I just received this email from a reader – one I know through the blog-o-sphere and through a mutual friend – one who has been complimentary in the past and is (or at least was) a loyal reader. So I am sharing it with you just in case you have the same concerns.
Hi A Reason to Write
Hope you are well. Just read another post by you.
I hope I am not the only one saying this but I feel your posts have changed a bit lately ever since you have come back to the the States. I miss the humor in your posts and I feel that there is a tongue in cheek attitude in your posts. I know you have mentioned in your previous posts somewhere that you are not trying to demean or belittle life in India. But why do I always feel that you are doing just that? I may be wrong and want to give it the benefit of the doubt. India is India and US is US..there is no comparison, period! You called India a third world country once. India is no more a third world country! In one of your posts, not too long ago, one of the things was people leaving their kids alone on the streets…are these things not happening in the US? India is still a very young country as compared to the US and the progress it has made in this short time is remarkable. I do not think it is fair to compare these two countries. We should compare apples to apples!
I shared my views with a few like minded people who read your blog on my request. It made me sad to read what was being projected to people who are not familiar with life in India and its rich culture.
Please know that I am not upset. I am just sharing my thoughts with you. Pinky swear! 🙂
Where to begin. Yikes. First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ending with humor – at least I know you aren’t ready to form a picket line in front of my blog – just yet. 😉
Then I would add, that my blog should never be judged just on simply one post. No blog should be. As you say, India has a rich culture and history and I tout that often in my posts.
Then I would like to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this post warrants a re-read.
I will readily admit to being sarcastic. I am and it’s extremely likely that I will continue to be.
And this post is just that.
But it is in no way a criticism of India.
I have always contended that there is no right and wrong – simply differences. Shopping and cooking and driving in India and the U.S. are hardly similar in any way. I benefited from having staff in India because it saved me a lot of time. And I am grateful that there are so many conveniences in the U.S. that equally make my life easier but we might have taken it too far when we sell shredded cheese and premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Do I use them? Sure – happily. Do I need them? I would argue no – not even for a second. I even said in my post that my American readers should continue reading just to be reminded of what we take for granted on a daily basis.
Basically what I will say is that this post is more about the excesses in America than any deficiencies I saw in India. I think it is ludicrous that we have 18 different ways to buy cheddar cheese – although I am grateful we do – it’s a tad bit excessive. I don’t ever argue that America is perfect – of course it isn’t. Neither is India broken. There are just things that do not make complete sense through my western eyes. A continuous thread throughout all of my posts is all that I learned in India and how grateful I am for the experience for me and for my family. I did not love everything about India – but I loved most of it. We have been blessed beyond measure to see that the world is so different and that every place offers tremendous stories and experiences.
As far as India being a third world country. This is truly, truly a fascinating debate to me. Once before, someone adamantly argued that India is not a third world country. Certainly many people in India live well. There is no doubt about that. And there is a lot of opulence in India. However, the majority of India’s citizens don’t have real and guaranteed access to water, permanent shelter, education, and some level of health care. Throw in some pretty high infant mortality rates and you have got some development issues. But don’t just listen to my big fat opinion –
Wikipedia says this:
“The term ‘Third World’ arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or not moving at all with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world.”
Many people will say that India is a “developing” third world country. That’s probably more fair and I will start using that term from now on. And you make a good point. India’s government is still young – there is a lot of growing to do. But the elephant in the room is the waste and abuse that happens in the Indian government that often results in the unnecessary suffering of so many people. Again, is America perfect? Absolutely not. Of course not. We have our own wastes and abuses and not everyone is getting an equal share of the pot.
Part of what has been so hard for me in returning to America is leaving the images of India behind. I too often allow myself to forget that people are suffering – all over the world. How do I throw away bread crusts when children are starving (and yes, not just in India, in America too)? Now I put my crusts and stale bread out for the birds and squirrels. I know it won’t change a thing in the world but at least I am wasting less. That feels better.
I think Americans allow ourselves to be self-absorbed and protect ourselves from the reality of the sufferings of others – and, to be fair, I can point that same self-absorbed finger at Indians too. We all put on our jewelry and drive our gas hogs and live in our houses that are unnecessarily big and melt our shredded cheese and simply allow ourselves to ignore that, for the most part, even on a bad day, others have it much, much worse.
I struggle with how to become a more global citizen and how to have more of an impact in helping others – and that struggle is a direct result of my life in India. I can no longer pretend that life in Northern Virginia is the norm. It’s certainly great but it is not the experience of most of the world. I struggle with how to do something everyday to make someone else’s life better. I am failing miserably in that regard but I am trying.
And I am afraid this blog will continue to contain comparisons between life in India and life in America. It’s all I know and I am not willing to add another experience to my repertoire – at least not yet.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I never want to offend anyone – but unfortunately, the minute you hit publish on the internet, you are very much in danger of doing just that. And remember that I am mostly talking to myself – the fact that anyone is coming along for the journey continues to amaze me. I am at least glad you felt comfortable in sharing your disagreement and disappointment with me and my words. That is one thing that India and America do have in common. Democracy is a beautiful thing.