ContemporaryNomad.com Blog

Indian Nationalism

One of the biggest surprises here in India is the intensity of Indian nationalism. I’m always shocked when homeless people living on the sidewalks suddenly blurt out, “India is the greatest country on earth!” They mean it, they believe it. To Westerners, it’s baffling. Many Indians, even those struggling to survive, are thoroughly convinced of India’s greatness.

One college-educated, young professional we encountered proudly informed us that India would be the “world leader” by 2015. Thinking that he meant 2050, we asked for clarification. “No, no” he assured us, “India will lead the world by 2015. In six years.”

“How will it lead the world,” we probed, “economically? militarily? culturally?”

“In every way,” he assured us.

Baffling. But where is this coming from?

Travelers we have met who have been to the country in the past have suggested that this is a relatively new phenomenon. They recall that Indians have always been proud of the country. But the sense of predestination for greatness appears to be new. There’s a bizarre sense of entitlement that is perplexing. Many Indians easily accept the notion that the West is quickly collapsing in on itself as fact. They assume this means the rise of India. The West’s new-found fascination with India and its quick praise seems to be inflating some seriously unrealistic expectations.

Media depictions of Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad as ultra-modern tech centers modeled on Silicon Valley are misleading. Visions of well dressed Indians working in English speaking call centers and programmers pumping out the latest code leave the impression that India is being catapulted into the 21st century. The media hype is quickly convincing everyone, including Indians themselves, that the future has arrived and that India is the next China. But the reality is that these industries employ a small fraction of one percent of the population.

In no way can the evolution of India be compared to that of China. With all its problems, China has undergone massive societal change involving every aspect of life. India is changing at a much slower pace. Middle-class Chinese we talked to understand many of their challenges. Middle-class Indians generally do not. Most Indians we have met quickly dismiss massive illiteracy, wide-spread corruption, the continued existence of ancient diseases such as leprosy and elephantiasis, and devastating environmental issues. That’s a lot to overlook.

No question that nationalism has made India myopic. Moments after the attackers in Mumbai ran past our hotel, Indians described “Americans shooting people in the streets” despite the fact that the attackers were clearly South Asian. Thomas and I are regularly subjected to baggage/security checks as Indians push by unnoticed by the police. For many Indians, terrorism is solidly the domain for foreigners. That Indians could be implicated in such events is often incomprehensible.

Yet indisputably, there is an upside to this nationalism as well. I have to come back to the homeless people living on the sidewalks screaming that “India is the greatest country on earth!” A year here has proven that these feelings appear to be keeping very desperate people far more content than would otherwise be expected. Indians do indeed love their nation. And that may prove a huge advantage to the country.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

How much do Indians love their country? Well, it’s hard to put into words. But it’s not hard to put into video! One of the bizarrest examples of Indian patriotism-gone-wild is the truly odd border closing ceremony near Amritsar in Punjab (which we visited last fall). Every day, thousands of Indians come to the border to sit in an arena and scream and yell and cheer their superiority across the border at a crowd of Pakistanis on the other side. Add to that, a psycho goose stepping soldier showdown and you’ve got one hell of a show. It’s part disco, part cultural meltdown, part Monty Python sketch. If you haven’t seen the border closing ceremony, you haven’t seen India. Keep in mind, this crowded spectacle happens every day of the year, and although this is only a two minute video, the actual ceremony lasts about forty minutes! That’s a lot of screaming, gyrating, and goose-stepping. (Notice in the video that Indians refer to India as Hindustan.)

If you want to get a glimpse of the darker side of Indian nationalism, check out their comments on our tongue-in-cheek YouTube review of the Rajdhani Express. We can vouch for the fact that these comments are quite representative of what you hear every day in India (if you are listening). Just ask Thomas. During one careless moment during a fight with a rickshaw driver, Thomas blurted out, “God, India is so stupid!” Moments later we were being paraded through the streets by an angry mob of police and passers-by. The crowd raged, “Do not call the India stupid!” Our travel documents were taken away from us and as the angry mob swelled we were seriously fearing for our safety. The police marched us out on to a pier as enraged men pounded their chests and threatened us with violence. In the end, the police demanded that we both apologize to the crowd for saying that “India is stupid.” Luckily, their English skills were quite limited because I’m sure I heard Thomas quickly say in his I-hate-you voice, “I’m sorry India is stupid.” God, he is going to get us killed one day.

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Topics: India, People, Video | 20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Indian Nationalism”

  • McCainTheTurdburglar McCainTheTurdburglar
    April 28th, 2009 at 9:58 am

    [..YouTube..] Yeah, this is awesome.

  • greeneyes greeneyes
    June 16th, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Food for Thought.

    Maybe it is time for the two of you to develop a code language.

    Something like, when you are totally disgusted with the lack of common sense of the individuals you are dealing with, one of you could say to the other “Wow,did you notice the weather today?”, which of course could mean, “I can’t take dealing with this idiot anymore.”

  • TheRohanNZ TheRohanNZ
    January 13th, 2010 at 12:33 am

    [..YouTube..] lol

  • fb1053186714 Satabdi Sarkar
    April 27th, 2010 at 6:20 am

    If someone say anything which is not very good including your country name in some other language how do you feel???? If can’t feel anything then it’s clear why you react so much!!!!

    For your kind information the so called modern civilization of west also depend on
    Eastern techniques and philosophy (Like algebra which is popularly known as Bijganit in
    Ancient India)..

  • Pauline Pauline
    June 24th, 2010 at 3:14 am

    True! Indian is stupid!

  • pravicpu pravicpu
    September 26th, 2010 at 3:09 am

    [..YouTube..] grt history is here. People really have spirit. I am proud to be an Indian 

  • Sigh. Sigh.
    May 3rd, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Wow. I wasn’t going to comment on the endless privileged whining and subtle racism I keep seeing on this blog because you guys take nice pictures and are occasionally funny. But this time, great. You got what you deserved for being horrible tourists. And for YOUR lack of common sense (seriously?? “India is stupid” said by two white guys in a busy street full of poor people? And you restate it as if you’re somehow being cool and brave? SO immature.).
    And I’m Indian. One of those Bengalis you claim are littering up Sikkim (which should be restricted to western tourists who are all heated up by the intense heat of the plains, bless their little cute pink skins, right?). I assure you everyone knows the immense challenges we face, and we also know the distance we’ve come. As you seem to have ignored what was obvious, people are not going to tolerate criticism, and are absolutely not going to express negative sentiments about India, in front of white, western tourists who are representative of a devastating colonial past that brought them to where they are, a situation they’re slowly climbing out of. Believe me, everyone knows how slowly. However hard it may be to believe, we have defeated discussions about literacy and gender disparity and poverty and education in our drawing rooms. You (and especially you) don’t have to point these things out to a supposedly stupid and deluded populace.
    God, I shouldn’t get so angry by entitled assholes, but you two seemed unlike the typical “ooh, imma backpack across india cuz I can” travellers at first. Damn.

  • Jared S Jared S
    May 11th, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Whoever “Sigh” is, he certainly seems to prove you right. Talk about not getting the point.

    Out of curiosity, I read through some of the the comments to that video you link to. My god, talk about an overreaction. How would these commenters react to any real criticism? I watched the video twice, and I couldn’t even really understand what they were mad about.

  • Sigh again Sigh again
    May 19th, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Firstly, girl here.
    I came back and read what I had written, and while I seem to have expressed myself rather angrily in the heat of the moment, to tell you the truth I stand by the content of all of it.
    I would love to actually hear why you think the contemporary nomads are blameless victims.
    Believe me Indians know their problems, discuss them, write about them, and are under no obligation to listen to your (white foreigners’) snide comments as well; and if you’re on the streets among poorer people, you respect that or you get mauled/yelled at.
    Another thing that bothers me on this blog: How you guys only hang out with other expats or white tourists and give them (quite a few) blog posts/space, but we don’t hear anything about the everyday middle-class Indian person you must be meeting. I’m sure if you went to, say, France, we would be hearing about all the “quirky” people (definitely not rude) you met. Do you actively avoid the local populace and just profess to love their land? I’m genuinely curious about this one.
    (And it’s slightly funny to hear Americans complain about being overscrutinized at airports.)

  • Tony Tony
    May 19th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Hi Sigh again,

    We saw your response to Jared S. We would like to point out that your assumption that we only hung out with other foreigners is 100% false. We also wrote about many of the amazing people we met in India. Here are just a few of the posts:

    Good People
    The People of Kinnaur
    The Omelette Man of Jodhpur
    Portrait of a Lady
    The Happy Horseman
    Sita the Female Rickshaw Driver
    Curse of the Hijra
    Work it Baby

    99% of our time was spent with Indians, not expats; however, we do profiles on long-term travelers as that is part of the focus of our site ContemporaryNomad.com. Perhaps, you clicked into that subsection and assumed we only spent time with expats.

    Interestingly, your comments confirm much of what we said in our post. Firstly, you assumed that Jared S is white. Why? There’s no avatar next to his comment. You don’t even know his nationality. Secondly, you don’t actually refute any of the points in our post but rather simply attack us. That is precisely what we were talking about in the post.

    In the Youtube video we link to, comments follow a bizarre series and twists and turns that serve to highlight Indian insecurities far more than any post we have ever written. What is most fascinating to us is that many of these commenters have no concept of the fact that their comments make them sound much more ridiculous than anything we said in the video. I think that is what Jared S meant when he said, “My god, talk about an overreaction. How would these commenters react to any real criticism?”

    We made many friends in India and had many wonderful experiences, several of which we write about on the blog. But we also encountered shockingly violent behavior, extreme corruption, caste discrimination, abuse of tribal people, Indians abusing their children to make money (see Baby on the Sidewalk), and horrific disease. We intend to write about such experiences whether that insults the local population, or not. We would do that (and actually do do that) in every country we visit including our home nations. Interestingly, no other nation has expressed the rage that Indians have.

    To compare a little, check out our posting called Who Cares about the Food in the Philippines. Actually, the posting was a rather tongue-in-cheek condemnation of Filipino food with a bit of a twist. Although some Filipinos expressed annoyance with the post, many found it funny and took the piece in good humor. That confidence shines through to outsiders who will immediately recognize some great humor in the Filipino responses.

  • Deep breath Deep breath
    May 19th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Hi,
    Thanks for responding, this is an interesting discussion.
    First of all, I assumed nothing whatsoever about Jared S. Everything in my comment except the “girl here” and “I would love to actually hear why you think the contemporary nomads are blameless victims” parts was directed towards you two. My apologies if that wasn’t clear.
    You’ve kind of cemented in the faint squeamishness I was feeling by pointing out those particular posts. If you can’t notice what’s wrong with them I shall point it out. In all of them, the people are nameless, faceless; you add them in as mute photographic subjects (Portrait of a Lady, Work It, Baby) or interesting featureless local colour (The People of Kinnaur, Good People) or people you’ve received services from and have a faux boss-employee or benefactor-type relation with (The Omelette Man, Sita the Female Rickshaw Driver, The Happy Horseman). With none of them do you interact with as an equal, nor do you meet or write about middle class Indians who have, say, been to university or have jobs (And there are a lot! crazy, right?); there must have been many such people also visiting the tourist places you were at. Instead, the fellow tourists we see fleshed out are (just a few examples), Marie-Christine, Amit and Ariel, Emma and Richard, Cat and Bella, Ralf and many more. I feel like I know about these people, they’re interesting and I can see them as People. Not so the few poor Indian people you mention, or the few hundred million you totally ignore. I just don’t see the point of travelling to a foreign country and ignoring the local middle class/anyone but the Picturesque Poor.
    Again, I’m getting tired of the whole there are many things wrong with India and it’s our bounden duty to bring it to your notice track. Here’s the deal: We. Know. We know because we see it everyday, unlike tourists. We are trying very hard to come out of the shadow of the last two centuries. And it doesn’t help when “the very people” (as it seems like to a lot of people on the street) who slapped you come over and say “Ew, there’s a red mark on your cheek”. If you can’t see why Indians get angry the most, you could try reading some history, especially India’s unique history. You seem to have read enough about the monuments. And there is a great deal of difference between cutely criticizing the food, and between writing scathing, totally un-tongue-in-cheek critiques of the people, the bureacracy, the cleanliness, a train that is the pride of many poor people, and anything else that has a remotely bad aspect. There is a graceful way to do this, and quite a few of your posts have failed. That is the simple truth, and it is arrogance to keep on in your train of thought rather than seriously examine why you seem to have offended a great deal of people. Usually, it turns out to be something you have done, probably not knowingly, instead of all the people being crazy or wrong. As a start, you might read this article:
    http://www.maldura.unipd.it/dllags/docentianglo/materiali_oboe_lm/2581_001.pdf
    and then this one:
    http://www.nymbp.org/reference/WhitePrivilege.pdf
    Lastly, about the beggar with the baby. The cold hard truth is that most often it is not the woman’s own child. In major cities it is often the case that these are orphan children who are assigned to random women by begging rings to beg. This has been written about many times in major Indian dailies. People try to stop it, but nothing comes easily in a country of a billion. And if it were a woman’s own child, I would feel horror and compassion for the dire straits she’s in, not anger at her.
    Thank you for responding. This conversation has potential (sorry for dismissing that possibility earlier) and I’m looking forward to your reply.

  • Tony Tony
    May 19th, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    The truth is that we did not often mention names because communication was often quite difficult with the people we met. We refer to Sita by name because in that case we were able to clearly talk to her. We refer to the Omelette Man as such because he refers to himself as the Omelette Man, not because he was serving us. I included the post “Work it Baby” because I remember that interaction with the Lambani tribal woman as one of the greatest moments in India. Sometimes, smiles, laughter, and fun can create a moment of connection that conveys far more than a thousand hours of meaningless conversation.

    When I look at my own posts, I realize that most of the people I included were ethnic minorities within India with whom language was often a major issue. The more I think about it, the more I realize that had to do with the behavior we encountered. The truth is that the ethnic minorities were the most hospitable people we encountered in India. I can’t help but wonder if this is part of what bothered you. You keep demanding “middle-class” Indians as though that would be a more accurate depiction of India. The fact is that the most accurate portrayal of India is the hundreds of millions of rural poor, as that represents the largest numbers in your country. And that’s fine with me, because I loved many of them.

    The nationalistic sentiment we refer to is most pronounced among middle-class Indians. The truth is that 90% of the conversations we had with Indians were precisely what we wrote about in this post, the inevitable rise of India. And as we mentioned in the post, an explanation for that rise or how India would overcome its problems was absolutely never mentioned despite the fact that we repeatedly asked. If we wrote about the remaining 10% of the discussions we had, that would probably not make you much happier.

    We could have written about the group of middle-class call center workers who spent an hour explaining how fun it was to cheat foreigners. Or the biologists we met working in a national park who spent most of their time talking about how savage elephant behavior is. Or the Indian hotel owner who spent two solid days talking about how envious locals were out to destroy his business. Or the doctor and the water quality engineer who explained that Ganges water miraculously self purifies. Or the unending soliloquies on the superiority of higher caste Indians.

    The fact is that we stopped writing about many of these things because we ourselves were worried that we were being too negative. Posts like “Work it Baby” were meant to show a happier, friendlier side of India. In reality, Indians almost never talk about their country’s important issues with foreigners. And they easily dismiss even the most cruel of behaviors. Even you seem to think that abusing someone else’s baby is somehow less offensive than abusing your own baby. How scary is that? And people are trying to stop it? There was a policeman standing right next to the woman I describe in the post – a policeman who didn’t even bat an eye. And hundreds of middle-class Indians strolling by chatting on their cellphones. Nobody cared at all. And that is a big part of India that you and many others would like to ignore. And that is one reason foreigners complain about India. Not because we are trying to insult you or keep you down as part of some neo-colonial conspiracy, but rather because we see dysfunction on an almost unimaginable scale – and a lot of people ignoring it.

    Another reason why foreigners critique India is how we are treated within the country. The fact is that most Indians are quite unaware of just how abusive their behavior is towards visitors. We met countless travelers in Nepal who had fled India after a couple of days, no longer able to endure the abuse. Delhi is littered with fake “tourist information centers” (often sporting the official Incredible India logo) whose SOLE purpose is to cheat tourists. Some of these are right across the street from the central train station in Delhi and the government does nothing to stop these predators. Government and locals are all aware of these scams and they do virtually nothing to stop them. Tourists are regularly abducted by rickshaw drivers and driven to fake hotels. Power-tripping local and regional officials miss no opportunity to demand bribes. Virtually every female traveler we met had been felt up or grabbed in the crotch. Among travelers, India has a reputation as being one of the most fascinating countries on the planet, and one of the most abusive to its visitors. Countless books and articles have been written attempting to explain such behavior.

    And you send an article on “White Privilege.” Just how does White Privilege cause Indian men to grab foreign women’s breasts? or crotches? And we met African and East Asians in India who were subjected to the same abuse, how does white privilege relate to their molestation? Indians are so in love with the concept that colonial rule has led to the current state of India that they will overlook even the most obvious examples of their own culpability. The truth is that there are many ex-colonies out there which were used and abused by the British (including my own) – and which weren’t left with an amazing rail system and bureaucratic infrastructure.

    I highly encourage anyone reading these comments to check out the second article included above. It illustrates better than anything that I could ever write the cult of victimhood that continues to justify Indian non-action on its numerous problems.

    The truth is that India will be equal the moment it can handle the critique. And that is true of every nation.

  • Resurface, plunge in again Resurface, plunge in again
    May 20th, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Okay. Maybe I’m not expressing myself very well (the communication difficulties you mention?). I’ll try to be clearer.
    So my point wasn’t “Aaaah look at us middle class ignore the unwashed poor”. No one should ignore the poor. The point is, in your travels, statistically, you must have met people of the same age and social class as you, only different in that they were Indian instead of Norwegian, British, or Israeli. (They would have also been local, a plus in my book when i visit a country). They would probably also have been touring, or maybe in college or young professionals. Not one of these people are mentioned. Every Indian you mention is of lower financial/social/educational status than yourself. Why?
    Notice I don’t say these people are not worthy of notice. Notice I don’t say they don’t represent India. That’s just a strawman you’ve used. They’re perfectly worthy of notice and make up a majority of our country; but it’s also perfectly natural (and sadly human) that you might not feel they were worthy of being in your “friends” tagged category like Ralf, Ariel et al. But why aren’t any Indians of your own class, education level, etc. in there? And I don’t mean hotel owners, people you identify only as generic “doctors” and “engineers” or call center workers. Name ONE person you met and remember who was a normal, fun person and not a caricature. I’m sure India is not devoid of such people. I know many Indians like that, and could introduce you to them. (For starters, look at this blog: http://theworldaccordingtosroyon.blogspot.com/He's a cool guy who also enjoys travelling and stays at friends’ houses around the country, and is on my regularly-read-blogs list).
    Incidentally I also know a lot of “poor people” by name and can speak to them in their language–no communication problems so they can tell me their problems instead of look sad/smile for my camera–and have worked in old age homes, orphanages and science/vocational teaching workshops in school and college. I assure you I’m not blind to the street urchins. When I walk by them: I assume you’ve been on the New York Metro? It’s the same kind of coping mechanism. I help in the ways I can; but we are all human. And we all know policemen are corrupt; it’s a low paid, low-education-level, physical job in a poor country. Again, we’re TRYING. (You could have reported the guy, or civilly asked him to look into it?) And I definitely don’t think child abuse is okay if it’s someone else’s child, that was a disingenuous thing to say. I was putting the incident into perspective, as in it’s not “all these destitute Indian mothers are callous and bad mothers and like such ANImals, goodness!” but maybe, she’s a desperately, desensitized-ly poor woman who was handed that kid that day by her boss and made to go out and beg.

    Now for the other strawmen/miscommunications.
    1. Citing Gayatri Spivak’s article (incidentally an exemplary piece of scholarship cited 5172 times, which you typically dismiss as “cult of victimhood”) was not me going “Waah you whiteskins made us this way now you taunt us”. It was more like a more erudite way of saying, see why your posts are offensive? See why I cringe when I read your repeated Othering of Indian people, your dehumanising of them, the denial of the “friends” tag, the denial of names, the denial of compassion to the woman, assuming she’s a monster instead of very, very desperate?
    2. The Invisible Knapsack article was not “you’re racist”. It was more like “why should you, backpacking across a country of millions of poor, starving desperate people, expect good service, smiling faces, dirt cheap yet spotlessly clean accomodations, a far greater allocation of resources to you?” Travel-inclined Indians (speaking as a typical going-on-family-tours-to-Sikkim Bengali) do NOT hop on the road less taken with a rucksack. We know what backpacking across the country would entail. We deal with people trying to gouge out one more rupee for their starving kids at home every day; it is natural in a country that has so much to overcome. I believe it is indecent to parade your wealth (relative wealth) in front of poor people and then call them thieves. This is white/first world privilege: to saunter into this country, marvel at the prices, set a low budget and then complain about the quality as if you’re somehow entitled to first class. I would not expect bedbug-free beds at a 40 dollar flea-ridden motel in Harlem; I would not expect to not be groped on the New York Subway/streets alone at night. And I am female, and I don’t go out on the streets in Kolkata/Delhi at night. Heck, I don’t go into the shady areas alone during the day. (I’m told it’s about the same in Jo’burg/Chicago/New York? So perhaps something to do with poverty/class and not country?). So these female tourists (unless they’re Karate experts or Kali incarnate) you speak of will just have to suck it up while we try to educate the men; (I would prefer we strike fear into their hearts, but the world isn’t always fair…); primarily for the cause of Indian women.
    3. Bribes and ill treatment: they are a sad and feature of India. You’re not saying ANYthing new at all that needs to be exposed. You should hear the horror story of what I had to do to get a duplicate copy of my 12th grade marksheet for college (everyone has a pet story like this). Every local goes through this. Foreigners aren’t used to it and don’t know how to deal, so they suffer more. Why should you be immune? It is, again, a consequence of too many people, too few dinero. Again, all you can do (and what my family always does even though you typically think we do “virtually nothing”; what did you do in your case?) is make no comment and report the person. We have an Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Right to Information Act, that were set up for this very purpose (of course then those people might be corrupt, which is too much meta for one comment). I don’t know how this will be solved. We hope greater education->higher salaries->more accountability->less corruption.
    4. If you want to discuss post-colonial developing countries and the challenges they face due to the lingering effects of cololial rape, I’m sorry I don’t have the energy or the heart or the space for it here. Either way, if you really think all the British left us with was “an amazing rail system” (bwahahahahahaha sounds like someone’s been reading Niall Ferguson’s putrid book “Empire”? I’m joking, then you would be beyond reach), nothing i say is going to convince you. Let’s just agree to disagree on that one, or you can email me on the email in these comments and we can discuss it extensively and in a more scholarly fashion (not really looking forward to that, honestly).

    Sorry if I missed something. I’m just…really tired. It’s exhausting to keep arguing, we know, we know things are bad, you don’t have to rub it in, we can see it, leave the people some of their dignity, we’re trying, we’re trying to and if we have to work at humiliating call centers and work 24/7 to get into college where our parents never went and work in bloodsucking MNCs and pull a rickshaw and refund a few dollars less to rich-looking foreigners, so be it.
    And how will we accomplish all of the above? 50% of the population is below 25. We’ll figure out a way, Inshallah. (No I’m not muslim and no I don’t know why I clarified that). This TED talk might help answer “When?” and it’s very engrossing: http://www.gapminder.org/videos/hans-rosling-asias-rise-ted-india/ , though I tend to distrust statisticians on principle.
    Best of luck on your travels. Just…please be a little more sensitive in your criticism and you’ll fare better in the “third world” and not leave a bitter taste in the mouths of (non-fanboyish) readers of this blog.

  • Tony Tony
    May 20th, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Yes, this could go back and forth for days. But I did want to respond to one important point.

    It’s an interesting question why we don’t really include any locals in our friends section. I suppose an honest answer is that we often write posts about people along the way who have nothing to do with the country we are in. We started a category “friends” just as a way to organize those people. If we talked about Indians, Tibetans, Nepalis, etc., those people are categorized into the normal country heading.

    Honestly, Thomas and I really thought about the concept of whether or not we had made any real friends in India. Every person we thought of was usually Tibetan or from one of the tribal groups. That’s unfortunate. We discussed why that was the case and we realized that most interactions with ethnic Indians, especially among middle-class Indians, seemed to revolve around how we could help them travel to the States or Europe to find work. Interestingly, this was less an issue with lower-class Indians, which is why we might have appreciated them and included them more in our blog postings.

    We did have several occasions when we thought we were becoming friends with a person only to have something undermine that sense of friendship. One that immediately comes to mind is a man named Badal, who ran a homestay in Rajasthan. We really enjoyed him and his family and felt an immediate connection to him, but he treated his wife exactly like she was a slave. It was impossible not to be affected by his behavior and ultimately that behavior made it difficult for us to consider him a friend. The most common thing that undermined that sense of friendship was caste prejudice. I know many foreigners choose to overlook Indian friends making horrible statements about the lower castes. That was very difficult for us to do. I’m absolutely sure one of the reasons I have so many postings about people I could barely talk to is because language difficulties made discussions on these topics impossible thus preserving my illusions about the people.

    I just want to make one more point. You ask:

    “Why should you, backpacking across a country of millions of poor, starving desperate people, expect good service, smiling faces, dirt cheap yet spotlessly clean accomodations, a far greater allocation of resources to you?”

    First of all, it is not just backpackers, all travelers in India encounter these issues at some point. We heard people staying at the Lake Palace in Udaipur complaining about many of the same issues. But that aside, we have traveled to many areas with extreme poverty including the Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tibetan regions of China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and more. In many areas we have received all of the things you mention above and, more imporatantly, civil behavior, respect, and hospitality. Even in India, the poorest people we encountered were the most genuine and hospitable people we met. Despite what you think, it’s really not just about poverty.

    By the way, my grandparents worked as fruit pickers and laborers, my parents managed to kick it up a notch into sales people. I am the first person in my extended family to attend college. I worked my ass off to put myself through Georgetown University. Indians aren’t the only ones who work to better their lives. You need to realize that the entire western world was not handed their standard of living on a silver platter. There is nothing humiliating about working in a call center, it is good, honest work. My grandparents would have killed for such an opportunity.

  • Dutchy1965 Dutchy1965
    June 18th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    [..YouTube..] Its Turkey season !

  • krishna9173 krishna9173
    June 28th, 2011 at 9:00 am

    [..YouTube..] excellent no words truly patriotic.

  • eliarevalo eliarevalo
    July 13th, 2011 at 2:11 am

    [..YouTube..] This is something most stupid Australians would not understand. Real patriots.

    Most Australians mistake nationalism for patriotism. I’m an Australian by the way.

  • Kshitij Paliwal Kshitij Paliwal
    June 11th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    It is difficult to blame you for your narrow view. You lack any knowledge what so ever about the history of India, social or economic. A question that i want to ask is that do you understand the term nationalism ? It is all fair for you to make stupid comment in the confines of your little living rooms, but when you are being daring enough to make a blog and are writing about a country on public forum, it would be more desirable that you be more informed before making such comments. India does have problems. People are poor, education is wanting, western standards of medical facilities have not been provided and the list goes on. Yet most of these problem are of colonial creation. Indian economy flourished in pre-colonial times, Neils Steengard referred to it as the Asiatic trade revolution( Sidenote for Americans: Asians aren’t just oriental people)The demand for Indian textile and spices was very high in European market, which made India the ‘sink of world bullion’. Intensional destruction of Indian industries, extreme exploitation of the Indian peasant, forcefully acquiring raw materials at low rates and subsequent dumping of of finished goods in Indian and other colonial markets at high rates are some of the factors that brought about Industrialization in Britain and later the other western countries. India, now free, is working its own way toward a developed capitalist economy, not at the cost of others. Capitalism is never a smooth transition. If you read about the social conditions in Britain and other countries when the were Industrializing you will be shocked. The condition that the urban working class lived in (thrown out of their rural land holding) was despicable. India still has to struggle through those rough patches of capitalism. So please, think before you write something. It boils my blood to here that Indian dont understand their problems. You also mentioned that India cannot be compared to China in terms of the progress it has made. To a great extent i agree, China has progressed more than India, but at what cost. There is always the easy way and then there is the right way. Human Rights and individual freedom come above all else in my view.

    So please , do come to our country, enjoy it, but before you think of writing about it make sure you understand it. Also you commented negatively on the Wagha border ceremony,again I ask you what do you know about India-Pakistan history to just write off the incident as baffonry. These are some of the reason why my friend ‘sigh’ and for that matter any Indian would take offence to what seems on the face of it to be border-line racism. I on the other hand, would like to believe that it stems from your ignorance.

    Due to the vastness of the issue at hand and the restraint of time i will not be able to shed light on everything but if you do have any doubts you can contact me on paliwal169@gmail.com.

    PS: Learn to be a little more responsible, sensitive and humane.

  • Tony Tony
    June 12th, 2012 at 2:30 am

    “na·tion·al·ism/ Noun: Patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts. An extreme form of this, esp. marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.”

    I (and most people) would suggest that gathering on a daily basis to dance, gyrate, goose-step and mock the country next door is a rather nationalistic event. Beyond that, we encountered grand statements of superiority and patriotism on a daily basis. We heard endless passionate and often aggressive rants against Pakistan as well as the colonial powers that “continue to oppress India.” (This also included rants on Australia and the U.S. which Indians often refer to as colonial powers themselves rather than colonies, an opinion which reveals a deeply lacking understanding of history on all parts.)

    To most outsiders, India’s main problems are corruption, ethnic and religious conflict, caste-based discrimination, marginalization of women, appalling sanitary conditions, religious fundamentalism, horribly lacking education, and deeply dysfunctional systems. Indians have mastered the fine art of blaming Britain (and other countries) for most of these ills, a fact which belies intense nationalistic self-delusion. What is clearly visible to most visitors, but not visible to most Indians, is that the vast majority of these problems are either self-made or at least self-perpetuated. You can’t fix the problems if you keep blaming outsiders for their existence.

    If Indians spent half the time and passion working on their problems that they spent commenting on these posts, the country would be in much better shape. Maybe it is time to worry less about what foreigners think and more time worrying about what Indians think – and how India operates.

  • Sachin Sachin
    January 14th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Lol thomas one day I might just fly over to Frankfurt on my way to Canada which I do every year, I will blurt out in the airport that Germany is stupid! Then I will see how your fellow germans react. If I sense Germany is too risky to non Europeans then I will just say some shit in Hindi and get away with it easy. Wish me luck!

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