Sunday, January 11, 2015

What a Shame

Decades after we outgrew what used to be an annual begging bowl exercise to extricate foreign aid from developed donors, India this week returned to the Begging Bowl syndrome;  this time with prospective NRI donors during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas extravaganza.
Chief minister after chief minister, central ministers and bigwigs of India Inc. presented the NRIs with a smorgasbord of investment options of every variety.  They cheerfully ran down each other to get ahead of the pack, extolling their own backyards, conveniently forgetting the sorry record of both state and private enterprises.
Nary a word uttered on what the NRIs might want or need, any problems they might be facing in their own homelands with their respective administrations.  Don’t we all know how little India does for its citizens abroad; what of Persons of Indian Origin scattered around the world?
Do those persons actually consider themselves Indians first, after generations in far-flung posts?  Or Guyanians or Fijians or whatever?  The speaker sonly focused on their chequebooks:  exhorting them to shell out big bucks for India.  Not a word on what they’d get out of it.

Methinks the emphasis on the Kennedyesque “Think of what you can do for your country” was pretty farfetched!

The Invisible Indians

Just over two weeks in Singapore, reading their major mainstream newspaper Straits Times every single day left me with a sorry conclusion:
Indian Singaporeans and migrants are the invisibles of Singapore.   Reading the thirty odd pages of the newspaper leaves the impression that despite their longevity in that island, persons of Indian descent have not made any noteworthy contribution to the nation state, economically, politically, socially, culturally, in the arena of sports, arts, whatever…….
Despite the wholehearted embrace of the system by younger generations, be it medicine, banking, teaching, industry, retail, special needs, real estate, education, the media and events …. You name it and the young people are doing it.
There is little news of India in newspapers dominated by immediate neighbors, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam etc.  India only shows up with rape reports and bad news.  When I spoke of some developmeents, my young grandnieces and nephew responded  “In India?  How can that be?”
Brain drain to Singapore, a recent phenomena is already unpopular with the host country. Locals resent them for taking away their jobs and their uncouth behavior.
But the Indian descent Singaporeans, Tamils, Sindhis, Sardars and a sprinkling of others have been in the island state for over a hundred and fifty years, if not more!! They are part and parcel of the elastic fabric of the island with its mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese whose numbers are multiplying rapidly.

There was a time when Hindi films and music were the stuff of soft diplomacy – popular across the entire South East Asia.  Growing up in Indonesia, I remember rickshawallahs pointing to young girls, asking “India?   Sujata hum ko tumse mohabat hai”

That was then.  Now the saas-bahu serials of our TV channels dominate the drawing rooms of Indian households religiously.  That is all.  Not across the social board as it was earlier.  Has our soft diplomacy failed already?  At a time when we are boasting of having recently made inroads in  our entire neighborhood with the change in administration?