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Sebastian Mani | January 29, 2003 00:27 IST
What's this Diaspora?
I have been hearing and reading a lot about the diaspora. At every party I have been to lately, the conversation has revolved around it -- about the prime minister inaugurating the diaspora meet, Sonia meeting the diaspora, diaspora this, diaspora that.
So I too began to think about it. I had many questions, but I haven't really got any answers. I write this diary in the hope that perhaps someone can answer me.
My first question is: What is this diaspora?
Somebody better define it soon. Because I am told this great country, which came into being just after the Ice Age, flourished in the Vedic Ages, survived the largest number of invasions, is going to suffer tomorrow if the diaspora does not invest in it!
All I hear these days is 'Open up the economy, else the diaspora will not invest and make the country prosperous'.
So, who are these people? My daughter, born in Arlington, Texas, and my pop-singer cousin Bobby, an all-American citizen, do they belong to the diaspora? Or are they just People of Indian Origin? Or are they like the steel barons and mining magnates of Europe and the Americas who threw away their Indian passports like soiled tissues just to save bucks on tax?
Then, what does this diaspora -- once we have finished defining it -- really want?
Do they want to promote the country where their parents were born once upon a time? Or do they just want to exploit the low-cost human and natural resources, and save the profit in some Isle of Man account?
Will they really invest in India? Or just hold the lion's share through an offshore company registered near the Malacca Straits?
Are they interested in working within the existing socio-political framework? Or do they want to thrust the idiotic consumerism-centric market economy on people who are intellectually far more advanced than any of their counterparts anywhere in the world?
Are the benefits mutual? What do we need to give? What do we get back?
History proves India has been an eternal Giver. Every ruler who came to India has looted her. There is still time to recognize that the Indian economy is not made or supported by anybody, but has evolved, on its own, out of time, and that it will not cease to exist because of any external force -- and definitely not because the diaspora does not help.
I say we need to look for hidden traps and sugar-coated poison pills. Western business is backed militarily by Suppressive Diplomacy. We don't have such backing. Our ambassadors cannot influence big business houses to choose our products over those of another country.
My final question is, where was the diaspora all these years? Don't tell me the economy was not open. You cannot sell that to me. The economy has been open since the 1980s. The changes propagated now are minor, just a media exercise.
It looks like no one wanted to go there then. Now everybody wants to go there and preach.
I will tell you. Because the West is getting weaker and weaker. People now have second thoughts about the stability of the dollar. The axis of the supply chain is slowly shifting towards Asia.
There are many who spent their lives bashing India. In every Western medium, India had become a synonym for filth.
Why did the diaspora clap their hands then?
Now it looks like someone has run a search-replace command on every write-up that showed us in good light and replaced 'India' with 'Asia'. So we now have stuff like: Yoga is an 'Asian' practice, Ayurveda is an 'Asian' tradition, Buddhism is an 'Asian' religion, transcendental meditation originated in 'Asian' countries, Columbus was looking for a route to 'Asia'…
When the West is trying hard to fight the acid-reflux disease caused mainly by the caffeine in soda-pop with buttermilk, are we going to throw away that traditional drink, which should be patented to every Indian, and go for the coloured, carbonated killer drink?
When the emotionally distressed, culturally drained, spiritually hollow Western civilization is looking eastwards for peace of mind, aren't we entitled to at least a nod of recognition for our helping hand?
In this highly volatile, politically polarized world, when dollar-centric economies are trying all sorts of acrobatics to resist the intellectual capacity supplemented with tremendous capability from the Asian quadrant, why are we giving what's ours without any serious negotiation?
It is time we sat at the negotiating table and demanded our due.
Sebastian Mani's earlier diary:
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
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