India and Women

by craig on April 21, 2013 11:44 am in Uncategorized

Since the horrific bus rape case, the problems of rape in India have been firmly on the western media agenda. Today BBC World is carrying two different and terrible stories – one of the rape of a five year old girl in Delhi, and one of the death of a rape victim in a botched abortion.

I spent several weeks last year researching in archives in India. I had expected to love the country and its culture, and to my surprise I found I detested it.

I initially stayed a week in a budget tourist hotel in Delhi a short walk from Connaught Square and the main railway station. My window looked out on a street that seemed very busy with pedestrians 24 hours a day. At any moment I could see a hundred or more people clearly, and I soon noticed something very strange – there were virtually no women out on the street, undoubtedly less than 5% of the people out and about. Yes, if you went to Connaught Square you could see middle class women, particularly students, walking around. But not in more normal Delhi streets.

As I flew to different Indian cities on internal airlines, I noticed that security at Indian airports was segregated – there were separate male and female lines for bags and scanners. The female lines were virtually deserted, and it was evident that women are a very small percentage of passengers on internal Indian flights. On top of which, I three times had the experience of sitting next to businessmen who were travelling business class while their family was behind in economy. This was evidently thought perfectly normal.

It is all getting worse – just one straw in the wind, but it is only in the last two years it has become actually illegal to serve a beef steak in Delhi.

I am not even going to start getting in to the appalling caste system, and the dreadful gap between rich and poor. Knowing Africa very well, I had expected India to be in some ways similar. But in fact inequality was far worse, and the educational level of the poor was far worse, than the countries I know well in Africa. Taxi drivers in Delhi, for example, were nearly all completely illiterate. Here in Accra you would never meet a taxi driver who cannot read an address. In the National Archives of India, even some senior archivists do not speak a word of English – the official language of the country, and crucially the language of the archives they are supposed to be curating. In Accra the archivists are extremely well educated at British and American universities.

What I found most extraordinary, is that whereas here in Ghana all the rich Ghanaians I know would absolutely agree that it is highly desirable to raise the education, standard of living and welfare of the poorest in society; in India I found an extraordinary callousness among wealthy Indians to be the norm; they simply do not believe lifting the poor from poverty is desirable.

Yes, the stories about rape in India have touched on a very important point about the position of women in an increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society. But that is part of a much wider picture. In the UK a combination of India’s historic anti-colonial role, its legend in hippy chic and latterly a reverence for economic growth appears to be handicapping a much needed airing of truths on just what a narrow, nationalist, repressive and bigoted country India is becoming.

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  1. Quite agree Craig…horrible place…though Goa is rather nice…

  2. Can’t comment on India (or Ghana) but I found the male presence of Turkey quite like your description of India. Turkish women were seen in Istanbul, though considerable less so than men, (their numbers bolstered by women tourists), but in the villages and small towns women were almost non-existent. Interestingly the coastal towns towards Georgia were the only places where women were found in public, and they were Georgian prostitutes, presumably servicing men who would one day be marrying a Turkish virgin. This reminded me of our great English novelist, Robert Bage, and his third novel “The Fair Syrian” (1787) in which a Georgian sex-slave, Amina, is an example of a girl who, since she cannot be found a husband at the right price, is sold into slavery – as are the “daughters of priests”.

    By coincidence this morning I met a Turkish woman with a golden cocker-spaniel with whom I had a short chat. She came from the outskirts of Istanbul. A woman walking a dog on a lead in Turkey would never have been seen ten years ago. It is something to be proud about of in this country that we no longer have the former system of dowries. Women can, and do, integrate freely, education and job-opportunities are available for boys and girls, men and women, though in Bage’s day they were not – and these were issues about which he campaigned through his novels and through his deeds. Everybody should read the novels of Robert Bage who campaigned also against the trans-Atlantic slave-trade through Fidel, who was transported from Benin, east of Ghana, before being enslaved in Jamaica. In the 200 plus years since Bage died (1801) England and Ghana have come a long way in some respects. Other countries are taking longer to adopt equality.

  3. “In the National Archives of India, even some senior archivists do not speak a word of English – the official language of the country”

    Oh dear, that sounds rather colonial. The official language is in fact Hindi in the Devanagari script. English is an additional second language for some official work (not including archiving by the sound of it).

  4. Good post, Craig.

    Speaking the truth about such things attracts a lot of criticism. Here in Oz, Indian taxi drivers are notorious for committing sexual assaults but the link cannot be openly discussed.

    There’s a lot of talk that India will be one of the next superpowers, on a par with China. These two countries do not even compare. My personal experiences with people from these two countries is extensive and intimate. I can confidently say that China will certainly be a superpower while India wallows in the filth and misery of its proudly traditional culture. Compare the hosting of the Beijing Olympic Games with that of the Delhi Commonwealth Games. It’s pretty stark.

  5. technicolour

    21 Apr, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Hmmm. It is a strange ‘nationalist’ country which forces through stuff like this:

    “uproar in India’s parliament over the cabinet’s decision to open up the retail market to global supermarket chains” –

    As usual, the dead hand of the IMF, which is behind the huge and useless infrastructure projects, which deplete local resources, increase poverty, and cause chaos in villages and regions, can take a lot of the credit. Goa was nice, once, before this happened there too – the people there have been up in (peaceful, democratic) arms for years.

    Add to that the effects of GM crops on Indian farmers, the erosion of family life in cities thanks to Western companies outsourcing call centres, the introduction of plastic to replace everything from traditional clay throw-away cups to shopping bags (something which people are also starting to combat), the activities of companies like Coca Cola (see Kerala as one example) and the replacement of the (profitable, low-impact) hippy trail by vast, resource-hungry intercontinental hotels – and India starts to look like a symptom of a familiar structure, not just a cause, in many ways.

    Otherwise, the caste system generally and the position of women generally – yes.

  6. MJ

    I think you are wrong there. I don’t believe English has a subordinate status to Hindi as an official language. See this for example:

    A great many communities in India do not speak Hindi at all. The British, of course, were by no means the first colonisers of India; the Moghuls being obvious and non-Indian predecessors.

    In any event, I think expecting archivists to know the language of material they are archiving is pretty reasonable, especially when it is, at the very least, an official language of their country.

  7. “A great many communities in India do not speak Hindi at all”

    Correct. That is why the constitution recognises a further 21 regional languages.

    The article to which you linked is predicated on the fact that English is not the official language. That’s why it says things like “English is the de facto national language of India” and “Accepting that English is the national language would have benefits”.

  8. I like to keep abreast of what’s happening on the Anna Ardin liar thread from time to time, and just came across this written by one Acne Cyst. I’m sure even the non-English-speaking librarians MJ has met could make a better stab at selling whatever Acne Cyst is selling (student loans I think) than Acne Cyst has done.

    “I have cultured a few important things by your post. I’d personally as well in the vein of to mention that near can ensue location where you will make use to get a loan and never ought a cosigner such as a Government Student Abet Lend. But proviso you are obtaining that lend owing to a conventional advance check next you’ll need to become prepared to have a co-signer complete to make it easier for you. The lenders can foundation some decision from the few factors except the largest will probably be present your credit rating. There are some credit companies that will furthermore glare in your work memoirs and choose based proceeding that but in roughly every gear it’ll pivot resting in your credit slash.”

    It speaks for itself.

  9. MJ

    The article says “Hindi was downgraded to one of the two official languages in which the government would conduct its business. The other official language was English…”

    It advocates English should now be the sole official language.

  10. Becoming? They have been at this for a few thousand years. And for the elites it does very well thank you very much.

    Anyhow head own south and it’s a different universe. Women in the street, as a foreigner easy to talk with literate, intelligent people and not just Brahmins.

  11. Craig:

    I’m incredibly surprised that the archivists couldn’t speak English. When I was there for 6 months, just about everyone I met could speak very good English. In fact, I found I could count on English being spoken everywhere and by everyone.

    I know what you mean about gender issues though. I remember eating at the same restaurant every day for a month (during a meditation course), and the woman serving me didn’t make eye contact with me a single time. Another time I was walking down the street with a female friend, and a random guy just walked up and grabbed between her legs before running off. After returning home to Australia, I was discussing some of these issues with some Indian co-workers, and they seemed completely blind to the problems facing women in India. Having said that, these same Indians thought I was crazy when I mentioned the Indian ‘head wobble’. So maybe these people were just amazingly blind to their own culture.

  12. A few years ago, I shared a flat with two hotel workers from India: one was from the North East, the other from the mid South. Interestingly they could only talk to each other in English (in which they were both very fluent).

  13. A vision of India that is as raw for me in its viceral shamefullness as ever it was when I experienced it over 40 years ago:

    I was a Merchant Navy Junior Engineer. My ship was loading iron ore in Vishakapatnam in the Sweltering heat of August. Each morning I and a few other ignoramuses would have breakfast on a poop deck overlooking the quayside. We would place bets on who would get various scraps of food tossed over the side – almost by way of sport: The shite hawks (as we christened the enormous vulture like scavenging birds, the wild dogs, or several persistent beggars – the birds usually won. One of those beggers was clearly half-caste (colonial/native parentage) with what was left of his legs looking and functioning somewhat like seal flippers (rickets? polio? I don’t know); he was on a sort of scooter trolley, propelled with hands pushing on the floor; he was maybe 30 years old at most. Another was a strikingly beautiful and graceful young native woman, maybe 20-25 years old and nursing a clearly sick infant. Every 30 minutes or so, lathee-wielding policemen would drive them away with vicious strokes of their canes – 10 minutes later they were back and pleading – and the sport would begin again.

    The anguished expressions on those faces haunt me to this day; still prompting penance for my bewildered but nonetheless, callous bravado-laden and childishly feigned indifference, to the brutalities I witnessed during that one week stay – well I was after all a superior westerner wasn’t I?

  14. Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    21 Apr, 2013 - 4:28 pm

    No direct experience with the Culture, but they are just plain old human beings. India has modeled themselves as Western capitalists, and that creates class lines based on wealth. Privilege is equated with your standing, and the easiest observable feature of standing is the extent of your wealth. It is exacerbated by caste. But caste is just like racial characteristics in the US or Royal blood in the UK. As John Lennon said in 1971 “Woman is the nigger of the World”, their gender falls way behind males in just about every culture except the mythical Amazons. They’re at the bottom of the heap of humanity, when it comes to equality of pay. For centuries they had no property rights, no voting rights, and that’s here in the good ol’ USA, Land of the Free.

  15. I’ve recently returned from a holiday in India,staying in intercontinental hotels and as such was sheltered from everyday life, but didn’t notice any imbalance of the sexes on the railway stations of Delhi and Jhansi. In fact it was the women who were openly amused by the sight of our group of white men and women getting on and off the train !

    It is true that education in India has only been compulsory and free for 6 – 14 year olds since 2009 and there have been some problems. For example the number of school places has not kept pace with the rising demand so in some areas children only go to school for half a day. Also children who haven’t been to school before are being put in their year group instead of having the extra help they need. So it’s not perfect but they are getting there and are aware of how far they need to go to catch up.

    In a Hindustan Times article (online 20/03/13) the President of India is quoted as saying their higher education is not adequate and they have ‘miles and miles to go before they catch up with America’.

    I don’t know what Africa education is like now but the African students I met in the 1980s had all been to mission schools, been taught in English and taken English ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, all irrelevant to the continent they lived in. There may be more of a tradition of formal schooling in Africa but don’t they still have to pay fees? Correct me if I’m wrong !

    I didn’t meet any wealthy Indians so don’t know if they are callous towards the poor but I know there are plenty of wealthy and not so wealthy people in Britain who denigrate the poor as scroungers and shirkers who don’t deserve benefits.

  16. George Orwell lives! Craig in a budget hotel (aka spike?) and Wiki observing the humiliation and degradation of those whose lives are reduced by hunger to a daily desperate search for food.

  17. When I read Craig’s post I thought to myself WHOA! He’s going to get the same sort of reaction from the right-thinkers (or perhaps I should say left-thinkers) as he did when he posted an article in favour of the EU. Along the lines of “oh, it’s all the fault of colonialism” or “the Western powers and the US have a cunning plan to keep India poor and ignorant”, you know the usual stuff we get on here.

    Well, I was overly pessimistic.

    But not wholly wrong : here are some nice ones from our Californian thinker Ben at 16h28 :

    – it’s just human nature
    – it’s the fault of class based on wealth (India had adopted Western capitalism, you see)
    – it’s no worse than what happened/happens(?) to blacks in the US.

    Ben obviously hasn’t got a clue what Craig’s going on about, has he.

  18. CheebaCow

    I was researching in the National Archives of India for several weeks, and I can assure you that several of the senior archivists either could speak no English, or pretended they could not.

  19. Wikispooks, beautifully written and touching.

  20. Enjoyed your article Craig. I spent 4 months last year in India, travelling from the south to the north. As a western woman I was persona non grata for the entire time. I was essentially ignored as a customer by men, although in the Buddhist areas of the Himachal Pradesh areas, things were very different. In a restaurant in one of the cities, I was very amused when I asked the waiter for a naan bread and he turned to my husband to ask him if it was O.K. The only attention I got was very much unwanted, I was groped in the street twice, despite that fact that was I dressed ‘appropriately’ and was accompanied by my husband. There generally seemed to be an unhealthy attitude towards sex and the media objectifies women. We saw many women with facial disfigurements caused by acid attacks and the media reported a constant stream of horror stories of institutional discrimination against women. One that sticks in my mind was a woman abused by police officers when she tried to report her husband for sexually abusing her children. It was difficult to treat each new person we met with openness and trust as our daily experiences with attempted scams wore us down. I too was left with a very bad feeling about the place. There was a lack of morality driven by the ‘hand to mouth’ existence, but as a relatively rich westerner I cannot judge such an approach as I would probably be the same had I been brought up there. The previous year we spent a month in Indonesia, where there is a ‘hand to mouth’ existence and a similar attitude towards women, however, people could not have been friendlier and happier and we were treated graciously wherever we went.

  21. Wiki’s story minds me of what wealth disparity and poverty mean in practice. Not just a matter of have and have not, it is brutal and callous relations, caused by callousing of the heart on pitiless experience.

  22. – it’s just human nature
    of course, Ben is right, it’s all a part of human nature; some good, some bad.

    – it’s the fault of class based on wealth (India had adopted Western capitalism, you see) – absolutely true in the instance of the caste system and the ‘class’ system. India has had global corporatism forced on it in the last 20 years: I’ve seen the changes. They have not made the situation better, and they’ve created a climate where it is equally hard to progress against inequality – see ‘poverty gap’ right here in the UK.

    – it’s no worse than what happened/happens(?) to blacks in the US.- are you trying to be flippant about the situation of and discrimination against, or ignorant of the history of, dark coloured people in the US? Surely not.

  23. I’ve had the luck to travel all over India, from Kashmir to Cochin, for both work and play, over many years. It has been dangerous, glorious, fascinating, warm, educational and heart-breaking in equal measure. My god-mother (raised in India) always said that, while Europe was a water-colour, India was an oil painting. Its history, its gods and goddesses, its culture, its extremes: I don’t think that anything but a book, or several, could do it justice. There is no doubt, from my last visit, that the increasing ersatz Westernisation – from crap rap to poor porn – has affected people; as has the imposition of what we laughably often call progress. Thanks for this post: it makes me want to dig deeper.

    NB I have been wondering why Western media is so keen to report instances of ‘horrific’ rape there (as though there were a ‘nice’ kind); is the same kind of thing not happening everywhere? Would we actually leave our houses or travel anywhere if they all got the same coverage? But this applies to news in general, of course.

  24. Sorry, last post (thinking aloud): if the media coverage helps the women of India, or in general, in any way, then that is only a good thing, of course.

  25. Sheryl
    21 Apr, 2013 – 10:08 pm
    “Enjoyed your article Craig.”

    As much as you ‘enjoyed’ your trip, Sheryl? Sure you know the meaning of the word ‘enjoy’?

    “There generally seemed to be an unhealthy attitude towards sex and the media objectifies women.”

    Oh yes, and please let me know which country that you’ve travelled to has a healthy attitude towards sex? Sweden, perhaps? The Vatican? Indonesia? When I last stayed at the Jakarta Ritz-Carlton, you dialled 69 in your room phone for a massage. Now thats what I call gracious hospitality. And what about this country’s slosh-and-shag culture, set aside recent pedophilia revelations, decades deep.

    Ditto for “the media objectifies women”, pray tell me where in the world does that not happen, even in this day and age? (Perhaps we should ask Sir Martin (Sorrell), who I believe runs a very successful series of enterprises in Craig’s “narrow, nationalist, repressive and bigoted” India?) Although, in this country I note the trend to objectify dogs in the media is re-emerging with no particular untoward consequences.

    Btw, does anyone else here love the recent ‘Airwaves’ TV ad campaign?

    Also, I would rubbish your “many women with facial disfigurements caused by acid attacks” remark. Sure you hadn’t drifted into Taliban territory?

  26. Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    21 Apr, 2013 - 11:38 pm

    Sheryl; you are much more tolerant than I. The first grope would’ve been met with a twenty lb handbag with about 200 ft lbs of force. The second one would’ve been just a thought.

  27. Ben: yeah: shouting ‘are you some kind of pervert? would you do this to your sister?’ also helps, I’m told.

  28. @ Technicolour (22h42) :

    pardon me, but am I mistaken in thinking that the caste system in India predates, just a little, the last 20 years (the 20 years in which “India had global corporatism forced on it”)?

    @ Villager and his “the media objectifies women happens everywhere” :

    you may be right, but am I mistaken in thinking that throwing acid into womens’ faces and the groping of women on public transport is perhaps just a little bit more prevalent in India than in most of those other countries making up your “everywhere”?

    Yes, although this might run counter to your favorite world-view,you’ll just have to get used to the idea that evil things also happen in countries other than the US and Europe.

  29. I’m surprised Habbakuk. The caste system is quite similar to feudalism.

    I’d have thought that you’d approve.

  30. Habbakuk: of course, but rather than allow the natural progression of humanity towards rationality and balance take its course, the IMF stepped in. Please see, and address, if you can, my points earlier.

    We are discussing, of course, a war-torn country, in which the East India Company had violently meddled for centuries beforehand, so to try and isolate specific instances of Western influence in Indian history would, as I said, take several books. I am only able to testify to the last twenty years, personally.

  31. I think it would be correct to say not Moghols but muslims from Central Asia. I once read History by Bartold and he insists Zahiridin Babur from nowadays Andizhan of Uzbekistan came to India in 15th century and established a powerful empire in India. He was the first emperor to ban an old hindu tradition of burying living wives of a man when he dies. Babur’s grandson Akbar built wonderful masterpiece of Taj Mahal and dedicated it to his wife.

  32. Max, thanks. Habbakuk: I know people who are actively fighting against the caste system by giving up their caste. They are simultaneously fighting the influx of IMF sponsored projects (the injection of mysterious capital into destructive regional developments). I don’t quite get where you’re coming from? Would you like to see a devastation populated by dams and roads which lead nowhere? Because that is what is happening, in many places.

  33. I have never been to India but feel I have to defend it on account of the nice Indian tourist couple who bought me an icecream simply because I was sharing a bench with them in Russell Square Park in London during the heatwave in 2003. You would never get British people doing that or even being friendly to a stranger so there must be a lot of nice Indians too.

  34. Craig,

    First off, you are totally wrong about the status of Hindi and English as official languages and MJ is right on the button. For an avid researcher, i would’ve thought at the press of one (a button) you’d find the facts. Here it is:

    “The official language of the Republic of India is Hindi with English as an additional language for official work;[1] states in India can legislate their own official languages.[1] Along with languages of Indian origin other than Hindi, English, French and Portuguese also enjoy the official language status in some Indian states and Union territories.”

    The number of ‘official’ regional languages is exactly 21, as MJ stated, and are listed at the bottom of the linked page. MJ appears to know his onions.

    Second, for all the talk of India and Women, Indira Gandhi first served as Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977.
    From wiki:
    “Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Hindustani: [ˈɪnːdɪrə ˈɡaːnd̪ʱi] ( listen); née Nehru; 19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was the third Prime Minister of India and a central figure of the Indian National Congress party. Gandhi, who served from 1966 to 1977 and then again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, is the second-longest-serving Prime Minister of India and the only woman to hold the office.”

    So, 1966? In contrast Margaret Thatcher arrived on the seen in 1979. Granted both equally controversial, but it is said Maggie was inspired by Indira Gandhi.

    “Americans are making much of the partnership between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher following her death last week, but the baroness’s real soul mate was another Iron Lady, Prime Minister Indira Nehru Gandhi.”…,and ” As one of Thatcher’s biographers later wrote, the two had from the beginning a “uniquely easy relationship.”

    Turn now to the “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society” and “just what a narrow, nationalist, repressive and bigoted country India is becoming.” So then where does Antonia Albina Maino, born a catholic to ” Stefano and Paola Maino in Contrada Màini (“Maini quarter/district”), at Lusiana, a little village 30 km from Vicenza in Veneto, Italy, where families with the family name “Màino” have been living for many generations.”, come into the picture? Oh nobody consequential, but she just happens to be President of the Indian National Congress party since 1998. And “She has served as the Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha since 2004. In September 2010, on being re-elected for the fourth time, she became the longest serving president in the 125-year history of the Congress party.” Thats, Sonia Gandhi, coincidentally another woman, this time Italian.

    Some of my Indian friends have offered to send her to Italy to sort out their political leadership and unite them! :-)

    Now what next from your grossly misinformed post, based on your unfortunate experiences. Next time, you really should ring your erstwhile colleague, Sir Richard (‘Dickey) Stagg, or someone like William Dalrymple or even Sir Mark Tully, ex BBC and get briefed before you fly out.

    But before that lets better understand what you mean by your rather sweeping statement of an “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society.”? i.e. the World’s most populous democracy, now ell-practiced for over 65 years. And where some 180 million Muslims live alongside the majority Hindus, i.e. about the same population as Pakistan, some 25 million more than Bangladesh, same no less than Indonesia and a 100 million more than Iran and only 150 million more tun Saudi Arabia. And ‘rabidly’? Any links or personal anecdotes on this would be welcome. Throw in some 35 million Christians, 30 million Sikhs and 12 million Buddhists for good measure. Add to that the number of times that blessed country has been invade over the centuries, the number of invasions it has inflicted on other countries near and far. And its impeccably managed nuclear arsenal and voluntary, unilateral ‘no first-use commitment’.

    Perhaps the senior archivists you encountered really did pretend not to understand you?

    As for, your “in India I found an extraordinary callousness among wealthy Indians to be the norm; they simply do not believe lifting the poor from poverty is desirable.”, I question, while you may be able to rustle up all of Ghana’s billionaires in the back of your taxi, how many Indian billionaires do you know? Re education I’ll introduce you to one: Sunil Mittal (no relative to Lakshmi) who owns Airtel (wiki:Bharti Airtel Ltd is the third largest mobile operator in the world, in terms of subscriber base, and has a presence in 20 countries) and whose family according to Forbes is worth a mere $7bn.

    “The Satya Bharti School Program is the flagship rural education initiative of Bharti Foundation aimed at holistic development of children. It is intended at delivering free quality education to underprivileged children across rural pockets and lays special emphasis on education for the girl child and children from marginalized communities. Bharti Foundation envisions 500 Primary and 50 Senior Secondary Schools, reaching out to over 200,000 underprivileged children through free quality education.

    As of January 2013, approx 38,000 children are enrolled across 254 Satya Bharti Schools, of which 187 are primary schools, 62 elementary and five senior secondary Satya Bharti Schools in six states of India (Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal).”


    And research more at wherever you like, but really please do some.

    Last but not least, there is no Connaught Square in Delhi last i visited, there is a Connaught Place or Circus — since you were there for several weeks, you may have noticed its a large round circle, not a square. Square pegs in round holes, perhaps. As i said earlier ring Dickie or someone before you go. You claim to know everyone in Ghana so obviously you get a different perspective, but i’ll tell you, you are the only one comparing those two countries.

  35. technicolour

    22 Apr, 2013 - 1:44 am

    Gosh, thanks, Kathy, and how right you are – there are nice people everywhere. Any thoughts on the IMF, anyone?

  36. Is a barrel of bad apples with one good apple the same as a barrel of good apples with one bad apple? No. You can find exceptions everwhere – Lawyers who are honest, wealthy people who help the poor, archivists who speak English and Indian men who are considerate of women. So what? Do exceptions excuse the norm? The exceptions prove nothing but the fact that nothing is ever 100%. India is not like everywhere else. It is a place of extremes and some of those extremes are extremely unpleasant. However, those are India’s problems – until they start exporting them.

    One of India’s exports is gaining attention –

    Rise of the superbugs

    Defeating the superbugs

  37. @Craig: I spent several weeks last year .. in India. I had expected to love the country and its culture, and to my surprise I found I detested it..

    Oh dear, not so liberal after all. Could you name the wealthy Indians who were so callous, O fearless one when it comes to libel? If you don’t like it, don’t go there.

  38. Seasick Dave

    22 Apr, 2013 - 9:08 am

    Of course there are lots of nice Indians and I work offshore with a few.

    However, on visiting India I think that you may have to reset your value system or you could be going off the dial!

  39. PS. Actually I wouldn’t libel rich Indians if I were you. But remember that Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa did not hate India.

  40. Note Craig has categorically never libeled anyone.

  41. What is not ‘liberal’ about objecting to what the objector sees as an illiberal and intolerant society?

  42. Max,

    I have of course read Babur’s memoirs, the Baburnama. The dynasty he founded are known as the Moghuls (generally spelt Mughals nowadays but I find I spell almost everything Indian the way Alexander Burnes did).

  43. Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    22 Apr, 2013 - 3:57 pm

    Police not taking rape seriously, is a problem generically in India, I believe.

    “The area around the India Gate in Delhi was cordoned off by police late on Sunday, amid protests sparked by a brutal rape of a five-year-old girl.
    Following a sit-in by Indian students, police built cordons and brought water cannons to the area.

    Both houses of the Indian Parliament were adjourned for the first session of the day on Monday morning amid protests by members against the incident.

    Security was also enhanced in other areas where protests erupted, including the city’s police headquarters and the residences of prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

    The Delhi Metro shut its Race Course Road station near the prime minister’s residence after a request from the police, local media reported.

    The government on Monday said an inquiry has been ordered into the lapses on part of police to investigate her disappearance and attempt to hush up the matter.”

  44. Technicolour says :

    “Habbakuk: of course, but rather than allow the natural progression of humanity towards rationality and balance take its course, the IMF stepped in.”

    And I say : oh, for God’s sake! Are you seriously claiming that progress (was there any?) towards getting rid of the caste system came to a stop because of the IMF???”

    And you saying, in another post :

    “I know people who are actively fighting against the caste system by giving up their caste. They are simultaneously fighting the influx of IMF sponsored projects (the injection of mysterious capital into destructive regional developments).”

    does not prove your point either. The fact that some people are fighting both the caste system and the IMF does not prove that the IMF somehow brought progress towards getting rid of the caste system to an end.

  45. Craig, I agree and you may be right. But he was not in favor of Moghuls. I read some of his poems translated by John Leyden, and he clearly dislikes being named Moghul. In fact, I would agree with him. Between Chengis Khan and him there were nearly 300 years of distance. And, only his mother had some connection to Moghuls. He also spoke and wrote in Turkic language (most modern Uzbek historians prefer to say he spoke Uzbek). Because he was born in Ferghana, and his father being from Osh (where massacre of Uzbeks took place in 2010) it would be fair to say Babur was not moghul. This is the opinion of Vasiliy Bartol’d, a famous Russian historian of the last century. I don’t know who named his empire in India as Moghul empire. There is a clear evidence both ethnically and linguistically him being as Turk from Central Asia rather than a Moghul. Just a thought, really.

  46. Er Villager.. I too have spent many months walking India and I concur with Craig et al. It is a manifestly corrupt male dominated society with genuine infrastructural, social, sexual and religious problems, strung together with a fundamental lack of basic human respect. I see you spout knowledgeably about Delhi locations etc. but to what extent have you traveled through real India, as I have in buses full of locals for 18hrs or more and explored the backwaters of India? I have seen with my own eyes the issues and I went to India with high hopes and left hating it – quite literally – and I have traveled extensively in well over 50 countries and have never felt that way about any other country. I could write for days about the potential solutions, however, a hand-to-mouth India with a small middle class of ‘Euro-wannabees’ replete with Ipads is acceptable to the upper classes and military who retain control. Villager – step outside the village, thanks..

  47. “Gosh, thanks, Kathy, and how right you are – there are nice people everywhere.”

    No need to be sarcastic. Sorry I spoke.

  48. Previous remark to “technicolour”. By the way, I could spout off all sorts of ill-informed nonsense about the IMF and the caste system etc. but prefer to stick to facts that I know.

  49. India: my tuppence worth.

    Qualifications: 6 visits in the nineties, average duration 10 weeks.

    Excuse to taxman for visits: searching out interesting fabric to make jackets.

    Actual reason: love India, plus where else could I afford to travel for 10 weeks.

    Areas travelled: far and wide, always somewhere new, always by bus or train.

    Arriving: From the moment you arrive, India is a riot of sensations, an assault on the senses. Colour, noise, smell, and jostling touch. Correction, you can smell a mixture of bonfires and incense before the plane lands, ie before you even arrive. I can’t put it better than Technicolour’s god-mother (above) : If Europe’s a water-colour, India’s an oil painting. I’m stealing that.

    A country: inadequate description. A sub-continent: that’s more like it.

    If you only had one day in India: spend it sitting, observing on the steps of the ghats at Varanasi/Benares. Funerals and laundry, dolphins and yoga, holy rituals and teeth brushing, pilgrimages and dawn boat trips, every day.

    Hampi : three different reasons to be a wonder of the world if it was any other country but India where such wonders are taken for granted.

    Story: My daughter and boyfriend were in a tuk-tuk auto rickshaw in the main street of Agra, capital of dodgy carpet salesmen and scammers. She heard a voice shouting from behind “Madam! Madam!” but employed the necessary survival technique of ‘not hearing’ the beggar. They moved painfully slowly through the traffic and the persistent caller’s voice got louder and more breathless as he slowly gained upon the rickshaw. When the disembodied voice finally drew alongside and could no longer be denied, she faced her pursuer who handed her travel bag (containing all her money and passport) to her saying “Madam, your bag, you dropped it” and then he stopped and was lost in the traffic before she could thank him.

    Memory: on a bus, passing a country roadworks, men with sledgehammers smashing huge boulders into rocks which were broken by women with hammers into stones which were pulverised into chips, gravel and dust by successively smaller children, a human quarrying conveyor system.

    Drinking : Diu. Opium : Puri. Cannabis : Kullu Valley. Partying : Goa.

    People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones : are we (Brits) really in a position to pass judgment on anybody else’s culture.

    Reason for stopping visiting India: dawning realisation that my relative wealth and their poverty were not unconnected.

  50. For a long time I wondered why western opinion put Muslims in the bad guy box for treating women badly, knowing that a plank of the Hindutva party’s program is the right to burn widows alive. I hope there will be a change now.

  51. technicolour

    23 Apr, 2013 - 9:30 am

    Kathy: I’m sorry, I wondered whether you were being sarcastic. Please accept my apology for misinterpreting. As for the IMP – ‘ill-informed’ – sadly not.

    Habbakuk: yes, I am saying that the role of the IMF is not helpful to human progress/structural change, which is why Malaysia told them to get knotted (wiki has the basics).

    A Node – great summary. Agree about relative poverty/wealth, of course.

  52. I was once shown some sanskrit texts on palm-leaves at the Wellcome Institute in London. They were threaded through at about one-third and two thirds of the width, and to turn the page you had to pull the next leaf forward on the string. ‘If you’ve got a way of conserving them, you’ve got a job’ the conservator told me. But even if I had thought of one, I was put off by the idea of shuffling the parts. What if you joined up the wrong parts of the leaf because you couldn’t read the writing?

    BTW I think India is a fantastic country and I was impressed that in the madrassahs where very small children are given a safe haven and Islamic education, there was a noticeable female presence in the form of a matron. What a blessing and joy is my lovely religion of Islam.

  53. Technicolour – thanks. No, it really happened and I was so impressed. They just treated me like one of their family. Not what you expect in London! Of course, in a country so huge and varied as India, it’s not that simple but I have no real first-hand knowledge of it.

  54. Kathy, thanks back – and so pleased you responded. Maybe it was something about you too! But yes,that courtesy and delicacy – thanks again.

  55. TC,

    People vs. Empire

    by Arundhati Roy

    In These Times magazine, January 2005

  56. Villager: thanks so much for that link: Kathy and anyone else interested in India, if you get a chance to read it, please do: it’s succinct and extremely informative (I’d quite like to know what Habbakuk would make of it too…)

  57. Recently, much attention has also been paid to the so-called backlash — the inflammatory comments made by religious and other figures, not least by a lawyer for one of the accused — about the culpability of women who get raped.

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