The meaning of being an Indian

I was born in India and have spent most of my life here. But just how
"Indian" am I? 

What does it mean to be an Indian anyway? If we set aside the default label
that was stuck on you because you were born in this country, is there something
else that binds people together into being an Indian? 

Ravi once opined that
nationalism was a constructed identity. He wrote: "Every generation finds
things we have in common, things that we share, things that we value and things
that we can be proud of, and builds a nationalism out of it."

And what if you don’t find too much in common with many people in your
country? I ask because for many years, I have felt a "cultural
mismatch" between me and the country I live in. I could not identify with
many things that form our "culture". For instance:

  1. I am a strong atheist in a country where religion is woven finely into the
    cultural fabric. (My parents are very religious people, however.)
  2. I am a strong individualist in a country where the familial unit is very
    important and indeed, marriages are considered unions between families, not
    just individuals.
  3. In a country full of rituals for every occasion, I find no value in them.
  4. I don’t believe in the "respect your elders by default" Indian
    principle unless they deserve respect.
  5. I don’t really celebrate festivals like Diwali and Holi. (Actually, I
    can’t stand loud noise.)
  6. I’m a libertarian in a society that still mostly believes it should have a
    say in what’s right and what’s wrong in the way people live their lives.
    (Not to mention our socialist government.)
  7. I stop at red traffic lights, no matter how late at night it is or how few
    cars are on the road. I’ve been wearing a seat belt many years before it
    became law.
  8. I try to stand in the queue wherever possible unlike all those others
    rushing to push ahead.
  9. I don’t watch Bollywood movies because they make my brain cells melt each
    time I try.
  10. I consider English my first language because that’s the one I’m most
    comfortable with.

Sorry if I came across as a snob for it wasn’t my intention. I merely find
myself getting more and more pissed off with the so-called "culture"
of this country that is often hailed. Has our culture been reduced to breaking
traffic laws, trying to beat the law, being unruly in situations where some
order is required, spitting on the roads, urinating on walls, whistling in movie
theatres during kissing scenes, etc.?

Not that all people are like that, of course. I have met plenty of nice
enough people, but if I think about my average week, it’s spent being pissed off
at all the stuff I’ve just mentioned. It tilts the balance against what few
positive experiences I have. (There, that sentence was in anticipation of the
"don’t look only at the negative things" argument someone will surely
make.) And even if I didn’t, I feel like a cultural "misfit" because
of all the numbered reasons I’ve given.

How, then, can I strongly identify with this country? Is there any
"Indian" left in me?

Update (27 Oct): I am amused that in a blog entry where the words “West” or “Western” haven’t been mentioned even once, so many people have assumed the comparison anyway. Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups, folks.

60 thoughts to “The meaning of being an Indian”

  1. That was kind of how I felt when I lived in India – I was a total misfit, though in different ways. I feel so much more confident of myself and happy with the way I am, I don’t think I can go back and live in India again.

  2. Indians are such bloody snobs! :-)) Actually this is the problem.. instead of building/improving on our way of life, we abandon everything ‘Indian’ and embrace everything ‘western’. most poeple have this mindset “western=modern” tch tch.. Its a pity you question your identity. btw, my brains melt as well.. watching “one man save the world” american movies 😉

  3. An elitist cannot be a leader, and only a true leader can uplift his society.Why do we lack the civic responsibility to stand up,make a difference and show some leadership,rather than ostracizing our own country men.

  4. Hahahaha,
    I find your words strangely familiar; I’ve expressed a similar sentiment about the United States. I am an NRI, born in Washington DC and living here now.
    I find that neither do I fit in with the “more Indian than thou” crowd of NRIs trying to desperately cling to the “mother country” nor the “Americans with funny names” crowd denying their heritage entirely.
    Many if not most of my friends are Americans of European extraction. Here too do I find a disconnect. Arguments about the “scandal” of burning the flag seem quaint, indignation at the UN’s request to monitor US elections simply amusing.
    [To be continued]

  5. I would say that it is often too easy to conflate certain backward elements of one’s surrounding culture with the culture itself. Here I would agree with Arun, that to assume Western values = modernity is quite silly. The grass is always greener; I wish I lived in the EU. I’m sure that if I lived there I would find my neighbors’ criticism of Israel in re Palestine to be hoarse and incoherent, to say nothing of naive.
    Even transnational ideologies end up disappointing. Libertarianism is sexy, there is no doubt; it becomes a little farcical after one doggedly goes through issue after issue and points out externalities to one’s actions that leave them non-self-regarding. Were you American I would point you to the DLC/NDN wing of the Democratic party as the refuge of post-libertarians. (The myth of the self-regarding act is only one criticism of libertarianism; I would also add that to the extent that market actions end up being coercive to the participants of the market, there is nothing intrinsically preferable to an economic market vs a political one. To the extent that the political market is imperfect, well have you ever read the list of assumptions necessary for a perfect economic market to exist?)
    To yearn for a mythical community of like-minded fellow citizens is natural; we all do it. I doubt it can ever exist. In larger world cities with large professional populations one may have better luck creating an ad hoc group of compatriots that fit the bill, but one will always share one’s polity with knuckle-dragging neanderthals.

  6. Arun, I haven’t done an Indian-Western comparison if you notice. I said I was a “cultural misfit”. What do you expect me to do to change things like getting religion out of so many things, making people follow traffic rules, etc.? I try to set a personal example, but beyond that, changing millions of people is not something I imagine doing.
    Rahul, could you say all that in plain English please? 🙂
    And let’s not start a debate about libertarianism. This post isn’t about that.
    I embrace principles and values that make sense to me, regardless of where they’re from. I’m not a blind “West = good” advocate.

  7. Indians make India, not the other way around. As long as your conscience and intellect vet them, it doesn’t matter where your values comes from. I can’t live my life trying to be “Indian” or anything else anyone else thinks I should be.
    I am not proud that I am Indian. I can only be proud of things I have accomplished.

  8. true. indians make india.. wat we do IS our culture.. western influence is totally acceptable.. im only disappointed with people who alienate themselves only to be cool.. my grand parents back in the village had tatoos and piercing.. that was so country! :-)) we dumped it now when its hep in west we are all ga-ga. back to your post.. wont say you are wrong, not asking you to correct every kuppusamy.. do what you do it as Indian. becas you are one! -applause applause-

  9. We must be twins in our past life! I don’t find it strange that you and I and for sure many others feel they same way. We are to a huge extent a minority. And I truly believe that we are the progressive kind, but in a way, selfishly progressive. Leave-the-country-and-be-with-‘our-kind’ kinda attitude and its very natural that it exists. But not even I have a solution to this. I’m an aspiring runnaway bird myself.
    PS: How do you think your (our) thoughts are gonna strike a vibration if you call yourself Mad?

  10. MadMan,
    (Your post struck a chord; the items on the list are so similar that it looks pretty spooky.)
    Every society has its misfits, and some misfits remain misfits in any society.
    In my opinion, the question of identity has answers on different levels of abstraction, and firstly it is not monolithic. You can simultaneously be a internationalist-atheist-libertarian and a Malayalee-Bangalorean-Filtercoffeedrinker at the same time. Both are components of your Indian identity; regardless of what people think.
    Identity is also dynamic; so those who paint it as a static entity get into trouble when accounting for modernity. The Bhangra played in the basement discos of Birmingham is Indian music, for example.
    Thirdly, identity is not territorial. You can live in New Jersey and count yourself as Indian. Regardless of the passport you carry, or the accent you use.

  11. The need for a definition of “Indian” is pretty lame and stupid in my opinion.
    And regarding the stupidities in that part of the world – yeah they are as nauseating as those in other parts. Human kind can get disgusting, but who cares….

  12. Madman,
    I’ve been obsessed with what passes for nationalism for a long time. I should say, I didn’t find much to agree with in Ravi’s post that you pointed us to, but that’s not germane here.
    I don’t know much about being a misfit. But the more I obsess and think about nationalism, the most strongly I feel that it simply does not make any sense. To me, you’re a good Indian if you’re a good human being, period. Wherever you live, whatever your passport or colour of skin or language or religion or anything else. To me therefore, Nelson Mandela is a better Indian than AB Vajpayee; Bush loses out to Manmohan; my friend in Lynnfield, Massachusetts — who pays his taxes, lives by the laws of his land and helps his neighbours — is more of an Indian than the Bombay friend who thinks taxes are for idiots and only a fool doesn’t bribe the cop who catches you jumping a red light.
    And finally, to me culture is what we see around us everyday. Munnabhai MBBS as well as urinating on the walls; cheating on our taxes as well as Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia. It’s not good or bad, it just is.
    My few Italian liras worth.

  13. The Meaning of Being an Indian a.k.a Jobless.

    I can understand Nationalism as the modern equivalent of the clan/tribe mentality, a way in which an individual gathers numbers just to feel safer. But once a person has enough sense to declare himself/herself a libertarian in the modern world, I wou…

  14. Replying to arun:
    You presume that madhu is talking about westernism, when he is actually talking about being an individual. It is interesting to see that you are making your point by accusing him of being western/modern, when he hasn’t said anything of that sort.
    He has stated his beliefs and you find those beliefs objectionable, when there is nothing wrong with those beliefs. *That* is the Hypocrisy and Intolerance of Indian Culture. He is not allowed to be himself.
    Madhu: Some problem?: MT::App::Comments=HASH(0x810ad2c) Use of uninitialized value in sprintf at lib/MT/Template/ line 1187.

  15. Hi madhu:
    i find personal parallels with your a-to-j equation (except for the one about traffic — unfortunately been guilty of some of the most terrifying traffic maneuveurs in the southern hemisphere….)
    what we call indian-ness is our sense of history — who am i? who was my grandpa? who was my great-grand-ancesotr…? etc…
    its also the negatives you talk about. its not good or bad, its just somethin different?.
    why do we think breaking traffic laws is bad? why is pissing on the wall bad? — because we end up comparing it to something else that is percieved as good….
    a while back i was stuck in moyale, a dry, hellish town in northern kenya on the ethiopian border…. this is literally in the middle of nowhere. Dirt track to get in and get out. Nomadic goat herders for company. it so happened i was looking for a toilet (a result of partaking some very stale meat for lunch…) and couldnt find one. it was quite late in the evening, and i was kinda desperate so i found a patrolling policeman wearing ragged clothes and asked him if i could find a loo ANYWHERE…
    so he led me to a street on the outskirts(just a path cut thru wasteland leading into another 9000 sq kms of wasteland?) and said I could go here…this is the local toilet bwana. And so I squatted and did it in the light of his hurricane lantern. When I got up there were a group of kids from the village clapping and cheering. ?we are a free country??the cop told me proudly ?you can go anywhere?.?
    my views on public crapping have changed a bit since then….:)

  16. Madhu,
    You’re not alone. In the cultural context, I think the core issue is individualism, which is looked down upon in our ‘culture’ rather than tolerated or encouraged. While I despise life as part of the herd, I can’t come to terms with a completely self-serving existence either.
    I also find that it is impossible to discuss this without sounding elitist in some way. I don’t know where that leaves me.
    I’ve referred to myself six times in this post.

  17. Madhu,
    I think everyone has a quirk in them which makes them the “wierdo” for the others. In Engineering Colleges, if you don’t drink, you are a wierdo. Later when you do meditation you are a wierdo. If you are looking for an escape from this, you will never find one.
    Do what you believe in and try to better yourself each time. Some people might learn from your example, most people won’t. If you stop the comparison of you with others and make it a comparison of you today with the you yesterday, life will be a good challenge 🙂
    (My brain is empty now after dumping all that out)

  18. Being Indian ( or for that matter from any country) today just means you have the country’s name on your passport. The world has become too small a place for people to maintain distinct social and cultural identities without being oblivious of the world around them. You travel, observe and assimilate within yourself what you think is better. Urban Indians, in my opinion, have been exposed to a whole lot of the outside world in the past few years. I’m not surprised that a person like you who has spent a fair amount of time away from India finds himself more out of place at “home” than ever before. I feel the same way about going back to India now that I’ve been away from India for over 3 years.

  19. Why do you feel like a cultural misfit when there are large number of atheist, libertarian, traffic rule follwing, seatbelt wearing folks all around you?
    i think you make the culture you belong to.. and so you are indian by birth.. and how you choose to be is good enough to be indian.
    who said that “being indian” involves a rejection of western values, snake charmers, elephants or angst for bengali fish markets and communism?
    capitalist, succesful, libertarian, spiritual but not religious, atheist, jeans clad, sari clad, red-light-stopper and eater of beef. all of these things don’t make you “indian” and don’t make you “un-indian” either. 🙂

  20. Yo there..
    Thoughts worth pondering over.. but just by being what you are does not disprove that you are not an Indian.. SIGH… I shall take your word for it since you made a point…
    All said and done.. Culture in India has a broad defintion and well I like to pick and choose what applies to me and my personality…
    crowd, impatience, dirt, disregard for the law.. are just some of the stuff which many adhere too and many abhor and thats where the balance is struck..
    For me being an Indian is connecting with the country in a major way.. say roots.. and food… and in that aspect.. i identify with it more than other country except maybe Egypt.
    Order cannot exsist without chaos and vice versa and we are right in the middle of it.. either we bend this way or that… and India is a classic example of having all shades of order and chaos… 🙂 Am I digressing ??

  21. By design or default you have embraced certain etiquettes & personal traits that are foreign to Indian culture of the present day & as a result you have have left behind/ aliented yourself from Indain culture & become a foreigner in effect. You should be amusing yourself like most foreigners do, looking at all this drama rather than getting pissed off.
    What pisses off people like you is the fear “what a foreigner would think of you if they had the experience of Indian culture?” rather than you getting pissed off about the reality on the ground. I am not saying you should walk into a clinic to treat yourself. But, it may be worth an attempt to live the life as you like it, let others live their life as they like it, ignore what others might say or think about you & stop getting pissed off about nothing.
    Sorry if I came across as a snob for it wasn’t my intention. I only want you to see what you don’t see. You don’t want to see all the people in the world look alike & march alike, do you?
    Nevertheless, people like you are the forerunners in marking the beginning of the end of individual cultures across the globe. I mean cultural divide becoming blur & eventually leading to a seamless mega culture with just couple of languages left. Yes, we may not live to see it, but for sure in couple of hundred years down the line.
    I am sorry for your present day predicament, but you can take pride in being the forerunner in the destruction of individual cultures by choice or otherwise.
    At least I would like to reassure you that Indians are not alone in proactively submitting to this global cultural invasion. Lot of others are getting into it. Albeit, a bit slowly.
    Wherever & whenever possible (you rather create the opportunities), you do have fun flashing around a bit with your lingo & show others that they don’t belong where you belong, don’t you?
    You probably can’t be complaining…

  22. MadMan,
    why dont you leave india and move to the west, where you are not likely to be a misfit?
    (P.S.: if you did not answer “WTF?” and tried to answer that question honestly, then that answer might tell you whether you have any “indian” left in you, i think)

  23. why dont you leave india and move to the west, where you are not likely to be a misfit?
    Because it’s not that easy to migrate. Countries have rules and regulations for immigration. 😉

  24. Do they? I thought you could just board a plane and move to anywhere in the world.
    Jokes apart, I am sure you might have had enough chances to migrate (if you really wanted to) since you were in IT and studied outside India.
    Well, I was just saying (which I am sure you guessed) that many stay back in India, even if they had an opportunity to migrate. Some are drawn to their roots/families, some like the madness, some just want to contribute their bit to India etc. And that reason pretty much defines their Indianness.
    And I am not trying to unearth Indianness in you. If you do not have it, then you do not have it. Simple.
    And finally, if you did want to migrate to a place which you could identify with, and could not do it because of the rules and regulations, I am sorry!

  25. Arun: What’s wrong with the name Kuppuswami?
    I am not able to watch movies in Bangalore. They wont release them. Where’s the ‘we are Indians’ line? And if any NRI talks about patriotism and the need to preserve Indian culture here, I will pay a visit and slam your head with a hardbound Unix manual.

  26. madhu, most of the points you have mentioned would make you a misfit in most “cultures”.
    The funda of a “culture” is a lot of horseshit, if you ask me.

  27. I think that this feeling of wondering if one is indian, is created by this false pan indian national identity promoted for the sale of india as a commodity in foreign locations. Why do we feel such a need to define what it means to be Indian? I think it is a partly due to the fact that i am part of the elite of a developing nation, whose cutural trends are highly borrowed from developed nations. on the other hand i think this feeling of being lost is just part of our generation. to quote McKenzie Wark “We no longer have roots we have aerials. We no longer have origins we have terminals.” My point is that i don’t think i need to define indian or fit some random definition of ‘indian’ to lay claim to being able to talk about india, or not talk directly about india in an ‘indian space’ like the blog mela.

  28. why dont you leave india and move to the west, where you are not likely to be a misfit?
    I would rather that the society where he lives accepts his beliefs and rationalizations and not shun them by asking him to ship off elsewhere.
    Why? My simple answer is that if a society begins shunning anything different, it runs the risk of decay. Fresh and new ideas form the basis of a society that progresses positively into the future.

  29. The Misfit Indian

    MadMan has a post in the recent Bharatiya Blog Mela where he talks about what it is that makes him Indian and how he thinks he might be a misfit. In response to his post someone commented,
    why dont you leave india and move to the west, where you are…

  30. Jesus H Christ. Some of the posts in this thread make me want to cringe.
    Arun —
    Using bad American teenage-girl spellings is not “hep”. You do realize that there are enough logical fallacies in that post to make an eight year old kid feel smart, right?
    Blockquoteth RS —
    “Were you American I would point you to the DLC/NDN wing of the Democratic party as the refuge of post-libertarians.”
    Dude, first off it’s spelt libertarian. And secondly, present day American post-libertarians will make GWB look liberal. You’re mixing Libertarian Parties (e.g. Michael Badnarik) and Libertarian Ideology (e.g. Dalai Lama, Gandhi, etc).
    And MadMan —
    Coming back to your original post, it so happens that most Asian cultures are not particularly individualistic, while Western cultures are. Ofcourse, this brings about a lot of interesting complications when a particular generation realizes that it need _not_ necessarily do something the way it’s asked to. Going by some of the posts in this thread, I suppose a lot of us have had to endure that. However, the problem is that no matter how much you believe you are individualistic, the cultural influences are a tad too deep to be disregarded lightly. You do not realize it right on, but down the line it gradually dawns upon you that although you are a lot more individualistic than the rest of the Indian crowd, you’re a lot more societal than the rest of the crowd in countries which have individualistic societies, such as the US.
    This is too far complex a point to be argued upon – you’re not a boolean variable, you’re an individual with complex behaviour patterns and ideals, it’s hard to categorize yourself in any one particular way. However you could perhaps say that you’ve more of an individual philosophy than the present culture in India allows for, and hence feel quite not at home – and I’ll hand it over to you. 🙂

  31. Okay, I realized that I’ve used the word Western, although I’d intended not to. I merely meant that as a relative comparison of a society encouraging individualistic philosophies (such as Western cultures) to that of the Indian culture (which is largely societal). And that sentence is probably grammatically messed up, but I’m too sleepy to know any better.

  32. Karthik,
    True that Western societies are more individualistic. However, if the neo-cons have their way, individualism will be dead long before you know it.
    You really hit the nail on the head, that it really boils down to a clash of the two ideologies: Individualistic vs. Societal.

  33. Guys, India is third up the corruption scale in Asia, so its not the culture that’s wasting us, its the corruption that’s slowly changing our way of life. Some idiots don’t tend to follow traffic rules because they know that paying a few hundred would get them scot-free (if they are caught, that is). Despite the ban, people play loud speakers ‘celebrating’ during festivals (and sometimes even on private occassions like marraiges, etc) and there is nobody to complain. A one man army can’t do anything here. If you do something out of the mould, you will be looked with raised eyebrows by the two most respected tribes of the Indian Society (you know the ‘gentlemen’ and ‘ladies’ who does everything other than their own work), so I personally believe that in a society like this, its the best to stay to yourself. And frankly speaking, I myself follow some of the points you have mentioned in your post.

  34. Another thing that I find very annoying in India is that we have a very inflexible timeline of when to do things. Finish school at 17, graduate from college, preferably engineering or medical, by 21, get a job, get married by 25, produce kids before hitting 30, etc. Else, you are el freako. I also find it frustrating that our culture of promoting family above individuals makes parents devote their entire lives to their children and have nothing to do when they are old. I wish Indian parents would pursue their interests in life and not let their kids’ lives subsume their lives and savings. There’ll at least be fewer horror stories about kids abandoning parents.
    I envy my European friends who take time off from their regular life and travel around the world. Indians, I believe, would be greeted with complete disbelief by employers if they ever took time off from regular life, travelled for a couple of years and then tried to apply for a job.
    Madhu, you would probably be a misfit in a lot of places, not just in India. Individuality is not really appreciated everywhere. I’m not doing the our culture vs. western culture thing here but just giving you an example of what I mean. (America is the only other country I’ve lived in and so can claim to have some understanding of.) In India, I can talk positively about Osama and Saddam without the fear of being thrown in the lam for it. In midwestern and southern America, I’d need to be really careful about with my words unless I wanted Feds on my back. A friend was called in for questioning a few months after 9/11 just because he’d visited the Twin Towers a week before the crashes and had taken pictures and he was swarthy. Go-with-the-herd mentality exists everywhere. (I read somewhere that our reason for survival is because of the tendency to conform.) So, well, sometimes I feel that maybe the lawlessness and boorishness I see in India is acceptable because I can speak my mind. Sometimes, it is just tear-my-hair-out-in-agony type of aggravation at the way people and things function in India. I’m wondering if Europe (except Britain) might the answer – responsible citizenry and the freedom to live your life the way you damn well please.
    Oh, red lights remind me. Does this ever happen with you that the lights are red yet people are merrily breaking the signal and you get abused by motorists behind you because you are not breaking the law? I’ve often been at the receiving end of abuse because I didn’t have “guts enough to break a signal”. Think its gutsier standing up to traffic bullies :).

  35. Culture is dynamic, incremental and an universal idea. The nation-state is a recent development and has a more rigid physical boundary. The two have been sought to be, but are not, congruent identities. Is there anything shared culturally by the peoples domiciled within the confines of the Republic of India, apart from maybe an intense interest in the state of the muscles of Mr.S.R.Tendulkar? (this could be rhetorical or an invitation to list down defining factors of ?Indianness?. Choose.)
    You, Madhu, are a mish-mash of a number of things, most notably, your inherited DNA, your upbringing (where the dominant ?culture? of your habitat directly influences you), your experiences and your reactions to them (which is again influenced by the above factors). What you call and know as your ?identity? is a product of these. Culture is but one of them. That there are a number of others like you is evident from some of the comments above, yelling Eureka! while going through your list, deliriously counting off the traits they themselves possess. When there are enough of you who stop at red lights in the night, that will become one of the traits of the dominant culture of your state/district/village/geography, and maybe, forty years later, someone will lament being a misfit here, because everybody seems to stop at red lights, even at night.

  36. There is no single set of traits that make up an Indian. I think you are just fine as an Indian. The whole concept of societal versus individualistic is not new to India. If people are individualistic, they are labeled as selfish, self centred and as a person who is psuedo western although there is absolutely nothing western about it. In fact, I know many westerners who still live with their families despite all the things Hollywood depicts. Many people I know in the US pay more attention to family than “Indians”. As far as the craziness that is Bangalore (breaking traffic regulations, uncouth behaviour, lack of civic sense etc) it is what makes up the diversity that is India. In my opinion it is just the natural course of evolution to try to overcome the perceived faults of a culture. Looks like you are among the few that are going to start a cultural revolution in India.
    However, for all the stuff we have posted/commented here, how many of us are actually willing to take it upon us to right these social/cultural wrongs? Do we take the time to analyse how to eradicate at least one of these? All of us talk about corruption. How many of us have stopped to identify what causes corruption? As one of the comments rightly say, a one man army to clean out corruption is a figment of a Bollywood story writer’s imagination. But then, how does one overcome this stumbling block? Are we really a developing nation? Is the view of the rest of the world right when India is judged so, and the western countries (at least many of them) are considered developed? How does one measure the development of a nation? Is it purely by economic factors? If you think about it, a country rich enough, can virtually overcome all the issues associated with a developing country like starvation, education, corruption etc. I think that we need to look at a different way to measure a country’s stage in development. I have digressed long enough.

  37. hi guys,
    a good discussion on this topic.i am a mallu nri from dubai.i have been there for 15 years
    + a year in canada.and i returned to india 3 years ago. never missed a chance of roaming gulf countries.but i feel those are just physical phenomena.when i visited india atlast, i feel disgust for missing india for 16 years.

  38. Yoo Hoo:
    Be grateful you are from an equisite, unique culture. Go to the West and get a couple of Paki’s up your ass and you’ll see how quickly you realize you are an Indian. An Indian is someone of Indian Ancestry…from India!!
    A love for a variety of foods, clothes, even silly hindustani movies. Check out the intricate patterns on the textiles. Check out the unique and mystyfing ancient temples, statues etc., Check out the amazing variety of beauty. Yes check out the foolish cultural taboos. Check out the inner strenth, character and innocent joy felt by so many Indians.
    I’m sure if you trace it correctly, you’ll find a lot of foolishness was implanted/created by Europeans. Conquer and Divide. Assimilate everyone until they are pepsi drinking, skanky, Christina Aguilera , jeans wearing, zombies – befitting of the New World Order Agenda.
    Surely by now, you must realize if they didn’t know how to cheat, steal, lie and make believe that all genius originated from them, they’d be nothing.
    Search out things and be proud to be an Indian. Continue to improve our lot by carrying yourself with class and dignity of many of our forefathers, so that other Indians who have lost their way, can remember their/our greatness!!!
    Eternal Love.

  39. Wow, Coolie, you didn’t read a thing of what I wrote, did you?
    Assimilate everyone until they are pepsi drinking, skanky, Christina Aguilera , jeans wearing, zombies
    Yes, because as we all know, somebody puts a gun to your head and makes you drink Pepsi while listening to Christina Aguilera.
    Search out things and be proud to be an Indian.
    You should write scripts for Bollywood movies!

  40. word to that madman. Coolie is the epitome of everything that is hypocritical with “indians”. The ability to make comparisions, the ‘us’ and ‘them’. All ‘us’ is good and all ‘them’ is bad. The first thing which struck me, when I visited the US was the attitude of Indians living here. The closet mentality, the change in accent/diction, while speaking to ‘white’ americans, the racist comments about blacks (calling them kaloo)and others minorities.All this within amongst other so called ‘indians’. It makes me ashamed.

  41. Indians, I believe, would be greeted with complete disbelief by employers if they ever took time off from regular life, travelled for a couple of years and then tried to apply for a job.
    Rushna, I couldn’t agree with you more!
    Sorry, MadMan, I came a bit late to your VERY enjoyable blog. I totally agree with the points you have mentioned. Anyway, to get back to what I wanted to say:
    Its not just (Indian) employers who look askance at an Indian who has taken time off from regular life to travel the world… Try the (arranged) marriage market after you do that – a friend of mine, who I admire very much, took a year off from work to travel the world (and horror of horrors, he gave up his well-paying job and H1-B visa status to do it). I wish I could have gone with him, because he had a whale of a good time. He’s a really nice guy, no doubt about that either.
    So now he’s 30, has been ready for an arranged marriage for the past few years with a girl from his community (he’s constrained by being the only son of VERY conservative Palakkad Brahmin parents), but NOT ONE – and I don’t mean the girls’ parents, but the girls themselves – of them is willing to overlook (?!) his chucking up a perfectly good job just to go gallivanting around the world (insert typical comments about “responsibility” here).
    I personally think those girls are missing out on a great guy (AND he’s a fantastic cook too!) – if I were the marrying kind, I might even snap up the guy myself 😉 He’s the most responsible person I’ve ever met, the most stable and fun-loving. And intelligent to boot!
    I’ll stop here – just wanted to add my two bits to this discussion 🙂 – not turn it into a personals ad for my friend 😛

  42. Me again – just another thought on another comment up above…
    Re. Indians adopting different accents when talking to Americans:
    Here’s one reason to do that – so they can understand what you’re saying. How many times do you want to hear “huh?” or “I’m sorry, would you say that again, please?” Or worse, have somone completely misunderstand what you’re trying to say? I had an Indian co-worker who wasn’t very comfortable in English, and had her and our manager (an American) just automatically look at me to translate/decipher what one of them has just said. Don’t think I’m disparaging my co-worker’s tech skills – between her and the manager, they pretty much made me feel dumb at times. But it made me uncomfortable that they were both relying on my translations that were clearly affected by how well I understood what each of them was saying!
    I’m an Indian, have lived in the US for close to 10 years. When I’m among my Indian friends, I drop back into the comfortable accent I grew up with and that still comes easiest to me; when I’m in a work situation, I use language that I’m pretty sure everyone understands – NEVER talk in an Indian language in mixed groups (or even in just a group of Indians in a work situation); when I’m with my American friends, I use a mix of my “Indian” and “American” accents – the closer the friend, the more likely I am to use Hindi or Tamil words (making sure I explain the meaning) and the more likely I am to simply speak comfortably. There’s nothing ruder, IMO, than to speak in a language that not everyone in the particular conversation group can understand.

  43. Oh, and about Indians’ racist comments (“…the racist comments about blacks (calling them kaloo)…” by cardamomgirl up above) – I don’t hold with that and never have. When I come across anyone (Indian, American, Martian!) who does that, I immediately point out that it is racist, and call them on their attitude. If they can then continue to feel friendly towards me, I continue to be friends with them (with the particular boundary that they are never to use racist comments against anyone in my hearing). I have no control over what they do when they’re not with me, but then again, I don’t WANT that control! I just make sure that I don’t appear to agree with their comments/statements by remaining quiet myself. This policy of mine applies equally to Americans and Indians and any other nationality/planetary origin that I might come in contact with. Doesn’t result in many close friends for me, but the ones I have, I treasure 🙂
    Personally, I have a policy that I like a particular person (or dislike them, as the case may be) – NOT their entire racial group! I dislike plenty of Indians too – does that make me a racist? 🙂

  44. Rest assured you are not alone. And at the risk of you getting pissed off at me for making assumptions, I will take the liberty of saying that you too are afflicted with the “torn between two worlds” syndrome.
    Almost all my immediate family lives in America. I love this country and would like to live here for the rest of my life. But I remember my days in India. Without reiterating all the points you mentioned let me just say that I agree with each and every point of yours.
    Somehow from the earliest day that I could remember, I always had a strange almost a Neo-esq feeling of being in the wrong place.
    Nothing about the culture or the country made sense to me. I enjoyed a game of cricket every now and then with my friends but was unable to take part in their endless ramblings about Bollywood Movies which I thought were more standardized than McDonald’s Hamburger.
    In addition I was aghast at how blatently and shamelessly Indians used the word ‘BollyWood’ to describe the Motion Picture Industry. I mean how difficult is it to come up with a name for the so-touted ‘Biggest’ movie industry in the world…the word is ‘Ingenuity’ folks, have some.
    I get irritated when my family members here get so teary eyed at the culture they left behind and the richness of ‘whatever’. Even when I was a kid I could see the clear markings of a country plagued by hypocrisy. A culture having no less than half its Gods as females and with the concept of respecting women as one of its cornerstones is notorious for the sheer number of women climbing into the crispy wives club and the innumerable female infanticides every year. The actresses in the movies wears hipsters before the marriage and is somehow transformed into a pious Indian-Wife after marriage appearing in nothing less than than a saree draped on her head. And I really don’t miss the rituals and festivals either, there never was a point anyway, other than to maintain the Brahmins’ coffers by making offerings to God(read Brahmins).
    For my part I am convinced that Indian culture is rooted in ultra-deep pedantic symbolicism which minimizes the concept and contribution of the individual or his intellect. I find this unpragmatic and very short-sighted.I believe that rebelliousness is not only healthy but essential in a culture to maitain its vigour. I also think that success of any culture or philosophy is very much dependent of their spatial and temporal expression. Gandhi’s philosophy wouldn’t have worked agaist Saddam Hussain in Iraq but nor would have the Kurdish rebellion worked against the Mighty British in Victorian India. Indians should stop trying to obtain wisdom from sages and dead men. It is time for the individual to think for himself and decide his/her fate. It is time to rewrite the rules on living ones life. There is no standard for how an individual should act in life. If you don’t feel Indian inside then you probably aren’t. But you aren’t a misfit until you’ve experimented with all the cultures and philosopies in the world or come up with one for yourself.
    Religion as my family followed it was definitely not my cup of tea.

  45. I’m 48, not a compulsive contributor of posts. This is my first post and will not visit ur site again. Just happened to read while searching some information on India and I can see myself 30 years back when regarded myself very western and didnot like very much being an Indian.
    During one of the heated discussions my father asked me to start defining religion , tradition and celebrations scientifically and methodically. he asked to write what I liked, disliked and why.
    It looked quite simple at first but took me an year to actually put it all down there.
    By the time it was all done, there was this great understanding of my religion,traditions and also whats gone wrong , why. and believe me pl. there was this great peace.
    Biggest surprise was that my western outlook was here hidden and lost in ancient history.
    Now, I was not a rebellious Indian, not an ashamed Indian but a very sad one to see so much good philosophy and individual freedom , lost maybe forever.
    habit of mixing the current state of festivals/social habits/infrastructure and political setup was lost forever.
    I dont stay in India any more but whenever anyone asks me about my religion , just tell that as a hindu you maynot pray the whole life time and yet be a hindu. you maynot believe in God and yet be a Hindu and always they are amazed!
    So maybe do what my late dad made me do.
    With the internet , its easier. You dont need to read books after books to put down a reason or search a definition as I needed to do.
    Surf, research , understand and feel good ………
    good luck!!!!!!

  46. I have a list that is almost identical to yours, and I used to spend a lot of time wondering if I was ‘Indian’ or not. At least after my mother told me I was ‘very Indian’. I am not sure what the phrase means, if it means anything more than knowing a bit more about a culture, people, country and its history because of where you were born.
    But the answer I came up with was this: if love counts, then I’m definitely an Indian. I may be a misfit here, I may not understnd a lot of things, and be actively repelled by lots more, but I’d really be a misfit here than anywhere else. If I get tired of griping, I can try and make our society conform to my views of ‘ideal’. But until then, I am happy to be here. And the reason is rather sentimental, I’m afraid. Y’see this land is mine, the way no other land could ever be. Its sights and smells, its colours and seasons, sounds and tastes, its history and myths, its warts and annoyances – these are the threads of the tapestry of my life. And I don’t think I would ever find a combination more to my taste than this one….

  47. “Coolie”, and many others try to advise the author to “Be proud of being an Indian”. Some try to bring out ills/wrongs of the “west”, Americans, Europeans etc. (while no one was denying those in the first place, nor is pointing out their “flaws” an excuse to state Indians have fewer or none).
    Considering this global era, this strange plea of being proud of any regional/cultural identity we happened to be born into, seems to me a surprisingly parochial view.
    Ofcourse no culture/people are perfect. That isn’t the point of this article. Madman has just listed the daily things he experiences and finds annoyingly at odds with the identity plastered over him without his consent.
    On a lighter note — people who love Bollywood movies, please don’t bother to waste bandwidth/storage space for posting a comment on this blog. You just don’t get it, do you! 😉

  48. I think people of INDIA, are beautiful people!. They have such nice Beauty, & there Culture is so unquie. I am an American Female, & just wanted to say, what I feel. JAN!

  49. hey mad man! all you are doing here only to popularise your restaurant. you clever true indian. it’s embarrasing to stay at your page any more……

  50. What does it mean to be Indian…? Hmm it seems i found this page looking for this very answer as i am apart of a student exchange and representing the Indian Culture. Born in Indian but lived in Canada for most of my life, i do consider my self Indian. But when it came to this question i wasn’t positive how to answer it. What truly makes an Indian, i know its more then the religion, the movies, the music the corruption and nonsense that seems to exist there, but then what makes an Indian? I couldn’t fully understand how to express what makes me Indian, or what makes any one else living here Indian, or what makes the people living over there Indian, the simple answer would be that we all come from the same country, but somehow that wasn’t deep enough for me…and as i search and pondered i came to this site and what you said is very interesting and to some extent very relateable i doubt that everyone is 100% into the common beliefs of Indian, i think that being Indian is just a stupid label a categorization and yes we are unique from other cultures and thats what makes us Indian because we are proud of our heritage and those beliefs ( even if we dnt agree everything) because we are proud of what our ancestors have done for us, and what we have achieved can achieve and will achieve one day( but that doesn’t mean we cant be disappointed in those acts and actions that were wrong and are wrong) and we are proud at our differences and the uniqueness that we share we are proud of our diversity and our differences and that pride in ourselves and what we are brought up with makes us Indian, other then that we are all humans and truly being Indian is just a small categorization that is broad enough to be include everyone who wishes to truly be apart of it..for whatever the reason being Indian is just that…and im not sure if i have effectively expressed my idea of being Indian but i hope you have some idea…

  51. it’s highly likely that some of us at one point or another have felt the same way as madman, regardless of ethnicity, upbringing, political/religious views, residence, etc. it is not so much a question of being indian as it is being human. humans constantly swing between oneness and separateness. what provides balance is the awareness of it all.

  52. hELLO
    i donn’t think so it is really right. these are the lines assumed to be given by anti indian.
    and also i feel most of the comments are been given by the nri ie non reliable indian(that doesn’t mean i didn’t know the correct full form).and u have said that u have been living most of the time in india but instead of making the good to india by discouraging all the bad of india or making it perfect as u dream of u gets to the nerve of the every indian including me because an indian would do anything but not displayed the discouraging factors like this on the international stage i.e.internet.
    i am not convinced by u. u have only explained the prblem but my madman please also told the solution for the same if u have done so much snslysiis of india.
    donn’t take it personal it is the truth which i feel about the topic

  53. I agree with namaste. This is a question of belonging that all humans ask.
    I am a Canadian, who can’t even speak Hindi. English is my first language, and I share western values about respect being earned, not given by default. I respect above all integrity and selflessness.
    I have only been helped in my career and personal life by non-indians only while Indians have actually denied me opportunities. I am marrying a white Canadian.
    The ONLY things I think India has got right is food and yoga (which by the way more Indians need to do because the concept of exercise is not popular in India for some reason).

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