The mask on the face of India Inc.

This is the first time I am trying to create a legitimate post. First timers generally make a hash of things and I don’t know if I’m going to be any different. That’s one of the problems with us writers. We can never seem to distinguish between a book, an essay, a newspaper column, a blog or whatever. Does a writer need to develop a micro-style at a lower level to make sure that a post does what a post is supposed to do?

I derive some pseudo-comfort when I look around me. I am Indian. My friends from other disciplines are also similarly challenged. My IT friends don’t seem to think they need to consider anything except programming. My business friends only think of number targets. My artist friends are perhaps the only refreshing exceptions to the rule.

Driving to work this morning I found myself asking why India’s business community looked so much like any other country’s especially since the physical and cultural characteristics resemble no other. I wondered if it had to do with our having discarded our ethnicity along the way or whether we had consciously worn the mask of the western world for the sake of convenience and our need for acceptance.

The one thing that’s clear to me is that it is a mask we’re wearing. What scares me is that most Indians in India and elsewhere have come to accept that this mask is actually the face God gave them. And what’s worse from my point of view is that they actually like the face that stares back at them through the mirror every morning.

I am reminded of a conversation from years ago – that most of the valuable research on ancient Indian philosophies and languages was being churned out by western researchers in western universities.

See why?

If you look for power through owning everything money can buy, where do you have the time to look within? You are unthinkingly going to go after acquiring all those effects that make you ‘one of them’. I don’t mean this merely in a philosophical sense …

– oblivious to the richness of our own heritage we reflect the west through ..

.. our business attire. Every single visitor from overseas that I take around, marvels at the variety, craft and skill reflected in the everyday wear available on the sidewalks. They buy some of these, not as souvenirs to show off to their social networks back home, but for their exquisite and unique design. And for their use of natural material and comfortable drape. And our kids won’t buy anything that does not have a western label. Only our politicians wear ‘synthetic’ khadi more as a fashion statement to look good on television. Instead of dictating the fashion trends of the world, we choose to pay obnoxious sums of money for ill-fitting (pun intended) brands.

.. the entertainment we produce. The Indian film industry churns out a mind-boggling 1000-odd films in a year. The bulk of scripts espouse values that are completely foreign to the Indian ethos. Even TV entertainment that is watched by families sneak in adulterous characterizations, overtly depicting unacceptable social behaviour, and end up achieving quite the opposite effect on impressionable minds.

.. the language we speak. There is no one common language in India. No harm in knowing an additional language – English. But speaking in this foreign tongue as the only language your kids understand is going too far. Try understanding German culture in Hebrew!

.. the business practices we follow. India is different. I’ll say it again. India is different. And I’ll keep saying this till the cows come home or when the world accepts this, whichever happens earlier. We’re a nation that has influenced world thought for centuries. Our people are more tolerant, adaptive, respectful, receptive and sensitive than most westerners I have met. And less arrogant. Except of course those hybrids that have been blinded by the land of the setting sun. Proves exactly my point above about how pliable Indians are!!! Yes we are often hard-nosed in business but seldom rude in our interactions. Yet we believe that western practices should drive our business culture. Because if it works for them it should work for us. Because we have to brand ourselves as one of them. Because numbers are all we need to be able to measure business success.

Time to introspect?

One of the stories I remember having read as a kid is the fable of the musk deer – the deer who endlessly searches the forest for the wonderful source of an exquisite perfume she always smells, and never discovers that the wonderful source is herself.

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