By Devdutt Nawalkar
They say the newly rich have dough but lack the class that comes with ancient breeding. Something similar applies to the state of things in India today. I think our chequered past as a nation – centuries of subordination, first to the Mughals, then to the British, and eventually to red taped baburaj – has lent a peculiarly feeble character to our collective psyche (I use “our” only to sound modest. I am not prone to any of your delusions). Inspite of the educated strata in the country doing reasonably well over the past two decades, we are still innately insecure of our self worth. Maybe we’ve gotten too big for our shoes too soon, and in the process have lost all context and balance. Constantly craving recognition before the world, keen to latch onto the achievements of others while somehow psychotically and vicariously willing it to be an affirmation of our shaky, uncertain egoes, embracing some incident happening halfway across the world as a personal affront to our mothers while losing all sense of perspective; we have got to be some of the most annoying cunts on the planet today. And the sad bit is that we’re just like the Bubonic plague –  everywhere.
Sachin Tendulkar became the first man to hit 200 in an ODI a couple of days ago, sending the cricket crazy nation into rapture. Instantly, there were calls for The Don to move over and make room for our GOD, conveniently forgetting that the little champ would be privately cringeing against the blasphemous sycophancy of his adorers. All appeals to logic have been discarded outright. Different eras, vast disparities in averages, fitness, pitches, opposition, the long line of great batsmen since Bradman, equipment and protective gear, and just the general futility of trying to ascertain the “greatest” – nothing seems to hold much weight in the eyes of the frenzied masses. It’s as if they’ve been waiting like malnourishedzombies for this moment to pounce on, to raise their darling son to apotheosis. The delicious and somewhat tragicomic irony, which I’m sure is lost on Sachin’s braindead, potbellied, pencil-legged and lily-wristed legions, is that the subject of their adulation is probably one of the humblest sportsmen to have walked the planet. Much the pity that his followers are such utter dicks.
Then there is the medu-vada from Madras, that conman extraordinaire – A R Rahman. Before I go any further, have a looksie at the following link if you have the time, the inclination, or if you’re just out of a job:
Unless you haven’t used an earbud in ages, there is absolutely no doubt that this dork has been lifting off motifs and entire themes for some of his biggest Tamil hits. As I’m writing this, there are fresh allegations over his shitty music for Slumdog Millionaire. I haven’t explored it nor have I the heart or ears for it. Anyway, I strongly disagree with my good friend Count Varathora over the veracity of his supposed genius. Sure, art is subjective and all that pious cluttertrap, but I seem to feel that I have a good sense for aesthetics, and Rahman’s music does nothing to evoke the higher emotions inside my ample skull. Peppy, good for a lark, but cathartic? I beg to differ. Anyway, I’ll jot that down to personal opinion – people seem to like him, and that’s cool. But then he went on to win the Oscar for his score, and the country went batshit crazy again. “He’s done India proud”, “the world’s greatest composer and he comes from India”, “Madras Maestro, Madras Mozart” – I’m sorry, but did I miss out on the ten orphanages he’s opened since? Why has he made India proud? Because he has perpetrated the consistent Western notion that Bollywood music is total gutter? Not just him, even the cinematographer or whoever that won an Oscar for his camerawork; this dude goes up on stage, and proudly proclaims that India gave the world the beautiful word ‘Om’ and the number zero. WTF? I’m sure ‘Om’ and ‘Zero’ weren’t exactly things at the forefront of Angelina Jolie’s mind that night. As tedious as award recipients thanking their dogs and cats is, I can tolerate it. But please, for the love of my sanity and your missing sense of shame, keep your dumb jingoistic garbage and misplaced cultural pride out of what is a completely individual endeavour and accomplishment.
Finally, desis getting walloped Down Under. A peek at any of the message boards (we’ll ignore the TV channels for now), and all you’d see was Indians casting the foulest aspersions imaginable on Australian lineage and heritage. These fools seem to have read somewhere that all Australians can trace their ancestry back to the convict ships that sailed in the eighteenth century, and they use that inaccurate tidbit at every given chance to heap ridicule on the natives and bolster their uncertain complexes. While I certainly don’t condone Indian students getting slammed abroad (partly because I was one myself not too long ago), and do acknowledge that Australia has had a shady past with regard to human rights (Aborigines were considered fauna till the 1960s), could there be a more classic case of glass houses and stones than this? We are some of the most bigoted people on the planet. What right do we have of sounding so self-righteous and butthurt? If you’re so offended, get up and LEAVE! Nobody’s holding a gun to your head (Besides, from what I heard from two close and reliable sources, the whole thing was blown way out of proportion..but that’s not really surprising). As anyone of decent upbringing who’s studied outside the country would attest to, a vast majority of desis abroad tend to get extremely loud, obnoxious, and lack in general etiquette (and hygiene). They’re meek n gentle as sheep when by themselves, but get them in a group, and their pack mentality asserts itself. Barging into queues, leaving microwaves stained with rice and sambhar, having zero consideration for people around them, ogling at women; the list is endless. And don’t even get me started on unlawful activities like creating fake resumes and experience, staying illegally in the country after visa expiry, the whole consultancy racket, so on and so forth. They might get away with it in more politically correct places, but Australia, from what I gather, is a pretty brusque land. Not unwelcoming, but not too tolerant of loutish behaviour either. My mean self chuckled.
Some jerk once accused me of self-hate. You were way off base, dude… wrong diagnosis. The doctor says I’m allergic to dickheads.

6 Responses to “Self-Hate”

  1. March 10, 2010 at 03:45

    On each and every count, you’re spot-on.
    Most Indians are such worthless when it comes to their individual self-image that they have to glorify the achievements of others to feel good about themselves. The most dumbfuck glorification that did the rounds after Tendulkar’s 200 was an SMS that went something like: ‘Commit all your crimes when Sachin is batting because even God will be watching him play and won’t notice.’ And not only people, even big companies made a big deal about it by printing ads congratulating Sachin, when their sole mission was to get their name in the media at any pretext.
    The Rahman case is a classic example of how we accept mediocrity. Movies, music, TV shows… almost everything that is thrown at us is mediocre and we accept it as if we’re lucky to get even that much. Even when it comes to the service sectors, government and everyone else that we encounter in our daily routines, expecting someone to do something properly is expecting too much. And then we end up behaving in the same way. I’m using ‘we’ loosely here, and that’s sad thing because the ‘we’ that the two of us are referring to are dimwits who probably won’t even read this. I don’t know if Devdutt wants anyone to change, but I sure as hell hope a few people do after reading him.
    And the attacks in Australia… what the media has blissfully ignored is that most of these attacks took place after midnight. Now, no matter what city of the world you’re in, if you’re going to venture out in the wee hours, you can expect to welcome some trouble. The same would happen in Delhi, Mumbai and Melbourne. Probably not in Ahmedabad though. But yes, the media has blown things out of proportion for their selfless gains. The whole thing was shown out of context. The truth is that the Aussies don’t hate Indians, and the other truth is that Indians need to learn to behave – in India as well as abroad.
    The other thing Indians need to do is learn to think for themselves. Herd mentality is ruining us more than anything else.


  2. 2 Radhika
    March 10, 2010 at 08:44

    I agree with everything you’ve said even though I like some of Rahman’s early work a lot. Love your take on the Indo-Aussie issue, and am very embarrassed to think what the world thinks of us.

    @Saurin: 😛 What’s this about Ahmedabad? Kidding…I know it’s much safer than other cities 😀


  3. March 10, 2010 at 09:04

    Australia showed its hate by sending us beer like Foster’s and Little Devils.


  4. March 10, 2010 at 09:06

    Everyone’s clicking on that Rahman link, haha!


  5. 5 Aparna Desai
    March 10, 2010 at 18:48

    Sexy pic. And congrats on the new column.


  6. 6 Prachi S. Mehta
    January 6, 2011 at 19:02

    A good read.
    Yet I would like to disagree to “As anyone of decent upbringing who’s studied outside the country would attest to..” thing. Upbringing is one thing, studying outside the country hardly makes any difference.
    As far as I know, most of the students going abroad to study just go for the heck of it or just because they don’t get admissions here. Studying in some C-grade “university” and working in some pizzeria on the weekends hardly adds to anybody’s intellectuality. (Or wait a minute, the people we are talking about here are the ones who find IIMs to be mediocre and pack their bags for Harvard?)
    If some “foreign-returned” is so impressed with the dickheads there that he goes gaga over it, and thinks that it adds to his value, I’m afraid to say he lived a sad sad life back in India. (This is a general statement. Nothing personal.)


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