A Racial Saga and A Marketing Agency

IIM Ahmedabad, once an “institute of excellence” and “national pride” (pun none intended), a marketing agency now and a good one at that, published a research that attracted the delegations from Harvard Business School, Wharton University, Boston University, American Defense Institute, U.S. Financial Services Industry Study Group, MIT’s Sloan business school. Widely publicized as a research of the managerial skills of Sri Lalu Prasad Yadav, honorable minister of Railways in the UPA government, and his understanding of the ground realities of the Indian market, the work by Prof. G. Raghuram was, in reality, merely a marketing stunt that was funded by the Railway Ministry itself. [Report]

According to Prof. Raghuram,

A study sponsored by a subject does not necessarily compromise its objectivity. As academics, we also don’t want the objectivity of a study to be influenced.

Agreed! That is why I compared IIM-A to the marketing/advertising agencies, because they also do “critical appraisals” of the subject they get the funds from. I hold highest regards for the minister, for his hard work that has taken him to the top of the heap, but IIMs (and IITs), I don’t see if we as a society are mature enough and prepared to put into practice the principles on which these institutions were established. I know I am generalizing too much and that there are unbiased people who carry out unbiased research at these places, but… At least, I’m not doing Prof. Raghuram’s thing.

I haven’t talked about race yet, so I’ll do now. For the past few weeks we have started feeling a sense of immense pride in the race that is called ‘Indo-Aryan’ or ‘Dravidian’, depending on which part of the country you and ancestors belong to. Pick any newspaper of last week and you’ll realize how important it was for us that Sunita Williams returned safely back to Earth. [Previous post] Thanks to the prayers of thousands of Indians (we don’t have anything else to do, do we?), she is back safe and sound.

Tavleen Singh has an interesting take on this. She writes [here],

Hindus, Muslims and Christians came together to pray for her safe return — remarkable unanimity in our religiously divided land even if they prayed in their separate places of worship. The media was insatiable in its appetite for Sunita news. Intrepid TV reporters trawled schools in remote places to bring us soundbites of children saying things like, “I want to say to Sunita, you rocks (sic).”

Sunita Williams brought out the worst in us. Through no fault of hers, she reminded us of how very Third World and second rate we are and how desperate for recognition from the West.

The Indian economy may be booming and there may be those who talk of how we are on the verge of superstardom as the world’s newest economic power, but our minds and hearts remain those of a colonised, defeated people. Our inferiority complex manifests itself most sickeningly every time someone with one drop of Indian blood gets recognition in the West. Sunita Williams is not Indian. She is as American as apple pie but we claimed her.

[ … ]
What worries me as a little, brown Indian woman is our awe of the white skin. Sixty years after Independence we should have got over it, and it is my humble opinion that until we do, we will continue to be a nation that celebrates mediocrity and not excellence. Sunita’s is not a mediocre achievement, it is a real achievement, but to think of it as an Indian achievement is not just absurd but embarrassing. She has done her country proud and that country is the United States of America. Not India.

I have chosen to happily disagree with Tavleen Singh in the past, but this is one (among a few handful other) article I agree with for the most part of it. But Tavleen, you did not have the courage to write your wholesome “critique” when she was in the space waiting to see what the future would bring for her. Accept it, you were afraid of something.

Now that we are at it, let me just estimate what Sunita-mania has in store for Sunita herself: For she is a “celebrity” now in India, though not as big as Shilpa Shetty is in UK and India, she can have her own perfume brand launched, maybe a chain of stores that sell fake space-travel gadgetary and the models of Atlantis in all sizes. She can even become an ambassador of all the religions, the prayers of the followers of which saved her. She is certainly the perfect choice for our very own future manned space/moon mission, maybe the chief scientific adviser to the President of India. Oh yes, a bollywood movie on her life that could well be our answer to Hollywood’s Apollo 13. She has never been to India, and I wonder if she wants to, except maybe as a tourist for a few days or to endorse the advertising contracts that’d come her way after her heroics, but we Indians are ready to do for her what is called in Hindi, “palkein bichhana“.


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