Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Defending India

Warning: This is a rant. Hey, it's my blog and I'll rant if I want to.

I'm tired of people dissing India. Constantly. Oh Indian politicians suck. Indian roads suck. Indian behavior sucks. And let me tell you, hypocrisy sucks.

If you are going to sit in your nice comfortable well-furnished apartment in London or New York City or wherever and continue complaining about how "you just can't spend more than two weeks in India because the pollution and lack of cleanliness is getting to you", this is what I have to say "Don't Come!!". We didn't invite you in the first place.

I don't get it. I understand India is dirty, its even downright filthy in places. But let me tell you, Indians want it to be clean too. With 50 people on an average using a hospital restroom in ONE HOUR, vs 1.5 people in 2 hours in the US, yes, the restrooms are going to be dirtier.

And please don't even for a single moment imagine that you are "in touch" with India just because you read The Hindu online version and watch NDTV and Sun TV. You're not. If you don't live in India, you're not in touch with the country. And you're definitely not helping.

So stop with the complaining because your white shirt got a little yellow because the water in India is so bad. Or you got a little bit of Delhi Belly eating from the five star restaurant. Or that train travel "just isn't what it used to be when we were growing up". Stop the pretense. You left India because you wanted to - not to make India proud or to give back to India. You wanted a better life for yourself, which is exactly how it should be. So don't start pretending now.

As I said, it's a rant. One more thing - if you don't like it, don't come. I think those who live here are trying to do the best we can to make India better, and we don't need you to come here just to tell us how bad it is.



Raaga said...


Cilantro said...

Well said ... my mother was asking my daughter about moving back to India and about how she is going to adjust, her reply was India is going to be as it is and it is not going to change soon and she will have to adjust to it rather complain about it. She also went on to say if she could make a difference and few people follow her then one day she can dream about India clean as other countries. I only hope we adults think on those lines .

Bharti said...

That is quite a rant Arundathi! But I do see the point of what you're saying. I'd get sick of people making fun of my home as well.

Bharti said...

I meant criticizing my home.

Arundathi said...

Raaga - :) Thought you might agree with that one, dear Raaga!

Cilantro - your daughter sounds terribly mature - more so than most adults i know

Bharti - Yup! Don't usually rant - but that felt good. Tired of defending India to Indians.

Anonymous said...

whoa!! ditto for me too....am sick of the lectures given by the "15 days a year" holiday seekers who only come to shop, get root canal treatment done(cos its obviously too expensive for you in yamericya...and screw their noses up at everything...oh wait!! did i just mirror what you said?

Anonymous said...

Hi Arundathi,

Long time reader of your cooking and chennai blog , time I left a comment :-)
Tried a couple of recipes from ur cooking blog which turned out great , love the variety of recipes you churn out.
I am in Chennai frequently , was there whole of past summer, so really look fwd to reading all your insights.

Totally agree on this post , I guess it just stems from insecurity and I am taken aback by how people constantly find the need to prove the that the choices they have made are "The Best" rather then being at peace with the fact that the choices are "The Best for Them" irrespective of anybody else.
Finally , utopia doesn't exist anywhere except in your mind

Happy New Year ,

sansmerci said...

perfectly writen!

J Vasanthan said...

Hi Arundathi,

Am impressed with how you have defended India...
Guess what I used to say the same to people who are just hypocrats simply passing comments on India.

Anyways, keep writing reading :)

Ranjani said...

Couldn't agree with you more!
It's lame when people think they have the right to bad mouth their homelands...it also speaks volumes about their emotional judgment or lack thereof!

Arundathi said...

Arundati - root canal treatment!! yup! exactly! how do they fly here to do the medical treatment and then complain abt the state of the hospitals!! lol!

Bharati - thank you for stopping by. and commenting! you're right - ppl not only feel they made the best choice, but try and "help you" to see that you acknowledge that they made the best choice too! :-)

sanmerci - thank you!

J Vasanthan - thank you!

Ranjani :-) welcome back, babe! hope you had fun here!

Jamie said...

Hi Arundathi, stopped by your Chennai blog to see what I have missed. This post had some emotions behind it! Now I am not from India, but I have been there a few times now and I can honestly say that I have grown to love it. The people are hard working and proud, the food is humble but amazing, the country is growing by leaps and bounds and I am not just talking about population. As my in-laws explained to my on my first visit, India has something called an organized chaos. I enjoy my visits there very much...I love to eat paneer tikka from the dhaba near our Nana's house, I love to hear the prayers over the loud speaker throughout the day in Dehradun, I love the train trips through the tiny villages and towns.

It has been my experience that the type of people who say these things that you describe in your post are people who are trying to convince themselves that they made the right decision in leaving. Not because they actually believe it, but because they feel guilty.

It was a wonderful post Arundathi. Well said!

maitri said...

Hi Arundhati,

I am new to Chennai and find your blog extremely helpful :))

I notice you have a food blog going too. A few recipes absolutely amazed me (i.e. the potato cookies. I had a quick question for you as you are into baking (and i could not find another way of asking other than a comment) where can I purchase sour cream in Chennai??

Many thanks in advance,

Anaka said...

Hi Arundhati,

I discovered your blog by accident when I was googling for the Madras club. This is an interesting post, especially coming right after that previous post about the wires.
I think it's interesting how Indians living in India feel the need to "defend" the country to those not living here. Just wondering out loud, but I often think that Indians like to complain a lot because in some sense it relieves our frustration. Indians living abroad complain about those countries and how they would love to move back, and Indians living here too complain about India. This is not to say your frustration is not justified- I have several relatives and friends who grew up in Madras and now live abroad and I cringe everytime they complain about silly stuff like dirt and pollution.
But then I lived in the US for 6 years and moved back a few years ago to start my own business, and I have to say that it is TOUGH here! I'm not talking about the transition, but just how much we depend on services that barely exist and it can be annoying when things don't work.

I rant all the time on my blog about how things don't work :) and I enjoyed yours too. Hope it was cathartic?

Arundathi said...

@ Jamie - I'm so glad you enjoyed your time here in India. Organized chaos is exactly right. Not sure if they feel guilty, maybe just want to convince themselves as well as those that live here that they made the right decision!

@ Maitri - Sorry it took so long to reply. Sour cream might be available in Nilgiris. Have you tried Amma Naana? Let me know if you can't find it in either of these places.

@ Anaka - :-) I'm sure you don't remember me but I used to know your sister pretty well. We went to the same school for a bit! And I know your mum really well! I keep driving by your store but have never come in. Love your blog and your collections. thanks for stopping by. Small World!
You have a point - Indians do have a habit of complaining a lot and the services are definitely very bare. But we're improving and I hope people start recognizing that. I'm definitely a more glass is half-full sort of person. And, if we who live here don't defend it, who will? :-)

Anaka said...

Hey Arundhati,

I don't remember you but I will ask my mum today! Hope to see you at the store soon.

Anaka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Arundathi said...

Anaka - Yes, that's me. And yes, we did run into each other at the exhibition! Will definitely drop by the store soon.

TonyM said...

Well said!! I am sitting in my comfortable appartment in London and would love to spend as long as possible in India. I have visited Chennai on business a few times and I loved it.

Arundathi said...

TonyM - Thank you. Enjoy London!

Anima said...

I loved your post. I totally agreed with you. I have neighbours in this 'upscale' place who do nothing about whine about how bad India is and how great U.S is - I wanted to just ask them "Who held a damn gun to your head??" - maybe I will the next time :-)

Arundathi said...

Anima - Yup thats right. No one forced you to come here. Just be happy!

Keerthi said...

Arundathi, I was about to say something on your this-post.. and just before i did that, i read your previous post on how in India "Wireless" appears !!

What a striking difference of tone.. ! How easily, a contradiction !

Happens only to Indians ?


Desi in Bay Area said...

I categorize this post as "we are like that only!'

definitely not the first or last post in this category.

when someone from India spends a decade in the USA and then goes back, they usually say things spontaneously that frustrates them.

it doesnt mean they are happy with the root canal costs in the USA. it doesnt make them hypocrites.

read your previous post.. You says "only in India, I tell you!" when talking about exposed wires and cows chewing up wires..

that is supposed to be witty self expression.


If a person has a track record of trying to improve things, and says this could be done differently or better, be it the public transportation system or the cost of root canal in the USA or the poor state of the sewer system in Nanganallur, dont see why it is wrong !

todays younger generation Indians who were born in the late eighties are almost growing up in a cocoon.. they have serious identity issues. I see it in all my cousins. They are almost always defensive when it comes to India.

this whole logic that anyone who left India was selfish and did so only out of selfish motives is bull crap and these folks who write like this know it.

Majority of the people I know personally who take ths line fall into one of two categories

1. their US visa was rejected at some point
2. they came back to India after their H1-B timed out

in both these cases they seem to have it in for the USA and the desis in the USA who come to India only for vacations.

When my wifes grandparents come here or when my parents came here six years ago, "only for vacation" and they bitched about anything and everything in the USA, somehow I was not this defensive or rude.

anyways, if people really want to make an effort and change things around them, they will. The rest will write posts like this.

Adaengappa !! said...

Nice posts and archives ....Keep blogging !

Anonymous said...

Point taken. What you say is true. But this happens both ways - desis come to the West on a visit & have a litany of complaints about the West & way of life here. Or they come here to work & forever complain of how much better life was back home in India, how the food is so lousy out here, how we are actually far smarter than the Westerner & on & on & on...So then, why did you come here?? Oh well.....

I love to go back home and consciously bite my tongue about the weather or the dust or some such silly thing. But I can't help vent when I walk into a govt office or land at the airport and find that not a lot has changed in 25 years.

Having said that, I will tell you that many of us transplants from India are the best ambassadors for India. We educate many ignorant Westerners and defend our country of origin to any unfair or ignorant remarks or comments that people make.Jai Hind!

Arundathi said...

Keerthi - Definitely happens - Things that would happen only in India and there are things that happen only in the US. it isn't a contradiction - its funny that cows chew wires and so you lose your Internet connection.

Desi in Bay Area - I for one did not go back because my H1 expired or that my US visa was rejected. So I don't fall into either of your categories.
People in India are defensive about India because there's no one else who will defend it. I had parents/ relatives visit me in the US who also complained about the US, and I was equally defensive about that country.
There are lots of fantastic things about the US/ Europe and lots of fantastic things about India - but it doesn't have to be a competition. We all make the choices according to what we can/ want to live with, that's all. I'm not trying to be rude and I'm definitely not frustrated - and yes, thanks I'll continue blogging, WHILE making a difference.

Adaengappa - Thanks.

Anonymous - You are completely right in that we are the best ambassadors to the West. A lot of people all over the world don't know a lot about India, and it feels great to be able to show them our food, culture etc.

Ramya said...

Interesting post though I don't agree with it.

I moved abroad at a late age after many years of working in different parts of India.

I do come home and voice things about India based on my observations elsewhere. For e.g. I am a person who follows rules and I hate it that in India they are not followed (try forming a queue). I hated in when I lived in India, I hate it now. The only difference is that when I say it now, I am instantly accused of being "foreign returned". Another e.g. India is one of the dirtiest countries in the world and its not because of population alone - Tokyo has a high density of population and it is clean. To state this is not to complain or say that people are not doing enough, its simply a fact. To appreciate the cleanliness of the Japanese doesn't make one an offending pest.

Further, to observe and comment is human nature. A Mumbai person will have his thoughts on Delhi and vice versa. It doesn't make one pro and anti anything.

I find Indians to be really think skinned, especially when the criticism is from the West or Indians in the West. Perhaps it is because of a history of colonisation, perhaps we think other aspects of our culture are not highlighted (this is not true, generally people are fascinated by India). We don't need to slag off people who criticise (legitimately or otherwise) one has to be self-confident and shrug off anything people say.

Arundathi said...

Ramya - you are right that there's lots wrong with India and I'm one of the first people to agree with you. But criticizing it doesn't help. Though it does let off frustration.
Its like your kid. One criticizing or censuring one's own kid is okay, but its difficult to hear other people criticizing your child and you naturally spring to the child's defense.

Ramya said...

So true but at some point the kid will be an adult and you have to let go :-)

The good news gets buried so lets celebrate it when it happens!


Arundathi said...

Ramya - that's a great link. Thanks.

aruna´s world said...

Agree with you. There is no perfect country in the world. I am really amused when i see American relatives bring suitcases full of chinese made one dollar gifts for Indian family. I know people who bring toilet cleaners and paper tissues ! and refuse to drink milk and eat curds. Once I suggested that she could maybe shop in our dollar stores and take back some of her american branded cleaners at a cheaper price! she is still replying..... But whats funny is that when they come to India they suddenly take an auto and go to Tnagar and shop. Come back and complain.... after of course cleaning out all the shops that have been recommended by fellow American Indians. I feel Indians in America are Indians in America and Americans in India and the twain never meet. I know one cant generalise but most people from America have an outdated idea of India and try very hard to be Indians .

Arundathi said...

Aruna's World - you're right. I guess thats why sometimes they're called (AB)CDs. I guess you feel like an Indian when in America. But when you come to India, its easier to identify with the US. That happened to me too when I lived there.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arundati,

I feel compelled to comment. I love India as much as you do. There is nothing wrong in acknowleding the things that we can do better. Obviously solving poverty or the Indo-Pak crisis is beyond our means. But expecting the most basic thing - cleanliness is not too much to ask of our fellow Indians. Population density does contibute a little to the lack of cleanliness, but mostly it is the attitude...

You see a lot more hypocricy among Indians living in the US as to how bad the American culture is, and how hard working and brilliant Indians are. I am sure it is the same ignorant people who make degrading remarks when visiting India.

Rational people acknowlege that there is greatness and flaws in every society, and we have to learn from each other.

I guess it is your blog and you have the right to rant...but just my two cents!

Arundathi said...

Anonymous - Yes like I said in my earlier comment, we should definitely learn from each other. Hypocrisy exists in all societies. I just hope all our complaining does some good for society.

SJ said...

This is so true..26yrs they live in India, 2 years in the US and suddenly india is a big garbage bin! So dumb!

Arundathi said...

SJ - Well, maybe they complained before they left too - sometimes, that helps people change India for the better.

bee said...

knock knock. where is arundhati? still in chennai?

Arundathi said...

Bee - yup, very much here - but looking for inspiration to write! :-)

workhard said...

In a way its kinda true.... there are some people who have genuinely come back to help the country but i hate the people who sit there and cry foul


Arundathi said...

Workhard - I'm not sure if they come back with the sole intention of helping the country - but I think just knowledgeable and working people coming back will help the country in the long run.

workhard said...

Most of them dont.. but there are just a handful

Arundathi said...

Workhard - I guess even one makes a difference.

Aparna said...

Very, very late here, in my usual style.
Another of your posts which strikes a very similar chord in me. I keep encountering this with friends and family. If they complain so much, I can't understand why they feel the compulsion to keep coming back!!!

I spent half of my life outside India (not in the U.S. though) and I find it difficult to believe that there was nothing to complain about wherever these "dissers" live.

Arundathi said...

Aparna - I guess the grass is always greener... Thanks for stopping by!

Preethi said...

First time here.. very well said!!

Arundathi said...

Preethi - Thank you :) And thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I am a desi who has been living in New Jersey for quite a while now. We don't miss India much, coz we have enough desi's and ample filth and grime around here as well (by US standards..I mean).
Currently on a visit to chennai, I am no complainer and take to Chennai just like any other Chennaite living here.
But one issue that I find galling and seems to get worse with every visit seems to be crime - both petty and big. Personally for me - if there is something that would make me think twice before moving back here it is the "crime" factor and the pretty high chances of being at the receiving end of such crime. It's not the corruption, dirt, filth, anything goes attitude, poverty ..... it is the widespread prevalence of crime and abundance of criminal elements or criminal motives in everyday life here..... just my 2 cents.....

Kavitha said...

hey....rant more ...its ur blog and i loved ur post...u almost snatched my words.I have no sympathies for people who run away and complain.

Long live India!

venkateshb26 said...

Well Said ... we Indians have our own way of living .. we dont want someone who ditched India for better life abroad telling or commenting ... and at the same time we should not ignore the constructive criticism ..

Arundathi said...

@ Anonymous - Crime?? Is that what gets to you? Are you saying Chennai has more crime than other cities in the world? I find that hard to believe.
And I don't get that you don't miss Chennai because you have enough filth and grime? There's much more to Chennai than filth and grime. There's warmth, caring and beautiful people and if you haven't found that, you've missed the essence of Chennai.

@Kavitha - :) Thanks

@Venkateshb26 - I agree. Constructive criticism is very different from the constant gripes and complaints about the dirt, pollution, filth and grime. God!! Don't judge a book by its cover. There's so much more to Chennai than what you see on the roads!

coni said...

That what I could say, after reading it.

For a foreigner who live in India, It would take sometimes to like India.

But once you get hooked of living in India, you are addicted to enjoy living in India.


Haddock said...

If you don't live in India, you're not in touch with the country. And you're definitely not helping... . . . . . . .
Agree to this.

Anonymous said...

Folks -
Well...speaking of crime... yes I would say Chennai has more crime than say most cities in the developing/developed world, except cities in Africa maybe...
This goes for most cities in India, not just Chennai - btw.
I am sure vast majority of people on this blog who see that there is more than 'filth and grime' live in cozy homes/apartments with a 'watchman', get to work in a car most likely airconditioned...working in airconditioned offices, living a insulated, sanitized middle/upper class life.
Would love to hear how many of these folks travel by a local bus, have been in a property dispute with a 'local', or a business issue with someone 'politically connected'.... What do you think the most common form of property or business dispute resolution mechanism is ... ?
When was the last time you got treated in a government hospital ?
Just because you live local doesn't mean you can wear the 'holier than thou' shirt... you are just as insulated as anyone outside of India. Pretending to be local but living in a cleaned with Dettol bubble...laying claim to - "trying to do the best we can to make India better" ...!!!
Sending in a sporadic check to the local charity/orphanage/social organization doesn't count...you can pretty much be anywhere in the world and do that...
When was the last time anyone on this blog tried to clean their local public toilet or even pick up a piece of trash on the road.
And the reference to 'hypocrisy'... pot calling kettle black ?

Anonymous said...

Just happened to stumble upon your blog, I read the latest post and continued to the rest of the posts. You are right in defending India, but also depends on what kind of an exotic life you enjoy, living a very comfortable life. You must be very rich, but this is not the case with people who go to the US earn a decent salary and come back to continue living their middle class life.

Anonymous said...

hey, just saw this since I recently moved to Chennai.

From your posts, it really feels like you have had a cushy life, with a luxurious one waiting for you when you got back to India.

Most 'returnees' don't have those benefits and were probably middle or lower middle class to begin with, and then experienced comfort and luxury for the first time in the US. They then come back to idnia and are now upper middle-class (economically) so probably don't know where to go to have a good time or get things done..

just my 2 cents.

Thomson said...


I happened to go through your blog a couple of days back and was impressed. Let me get straight to the point. We have a forum at http://www.chennaichatter.com exclusively for Chennai-ites where we discuss various issues pertaining to Chennai and the nation. I think it would be great if you join us and take part in the debates. It would add a whole new class to the discussions.

Have a great day!

Nathiya said...

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