Indian Identity


It is Republic Day here in India, and so this seems an apt time to begin a discussion on my perceptions related to India’s self image. Having only been here 6 weeks and not having a past in India to compare it to, I nevertheless have begun to form some opinions. Here are some of the interesting things I have noticed:

  • There are many ad campaigns that focus on the sense of Indian pride. The Times of India in particular is running a campaign with signs everywhere proclaiming “India poised” and “Our time is now”.
  • People I have spoken with at length tell me how India is emerging as the next superpower. They tell me how India is now throwing off the shackles of the past and achieving greatness. There is a palpable sense among the people that this is so.
  • India appears to be coming out from a sort of previous inferiority complex, loudly proclaiming itself to be as great as, or greater than other nations.
  • The bookstores I have been in have massive self-help and business management sections with many, many titles related to Indian identity, the Indian psyche, etc. These sections are far larger than any other for some reason.
  • A recent article I read in the newspaper here went on at length about Indians traditionally being shy about showing their patriotism, but how that was changing.

All of this is quite interesting to watch as an outsider. Indians I have spoken with all tell me that this is fairly new, this sense of pride and feeling of greatness. A lot of it seems to be related to competing in a global marketplace and economic growth. I can totally understand why a country with such great poverty (especially in the rural areas) would yearn for a higher standard of living for more of its citizens. I only hope that they stop short of some of the excesses of nationalism that plague the US.