Hindustan Leavers – Steined!

Mr. Joel Stein is American. Mr. Joel Stein is a writer. Mr. Joel Stein writes in CNN-TIME. Mr. Joel Stein wrote an article on how his childhood town (Edison, NJ) has been ‘invaded’ by Indians and has become unrecognizeable from how it was when he grew up there. TIME published the article and all holy hell broke loose.

I suggest you read the article first, if you haven’t already. Here.

American-Indians from all over America cried “Racism” in a voice that would drown out a thousand Vuvuzelas (last Vuvuzela joke, I promise). Everyone was violently outraged, but did not how to blow it off. So interrnet forum wars broke out, HTML battlecries erupted, smoke blew through port :80, protests overheated servers. When the dust settled, the Internet was littered with fuming comments and canceled TIME subscriptions.

I read the article top to bottom, right to left, corner to corner. Dissected it, read between the lines, poked under the letters, viewed the source code and inspected it for hidden weapons of mass distruction to see what the hoopla was all about. Well, true to say, as a non-American-Indian (you know, the kind of Indian who lives in India) I did not find the article offensive. Sorry. No, really. So here I present my findings.

1. The entire article is not by itself ‘racist’ or ‘offensive’, but some passages, well, are.

2. Mr. Stein is seriously pissed off at his home town changing colors. I would be, too.

3. Mr. Stein wanted to express his outrage which he is definitely entitled to. TIME should have known better to publish this. The reason being Indians usually dont appreciate humor.

4. Unfortunately, the ‘core’ of what he is trying to say is absolutely right. Yes, he is. The vocabulary could have been different though.

Now wait before going all Chuck Norris on me. I know and understand that sensibilities in the ‘Indian’ part  of ‘American-Indians’ have been offended. But as far as I am concerned, not so. I found it rather amusing and eye opening for the major part. Reasons:

1. Dont get offended by reality – He did not lie about anything in that article.

2. He has every right to get offended as much as you do.

3. I do not consider culture and roots something that can be taken away from you if someone writes an article.

4. I did not get emotional and all about this. I have learnt not to take stuff literally.

Now getting to the article:

For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses. Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not-as-brilliant merchants brought their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor.

Breaking News! India IS “so damn poor!” You can gloat all you want about Bangalore’s BPO rich kids or Gurgaon malls or Kerala’s HDI or Mumbai’s night clubs, but there is an India there everyone wants to forget, the one you will not see when talking about 9% economic growth. Where kids die of hunger hardly 100 km out of Noida. Check these stats. They are UN’s, not mine. As I said, dont be offended by reality.

And no, ranting on about how India was rich 500 years ago and then the British looted us, will not cut it. Doing so is akin to being proud of Sub-Saharan Africa’s present state because humans originated there. The British looted us becuase we let them. And some of us even helped them do it. History, do you read it??

Oh, and Indians really are stupid. A vast majority of them. And unfortunately most are stuck here in India. We dont have any civic sense, our egos are bigger than our asses, we are rude and indisciplined, we do not care a rodent’s posterior about others or our laws and still we believe that we are the best thing to happen to the world since sliced bread.

I question just how good our schools were if “dot heads” was the best racist insult we could come up with for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose.

Not cool, Mr.Stein. As said before, this is that passage which could be deemed offensive, or rather insulting. A people should not be racially profiled on ther basis of the Gods they worship and they do not like to be called names based on their religious activities. Period. Remember, a large chunk of problems the world faces is because people call each other names based on religion.

My town is totally unfamiliar to me. The Pizza Hut where…. …..entire generation of white children in Edison who have nowhere to learn crime.

But sometime after I left, the town became a maze of charmless Indian strip malls and housing developments.

As far as most of the remaining part of the article is concerned, I would consider it the rants of nostalgia of a man missing the place he grew up. Case in point: All those people who grew up in Bangalore lament on how the city has lost its “Bougainvillea and Gul Mohar charm” and has become an ugly mess of concrete monstrosities and traffic jams because of the ‘outsiders’ who have invaded the city. Are all these people Joel Steins? No? Why? Is it fine when we say it but not others? And dont get me started with all the communalist and divisive politics some many regional outfits play in India.

To all those ‘Desis’ who vehemently criticize Mr. Stein for what he should not be criticized, please remember the thing about Rome and the Romans. First decide how much of you should be ‘Indian’ and how much should be ‘American’. If you say you are American, act like one. They still see Indian-Americans as Indians becuase we cling too much to Indian-ness, just like Italian-Americans, I think. The best thing that could be done is try and assimilate as much as possible and stop being ABCDs. Anyways when the 3rd generation comes around, you are mostly bound to lose all that is left of your ‘Indianness’. And many Indians in India supported Stein.

Americans are no harp wielding angels. But they did not come to you, you went to them. Its their country. All expatriates leave India in search of better pastures, mainly because said countries provide better quality of life, better security, better education, better infrastructure and overall better most things. You could have stayed here. You went in search. They were originally there. So if residents of said country critize saying “They have come in and have taken our place”, they are totally entitled to it. Deal with it.

P.S. Stein should not have apologized for speaking out his mind. Whatever happened to the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Oh, almost forgot. I hate Samosas.

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  • Riddhi

    Good one! Agree with your views.

  • Agnis

    You obviously do not understand why Indian-Americans are offended and probably should not try to write about things you don’t understand without doing more research. The whole point (besides the offensive things you already comment on) is neither you nor Joel Stein get to decide what is American, because being “American” is not as simple as being white — and as a Jewish man, he should have maybe been more sensitive to minority-related issues. Of course he has the right to say what he wants, but if it is bigoted and offensive, he has to deal with the criticism, as do the editors of Time who chose to go ahead with this piece.

  • First time to this blog, and i love this post.

    I too read the Joel Stein piece, felt a little amused, and sent the link to a few of my friends. “Check this out. Amusing Rant”. I thought i’ll write about it on the blog, but then saw it all over the place and gave up. But that was that. I didn’t get out of the office and burn a dozen DTC buses.

    Anyway, on your point. We Indians have this amazing sense of entitlement, in addition to hypocrisy. We go to Australia and make every crime against any Indian into a race offense. Anyone says that India is bad, and we take out our bow and arrows. And don’t even say that we are not intelligent!

    We complain about Biharis spoiling Maharashtra, but then we go and behave like cheap idiots. Isn’t it the same thing?

    The article may be a little cheeky, but not necessarily as racially offensive as the reactions to it make it out to be. As immigrants in somebody else’s country we do need to realize that it is us who are infringing on someone else’s space. If you don’t assimilate, you stand out.

    I guess some parts had historically negative annotations such as the dot busters thing. That could have been avoided.

    I think i am ranting now. Time to submit the comment!

    • @Riddhi: Thanks a lot for the first comment! :)
      @Agnis: Thank you for commenting. Yes, I am just Indian and not Indian-American. So you might have a point there. I was not trying to decide on what “Ameican” is. All I wanted to say is that Indians who emigrate to America should not try be two things at the same time. Also, I repeat, most things he said are true, even if it might be offensive to some.
      @Amreekan Desi: Thanks a lot! You exactly mirror my thoughts! And the bit on entitlement – bang on. Was searching for that word :) Yes, and as everyone knows, we get outraged at everything!

  • Abhay

    The thing i liked the most was the heading of article…very apt.

    • Thank You! Got to it after a lot of thinking :)

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