Damned If You, Damned If You Don’t

What is the vilest thing you could possibly do to belittle someone’s achievement? One way of doing it might be to claim the achievement – or part of it – as your own. Or if you want to get technical about it and I do, you could snatch the achievement and make it the collective achievement of a billion people – many of whom you’ve never even met. And that’s precisely something that Indians do.

Before certain communityal activists label me a Pakistani anti-national, hear me out. Anytime an Indian gains international attention or achieves something momentous, every other Indian makes a mad dash to remind everyone else about the nationality of the person. Within minutes, you’ll find memes floating around with titles like “Proud to be an Indian! Every Indian must share” or “Share if you are Indian!” or “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet! Share!”. You get the gist.

Sundar Pichai was made CEO of Google in 2015 and to this day, I find “motivational” images of him with text about how an Indian is now the boss of Google, and how we as Indians must be proud of this spectacular achievement. I would like to quickly point out that Pichai still does have a boss above him – if Pichai runs the largest company in the world, Larry Page runs the company that owns the largest company in the world.

Indians making off with the achievements of others like….

To be frank, I am not making light of Sundar Pichai’s achievements in any way. But at the same time, I do not feel that I have to be proud of his achievements simply because we were born in the same country. I do not feel the need to trumpet it or act like I played a part – however small – in him accomplishing it. Where he is now is solely his achievement and claiming a part of it in the name of ‘national honour’ and ‘pride’ is a cheap move against him.

Sunita Williams – who has found a place for herself among the stars with her accomplishments – is also frequently lauded by Indians. Somehow an American citizen born to Indian and Slovenian parents setting a record for most spacewalk time is cause for huge celebration here! I can understand feeling happy for someone who has done something great with their life. I can understand sending out congratulatory messages for them. What I cannot understand is why Indians feel the need to bring in the nationality of the person. It’s as if the person being Indian is proof that India is regaining its long-lost glory.

I can understand if you’re one of these people I’ve mentioned. And I’m okay with it – people are free to express their thoughts any way they see fit. I’d be really interested to know what your take on this is. But what I think this phenomenon does is highlight the hypocrisy inherent in our society.

We feel proud when an Indian does something that is globally recognised. We rob the feeling of success from the person and claim that achievement from them. We claim it as the collective achievement of a nation with a billion people. But why do we not do the same when a person fucks their life up? Why do we not go in and help that person and treat his troubles as the collective troubles of a nation with a billion people? If you argue that making bad decisions and ending up in the dumps is a matter of personal responsibility, I would call that a double standard.

Why does this ‘personal responsibility’ not apply when someone succeeds? Why are society and the media so ready to pounce in on success stories but relegate people screwing up to just another statistic in the charts? I believe that every action of a person is their own responsibility, regardless of whether they end up being successful or a failure. If you will not participate when a screw-up occurs, you damn well do not have the right to claim an achievement or revel in its warmth.

There might be some among you that argue that it is the feeling of fraternity that matters and that no one is actually taking away the accomplishment from Sundar Pichai or Sunita Williams. There might be some that argue that Sunita being of Indian origin is reason enough to celebrate her spacewalks. If that is so, why do I never see any pics of her father, Deepak Pandya, an actual Indian and a very accomplished neuroanatomist? Surely that is reason enough for you to celebrate?

Now that I’ve managed to make me look like a smug ‘intellectual’ asshole, let me wind this up. What someone achieves is entirely theirs. This can be taken as true since a lot of Indians also believe that failure is incredibly personal and not because of external factors. This goes on to highlight the hypocrisy of Indians or the fact that Indians are really good at managing cognitive dissonance. You choose.

Image via Pixabay

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