Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Not a Tourist Brochure: India

Posted by Jerry on July 18, 2007

An Objectivist living in India must develop a thick skin for the irrational, the mystical, the hostile, and the just plain bizarre. Every day involves an encounter with something or someone committed to the goal of invalidating your reason and taxing your patience: 

From the moment you unfold your morning newspaper, you have to make it a habit to ignore the daily columns on numerology, self-sacrifice, the benefits of connecting with the Absolute One written by some mystic guru with dubious claims to spirituality. Nevertheless, these are pale in comparison to the rubbish that appears in editorials and LTEs, which makes one wonder if this country is determined to remain a nation of slavish, malnourished savages.

Just this early morning, I had a bitterly unpleasant encounter with a restaurant owner. First, let me set the background: for some inexplicable reason, it is incredibly difficult to find and keep lower denominations of the Indian Rupee although you require smaller amounts of money in exchange for practically everything here.

Either there isn’t enough of the smaller change to go around or Indians are just terribly reluctant to part ways with them. The ATM machines dispense currencies only at 100s, 500s, and 1000 Rupee denominations.

Anyway, so my travel fare to work this morning required 40 Rupees, lesser than the 100 and 500 Rupee bills I had. The rickshaw driver didn’t have any change to give me in return, which meant that I had to depend on the benevolence of strangers to help break my 100. Now, to impress upon you the very undesirable nature of this task, let me tell you that in all normal situations, Indians do not even make a pretense or a miserable attempt at friendliness or benevolence when it comes to strangers; indeed, we view a stranger being friendly to us with an incriminating eye of suspicion–“surely he has an ulterior motive!”

We even self-righteously criticize the West for donning such fake veneers of friendliness toward strangers. 

Lest you think I am making this up, a worldwide study conducted last year found Asia to be “the region that most consistently lacked courtesy” with Mumbai (Bombay), India coming at the bottom as the least polite city in the world.

In a government-run supermarket [in Mumbai], a young female employee lied that she hadn’t seen what had happened when asked why she didn’t help our reporter pick up his papers. Another worker stepped on them. “That’s nothing,” said the store’s security guard. “In Mumbai, they’ll step over a person who has fallen in the street.”

The Indian response to the study was to retort that it used Western standards of politeness, like saying “thank you” to a store clerk at the end of your transaction, which are inapplicable to the Indian culture. While I fail to see the logic in arguing that a gentle expression of gratefulness is a purely Western notion of politeness and inapplicable to Indians, a young editor from my previous job went so far as to insist that saying “thank you” to people close to you might actually be rude!

In essence, the argument is that responses like benevolence, respect, courtesy, empathy are culture-specific responses with relativistic moral status, wherein they could either be virtues or vices!

The irony in all of this is that no one will dare label the general ethos of India as a selfish “me” culture in the non-Objectivist sense that is commonly understood–such denigrations are always reserved for the United States (as in the latest Michael Moore movie, for example). 

Interestingly, however, the most polite city in the world according to that same study is New York city, in the United States, the bastion of individual pursuit of growth and happiness.

None of this daunts the Indian psyche though. Indians pride themselves on something they call the “Indian Culture,” which carries some foggy connotations of camaraderie, egalitarianism, unity, familial obligations, and good food.

Thus, this eventful morning, I was already bracing for unpleasant encounters as I went up to stranger after stranger and store after store with my 100 Rupee note asking for change. None of them even made the attempt to check if they had any; they were automatons programmed to instinctively shake their heads at the sound of the question.

Finally, I approached the owner of a restaurant who was sitting at his cash counter preparing for the start his business day. He lit some incense sticks to place in the shrine of his idol, prepared some flower garlands, and muttered something under his breath. I showed him my 100 Rupee note and asked if he could break it for me. Desperate by now as I was getting late for work, I added that I knew he had smaller currencies in his register and to please not lie and say no.

The man flat-out refused, which is not shocking in itself, but his reason for refusing to help me, was: He said that his first transaction of the day could not be anything that was not properly a *sales* transaction as it would bring him bad luck.

Now, let me add that this restaurant is located right next to where I work and therefore I have often patronized his business during lunch. I explained to him that I was quite a regular customer here and it would make business sense for him to help me out now in order to not alienate me and lose my business. Of course, such clarity of reason is completely lost on a man blinded by the smoke of his burning incense sticks. I was steadily losing patience, and his blatant irrationality was simply intolerable.

If bad luck was what he was trying to avoid, then I was now determined to give him hell for it. I got into such a state of furor, I yelled at him for his lack of simple courtesy to a regular patron, his blinding irrationality that is the cause of him losing a customer–which is what sustains his business in the first place and not some stupid belief in a superstition–and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the stupidity of his decision! 

I was rather generous with my insults, while repeatedly reminding him that in his effort to avoid misfortune resulting from an “ominous” transaction he chose instead to open his business day with the bad omen of an angry ex-patron!

*sigh*

Such is the kind of life one lives in India–it is a constant struggle to maintain some sanity and sense of benevolence in an environment dedicated to being hostile to reason. Every instance of public interaction or travel has a good likelihood of turning into a bitter and abusive encounter. This is India, my dear.

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29 Responses to “Not a Tourist Brochure: India”

  1. mahendrap said

    Ha ha ha! It’s always amusing to read about experiences in India from an outsider’s perspective!

    As a corollary, let me narrate an eloquent counterpoint: when traveling from India to the US, one gets foreign exchange in lowest denomination of $20. After reaching the airport, one of the first things one needs to do is to place a call, and that requires quarters. So, it is now part of standard practice of all such travelers who retain quarters from previous trips so that they can use them later.

    Once when I’d landed in Detroit and didn’t have any quarters, I tried to get change from the foreign exchange counters, but they refused. The local mom-and-pop kind of retail store in the airport also refused. But the saleswoman offered another proposition: she’ll gimme change if I buy something from the store! So and did and got the change! Isn’t that good old-fashioned American business sense at work? 😉

  2. Woah, Ergo… Woah.

    BTW, I didn’t realize you were an “outsider” in India…

  3. Pink Imp said

    you know jerry, i have observed alot of this and its pretty routine in mumbai to have been on the receiving end of such “courteous” behavior. so, a little tip: refer to every man “older” than you as uncle–it ALWAYS works. pretend to be a little kid in distress (oh, the number of times i have pretended to be a poor damsel child in distress..why, sometimes the rickshaw man even let me off without paying my complete fare due to lack of “change.”)

    the comment by Mahendrap reminds me of my port of entry in SFO, i needed to call the bf to inform him of my flight delay and did not have quarters and couldn’t figure how the pay phone worked. a pair of kind granparents offered me quarters and pennies and dimes and nickles and shoved me off to grab a bite and call 😀 so saweet!

  4. Rambodoc said

    Ergo,
    I must disagree overall.
    The notion of courtesy may actually vary in cultures. For example, looking at your eyes and talking to an older person may be considered disrespectful and discourteous in an Eastern culture, whereas if you look at an American’s feet and keep talking to him in ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses, he may consider you rude or crazy. Not that I am justifying one or the other.
    It is a matter of fact that some Indians take offence if you, as a close person, say thank you (has happened to me). Mumbai culture is reputed to be a ‘walk over your dead body’ type, but I can tell you that this, like ALL such generalisations (including the ones you have made) are plain oversimplification and wrong.
    BTW, I am not your flag-waving Indian. My friends call me an American born in India. And constantly exhort me to settle in the US, if I saw so many problems in India. Fact is that my mind does not feel bound by borders. I digress, however.
    If you don’t mind my saying it, you shouldn’t have lost your cool with that man. Your cool, your peace is too important to waste on a non-entity like him.
    In all such situations, you must break the change by BUYING something. Simple. Currency shortage is not the fault of the man on the street. Think why they are unwilling to part with change. Not because they are rude, but because there is a genuine shortage of loose change. I have not seen a two rupee note in decades, I think!
    Smokers never have a problem with change! 😉

  5. Ergo said

    Mahendra,

    I would have more than gladly engaged in trade to break my 100, but even that is a hurdle. It would only be reasonable for me to buy the cheapest thing possible in order to get what I want (my change) while still engaging in mutual trade. But most store owners are reluctant to even sell you an item for which they will have to shell out a lot of their change. For example, many store owners would insist you buy something atleast 10 Rupees worth in order to break a 100; anything less is not a feasible deal for them (somehow), and for me, anything more than 5 would not be a feasible deal either. I experienced this situation in GOA when I was stranded again with a taxi and no change. I wanted to buy a Cadbury’s Perk for 5 rupees, but the storeowner suspected I only wanted change and refused to sell it to me! I tell ya, it’s disgusting!

    And with the superstitious restaurant owner, I was simply determined to not tolerate his blatant and wanton irrationality in my face by engaging in a deal with him. Therefore, I refused to buy anything from him but chose to be generous in giving him a good dose of my mind. He will get no more of my money from me.

    L’Innommable,

    I think Mahen was referring to himself as the “outsider.” Even otherwise, it would not be inaccurate.

    Pink Imp,

    I’m hardly the petite girl who dresses in pink and can perfectly imitate the voice of a damsel in distress. I can’t get away with what you suggest–I’ll more than likely get attacked for it! Imagine a 6ft tall, big and fat guy prancing around wailing in distress! LOL! Yuck.

  6. Ergo said

    Hi Rambo,

    I think you commented at the same time I did… and fortunately, my comment to Mahen has a response to the issue you raised about buying something for change.

    As I said, I’m all for the principle of mutual benefit by trade–but the key point is *mutual benefit*.

    Further, as you said, I did make some generalizations in the article–but that’s entirely justified given the argument I was pursuing. Broad generalizations are not always false; they merely give you a big picture. Given the purpose I was driving for in the article and the nature of a blogpost, it would be inappropriate to include every minor caveat, nuance, and concrete exception that would only serve to add “noise” to the essay and distract from the main point. That said, I am not saying that you should be sloppy or dishonest in your writing when the caveat or the exception involved can potentially negate and refute your entire thesis. That would be wilful distortion.

    For example, it would be inappropriate for me to include a study that found Indians from the state of Mizoram were polite people–because that distracts from my main focus of my personal experience here in Mumbai, which is a huge cosmopolitan city and a fair representation of all Indians. But it would be dishonest or sloppy of me to not mention, for example, that the restaurant owner finally did understand the rationality of my argument and offered me the change I needed.

    Basically, I just want to make the general point that generalizations borne out of careful induction or reduction to principles are actually an effective means of highlighting mainstream trends or the predominant ethos–and the main theme of my article was to point out that the predominant ethos of the Indian culture is not that of benevolence, friendliness, or rationality but the opposite of these.

  7. OMG, Ergo! Next time you wanna buy a Cadburys Perk, do what the girl in THIS ad does! LOL!

  8. Pink Imp said

    L’ Innommable and Ergo:

    The girl’s clad in pink…

  9. […] Superlative Style of Composition – In Action Filed under: personality, psychology, media, blogging — mahendrap @ 12:43 am I’ve written before about what I call the Superlative Style of Composition with regards to writing – where a writer blends conceptual and perceptual styles into the most persuasive style of writing. Let us take an example to illustrate this. I’m referring to Ergo talking about why India is not a tourist brochure. […]

  10. […] our countrymen! Indians are not in the habit of being ‘polite’ (very nicely explained here), but what we forget is that others will judge us by their standards. That is human….we too tend […]

  11. Priya said

    Hi Ergo,

    Like you said here, I did have that generalized kind of notion about India before I recently made two trips to India. But I don’t know about Mumbai. Because I’m from Southindia, mainly from Bangalore and Tamil Nadu. What I observe there is totally different from what you tell me about Mumbai. As with regards to courtesy and politeness, I think Southindians are ‘alright’. I’m generalizing here too, based on my own experiences and very limited encounters. Why do you think most of the people are ‘hostile’ or ‘impolite’ or refuse to look at reason? What can be the cause or ‘root’ cause of this? That is what I can’t come up with. Why should people basically behave like that and have this kind of appallable attitude? Is this the result of a lack of education? Something to do with government or politics?

    Priya

  12. Ergo said

    L’Innommable,

    That video is awesome! See, I told you it’s so difficult to get small change in India and store owners refuse to even *sell* you anything if you’re looking to break a large bill. This behavior is so pervasive that it’s almost become a cultural identifier–the ad proves that a vast portion of Indians will fully identify with the girl’s predicament of trying to get change. Note also, the matter here is not about getting change but about the issue of benevolence and courtesy. But the ad demonstrates how the behavior is so commonplace that the connotation of virtues are stripped off and the behavior is presented as the natural state of affairs in India sans moral commentary.

    Priya, my own theory about the reason most of Asia and particularly India have the rude, impolite, distrusting, malevolent sense of life is because (in some significant part) of the implicit and explicit ideas pervading their cultures. All of these cultures have at some point in their history been communists, socialists, theocracies, or dictatorships. In other words, none of them historically embraced the Englightenment virtues of reason and individualism unlike Western Europe and American, and none of them were capitalist, i.e., characterized by a free political and economic system (with the exception of Japan in more recent history, after they were forced by the US to abandon their Shinto religious politics). When a culture is explicitly bound to a certain set of ideological principles, the ideas invariably seep into the subconscious sense of life of each individual–slowly, the explicit ideology becomes an implicit but predominant cultural ethos. This is Rand’s theory of the power of ideas in history.

    When men are slaves to each other and chained to each other, either through the political system of Communism and Socialism or through the moral culture of altruism, they naturally evolve over time a subconscious or implicit sense of hatred, distrust, and malevolence toward each other. Life is a struggle against one another and against reality. They view human existence as perpetually being in a state of conflict, quarrel, and fight for survival: the physical scarcity brought about by these economic systems create a psychological state of panic and “fight or flight” animalistic attitude in their interactions with other human beings. Resources are always viewed as depleting and irreplaceable because their economic systems make it very difficult (or impossible) to produce wealth, generate innovations, make discoveries, and motivate inventions. Thus, each man living is a burden on other living men who have to collective bear the responsibility for the other man’s life.

    In contrast, the mostly capitalist societies–also the most friendly and benevolent societies–have no fear of another man’s life and do not view them as burdens because each man is set free from the other. They each engage in selfish production and mutual trade for benefits. They see other men as assets and value-producers who can potentially come up with new discoveries and inventions and new values to create more goods for exchange. Thus, the psychological state is not that of a response to scarcity but a response to value-producers and abundance and state of flourishment.

    This is my theory, in its very nascent form. Perhaps I’ll transform this into a polished post at some point.

  13. Rambodoc said

    Ergo,
    This is in response to your comment to Priya.
    Again, I think it is a huge jump to generalise that people in India are malevolent, rude, etc. If you go to villages or small towns and go to someone’s door and ask for water, people may actually invite you in and feed you lunch as well. I think many people (especially in cities) are rude because the day to day rigours and stresses of lower level existence (you fight for road space, water, etc.) may make people rough and forget their natural benevolence. If you talk of the culture, Punjabis are supposed to be very friendly and benevolent. Buddhists are not known to be hateful in public behavior. I know South Indians can be friendly by and large. Bengalis will probably go the extra yard and do things for you if they find you in trouble (several personal experiences). Your theory is very astute and attractive, but do check the initial premise. And I definitely don’t think Mumbai can be considered a fair representation of the Indian populace by and large. This country is too diverse (in every possible way) for that.

  14. Priyank said

    Shortage of currency is real. If I am a shopkeeper or a common guy on street, what reason do I have to give you change? Is it my social/community responsibility or part of my ‘help-out-the-man-who-does-not-bother-to-keep-change” philosophy? Are you suggesting that we adopt a communist approach – ‘if you have change, you *must* share it with others’ or a red world where everybody has currency of all denominations? ermm…

    The ‘rudeness’ you described is so ubiquitous, that like any other Mumbaikar, I don’t feel it. The survey quoted was funny, it measured politeness by an American yardstick – saying thank you for holding the door open. Rahul Bose (the awesome guy) wrote this (recommended).

    Finally, you attempt of linking this behavior to ‘Indian culture’ overall is not convincing (to me)! Ofcourse I might be biased, you know, comparing a civilization thats 5000 years old to another one born a few seconds ago.

    PS: The superstitious shopkeeper story you narrated was funny indeed. But you can also leverage this fact by shamelessly asking for a discount when you know you are the first customer.

  15. krishashok said

    Hmm. I dont entirely agree with the wicked surgical knife wielder here. We are diverse and yet more or less a very pleasant people (in the sense of not generally flying planes into skyscrapers…although one cant make that claim with all honesty now), but tend to be very selectively congenial as well. Rural bonhomie, while very nice, is often uncomfortably linked with social standing and the dirty C word. When I visit my father’s native village near Kanyakumari, I am treated with an unbelievable amount of love, but I cant help but notice that quite a bit of that hospitality comes at the expense of rudeness towards the traditional lower caste people who do bulk of the manual labour (“Hey, go do/get this for Ashok sir” etc etc)

    But yes, the pressures of Indian urban life (the traffic, the red tape, water etc) do take a toll. It was only when I realized that I was evolving into a road weapon (read car) wielding troll that I decided to bite the bullet and hire a driver.

  16. It is so interesting to me to see all this defensiveness. People commenting here seem to be very up in arms at your theory, Ergo, but I think that, if you read their comments closely, you can see, or at least I can, how they actually contradict themselves without even realizing it. (Talk about a run-on sentence!) I don’t know nothin’ about livin’ in no India, but somehow, I am frustrated for you, Ergo.

  17. Rambodoc said

    @L’Innommable: Making a point is not ‘being up in arms’. I have no problem with anyone holding a contrary point of view. In case you didn’t realise it, you sound pretty condescending at what you call ‘they’. If you had anything specific in terms of perspective, philosophy or logic, you could have presented it here instead of appearing superior and disdainful.

  18. Ergo said

    Rambodoc,

    You said: “I think many people (especially in cities) are rude because the day to day rigours and stresses of lower level existence (you fight for road space, water, etc.) may make people rough and forget their natural benevolence.”

    I think that is mostly unique to Indian cities. Atleast when I lived in Chicago and visited big cities in the US, like New York and DC, I did not experience the kind of rudeness observed among Indians that you seems to dismiss so flippantly as nothing deeper than momentary stress.

    If you believe that my theory is astute and sharp but may have faulty premises, I’d be eager to hear your theory for the clearly observable (and empirically verifiable) trend that shows most Asian and Eastern European countries as have low levels of politeness than their western counterparts.

    Further, if you don’t accept my contention that the freedom and liberty of western classical liberalism (which did not seep into the Eastern European and Asian cultures due to Socialism and Communism) has something to do with the kind of benevolence and politeness observed in western nations, then you put yourself in a position of opposing a recent study that found correlates of happiness across different nations to be individualism, freedom, liberty, and economic security.

    University of Illinois psychologist Ed Diener states: Individualist cultures are generally happier than collectivist ones. In countries that emphasize the group over the self, like China, being happy simply isn’t a priority. “In those cultures, especially among women, people report much more frequently having not considered their own happiness.”

    Further, account for the fact that America is by far the most generous nation in the world–and their generosity comes in the form of both government sanctioned aid as well as private and corporate charity. Explain why no other nation’s people has matched or surpassed this level of generosity. And don’t cite absolute figures of charity, because I am referring to *proportions* to wealth not absolutely wealth.

    Priyank,

    If you knew anything about me through my blog, you would not absurdly twist my article as “suggesting that we adopt a communist approach.” To even imply that is offensive to me. Re-read the article and follow the early comments I made. I explicitly pointed out that the purpose of this article was to highlight the predominant ETHOS of the Indian culture and then dwell on the *reasons* for it. If you have a better reason for why people in the east are less helpful, less benevolent, less polite, than their western counterparts, then let’s hear it.

    Krishashok,

    “Selective congeniality” is hardly being debated here. Even the most vile and rudest person is “selectively congenial” to his friends and lovers. I will reiterate for your benefit: the topic under discussion here is the general ethos of an entire culture–their cultural sense of life, their view of existence, their approach to living. I am not interested in the particular details of anyone’s dealings with their bonhomies from native villages. This is a discussion of general trends and mainstream ethos, and that such a thing exists cannot be denied by anyone who has ever once felt a sense of pride (or even disgust) with the mention of the concept “Indian Culture.” Nor can such a denial be valid when one is dismissing basic standards of politeness (like that mentioned in the study of not stepping ON a person’s papers lying on the floor) as standards of the “West” and inapplicable to the Indian culture. These denials presume that which is being denied. Therefore, what are the essential defining characteristics of the Indian ethos? And I challenge you to come up with something that does not bear its root in a socialist/collectivist ideology.

    L’innommable,

    🙂

  19. Ergo said

    P.S. The Happiness study offers the following result:

    Top 10 (includes not a single Eastern European or Asian nation):

    Iceland
    Netherlands
    Sweden
    Denmark
    Australia
    Switzerland
    Ireland
    Norway
    Venezuela
    United Kingdom

    The bottom 10 are *all* Eastern European nations that once formed the Soviet Bloc:

    Georgia
    Estonia
    Romania
    Armenia
    Lithuania
    Slovakia
    Russia
    Ukraine
    Belarus
    Moldova
    Bulgaria

  20. Priyank said

    “If you have a better reason for why people in the east are less helpful, less benevolent, less polite, than their western counterparts, then let’s hear it.”

    uh.. huh… WHY don’t I see all that? Why do I think it’s exactly the opposite…

    “If you knew anything about me through my blog, you would not…”
    That was precisely the reason I thought your ‘change story’ reasoning was contradictory.

  21. Rambodoc said

    Ergo,
    Venezuela and Sweden in that list? Anyways, I really don’t know what these studies are, in terms of evidence-level. I have no means of finding out the worth of a study that comes out with some fancy claim or the other. You see this every day in the papers, like ‘breastfed babies likely to be depressed’, ‘people who get up from the left side of the bed eat less’. I don’t mean the examples literally, but studies don’t really reflect the truth all the time, because they are not blinded or randomised, and perhaps the evaluation reflects selection problems, bias, and so many more things. In medical research, there is a way for us to know, for example, how reliable the conclusions of a study are, what level of evidence they provide objectively (there are five levels).
    The above said, there are several sources that may say the exact opposite of what you say about the happiest countries, with India coming out tops. I wouldn’t really know which source is right.
    Lastly, the empirical evidence you talk of is something I really can’t relate to. Mind you, I don’t disagree with any of what you say, EXCEPT that I suspect the basic premise. I really don’t know if it is true. It may be, but I don’t see it as a self-evident experiential thing. How much of our own individual experiences are actually a reflection of the whole picture?
    PS- I have never been ‘flippant’ in your blog.

  22. Ergo said

    Rambo,

    I agree with you that studies are at best only indicators–and the empirical method of research allows social scientists to make many wild and haphazard correlations, each contradicting the other and core premises.

    I’m not the one to use a scientific study as the final word in the matter. I’m merely presenting it as indicators. I offered my own theory which is based on some speculation and empirical observation, while trying to be consistent with philosophical premises. If there’s anything better or different out there, I’d be interested to hear it.

    About Sweden, you should read a nice article I recently read about why Sweden is considered a perfect economic model for all nations to emulate, but which might actually be a passing reality. Sweden has long survived due to the economic power of its giant industries; but since the 1970s, not one new industry has opened shop in Sweden, which is troubling, especially when considered against the light of its Socialist expansion of the welfare state and huge taxation. The upcoming elections in Sweden seem to be bringing a challenge to the socialist status quo, with more people expressing displeasure. (I’ll see if I can find the article for you).

    About Venezuela, I don’t know the reasons behind it, I don’t know much about the country. However, didn’t Huge Chavez only recently begin his socialistic extortion and nationalization of private businesses?

    P.S. Here’s some links about the economic model of Sweden, its cultural influences, and its future direction. The article I referred to in my comment is this one. They make good reading, I’d highly recommend them.

  23. krishashok said

    @Ergo,
    Oops, think I stuck my head into a conversation whose intellectual level is slightly beyond me. So if you think Im a little out of my depth here, do let me know and I will just clumsily withdraw at this point 🙂 But not without brandishing a blunt sword aimlessly before I leave.

    Not sure what I was trying to deny in my comment though 🙂 I was simply disagreeing with Rambodoc on the overall “Indians are congenial and hospitable people” theory, by stating an example of how Indian politeness is often caste/class driven. And the villagers I talk about are not my friends or lovers. They are strangers for most part. They are strangers and they seem to have a completely different view of politeness compared to the Indian cities. But I don’t think I managed to convey that point cogently enough to be understood.

    If you ask me “Are Indians polite?”, my answer is “No. They are not”. We look at each other with suspicion, we don’t stand in lines and we will pay bribes at every chance to get ahead of others. And yes, we don’t smile and say “Thank you” or “Have a nice day”.

    But at the same time, India tends not to have “Trespassers will be shot” signs like the ones I saw in Texas. Nor do Indians file lawsuits over the lack of labels on hot cups of coffee. I am not trying to get defensive, but Im just wondering if politeness by itself can have slight differences in definition across cultures.

  24. Ergo said

    Krishashok,

    Thanks for clarifying your comment. it was rather unclear, the first time, who you were addressing your comment to and what you properly intended to say.

    I understand your point about different connotations of politeness across cultures; however, the tresspassing signs and caution labels are not exactly rude signs as much as they are expressions of property rights–the caution labels are intended to protect the corporations and their assets from frivolous law suits.

    But sure, we as Indians might regard them as impolite. I’ll concede the ambiguity of these borderline cases. But i would say it’s hard to argue that the act of stepping over the things of another person who has dropped them on the floor is an ambiguous or culture-specific scenario of polite behavior–and this is the kind of behavior that was used as standards of assessing cultural levels of politeness. I’m sure the researchers were at least smart enough to know that if they’re going to embark on a cross-cultural/global study on politeness, they might as well use standards of politeness that can be generalized to all/most cultures. This is why I find the criticism that the study applied “western” standards rather superficial and lacking of critical analysis.

    Anyway, thanks for commenting, and I apologize for misunderstanding you. Given the kind of medium this is (in addition to the cross-cultural communication this entails), it is most effective if our comments are mostly devoid of flourishes that distract from the core message. right? 🙂

  25. krishashok said

    @Ergo,
    Agree. Although the fact that I am mostly an “all flourish and no sword” sort of a person will make it difficult for me to contribute to serious meaningful discussions 🙂 But I will try though.

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  27. maypil said

    I agree with everything that ergo has to say. I was out of india for 5 yrs and on my return i found nothing has changed, fully agree to the above comment on encountering with something or someone out to invalidate your reasoning and taxing your patience be it the bureaucracy and red tape system. You try to help someone out here & instead of being thankful,they take you for granted and comeback to squeeze you of your money. Living in india is nerve wrecking. Iam planning to go back to europe. People foolishly ape the west and try to show off here.
    Its shcocking that the indian goernment is doing nothing to take care of the welfare of women and children of this country.
    This country will remain a corrupt and overpopulated,ignorant nation forever.
    Amen

  28. Karthik said

    Maybe, just maybe, you are treated the way you are because you’re an unpleasant sort of bloke?

  29. […] Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution Not a Tourist Brochure: India […]

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