adam osborne – the idea of (NRI) Indianness

This post continues from – adam osborne – the man…

There is no jingoism here. There is only a suggestion of a reasonable pride about relevant parts in our history, our collective pasts and the present. Of course, there are certain parts that we need to introspect on too!

There is no suggestion of an empty glorification of the past. Just a few pertinent and plain questions – to make us think.

I have personally met quite a few of our NRIs (non resident Indians) and RNIs (resident non Indians) – and I am sure, you have too – who have these kinds of attitudes – observed so ably by Adam.

” A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants. “

— Macaulay.

How long do we hold on to the coat tails of the likes of Thomas Babington Macaulay? May be, we shall overcome, in spite of all the corruption and unrest and – am ashamed to admit to it  – in spite of my fellow Tamilians such as Raja and Karunanidhi. May be this too shall pass?

Here goes, the text of Adam’s April 1991 dataquest aricle:

I was raised in Tamil Nadu in South India, in the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharishi, of an English father and a Polish mother. Both were dedicated followers of Sri Ramana Maharishi. Therefore as a child growing up in the small town of Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu. I was fluent in Tamil and was surrounded by Indians who were proud of their nationality and heritage, and believed they had a lot to teach us Europeans.

I still speak enough Tamil to get by, and feel that my roots are indeed in India. I must be only professed “vellackaaren” Tamilian in America. After all, how could anyone, even an English boy, grown up in Tiruvannamalai, in the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharishi, and not acquire a pride in his roots? It is therefore with some misgivings that today I find myself dealing with Indians, many of whom do not feel proud of their Indianness.

Indian Americans represent the most affluent minority in America, ahead of Jewish Americans and Japanese americans. This is a statistic and not an opinion. Indians swarm all over the Silicon valley, where they are an integral part of most product development teams: be they teams developing new semiconductor chips, software packages or computers. Indians are recognized throughout America as technically superior. No Indian in America has to explain his educational background, or apologize for his technical training.

And yet, as a group, though Indian Americans are quick to acknowledge their caste, religion or family, they lack national pride. Indians are not proud of their nationality as Indians, something I realized many years ago. Something that puzzled me Recently, talking before Indian audiences on the lecture circuit, I have frequently talked to Indians of their lack of national pride, with telling results. Invariably, after making this assertion from the lecture podium, I find myself surrounded by Indians: Engineers, Scientists, doctors, even lawyers, all asserting the correctness of my observations,”You are correct,” they will assert. “I am not proud that I am an Indian.”

Is the reasons India’s colonial heritage? Who knows? But whatever the reason, it is a pity since the day Indians learn pride, India will rapidly move out of its third world status to become one of the world’s industrial powers. Today I work with an Indian American, trying to help him make his dream come true. And in the process, make my own dream come true, since I have hitched my dream to his. Then, with my dream realized, I will return to India, to preach Indian pride: not pride in being a Hindu, or practising Islam or being a Parsee, or a Sikh: not pride in being a Tamilian, or a telugu, or a punjabi, or a marwari; not pride in being a Brahmin rather than a lesser caste. These are all divisive differences that India would be better off without. But I will preach that Indians must learn to be proud of being Indians just as Singapore nationals are proud of their nationality, irrespective of their race or their religion. Then there will be no more shoddy Indian products, since every worker will generate output with the stamp of a proud man on it. With self-evident quality that screams out:”That is the work of an Indian!”

And corruption will decline. For, although bribes are solicited by greedy, dishonest men, as well as by men who do not earn enough to feed themselves and their families, and even though these root causes of corruption transcend the bases of lack of Indian pride of which I speak, nevertheless a proud man will pause, more than a man without pride, before extending his hand to receive a bribe.

And a proud Indian will try harder to be responsible for products and services that others will praise. And it is in that praise that India’s future Industrial greatness lies.

– – Adam Osborne

At one level, Adam fills me with hope.

— END —

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