Hiring Indians

The “we” of working together

By Sugata Mitra

It is generally understood that low skilled jobs are migrating to low wage economies as a result of advances in information and communication technology. While this is happening in India, such growth will be limited to a workforce that is trained in cities, and therefore, relatively small in numbers. Such jobs are located in affluent suburbs of large cities, where the standard of living, the cost of living and wages are already beginning to reach, and sometimes exceed, those in the developed economies.

As a result, industries are moving to smaller towns and will, eventually reach the rural communities. This is where 70% (700 million in the case of India) of the population live. However, the standards of education in such remote areas are not suitable for the low skilled job market.

Unless this problem is immediately addressed, outsourcing of low skilled jobs to India will reach its limits.

We are not one, we are two worlds.

It is also assumed that high skilled jobs will remain in the developed economies and high skilled workers will migrate to such economies. In the Indian IT sector, this has traditionally been so. However, in recent times, there is an increasing tendency for high skilled workers to return, or indeed, not leave to start with. This is the result of higher wages and the resultant standards of living within the Indian IT industry. As a result, the research and development laboratories of some of the largest technology companies in the world have moved to India. As economic growth drives standards of living higher, there will be a major slowing down of the migration of high skilled people from urban India.

WE have not yet learned to work together.

If India is to continue exporting high skilled people to the developed economies, such workers will have to be produced from the non-urban and less affluent areas of the country. The quality of education in such areas is, once again, entirely inadequate for the production of such workers.

Indeed, the demand for low and high skilled workers within the Indian domestic industry is also facing a shortage. In order to address the issue of education in remote (non-urban) locations, it is necessary to first understand the effects of remoteness and culture on the quality of education. It is then necessary to examine alternatives to traditional educational practice. Teacher migration is a root cause for the poor quality of education in remote areas. Teacher training to improve the quality of teachers, the traditional “solution” on which enormous resources are used, only aggravates the problem.

In the next five years, if growth is to be maintained, the focus will have to shift away from administrative “solutions” to the fundamentals of educational theory, technology and a search for alternative educational systems. Self organising systems, synchronous distance education, teacher independent learning and remote presence technologies will form the basis of such alternatives.

However, this article is not about education, it is about we – the Indians.

American companies dealing with Information and communication technology are often required to hire persons who are residents of India or of Indian origin. This is usually a consequence of the software development and the “business process outsourcing” (BPO) industries. In recent times, such appointments have been the subject of much debate, since they represent the migration of jobs from the USA to India. Advances in telecom technology make it possible for American corporations to carry out large parts of their operations remotely, in India, thereby saving orders of magnitude in cost. While the social consequences of such job migration may be of concern, in this article we will merely examine the process of hiring Indians, since this is likely to continue unabated in the immediate future.

Corporations in the USA usually consider Indians as citizens of a single country and, therefore, homogenous. While this is true in principle, it is very different in practice. India is an extremely diverse country and differences in the personality of Indians in different parts of the country can be as different as the differences between, say, Russians and the Chinese. This can result in unpleasant surprises once Indian employees are hired.

I am an Indian. I have been hiring Indians for all sorts of purposes for the last 25 years and this article is an attempt to summarize some of the key rules that I have discovered to avoid mistakes in selection. I write this in the hope that some of this experiential and historical experience may help Americans select Indians that will fit the roles designated for them.

A little about India may be useful to start with. It is a relatively large country, about half the size of the United States. India is a peninsula attached to the Asian mainland between Afghanistan to the west, China to the north and the south-east Asian nations of Thailand and Myanmar to the east. In many ways, India is the bridge between Europe and the far-east.

Protected by the mighty Himalayan mountains in the North and the Arabian sea, the Indian ocean and the Bay of Bengal in the west, south and east respectively, India remained undisturbed for thousands of years. The land was extremely fertile, fed by the mighty rivers that were formed from the melting snows of the Himalayas. Great civilizations developed on the banks of the Indus, the mythical Saraswati, the Ganges, the Godavari and other rivers of the region. In the period between (at least) 8000 BC and 1000 AD, trade flourished between Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and all other countries of the then civilized world. Taxila and Nalanda, among the greatest universities of the ancient world, produced the earliest works of philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, economics and technology. The textual works of the period were studied and carried back to the west by the greatest scholars and students of the time – from Al Baruni and Herodotus, to Huen Tsang and eventually Voltaire and Mark Twain, all documented the incredible achievements of the time.

India has been invaded and occupied by smaller countries and kingdoms in Europe, Arabia and central Asia for the last thousand years or so. Every invader, while they looted and destroyed large parts of the country, were deeply affected by the cultures and knowledge they encountered. Millennia of Indian philosophical thought had emphasized non-violence, non-materialism and holistic thinking. This resulted in a country that was perhaps the easiest in the world to conquer. However, what the conquerors did not realize was the Indian conquest of minds and cultures that would follow their physical act of conquest. From Alexander the great to Lord Curzon, from Chengiz Khan to Akbar, all carried back along with the gold and jewels, the decimal number system, the Sanskrit grammar, algebra, geometry, astronomy, music, medicine, textiles and metallurgy. Only to return after converting the knowledge into newer and more powerful weapons of war!

India accepted them all. Integrated them into the social fabric, tweaked their relatively primitive cultures and sent them back, changed for ever. Languages changed all over the ancient world, influenced by Sanskrit. In the modern world, the “tandoori chicken tikka masala” became Britain’s national dish!

If survival of the fittest is nature’s measure of success, India with one sixth of the world’s population became humanity’s greatest survivor. When Intel and Microsoft came to “conquer” India with their microprocessors and operating systems in the 1990s, little did they realize the flood of Indians that would invade the world of software development.It is in this context that Indian IT and BPO industry personnel should be viewed.

People in India are a mixed and varied lot. They speak 17 different languages, 700 dialects and represent every genetic and socio-economic variation existing in the world. An Indian’s personality and attitudes are shaped by several factors. Geographic location, education and the erstwhile caste system being some of the key factors.
In the figure below, I have divided India into four major geographies, North, East, West and South. The blank area to the east can, in general be considered as part of the east.

In India they are many different “We’s“ …

india_web.jpg

People of the four geographies are quite different from each other. In India, communities of people are often identified with specific states or languages of the country. For example, people from the state of Punjab, who speak the Punjabi language are called Punjabi’s, while those from the state of West Bengal, who speak the Bengali language are called Bengali’s.

The North of the country has been attacked by other countries for millennia and the people from there, predominantly Punjabis, are characterized by short term goals, corruption, cultural immaturity, and low education. They can be highly ambitious and materialistic and are capable of waiving all moral or ethical values to achieve their goals. They are practical and very hard working but lack imagination and creativity. They have little appreciation for the arts and have poor esthetics. They are mostly vegetarian and eat only chicken, if they do eat meat. Women have few rights in this region and are considered as good only for child rearing. Female infanticide is common and the ratio of males to females in the population can be a frightening 10:7 in some areas. They would be good at sales, engineering, telling lies, weaseling out of difficult situations, working long hours, and partying. They tend to get along well with the average American.

The East of the country is extremely fertile, the Ganges river delta being the most fertile region on earth. This part of the country has not been attacked as often as the north, however, Kolkata (earlier called Calcutta) was the city from where the British ruled their empire. It is also the region from where Gandhi’s principles of “passive resistance” and “civil disobedience” destroyed the British Empire without bloodshed. The region is dominated by the Bengali people. The eastern people are similar to, and often look like, the people of the Far East. They are lazy and have low ambition. However, they are usually highly educated, talented in the arts and are sensitive. They can be very emotional and tend to run away from difficult situations. They eat everything and enjoy eating and drinking very much. Football and cricket are regional obsessions, although most prefer to watch and comment rather than participate. Women in this region are powerful, very intelligent and frequently more active than the men. Indeed, it was a Bengali woman that lowered the Union Jack in Bombay to end the British rule in India. This region has produced most of the Nobel Laureates, Oscar winners and Grammy awardees of India. They would be good at jobs involving creativity, communication, media and science. They make excellent teachers and get along easily with American intellectuals.

Eastern India also consists of the North East. This is a beautiful and neglected region with people who are indistguish- able from the people of the Far East. English is spoken every- where, although with a strong accent. Beef and pork are staple foods of the region along with fish from the magnificent Bhrahmaputra river.

The people of north-eastern India make excellent employees for those jobs that involve low intellectual levels. They will follow instructions and make few mistakes as long as the circumstances are described clearly during their induction. They are unlikely to be original thinkers and problem solvers. In this respect, they will be very similar to, but cheaper than their American counterparts.

The people of western India fall into two categories. The upper west consisting of Gujaratis, Sindhis and Marwaris are very different from the Maharashtrians of the rest of the region. The former are astute business people and control most of India’s economy and the stock markets. They are excellent entrepreneurs, have few values other than those connected with money and are mostly street-wise. Many consider education and professions a waste of time. They make excellent con-men and scamsters and can talk their way into most jobs. They are strictly vegetarian and eat all manner of deep fried food. Many are obese. The women of this region are encouraged to stay at home, from where they control the family wealth. As employees, Gujaratis, Sindhis and Marwaris can be very hard working and diligent as long as it serves their interest to do so. They will walk out of a job into a better paying one without a second thought.

People of the rest of the western region are mostly from the state of Maharashtra. They are among the brightest and most educated of all Indians. Maharashtrians value education and patriotism above most things. They are practical and often very creative. However, their love of the intellect can sometimes be obsessive leading to people who have excellent intentions but are not too good at getting things done. They are mostly vegetarian, although they eat fish and chicken irregularly. Women of this region are efficient, educated, liberal and extremely capable. The Indian film industry, the largest in the world, is located in Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay), in this region. They have also produced the world’s best cricketers. Maharashtrians make excellent employees – loyal, intelligent and hard working. They would make good communicators, programmers, engineers, scientists and could be good at most professions if motivated by altruistic values.

If you draw a horizontal line through the city of Mumbai, the region below that line would be called South India. It is a diverse region consisting of the states of Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu. Understanding or describing South India in a few paragraphs is not easy; however, it is from here that that the Indian IT revolution originated and one cannot understand India, particularly Hindu India without reference to this region.

Academic excellence, mathematics, algorithmic thinking, idio­syncrasies and an all but indestructible set of cultural values characterize the people of the south. Add to this an almost incomprehensible English pronunciation, a dark complexion and a natural perm and you would have a reasonable picture of the south Indian. While they are, almost invariably, brilliant, south Indians can be deceptive, intolerant, dishonest and cruel. They will quietly perform technological and scientific miracles, as long as it serves their purpose to do so. They will dump you when they choose to, without a backward glance.

South Indian food habits can be difficult. The people of Andhra and Kerala will eat meat or fish, provided it is cooked in their own spices. The region has an abundance of spice and has, in the past, given the world – pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and many other aromatic herbs. It is said that spices were traded between south India and the west from king Solomon’s time.

The people of Tamilnadu, the Tamils, are strict vegetarians. They will eat mostly rice and sauces made from yoghurt and tamarind, spiced with peppers. Only one form of cooking, the Chettinad cuisine, consists of very hot meat preparations and this is relatively rare.

The women of the south are diminutive, subservient and very polite. These characteristics are mostly put on and these, extremely accomplished, women have made and destroyed empires without as much as moving a muscle. The people of southern India form the backbone of the software industry all over the world, and particularly, the United States. It can be argued that any large piece of software today would have significant parts of it written by south Indians.

What does all this mean to you as a potential employer of Indians? I think the following questions are important while evaluating an Indian for employment:

  1. Where were you born? – This question will enable you to find out what community the candidate belongs to. If he or she is not born in India, you will have to probe the origins of parents and the languages spoken at home. Indians brought up in other countries tend to be very different in their mannerisms from their native cousins; however, the basic community traits tend to remain the same.
  2. What languages do you speak? – Most Indians speak three or more languages. Hindi is the national language of the country, English the common “bridging” language, and a mother tongue that will give you an indication of community.
  3. What school did you go to? – In India, there are three kinds of schools, private schools that are expensive, government schools that are nearly free and “missionary” schools that are generally run by Christian or other religious missions. The three kinds of schools produce very different kinds of people. Private schools produce smart, selfish and communicative students. Government schools produce highly educated and often, creative, students with poor communication and social skills. Missionary school students tend to have good values and behavior, although they may lack academic excellence and creativity.
  4. What caste do you belong to? – This is a tricky question. The best answer would be where the candidate is unaware of his or her caste. If a candidate does name a caste, it would probably indicate a mind that is affected by the caste system. There are many castes in India, the highest being the Brahmin (intellectual). Brahmins consider themselves superior to most other people, although they may not say so. Brahmins from south India, in particular, are unlikely to consider anyone, other than their own kind, to be their intellectual equals or superiors. The next caste is the Kshtriya, who are warriors. Kshtriyas tend to be honest, loyal and hard working, once you gain their trust. Below the Kshtriyas are a host of “lower” castes, all of whom, if they are still affected by this ancient system, will tend to be subservient in one way or the other. Finally, there are the lowest castes, the Untouchables, who are unlikely to reveal their caste. Incidentally, anyone who is not a Hindu is an Untouchable!

In conclusion, Indians can make wonderful, inexpensive employees provided you put them to the job they will do best in. And what they will do best in is often deeply dependent on the socio-cultural history of this ancient land.



33 Comments

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Raghu Ramanna
Aug 31, 2008 14:15

I am not sure who this Mitra is. I cannot even tell if the name is that of a male or female. Must be a female going from the first name. Obviously this person is an intellectually with a skewed sense. It is sad to see such intelligent people write ridiculous articles such as this one. I wish this person would use his/her energies to do something worthwhile. This is the kind of person that continues to divide India. This article stinks of contempt for people’s values cultures and ethnicity. Stereotyping people is very easy and this person is hiding behind the fact that he/she can vouch for the behavior of Indian people through his experience. Obviously his/her experience is very limited and vision is myopic. I have never heard anyone say before and I quote “Incidentally, anyone not a Hindu is an untouchable”. This is the most absurd statement I have come across in a long time, probably written by a pseudo know-it-all elitist. It is a shame such articles are even published. Who is this Mitra anyway? Probably a poor soul who hasn’t looked in the mirror.

Ulrike
Aug 31, 2008 14:34

Dear Raghu,

thanks for your comment!

First of all, Sugata is a man, just follow the link of his name in the article and you will see his personal homepage.

I, being the editor of we-magazine, was aware that Sugata’s article would cause some reaction. Myself and also Sugata received many emails regarding his “description” of the different “we’s” in India. And I am positive neither Sugata nor I intended to insult anybody!

I myself cannot judge if Sugata is “right or wrong” – I have never been to India and I am far away of making a statement of different groups in India. But I do know Sugata as a well known scientist and researcher and I do think, that it is part of an editor’s responsibility to publish articles which might not be “mainstream”, which might cause reaction … To me it seems much better that a discussion like this is possible and is not hidden behind walls. It’s life!

I hear similiar discussion in the US regarding black and white people, in Europe regarding “eastern” and “western” … it is just part of our lives. So why shouldn’t we discuss it here?

Best regards, Ulrike

Ashwin Mathew
Aug 31, 2008 15:58

Ulrike, if you wanted to cause a “reaction” you’ve certainly done that; but please understand that this is not going to contribute to any kind of productive discussion. This article can very easily be viewed as hate speech.

You commented that “And I am positive neither Sugata nor I intended to insult anybody!”. Please don’t imagine that you can make this claim when the article clearly does so, over and over again. A few choice extracts:
“Punjabis, are characterized by short term goals, corruption, cultural immaturity, and low education.”
“The eastern people are … lazy and have low ambition.”
“The people of north-eastern India make excellent employees for those jobs that involve low intellectual levels.”
“The women of the south are diminutive, subservient and very polite. These characteristics are mostly put on and these, extremely accomplished, women have made and destroyed empires without as much as moving a muscle.”

This is not about the fact that we have people who are different, but whether they can be broadly characterised as being “good” or “bad” in the simple terms that Mitra uses. Furthermore, it is not as though we are not having these conversations: these are part of everyday life in India. Mitra’s representation of our difference is a perversion, rather than the celebration that it should be.

Rakesh Biswas
Sep 1, 2008 16:47

Well I would say Mitra is brave enough to openly talk about issues we Indians generally prefer to discuss only in a closed circle of (ahem Indians mostly).

We have a unique sense of national pride in which we tend to label any criticism of
India-Shining, as unpatriotic.

I too feel Mitra is wrong in some of his generalizations but then his objective was trying to get us out into an open debate. Every man is entitled to have his views in a democratic plurality that characterizes our nation.

I often wondered why no one challenged these stereotypes of a hardworking emotional Punjabi and a lazy creative Bengali etc. Perhaps this was because it was never discussed in an open forum.

It is time we Indians put forward all our (perverted) opinions about us in one single platform and compared notes. Hope to see it happening in this web page.

A few interesting themes may emerge from these thoughts (generated from different individual point sources getting self organized) before they fade into oblivion.

Anasuya Sengupta
Sep 2, 2008 3:09

Dear Rakesh and Ulrike, I completely agree with both of you that debate is critical on issues of identity and possible conflict arising out of these issues. While interested in technology, I myself am not in the tech industry, but work on issues of social justice, and passionately believe in the open and free discussion of difficult issues. And yes, I do not believe that debates about Indians or India – or anywhere else for that matter – need to be limited by geography, citizenship or origin, though an understanding of context is essential.

However, there is a certain responsibility that those of us who undertake to take these discussions have; equally, arising from this, there is a clear demarcation between discussing difference and promoting discrimination. As a well-known academic, if Prof. Mitra had written the article in the spirit of challenging the stereotypes that exist of Indians today, I would have applauded his courage and welcomed the discussion. However, it is patently obvious that the article is not written either to dispel or to deconstruct these stereotypes critically, but to reinforce them in the most damaging of ways. And for an academic to turn personal opinions into generalisations that then masquerade as truths: that is not just irresponsible, it is downright appalling.

I have worked with different organisations in the social sector from across India, and for every ‘generalisation’ Prof. Mitra has made, I can give you examples of people who counter his various images. I am fairly certain this would be true of the tech industry as well. I hesitate to do so, however, because that would give credence to an analysis I find flimsy and absurd. As an activist and social scientist, I also find Prof. Mitra’s generalisations not just problematic from the point of view of perception, but from simple fact. Everyone in Tamil Nadu is not ‘strictly vegetarian’ for example, just as not everyone in Andhra or Kerala eats fish and meat: vegetarianism In India is primarily based on caste and community (of which every state has a multitude, professing different life and food styles), but also, obviously, on choice.

Even a faint modicum of research and analysis – and an acknowledgment that these are Prof. Mitra’s personal opinions, not general truths – might have turned this article into an opportunity for a much more productive and interesting discussion. As it stands now, I am gravely disappointed, both by Prof. Mitra’s article and in Ulrike, as the editor, for supporting this kind of inadequate writing.

Ashok Desai
Sep 4, 2008 6:59

Absolutely superb. Outspoken, outrageous, and hugely entertaining. I especially loved his comments on us Gujaratis. I know there are a lot of Gujaratis who are not money-minded, and many who would have done better if they had been more money-minded. But this is the universal stereotype about Gujaratis, and I would hate to live in an India where it could not be put in words. He opened my eyes – slightly. For example, I have done 15 jobs; I didn’t know it was because I was a Gujarati.
When I was young, it was quite common amongst Indians to have preconceptions of this type about one another, and to express and discuss them. Then India started getting to be one India, a new, politically correct generation grew up, and banter of this type disappeared. Sugata Mitra is not being “scientific” – in fact, he gives no evidence at all. So one does not have to take him seriously; that some people have suggests to me that their Indian ego is rather fragile.
Incidentally, I came across this piece quite accidentally. I was interested in Sugata Mitra’s hole-in-the-wall experiment and wondered what he had been doing since. What he has been doing is quite predictable and boring – he is teaching in Newcastle, I understand. But this piece shows that he has not entirely lost his wacky brilliance.

Arun Rabindar
Sep 4, 2008 15:25

This article has far too many generalizations and refuting each one is going to be a waste of time. I am from South India and unlike other commenters here, I wasn’t frustrated or angered by his observations but laughed out loud.

I quote: “For example, people from the state of Punjab, who speak the Punjabi language are called Punjabi’s, while those from the state of West Bengal, who speak the Bengali language are called Bengali’s.” Punjabi’s what? Bengali’s what? I’ll take the professor seriously when he takes his grammar seriously.

Sugata Mitra
Sep 6, 2008 12:42

Gentlemen, gentlemen, please calm yourselves!

This article is based on my personal observations. It is opinionated. It is not a scientific thesis and is not based on any data other than personal anecdotal ones.

It needed to be written.

Do I have to do science all the time?

How about some fun? Why do we eat hot pickle? Not for nutrition, I am sure.

Go on, pull my leg, use some choice expletives (by region, caste and creed) and carry on……….

Cheers.

AP
Sep 7, 2008 2:19

Sugata is no good…he is trying to sell Hole in Wall as a big stuff for his company…he and his copmany both likes to sell half truths…and that’s why both did not grow.

Suneeta Kulkarni
Sep 9, 2008 16:31

Either we have lost our sense of humour… or is it that we didn’t have one to begin with?!

Also, whatever happened to being able to view things in a balanced manner… ? Are we also going to discount every compliment that Sugata has paid Indians as a whole and separately in terms of groups?! In case some of you hadn’t noticed, there are a lot of them in the article…it’s sad that we can’t face ourselves, warts and all… but even more importantly, we are forgetting what this was meant for… stimulating a discussion and perhaps giving some ideas about what ‘we’ might be best at… this isn’t meant to deride anyone…

By the way, are we forgetting how generalizations emerge?

Sumit Chakraberty
Sep 16, 2008 16:25

I met Sugata Mitra on several occasions as a journo in Delhi years back (and also Ashok Desai!). I came across this by chance and was amazed at the vitriolic comments. They speak more about the closed attitude of the commentators than that of Sugata. I wonder how many of them are from India and how many are ‘desis’. There you have two more we’s!

Al Wromke
Sep 17, 2008 5:05

“Absolutely superb. Outspoken, outrageous, and hugely entertaining. I especially loved his comments on us Gujaratis” — I agree with the gentleperson above who made this comment….
This entry was HAlarious and thought provoking.. Suharta Mitra, or Summit Mitra – whatever your name is — thank you for being delightfully outspoken and provocative. Funny, funny, funny.

ak
Dec 10, 2009 10:25

I stumbled upon this …..old article.
It not only displays Sugata’s HUGE IGNORANCE of India, but also his taste of what could be called FUN? The most shocking part to me is the suggestion to ask – “what is your Caste?”. Well Sugata, you seem to be from a region, where people, according to you, are… “usually highly educated, talented in the arts and are sensitive”.

The fact that for the sake of FUN you can write this crap shows how insensitive, uneducated you are besides ofcourse being supremely superficial.

Arjab
Jan 31, 2010 20:10

The very fact that so many persons have read Sugata’s article and then passionately commented and blasted him, shows that his musings have more than struck a chord with those who have read it ! :-) :-)

We, indians, are by nature extremely emotional and we tend to take things too sentimentally…..and this is exactly what is reflected in the various reader’s comments !

Sugata has just pointed out certain demographic observations from his perspective. He does not want to impose his views on others, nor does he want others to follow his views!

In fact if we sit back and do some very, very objective thinking and analyse Mitra’s article, there’s a lot of hard hitting observations in it.
And the best part is – those who have read this article, know that there’s a lot of truth in Mitra’s P.O.V. but grudgingly doesn’t want to admit it ! (they will later, behind closed doors, or better still, after they get a bit tipsy with their buddies and then enunciate their views !! ;-)

Articles like this are a welcome read, tickles the gray cells better than “tandoori chicken masala” !! :-)

Joydeep
Feb 1, 2010 8:00

Sugata Mitra has done a great job of profiling Indians into silos and rightly so. Let us consider a few instances. In which other part of the country will you find the council of village elders deciding who should marry whom other than in Haryana essentially a north Indian state? Go ahead and name 10 intellectuals from Haryana without having to google. I doubt you will come up with any even after you spend a day in the library. Now let’s ask for models, actors, corrupt politicians, and sportsperson from Haryana and you will probably start rattling names off your head immediately.

Which state has the largest number of honor killings in India? Haryana did you say?

Now let us go to Punjab another North Indian state – Again most good-looking men in the country and in Bollyhood, the Indian film industry, are from Punjab. They are fierce fighters and very proud people. However, I fail to understand their obsession to migrate to Canada or any other country with a white population given the first opportunity. Most of the victims of recent Australian race violence are Punjabis. Corrupt? They are definitely as corruptible as anyone else in the country.

When in New Jersey, I met this Punjabi IT worker. During lunch he proudly announced that he bought this cool set of furniture from Wal-Mart, used it for a month and returned it to the store as part of the Returns goods policy. “Smart eh!” he adds with a smirk as if he had pulled of a great heist job.

We can spend our entire lifetime dissecting the nuances of each community and debating Sugata’s comments trying hard to find exceptions and inconsistencies, however, his observations are by and large applicable loosely. Another observation is that most of these segregations become diluted in cities. A Bengali in Delhi is as worse a show off as Punjabi.

kanaadaa
Feb 1, 2010 15:22

Sugata,

The Sarasvati is not a river from myth. Geologists have for over five decades concluded that such a river as discussed in the Rig Veda existed.

kanaadaa
Feb 1, 2010 15:26

Sugata,

This looks like an essay that conforms to Poe’s Law

Shailesh
Feb 2, 2010 6:03

C’mon Sugata..I sincerely expected a more researched and factually accurate article from you. It seemed like was reading a mixture of some government ministry propaganda and your personal opinions on various topics concerning India.

The most hilarious parts were related to your generalized, stereotyped descriptions of various Indian communities. It looked like 5th grade student had written it as a social studies assignment.

Coming from an eminent scientist of your stature this article was simply absurd. It was simply disappointing.

Were you just being goofy or did you write this in a state of inebriation!

Deshik Dutta
Jul 9, 2010 22:57

A beautiful write up..my hats off to Mr Mitra. A candid,vivid yet to the point, wilt loads of info he has given in this article. Well I won’t call it an article but a splendid picture hanged on to any country’s National Library’s archive sections. You give a look and there are so much to explore. My take on this “picture” is absolutely correct.The info on the Indians, rather the different Indians are true to your every bone. Mr Mitra seemed to study each one of individuals with care and concern. And the outcome is always dangling with a positive sign.

Well Mr Mitra, I feel proud that You are hiring Indians.So You deserve the palate with diffrent patterns of Ilish Curry.

Sumita Dutta
Jul 29, 2010 13:26

The article stinks of intellectual arrogance of a mediocre busybody trying to gain attention from the depths of ignorance that he has dug himself into. I am surprised there are commentators who are wondering why we Indians do not have a sense of humour, but not everything can be justified under this umbrella. I agree that we should have introspective debate, but why are we trying to defend a bigot under the guise of humour ?
What are the basis of all the comments that this person has made ? Stereotyping , an art he might have practiced at his local adda over endless cups of tea ? My 7 year old daughter has been taught in her school about the danger stereotyping people into silos. Its a pity that this person has not even got the intellectual sophistication of primary school pupils.
Sugata – Dig yourself out of the deep hole in the wall – let through some enlightment so that humanity is spared from bigots like you.

tony hart
Nov 29, 2010 21:01

how refreshing to find an intelectual with a sense of humor

Swamiji
Feb 24, 2011 23:34

Sugata, do you teach kindergarten? Hows that for humor? hehe
Useless “article” and please don’t even pass this as “funny”. I think lot of things said here were pulled from behind.

beinghuman
Oct 16, 2011 8:11

Bullshit. Never knew Mr Mitra was so ignorant. “Anyone who is not Hindu is an untouchable” This is the height of ignorance. In India if you read about the history of religious conversion in certain regions you would know that most Muslims and Christians who converted early, had come from intellectual or royal families…Arab traders and Christian missionaries were way too prejudiced and biased to entertain “untouchables” in India. According to Mr. Mitra, Only Maharashtrians make perfect employees! There is no mention of Kashmiris or oriyas….

dkbose
Nov 28, 2011 0:04

This article is not worth publishing. Try publishing a article like this about jews or blacks in a negative sense in US . The editor can easily lose their jobs.

Jon Savell
Dec 17, 2011 22:35

“While the social consequences of such job migration may be of concern, in this article we will merely examine the process of hiring Indians, since this is likely to continue unabated in the immediate future.”

oh. this is the “We – the business of Indians” rather than some global feel-good operation.

first, you are fired. please see below.

second, when you passed over people of other cultures to shove as many Indians as possible into my company, i didn’t like that. they are fired too.

thank you for taking my money, hiding the risks and uncertainties of the proposed platform, going silent every time someone of non-Indian ethnicity walked within hearing range your of conversation, and giving me no working software at the end of two and a half years of employment.

Sincerely,
Jon Savell

joe
Jan 28, 2012 18:13

First i thought it was a serious article;then i thougt it is some kind of fun intended; then i was sure the guy is joking;even if 50% are facts the language and format convinces you that it is based on some scientific research.

Syed
Feb 1, 2012 21:23

I this my old friend is out of his mind. Probably living his left over days. I have travelled all over india for more than ten times. What he describe is totally wrong, if some one really want to write about india than send me an email I will take him on all india tour with me. I am sure any one with a childish mind will also know what india is, well Mitra my friend you should consult a doctor immediately

Dibyendu De (@TheDesignKata)
Apr 25, 2012 4:45

Does one deal with a Japanese or Chinese in exactly the same way one deals with a white US citizen or a white Britisher from Scotland? Why?

Cognition and Emotions are integral part of human beings. Human behavior is greatly modulated by prevailing social consciousness, which might be totally wrong in a particular context. .

Do all families in a particular community behave in the same manner? Sometimes yes; sometimes no.

Similarly, would Gandhiji fall into the stereotype of a Gujrati? May be not.

However, the good thing and the hope is that general perceptions do change over time. But it usually takes a long time.

Lastly isn’t the concept of a ‘nation state’ a recent product of human imagination? Before the concept of nation states came into being, except for China, most sates as we know them today were fragmented. Before 1947, India was a mixture of around 550 princely states each running their own shows in their own ways according to context that affected them. There is nothing right or wrong about that, isn’t it?

Sunil Kumar
Jun 22, 2012 5:51

Hi,
Mr. Mitra has written this article out of experience and I must thank him for his detailed analysis though I may not agree to it.

Since my father was in Indian Air Force and later I had a sales and marketing job, I got to travel different parts of India – Admapur, Nashik, Chennai, Mt.Abu, Gwalior,Udaipur, Jaipur, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Ahmedabad,Vizag etc. And I was born in a small village in UP yet I do not have opinion about people belonging to a particular state, region and religion though some specific attribute might be common but it cannot be generalized. So, I believe accross the world, not just India, there are only good, bad and average people irrespective of their origin, caste, language etc. And I surely say most of us fall in the category of average people ( generally good with few grey shades).

Having said that I would still see Mr.Mitra’s article as his view point in a open society so I would suggest Mr. Mitra keep writing such articles with a disclaimer ” Obesrvations are subjective and indicative but are not conlusive in nature” I this such a disclaimer would help reader in approaching this article with a open mind.

A word for readers- Being Indians we are very sensitive when it comes to our country, region, religion etc. so I would request the readers to look at articles with a open mind as I said most of us fall in the category of :”Average” people.

Cheers! Mr. Mitra and readers be a sport at the end of the day no one is forcing you to shed your viewpoint. May God Bless us all.

Paul
Jul 4, 2012 8:03

Sugata has hot the nail on the head in that in hiring you have to be mindful of the mentality of the people a person would have grown up with. Those whose parents were in the Indian army and hence have moved around India are usually better rounded. Having said that, I am in the UK (I think Sugata is) and the behaviour of Indians (esp. first generation) here demonstrates so many cultural hangovers.

to mr. eat my opinion
Aug 4, 2012 16:14

after reading this,i felt the writer has a particular hatred for north indians,i don’t know the reasons,probably because of his bad experiences..let me enlighten you a bit.it were the north indians who have suffered the most during the last centuries yet we remained resilient,survived and fought back.and it were the north indians i.e. sikhs and hindu jats who liberated india from mughal tyranny and yet it were the sikhs who rebelled against the britishers . unfortunately evil practices like female infanticide were somewhat a product of hostile invaders.talking of punjabis being corrupt i would like to remind you that the biggest scams of this decade were from states like tamil nadu,maharashtra,karnataka.no offence to anyone.

Pocha Mach
Aug 19, 2012 22:30

The only people who have praised Sugata Mitra are Bengalis. I would say that the traitors of India are all from Bengal. Imagine the British ruled all over India for 200 years from Calcutta.. If they did not have native support how could they do it? Even today our national anthem is a praise to the queen, again penned by a back stabbing treacherous bengali.

Need I say more.

Damodar
Sep 14, 2012 20:34

Great article by Prof. Sugata Mitra. People who have adversely reacted to this article do not realize that this is written from a deep understanding of the different regions of India. Whether these peculiar Indian commentators are from India or elsewhere, they represent the average Indian mediocrity who love to show off their opinions on every topic without proper understanding. We are all suffering due to this superficial thinking of most Indians – most of whom belong to Punjab or Kerala or U.P.

Anyway Prof. Sugata should not get demotivated by such negative comments and continue to write, because the barking dogs cannot dissuade the graceful elephant of intellect and knowledge. All these barking dogs who have negative comments about this article can never write good articles in their life.





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