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Open letter to Yaj.

February 19, 2010

Dear Yaj,

your comments on my blog here and here, where you have accused me of many things I never intended to write, made me think a lot about what I’ve written here and how it is perceived, but also – about how in general Indians and foreigners living in India perceive each other, as this is not the first time I meet similar bilateral misunderstanding.

I am not sure, if my assumptions are correct, nor I’m not entirely convinced if I can speak my mind precisely enough in English (which is as you know not my native language), as the matter is delicate. I will try though.

Please read the entire post before commenting.

First of all, I think I need to explain a bit about myself and the this blog.

I come from Poland, as you realized. Before coming to India, I’ve spent half a year in Marseille, one on the most multicultural cities in Europe, with vast north-African and Arabic population. I have been living in India for nearly two years now, both in Gurgaon and Bangalore. I travelled across a big part of the country, visiting both biggest towns, major tourist or religious destinations, as small villages. I have equally many foreign friends as desis. I come from cultural studies background, which teaches mostly tolerance for diversity. My work was understanding consumer behaviours. For all of these reasons, I have tried my best to understand Indian culture and not to judge it. Yet – I admit – I failed.

Yes – although I’m trying hard – I cannot avoid making mistakes and misjudgments. I make inappropriate jokes (although this is relevant not only to jokes about India, as my sense of humor is pretty sarcastic and black and I often land myself into troubles because of that even among my friends in home country). Sometimes, rude comments about Indian work culture or lifestyle slip out of my mouth, simply because I am often tired of constantly trying to manoeuvre in an environment so different from the one I was raised in.

But you, dear Yaj, are not innocent either.

I observed, being in India, two extreme attitudes when it comes to Indian-foreigner relations. One comes from tourists or expats from the richest countries, with little on no previous exposure to other culture and used to living in a bubble of relative luxury. They tend to judge quickly and harshly and don’t even try to understand the background. Shop vendor trying to get more from them than from his regular desi customer is a cheater, Indian working culture based on relationship is slow and stupid, and driver who is lost in Delhi is just an idiot. They leave the country disgusted or stay – living in their hermetic bubbles, wondering “how the hell this country is booming so much despite this whole mess?”. I have been angry many times with my foreign friends, when they were bargaining too hard ending up offending the vendor because of 20Rs difference on price. Or when they started to seem to believe, that they are somehow superior and allow to do more, just because of their skin tone. And I tried my best to understand the different dynamics of daily life in India and not just frustrating my self or getting angry because of it.

Unfortunately – I can’t deny this is a fairly often case and that many foreigners visiting India don’t try to go beyond what their eye can see.

But there is also another extreme – partly a natural defense to what I’ve described above, partly – a resentment based on memory of colonial times – sometimes Indians judge foreigners equally sharp and quickly, not paying attention, that we also come from different countries, different backgrounds and different cultures. And not trying to understand the deeper reasoning beyond “firangis” observable behaviours. This is the case I mentioned in some of the earlier posts – that some Indians think, that sex is the ultimately only value we follow in our lives. Or the case of shop keepers or rickshaw wallah raising price twice just because of skin tone. And the case of you – accusing us of cruel intentions based on shallow insight.

Very often – not only on this blog – I came across accusation of hating India. I certainly don’t. I love many aspects of it and I had wonderful times here and met some incredible people. And this blog – intended to be a bit funny – is definitely not an expression of my hate for the country.

Two blog posts you have commented and that have infuriated you the most, were actually intended to show … “our=expats” stupid behaviours. “Expat wannabees” was about a particular class of foreigners in India, who are enjoying their stay here because of undeserved perks coming because of the image that “white is beautiful” (don’t deny that this isn’t a fact for many – NOT ALL! – Indians. Popularity of whitening creams and dozens of random messages sent on Facebook to my white woman friends after every party from guys they never spoke to, prove it strongly) and “white is loaded” (an outcome of the vast pockets depth of western tourists and people on expat contracts, which unfortunately doesn’t hold truth for interns, students, NGO workers or foreigners working for Indian companies on Indian compensation).

Two posts about dildo, were showcasing a particularly ridiculous culture clash example. I never wrote that the fact that sex in India is a taboo is something wrong (although I’m sorry for the joke about Kamasutra – this was maybe a bit unfortunate), it’s just the way it is – and even you have agreed on it. Who I was really making fun of here, was the guy who made up the story and shared it on platform reaching out to probably over a thousand of people.

In both cases – your hypersensitivity for potential attacks on Indian culture made you read them in the way entirely opposite to intended. Furthermore, it lead you to some statements, which were equally offensive to me (and some other readers), as those against which you were ragging.

I am a citizen of a country that has never had any colonies, furthermore – has been non existing for over a century (more or less the same time, when Brits were ruling India to poverty), then raided by the most devastating powers in the world’s modern history, then its borders had been shifted few hundred kilometers to the west without really asking anyone in Poland, and finally – it was occupied by communists for another half of a century. In terms of difficult history, Poland can easily match India. Also in terms of recent economic blossom – started around 1990 – both countries have a lot in common. Even “jugaad” as a way of working has its sort of equivalent in Polish culture.

Putting me into the same basket with English or Portuguese colonialist’s is a huge misunderstanding and faux pas. Fortunately, you haven’t gone quite as far as my other friend (with whom I had a fierceful conversation once – long forgotten and mutually forgiven, I’m just using it as example – when he used an argument, that at least India, unlike Poland, haven’t ever given up to an enemy after a week. Highly unsuitable remark considering few millions of casualties it taken…

As I mentioned – I have a lot of Indian friends, who are trying to help me to understand your culture, yet agreeing and admiting, that there are numerous flaws in India, which should not be hidden behind the veil of “difficult history, religious&cultural complexity and poverty”. They are simply flaws which are equally painful for foreigners as to Indians, and rather than elaborating on their complicated and deep roots, they should be simple weeded out. It has nothing to do with a feeling of superiority. There are issues, which can be judged either way – arranged marriages, approach to sex, religions, etc. Actually – we could (and many do) learn a lot from India. But there are also issues which have nothing to do with cultural sensitivity, difficult history etc. Low quality of public space and completely inappropriate infrastructure in Gurgaon – city built entirely by Indians, in free India – has nothing to do with sins of colonialists. The holes in roads need to be fixed, badly planned draining need to be upgraded etc. Elaborating upon the difficult history has nothing to do with it.

To sum up this long post, there are two points I wanted to make:

– culture is a very sensitive area and one has to be really careful talking about it. And that the understanding has to be mutual and we should be helping each other in achieving it, rather than accusing. This doesn’t lead anywhere. So please – feel free and welcome to comment and point out my mistakes, but do it with similar understanding for my background as you expect from me for yours.

– India is a wonderful country, raising power in worlds equilibrium and by many means – the best place I could have been now. But it also has a lot of problems, closing eyes to which is not a solution. I hope that Chinese censorship system is not your dreamt model and you would rather cheerish long Indian tradition of democracy and freedom of word. Only accepting that problems exist can lead to improving the quality of life both for me, as for you.

I am hoping for an interesting discussion under this post. But please – whichever point of view you want to defend, read your comment twice before publishing it not to unnecessarily offend anyone.

If I had done that with this post – please point it out to me but be understanding as I surerly didn’t intend to. I still have loads to learn…

Peace!

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. Leia permalink
    February 19, 2010 5:20 pm

    I CANNOT believe u wasted space replying to that moron!!! He’s perhaps one of the reasons why our ‘cultured’ country is struggling on the heels of progress.
    You need more work! 🙂

  2. Leia permalink
    February 19, 2010 7:20 pm

    and my two pence worth… (and note to Yaj – I’m absolutely Indian)

    India never got over the white skin hangover. We think we are supposed to hate the white people but we love everything that the white people have and crave them.

    Memories of whatever dominance Yaj talks about are long forgotten. Only thing that remains of that era are Gandhi photos in every government office and currency note. We want the money, the success, the flashy cars and the women as the people here perceive the women to be. But we are too scared to go and get it.

    We are not a forgiving culture nor an understanding one. We treat the white people well because they bring in money. and money is crucial in a country where people struggle everyday to live.

    Globalization occured in India… the question is – were we ready for it?

  3. Santana permalink
    February 20, 2010 2:08 pm

    Dear Jacek,

    The opinions of aggressive Indian apologists (Yaj) or equally aggressive critics (Leia) – both of whom make sweeping statements on behalf of the rest of us Indians – are the ones both firangs and desis need be wary of.

    India is no better nor worse, no more long-suffering nor more ‘cultural’ than Poland or any other country.

    We ARE, however, comprised of enough cultural diversity to be the equivalent of a continent. And here, perhaps, is your mistake? For most expats (like you) and the Indians you interact with (like me) exist in that tiny sliver of the population that makes up the Indian upper class.

    Sporadic visits to religious destinations and small villages, and infrequent exchanges with shop vendors and auto-wallahs, do little to help you or me understand this complexity of ‘the Indian’. If such a thing even exists. India is just too vast – geographically, culturally, demographically, historically – for any one Indian or foreigner to ‘know’ the right way to be.

    But this is something you already know.

    The solution? Continue to travel across India, as you have been. Read books! Acquaint yourself with our country via travel, films, music, literature, dance… what better way to discover cultures than through culture itself?

    Whatever you do, don’t rely on the noisy opinions of this young breed of Indians (mine included, I’d imagine) as the only representative of this country. It has traits that are impressive, that have determined and will continue to determine India’s bursting-with-potential future. But the majority have helped themselves to the right to freedom of expression in the complete absence of the corresponding respect for the opinions of others. In countries that are relatively more egalitarian this respect can mostly be delivered if you shut up and listen. But in inegalitarian India, the land of hundreds of millions of unheard voices, this respect translates into seeking out those voices.

    Be a culture vulture. If nothing else, it’s more fun than having it out over the net!

  4. Leia permalink
    February 21, 2010 2:40 pm

    @ Santana – I do agree with everything you said. But… culture does not include just the cultural heritage like the festivals, the religions, the caste, the dresses. It is also the culture of work, of government, of interacting with other people, the culture of treating visitors right. All of that makes up a country. And as wonderful as our inherited traditional culture is, the rest of it… nope, I wouldn’t say it makes me proud.
    I figured I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say here (somehow seems wrong to write so much in the comment space). So check out the post I wrote

  5. February 21, 2010 2:57 pm

    Well, I think you have struck quite a controversial note here. The undertones of your previous posts might be ironical/satirical/humorous or whatever, but as you said, culture is a very sensitive issue here (or for that matter anywhere in the world) and it could be that your views are not well received.
    Secondly, one of the many reasons of the ‘descent’ shown by a desi reader could be, things that seem ‘funny’ to some maybe an indispensable part of some one else’s life (since India is unbelievably large and equally diverse), hence the attachment. Your audience might be in sync with your expressions and views but if someone from the subjects happen to read them, you get whopped, Doggystyle.
    Thirdly, there will always be a bridge between the respective perceptions since there is a lot of difference in the way the ‘disputed parties’ lead their lives (now, there was a pun attached). And if there is a fact that should be recognized, its the perceived difference in the way we portray life and things attached to it.

    I guess we all have had our share of good and bad experiences with desis and expats/phoreners alike and its the best way to enjoy it.

    As far as Jacek and Yaj go, I suggest you guys to kiss and make up (Not that you’re at loggerheads but good for racial integration)

  6. February 21, 2010 3:44 pm

    @Santana – you are right and maybe I should just stay quiet, but… than I wouldn’t have received all these comments. Interaction is one of the motivating factors for writing…

    @all – I am aware of how diversified India is, but I have a feeling that this is being often used as a universal key, an answer to all difficult questions.

    I’m still awaiting Yaj reply…

  7. YAJ permalink
    February 22, 2010 7:04 am

    hi Jacek,

    i have just gone through your post and the first thing which i noticed is that you have mellowed down considerably and have chosen words carefully for the first time while putting your concerns on board.It’s ok being humorous but sometime it pinches when you find yourself on the other side of those sarcastic jokes especially if it is targeted towards the very identity(or culture) of your country.Thanxs for acknowledging that your sense of humor is pretty sarcastic and black and i would appreciate if this particular sense of humor can be avoided while writing on sensitive issues as of this.My concern was the same.I am not closing my eyes on any kind of issues that india is facing but i won’t take somebody totally dismissing us of any hope of getting better someday. Anyways, i will get back to you with a proper reply and yeah, whatever comments i have made on your post previously were the outcome of all of your previous post that i have been following.

    One more point, i have friends from Poland who live in Bydgoszcz so i know a lot about your country and culture and by no mean i would ever try to criticize it as we as a country share a lot of similarity from history to culture.And that is the reason i wanted to read a polish view about my country but i have found your comments in the same league as of a braggy British writing something about the Polish living in London.

  8. Cec permalink
    February 22, 2010 2:35 pm

    Jacek,

    I came accross this and thought it was really good!!! honest (we all criticize India all the time for the reasons you mentionned… and should be more careful) and humble

    now he is typically someone who cannot make us change our minds to me… how can he say he has a friend in Poland and therefore know a lot about your culture?
    can you really capture culture by having “friends” there? even after a long time in India, we can not say we really know the culture…

    oh well… i wanted to say i loved your post!

  9. February 22, 2010 6:19 pm

    uh huh.. i think i lost track of the original point!

  10. yaj permalink
    February 22, 2010 7:41 pm

    @Cec — i am not here to change your thought process , you reach to your conclusion the way you have been raised in your country.My point is ,India is altogether a different country from your’s so rather than judging it on your standards , you need to understand the things beyond your first line of contact.I never say we don’t have issues in this country , i am very open to discussion if the criticism is done using proper words with a level head.Rather than discussing a problem, if the poor population of India is ridiculed on an open forum like this then it is highly unacceptable to me .So, whatever i have been writing earlier, must be seen as a reaction to a criticism which has it’s root deep in the history ,which for sure needs to be weeded out but for that we want some more time.We are on the way to become a economic power but the situation was not the same 10 years back .We have a huge population to support and to get the things changed to world standard will take time. India as a country is very emotional and sensitive about it’s culture ,therefore i requested Jacek to show some discretion while passing his views to the world through his blog .I appreciate Jacek the way he has presented this post, which i feel is the right way to raise a concern.We are a progressive society with a place for everyone(considering the number of religion and languages coexisting in this land) ,many families live their life happily here which at the same time for some outsider is not a descent place to live . So, we need to UNDERSTAND that we do have a gap in our perception which needs to be bridged out before passing a judgement.

    Indian culture is still a puzzle for you ??? I am sure it will always be , as it is not common for a country to have 114 languages and 216 mother tongues, 18 scheduled languages and 96 not specified in the schedule. It is more that the total number of languages spoken in whole EUROPE.I do have friends from Poland and whatever discussions i had with them i can say i have found a lot of similarity between both countries.

  11. February 22, 2010 9:06 pm

    Dear Yaj,

    I appreciate your much more balanced replies here, but I still can’t understand one thing. You mentioned, and repeated it few times, that I have offended you several times in this blog. I read it back to check when could I have done that, and I really can’t see anything offending in any of the posts. Only the two about dildo I could understand your reaction, maybe the one about traffic in India (but then – well, can you really dissagree with this one?). Other than that, even if I present some funny aspects of life in India, I don’t really judge India or Indians anywhere and posts are quite neutral.

    I would like you to point out those exact moments or sentences that you find offensive. It could be an intresting lesson for me and readers of this blog.

    Cheers & peace
    jr

  12. February 23, 2010 5:02 am

    People who ask others not to judge have made judgements themselves and they cannot do so accurately, because they’re not in the other persons shoes.

    It’s so much easier to accept that others have different points of view that will be colored by their experiences and may be different from your own.

    Why not point the way to experiences that may highlight your point of view, without expecting them to understand, comply or agree? Unless of course, you’re quite sure your view of India is not only the sole one, but it’s also absolutely correct, infallible and shared by every single Indian in the world.

  13. Nat permalink
    February 24, 2010 10:51 am

    And my 2 pennies. The striking ambiguity of love-hatered towards white people in India is a fact. From one hand we’re pampered with cheap drinks, free-entries, fancy pool parties and from the other we’re abused in hindi, forced to pay more, bribe etc. But this is not my point, it has been already “re-worked” by others on this blog. My point is that: If Indians think that white people feel superior, then don’t let them feel so! Just treat us normally. If you have to pay for the entry let us do the same, if you’re waiting in a line, let us wait with you, if you booked a table in a restaurant don’t let us “steal” it from you. I could go on and on with examples. All the time I heard, that you’re such a fast-growing country, that every Indian is so proud of being a citizen of this land, etc. I was amazed and full of admiration for young Indian people who actually sang their anthem, deeply touched, with such a pride in their eyes . Which is not the case of my compatriots (including Polish president, who was actually mumbling Polish anthem during one of some offcial ceremonies). The problem is that, foreigners in India are getting spoiled, very easily. And the reason is simple: you let them feel so. People, no matter from which part of the world, are fishing for compliments, want to feel like celebrities, want to be pampered. And in India- here you go – you have your own car, your own driver, servants, covers in Times of India. If you’re a girl, even an ugly one (sorry for the lack of political correctness) you’ll be treat like a goddess. An other example: Once I was entering one of the 5 star hotels premises in a lousy dress and cheap flip-flops and the hotel boy greated me with “Sahab Mam”. For God’s sake if you hate the British invaders so much, why are you cultivating this tradition!
    I’m writting this, because I was “in the process” of changing from a relatively good human being to a colonialist beach, I hope I stopped at the right time. At some point I started to crible about everything and just “demand”, I was just taking certain things for granted, but I stopped. Human nature is vain and mischevious, then if you don’t like the superiority of “whities” just treat them normally.

  14. anonymous permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:28 pm

    A bit offtopic, Mr. Yaj, but if you have met few times Polish people, it does not mean you know everything about Europe, like the number of languages there 😉 Do you think Punjabi is more different from Hindi than Castellano from Catalan? We may easily count 100+ languages in Europe, dear expert, perhaps you never heard of Sicilian or Basque, and if you did (in the very unlikely case), I bet you never knew about Sami or Komi 😉 So, please, pick up your words more carefully, when making statements about the land you only heard of something 😉

  15. February 24, 2010 12:41 pm

    To all the readers,

    I’m glad, that the post started such an intense discussion, but please – keep it calm.

    My intention was not to rage against Mr. Yaj, as – I must admit – he has some point. Not all he wrote I can agree with, but I observed it many times my self, how sometimes ignorantly and harshly we behave in India. He is not alone in his view and he has ground to think in the way he does. Hope the outcome of it will be more mutual understanding and sensitivity.

    And signing posts is definitely a good practice.

    • Praveen permalink
      February 25, 2010 11:30 am

      All whities who commented bad on INDIA,they don’t know what is INDIA.Even they don’t have right to talk about INDIA.We are not here to guide them.So leave them .Always they feel that they are the ultimate human beings in this universe,in that way they are shwoing their ashamed behavior…

      • February 25, 2010 4:14 pm

        Hi Praveen,

        Most times I’m fairly satisfied with my country’s progress and that of my countrymen. At other times I want to look down at my feet in shame and hope the current situation passes before I need to look up again.

        Shame and sadness, not for myself, but for the other person.
        This is one of those times.

        Stay well.
        Sid

  16. Nat permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:34 pm

    I ment “bitch” of course not beach 😉

  17. February 25, 2010 11:40 am

    yes Mr. Praveen, this is exactly what I meant calling for mutual understanding and sensitivity 😉

  18. Praveen permalink
    February 26, 2010 7:41 am

    Sid,
    They are not looking at their feet.They are not looking at their drawbacks in their countries.They should first look at themselves before blaming other country. If we start to blame their countries and making fun on them,we can do that with in seconds,but we are not like that.We are very honour to welcome them and giving friendly relationship with them.We always want healthy relationship with all expats and we are already maintaining that.

    They are making fun of our living style by showing some photos,yes,this happens in india,if they don’t like it just leave it but don’t make fun on them.I am sure that the day will come, that day will tell them greatness of INDIA.

    As we respect their living style and culture,why they are not doing same on other countries.By this they can understand who is good at their nature.

  19. February 26, 2010 8:43 am

    Praveen,

    I reply you with one sentence: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

    Regards
    Jacek

  20. February 26, 2010 9:30 am

    Hi Praveen,

    Thank you for your well thought out response.

    I agree there are loads of people who tend to focus on aspects of India that require development, whilst ignoring other good things happening. These people include Indians and foreigners alike.

    On one hand, India is rapidly becoming a country where people from abroad consider it a destination worth visiting not only as tourists, but also for professional reasons. That is good.

    What we cannot deny however, is that there are certain aspects to India that do do improvement. India isn’t alone in this – there’ll be something like that in every country.

    As long as those aspects exist, there will be some amount of focus on them. Can we really blame others? Is there a single one of us who can say they haven’t thrown stuff out of their car window, urinated at a road side, paid a bribe, driven through a red light or in general did something that we know is wrong, but still did it?

    If we choose to make all of our deficiencies internal rather than external, introspection follows and we then sub-consciously work towards eliminating defects at a micro level, which then becomes macro because so many of us are working towards a common aim.

    Do we really respect their culture and way of living? Many people I know consider western women ‘available’ as a matter of fact. Nearly every commercial enterprise, including the Government of India fleeces tourists. You may respect their culture and way of living Praveen and may also have seen your social circle doing so; I unfortunately haven’t enough doing so, to make a statement as you have. There! Two different points of view, from personal experiences, neither of which can be denied. 🙂

    That’s my point.

    We have individual experiences and so do people who’ve recently entered the country. Many may be right and many may be wrong – it’s all about personal experience, which cannot be denied.

    Rather than berate or deny a point of view, wouldn’t it be more constructive to illustrate differences via visual, intellectual and logical means rather than conjecture? Not only will the other person gain, we may benefit too in the process.

    BTW: For the record, I have no point of view about the post itself. My comments have been more towards discussing a method of resolution rather than the veracity of the topic itself. 🙂

    Stay well.
    Sid

  21. February 26, 2010 9:49 am

    Dear Sid,

    you’re saying you have no opinion, but what you’re writing is exactly supporting my post. All it was about, was defending the equal right to have opinions in this country.

    Peace
    Jacek

  22. February 26, 2010 9:54 am

    @Jacek: LOL! I should have worded it better. Perhaps what I meant to say was that I don’t really agree or disagree with the opinions about India in your post(s). That all of us have a right to an opinion is of course fully agreed. 🙂

    “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, I am”) – Rene Descartes.

    Stay Well.
    Sid

  23. Praveen permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:37 am

    Mr.Sid,

    Thank you very much for your analyzation on aspects which are happening in INDIA.

    Almost your concentration is on INDIA.Well, you shared your experiences in India,Could you please share your experiences in other countries as well, if you have.How they are treating Indians in other countries..do you know that?.Did you know the recent news on attacks happend on Indians in other countries?

    Don’t try to blame INDIA always.

    Yes we really respecting their culture in so many aspects.Haven’t you find anything around your world?.Starting from their dressing sense till their food habits and etc.,we are following Knowingly or Unknowingly..

    But show me one foreigner who is respecting India’s culture(Rarely you can see)…

  24. February 26, 2010 11:41 am

    Hi Praveen,

    Thank you for your comment.
    I’m going to try and express myself once more. I request you to please read the whole post before commenting. In fact, I’d suggest we take this offline. This is an interesting discussion and I’m sure we don’t want to bore others, yes? My email ID is editor@chefatlarge.in.

    I have traveled to a few countries and in most cases found mutual respect. Having said that, racism is a very real subject and cannot be ignored. What however, does racism in other countries have to do with foreigners in India?

    I am not blaming India. I am stating that if a problem exists (anywhere), we can either blame others for it or look within ourselves for a solution. But then introspection isn’t the issue here too.

    My points are:

    (1) Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
    (2) Our opinions are formed based on personal experiences
    (3) Personal experiences cannot be denied
    (4) Illustrating evidence to the contrary is effective in influencing an opinion
    (5) Either you or I can illustrate evidence or the course of life will do so

    For example:
    Martin arrives in India and decides to go the tourist route. Along the route he is overcharged, finds filthy toilets, is harassed by beggers and finally expected to give big tips to service staff in his hotel for virtually no service. Martin concludes that’s what India is all about. Can we blame him? Probably not, since that’s all he has experienced.

    The next day, Martin wanders off on his own in South Delhi and finds plush apartments, neat hotels, exclusive restaurants, expensive shopping areas and excellent service everywhere. Martin concludes there are two sides to India, rich and poor. He hasn’t seen the middle class yet.

    Finally Martin reaches Janakpuri, Dwarka and NOIDA and finds that its all really a big mixture. Gaps do exist between layers, but all the layers of society definitely exist. Over a period of time, he learns to interpret Indian culture and begins to create parallels with his own culture and also realises how things are here.

    Personally, I would differentiate between adopting parts of a culture and truly understanding it. We have adopted large parts of American and British culture due to various factors. Have we really understood it? Do we have the tolerant and patient nature that is characteristic to the Brits? Based on the responses to this post, I think not. Are we as finicky about documentation and quality control as the Americans?

    Adopting convenient parts of a culture is fairly easy Praveen, understanding it takes time. This applies not only to us, but also to foreigners in India. Just as wearing pants and eating western food doesn’t mean we understand western culture, the same way, wearing sarees and liking chutney doesn’t mean they understand us. It takes time either way and can only be done through experience.

    I do hope I’ve able to convey via a rather long explanation of some age old sayings – “Live and let live”, “Each one to his own”, “Different strokes for different folks” and the most recent, “Whatever floats your boat”.

    This is the end of this discussion for me, as repeating myself becomes rather tedious. You of course, may choose to either take the discussion offline, or continue ranting on. Your call. 🙂

    Stay well.
    Sid

  25. Praveen permalink
    February 26, 2010 12:59 pm

    Sid,

    I think you felt very happy with the hospitality of other countries that you went through…good congrats….happy to hear this….

    But remember one thing,the aspects that you have mentioned like corruption,poor etc also there in other countries as well…but you haven’t experienced…

    As you know that, there are very poor countries than India around the globe,so don’t try to make your comments specific to India…

    My questions are here:

    Are they not having any problems in their country who started these posts..?..No..

    Every country is struggling with various issues…

    Are they 100% perfect in their process of administration?…No

    Are they 100% perfect in their hospitality?…..No…

    BHARAT MATA KI JAI…

    Regards,
    Praveen

    • February 26, 2010 1:37 pm

      @Praveen –
      Does paying attention to any of the problems or the drawback of a culture lessen the respect we have for the country? Every country does have its share of issues but we prefer to sweep it under the carpet and pretend everything is fine.

      India is really diverse and being Indian, even I do not know everything about it. I discover more everyday and sometimes with my friends who are, as you call it, “whites”. It is because they are more interested in discovering the Indian culture than some of my Indian friends. And a different perspective on the culture helps… and most of the people I have encountered either in India or elsewhere have been quite sensitive to any culture (the ones who aren’t are morons about everything, including their own). Which is a little more than what I can say about my own countrymen because, somewhere down the way, we forgot how to tolerate and respect other cultures.

      You talk about the racist attacks on Indians in other countries. But what about the Shiv Sena’s attacks on non-Marathi people in Mumbai. Is it okay if two Indians beat each other up?
      The Indians from the North-East do not really have a nice view of the rest of the country. Would you treat them the same way as you are treating the ‘whites’?

      As Sid put it quite nicely, no one person can really judge any culture. So we make the best of what we know… and what we know comes from where we have been.

  26. February 26, 2010 1:11 pm

    Praveen,

    I replied you in one sentence, but it seems not sufficient.

    First of all – have you read my post? I’m not talking about country problems there. I’m talking about mutual understanding.

    Secondly – I’m sorry for your travel experience. Mine was always awesome – be it India, be it even poorer Cambodia or any of quite a few countries I have visited. Maybe it’s what you’re bringing with you that defines your experience?

    Thirdly – I will answer directly. Poland is way behind many western countries, but it is more advanced in the issues you’ve mentioned like corruption or administration.

    I’m glad you have mentioned the photo in your previous entry. A photo – unless manipulated in photoshop – is a neutral document of a fact. If the fact has happen, what is wrong with sharing the photo of it? Check my flickr – you’ll find there some of those photo’s you’re talking about. Or on this blog. But you’ll find them between hundreds of other pictures, expressing my love towards all those beautiful and amazing things I’ve seen here. And it’s the same with written opinions.

    You say, that we should not talk about this, I reply, that you always talk about what struck you.

    Talking about ANY country we are in, we will always talk about things which are new, unusual or fascinating for us. Things we don’t understand. Furthermore – it’s a well known fact, that negative word of mouth spreads faster than positive. No matter the race, country, language etc.

    Believe me, that it’s not that we come to India and suddenly start bitching about it, claiming that our country – in my case Poland – or any other country for that matter, is a wonderful and flawless place! If you knew Polish and checked blogs/forums/newspapers back in Poland, you would notice, we complain about it as well. A LOT! And when we see something funny and ridiculous – we share it with others! I did exactly the same when I was living in France for a while. I was complaining about their constant strikes, about bad public transport (Marseille) or about the security. Just that they – instead of attacking me – were laughing with me, while we wer sharing the fabulous wine and cheese. Cause they new both good and bad things were equally true and real.

    It has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with any sort of “superiority” feeling towards India or any other country, which you are trying to impose us.

    Hence I can’t see anything wrong in talking about the problems that foreigners encounter in India, as long, as it objective. The problem begins, when they’re generalizing, mis-interpreting or making it a reason to abuse anyone. One has to distinguish these two things. The first one is like photo, and the second – like it photoshoped distorted version.

    For the first – there’s nothing else to do than trying to find a solution, for the second – instead of getting angry and abusing back, it might be a good idea tocalmly talk it out and prove them wrong or give and educated explanation. Isn’t it?

    Trying to stop the photos from being shown is basically a censorship and a denial. Chinese model. Model I know too well from Poland. Is this a model you are trying to suggest for India – country with such a fabolous history of democracy, freedom of speech and peaceful coexistence of various mindsets and values?

    This is my last reply. Just as Sid did write – if you wish, you can take it offline: hermesmarana@gazeta.pl

  27. February 26, 2010 1:19 pm

    ps. And people like Sid are doing much more good for the image of India than people like you, fiercely but pointlessly trying to prove “there are no issues at all”.

  28. Praveen permalink
    February 26, 2010 8:01 pm

    Jacek,

    I read your previous posts,then only i started writting comments in this space

    I am not trying to prove that there are no issues in our country.In this world there is no country with out issues as you know that..I know so many problems are there in india,but this blog can’t solve any one of the problems.

    I am not here to blame anyone…Just i am posting my comments thats all.

    You are making it fun to comment on India than trying for a solution.Is this the correct way to solve the problems in a country?

    Here my point is that,if someone is blaming our country then how we will react?

    Yes,I am very much sure that in your earlier posts you were blaming india and indians wisely and sarcastically

    If I come to your country and blaming like this..how will you react?

    Indian will never accept this kind of comments because we are more sensitive like anything in this world and we are happily welcoming you people to india.

    You were putting your words more intelligently about india .Finally I reacted…Below are some of your words…

    1.”Indian working culture based on relationship is slow and stupid and driver who is lost in Delhi is just an idiot”..

    Is this the way you are respecting indians in your own blog….?

    2.”an outcome of the vast pockets depth of western tourists and people on expat contracts, which unfortunately doesn’t hold truth for interns, students, NGO workers or foreigners working for Indian companies on Indian compensation”

    3.”There are numerous flaws in India, which should not be hidden behind the veil of “difficult history, religious&cultural complexity and poverty”. They are simply flaws which are equally painful for foreigners as to Indians, and rather than elaborating on their complicated and deep roots, they should be simple weeded out. It has nothing to do with a feeling of superiority.

    4.”Low quality of public space and completely inappropriate infrastructure in Gurgaon – city built entirely by Indians,in free India – has nothing to do with sins of colonialists.The holes in roads need to be fixed, badly planned draining need to be upgraded etc. Elaborating upon the difficult history has nothing to do with it”.

    Jacek- Are you feeling more funny by writting all above things?..

    Our intention is to try for peace, but Jacek is trying to get peace by blaming a country and making fun of this country.

    Is this type of words will solve our problem.Is this the way we get the solution for this problem.no not at all.

    When I was discussing about problems in various countries, you told me that these posts are not related to discussing about problems in countries.But in your posts you were discussing about problems.Here my question is that when i have raised problems in other countries you were denying me why? You are the first person started discussing about problems in country.So that in my earlier post I have discussed about problems in various countries.I didn’t find any wrong in that.In one post you have discussed about your country as well.

    But you don’t want me to discuss drawbacks of other countries.

    Photos: You can post any no.of photos that you want.But don’t make fun about a country.Finally you are going to hurt the people in that country.People will not always give +ve response to your photos in all the countries..

    Jacek- I really appreciate you that you have posted some beautiful photos of India.Thank you so much…

    This is my last post in this space.
    Sorry if I hurted someone with my words.

    Finally i wanted to say one thing,”you are feeling that your country is great”..I am feeling that my country is great..wind up…

    But blaming a country will never give you a solution Mr.Jacek.

    Always trying for peace..Praveen..

  29. hermesmarana permalink*
    February 27, 2010 6:58 am

    Dear Praveen,

    since it’s the first time you or Mr. Yaj has given any concrete examples, and it only proves that either my English doesn’t deliver, or you didn’t read it carefully. I will reply :

    ad.1 It wasn’t mine statement but an example of misinterpretation that can happen. Read it again in the context. – You have read a defence of India as an offence…

    ad.2 Again – it was actually a defence not an offence. Explaining the reasons why shop vendors are charging us more.

    ad.3 Again – that’s a reply to Mr. Yaj but yes, I mentioned there are problems in India that need to be solved, just like any other place, and we should just get down to work upon it. Is this fact offensive to anyone?

    ad.4 This is a reply to one comment and it’s again in the context of discussion not a blog post. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written that here. Yaj made a statement, that all the problems in India are only results of colonisation. I’m affraid that Gurgaon proves him wrong. And this is If you don’t live in Gurgaon, ask any Indian here if it’s a nice place to live. Why are you’re denying my right to say so if it’s a fact that even Hindustan Time made a subject of it’s special issue? Why cannot I complaint about the draining system in Gurgaon, if there were massive protests raised by Indian Gurgaon citizens against it last year?

    The difference between us is, that you say if there’s a problem we should not talk loud about it. I say – we should, cause when we do, maybe it will force someone to find a solution. That’s how democracy works, isn’t it?

    If you come to my country and say, that my president is saying stupid things, our highways suck and we can’t even deal with heavy snowfals, I will just say I’m sorry. The same, if you had gone to a shady district in my city and than write a post saying, you were shocked with poverty and alcoholism there, I would not say a word. It’s a fact, painful to me, but I can’t deny it. And I respect your right to talk about what you see.

    But most of the blog doesn’t say about problems. It describes my daily experiences. Bad or good, funny or said. I’m trying to keep it entertaining and many people do appreciate it.

    And one last thing – I’m not blaming the country for anything. I simply describe particular situations that have happened to me. If it’s blaming the country, than I’m offending it with my breath..

  30. Phalgun Reddy permalink
    March 1, 2010 6:02 am

    Yaj- How insecure can someone get? Fuck!!! Go get a life, man! You ended up making the poor kid write a long apology, and provoked tens of other bloggers to write their own 2 paise worth of comments on this!!

    Jacek- Neither can I beleive you wrote such a long blog giving explanations & disclaimers. You should have blocked this kid straightaway. What a sad waste of time & energy!

    • yaj permalink
      March 1, 2010 8:52 pm

      @Phalgun Reddy— you comment and language shows that your are confused desi who is DESPERATE for a YO MAN kind of image ,so you better stay away from a discussion pertaining to Indian culture .Go and get yourself F***ED FROM your YO MAN buddies

      Mr. Phalgun reddy ,if your are an Indian then you must be knowing that there are families in India who earn 2 pence a day.So, they still have some worth in my eyes.For your information ,here we are discussing something and for that purpose people need to put their views, for which people have to write it. I think, it does not pain your AS* while people put their views forward but if it so then do let me know , i may request people to consider your pain and be short while writing anything.

  31. March 1, 2010 9:56 am

    @Phalgun: Well said.

  32. yaj permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:29 pm

    hi Jacek,
    I am due on a reply and surely i will do it this week.Looks like this place been buzzing a lot last few days.I do have to agree that your explanation have made me to go through your earlier post differently and i thanks you for putting up this much effort.I will come up with my part of story and the points in your blog which felt to me little odd.I never said colonisation is the only reason for present condition of India but i believe, it is one of the major reason of all.Before coming under British rule, India’s share of the world income was 22.6% comparable to Europe’s share of 23.3% .It fell to 3.8% in 1952, which clearly shows the way we were exploited.It gave rise to poverty and illiteracy and then led to all the present Indian condition which you referred as “it will always be a messy country”.I am sorry for all the inconvenience caused but i have lived this country from a person ploughing fields during summar vacation to a technocrat dealing with clients from one of the most developed part of the world.I think this is lot to see as a change in my 25 years of life which gives me hope that India do have people who go out there and work hard to see a change.I don’t belong to those STUPID GROUP OF INDIANS who adopt a western life style of living only to criticize the situation in India rather than working to make the country better.They are first to criticize the government but do not want to cast their vote during elections.So, for me their comments are useless.

    I will get back soon

    Yaj

  33. Praveen permalink
    March 2, 2010 4:23 am

    Yaj,

    Your comments about INDIA are really excited me..keep it up..I appreciate your reply to those countrymen who called you as “KID” and those who are supporting also..

    @Phalgun:
    Keep your language in mind while writting in this space.This is not the discussion for the things that you are assuming..Time will come to you to show that you are MASTER in using those type of useless words and not in this discussion.

    As Yaj said, You better stay away from this discussion….

    Trying for Peace…

    Praveen

  34. yaj permalink
    March 7, 2010 9:12 pm

    Looks like the things has calm down here but i should make my point heard before we close on this topic.Whatever i am going to write ,it represents my opinion only.It is not intended towards any racially attack towards any community.It is just my perception about your blog(as i might have wrongly perceived your though process).We openly welcome all the foreigners in India and wish them a very good stay here and expect them exploring things in a positive way.Before i start, i do have to accept that i read your blog with a perception in my mind of what i generally read in blogs of foreigners where they always criticise India.But this open letter of your’s does somewhere make me feel that i should come to your blog with a neutral mind.

    Through this post, you won so many sympathizers and i got some harsh wordings from so many of my own country man and if we go by the rule of democracy then people do love you here , which does prove we are a forgiving culture( we don’t hate white people, anymore) . People does understand your views well, hence proved we belong to an understanding culture also.So, do write about these things in your blog sometime, i would be really happy to read :).

    In your very first post you compared 9/11 incident with your landing in India which really put me off.It made me think, is my country that horrifying for some one to compare landing here as dreadful as 9/11?(i try to understand so many times what you really wanted to convey here )Any comparison to 9/11 itself is very derogatory for any event and if that event is related with my country then i feel insulted.In the very next sentence you describe your self being a very innocent man “A year ago I came here innocent. Didn’t know how to bribe people”.Does it mean in India you need to be a tainted person to survive?The first time you opened your mouth you talked about “bribing”, is that the most noticeable thing about India for you ?Here i want to share one of my experience with some foreigners.I was on a short trip to Kerala ,travelling by train along with so many unknown foreigners in my compartment.In between the journey, there was some guy creating problem in our train and at the station he fled away somehow.As i was of the same built Police wanted to check my documents for verification and they questioned me for a while and then i came back to take my seat .All the fellow foreigners who were a short while back were all busy in their iphones suddenly started talking to me asking in excitement how much money i gave to Police as a bribe.They said, they have read in Blogs how the Police in INDIA create scenes to get money out of people . They took no time to label these police officers corrupt although the same people were making it sure that all the passengers in train are safe by performing some security check.And i tell you every time foreigners like them will encounter police they will think of bribing them because blogs like your’s always talks about it..Had they not read blogs like your’s ,they would have acted differently.Hence your blog is not helping at all , you are making it sure that all foreigners coming to India should come mentally prepared to give bribe.If you are really so concerned about India then please talk about incidents where people were arrested talking bribe(it’s crime in india to take bribe and we have strict rule to deal with it) and please do mention them how to approach for such complains.This might encourage people not to give bribe and get the culprits behind the bars.Just tell them to call Anti-corruption bureau people for any such problem or use RTI act.

    Your post titled “Fix it (Indian way)” must have your reader’s laughing all the time but the title felt to me a sarcastic remark towards the way things are worked upon in India in your opinion.You would have avoided all that incident had you called some agency to get you some trained plumbers.They would have charged you more than normal but then you would have come to know that things do get fixed in proper way in India also.

    piece-peas-peace-piss– Again your attempt was to make people laugh at the cost of some error done by some poor people in India who don’t know how to read or write English.Is that humorous if someone is unable to write some foreign language properly?Can your write all those things in Hindi properly or for that matter any foreigner who just have a basic knowledge of Hindi?India is a country with so many languages and English does provide a common platform for all of us to interact But to know English you have to have a proper education background which most of these poor people don’t have.Their attempt was to just attract everyone in their shop and that’s why they tried,although unsuccessfully,to put the hoarding written in English.You might have felt great in documenting it but i would have appreciated your effort had you helped the person to correct the error and then had published the photo with the correction..It might have inspired a lot of other people rather than laughing at it.

    Load—Again the laughing element belongs to poor section of India.It would have been great had you covered the story describing the financial compulsion of poor people in India to carry such a load.If you had criticised the Indian govt. for pushing their population in doing such ridiculous task ,i would have appreciated you.I would have believed that you do try to go beyond what your eyes meet in the streets of India and you are certainly a different foreigner visiting India but i am afraid to say you are not .
    You say “A photo – unless manipulated in photoshop – is a neutral document of a fact” that’s very true but it invokes different feelings depending upon the presentation you give around it.The same photos which made your readers laugh could have been used to let the people know the real story behind the poor people life in India and their struggle for survival.
    Your flickr might have hundred of photos expressing your love for this country but then why you afraid to put any post regarding it with documentation(photos)?

    A rough guide to Indian roads —Again the title as well as the whole post is very sarcastic.Then you put a video link where the person making video himself creating problem for traffic but this video was meant to make mockery of traffic sytem in India .I agree traffic condition not good in India but is it necessary necessary to make fun of it? does not it contain a hidden sense of superiority about your well developed system of traffic?

    Every where you talk about Indian obsession for WHITE skin but i can say the same about EUROPEANS obsession for the brown skin.Can you give me a reason why you people always tanning your body in the sun?
    It is simple people are never satisfied “grass on the other side always look greener”

    But anyways leave all this now.I have some more instances from your blog which does not feel appropriate to me but i don’t want to keep this blame game going on.I still say we have so many problem in our country but we are getting better day by day .Might be materialism never been so much part of our culture that why our society not able to cope up this sudden change in last 15 years but still i am hopeful to get everything on course someday.

    One more thing what i would have expected from you ,considering you are so deeply interested in writing humorous post about India, is to unveil the hypocrisy existing in the well off society in India .They are the people who think being rich means to behave like people from rich country always criticising govt. as if they are not the part of the process which elect govt. in India.These poser will always criticise system and for every fault they will have some body (in most cases govt.) to blame for.I give you one example , you must have seen Mumbai a lot in TV after 26/11 incident.People coming out with candles showing solidarity and paying homage to the killed people ,they raised slogan against govt. .I felt great for my country with every one putting up one united face and looked determined to bring change the way the country is administered.But then when the opportunity was provided to mumbaiker in assembly election 2009 their turnout was only 42%. Where were the people who were talking loudly in front of TV camera for change?In India on election day you get a holiday so most of the Mumbaiker applied for longer weekends and went out of town or country to enjoy it.So i was convinced whatever they were talking after 26/11 was all just for a pose before a camera,all the pledge they took was all fake.In India only poor population cast their vote while the rich society prefer to remain in their AC room to enjoy the holiday.They even feel pride to tell it next day to their colleagues like going for voting is some kind of insult . But these rich people you will always find everywhere labelling govt. as inefficient and enjoying every joke that you make about India, as just like you they have not contributed in electing the system here
    So,please write a sarcastic post about such people in Indian society because this time i will support you and then i would like to see the faces of all those visiting your post regularly.

    I know i have been too demanding in this whole description considering that your are a foreigner here but then you look very keen to write about India and looked interested beyond what meets your eyes on the streets on India.

    Sorry for all my previous strong remarks i take all my words back .I

  35. March 8, 2010 5:37 am

    Dear Yaj,

    thank you very much for this post. I will consider this a success of my attempt to break the ice and lead towards mutual understanding. You made me see the world with your eyes and gave well supported examples. I might still disagree with some of your points, as well as you will still disagree with some of mine, but that’s natural. The main achievement is that we’ve both gone beyond the sketchy and flat perception of the other we had at the beginning.

    I will try to consider your advises in further writing, and you also give some understanding even if I’m laughing at things.

    Just one small clarification, since you made me go back to my earlier posts and I realized I made a mental shortcut which cannot be understood by people who don’t know me personally (and most readers don’t).

    9/11 has a double meaning for me. It’s my birthday. Secondly – for many reasons, my life turned upside down after landing here – many of them not related to India anyhow. Hence – a doomsday. Or more, beginning of Nataraja’s dance. This was just another example of my black sense of humour, I admit, a bit unfortunate.

  36. Jane permalink
    March 12, 2010 6:53 pm

    Hi,

    Very Intresting conversation i must say.. Being an Indian I totally agree with the problems foriegners go through and I feel sorry it and try my best to make my friends who are from abroad feel at home,help them as much as I can.Soemone said in their earlier post that lets not only talk about culture,tradition ,dresses etc which is a very correct pointagain but thats just the overview about India,to know India well you need to travel ,read and converse with people as much as you can. Me and my friends have had a few bad experiences in cities like New York ,salt lake city and liverpool,i am sure many good Indians are facing problems abroad.. you are talking about shopowners asking you extra money and what would say about Indians being killed and harrased in Austrailia. All these countries are supposed to be civilized,aren’t they ?? This is a very much debatable topic and i was thrilled to read all the comments ,also i read about few foriegn women interns facing issues at the workplace which i would say is not very rare because that happens every where in the world ,it happens even with us sometimes so it dosent matter you black ,brown ,white,Indian,African,American or European (the factor is woman)
    India is not perfect and its good that we get to hear the problems from everyone across the globe,helping us figure out the solutions but trust me its not a day job..its gonna take some time but it will be fine.
    Hope you find answers to your questions soon.

    Peace !

  37. himesh permalink
    March 17, 2010 9:21 am

    hi,

    i enjoyed this whole discussion a lot.Feels like Yaj has raised very good questions supported with apt examples. One thing still missing is the AUTHOR’S reply to the observation made by Yaj.

    Hope Jacek will let the readers know his stand on Yaj doubts .I am sure that’s going to be very interesting to read 🙂

    enjoy!!!

    himesh

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