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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our pride and the NRI prejudice

By Swapan Dasgupta


The fuss over Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade's maid has had an immediate fallout on Indo-US bilateral relations. Given that this was an affair involving diplomatic protocol and even national sovereignty, this was only to be expected. Less anticipated, however, was the impact of this controversy on two very separate groups of Indians: the middle class Indians resident in India and their social counterparts now resident in the West. Far from acting in unison, circumstances have propelled both groups to turn on each other with a measure of hostility that was unimaginable. 


At the heart of the dispute is the vexed "servants" question. To the middle class Indians with a reasonable exposure to the West, the charges levelled by the nanny-cum-domestic help were easily explained. Sangita Richards' status in the US was directly linked to the tenure of her employer. If she wished to acquire a permanent right to live and work in the US, she had to carve out an independent status for herself. This was only possible by charging her employer with violating her human rights and depicting herself as a victim of servitude. This she successfully did by preying on the gullibility of do-gooders who are accustomed to viewing the Third World as an undifferentiated area of darkness. Indeed, by blending piousness with America's self-perception as the world's good cop, Richards was even able to secure the 'evacuation' of her family from Indian tyranny. 


This was the story most middle class Indians and the mandarins in South Block, including those slightly embarrassed by the dodgy track record of a member of India's Dalit aristocracy, chose to believe. To them, the domestic help was a street smart operator out to short-circuit the US immigration rules. If that meant levelling extraordinary charges against her employer, she was game. 


Predictably, in a battle involving the country of their birth and the land of their adoption, overseas Indians had to exercise an unenviable choice. There was, quite naturally, a large degree of envy at work. Many who earned much, much more than Devyani's modest relatively salary resented the fact that purported  diplomatic status allowed her to maintain a flat in Manhattan and import a maid from India who was paid less than the going New York rate. 


It didn't stop at that. The journey from envy to resentment involved frenzied breast-beating over how Indians habitually treated 'servants' disgustingly and how the relationship was deeply exploitative. Overseas Indians who were hitherto happy to enjoy the luxuries of domestic help during their holidays in India, suddenly woke up to the belief that privileged Indians lacked any form of social conscience. The subtext was also apparent: by emigrating to the First World, these sons and daughters of India had exorcised themselves of the accumulated sins of their families in the subcontinent. Judging from the visceral comments on social media, it almost seemed that those who had migrated westwards had so as a protest against an iniquitous social order. India, it was tacitly suggested, could redeem itself by transplanting the transactional social relationships of the New World into a society that is pre-modern, modern and post-modern at the same time. 


For many Indian-Americans, the Devyani Khobragade affair was akin to the Tebbit test of loyalty. There may have been some awkwardness with the high-handed treatement of a woman diplomat but, overall, there was vigorous nodding approval for District Attorney Preet Bharara's carping suggestion that the US wasn't accustomed to treating important people with kid gloves. In exercising choice, those who India likes to view as its overseas citizens, chose to spurn the old country. 


This is a lesson that won't be easily forgotten in India. For the past decade at least, the New World and even some European countries have proceeded on the assumption that ethnic Indians are better able to understand India and relate to Indians than the average white or black. The assumption has often been questioned by Indians. Anecdotal experience suggests that Indians with different passports have a monumental chip on their shoulder. After Devyani's Bharara encounter this prejudice is certain to turn into a conviction. It won't be a bad idea if the West acts on this realisation. 


Sunday Times of India, December 29, 2013

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Erm,am of Indian Origin born in East Africa, studied in. India, had my first brush with caste based conflict when in Hostel. I supported a little boy to get education whilst he just looked after getting my laundry from the Waherman .
Am BRITISH with huge affinity to India, my father, bless him, was a lead member of INA.
I disagree with some of your observations. The humiliation we NRIs go through at the Indian Embassies have to be experienced, especially if you are an elderly Indian.
Here abroad we too have cleaners coming in,and we have a very cordial relationship.
The case of this privileged dodgy diplomat, is much trumpeted as in West you are not above procedural aspect. Recall the case of the IMF chief?
There still is feudal medieval mentality in India.

Anonymous said...

Erm,am of Indian Origin born in East Africa, studied in. India, had my first brush with caste based conflict when in Hostel. I supported a little boy to get education whilst he just looked after getting my laundry from the Waherman .
Am BRITISH with huge affinity to India, my father, bless him, was a lead member of INA.
I disagree with some of your observations. The humiliation we NRIs go through at the Indian Embassies have to be experienced, especially if you are an elderly Indian.
Here abroad we too have cleaners coming in,and we have a very cordial relationship.
The case of this privileged dodgy diplomat, is much trumpeted as in West you are not above procedural aspect. Recall the case of the IMF chief?
There still is feudal medieval mentality in India.

Anonymous said...

Devyani is a cause most NRI shy away from. Many see the hand of Karma

Consider, She is a Mahar, the caste that collaborated with the British against the Peshwa.

She is an affirmative action beneficiary and lacked IQ to sense the danger

Her husband and kids are US citizens and her husband is a millionaire and she can afford to hire ten american maids

She used her influence to get posting in New York to be near her husband

She is a millionaire having stolen Adarsh flats from war widows

It is ironic that a Dalit is screwed by a christian, despite all the love that missionaries claim to show on Dalits

Mahars are one of the key vote banks of the Congress and the silence of white christian Sonia is very telling

One of the key aspects in this is that she chose a christian maid. The reason is this. Mahars eat beef and Hindu maids wont cook beef

NRIs are extremely aware of the dangerous nature of Law suits in USA and at the first sign of trouble the best option is to flee to India. This so called diplomat and the entire Indian diplomatic corps are so ignorant of the dangers

Her Husband is a US citizen, why is there not a single peep from him ?
Why blame NRI when her NRI husband is silent

In Rome do as the Romans do. Learn to cook and clean on your own.

Upper class Indian women ape white women in being modern. But a white woman cleans her own toilet and cooks her own food and if she cant afford a maid, then she is housewife and not career diplomat

That being said, the US very definitely stretched the law. And wont dare to do this to Russia and China and Saudi

The world runs on might is right and not on laws

The way out for India is to get richer and militarily stronger and ruthlessly retaliate for these types of insults

If India has the guts to use article 377 on gay US diplomats, there will be no more such insults

The US would not have dared to do this if Indira Gandhi was the PM and not a puppet like Manmohan Singh. Vote for Modi and let Modi enforce Indian laws against whites and there will be no more such insults




Prasanna S said...

Sir,
The behavior of Indian-Americans was not surprising at all, given their track record in the recent past. From preventing NaMo's speech at Wharton to numerous pseudo-secular/malicious write-ups that have regularly appeared in both the US- and Europe-based publications, these people have proved that they do not care about Indians' concerns at all. For them, getting a nod of appreciation from their white bosses or obtaining a green card are much more lucrative than upholding their country's pride. This is the main difference between Indians and Chinese immigrants of the US. The depths to which these literate servants can go to fulfill their individual utilities is abominable. I tell this based on my personal experience only, and not based on some secondary narratives.
Prasanna

Anonymous said...

NRIs are no less differentiated than Indians in general. In the US, Indians get used to not being thwarted by petty corruption at every step. So they sympathise with a civil servant actually prosecuting corruption ( in this case visa fraud ) . It is the same sentiment that got AAP elected in Delhi.
Maybe from your perch you don't experience dealings with corrupt Indian bureacracy, but most Indians do.
The diplomatic aspect and bad treatment of Ms. Khobragade is where IMO, NRIs and resident Indians think alike.

Anonymous said...

It is certain politicians who are turning it into a big issue of "national pride" with churlish tit for tat moves.

A lot of Indians WITHIN India have no sympathy AT ALL for this Devyani Khobragade. For various reasons Adarsh loot being one of the most important ones. Her father Uttam Khobragade is no VISVESVARAIYA the famous Indian always cited as an example for INTEGRITY & ETHICS.

Indira Gandhi knew screaming "foreign hand" was enough to whip up the ill informed Indian masses into jingoistic frenzy. Not anymore. Hence screaming about (sic) "CIA hand" is entertaining.

After Indira Gandhi's reign lot of exposure to America & the West including China have happened for many Indians. Lot of Hindus have actually started liking & respecting ARABS too.

It is Indian politicians & bureaucrats who command the least respect of all.But many cannot risk being candid lest they should be branded "American stooge- Macaulay's children-deracinated-unpatriotic" blah blah.

I did not expect seemingly mature Yashwant Sinhas bumptiously demanding alleged "gays" to be "punished". How could Indians forget their own Jawaharlal Nehru & various Indians whose character is absolutely worthless:-(( Having RAPE capital & FIRE capital.Icchadari babas , Nithyanandas etc.

Narendra Modi I am sure would not risk taking such obscurantist hypocritical stand defending Khobragades once empowered.

Modi HAD to join the shrill politicians in the beginning which was a pragmatic move. Modi has nothing to hide like Shindes & Khobragades.

It is time India uproots corruption. Why else did Aam Admi Party have such an appeal for the young generation? Like "Piercing the Corporate Veil" doctrine Indians should pierce through this "ministerial veil" " india's representative abroad veil" & look for unimpeachable credentials.

What does D.Khobragade represent that makes Indians swell with pride tell me?

Anonymous said...

" ...there was vigorous nodding approval for District Attorney Preet Bharara's carping suggestion that the US wasn't accustomed to treating important people with kid gloves. In exercising choice, those who India likes to view as its overseas citizens, chose to spurn the old country.


This is a lesson that won't be easily forgotten in India. For the past decade at least, the New World and even some European countries have proceeded on the assumption that ethnic Indians are better able to understand India and relate to Indians than the average white or black. The assumption has often been questioned by Indians. Anecdotal experience suggests that Indians with different passports have a monumental chip on their shoulder. After Devyani's Bharara encounter this prejudice is certain to turn into a conviction. It won't be a bad idea if the West acts on this realisation."

You got it RIGHT. This is exactly what lot of Indians have been echoing through their comments.

Many among aam janata have more respect for CHINA that India routinely fulminates at. Than India.

I cannot but marvel at the brilliantly perspicacious Sir.Winston Churchill who said:-

" India is as imaginary as Equator".

Anonymous said...

Most Indian Americans do without a maid. Now imagine if all of them resorted to falsification and perjury on salaries of maids, do you think they would be let off .


Do you know Preet Bharara has got convictions on Insider trading, a charge diffcult to prove anywhere in the world. He booked Dominique Strauss Kahn and India thinks Devyani has come from heaven


I just don't get it, if Ms Devyani cannot take the heat of the kitchen, she should get out and quit the IFS. She wants to have her cake and eat it too.

Other expat Indians to North America do without maids, whats so special about Devyani, that she can breach the law and in your opinion be let off ?

I'm very dissapointed by your jingoistic stand of this issue

Rajiv said...

A very interesting article. I can speak as an Indian "emigrant" having lived in Britain and am now living "on the continent" speaking the native tongue (such Indians do exist). I would disagree with you, somewhat, Mr. Dasgupta. When I saw the behaviour of the US Government in this episode, all I could see was what typifies America to me (and to many Europeans - and Latin Americans and Asians as well) = unbridled arrogance combined with stupidity and ignorance which has become a hallmark of modern America. The more "multicultural" they proclaim themselves to be, the more ignorant they really are. You can trust the French or the Russians or the Swiss (all "white" if that is the defining characteristic) to judge the degrees to which every country differs from another and the way in which one situation involving two Venezuelans is different from one involving two Indians. And for the most part, the Europeans have shown that they can be smart and sophisticated about it. But not the Americans. It is nothing short of comical that Obama has positioned himself as the "anti-Bush", that he is the smart intelligent multicultural globalist as opposed to the bumbling hick Texan Bush but in reality Obama's ignorance about the world (matched by his Ivy League educated cabinet) puts George W in the "shade" by a mile. The bumbling stupidity and ignorance of Americans is nowhere demonstrated more clearly than in the case of the travel visa for Narendra Modi (an area where the Europeans deftly positioned themselves long ago). The irony of a US Government admonishing Modi on "religious freedom" while supporting a Karzai regime in Afghanistan that punishes apostasy with death is lost on very few. This ignorance/bumbling stupidity and ineptitude is an American problem. The problem with Indians is that they have mentally become an American colony and the current Indian relationship has worrying similarities with the colonial relationship with Britain. We should learn from Russia and China.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the Americans prosecute 25 Russian Consular Officials accused of committing Medicare fraud worth USD 1.5 million (punishable with a couple of decades in prison)? Because they are scared s***less of Vladimir Putin. MMS does not scare them. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

India like certain other countries is very fond of blaming everything on America followed by UK.

And suddenly make a vote face screaming Indians should trust Russia , France & Venezuela. The question to be asked is whether Indians are trustworthy. Mitrokhin archives saidthe following about India:-

" The entire country was for SALE".

I pray we get more Preet Bhararas to PUNISH the corrupt fraudulent Indians.

I have been writing as much as I could about my faux marriage that took place in Calcutta on 31/March/1982 & the FORGED passport of my faux husband S.N.Ramachandran now CFO of Fouad Alghanim Industries in Kuwait Blackberry number 965-97201449 (company given). Various co conspirators including my brother Mohan etc etc all remain UNPUNISHED till date. One among them my sister called Bhanumathi Das Sharma employed in Canara Bank has become art of living teacher of the avatard SSSSRavishankar's cult organization. Preaching them on compassion , honesty blah blah.

Mohan & his wife are corporate big shots in Canada.

In Kuwait this S.N.Ramachandran wields so much of dangerous clout has BRIBED some Kuwaiti Policemen too. Hence my complaints are left unheard & seldom acted upon. His own boss I have been trying to contact but rest of the staff have been ordered by my faux husband NOT to give his tel no.

Very recently I overheard this s.n.ramachandran talking to one of his girlfriends who was upset that I was still alive assuring her cockily:-

" Give me just 2 days time...all that I nedd to do is put in a few words to the very owner the Father called Fouad Alghanim who adores me sssso much (company will collapse without me the great indian alleged tambram alleged vegetarian blah blah & I alone generate profits after profits procuring projects & contracts tie ups blah blah) )he will send an ambulance dRRRaAAAG her out , throw in a psychiatry ward & just FINISH her OFF....".

I reported this to one Fahdi a Lebanese Colleague working with him & he said heartlessly:-

" Company will not interfere in your personal matters....we need s.n.ramachandran...I am very busy...don't call".

These are the shocking CREDENTIALS of various respirating cadavers in high places.

This is PRECISELY the reason I PRAY for the well being & longevity of Sri.Dawood Ibrahims & David Headleys.

My faux husband's blackmailings, repeated POISONINGS , bribing of quacks & vaastha (corrupt clout) have conferred only protection , promotions , immunity from Indian Embassy & this very company apparently owned by Kuwaitis.

Even uber sanctimonious priests Hindooos approve of his GROSS misconduct blaming me & the missing nine yard saree as the cause of my misery.

Anonymous said...

s.n.ramachandran my faux husband with a forged birth certificate was booted out of another company called HEISCO in Kuwait by the Palestininan
Boss called Samar Yunus America returned no nonsense person.

I managed to call him & convey my plight in barely few sentences. He replied:-

" I will see what I can do".

Like many lying arrogant Indians we come across in life he went around bragging (sic) " i threw my resignation letter & walked out".
His termination letter was a top secret but the Indian secretary breached confidentiality rules alerting this CROOK s.n.ramachandran.

No one was willing to stamp his residence as he had no job. At once he BRIBED some people paying more than 300 Kuwaiti Dinars ensuring his residence was renewed with some fictitious sponsor's name. Soon unleashed his devious strategies & managed to get into this present company called Fouad Alghanim Industries.

For BRIBERY , FORGERY , BLACKMAILING & ATTEMPTING to MURDER by repeated POISONING remains unpunished. Not just that. He also has been instigating other hindoooo neighbours in this apartment to harass me by HITTING , wrenching open the lift door muscling their ways in like THUGS & making obscene moves. They are Sethis ( pseudo pious poojas & poojas performing hindoos spawning forth children & shopping) & Ramanis (IIT rich executive in Kuwait Oil Company)That Sethi wearing bermudas ( was sacked in America thus seeking Kuwait) forcing my door open punching my nose. With the tacit APPROVAL of this thug called s.n.ramachandran who apparently is making lot of profits for the company.

Where do I seek JUSTICE ??

In my eyes these are the REAL TERRORISTS in the guise of aam janata.

Anonymous said...

This CROOK s.n.ramachandran got a FREE Rolex watch from one Kuwaiti Boss of HEISCO (ex-boss before Samar Yunus the Palestinian came from America) called Issam Marzouk.

He NEVER even told me leave alone showing it to me. As he has other apartments where he lives with his paramours telling others the following kind of mendacious stories:-

" My wife threw me out of the house as she is a violent person, mad/insane...."

" My wife is very spiritual i call her kutti Ramana so I need a break..."(read paramours to seek torrid SEX).

His secretaries all Indian SLUTS willingly service him as they get promotions , gifts like pearls Pierre Cardin , perfumes blah blah.

When I was with my son in Canada he made several long distance calls plus emailings screaming I had stolen his Rolex watch.

When it turned out I knew NOTHING about it he DENIED outright of having called me a THIEF. Of FREE gift.

Whereas he is the one who LITERALLY STOLE my Provident Fund (UCo.Bank Calcutta) buying a second hand Premier Padmini for himself when he joined maharashtra Explosives in Nagpur.

Plus plump DOWRY for a faux marriage.

Define TERRORISM please.

Anonymous said...

" Upper class Indian women ape white women in being modern. But a white woman cleans her own toilet and cooks her own food and if she cant afford a maid, then she is housewife and not career diplomat".

Agree with the comment posted above.

Indians are LOUSY imitators. Hence when you probe deep leave you disgusted with them.

I have always wanted to be a housewife cooking , cleaning as my Paternal Grandmother is who I admire the most. But my wannabe upstart brother Mohan heaped so much of ridicule on me making me feel ashamed for aspiring to be a NORMAL housewife.

Much later when I read Ingrid Bergman (one of my all time favourites) on purchasing an apartment scrubbed the floors , swabbing them etc etc all herself & talked about it matter of factly with pride , whenever I do cleaning I automatically think of the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. And scrub & clean with vim & vigour.

Anonymous said...

ENTIRE credit ought to be given to the creative , resourceful AMERICANS ( The West) for inventing such a variety of useful tools , stain busters , mops , gloves , washing machines etc so that housewives could do without hiring "maids".

LOUSY yashwant sinhas & various equally lousy jingoistic USELESS indians FAIL to grasp this stark simple truth. Hence keep dreaming like abdul kalam in tandem with moustache twirling & fulminating:-

" we will show them we will teach them ...give asylum to Snowden yada yada".

Btw , I wholeheartedly approve of this alleged surveillance by America. How else would this chimerical merabharathmahanthaaa would ever get busted ?

Anonymous said...

How could jingoistic Indians take up the cudgels supporting D.Khobragade shouting "IFS..Vienna convention...ourrrrr representative..show respect blah blah:-((

The notorious Romesh Bhandari was also one such IFS bloke & we all know his misdemeanours on being made governor in India. No wonder Mulayam Singh Yadav I read has already offered this d.khobragade membership of his party.

A bunch of CROOKS.