Indian society – world’s punching bag

Posted by Ranjeet Menon
July 13, 2017


I happened to come across the article in the below link on a friend’s wall on social media.

I was startled and saddened by the rather callous approach of doing the analysis of the culture and society of a country. This is my response, not a rebuttal, but my intent is to clear the air on the world’s presumptions about India.

  1. Everybody is doing yoga in India

“Everybody” would be a wrong word though a lot of people do practice yoga in India. It would  be more apt if they    wrote “Everybody is doing Tai-chi in China” because everyone practices Tai-chi in China.  I did not understand the grief here though. Is practicing yoga and staying healthy a problem?

  1. There are cows walking everywhere

The cow has been our holy animal for thousands of years because cows have nurtured us with their milk, meat and hide, just like we respect coconut trees because every part of it is useful for us. That is why cows live among us which might look strange to foreigners but is perfectly normal for us.

  1. India is a country of dirt and poverty

India is a civilization that is thousands of years old and when our civilization was at its shining glory, nothing existed in the US and Europe except nomadic tribes. Yes, there is dirt and there is poverty in India. But we also have better body immunity and the largest amount of gold in the world. We do not question life and customs of other countries, we rather adapt to them wherever we go. So why is it that people of other countries have to pick on our flaws and trumpet them?

  1. India is a country of saint people. Indians are very religious

Yes we are religious because our civilization stretches back to the dawn of humanity, when we worshiped even thunder and rain as Gods. All ancient civilizations have Gods like we have, but yes, perception of Gods is different in India. There is no other country that is as religiously tolerant as we are. We have accepted people from all countries and all religions into our society and thanks to that, there is no white supremacy mania that exists in the US and Europe even today.

  1. Indians are uneducated

What is the yardstick by which education was measured before this conclusion was made? Education as in going to schools and colleges and getting degrees? In that case, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates must be called uneducated because they don’t have degrees. I happened to read that Microsoft has 38% “educated” Indians as employees in its fold. Our education system as mentioned in our ancient texts is far advanced than the education system of western countries now. The Indian system of doing farming and traditional business does not require western style education. We have more knowledge about our lands, weather and calculations and we are better at doing business than graduates from top universities. Anyone who assumes that getting educated is more important than having knowledge and wisdom is the biggest illiterate. Those who do not know the magnitude of contributions Indians have made in the fields of science, mathematics and astronomy in the past are the ones who are truly uneducated.

The truth is, the world stands ready to mock India at the first opportunity. Everything that happens in a society has logical reasons, be it geographical, climate based and many others. The toilet habit of Indians which is a subject of ridicule around the world is a classic example. People do not stop to think for a minute about this. Most of the western world has weather that is moderate to extremely cold the entire year. There was a time centuries before when water at normal temperature was hard to get there especially during bitter winter. The food they used to eat was specifically to withstand the cold and also easy to make such as bread, dry meat, etc. So what they used to excrete was also dry because of which it was easier to clean up with paper. So the society evolved into using tissue paper because of a combination of different factors. India has a predominantly tropical weather and we have had advanced civilizations for many centuries. We were extremely efficient in building and managing water systems and that was essential because the tropical weather required us to wash ourselves at least once every day. Moreover our food habits are completely different. We eat a lot of spicy food and so what we excrete is also different which requires thorough cleaning which can be done only with water. In the present day in the western world, warm and hot water is always available now. They are happily consuming Indian spicy food as well. So who should have adapted and evolved and who actually evolved? Indians adapted to using tissue paper when it should have been the other way around. This is what is wrong with Indian mindset now. We are aping western habits and considering them superior to our own without any logic.

The same logic applies for women attire. Fashion in urban India comes directly from Paris, London and New York now. For the moderate climate in western countries, wearing short dresses is perfectly fine. Indian way of dressing has evolved for a reason. For tropical weather, the clothes need to be airy but should be able to protect our body properly. That is how the saree came into vogue.  Observing rural women in sarees especially in places like Gujarat and Rajasthan gives us interesting insights. Their colorful sarees and the way they wear them protect them from the harmful rays of the sun but at the same time enable proper absorption of essential minerals and vitamins. Urban Indian population is increasingly suffering from insufficient Vitamin D and is being attributed to the sudden change from an active life outside to a sedentary life inside A/c buildings. When saree has been voted as the sexiest attire in the world, Indian girls are experimenting on how to make their western attire smaller and shorter. Indian society is not prepared to accept such a change so fast and that is causing the tremors with increasing physical abuse of girls and women now. As I was telling a friend, we can be like Romans when we are in Rome but we cannot take Rome back with us when we go home.

But I admit, Indian society is a cauldron of paradoxes now. We dress up like western people, we try to imitate their behavior and even their accent, yet our work culture remains the typical Indian government employee style. IST is Indian Stretchable Time. This is fine when we are self-sufficient as a country. When we are dependent on work from foreign countries, we cannot impose our style of working on our clients. We clean our houses and dump the litter on the streets and our only interest is in keeping our houses clean. We complain about corruption all the time and also elect corrupt people into government and civic bodies each time knowing that they are corrupt with the hope that they will reduce or end corruption. We have a judiciary system which has a massive backlog of pending cases and which keeps criminals in prison without trials for years whose expenses are paid by the tax payer’s money. We have policing machinery that is corrupt and inefficient to the point that they do not even care to file a report when a woman complains of rape.

My message to the world is, please do not judge, deride or ridicule us. History of Europe other than the Viking civilization starts from the time Romans invaded and occupied Britain. History of the U.S. starts from the time Columbus started his search for India and accidentally found a new continent. It should be noted that even Columbus was looking to reach India. So when Indian civilization and society was at its zenith during the rule of king Vikramaditya and king Ashoka thousands of years back, U.S. and Europe did not even exist. We do not ridicule Americans and Europeans by saying this. When they say our society is sick because women are raped and brutally murdered, they should also talk about the thousands of women the Church burned on the stakes during the Dark Ages including Joan of Arc because those women were free thinkers and were strong enough to stand up and challenge the diktats of the Church. We do have a caste system that still discriminates people, but compared to what white people did to the people of Africa just because of their skin color, our society and conscience is in a much better place.

The history of our world is replete with the highs and lows of a vast number of civilizations. Everything waxes and wanes, just like a sinusoidal wave. Just because western society is on a high now and Indian society has waned, it gives them no moral right or authority to ridicule us. Indian society has always accepted people from all over the world into her fold, regardless of religion, race and skin color. In time, our society will also evolve into a new high. We need good leadership, good governance, education and empowerment for everyone and most importantly, the understanding of what to imbibe from other societies rather than do blind imitation. Respect and honor, that’s all we ask.


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