Nicolas Kristof, the famed NYT journalist wrote this article about what Obama’s election to the US Presidency would do to how this country is perceived abroad. Interestingly he mentions India to remind America that it should not self-congratulate itself too much,
Yet before we get too far with the self-congratulations, it’s worth remembering something else …. India is overwhelmingly Hindu but now has a Sikh prime minister and a white Christian as president of its ruling party, and until last year it had a Muslim in the largely ceremonial position of president.
Of course, India is having a lot more issues with its primary minority, Muslims, than America does with its primary minority, African-Americans. A Muslim Prime Minister looks highly unlikely in the near future. But it is perhaps interesting to note that some secondary minorities (Sikhs, Christians in India, Asians, Indians in the US) are actually better off than the majority on average. What really caught my eye though, was a comment by Sen from India (2nd most recommended),
I am, in many ways a westernised indian; and a fan of the USA, warts and all. The last 8 years have been very difficult for people like me. It is not easy to see what you believed in , all your life, getting disproved daily.
Senator Obama’s election as the president of the USA, if it does happen, will, at one shot,recover for the USA its entire reputation as a land of oppurtunity where evryone can make it, irrespective of class, colour and religion.
For people like me and there are lots of us, it will vindicate our faith in the principles which we feel make for a better world. Sure we have problems with lots of things the America does ( and does not do). But, at its best, the USA has no comparison.
After the last 8 years, its time that our faith in the USA got reconfirmed.
You must realise that what you do and how you behave has effects far from your shores. Its an awesome responsibility.
The comment left me quite bemused. There’s nothing wrong about liking and admiring the US. But seriously, this guy’s core beliefs were something about America ? There certainly needs to be a substantial debate in India about what it means to be Indian (please dont give the usual ‘family values’, cricket, ‘hard working’ crap), so I can understand some degree of confusion within Indians, I feel it myself. But simply appropriating/aping someone’s else’s values will not provide any kind of answer, in the long term it will only lead to denial and more confusion. It is one thing to wear a ‘I Love USA’ shirt, quite another to say my core beliefs are something about America.
What Sen is definitely right about though, is when he says ” For people like me and there are lots of us … “, quoting from Syed Ali’s paper on the culture of migration in Hyderabad that I discussed,
At times, their (young, educated Hyderabadis) knowledge of daily life in places such as Houston or Palo Alto was surprisingly detailed and nuanced.
It wouldnt surprise me if more young, urban Indians knew what the capital of Minneapolis was than those that even know what Tripura is, let alone remember what its capital is. Shouldn’t one know oneself very well before trying to be someone else ? Much more importantly, is the fact that more urban Indians are probably interested in who becomes the next American president, while talk of the status of Indian democracy today draws cynical ire. Apart from rabidly supporting Modi, and hating Communists I dont see any great political activism among the middle classes.
Let me make it clear, that this comment might have been made in the best of faith and Sen might genuinely admire American equality, tolerance and achievement. But admiration should not come at the cost of introspection and self-respect, not from someone who belongs to however flawed, the largest democracy in the world.