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What Do You See?

What Do You See?

May 13, 2013
How do you see India? How do you look at other countries? More importantly how do other people see India.
When I was about 8 years old I found awe in everything about India. It was a time when I was easily impressed and easily impacted. I believed what I was told and I assumed at the time that what was true for me was true for everyone else from my country. I wasn’t dumb, just to clarify, I didn’t think the circumstances of all people in the country were the same and I knew well enough that I was luckier than many around me who didn’t grow up with even half the luxuries I had. I mean that I viewed the country like a foreigner would. I considered one Indian representative of the country and let me tell you one thing, the google instant suggestions when you search for “why are Indians” or “why do Indians” do not paint a pretty picture of just how the world looks at us.

First I would like to address the ever so popular notion that every Indian worships cows. What is up with that? It’s not the notion itself that annoys me, so much as they way the notion is presented. It is always said with an air of disbelief. It’s is like “Dude how can you worship beef? More importantly why would you? Also have you ever been to McDonalds? Is that considered sacrilege“. Cows are scared to Hindus people, get over it already, but then again after the whole raping a cow and stabbing it incident in Delhi (or what I like to call the Rape City) maybe cows just don’t mean as much to us as they used to. Don’t worry beef-eaters I’m not here to judge.

The world seems to look at India and sees cheap people, people with too many relatives but also interestingly they are so very intrigued by the nation. I spoke to a well-respected Nigerian citizen who had come to visit India on a pilgrimage because he had heard of Sri Ramana Maharishi and decided to follow the great rishi’s footsteps. I was fascinated by how he took so readily to an alien culture giving up his strictly Christian family background for a different path. It was during my conversations with him that I realized how India must look to the people who have only heard about the country but never seen or visited it.

Despite the enormous surges in development and potential for economic growth the country is still lumped closer to third world than first. It is still used a location where film-makers from America, in search of poverty and skinny children for academy award footage, come to shoot movies. It is still a place where balance needs to be restored. Sure we’re better off than so many nations in terms of war, crisis, religious feuds and rebellion, but with a country this size and such an enormous population, the schism between where we are and where we should be is ridiculously huge.

I think about the people as a whole - we are untrusting, we are unyielding, we are inclined to be insolent and unwavering in our quest to ridicule those who do better than us, we don’t open our minds and we stick to our comforts, we are uncomfortable with change and unwilling to learn otherwise. I don’t know how it got this way, how over one billion people can have so much in common in terms of their personality, so much so that the rest of the planet defines them by it. I only hope we can make more of an impression rather than remain the cow-worshipers.


  • 06.06.13 12:06 AM
    Indians are perceived abroad in the same way foreigners are perceived in india, it depends on from person to person. We cannot fight to change a countries perceptions especially the ones that have ideas created by their ignorance. I have meet people abroad who think of indians as highly educated, hardworking and peaceful people but I have also meet people who think we are cow worshippers, dot headed, head shakers, bad smelling, cheapskates .... In my experience the ones who discriminate are generally of lower educational levels, lower job levels, Lower exposure level and hence part of lower level of a social pyramid. The same way, there are indians who think all foreigners are sexually promiscuous, big spenders, racists or .... etc You cannot change perception of another country's populace that easily, it takes time,significant social changes(which will take a longtime to happen in India) and large scale tourism growth (which is very hard given India's social problems). So next time you see an American and they ask you "Do you worship a cow" understand their ignorance, smile and move on.

    About indian economic growth, indians are not natural capitalist like americans, 200 years ago we were part of organised anarchy to a large extent with casteism holding the social order of things. In the west capitalism had already taken roots, urbanisation had started with industrial revolution so, comparing our populace to theirs is wrong. Indians are very theocratically fatalistic people. Karmic retribution, casteism, sexism and astrology are significant part of our society that rational thoughts rarely filter out. We are a country of anomalies and wastages, and now with capitalistic changes, society is starting to change and this change must be slow and deliberate else we will have revolution in hand and it can create chaos making things worse, much worse.

    P.S - google's search engine instant search is funny just try - Why do ? see the results, it will show you people all across the world are fall into the same harsh judgements. The majority of people across the world are too lazy to know a person or people, they stereotype because it is easier for them to live their lives.
  • Harsha
    23.05.13 11:38 AM
    I don't mind what others think about India and Indians but what worries me is how we Indians think about ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world,in no way we can change someone perspective but atleast we can change ourselves to provide a better prespective to others
  • Vidhya
    22.05.13 01:20 PM
    @rajpriya and @hari : you are both right imo.

    @deepa: Yeah I think politics in the nation and corruption need to be brought under control and the role of the youth should be brought to the forefront
  • Rajpriya
    22.05.13 12:19 PM
    In her own words the author of this article says, when she was about 8 years old she found awe in everything about India. So obviously she is not talking about things that were happening for centuries before she was born. My explanation was not about bringing down nations. It's about pulling down our own.

    She has described one Nigerian who is famous. Looking back into history, India has produced great mathematicians like: Apastamba (630-560 BC), Aryabhatta (476-550), Brahmagupta Bhillamalacarya (598-668), Bhascara Acharya (1114-1185), Madhava, (1340-1425), Panini (ca 520-460 BC), Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar, (1887-1920).

    There is an Indian who many may not know has more qualifications than any one in the world. He has better solutions to the socio economic problems of today than any president of the US of A.

    There are many more Indian born scholars those of whom, we Indians may never have heard of.
    All other countries too like India have transformed in the 21st Century. With the invention of the Internet and digital technologies today the people can access good as well bad information to influence the world toady.

    How do I see India? How do I look at other countries and more importantly how do other people see India? How much knowledge does an Indian have to explain those questions?

    We have behind us 3000 Year Caste WAR - A War on IGNORANCE Fought by Buddha and Dalit Saints so the history of India. Even today a high caste man would not touch a Dalit woman but would rape her. We Indians need to correct these faults in societies.

    Socialism has not created great nations. We need a poor class, middle class, the upper middle class and the super rich class with one significant difference from what it really is at present. Every human needs Food, Shelter, Clothing, Education, and employment to lead a decent life.

    A country needs employers, and employees. Being uneducated leads to Poverty and makes people steal and other criminal activities. Watching porn on the Internet has done its part to increase the number rapes not only in India. Probably as we Indians do not openly want to offend the countries we live in however, facts remain facts as long as they keep happening.

    So who all are we trying blame for how outsiders see India? Educated Indians must start movements put India on the right path to respected by the world. Or are Indians incorrigible?

    Mattea Kramer: "How America Became a Third World Country"
  • Deepa
    20.05.13 04:51 PM
    Vidya, the perception seems to be spot on. Like you've clearly mentioned, it's not that Indians want to be that way or are intentionally doing something like that. It's centuries of having done the same and history which causes any change to be slow. Yes, we do have some dignitaries, but the bulk of the nation is yet to reach that progress. And I have never believed that pulling down other nations picks us up. We have some things going really well for us as a country! Kudos to that. But we have also have our faults as a nation. And the first step to fixing those would be acknowledging it. Thank you for that.
  • Hari
    20.05.13 07:52 AM
    The responsibility hence lies with those who can to change that image at every possible
  • Rajpriya
    15.05.13 11:11 AM
    The subject of this article is not about “How safe is India for Women”.
    The title is “What Do You See”? You are certainly seeing something that I don’t see, unless you are looking into this article with Google glasses.

    When it comes to an assessment of the intelligence of foreigners asking questions like why do Indians smell, shake their heads, or why Indians worship the cow: these questions are very standard, old jokes about India and shows that foreigners can be stupid too.

    Those are frogs in the well abroad that think we still live in jungles.
    As a Hindu Indian by birth my maternal grandfather had told me “A cow is similar to the earth. It gives us so much and asks us nothing in return. They are fed with grass and hay, very candid in behavior and sacrifice milk more than a mother to human beings all their life.

    The cow was also the favorite animal of Lord Krishna and designated as the appropriate gift to the Brahmins the high caste of India. It was thought killing a cow was the same as killing a Brahmin. The cow is not worshipped as a deity in India. Even Buddhism prohibits the slaughter of cows and eating its meat.

    Why do Muslims refrain from eating pork? It is because the pig meat decays fast and would result in poisoning the human system. Not because they consider the pig sacred. It’s a filthy animal. Pigs eat human waste and all the filthy stuff it could sniff on.

    If I am wrong someone please do enlighten me.

    You are comparing your country with a population of 28 million with India’s 1.22 Billion and the second largest in the world. You will be surprised to read: that give warnings what women on holiday should do.

    There is an acute shortage of women in India due to the killings of the female child as unwanted. Gone are the harem days when one could marry several wives in India. The modern day educated and fashionable woman is far too expensive and elusive for an average man.

    I do know an average Indian woman is far more intelligent than her counterpart Indian male. A times of India report says that a school in the south has Girls coming out with 97 % of good results and the boys far behind. The present generations of Indian women are survival oriented than on male dependence. The typical stupid male supremacist instinct in the uneducated Indian man (sour grapes) is what makes him rape women.

    Read "Dear Rapists, Thank You" by "Tys" and you would know all the good Indian men are very much ashamed of what stupid Indian men do. What makes you think I would defend a Rapist?

    When I first came to live in Germany I lived in a house right in front of a Church. When sweeping my house on Saturdays I used to see the people of the village in large numbers going into this Church passing me. Most them would pass me with out even a glance and a very few with forced something similar to a dry smile with lips pressed together. Why do most westerners do that?

    One old man however stops to talk to me. He asked if I had ever been inside this Church.

    I said to him that the God inside seems to be telling these people not to smile at me even when they come out after listening to him. I now live in a house I got built in this village a little further away from the Church. My family enjoys the close friendship of many German families calling up on us and they know more about India its culture and many other admirable things about India.

    I don’t go to McDonalds because I know the entire America is suffering from being Obese eating junk food. Indian food without beef can be much better for your health. There is so much of good food around and not hard to find.
  • Bhadra
    15.05.13 05:24 AM
    You know what I don't like about India? They way people get so defensive whenever I criticize it. I say something like India is really unsafe for women and they start OH NO IT'S LIKE THAT EVERYWHERE INDIA ACTUALLY RESPECTS WOMEN BLAH BLAH well, sorry, but no. I don't even live in the west. I live in Malaysia in south east Asia and I can wear what I want when I want without fear. I have never had that feeling in India.
  • Rajpriya
    14.05.13 04:45 PM

    Well! It all depends on one looks for. Look for good things you would find them and equally enough bad things if you look for them.

    As to why Indian people smell is no new thing that Google presents in the “Why do Indians”? Series.
    What Google seems to be ignorant about is: That India is a very hot country. Many poor class people do not have the means to buy expensive perfumes and deodorants to suffocate the bad smell the rich Indians find so easy. Most middle class and Upper class Indians work in AC environments.

    I have often travelled in crowded Tube trains in London. I have stood with women right round looking like angels with awfully smelling breath.
    That’s quite normal in UK because they all rushing somewhere with no little time to brush their teeth. Yet you won’t read about it anywhere.

    We grin, bear, and don’t want to offend them. Indian Syndrome is to forever expose the bad things (I am not different) and do little to bring about a change for the better.

    As you say with the middle class coming up slowly to the upper class one day you might meet better smelling Indians.

    If everyone in India followed all the rules, good hygiene, ethical living, good morals, and the rest of what you are talking of, The-NRI forum will less fun and too boring to read.

    Its time we hear something we don’t know of Indians.
    Here is a list of well known, extremely intellectual and well-respected women of India. I am certain there are equal number Indian men. There are many lesser known.

    That the bad outnumbers the good in India like in Nigeria or elsewhere is the truth.

    List of Forbes Power women extremely intellectual and well-respected women of India:

    12. Indra Nooyi
    Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

    Education: Master of Business Administration, Yale University; Bachelor of Arts / Science, Madras Christian College

    58. Padmasree Warrior
    Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Cisco Systems

    Education: Master of Science, Cornell University; Bachelor of Arts / Science, Indian Institute of Technology

    59. Chanda Kochhar
    Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Bank
    Country of Citizenship: India
    Education: Master of Arts, Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies; Bachelor of Arts / Science, Jai Hind College

    80. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
    Founder, Chair, Biocon Ltd.
    Source of Wealth: biotechnology, self-made
    Country of Citizenship: India
    Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Bangalore University; Master of Science, Melbourne University

    Not in Forbes List
    Vinita Gupta, a prominent Indian-American
    Businesswoman in California's Silicon Valley. She is best known as the first
    Indian-American woman to take a company public. Digital Link Corp., a
    Telecommunications Products Company she founded in 1985 in Palo Alto,
    California, and ran as CEO, went public in 1994. She now sits on the boards
    of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the Indian School of Business and
    Maitri, a Silicon Valley nonprofit that assists women victims of domestic
    violence. In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, Gupta identifies
    social, cultural and psychological obstacles in both the United States and
    India that prevent women from becoming entrepreneurs, and shares her
    insights on what holds women back and what must change to unleash their
  • Vidhya
    14.05.13 01:10 PM

    I don't have an issue with being Indian, I have an issue with what India is known for by the rest of the world. The image we present matters and right now ours is not a good one.

    @vivek : it doesn't worry me, i happen to know that it is based on the truth, but I think that is slowly changing with the middle-class coming up

    @ramesh : your attitude is bakwaas if you think saying IIT is an answer to everything. I would like some proof about how you have impacted the problemss i've raised.

    @rajpriya: As with India the image Nigeria presents isn't good at all, but there are quite a few extremely intellectual and respected Nigerians in respected positions all over the world.
  • Rajpriya
    14.05.13 02:28 AM
  • Rajpriya
    14.05.13 02:07 AM
    Good to hear of about (A) well-respected Nigerian.
  • Ramesh C Vishwakarma
    Ramesh C Vishwakarma
    13.05.13 10:29 PM
    Totally Bakwaas Write up... needs Better Understanding of Indian Culture and Civilisation... I am IITian Civil Engineer and Spreading a Good Image of India across the world...
    I am doing hard work to the problems raised by Author...
    You should read Vedic Engineering and Technology.... n Knowledge...
    13.05.13 10:17 PM
    Oh come on Vivek it's more then that don't you agree.
    13.05.13 10:16 PM
    BTW Nice article. :D
  • Vivek Iyer
    Vivek Iyer
    13.05.13 10:15 PM
    More than anything, it's the "cheap" façade that worries me
    13.05.13 10:12 PM
    @ Vidhya

    That's the way we are, but my question is what is wrong with that? If people see us brown, then we are brown, and I don't think we can do much about that can we.

    I would rather be a cow-worshiper then have a god who has temper of my father pissed ( Drunk ) who think everything should come to him and if you don't do things his way then you go to hell or worst dammed to be punished in eternity. On that note I would rather be an Indian any day. So the question is what would you rather be if given chance?


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