INDIANS AND AMERICANS – A NEW TWIST !
I was invited to address MBA students at a local B School in Maryland. I was told that students were a fun loving lot but would not mind if I interjected some serious stuff since I was a guest of their Laughter Club.
I agreed to speak on Indians, Americans –a new Dimension. I began by saying that I liked the way Americans rely on measurable parameters wherever required rather than talk in thin air. Thus if you were looking to buy a house in a safe locality you visited the Crime website where you could get comparative data about various types of crime in the various localities that you had short listed.
Thus if you didn’t mind being mugged but were scared to death about being murdered then locality X may just be what you would settle for. On the other hand if you hated the smell of garam masala then you avoided locality Y that had a high population of South Asians! I admitted that this was a fine reliable way of taking decisions of all sorts but I added that this method had limitations.
‘But what can be better than this?” asked a young Quanty type. You see there are many situations that require non – quantitative considerations. Thus one of the serious lapses in American banking is the over reliance on ‘quanty’ parameters in assessing if a guy was creditworthy.
In India a banker judged a loan applicant on many non-quantifiable parameters including if he looked shady, his body language, his family background etc. Indian banking has proved to be more robust than your Wall Street whiz kids’ I said, to applause from the Indian students in the audience.
However, I added, conscious of my agreement to be humorous that Americans tend to carry quanty techniques too far and even to levels that I considered ‘perverted’.
‘Let me give you an example. I saw an advertisement on CNN of an online dating site that said that this site matches you with several people of the opposite sex on 38 parameters. This the ad claimed would guarantee total compatibility leading to a successful marriage. In the background one saw several happily married couples dancing cheek by jowl to the accompaniment of romantic music that would do a Bollywood music director proud.
By coincidence the next ad was of a used car dealer. This dealer said that he guaranteed that you got a fine deal because the cars on sale had been examined by experts on – Hold your breath — 138 parameters! Now my conclusion was that Americans choose their used cars with greater care than they choose their spouses on a scale of 138 to 38 !’
There was stunned silence as the import of what I said sunk in. Then a lone American said ‘You Indians are brilliant indeed’. Not to be carried away I said that I would devote some time to applying quanty techniques to Indian behavior.
‘A guy’s attitude towards another ‘senior’ or more ‘powerful’ person can be mathematically and precisely measured contrary to what any psychologist might say. The way to measure this attitude is to ask the guy to go before the person and watch the angle between the guy’s kneecap and his head ignoring the paunch if any.
Thus at one end the guy may lie prostrate indicating zero degrees which implies total surrender. This is called Shastanga Pranam in Sanskrit. It means the guy has totally surrendered his individuality and in English may be called a voluntary slave. This kind of relationship is sometimes found in master/servant, neta/babu, leader/follower, boss/colleague, Gandhi Dynasty/Congressman, Hindu Guru/devotee relationships.
At the other extreme is the 270* bend when the guy bends backwards almost twisting his spinal column. This shows that the guy is in extreme need of favours from the other person. This is encouraged by many Indian leaders and often leads the supplicant to high and lucrative jobs The intermediary position of 180* is where the guy stands erect This connotes in India arrogance, lack of respect and accusations of having become Americanised. This posture is what is common in the US but is looked at with disdain in India’.
The audience took time to digest this and wanted some examples. The recent fracas about a movie being planned about the Nehru – Edwina suspected affair is an example in which some self appointed censors mentally standing at zero degrees towards the Gandhi dynasty have shot down the proposal ab initio. The Indian attitude towards its heroes is one of zero degrees that means that the Indian is so reverential towards iconic figures that he or she will not countenance any suggestion that these icons had kids the normal way. !Had Mahatma Gandhi not written about his experiments we would have to be content with the assumption that he had sired kids by admittedly nonviolent but by asexual means!
I believe Indians are unable to make clear distinctions between admiration, and veneration. Thus while Americans may admire a film star or a statesman, Indians will carry their admiration to extremes and elevate them to deities and often erect statues. In some cases the neta erects statues to himself or herself in a display of zero degree supplication to oneself!
As for the 270 * bend I can cite two examples. The fracas over the movie DA VINCI CODE was caused less by emotionally affected Christians but by a Union Minister who, in his 270* posture decided that Sonia Gandhi might be offended by the contents of this movie to which the Pope had no objection! 270* often indicates a holier than the Pope attitude.
As the class broke into laughter I got down from the dais and walked towards the students. The Indians students did something startling and embarrassing. Some did shastanga pranam. Some bent at 90 * in ‘respect’ some were at 270 * wanting some intros from me to my CEO friends and one stood erect. Did I feel he had become Americanized?