Boast is the Secret of Our Energy
Today, I wake up to my all new iPhone 4s (yes, I’m an Apple fanboy, blame it on the US), use my all-in-one electric shaver ($25 – “Black Friday Deal!”) and then sit at my work-desk in a Bangalore-based startup with my Micr##@ft wireless keyboard and mouse ($20 – “Another Deal!!”); unconsciously standing out from the crowd in my Green Lantern t-shirt (à la Sheldon Cooper, the great American superhero) and jeans (sagging below the waist, not as a style statement, but an aftermath of excess provolone and swiss and the tiny amounts of rice we Non-North-Indians eat).
At home, my roommate is quite amazed to see all the shiny matte-finished kitchenware from Bed-Bath and Home-Depot. As I have obviously forgotten how to cook, we have a bawarchi who uses most of the items now, without the slightest knowledge of their exorbitant cost. Among other things, there is also the iPhone dock, camera, Bose headphones, MacBook etc. from previous thanksgivings. Of course, I did sell off my GPS and the Honda Accord that came along with it. Being a US-return, undeniably I come with a formal training on: “Six steps to most effective bragging.” After all, I did conveniently forget to mention the words “third-owner 2002” along with the make and model of the car.
The bragging trait was actually dormant and deep-seated in my veins (and a few arteries), but lately it has emerged. It has allowed me to fit into my homeland I gleefully returned to 6 months back. Now I live in a world where a friend-of-my-aunt’s-distant-cousin’s-late-grandmother could easily tell you my exact monthly pay, down to the last decimal. (The only time you choose to keep your money private is when it is black in color. There is a lot of that lying around but let’s discuss that sometime later over a bottle of black label.) Another really common icebreaker is discussing the value in front of a certain non-metric unit: “square-feet”.
Money and possessions are the cornerstones of discrimination around here. They could very well be called the poor man’s race and color (Calling every Indian, “intellectually poor” and conversely calling the others, “rich and racist”). Speaking of color (oops @ the spelling), it does help that money has the power to buy you more fairness creams, talcum powders and other worldly facades. You may say that monetary racism exists throughout the world but it’s just too transparent in India, not as a consequence of the lack of aforementioned VFMCGs but because there is a huge gap between the two races, so huge that a third one is introduced just to fill it up, and now that itself is split into two. Rich people show-off, poor people cry at not getting to show-off and upper and lower middle-classers get to do both.
A typical middle class Indian would travel to his workplace on a bike (motor-cycle), always trying hard to be the first one at the traffic light (signal). Then he would vroom ahead only to be quietly over-taken by a honking Mercedes (literally blowing its horn). First he would drool all over his helmet at seeing a Merc and later laugh at the same expensive car and its owner when he passes it at the next light.
The culture of our country is such that an ability of an individual is actually his power of gloating. And it doesn’t change after landing in US. To quote anonymous, “You can take an Indian out of India, but you can’t take India out of an Indian.”
For example, if a desi sees a Harley or a Maserati just standing there outside a Taco Bell, his first instinct will be to stand besides it and ask a friend to click his photo. Then each one of his friends would take turns to stand besides it to have their pictures taken with different poses and some “with immense attitude” (Secretly I hope that one of these days the firang owner comes and slaps such posers and then he goes to jail for committing a hate crime). Last but not the least, they upload the pics and prove to the world that they stood besides that pricey item. Their world will now acknowledge that they look macho besides that pricey item (henceforth abbreviated to PI). Now feeling good about themselves (having successfully bragged about something that’s not theirs – a clear case of plagiarism) they would feel their stomachs groaning, reminding them about the paltry Taco Bell standing in front of them; that pricey item long gone.
Everything an Indian achieves has to have a monetary value; because after he achieves something big, he wants to go and buy the PIs he kept cuddling in his dream and show off that PI to the world rather than the achievement itself. I have no problems with Indians trying to be the Mavericks from Top Gun, but I would rather have them flaunting their flying skills than the F-14s they are flying in.
It goes without saying that the PIs should have a well-known brand so that everyone knows they are pricey. Even a lower middle classer is so brand conscious that he would also want to buy “Adidos” shoes or a D&G bag for the girl he is marrying. While on the subject…
Since the day I returned, I really can’t avoid the topic of marriage that my parents keep pulling out of thin air. I mean, can you think of a scenario as to how an Australian Open match can bring up a question like: “So, what type of girl would interest you?” Digressing and evading was so much easier when I was thousands of miles away and a few time zones off. But now that the distance is a few hundred kilometers, I am cornered.
But coming back to the topic, I have come to understand (after a lot of graphical and statistical analysis and almost entangling myself in strings all over my house) that the root cause of the Indian mentality of showing-off, boils down to marriages (Close second was ranking system in schools). Generations after generations, families have resorted to displaying their sons and daughters (nowadays in the form of very detailed Bio-Datas along with the family’s latest bank statements attached) to complete strangers for the sake of a holy bond. Families need to maintain their images by buying new and bigger PIs from time to time, just to stay clear of the “Log kya sochenge?” phenomenon. So marriages basically are two families that hold a similar stature (showing-off capability) in the society, tying a knot with the help of two scapegoats (bakras). Though love marriages have become commonplace these days, if the stature is not maintained, there is always the “Thehro! Yeh Shaadi Nahi ho Sakti!” scene waiting to roll.
In a perfect India, arranged marriages would be banned. This would solve most of the inequality issues. People would start doing things to make themselves happy and not to parade around their wealth. More patents would be filed (this seems to be important nowadays); knowledge would be on display rather than things. The quality of education would automatically improve. Less people would go to US and India would rise as a new super power. More importantly, parents would call their children only to ask about their well-being and do other small talk like the weather in Bangalore. There wouldn’t be any awkward conversations involving the “M” word.
I feel, if politicians don’t interfere, such marriages will automatically be extinct in the next few years. But till that day arrives every unmarried single Indian has the fall back option from being “forever alone”. On that note, I shall now exercise my fundamental bragging right and enjoy the perks of being Indian by creating a “true to life” profile on Shaadi.com and its variants.
Lastly, I vow never to speak or even think of bringing the western culture to India ever again. Oh wait, one last request to the film censor board. “Grow up!” Now I vow.
(Disclaimer: In this article, an Indian refers to me and the other average Indians. And India refers to the country that these other average Indians and I live in. If you don’t agree with any of these opinions just consider yourself an above-average Indian. Coz’ aren’t we all?)