Pepsico President and CFO

Till the other day she was called the poster girl for all aspiring Indian executives. Both men and women! Not any more, it seems. She did what we in India might consider the most harmless thing of giving a speech to the Colombia University B-school graduation ceremony. She just pointed out that USA is like the middle finger! USA is both a powerful nation and also as a nation that needs to change the perception the outside world has of it. USA needs an image make over! All storm broke out!
Why? Some rightwing blokes in the Republican Party took offence of Nooyi’s remarks. Some hot head wrote in the weblog (the actual name of the website is : that Nooyi made ‘disparaging’ remarks about America! How could she do it? She, the Asian brown woman! She, the outsider, the non-white and that too a woman after all! Yes, this was the message! There is so much racial prejudice it seems inside America. There is so much white American and non-white American perceptions. Though not expressed so openly, it is a fact that the current America is much more an intolerant society that what we have been given to in our textbooks of history. There are much more intolerance after the Sept/11 terrorist attack. America today is a much more paranoid society and the NRIs please note what is the perceptions of Indians are about what you are all doing over there!

Yes, we read almost everyday about the success stories NRIs are making. So much of good news is there too! 40 Indian-Americans among the Intel ISEF Grand winners! Fine. A medical student of Indian origin, Chirag Patel is selected one of Outstanding Young Houstonians. Fine! Also a new space tourism promoting entrepreneur, Chiranjeev Kathuria, Fine! In UK too there is now so much of good and bad news coming out. There are racial prejudices, the Indian Briton, is a new breed, there are now any number of UK based Indians, in the second generation making news. The white American is one breed. The white Briton is another breed. The Brits could be yobs and what have you but the upper crust is a bit polite and very discreet when it comes to racial questions. In UK, the films and televisions and books make for creating new cultural perspectives and also new cultural prejudices.

An Indian boy marrying a white girl is not as common as among the African community in UK. Even the most liberal Asian (Indian) family won’t take such white-brown marriages so easily. Asian parents would feel a bit queasy about having a white son or daughter-in-law, especially the latter, a daughter-in-law! So what are Asian family values? What is Asian family life like? These are some of the deeply held perceptions and prejudices among the writers and culture “vultures”!

The BBC drama, an adaptation of Indian origin writer, Meera Syal’s “best seller”, Life Isn’t All Haa Haa, Hee Hee is built around such a conflict in a British Asian family, Asian women struggling to deal with their identities. The question of racial ethnic identities, it seems very deeply ingrained in the minds of modern white Americans and their UK counterparts,

We have met some Canadian-Indians, Indians enjoying Canadian citizenships. We hear the Indian government for its part is playing the game of deporting those NRIs if they give problems to the host country or their guest country. So, we are told that the NRIs once they are in their country of birth have to conduct themselves very discreetly! The famous NRIs, Amartya Sen or Jagdish Bhagwati or our own Sam Pitroda might talk big inside India, but they would have to refrain from comparing or criticising their country of adoption or domicile!

NRIs, more than Indians, must be educated at the typical American mindset: power, economic and military power gives the USA, its white majority, their right to dominate the rest of the world. A new style imperialism. So, too we see the old imperial mindset is noticed in UK, when it comes to portraying Asian cultures as not yet fully civilized. The propaganda power of the media, the many promotion industries including tourism literature, effortlessly project on an unsuspect outside world.

What a tragedy! We Indians must learn to guard against the Western propaganda, subtly conveyed through established journals and newspaper columns day in and day out. Indians should learn to feel proud about our mature democratic credentials. We owe it to great leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for our current level of freedoms. Our individual liberty is more liberally defined than what the white Americans and their UK counterparts proclaim as what they have.

I read that in UK itself there are new curbs of personal freedoms. Citizens freedoms are restricted, identity cards, restriction of immigration, seeking to curb the right of habeas corpus etc. May be we don’t yet face the immigration exodus these countries face. But the fact remains our much-fancied NRIs, their prosperities don’t measure up in the scale of the amount of political freedoms we inside India, seem to enjoy. So much great are our personal freedoms! Not a bad choice for Indians living here, as proud citizens!


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