Why is the New York Times so Jealous of India?

I don’t see the point of highlighting India’s “relatively lower wage rate” (a snarky reference to poverty) and a comparison to HRH’s wedding. As though Brown people’s weddings cannot eclipse that of White Royals.

This is the subtle racism when a country leaps out of its stereotypes.

33 thoughts on “Why is the New York Times so Jealous of India?”

  1. The mention of lower labor costs is so that readers can weight numerical comparisons between the weddings of Prince Harry and Princess Ambani accordingly. Makes sense to me.

  2. While China looks strong and unified now, historically many times it has fallen into civil wars in which war lords reigned supreme. 20th century was also one such period; one warlord knocked off all other warlords and proclaimed PRC in 1949. The podcast makes interesting points – I listened to perhaps half the cast. The Cultural Revolution actually began to go out of control of everyone – until it was brought under control by the military on the orders of Mao. Perhaps 10 million perished in the Cultural Revolution ; perhaps equal number during the Great Leap Forward ; a smaller number – relatively – during Let Hundred Flowers Bloom , which was a setup by Mao to flush out anyone thinking independently and repressing such free thinking.

    Historically the people have also suffered terribly during the ‘nation building’ . Building tye Great Wall consumed perhaps one fifth of the whole population. As an Arab historian noted – Zach’s notes- Chinese have excelled in obeying their emperor whatever the human cost . China’s cost to superpowerdom has been built on Chinese lives – lots of it. During Korean War , when the US and the west thought job was almost done in driving out communists from Korea, Mao unleashed without any warning half a million troops ; the Korean War ended in stalemate and remains so to this day. The result was that USA or any other power treaded cautiously in South east Asia and East Asia lest they the Chinese wrath befell on them.

    Due to many periods of civil unrest and civil wars with winner takes all fights, Chinese or Chinese intellectuals have studied in great detail wars, strategies and tactics. That is what they use in the modern world also. Chinese have a great sense of long term strategy and long term planning with all domestic dissent severely crushed. Social control has been one of solid pillars of Chinese Way of running the country – even now

  3. Zach this is small stuff. Doesn’t matter I think. In general I try to be less sensitive and respect the freedom of others to offend, be racist, be bigoted, be sectarian, be hegemonic, be exploitative, be imperialist, be colonialist towards me. This is what freedom of art and thought means.

  4. I must say I am quite befuddled with American coverage of India. They dont seem to be able to comprehend the country, which is strange given the excellent, productive academic and economic relationship the two country’s have enjoyed for 30+ years now.

    One symptom of this confusion seems to be the relative comfort British Indians seem to have with their origins and nationality, versus the absolute angst and isolation Indian Americans seem to have experienced. My guess is that via sports (cricket, hockey) and food British Indians have at least something to relate to in the broader British society. Indian Americans are much more culturally isolated despite their economic success because the cultural exchange between India and the US is extremely limited.

    1. Vikram, Americans are increasingly interested in eastern philosophy, meditation, mysticism and spirituality.

      Indians with a spiritual bent get along well with Americans with a spiritual bent.

      Another area of convergence is technology.

      Another area of convergence is business.

      I think Indian Americans are quite integrated into America.

    2. Not sure I understand how the article leads one to believe IAs are any less integrated into American society. IAs are quite well represented in the arts, politics etc. in the US and visible in American media. As about Brit-Indians being more prominent in the British sport scene it may due to the lower levels of competition. 🙂

      1. IA are more of the children of 90s Liberalization so they are more of working class , work hard don’t play , keep your head down and work type of generation. So more culturally isolated. The British Indians are more upper class , IAS/IFS types , socialist Nehruivian, old money type of generation, i feel. Before 47 too they were part of the elite so its no surprise that their social standing helped them integrate better in Britain

        1. With the exception of the east African diaspora, the bulk of British Indians seem quite working class. I suppose another exception would be the large expat finance sector set in London (much more recent), though I’m not sure how deep they’ll settle into Britain in the long run. The IA community is a true nerd diaspora, along with those civil servant families that ensured their children became doctors in the 60’s and 70’s. The latter’s children went to top universities and are the thirtysomething/forty something overachievers we see in the media now.

        2. Quite untrue. Indian Americans form the most highly educated and highest median income group across all ethnic identities in the US. Not sure where you get these fact-free generalizations from.

        3. Literally none of what Vikram wrote above is true., and I know that Indians are active participants and encourage them to participate even more.

          The U.S. (and Canada) is much more open, politically and economically, to Indian diaspora. It takes just a small effort for Indians to participate in PTA, school board, city council, county council and state assemblies. The effort to participate is negligible and gives an easy entry to take part in politics, you will be surprised how many electoral offices there are. Indian do, either from “Nehruvian 70s and 80s” or post-reform 90s and 2000s. There are so many people participating in local, state and congress issues. My wife and me have been in PTA, school board, board of elections, and so on. It is even easier if you go republican in democrat heavy states and viceversa. The negative point is the time and effort, but it opens up a lot of doors; my children were senate interns and so on.On the reverse side, politicians are fairly open to attending Indian events, fundraisers because they are quite aware of fundraising prowess. Depending on the level of access, it is possible to go all the way to congressional committee witness levels.

          The second outcome is access to hedge fund and private fund access. Because private money flows easily into political fundraising, it provides access to people who are in hedge funds and other private funding groups. That is an easier way to raise capital for business, rather than banks.

          However, some issues are intractable, including GC waiting times and H4 job participation, and it is dominated by immigration hardliners today.

          In contrast, my limited exposure to Britain indicates that people in UK are more traditional, and harder for Indians to move up in politics and capital raising, contrary to the experience of Zack. In particular, for south Indians, raising capital in US is easier even than in Bombay.

        4. Saurav we disagree. Indian Americans are very much part of the American elite. Indian Americans are even penetrating Hollywood.

          Of course there are H1B Indians who don’t care about interacting with the broader society as is their right. But it is not like politicians do not know about them. The politicians visit them at the local temples and spiritual centers (where 99% of the coversation is not in English), get garlended etc. This is enough integration for them.

          The Indian American community is very diverse. It is also by far the richest community in the US, richer than Jews.

      2. “about Brit-Indians being more prominent in the British sport scene it may due to the lower levels of competition.”

        Plus Indians love Cricket and soccer (football).

    3. India is extremely complex. American media coverage reveals to me that very few Western journalists “get” India. I still remember a nytimes article referring to Hema Malini as a Muslim politician from Mathura. While that might technically be true (did she convert to legally be Dharam’s 2nd wife?), she is a very religious and practicing Hindu! In fact, people look the other way, and don’t bring this up at all. The nytimes simply would not comprehend this sort of a thing that happens routinely in India.

      British media gets India much more effortlessly.

      By the way, R.K. Narayan wrote a very interesting essay when he visited America as a visiting lecturer. He had advice for Indians here to assimilate more. He noticed they would drive two hours every weekend to meet another Indian family, but have no clue who their next door neighbors were.

      1. Yes, the coverage does seem quite sloppy. Even in this snippet, real estate is by no means the biggest business of the Piramals. Their largest business is healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Not sure how they miss basic stuff like this.

        But regarding IA behaviour, I concur fully. Indians in the city I live in (mostly tech/management people) have built an entire community full of Indians in the suburbs. They only socialize with other Indians in a never ending sequence of ‘potlucks’ and are doing college and 20s stuff well into their 30s.

        1. I have an idea why Vikram feels so; the GC queue has slowed down so much that few people have the GC or citizenship. The entry of Indians into political issues typically follow local issues such as school district issues, local construction, school building etc, after GC or citizenship. The US politics is heavy on city and county politics level, federal politics are a last resort. Most people participate in the county and city level, but the US-born generation are active participants in federal level. The democratic machine gives Indians a lot of access; same with hedge funds.

          It is wrong to generalize based on a small set of an Indian lingual community; however, I agree that Telugus ( i can no longer call them Andhraites) have made this a telugu-only community; but their children will quickly participate in business and politics.

          No Indian in US cares about NYT coverage of India; we used to be prickly about US media coverage in 80s, but we have made peace with the coverage; if not we can buy the coverage.

          1. I dont think this has anything to do with GCs, although Indians here fret about that incessantly. I think it has to do with an imbalance in financial vs social/cultural capital. IA are just too small in number to be a cultural force, despite their individual achievements. They just dont have a real say and the kind of status they had at home, where the upper caste Hindu is the centre of attention.

            Fundamentally, they dont like being a minority,
            “An upper caste Hindu and fiery right-wing acquaintance of mine had a job, which a lot of Americans would have been grateful for and lived in one of the most diverse cities in the country and yet, couldn’t settle down here. I observed a change in him when he came to the US. He was suddenly reading and discussing articles about marginalised minorities. It seemed to me that he was trying to understand how an under-siege minority’s struggle to belong somewhere has its roots in being outsiders in their own countries. Last year he decided he had enough of America, left his job and moved back to India. There were a lot of reasons for his decision. But, I believe one that he didn’t accept, one that was so clear to me was that he, for the first time in his life, had found himself to be part of a marginalised minority.”


          2. I read samira khan and think she misreads both India and America.

            No countries celebrate diversity and embody diversity more.

            Only in India, America (and perhaps Canada and a few other countries) can a Shiite, Sufi, Ahmadi, or minority or liberal Muslim safely and openly practice their faith with the full throated support of the state. In Europe by contrast, they are in constant fear of the charge of Islamophobia for the crime of not being a conservative Sunni muslim.

            Only in India, America, Canada and maybe a smattering of other places can Muslims openly ask questions about their faith without fear of retaliation.

            Only in India and America and maybe Canada is there something approaching freedom of thought.

            In my life I have almost never observed discrimination in the US or India against anyone. Almost all allegations of discrimination are the result of over sensitivity.

            If Samira khan would rather live in a country with less freedom of thought, good luck with that.

            It is not for nothing that so many muslim officers in the Indian Army and Indian imperial service chose to remain with India post partition.

            India’s sufi and Shiite centers are vibrant with energy and life.

            India’s Muslims participate in Hindu oriented multi faith centers in large numbers. Many with full face veils.

            Few Indian Muslims move to Muslim majority countries. Few American Muslims move to Muslim majority countries. This is for a reason.

        2. I am responding to Vikram’s later post on the inability of Indians to impact US culture, and the inability of upper class Indians to hold the same hallowed position that they held in India. These positions revolt me, especially the second.

          The “Hallowed” position that upper class Indians held in India was given to them by caste; this is true not only for Brahmins, but also Khamma Reddys, Patels, and a whole lot of other FCs. They did not achieve this via work or education, but Vikram says that they should expect the same in US. I, for one, am glad that the US does not provide the same position to the upper class Indians as they had in India., and treats them the same as, say, the Dalit Indians. This is one thing I would like to disappears even in India.

          The second this is culture. Why should the United States accept the culture or sports of Indians? I would rather that the children of the Indian diaspora choose the US culture. The sports and culture of India has an upper caste Patina, with much of the classical music and cricket appeal to a genteel sensibility of upper class Indians. The sooner the IPL, the copycat Bollywood disappear in India and get to the more grittier local culture the better. There is nothing in Indian culture, cricket and Bollywood for the great Tamil lower caste diaspora.

          1. Nice comment vijay.

            May India’s ancient hierarchies of competence, capacity and merit return.

            I would say upper class vs upper caste 😉

            Spirituality appeals to the great lower class Indian diaspora.

            It is a blessing that the tamilian lower class diaspora is free from Bollywood. Are they free from Hollywood and Tollywood too?

  5. There is a reason why Zack finds more “liberal” hindu upper caste Kashmiri supporting folks in Britan and will find almost none in IA community . Its the middle-upper middle class (white working class) in India which leans Hindutva whose diaspora populate the IA community. They vote democrat in USA and vote right wing in India. Contrast it to upper class “Nehruvian” arts folks (Pankaj Mishras, Anish Kapoor et all) who populate the British diaspora. There are no Hinduja or Mittals equivalent in IA community, so old money.

    Folks are conflating IA participation in politics, their economic standing with “cultural participation”. Again its a comparative thing. There is no music, sporting,cultural participation of IA community(with comparison to British Indian), apart from a bit in stand up comedy. Almost all tropes of IA culture is disproportionately on their “Indian” part of heritage and almost none of their american part. On the contrast the BI community have carved out a niche in their respective industry.

    1. “Its the middle-upper middle class (white working class) in India which leans Hindutva whose diaspora populate the IA community. They vote democrat in USA and vote right wing in India.”
      This is true. But they are not “working class”. Indian Americans are heavily over represented among the rich, the tops of various professions, academia, senior corporate executes, consulting, Wall Street (I Banks, Private Equity, Venture Capital), entrepreneurship, and in business associations.

      These also form an important part of America’s deep culture.

      Indians also form an important part of America’s Church going culture. Granted only a minority of Indians are Christians, but that minority plays a surprisingly large role in America’s Church culture relative to their tiny numbers.

      “Sporting” Touche! The bain of Indians. Why are Indians so bad at sports?

      On music, Bollywood is making increasing inroads into America.

      From a different angle, Indian spiritual and fused western Indian spiritual music is growing in popularity among caucasian new age and eastern oriented caucasian people. The number of caucasians drawn to eastern mysticism is growing rapidly.

      Saurav, I wonder if some of your perspective is regional. What American state or states does your perspective originate from if you don’t mind sharing?

    2. Yes, the IA cultural output is quite limited in my opinion. They seem obsessed with their status as a minority, and hyper sensitive to any perceived put down, all while making limited efforts to integrate culturally.

  6. “The bain of Indians. Why are Indians so bad at sports?”

    If it was not for the African origin athletes sponsored by oil-rich Middle Eastern states, India would have led the Asian Games athletics tables this year. And this is from a still poor country, with a large rural mass. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_2018_Asian_Games#Medal_table

    In field hockey, we rank in the top 5, only wealthy European countries are (narrowly) ahead. In football, we now regularly qualify for Asian Cups, our U-16 football team is amongst the top 8 in Asia, and narrowly missed being in the top 4 to the South Koreans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_AFC_U-16_Championship#Bracket

    In cricket, we rank 1 and dominate virtually every aspect of the sport. Batting (Kohli), bowling (Ashwin) and fielding (Jadeja), the best cricketer in every aspect of the game is Indian. Too bad we have a terrible captain.

    I think you are projecting the image of sedentary, ‘keep studying till white people give us a job’ Indians, a colonial construct that has been long discarded by most Indians.

    1. 1.37 billion Indians. Not including those overseas. Relative to population Indians suck at sports other than cricket.

      India is no longer poor or third world. Many, many Indians are rich, upper middle class or middle class.

      This is the country of bhishma, drona, karna, Arjuna, abhimanyu, bhima, balarama, krishna, jarasandha and many of the finest athletes the earth has ever produced.

      India needs to do better.

      1. There are 1.3 billion Indians, but 70% of them live in villages, and 50% in farming families. Browse through profiles of athletes across the world and check how many grew up in villages.

        And relative to population, India literally supports two major world sports, cricket and hockey, despite its poverty.

        Sport (along with science/technology and cinema) is associated with nation building in post-independent India.

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