Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Headline o' the week

Courtesy Indian Express, October 31, 2006: "Americans, Americans: Why Do They Do Things So Differently?"

And, for your pleasure, if you click "read more," you can read my version of the story -- in which I have merely substituted references to America with references to India and its people, and which I call, "Indians, Indians: Why Do They Do Things So Differently?" (Tongue, of course, firmly planted in cheek.)Do you think The New York Times would consider running this on their editorial page?

Europeans call them crazy. But are Indians really crazy or do they just do their own thing?

I have always been intrigued by their use of the word "prepone." When the world refers to plans that have been fast tracked, they say "the date has been moved forward," but Indians say prepone -- even if the prefix has just been added to an coantiquated term for a type of bread!

Even if India's teas were introduced to the world by exploitative colonizers, India's beverage of choice is still chai. And how. A paper cup of milky, syrupy sweet tea filled every two hours or so. Ditto with the samosas. A couple of friends may go through several dozen of these deep-fried wonders in about an hour. I've often wondered if there's such a thing as Indian food -- apart, of course, from tandoori, Chinjabi, dal, and roti.

Talking of khana reminds me of a time when I was visiting a small Indian company. We'd been working nonstop since morning and I was beginning to feel hungry. Finally, at 2:30, I asked we could grab a bite. "Oh, I'm sorry," responded my host, "I usually don't eat until later in the afternoon. And then I just see what's in the canteen." So we walked to the cafeteria; there was enough to feed an army, but I was with someone who "just wanted to see." I got myself a liter of water and some salad, with a small bowl of dal and some boiled rice, but there were Indian and Continental choices aplenty, which my host proceeded to heap in large portions and leisurely consume, before going back for seconds -- and having four or five jalebis. And this guy just wanted to check out the scene!

The Indian economy has traditionally been a disaster. They don't bat an eyelid when government officials embezzle crores of rupees , yet they complain when their company deducts 500 rupees from their monthly take to cover the free lunches and dinners provided at the workplace. Every Indian carries a few hundred spare rupees to bribe traffic police if they're pulled over for running a red light -- who cares if these are the same people who are outraged when Transparency International publishes reports that cites corruption in the country as endemic. Is this all a grand Indian scheme to drive the rest of the world crazy?

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