lower divorce rate does not necessarily indicate happy marriages. It could also mean that Indians just tend to avoid divorce and endure with bad marriages, which is not a very heartening thought. NGOs claim that the incidence of domestic violence in India is not very low so. This along with the fact that divorces are harder to get due to the lethargy and complex rules of the Indian judiciary might be evidence that the low divorce rate is not necessarily a cause for celebration. While divorce rates of US and western Europe are extremes which I hope India never reaches, I feel that there is no point being over excited in the current low rates.

Stats from -
India – 1.1%
United States – 50%

There are a lot of things in Indian culture and Indian heritage to be proud of and we should rightfully take pride in them but let us just make sure that we do not get carried away!

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