Tuesday, October 10, 2006

India on my mind -- and everyone else's

So I was watching Gilmore Girls this evening (while avoiding the reading I have to do) and it was going along predictably for the first few minutes when, all of a sudden, Rory says, "Well, I could talk about Bangalore!"

Huh??

I start paying closer attention and there's this 30 second riff on Bangalore and outsourcing -- how when you call customer service, chances are you're talking to "some nice person who speaks English in India." And just when I thought that was it, about 10 minutes later, she interrupts a (predictable) fight between her mom and grandparents by yelling, "Bangalore!" and stunning everybody into silence.

I guess that's one of many indications that India -- and Bangalore -- has really seeped into popular culture here in America. Sure, Americans have liked Indian food for a long time, and have been aware that their corner store guy and the cabbie are both South Asian. But we didn't figure in their collective popular consciousness quite like we do now:

Bangalore getting more than a mention in Gilmore Girls. A classmate knowing who Suketu Mehta is (and she'd read Maximum City, too). The words "contemporary Indian art" flowing off unlikely tongues.

And the fact that stories about India have been on the front page (or close by) of the New York Times several times in the last month. This last example, however, has annoyed me greatly. Not one of these apparently globally relevant stories has been positive. Not one. Here's a sampling of headlines:

Modern Ways Open India's Doors to Diabetes

In Teeming India, Water Crisis Means Dry Pipes and Foul Sludge

On India's Despairing Farms, a Plague of Suicides

And then there are the images, of course, and some very inventive captions, like: India Combats a Deadly Dengue Fever Outbreak.

Now, I'm not saying that any of these stories are untrue. Of course it's all happening and it's terrible and must be brought to national attention. The relevance on the front page of the Times, however, escapes me. It seems to do nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes.

I respect Somini Sengupta, the Times correspondent in India, a great deal. She does some extremely honest and necessary reporting and avoids falling into the "India Shining" trap. But while it's important to maintain a realistic perspective, there's also such a thing as overkill. And, I'm afraid, that's what's happened with the stories on India in the last month.

I expect more from the New York Times.

1 Comments:

At 5:27 PM, Blogger V!Aiyer said...

Aha Rhea, I have just finished reading 'The World is Flat' by Thomas Friedman(author is a 3 time Pulitzer winner, I am sure you would have heard his name)yesterday. In the book he talks extensively about India, Infosys, Globalization, Outsourcing, Insourcing, offshoring, supply chain etc, And some challenges as well. I do agree India is not quite *Shining* yet..but yes we will see that day in our life time. Copy paste the following link on your browser. This was broadcasted on Good Morning America some time ago http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=1674437

Please let me know your thoughts on it. Thank you for your time.

VA

 

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