Thursday, December 24, 2009

Things that I hate, dont like, or just make me reach for the valium bottle

Everyone has pet peeves, or things they cannot stand, tolerate, would rather not experience, or just simply hate the crap out of; Im not talking about stuff life warm beer, or asian chicks with high pitch voices, or black people, or lettuce on a hamburger or whatever, but concrete concepts/notions that certain people have or the way the people exhibit those annoying perspectives. So I hava decided to make a list of my own, which will be updated or modified in a timely manner. In case you, the reader, is offended by any of these then please assume without a doubt that you too could be a great addition to the list. Enjoi.
  • Republicans. Whether they are moderately conservative or orthodox or liberally right.
  • People who are offended by, or point out, politically incorrect innuendos/remarks.
  • People who think that 1) _____ is the best damn country in the world or 2)______ will some day be the best damn country in the world. Americans usually categorize the first one while Indians fulfill the requirements of the second.
  • People who truly, honetly, sincerely, in a thought out process fully believe that the prospect of total world peace and order is inevitable and maybe even imminent, if possible at all. Gandhi was a big ignorant dolt who believed in this nonsense.
  • Overly proud parents who dont miss an opportunity to celebrate and brag about their child's most mundane and trivial achievement to boost his/her self esteem, especially the ones who put stickers on the back of their cars.
  • People with newborns or toddlers who not only make them the center of their life, but impose that same notion on anyone and everyone they can while trying to fulfill every void or unachieved mark by projecting it onto the innocent kid . Procreation is something that I'm not that great a fan of in general.
  • People with no interest in the world news or happenings; always content just to watch the local unremarkably uneventful news without paying any attention to the big picture. The Economist magazine is a great way to rid yourself of this condition.
  • People who cannot even point out about 50 countries on the world map.
  • People with not even the slightest interest or appreciation for Astronomy, and the achievements of mankind in the field.
  • In conjunction to the above point, people who even depend even slightly on any Astrological concept, or read horoscopes, or believe in Feng Shui and all that bloviated stuff.
  • People who are even moderately religious; this would be alright with me, but from my experience most people who believe in some god always tend to project their rightousness onto anyone who doesnt.
  • People who outright reject or ignore the concept of Evolution (by Charles Darwin) and doubt or try to argue about its fallacies or failure to explain certain phenomenon. I dont mind if you believe in some sort of god(s), but actually rejecting the idea of Natural Selection is utterly dispicable and repugnant to me.
  • People who actually think Natty Lite is "not that bad" of a beer. That has to be the utmost unrefined palette that utters those filthy words.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Consumer whores that are Americans

When it comes to spending money on futile consumption, borrowing to spend money on futile consumption, or just spending money for the psychological fun of it, Americans are unparalleled. No other nation epitomizes wasteful or unnecessary spending like the Great States of America. When it comes to consipicuous or the other forms of it, Americans are the Jenna Jameson of consumption: ever-ready, eager and more than glad to do it. And so when people converse with me on the recent recession facing the country, it is absolutely amazing that most of them still ponder as to what could be the underlying cause? People will blame the developing economies like China for its undervalued currency, or the big corporate financial institutions that blew the bubble of credit into the people's ears, and to some degree, that is justifiable. But americans are oblivious to their downright pathetic practice of, or the lack there of, saving money.

The fact that the household savings rate in the US was no more than 1-2% for much of the 2000's is egregious; the savings rate actually went NEGATIVE for 2005-06 according to the OECD !! That means that in effect, americans were spending more than they earned all together. The proverbial American dream of owning a suburban house and car was so forecefully and effectively fed to the residents that they themselves began to partake in the imminent and inevitable financial/credit bubble. The people became confident as the property rates kept rising and forgot the old wisdom of equal and opposite Newton's action & reaction. The debt to income ratio in 07 for US stood at 130%, so they were overspending 1/3 more than was theoretically possible, thanks to the pre-approved creadit card, pre-adjusted APR's, and thus the pre-determined sh*thole that now peacefully exists over the vast land.

By comparison, savings in emerging economies actually surger during the financial boom of 2003-07 of India and China, to many economists surprise. In India, the savings rate for the 2000's was 30% of the household income, whereas in China it was a whopping 40%. It was this saved up money that actually cushioned the worldwide recession so comfortable in these two countries, GDP where for 2009 was around 9% for China and 6% for India, a farcry from the negative numbers of OECD countries. This financial prudence and providence is a remarkable and very important aspect of Asian culture; saving up money for future is a signature of both these countries, and that they also hold around 30% of the world's human population is no coincidence. Just as in the animal world, when there is fierce and relentless competition as such, everyone learns and feels a need to save resources for future. In India, parents save up for their kids education, marriage, houses, grandkids, who then in turn start the cycle again. Financial planning and frugality are the hallmark of Indians everywhere. But in America, as soon as the kid turns 18, just as a bird's chick learning to fly ahead of its time by frefalling from a tree, they leave the parents house to go "grab life by its horns". Even the parents are no less eager to shit the kid out of the house so they can finally spend on themselves. The kids might not know a collateral from a forbearance, but they sure do know the size of rims to get on their cars and size of the stud to get their tongue pierced. Everything from a victorian house to a brand new chevy to a HD tv to a macbook: it can be yours for one low payment! how pathetically convenient. Along with learning to cook curry and the academic prowess, I have also inherited financial management in my Indian heritage (not the frugality though, I am very much a consumer whore to some degree). I opened up my savings account at the age of 18, have two mutual fund investments in India along with a monthly fixed deposit scheme giving me a 8% compounded return, and bought a handful of gold before that bubble started blowing.....So when I see worn down faces of the recently unemployed hobos in the States, or the sad look on the teenager returning the PS 3 he bought for no money down, or the people locked out of their own 5 bedroom victorian houses with granite modular kitchen,I laugh, hysterically......
Americans once spent so liberally they would have charged off even life itself to a no money down, low interest, pre-offered platinum card, and now as they look outwards and inwards for a line/life of credit, they must finally come to a sincere and firm realization that what they want is not what they need; instead of looking towards the west for fun and frolic, its time for them to turn their heads and thoughts east for some prudence and providence.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Indian's Inquisition

Indians would make a great police force, not due to their physical abilities (most are skinny and weak) or their quest for justice (indians love inequality in every realm of life), but to their incessant and relentless interrogation. Indians love to prod into each other's life by means of excessive and extreme questioning ranging from one's social,cultural values to religious practices to eating habits to daily routine. Ive been asked personal questions regarding my sleep cycle to my abscence from any religious affairs; Ive been asked about prejudiced notions of "american" culture such as an explanation of why the divorce rate is so high or why the women are shameless in western countries; ive been asked about what kind of fruits one can avail in the US, or why such broad and confusing inquires such as why does the world hate Indians; ive been asked to clarify the ways of a disease or a drug, no matter how little the interrogator might know about human anatomy or physiology; why is the sky blue? why do people get sick? why do you wake up so late? why dont you drink milk twice a day? why dont you touch your grandpa's feet every morning? why did you leave india? why do you come back so often, and for so long, to india? when will you get married? how will you or to whom do want to get married? why do americans hate indians? and on and on and on......Everyone seems to partake in the most deliberate and expansive inquisitions, meanwhile offering their "indispensible advice" on how to conduct a certain act of life/behavior. The irony is no one ever questions the corrupt politicians, the injustices perpetrated by the hindu culture against the poor or opposite sex, the horrific state of living of almost half the country, and the deepening divide between the different socioeconomic classes/castes in the country; no one seems to be bothered by these ongoing evils in indian society.....yet they wonder, in a very surprising and obsessive manner, why I keep my head shaved constantly, and that too in winter???....

Monday, September 28, 2009

Change is good, but not when its forced,demanded,expected

The most confusing, excruciating, challenging, but also the most fun part of being a first generation Immigrant is the time you get to travel between your origin and the current home. The difference in the two dots on the map is further increased when the places in question are as the US and India. Every time I personally had to make that journey, which is usually once a year during my college years, I felt this need to change myself in behavior, customs, beliefs, routine or just plain perception of society, but in India's case the change is usually expected and even induced. That very reason is the probably the strongest deviation in culture or society between the two countries: In India the change is directed towards becoming the same as most in society, whereas in the US the change is towards the individual, such as the enormous transformation I personally went through in terms of behavior, perception, beliefs etc. So usually I am an amalgam of the two cultures, but both countries some times demand that you sacrifice or temporarily suspend practicing the other culture. Both culture, obviously, have their flaws, but by having the contrasting perspective one becomes more experienced, and more appreciative of the diverse ways of living life. For a small example, in US the notion is to respect everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status or background; in India, while the general consensus of course is to treat everyone with respect, the poorest are usually target of skepticism or criticism towards their "laziness" and blamed for their own problems. So two amazingly different ways of treating people, especially when seen in practice in extreme, but both are expected in the two separate places. One can groan about the laxity of family standards in America given its high divorce rates, or one can go off in a rant about how rather strictly a woman has to adhere to standards in India, but both are a result of society's practice and expectations, and thus right in some way in their own place.
The main point of this blog was to address the notion of change particularly when traveling to one's home country that is unique in itself. Neither an ABCD traveling to India, nor an Indian who is traveling for the very first time outside it, have that blurring of two cultures into one single mixture of thoughts and ideas; and its even harder to extract or purify one culture as sometimes is expected in both places...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beating your kid is prevalent and for the right reasons

Kids can be little a**holes sometimes. So a parent should know how to deal with such a situation in a way that not only results in the immediate cessation of whatever annoying or idiotic act the child was playing, but also imprint the experience into the kids memory so that it can be and will be recalled at the next display of bad behavior. In India, just as many other developing or poor countries, beating/hitting your kid is accepted and actually promoted in certain situations. I have to testify that it is not only practical but rather successful in making sure that for the most part the kids dont end up under bad influence or the wrong path. I mean that is not say there aren't kids in india who dont achieve or drug addicts or other types of failures, but compared to western countries, especially the US, their numbers and severity is low. I have seen parents, both mom or dad, slap the kid right in the middle of the hustle or bustle of the market place, and then leave the kids crying for a while, instead of the "time out" or "cut it out" or other non violent strategies used by the american counterparts. Now i am not the one to condone child abuse, but the indian way is discipline. After experiencing first hand the kids of america in high school and colleges, although they were very respectful, responsible, and more mature than kids in other countries as they experience more life early on, most of them do end up in drugs, debt, divorce, crime or other failures of life in some shape or form. One of the best anecdote was told by a person, Mahendar Pakore wala, the last monicker referring to his occupation as a cook who used to make delicious pakoras on a street cart for most of my childhood in our punjabi community. He now owns a conveniently located convenience store, offering the usual staples. He told me that he used to lock his sons outside his house, after stripping them naked whenever they would do some naughty or inobedient stuff. I have seen kids getting hit by belts or chased down the street by a parent holding a shoe in one hand. In one case, the neighbors overheard a teenage boy yelling at his mother and threating to hit her, and immediately mobbed into the house to thrash the kid back to the real senses. Even cops, when approached by kids complaining about getting beaten up by parents, although for a culturally understandable reason like getting home late, drinking, smoking, flunking classes, getting caught with a girl, etc., would look entirely the other way. Parents are given the utmost respect and dignity and are expected to have a very strong influence on their child and their life, instead of the american notion of the child being independent from the parent after some years. Some of the fits i have seen in america downright scare me away from children. The americans are great parents overall, but due to the prevalance of divorce rates and other lack of familial structure or social cohesiveness, the notion of individuality and independence is pushed to such limits that a person is free to explore all the possibilities and offerings. But in India, the local community and the larger society dictates and scrutinizes the behavior of individuals, thus persuading most away from straying off. But I guess the ones that do stray, the shepherd is there with a stick to put them back in place....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Every Indian likes to complain, and I have a complain about them

Indians complain a lot, but that is because they have a lot to whine about; the long grueling power cuts, the sporadic interrupted water supply, the prevalance of infectious diseases from fever to diarrhoea to polio, the lack of educational institutes, the horrific state of roads, and just in general the corruption, incompetence and inability of the government to govern and function in the slightest way possible. Now these problems are present, to different extents, in maybe almost every country, or at least there are always a few people who disagree with the way things are progressing. The key difference i have experienced is that americans, in general, tend to much much more satisfied with life than indians; this is not to say that the americans dont have problems, but they just dont complain. They live life exactly in the given moment, not focusing too much on the past or the future. Yes it has its drawbacks as exposed by the financial crisis of today, but it is just so nice to live in a place where people despite their personal, social, financial problems have such a high spirit of living and energy that i have seen rarely anywhere else. I have met people who were desperately poor, people who were suffering from cancer for past few years, people who did not have any friends - none of them seemed to be bothered by their state.
Comparitively in india, even people belonging to the upper middle class (about 20% of population) complain about the most mundane and frivolous of things - the price of rice shooting up 5-10 rupees, or the petrol prices going up 2% or the unaffordability of additional housing etc etc. The whining and complaining is incessant and relentless; it just doesnt stop. Indians, in my experience, are mostly just not satisfied with their current status quo. They always tend to loo upwards, and thus always hungry for more. The social environment has a lot to attribute this, as people often live in very tight and close communities, so every status symbol is envied upon and gossiped about. I have seen people wearing gold ornaments, coming out of a car, carrying multiple cell phones, and then complain to a juice cart about the ridiculously high price charged for a glass of freshly peeled, hand churned juice!!!(about 50 cents, cheap by any standard).
Another reason, although, is that americans are provided a whole lot from the government; the level of assistance is just amazing, and that in turn is responsible for the current state of affairs in america, where people have become overly accustomed to the handouts and thoroughly abusing them. Whereas in india, one just doesnt expect anything from the government, except perhaps foreign attacks, which as of lately also has been a faltering expectations evidenced by last years record 30-40 bombs in a span of 2-3 months going off in almost every major city in India. I know people who make about 12oo dollars a month, definitely middle class if not upper middle by indian standards; the person has a car, 1 bedroom apartment, cell phones, television, AC, microwave etc - all remarks of a successful middle class person, but even he complains about the price of mangoes going up to 80 rupees a kilo (2 dollars a kilo)!!! Or he might remark that his doctor charged him 100 rupees for a common cold!! Yes i agree to some extent that they are high, but not for us. They might be unaffordable for a person earning $50 bucks (2500 rupees) a month (about 30-40% of population) but if a person of his stature is complaining, it is at that point baseless whining.
My point is that things are always going to get more expensive and worse than before, but if one always focuses on the negative side of life, complaining at every little detail while also refusing to let go of those luxuries, we indians will never ever be happy. We must take a lesson from the westerners and live life truly in the moment; quit our fretting and constant nagging and just be simply happy...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dont be scared when you get Stared at in India

Indians are very observational in nature. It could be because it is inherent in them to notice things on a general basis, or could be due to boredom that prevails there, or even curiosity, and perhaps even social policing of some sort. But one thing is for sure - indians stare at everything, everyone and everywhere, atleast in my extensive experience. When i walk out of my house into the narrow streets of our colony (neighborhood i guess you can call it), i recieve stares from the street level to the balconies of houses. Aunties of different ages usually sprout everywhere in a typical colony in any indian neighborhood, even more emphatically in any punjabi community. They are the usual gossipers, ever so current on the regular ways of life of everyone in the community. Whether you have gotten a haircut, or bought some new clothes, or bringing food from outside, they notice, and they spread the news. I also get stared at when i go out of my dads clinic by the shopkeepers on the opposite side of the road; again my each and every move is noticed and perhaps commented upon. I have been approaced by people some days inquiring "how was the food you got from so and so place last night? i saw you with 2 bags in your hands. what did you get to eat?" etc. The people in the lower socioeconomic status tend to stare, or i guess notice more things in general. When i approach a sidelined food cart in my car or if i pass through a lower status neighborhood, people tend to follow the car as a cop follows a possible suspect. Women have the worst of it, of course. If you are even barely beautiful or attractive in nature, indian men will relentlessly stare at you; in fact its a common joke that indian men can even rape someone just by staring, such is the attention and deviousness that they stare at women with. I guess you could it would hard to avoid it as there are a billion plus people and thus couple of billions of eyes, and well, they gotta look at something, so hey why not you....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Worry and Tension crucial to Indian culture

People in india, and i guess around the world, have problems. But in India, people tend to take the more pessimistic and cynical route to these problems giving rise to what i see as a national cultural hobby: worrying. People worry about water, about electricity, about getting more money, but mostly about social expectations and guidelines set up in this amazingly conservative society. Indian society, for the most part, is filled with expectations and conformity: it wants to dictate every facet of every persons life possible. Whether its eating certain kinds of food on certain days (non veg is considered taboo on tuesdays) to rituals one must perform in every wake of life, from marriage, death, childbirth, or even entering a new house recently purchased etc. Especially the older generation tends to worry to an extent that is nothing sort of ludicrous amazement. The other day my parents were having a conversation with me on where i would like to educate my children! Imagine that! My parents fretting about my kids (i am not even close to getting married for about 5-6 years)!! Parents first worry about admission of their kids into school, their habitual expenses, health expenses, social expenses; then once the kids graduate from college, the subject of tension move to his/her marriage; and once they are married the new worry becomes whether and when they will have children, and then once again the admission of the grand children into school, college etc.....and like this the endless and relentless circle of worry keeps on enduring in india through self-perpetration by people. It is as if they have agreed that life is not worth living if theres nothing to worry about !! Forget having fun in life, the indian way is to live life as frugally and simplistic as possible with maximum planning for the future, which usually ends up being unpredictable and unexpected, once again leading to more worries, more hypertension and i guess some weird sadistic satisfaction for those who indulge in the fretting....

Friday, July 17, 2009


I remember the first time i returned back to india after 5 years of living in US continuously to obtain the green card, i was not surprised or amazed at seeing the lack of change that had occured except for the metro line was constructed. But when i saw the people in the morning, i noticed one thing that has since stood out: cellular phones; everyone had them, rickshaw-wallas to the chole-kulche wala whom i could now call and place an order with, my juice walla, and especially and conveniently my murga (chicken) wala, whom i could instruct on how to prepare the days dinner personally. Even more surprisingly the entire thing was really affordable, calls cost about 1 rupee a minute! That is when i noticed the greates social and economic liberalization and upward mobility that india had experienced whilst i was gone, from 1999-2003. Now Brand India was golbally known and well integrated for back office and outsourcing projects, with most of the companies like Tata, Reliance, Godrej becoming world class renowned rather than indian icons. It was amazingly coincedental and amusing that this change occured almost simultaneously with the change in my self, my attitudes, my opinions and my behavior--- changes a teenager goes through usually, but in my case due to my migration from India to the US. And in both cases, country and myself, I cannot opininate whether it was for the better or worse, but I am truly glad and optimistic that change had finally come where there was no hope before. And at the same time, just as inevitably, there were few things that have remained exactly the same, some facets of life that have refused to morph like cement rather than clay...lets just find out if those changes will lead to more satisfaction and progress, rather than regret and nostalgia........

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Slumdogs all around the place

I like that movie, slumdog millionaire, not for its acting, cinematography or its poignant story touching on the many of the horrible truth of indian life, but for the fact that it exposed that truth to the international audience; the fact that it showed people just how horrific some peoples lives are on this planet earth in this country, and also because it showed with a sort of passiveness that is also just as much part of reality in India as anything else. It is very true indeed - people in India, hundreds of millions in fact, live some of the most despeciable and horrific and tragic lives that one can see on this planet. Beggars, the one diaspora that the film focused on, is probably the most interesting one. In no country have I seen begging being performed, promoted and practised relentlessly as in India; by crude estimates, and likely close to reality, there are about anywhere from half a million to a million of these hungry people. They truly come in all shapes and sizes - old widows, young runaways, teen girls bought by begging mafia, able bodied men, kidnapped children, but the ones that seem to attract the most attention, both socially and economically, are the handicaps - people who voluntariy, and less frequently by force, choose to have one or multiple limbs severed or blinded to attract more attention, pity, and thus money, "maimed" as they call it in their business. I personally like to go "fishing" for these, even to the point where Ill ignore the ones with just one severance; someone with one stub comes to my car window, and I blindly turn them away as something too usual; the ones that get the money out of me (usually 2-5 rupees or nickels and dimes) are the severely disadvantaged one, blind, missing 2-3 limbs, I mean so ridiculousy handicapped you almost want to shoot the person dead as a favor. Now I know this sounds disgustingly callous and morally perverted to the nth degree, but thats what living in India is about. Its about accepting the fact that life is sometimes just very, very horrible, a never ending saga of pain and helplessness, i.e. for some unfortunate souls. But you become accustomed to it, as theres too many of these pathetic souls that have been around for too long, and they are not going away. Yes it sounds like a harsh truth, but it is so. Now thats a truly Indian concept of how life works that Im proud I have learnt and myself practiced. Its not as in western cultures where people are hungry for a hedonistic way of life, everything must be satisfying and must be done in their way of doing. Yes the westerners and the anglo-saxons are compassionate and helping, but in India you realize after seeing hundreds and hundreds of people in absolute misery that maybe its just best to let them be; its like a person loosing millions in a vegas casino; yes its very tragic but you get used to it as a happening of daily life. So anyways as I was saying that I particularly like to observe these handicapped beggars, and there was one near the New Delhi Railway Station that Ill never forget. This person was most likely the most desperate, destitute soul I have personally seen on this planet. He had one leg and arm chopped off till the hip and shoulder joints, and the other pair were stubs covered at the end with flies swarming over flesh wounds, most likely indicating he was a freshman. He was busy balancing himself just trying to sit and stay on his rag he had laid on the floor like one of those novelty items people have on their business desks depicting a bird balanced on its beak - you can nudge it all you want, but the bird stays on its beak and fails to fall. Now that is an analogy Ill never in my life forget, in fact no one probably can; to see a person trying to balance himself on his maimed stubs of limbs, and all for probably about $2-3 dollars a day. Thats Life. Thats Life in India. And so it is for millions and millions...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The lower class strive to be lowered

Im always amazed by the way the poor in India (about 300 million or so) choose to act, behave and respond towards their more affluent peers. Now keep in mind, when I say the poor in the india, im also excluding the extreme poor, the destitutes the likes of which one might see begging with their missing limbs on stop lights etc., which also number around 300 million or so. The regular poor are people, in my educated opinion, earning about $200-$400 a month, which is sufficient to live or survive in India. These people, as I have noticed, tend to keep themselves knowingly subservient to the other classes, always paying extra respect in the company of such others. It is not uncommon for a person in a car to literally order another one of these poors to give some sort of service as in purchasing something for them and bringing it to their car etc.; it is as if the upper classmen understand the place in society of these individuals as generally that of a servant, where its almost his duty to do the performed task. Ive even seen cases where the refusal from such a poor to go do a task that an upper classmes demanded resulted in his beating or public humiliation where vulgarities were hurled at him, cursing him that he may stay just as poor for all his life. In reciprocity, the poor, already accustomed to being ordered and pushed around, gladly accept their servile duty, in some cases even offering to run errands for the elite, for in compensation they might get either get the company of such an elite person or his blessings, which are received with great honour. I personally enjoy some of these, such as ordering one of the guys who operates a juice cart in front of our house, to go get beer cans, or bring me something to eat, or ordering one of our male nurses from our clinic to do one task or another that I deem rather unappealing due to the scorching heat outside. Sometimes I am humbled by the things these people are willing to do for more affluent individuals like me, but then I realize that this is the natural progression of things - these people, although ambitious, prefer to stay down, and even promote it themselves, so why not keep them stripped of any self-worth or respect, especially when there's 300 million of them!! Imagine the helping hands....

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Help the poor? Nah...

Every nation, or at least every developed, civilized country, sees its foremost duty to make sure the less privileged - or simply poor - citizens be given all kinds of services and formalities that it can afford for free or at least subsidized. In India, where about 40% of the population, or about 450 million inhabitants are considered poor; or in my definition and the realilty, they are just awfully destitute, living in a despicable and horrific state of living. Now the Indian government, boosted by years of double digit economic surplus, and mostly to gain some populist votes, has decided to announce some ambitious, maybe even too optimistic, aid packages similar to the US's medicare and social security benefits. Some of these include guaranteeing two meals a day for everyone, secondary education for everyone, and at least three months of employement for every able and willing worker in India. This is exaclty where the problem and protest begins.
India has long been a country and culture where castes and social status define an individual; the higher castes, usually well off in a amazingly disproportionate manner, tend to segregate themselves socially and mentally from the destitutes, who are merely 'surviving', nor really living. They dont offer any help or aid, apart for some religious ceremonies, nor do they expect the government to do such. The prevalent belief is that government should only help those who help themselves - small business owners and entrepreneurs offering some service of some kind, not the blatant panhandlers and villagers who demand aid and subsidy on every thing possible. They see it as a duty of the state to provide them with basic necessities for as minimum compensation as possible, other than their useful vote for the respective party in power.
This is something that the affordable indian class, middle class and above tend to oppose the government, and thus creating rift between them and the lower masses. They think, and I agree, that just as in American culture, people who are given aid often tend to accept it as a right, becoming dependent solely on it, and then later demanding even more. Especially amongst the tax payers, who have no real way of saving money for retirement other than personal savings rather than 401k plans in the US, they believe and stongly assert that the government is misusing their funds to provide excessively to the poor, just to gain the mighty votes. It is an epitome of the battle of Populism vs Pragmatism. And I, being as astute realist, agree with the notion that the poor should not be given sustainable aid; i.e. the aid should be temporary and minimal in nature so that they dont become over dependent and hungry for more. After all the poor, the ones living on the $2 a day, are the highest group in terms of child births and illegal commodities. By giving them ample, we cannot convey the message that everything will be taken care of in the future as well, instead the government needs to warn them, however harsh that sounds, that if the state of affairs continues as they are, they might be completely on their own.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

land of opposites

If one wants to see the phrase "two sides of every coin" applied to every single aspect of daily life in its physical, psychological and mental state, India is the place to be. It is a country built on contradictory facets - a vast land of opposites exemplified everywhere and anywhere. First all, the socioeconomic classes have a disparity of unfathomable proportions, where 200-300 millions live on $2-3 bucks a day, and others the likes of doctors and teachers make about $1000-2500 a month. As the people of the nation, indians constantly flout nationalism and patriotism as "bharat maata" or are quick to quote the achievements of indians in the world, but at the same time, especially in the younger generation, they desperately look for foreign countries to emigrate to and establish a new lifestyle. Indians remark about how the whole world can learn things from its culture and way of living and how it should be on any travelers itenerary, and simultaneously the older generation and village folks tend to be xenophobic, especially towards the "firangiis" , or the white people.
Food is also divided into categories, with non vegetarian food considered unholy or less pure than vegetarian food, in which there are further sub classes - vegetabkes like garlic and onion are denounced by various religious sects and given up during times of religious ceremonies. Work is categorized as in manual labor is considered lower in respect in comparison to non-manual or clerical work. Indians are most known for their academic performances, and indeed every parent is quick to go off in raves and rants about their child's talents and skills, and the media even perpetrates a sense of glorification for the students who achieve high scores on even the most menial of tests, while India ranks #1 in teenage and student suicides, due to the ridiculously high expectations, both domestically and socially.
But the most recent event that urged me to ponder on the duality of indians is the wave of "attacks" on indian student diaspora in australia; first of all, the attacks have been sensationalized by the media and manipulated, as these were not all racist attacks, as the motive has been money or other tangibles in most cases,and the perpetrators did not yell racist remarks in all of them. They were just the usual criminals that have previously attacked australians too, irrespective of their ethnicity. So it was just a case of usual robbery or stabbing and it happened to be an indian. Secondly, indians are some of the most racist and segregated people on earth; look at all the advertisements everywher for a brighter, whiter skin - thats is the definition of racism; north indians outrageously prefer a fair skin or complexion and there are numerous products to do exactly that, however unproven their efficacy is. And india is constantly plagued by riots in one state or another over contempt for people from another state - imagine that! recently maharashtra was the scene of such event wher people belonging to a extreme right wing group proceded to beat up people from the northern state of bihar on accounts of job hoarding and state "patriotism". Sikhs from punjab have a history of being unfriendly to other indian diasporas; and the "south indians" like tamils claim to be the real, true descendants of ancestors of india. The list can go on and on about divisiveness within the indian community, so instead of being quick to label others and pointing fingers, Indians really need to learn to examine themselves, and understand their own nation and the people, before defaming or attacking other nations. Critical thinking, once again, needs to be bred amongst indians.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Economic Disparity

I was at a local dhaba about 15 minutes ago when in a serendipidous moment I realized the extent to which hierarchy is established in every single aspect of life in India - from houses to cars to food to vegetables to clothes and so on. I ordered a batch of tandoor rotis (indian tortilla made with wheat flour), but I got them with makhan (butter). It was then that a fellow standing next to me remarked that I was living well; in a society where 30 million survive of 2 dollars or so a day, a buttered roti is a delicacy, if not a dream. Imagine that - A layer of butter in itself implies a luxurious and privileged lifestyle!! It was then that I immediately began to think of any petty difference in my daily life and that of those 30 million wretched indians that had gone unnoticed beforehand. We own a car, and there are only 10 million car owners in India out of 1 billion strong. I eat chicken everyday - that is by far the most talked about "privilege" that often provokes remarks about my ostensible way of living. Non-veg food in general is considered a "luxury" and often reserved for special occasions such as the birth of a child or some other cause of celebration. I sleep in an air-conditioned room - another vivid mark of the rich and wealthy, something often gossiped about when one of the neighbours get its installed in their home. So whats my point? same as the old cliche that we take way too many things for granted, but it is in India that one realizes to thank and appreciate the ability of being above others in a socio-economic aspect, higher up in the heirarchial ladder - even if it is a layer of makhan on the naan or a tandoori chicken.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Most of my views about contemporary life in india tend to negative and pessimistic in nature, due to the very fact that I immediately compare everything to my experience in California. But there are inumerable, poignant memories that I relive every time I come back home to Bahadurgarh, Haryana - the ubiquitous rickshaw-walas peddling in brutal heat; the silence of night broken by the chowkidar's whistle, pounding the ground with bamboo stick; the howling of contentious dogs fighting over territory or bones that the few non-vegeterians threw out in our streets; the loud and descriptive yelling of the sabji-wala, listing the daily inventory of vegetables available; the iconic honking of the man who sells balloons and other cheaply made plastic toys; the evening streets lined with various food carts dispensing all sorts of fried, sweet, spicy finger foods; the early dawn sleep broken by the obnoxiously loud silencer-less motorbike that is signature of doodh-walas;the ubiquitous cows roaming, grazing or just lazily nesting as if the people are the troublesome intruders who need to manuever around; the beggars - oh yes theres plenty of them of all sorts - blind, maimed, young kids, single desperate women, the sadhus, the ascetics - some carry buckets of oil with pictures of gods, some dressed like hanuman (half monkey half man follower of rama), some who insist of slapping themselves with a large, leather whip until money is given!! One of the most amazing aspects of life here is that it seems idyllic even though there's chaos beeming every where; somehow between the blaring horns, the screaming hawkers, the hustle-bustle, life seems to go rather slow and easy. It is truly unique in every sense of the word.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hope is the opiate of the masses

One great thing, atleast as far as my fundamentals go, that came out of the current fiscal crisis is that people finally realize, or lets hope they did, that hope is hopeless. All you hear of these days are dreams crushed, aspirations falsified and hope faltering. The main reason I believe, for the current grand crisis emerging before the developed world, is that people had great, almost delusional, hope. Everyone believed life could go on effortlessly as it had been, that everything "will get better" someday. Someday we will achieve world peace and prosperity and every man and woman would fulfill his/her dreams. You see, people tend to, for some reason beyond my understanding, believe that somehow the future will always be better. If not better, than at least sustainable, and so everyone lived without any preparation for days like this.
I, on the other hand, being cynical and sarcastic in nature, have never had hope. I have never hoped that one day ill have a big mansion, hope that i will pass a test i wasnt prepared for, hoped that somehow ill acquire great sums of money, hope ill lead a peaceful and great life, and so will the rest of the world. Never. To me, hope is absolutely arbitrary and baseless. I am usually a bit more realistic about life. You know, planning ahead, and then acting on that preparation. Dont get me wrong, I have screwed plenty of times in my life, and will do so numerable times again in life. But i guarantee i will never be surprised by an unfortunate event, as, like i stated earlier, i dont hope for the better. Lets just hope the world, especially the middle class - those are the worst you see, as unlike the utterly hopeless poor class, these middle class men somehow propagate the notion of hope; they believe they too can move up the ladder and join the elite in the festivities, they are the ones who usually blow the biggest bubble. Well, welcome back to earth peeps.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mockery of democracy?

After following the indian election feverishly, ive realized that the event hailed as the largest show of democracy in the world, is at best and worst, a joke. Sure 700 million strong electorate goes to poll booths inspite of the grueling weather and terrorist fears, and the usually quoted achievement is often how the poor cast more votes than the rich in india; that the election brings all the 6000 or so smaller communities together for one event.
Well it doesnt. Infact caste, social and gender differences are exploited more than any other time in country than during elections. The candidates themselves reach out to the voters on ethnic and caste basis. Another ludicrous aspect is the over prescence and involvement of these bollywood stars - all of a sudden SRK or aamir or others choose sides and use their stardom to promote certain ones. Not to mention the latest trend in bollywood of retiring into politics. More and more "stars" all of a sudden have a propensity to help out the cause of "aam admi" (common man); all of a sudden they feel philanthropic and their nationalism just bursts out. But perhaps the greatest challenge and humiliating aspect of the indian elections is that a huge chunk of candidates almost always have criminal records, not to mention concurrent cases!! About 25% of all candidates polling in the 2009 election have cases varying from the horrifying rape, assault, murder etc. to embezzlement, extortion, fraud. Finally this year i actually noticed a drive massed together by various organizations to raise publc awareness and have these candidates revoked. But by no means they are even close to making an imprint, atleast for the 2009 elections. I mean the fallacies and shortcomings of this "democracy" are endless. This year Times of India reported on the first day of polling instances of candidates caught red handed handing out cash and liquor to the slum dwellers to get their vote. I cant blame the people though for accepting, as the election time is perhaps the only time these people get any attention, let alone kickbacks. The slumdwellers, opportunistic as always, confessed to accepting gifts from multiple parties to their fortune. The one case I found extremely, I mean extremely dissettling and amusing at the same time was that in one state, party workers allegedly went door to door binding every woman they could find to cast votes for them by juxtaposing the elections along the concepts of husbandry and loyalty; they made the women swear on a saffron thread, ubiquitously used in hindu religious ceremonies including marriage, that they would pledge their support for the candidate just as they do for their spouse. I have to say that does demonstrate, albeit horribly, the clever, witty aspects of indians to circumvent the system. Jai Hind my friends....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life is tough.

Today i heard another incidence of americans experiencing hardships and the actions they take in dealing with it; the report was of a pharmacy employee who, upond being informed that he was no longer needed at the business, did what is becoming an alarmingly widespread and sought after solution: he killed two of his co-workers and then himself. This was in no way an isolated event. Ever since i came off the boat to america in 1999, i've seen numerous cases such as this, and they have sort of intrigued me because as it is well known, india is a poor nation. Wait let me rephrase - india has horrendous poverty, both in severity and prevalance. About 30% of people in india live on about 2 bucks a day. And its not even that they earn those bucks in a respectable work place; these are the people the world might have gotten a glimpse of in Slumdog Millionaire. People who get maimed - voluntarily getting a limb chopped off - to earn pennies at red lights, people who drive rickshaws in 120 degree heat and then have to haggle for pennies, people who sell kidneys and other organs in india to make ends meet.
Why am i going on a rant on state of poverty and poor in india? Because if there is one thing i have learnt from watching and observing these people is the resilience. Those 300 million in india realize that life is tough and accept it as an inevitable reality. Ive even talked to some of them and they show no aspiration for upwards mobility - they are just glad to survive. That is the most amazing realization i had about the poor in india - they dont live, they just survive, but do so in a seemingly conforming manner. And thats exactly what the americans are having a ver very hard time accepting. I see people from the detroit carmakers who got laid off whining and complaining on tv about lost of their jobs. I understand its unfortunate, but what i dont understand is how do people forget the most well known cliche all around the world: Life is tough,unfair, hard , or in words of one my favorite rapper Nas, "Life's a bitch, and then you die".
The above mentioned horrific incidents of americans failing to deal with life's problems in a rational way shows just how incomprehensible hardships can be for some americans. During the ongoing global economic crisis, started mostly by americans, one can easily see the fear, the panic on the white faces. I think it is the first time i have seen americans actually starting to worry. Ive also realized americans have always been hedonistic people; they like to enjoy every single of moment of life, and hey, theres nothing wrong with that, especially when its the richest and prosperous nation in the world. But for the first time, in our generation (americans did have plenty of hardships during wwII and later until early 1990s) I have seen the americans actually panic. For the first time, they are no longer obsessed in their usual consumerism, but actually saving and planning for future. Wow. I have to say i like it, in fact im enjoying the current recession in america. Maybe this will be the time they actually realize that buying crap over crap with credit - money most americans never have or had - is just downright unscrupulous and moronic. I see it as a correction, not a recession. I just hope americans dont stray again and put themselves in this situation again, but then again what is an american without that dream - ah yes, the great american dream. Get a house, couple of cars, laptops, ipods, caffe lattes, vacations in bahamas, christmas gifts, hd tvs, all the lavish, unnecessary objects that can be a status symbol - it will all be paid for eventually right? Hell im going to apply for some credit cards myself....That is why i consider myself lucky to have seen the way life is in countries like india for millions - its a rude awakening but at least you do become aware of the actual possibilities of life; you also learn so much about resilience, courage, relentlessness just by watching these people. I never ever had to face any kind of economic hardship, in fact we are well off in india, but just by seeing someone else in those shoes I definitely have a more realistic, maybe a bit cynical, grip on life. Thanks poor people, thank you so much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Election erection

I love the election time in India. The plethora of parties parading through streets with cavalcades of cars, begging for the vote; the whole ambiance of country seems like as if a kumbh mela was happening all around. Amazingly diverse and eclectic, the parties try hardest to buy votes. Its ver well known, observed and heard of that parties hand out 2 things usually in the slums as that is a huge electorate, and reltively easy to appease - almost every election i've read in the news of another politician cauhgt handing out liquor and cash to the slums. The handouts are huge for parties in backward states where most people dwell in slums. Theres even reports of politicians using ambulances or private cars to ferry cash around to the slums while hiding it from the scrutiny of media and cops!!
Its known as a celebration of democracy, although i beg to differ a little, as the indians dont really elect the "leader", they elect parties. And thats exactly where the fallacy of indian democracy lies. How can one expect a diversified party forming a coalition with countless other smaller parties will ever get to resolving or focusing on the national issues; i.e. since the politics is so utterly local, it is actually unrealistic (naieve i think) to expect the party to cater to actual national issues.
But people, the electorate - 700 million strong - also does have unrealistic expectations from the politicians. I always hear people complaining about their respective MP (similar to senator in US) not attending to the common and excruciating problems of electricity and water etc. People need to understand that the MP's arent supposed to take over civic projects, but actually make national decisions about education, healthcare, defence etc. It was also pathetic to see that the government of india has alarmingly been absent from doing nothing as well - the government sits for an average of 20 days in a year during the past few years!! Anyways the people will always blame the corrupt politicians (i think the masses of india are corrupt as well as incidents such as tax evasion and theft of utilities is brazenly common.
So you see its a vicious circle - a circle of apathy- politicians dont care about issues, and people dont care about the politicians. And thats the dangerous of all in my opinion; when people actually accept and even promote corruption, assimilation, hypocrisy or exploitation as just a part of life, that is when the masses are actually responsible for their own demise. I would love to blame the politicians too, but first we have to stop over looking the problems and actually become proactive ourselves in holding the politicians more accountable. That requires the people becoming and demanding accountability - but also being transparent themselves.
In the end, I have concluded that it is due to this vicious reciprocation of obliviousness between the electorate and the politicians that the country, in so many words, is fuckt. Cynical? yes Pessimistic? yes But its the reality. Ive tried to bring myself to actually hope for something better, but i realized that hope doesnt go too far, especially in a seemingly chaotic place like india (yes it is chaotic. i wish i had another word. I must mention that it is this controlled chaos that makes me love india even more). So im going to do what everyone in india seems to be content with - live as you want to, and the rest? baaki sab bhagwan key haath mein, as people in india often remark when asked about the future of the country.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

land of opportunities

america is known as the land of opportunities, and no this isnt going to be a blog raving about the great country that is america because of its seemingly warm attitude to immigrants. But i think that the plethora of "opportunities" that people usually refer to in terms of immigrants is jobs. Money. When most people quote that america is land of opportunities, they mean, to a great extent, that america is land filled with money/jobs, which is also the presumption that actual immigrants tend to give to america. Under my experience, i think its not only money, but the other prevalent opportunites that are the de facto product of the life in america. I'm referring to the actual sociological construct in society, the personal development as an individual, the civic atmosphere, the experiences of actually being in american culture. These are the "opportunities",intances etc. that have contributed more towards my better being than actual, monetary or any tangible gain.
It is the fact that as one lives here, one inevitablly finds out, immerses in, or gets a hint of american life sometime (more commentary on american life later) and realizes that the untold faculties of society, such as civic sense or social expectations, are much less conservative and user defined than anywhere else I have ever seen. So its being exposed to a whole another world, the definition of migration, that inevitably leads to a change - ideas,thoughts,perceptions etc.- that are the best gains of the journey.
That change is something that cannot be described or explained as it never ceases - every single day there is some aspect of life ,as played here in america or back home in india, that triggers a mountain of thoughts, usually juxtaposing that very aspect of life, or life itself in general. It is as if migration makes one into a perpetual motion machine, constantly trying to settle yourself comfortably right in between the two dots on maps you call home. And that is exactly why I never will, nor can regret my decision to leave "home".


I chose to write this a blog as means of preserving the experiences, ideas, perceptions, comments, happenings, epiphanies, opportunities, anecdotes - anything and everything that exists within my mind as a direct result of my migration in 1999. I emigrated to the US that summer from my small town, Bahadurgarh, in India, and needless to say, things have never been the same. So instead of writing a book, a task I think requires muh more discipline than writing a blog, which is similar to just vomiting the thoughts out a little less coherently. The blogs will be in no order what so ever, just random short essays/rants/commentaries whose intention, if any intended, is to kindle some thoughts/opinions/perceptions relating to the experience of a immigrant, however faintly it is actually reflected in the post. So here's my puke. Enjoy.