Friday, June 02, 2006

Indian Media’s Obsession – NRI Success

It is has been very interesting to watch how Indian Media reports about Spelling Bee competition. Before the start of the final, I read a story on Rediff that Indo-American students will do well. One school boy of Indian origin did come up to the 4th spot which is a good achievement. But obviously looking at the past results there was underlying expectation that boys and girls of Indian origin may do very well. That did not happen this time if topping first is the criteria.

It is good in a way. Any child who does well in this competition is very impressive. So is the case for this year's New Jersey winner. Clearly smartness is not restricted to Indo-American households only. And I think that is the thing - more it becomes clear, better it is for Indo-American community; especially for their children. Otherwise enormous pressure of ‘success always’ creates lot of problems.

When the Harvard Indo-America student's case of plagiarisation was exposed, one interesting op-ed article was published in San Jose Mercury News. A San Francisco based Indian journalist wrote saying that it is good that this plagiarisation case got exposed because it will show the dangers of going over the edge for success at any cost within the Indo-American community. The writer was SW Engineer and then changed his profession. He recounted how his family members back in India labeled him crazy when he gave up his stable job. One line I remember from the article was – ‘it is hard enough for Indo-Americans to be described as model immigrant community; on top of that we insist always best from our children’. Needless to say in the process we pressurize them lot. The author mocked how an old aunt visiting USA tells her neighbor ‘mark my words, one day my nephew will get Nobel Prize in Literature’ whenever that kid comes back with top honors in her English class!

I am aware that how kids are pressurized for success back in India and how so many adults measure worth of any person only on the basis of success. Indo-American community is no different. In Silicon Valley many would only bother about windfall gains in IPO and which Ivey League school their children enter.

Coming back to Indian Media, Indian Media simply encourages such tendencies. They would always concentrate on some identifiable, dramatic success stories of Indians outside of India and that is it; as if so many of these NRIs are still in India! These NRIs have left the country in most cases for their personal gains (including myself), quite immersed in their country of adoption and their successes and failures have limited relevance to resident Indians. Trying to boast egos of privileged urban Indians by caricaturing these NRIs is cheap and counter productive.

So I would have been happy if Indian Media was more obsessed with success of so many smart kids in India and who are resident Indians rather than spending all the media real estate on the American Spelling Bee competition. When resident Indian kids will start taking part in this competition, it will be worthwhile to give so much footage. Till then Indian Media rather cover how so many intelligent resident Indian Kids can take part in this spelling bee competition. How about Times of India or Rediff sponsoring bright resident Indian kids in this competition?

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
June 2, 2006.


Kamalakar said...

I think it goes to say how edgy and anxious Indian middleclass has become. The excessive pressure on children is but the same on the self. Media is as bad as the middle class. Diaspora and the home bound are all same in the over anxious pursuit of success. It is malaise born of a desperation to catch up with those ahead as the West, i suspect. I mean to say Indian middle class society has this anxiety born of its colonial mindset.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank the blogger very much not only for this post but also for his all previous efforts. I found to be greatly interesting. I will be coming back to for more information.