Sunday, July 29, 2007

Indians and much-sought after achievements

You remember the Herbal Petrol incident long ago when an Indian village boy made petrol out of plants and leaves? He created a national sensation, gripped all Indians’ attention for over a week, was invited and honored by many leaders in India, by the CM, and I think, even by the President of India. I had just landed in US then and even I was enraptured by this news. I was too na├»ve then, just like all others.

This was a classic case of how India looks at itself – 'We don’t need your Western education, your Modern Sciences, we have our own Heritage, our own Vedas, our own homegrown alternatives which can bring about miracles, much bigger and surprising than those of yours'.

Every post-colonial country and every fascist country during 1920s has relooked at its own history to find gems of achievements. Some nations went onto rewrite them to glorify themselves in their past. India is now going through that phase. We want to see great achievements, and bereft of any in the contemporary history, we try to look for such gems in the past. And if we don’t find any, we will invent those gems by changing our histories. And if our texts are befuddled and written in conundrums, we will unsolve them to declare them to be miracles. While we continue to rewrite our histories, we keep looking for much sought-after achievements in the present.

In near future, we might see news items like these-

‘Indian Ayurvedic finds cure to AIDS disease’, ‘Indian village boy creates Apple IPhone alternative’, etc.

Not limiting themselves to Indian villages, the Indian media is now looking for such gems from Indian Diaspora. Everyday news at Times of India or The Hindu keep writing about some NRI who has done something great, when in fact they are quite ordinary feats in those countries. Recently, it was Sunita Williams. The fact that she almost never visited India, and knew nothing much about India, did not deter Indians from embracing her with full arms. More than one week of Indian news media covered photographs of her and also some young Indians doing pujas, praying, and beseeching god to keep Sunita safe from all evils that may touch her when she goes out into space.

Since we don’t seem to generate such people within India, our media want to wallow and bask in the glory of NRI Indians. Now, if you have been an Indian and have lived in US, you will know that there are many Indians doing lot of stuff, ordinary stuff, just like everyone else there.

Here are two news items from same day newspaper – July 26, 2007.

Story One: Indian brain powers Nasa's mission

It will once again be a story of an Indian brain powering an important Nasa flight… it will be a cause for celebration in Gujarat again. The reason: one of the engineers who is playing a key role in this programme is Gujarat-born 40-year-old… Indian-American astronaut, Sunita Williams, is also from Gujarat.

So, what we have is a 40-year old programmer coding his software at NASA and he happens to be from Gujarat, same state where Sunita Williams hails from. That connection is enough for this writer to consider this a newsworthy item!

There are thousands of Indians writing software everyday working with fascinating stuff, starting from Ferrari cars, to Apple Phones, to world’s biggest turbine engines, to NASA flights. These programmers happen to be doing just their job. To describe those ordinary jobs as remarkable feats underscores something very dangerous- either we don’t have any other achievements to write about; OR that our standards are so low that we are ready to take pride in smallest of our achievements.

Story Two: NRI making chips for US space flights

Though the title says that an NRI is making chips for US space flights, the new article writes:

…an Indian American researcher on embedded computers said to be the “brain” behind many everyday mechanisms, is now developing embedded software code generation for space missions.

Embedded software is NOT same as chipmaking. Where is the connection to the chips that the title is talking about? Here it comes:

He is also interested in nano-scale chips… (He) is attempting to create novel tools and techniques to help solve these problems.

I guess, having thought about it is good enough to make it newsworthy. Not writing about actual achievements is quite OK for news items these days.

Story Three: Indian engineer powers the cellular networks worldwide

…An Indian engineer writes software into cellular networks that make your everyday mobile phone work.

Well, I made this one up. If I had lived little longer in US, this is what TOI would have written about me, when in fact I am just one of hundreds of engineers who do the same; when in fact all I do is my part of writing software which is just one chunk of the big thing.

4 comments:

  1. I hope it doesn't come to this -

    "Indians resolve credit card billing issues of Americans".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Sujay. Finally, someone is talking about this fallacious "Indian Brains" syndrome. I feel the same way. Actually, if you compare some of the news from the western media and Indian media on the same content, you'd see a stark difference. For the western media, it is a just an achievement of human race, but for the Indian media, it is the brain and ancient Indian wisdom.

    Oh, well, what can you expect from the people, who are still celebrating that we invented zero. No wonder, TOI is one of the largest selling English dailies in India.

    TOI-web version is even worse, they specially design the content on TOI-US-web version to satisfy pat-on-our-back-we're-so-great need of Indians.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Comment by Rastogi:
    False Claims by Indians: -->
    38% of NASA scientists are Indians.
    13% of workers in Xerox(Silicon Valley company) are Indians.
    26% of workers in IBM are Indians.
    40% of workers in Microsoft are Indians.
    There are hundreds of such STUPID CLAIMS by Indians. I am not saying Indians are stupid. I am just saying that Indians have the habit of celebrating before the Battle begins.
    I laughed for a full 5 minute on reading this: "Indian Village boy invents Apple iPhone alternative"
    There are many Indians (I encountered one of them today @school) who think that Indians are the minds behind Silicon Valley. At another instance, my teacher (from IIT) asked me rhetorically "Achcha Batao zara ki Silicon Valley ko Kaun Chalata hai?""Indians chalate hain yaar!".
    In my mind I said "Just another proud stupid Indian!"
    At another instances, I hear people claiming that most students in MIT are Indians. I ask such people to do some research please. Only around 15 undergraduates get through MIT each year.
    Before reading this blog, I felt that I was alone in my opinions:- Atheist since age 9, etc. But now I feel as if Sujai has given me company. Hats off to your blog. Greatly written. I have never come across a blog better than this one. I would like you to read another blog on this topic: -
    www . escapefromindia . wordpress . com (i Dont write this blog)
    And if this wasn't enough, Lucknow Times magazine once pointed out this "Indian Brain" phenomenon and "Shining Indians" saying that one day, the President Of the United States of America will be an Indian guy. (I said in my mind: Fu*k the Indian media).
    (Apologize for Profanity)
    Indians should celebrate real achievements, which though small in number, are worth celebrating.
    Like, an Indian dude at VirginiaTech made a supercomputer, the third fastest and cheapest in the world, (around $5 million). The top supercomputer was around $400 million price tag.
    Indians are very narrow minded people. And I am just one of such Indians who shares this racial stereotype.
    And, by the way Sujai, have you ever heard about an email hoax which says that Indians have some very precious diamonds in Swiss Banks, greater than USA's GDP. The same hoax also claims the INDIAN GENIUS saying that some Indian Village boy has made an Operating System which is better and Faster and Safer than Windows XP ???
    First thing which the stupid Indians don't understand: How can one duffer create an Operating System? You need a hell lot of Graphic designers, Programmers, Debuggers, Testers, and great infrastructure for that. And who told that village boy and the GREAT INDIAN MEDIA that Windows XP is very safe and fast? Poor deluded innocent Indians.
    At yet another instance, I heard some boy from Lucknow suburban area claiming that he has made a very nice software which can't be hacked by the U.S. Dep. Of Defense. And the newspaper also said that he hadn't seen a fuc*king computer ever in his lifetime. Is that possible?????

    Ankit Fadia, you might have heard of him, is yet another an Indian Hoax. Google "Ankit fadia fake" you'll get millions of results.

    Sometimes these Indians get on my nerves, because not only do they show "Shining Indians" but side by side, also Belittle their American and British counterparts.

    LASTLY, I have a question for Sujai:---> When I bring about the flaws in Indian-media, people grab me and ask questions like this: "OK, if Indians are stupid, then how come an Indian 5th grade student is better In MATH and SCIENCE than an American 10th grade student?" I become dumb, and lose the Debate.
    So, Sujai, what answer and in what manner should I give to such questions, because I have deal with them almost everytime I bring this topic of Media-propagated-myth-of-shining-indians ???
    Please answer or mail me at
    t_e_c_h_g_u_r_u_9_4_@_g_m_a_i_l.com
    (remove underscores).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Comment by Rastogi:
    False Claims by Indians: --->
    38% of NASA scientists are Indians.
    13% of workers in Xerox(Silicon Valley company) are Indians.
    26% of workers in IBM are Indians.
    40% of workers in Microsoft are Indians.
    There are hundreds of such STUPID CLAIMS by Indians. I am not saying Indians are stupid. I am just saying that Indians have the habit of celebrating before the Battle begins.
    There are many Indians (I encountered one of them today @school) who think that Indians are the minds behind Silicon Valley. At another instance, my teacher (from IIT) asked me rhetorically "Achcha Batao zara ki Silicon Valley ko Kaun Chalata hai?""Indians chalate hain yaar!".
    In my mind I said "Just another proud stupid Indian!"
    I would like you to read another blog on this topic: -
    www . escapefromindia . wordpress . com (i Dont write this blog)
    And if this wasn't enough, Lucknow Times magazine once pointed out this "Indian Brain" phenomenon and "Shining Indians" saying that one day, the President Of the United States of America will be an Indian guy. (I said in my mind: Fu*k the Indian media).
    Indians should celebrate real achievements, which though small in number, are worth celebrating.
    Like, an Indian dude at VirginiaTech made a supercomputer, the third fastest and cheapest in the world, (around $5 million). The top supercomputer was around $400 million price tag.
    Indians are very narrow minded people. And I am just one of such Indians who shares this racial stereotype.
    And, by the way Sujai, have you ever heard about an email hoax which says that Indians have some very precious diamonds in Swiss Banks, greater than USA's GDP. The same hoax also claims the INDIAN GENIUS saying that some Indian Village boy has made an Operating System which is better and Faster and Safer than Windows XP ???
    First thing which the stupid Indians don't understand: How can one duffer create an Operating System? You need a hell lot of Graphic designers, Programmers, Debuggers, Testers, and great infrastructure for that. And who told that village boy and the GREAT INDIAN MEDIA that Windows XP is very safe and fast? Poor deluded innocent Indians.

    At yet another instance, I heard some boy from Lucknow suburban area claiming that he has made a very nice software which can't be hacked by the U.S. Dep. Of Defense. And the newspaper also said that he hadn't seen a fuc*king computer ever in his lifetime. Is that possible?????
    Sometimes these Indians get on my nerves, because not only do they show "Shining Indians" but side by side, also Belittle their American and British counterparts.
    LASTLY, I have a question for Sujai:---> When I bring about the flaws in Indian-media, people grab me and ask questions like this: "OK, if Indians are stupid, then how come an Indian 5th grade student is better In MATH and SCIENCE than an American 10th grade student?" I become dumb, and lose the Debate.
    So, Sujai, what answer and in what manner should I give to such questions, because I have deal with them almost everytime I bring this topic of Media-propagated-myth-of-shining-indians ???
    Please answer or mail me at
    t_e_c_h_g_u_r_u_9_4_@_g_m_a_i_l_._c_o_m
    (remove all underscores).

    ReplyDelete

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