Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No mother No father Give me $2 dollars

In order to remove any skepticism you might have about the claims I made about the beggars in the blog earlier check out these little busy bees:

What a wonderfully summarized, catchy phrase!! No mother, no father, so give me $2! Easy, simple, pure genius.

Season of giving, but I beg to differ

In the western world, the end of december is known as the season of giving, a time when people do whatever they can to help others. And contrary to all you might have been able to judge about me through this blog, I can be a kind and helpful person. The easiest way to give, or at least the way I have seen, is to help a homeless hobo, or as in India we call them "Bikhari" or beggars. In India these vagrants are not necessarily homeless, they usually dwell in illegal shanty towns or pitch a tent on the side of road, even sometimes complete with luxuries such as televisions etc.

What really grinds my gears is the way the homeless or needy ASK for help in America, sometimes almost demanding it, or thats the way I see it. I mean these people stand there with their cardboard help signs and an empty cup, and think they can just ASK me for help, and of course they never end up getting even a mouthful of my precious spit in their begging bowl. Let me clarify this further for the confused ones reading this. The way people get "help" or as I see it, free money, in India is really commendable. I mean they really put the beg in begging. From having limbs cut off so they an fetch some sympathy, to carrying an emaciated, weak, malnourished baby in their arms, there are myriad ways of really toying with the emotions of a person, in order to get a couple of rupees(2-3 cents!!!) I might add. It is very common for beggars on street to advertise their open wounds on hands and legs in plain view, again to garner some sympathy and thus some free money.

In America though, homeless people think they can just walk up to me with a smile and ask for some change! How presumptuous and over confident of them!! They beg in such a perfunctory manner that it actually angers me, much less kindle some sympathy. If you are going to ask for free money, you have to do something for it in addition to just asking. People in India touch my feet, make helpless and crying faces, carry their rib-caged kids; I mean they really BEG for the money, not just ASK for it. And not to mention what people actually do to MAKE money in India, as rickshaw drivers (my favorites), house servants ( and yes servants, not maids), laborers for construction etc etc. These people usually make around $50-$150 a month doing some of the most enduring, humiliating, admirable jobs I have EVER seen on the face of the earth. And you think you can just walk up to me and ask for a little help or some change?? You have got be kidding me. I would rather throw a pretty penny in a wishing well or down the drain rather than give it to one of those lazy bums. So please, next time I want to a see a person down on their knees touching my feet and BEGGING for money or help, not just ASKING for it. Happy Holidays everyone!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stop your whining

I just dont understand the validity of all the poor people I see in America. I am talking about the poor people though who always blame the government or society or immigrants or whatever as a reason for their socioeconomic condition. I always hear from or see these people on television pitching their problems about not having money like I care. Thats because I believe in something called "internal locus of control" in the field of Psychology (vs external locus of control) . That is I believe that most of the people end up where they are pretty much due to their own actions. I mean, of course there are coincidences and happenings that are outside of our control like accidents, deaths etc., but I firmly think that most people end up poor, or rather with less money than they always desire, because of the choices they make. After seeing some of the things that people (millions of them by the way) in India do to make money, I cannot consider any argument about one's economic problems as credible at all. If a person can voluntarily have one of their limbs cut off so that they can perhaps get more money begging, I cannot believe anyone whining and moaning about money until I see atleast 2 limbs off. So its not that most people dont get opportunities, and Im talking about America, its just that most people choose not to act on those opportunities, and then come to a harsh realization later. If a homeless person wants money, just move to India and get the chop or something, just stop being a burden on me & the society. Maybe I'm wrong.....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hurry the %^@k up!!

My indian people really like to hurry. They love to be in a jiffy, love that state of constant activity. They don't particularly like to be in a "slow ride" or "take it easy". I used to think that they are just very impatient but that is clearly not the case. After a rather long and thorough journey today to the center of Old Delhi (to visit the predominantly muslim area of Jama Masjid to eat some delicious mutton) using various transportation modes, I came to a shocking realization about my own desi peeps: Indians love to live life the "hustling" way; (not the same hustle as selling dime bags on the corner) but the state of perpetual motion. It is as if instead of the restless leg syndrome, its just the restless syndrome.

I saw them hurry at every aspect of life: the traffic, buying food from a vendor, at the doctor's, buying fruits, waiting to be seated at a restaurant, finishing a meal, getting anywhere at all, etc etc. You could be eating food at a roadside cart, and people will literally brush you aside with absolutely no hesitation or civic sense whatsoever, and demand that they be served as well. You have not seen overtaking on a one lane road, and you have not seen people demanding the doctor see them quickly and immediately, not because of the condition/sickness they are in, but simply to just be in a hurry. I saw people running in and out of trains as if it was really some sort of amazing race, when the next metro is always 4 minutes away!! I saw people refusing to wait in the waiting area of a restaurant on a couch, and rather choosing to stand and stare about 5 feet from my table, somehow trying to make me uncomfortable, forcing me to surrender the table. I am sick and tired of hearing the phrase "thodi jaldi karna" or "could you hurry a little". And of course since its normal to "be in a hurry" people don't even say the usual "please" in front of it, in a way almost demanding that you hurry.

I just cannot, or rather the American in Me just cannot understand this ridiculous way of going through with life. If there's one thing I learnt, or rather realized, living on the sunny beaches of California, its that one HAS TO live life slowly in order to have the time to appreciate all the little details. You can sort of not just see everything around you, but actually analyze it and then maybe better understand it. I like to stroll , rather than running or even walking through life. Its actually a bit more amusing in back home in India, as you see everyone just zip by you, like busy little ants.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Americans (and americanism) Outsourced

One of the male nurses who works at my dad's clinic in Bahadurgarh,India was discussing the issue of American jobs being brought back east to India. His son had just joined one of the myriad IT firms; his post was however that of a low level clerical officer. Still his dad was very enthusiastic, claiming that his high school graduate son had landed a "fully AC" job, or a workplace where the air conditioner was permanently on. That's where it struck me that the current trend of outsourcing can never ever be curbed or saturated in any way. The fact that an air conditioned office is seen as a sign of success and achievement loudly states how grateful and willing the Indian middle or soon to be middle class is!!! No American who is getting paid $7-10/hour will ever appreciate nor show any enthusiasm for a rather "boring, tedious, monotonous" job such as those that started the very IT outsourcing boom in India. The kid I'm talking about makes about $200 a month, and that is considered very lucky for a high school graduate, and very mid-of-middle class in India. People working these firms take pride in aspects such as A/C office, getting a separate desk and computer, a company cab that picks them up and drops them off; perks such as these are seen as rather mundane or sub-par in most western countries. In India the fact that a special cab has been appointed to transport you (and 10-20 others) to the workplace is seen as a sought after privilege. This new emerging middle class in the emerging developing markets of India will fuel the economy for decades to come; already they are starting to indulge in American consumerism, buying trendy brands from watches to shoes blindly, with calvin klein, hugo, fossil, ford etc. becoming brands of showcasing one's new found success. Hopefully this ride wont end in a full blown credit crisis such as most Americans are trying to shake off.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Happens or Sh*t Happens?

In Hindi, there's a famous, and just as infamous, phrase that really captures the default attitude of Indians: Chalta Hai , roughly translated to " it's alright" or "it happens". This phrase is uttered a million times a day around me, usually when the quality of some aspect of life is in question or more so when something of importance is under-delivered or under-performed. It is used to describe and mitigate all the myriad problems of India such as, but not limited to, lengthy electricity blackouts, shortage of water, poor roads, horrible infrastructure, the inequality, the destitute poor etc. Its a perfect euphemism which can come handy when you cannot perform or deliver a made promise. Its a bit different from the American phrase "Sh*t Happens", as that is more apt for a situation that went awfully wrong, and that something negative to your interest occurred. But "Chalta Hai" declares that pretty much anything in life goes, even the most basic human rights such as equality or sanitation or pursuit of happiness etc. It has a very apathetic and passive connotation; not that sh*t happens in life and you have to deal with it sometimes, but that substandard way of living is just fine, and it is accepted as the norm. It is unfortunately the mainstream attitude of Indians because they have been subjected to these problems for decades ever since Independence in 1947; People use it as a self pacifying mantra. instead of questioning why the things are run the way they are; they accept it, even with a smile! Nothing surprises people in India anymore when a political scandal or ridiculous corruption is exposed, as it is almost expected. This is the reason that despite the recent unprecedented economic growth, India still fairs worse than most sub-sahara African nations. It still has about 300 million living (and breeding happily) on $2 a day, its one of the 4 countries out of 187 with polio, it has the highest number of maternal and infant deaths, highest in child malnutrition etc. etc. etc. We have to switch from this Chalta Hai attitude to a rather Nahin Chal Sakta or " This cannot happen", or else it will keep on happening...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The glass is always half empty in India

Indians, in my opinion, embrace negativity. They like to belittle, utter condescending remarks, insult, question, hypothesize, predict (failure usually), play down, bummer, criticize,doubt and distrust your decision. I am not saying that out of anger from a recent situation, but it just came to my mind before I was planning on telling my parents, and people back home in general, about my next year academic plans. I just had this feeling that maybe not from my parents, but for sure from other family members, or friends or random people in general, I will get a speech about the mistake I had committed, or my punctuality in attaining goals. Anyways, I have seem hundreds of people in hundreds of situations where it would usually call for a celebration or a toast or two here in the States; but in India somehow someway someone will come up with a reason that your decision was not the wisest one, some little pessimistic remark, sometimes pretty hilarious actually. I'm not approving of the sometimes excessive enthusiasm and optimism people in US have, but once you are exposed to the positive, its very hard to take constant,random,groundless criticism; It can be a little confusing, usually once a year for me, but I think it actually makes me appreciate the optimism a bit more. May Evolution bless America.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ways I am not "Indian"

Once I came off the boat to the US, I assimilated rather quickly, but I also completely changed my stance on certain aspects of life in general, its way of conduct, its expectations, its goal etc. Here's a few of them that I think are most significant in the way of Indian life:

I am an atheist. I was born a Hindu I guess, but once I took Bio AP in 10th grade, I never looked at religion again. I investigated, read books, reasoned with myself and came to be a dedicated believer of Science. In Indian life, the idea of God literally penetrates every single moment of life, from your house to your shop, from childbirth till death of every single relative, from summer till winter etc. People are absolutely devoted to the religion, attributing every positive or negative event to it. Just the fact that there are over 3 millions gods and goddesses ( or is it 30 million I think) shows that people are looking for some supernatural being to worship no matter what it is from six armed, weapon wielding goddess riding a tiger to a half elephant half human god who rides a mouse. So being an atheist pretty much just doesn't settle with people, they just cannot understand it. They believe that it is just a "phase" and eventually I'll realize it. Yeah, I know.....

I am not too big on saving money my whole life. Indians live to save, they wish they had more money so they could save more. For what? theres various reasons one could come up with, but the most prominent and frequent one is for "the kids". I understand saving for college and what not, but somehow once they a kid, they keep saving until the kid is like 24, or 25 or 35 or whatever!! They will save until the last breath, giving the same reason all along!! That seems absolutely insane and over-reactive to me. Its like no one likes to just...Enjoy. They dont like to have fun, they dont wanna have fun....they just wanna save. Although I must emphasize that this is mostly the generation of my parents, and few of the current ones. The majority of current ones actually are indulging in American Style Consumerism, realizing that you do only live once, and so why not have a little fun. I am all for spending, shopping, investing, gambling,buying etc. Dont get me wrong, obviously one has to have some pure savings, some smart investments like a nice portfolio or real estate. But overall I think one should try out the finer things in life, especially if they are within reach. If you own 3 apartments, sell one and goto europe for a month or so, explore, discover and what not.......and this is why I differ. And I say if our parents don't want to, well it's a waste if at least we don't. I'm 26 and my Doctor Dad works for 9 hrs a day while I sleep for (always more than) 10 hrs. Life's a Beach !

Ofcourse there are ways that I am definitely not American, or Americanized, and I'll take a stab at those subsequently.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Come to Incredible India my friends

5 million people do come to India every year, although I would guess a substantial portion of those are the people belonging to the Indian diaspora living abroad. I promise it would be an incredible trip indeed, you will experience some incredible cultures, incredible food, incredible people, incredible sights and definitely incredible smells. These are the reasons most of the real tourists, and yes I'm pointing in particular to my white peeps, the original explorers, travel to India and elsewhere. BUT in my opinion, I think the really real tourist comes to India for a rather negative expereince: you will most definitely see some of the most horrific, dirty, disgusting, destitute settings a human being can be living in, and quite satisfyingly I might add. POVERTY is as prevalent as the air in India, and as severe as cancer. You will see it in every city in India, along with its cousin INEQUALITY, which is actually a result of the past practices of Indian/Hindu culture.

Im not emphasizing the negative experience as something that India only offers, but I would recommend it for anyone who is even slightly curious about how bad life could be, and that is something a real true traveler would want to experience. You have to be willing to leave your zone of comfort, the suburbs, the order, and yes the cheeseburger. BUT you will have an absolute great time as well, most certainly have some of the most delectable food, see some amazing sights, as so far my buddy from San Diego (Skeany!!) did. So I invite you to come visit my land, and curb your comfort for a little while.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dharma vs Karma

America is a country built on the principle of freedom, from the basic ones to all individual choices. Thats one of the reasons I have loved this country ever since I came here in 1999. No one will try to stop you in anyway of however you choose to carryout yourself, of course within the boundaries of civic and moral behavior. In Hinduism, that is the concept of Karma, or right to do. But I think it is due to that very freedom of choice that the american people suffer from some rather unwise or unacceptable aspects such as profligate spending, lack of upward mobility, violent crimes, drug use etc. Certain people in general will likely make a wrong or bad decision whenever given the choice to do so, and thats why american society might be stagnated as it is and has been for a decade or so.
In India instead of the individuals choice, the society decides how to act or not to act for every single situation, and also how to conduct yourself everywhere. This brings the idea of Dharma, or the duty of a person. I am very much against the idea, but it does somehow has managed to keep people rather moralistic in overall behavior, although everyday civic sense is almost non existent as you can pee,spit,throw trash almost everywhere, and Indian people arent too shy to prod their orifices to relieve an itch anywhere.I guess you could say they carry themselves very naturally, almost too much. Since the society in general is there to judge and point at a person at almost any time, people tend to make wiser decisions, or at least make an attempt.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Broken Homes (Metaphorically, although literally as well now with the housing crisis and what not)

Another prominent aspect of society in American, and also for the general Western/developed/OECD countries, is the lack of its most basic foundation: marriage. Marriage is, from what I have read,seen, heard or researched about, pretty much a Joke in America. Instead of being the most sincere and thorough relationshion in a person's lifetime, it becomes a repetitive, annoying and inconsiderate happening.

Divorce rate in the US is apprx. 40-50%, according to various sources. That is not only alarming but utterly shameful. It means half the people neither understand the relationship completely, nor do they make an effort to do so. For all the talk about "family values" being instilled in the culture of America, its amazingly pathetic that the society as a whole is failing to lay a solid foundation from which further values can be preached. Ive explained in one of my previous blogs about the cultural difference about expectations and methods of marriage in both India and US. In the US, marriage is more about the individual than it is about the combined relationship, whereas in India it is not only an union between two people but the whole family, and sometimes even of communities or villages altogether.

Now as Indian culture gets assimilated and becomes more "Westernized", there has been a very predictable and expected rise in the number of divorces. Divorce rates in India are around 2%, but metropolitan areas such as Mumbai and Delhi have seen about a 2-3 fold increase in fillings. Many different influences are to blame, and likewise thankul for these. In an unforgivingly conservative society as India, divorces are actually a blessing for the usually oppressed Female demography.

Women were forced to get married, and then endure life long abuses from the husband, in-laws, communities etc. before, but now female empowerement has been a key issue in the urban change of India. As more women become not only educated, but more so employed, they are developing personal views and expectations as well, which often results in conflicting views of society. For them divorce is an upliftment, a tool to exercise their rights,power,demands etc. which they had endured for so long. But the general and prevalent reason for getting divorced seems to be lack of compromise or mutual agreement over an issue just as in America. And that is very concerning indeed, for both men and women alike, as it could soon become an over-utilized, widespread mockery rather than an empowering tool meant to reduce personal shame, not become shameful on its own .....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Crazy in or as America

Maybe its just me , but its seems to me that white people are just plain crazy; i dont mean crazy as just facetiously, but certifiably, pscyhologically speaking crazy. It stems from the fact that they either cannot tolerate life's rather unhappy offerings, or are easily bored by it. Nothing else explains their activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, cave exploring, river rafting, mountain climbing etc. I understand as humans, some of us have an innate passion or desire to conquer the realms of Earth beyond our usual grasp; but white people just really push the envelope.

I mean jumping off airplanes, tying ropes and jumping off buildings/bridges: it all seems so very sadistic, as if a mockery of real life. In India we got people chopping off limbs to make a dime or two, literally, and on other end we got Bro's who get a "rush" from junping off of high altitudes. You want a rush how about chopping your arm off and chasing vehicles at stoplights for chump change, or pedalling a rickshaw through thick traffic while you get slapped and yelled at. This is all because they deem life rather boring and mundane. Now when life hands our white brothers some lemons, oh man do they freak out. From opening fire in McDonals to post offices to killing people at random and just going home to bed like nothing at all happened, some white's have really put the C in crazy. My motivation for this blog was due to the recent event in Texas where a pilot, due to his recent domestic argument with the wifey, first burned down the house and then rammed his plane into an IRS building to vent his anger!! I mean whatever happened to sipping on a few budweiser's and just cooling yourself? Or maybe even popping a few Prozac's and bottling up your anger and discontent? Because in India, thats what Indians do. There are drastic deficiencies in every realm of life, from drinking water to electricity to traffic etc., but people dont just go crazy. They realize the fact that should be realized and appreciated as soon as possible: Life is a struggle (for some), deal with it (in some way). Im scared out my mind especially due to the recent economic crisis, because the oh-so normal routine of life of dineyland trips to see the rat, family cruises to bahamas, GM cars and swimming pools is slowly slipping away from more and more families grasp, and they cant stand it......

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Incoming Income

I was just browsing around once again looking for some interesting article/report on how in general the world around is working when i stumbled upon some figures relating to household income and socio-economic classes in India and US. Although the income ranges for different classes differ by a gigantic gap, but the quantity of individuals in those various classes actually is very similar.
Indian Lower class: 75000-1.5 lacs p.a. ($1500 to $3000); About 200-300 million strong Note that for people making under the 75k, the Poor class segment contains about 30% or 300 million Indians who live on that notoriously infamous statistic of $2 a day)
Indian Middle class: 1.5 - 5 lacs p.a. ($3000 to $12000) with further subdivisions of Lower Middle:1.5-3 lacs p.a. and Upper Middle: 3- 5 lacs p.a.; this class is synonymous with upper middle class in western countries with the added advantage of maids and servants and chauffers due to the surplus of such manual labor in India; About 300-500 million strong in India which makes them the largest consumer population maybe right alongside China.
Indian Upper Class: 5-15 lacs p.a. ($12000 to $30,000); About 100 million strong, this class is comparable in lifestyle and consumption habits similar to Upper middle or Upper class in western countries which include multiple cars, latest electronics equipments, multiple residences/property along with all the perks of middle class. There are also pure Elites who earn more than these, and these are exactly just like the elites in any country in the world with living an aristrocratic life with significant political and public connections above all.

In America however, a similar trend is seen with the middle class only, which comprises of households earning anywhere from $45k to 85k a year, consisting of about 60% of population of 340 million. So both countries have almost equal percentage of people in the middle bracket but the main difference in US is that even the Lower Class, let alone the Middle Class, can afford Indian Luxuries such as cars, televisions, internet, private home etc. where as in India even for the Upper Middle class obtaining things such as private residence and multiple cars is a very distant dream. Even some doctors i know off cannot afford a car or a LCD tv, something they either have to get financing for or save to great extent. But on the other hand luxuries like having servants to perform routine household chores is very economical ($20 a month for maid, $100 for a chauffer). So as they say. the grass is always greener on the other side.....just gottta get the best of both if possible......

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiest of Holy Matrimonies

I was browsing through the internet in my daily routine search for some new fact of life to add to my knowledge, and I came across an interesting one, something that is actually on my agenda within the next few years: Marriage. Actually I was checking the quite opposite of it, the divorce rates across different countries. Not at all surprisingly, they were amongst the highest in America, at around 40-50% according to various estimates, including the census; Indian rates were, just as not-so-surprisingly, amongst the lowest in the world at around 2%. It doesnt take an anthropological genius to figure out that these are very much the product of the way society is structured in each of the two countries. The countries are about 7000 miles apart, but the culture is further astronomically apart.

According to my anthropological point of view (both emic and emig really), this is a result of one of the main aspects of society's function and foundation: Personal Expression. In the case of the States, society furiously encourages every person to pursue the freedom of expression, keeping the concept of Individuality at the center of its culture. Everyone is allowed and promoted to do everything they wish, paving the path for the creation of individuals who demand customization and compatibility. So when it comes to the issue of marriage and assumingly spending the rest of time alive with one person, Americans tend be a bit reluctant and demanding. They want someone who does what they like and likes what they do. Also at fault is the way interested individuals meet a prospect, usually at bars, offices, or other rather social gatherings where everyone's individuality is ironically diluted. So it doesnt take long for them to realize that he or she isnt right for them, and thus the ephemeral marriage. And the last thing I think responsible for the brevity is the American's incontinence. They seem to have an insatiable appetite for pleasure and comfort, something not even the close family and relatives provide in the States, let alone a stranger. They become bored and passive to the mundane and so-damn routine life, always looking to "spicing things up". They are less able and more prone to the tedious and unrelenting relation that is marriage, failing to compromise and adjusting to their wives or husbands, and thanks to things like alcohol, Prozac and prostitutes, they eek out their relationship until someday...

On the other end of the Pacific ocean, their Asian counterparts are very well adjusted and excited about the married life, especially the Indians. Marriage is seen as an essential and incomparable experience a person has to go through in order to not only live a better and happy life, but to understand it as well. And so almost everyone I have come across anticipates it with amazing eagerness. The way two people meet for the marriage is also amazingly processed and directed by society, usually along caste, ethnic, regional or occupational lines. So these parameters ensure that if there is a budding individuality residing in a person, the other might some how compliment and supplement it. Also other cultural phenomenons such as the assumed role of a wife and husband, along with the subversive one being delegated to the woman ensure most marriages go through life just fine, although it is starting to change (for good obviously) as education and liberalism are encouraged in the more urban areas. A husband and wife are usually brought together by relatives who start searching for them ,like the cops searching for a suspect, whenever the boy or girl becomes eligible, that is usually after finishing education and establishing a career. They are matched at first with the caste or career choice, then with physical aspects such as height and skin color (read my other article about north Indian's fascination with "fair complexion"), and lastly by the economic and social standing of the family. Yes the process seems extremely regimented, but every step has become very relaxed and liberal as time has passed. These are the so called "arranged marriages", that are so often mentioned about Indian culture, not the same at all as "fixed marriages" that the Westerners think is the only way, where the couple is somewhat forced and coaxed into marrying each other. The other type that is becoming more and more common is the "love marriage" which is the way people in most westernized countries marry, by simply falling in love. This is more prevalent in the urban centers of India as shops and domestication are replaced by working women and men in big offices and corporations, making it easier to comb through the pool for someone to fall in love with. But regardless of each category, marriages usually last forever as they should, although not with happy, fairy tale endings or without domestic or spousal abuse as can be expected from a society that has hierarchy at its core, but at least they last....