‘Imported’ is always better?

On the eve of India’s 68th Independence Day, I am re-posting ‘Imported’ is always better?, which I had originally posted on July 16, 2013. Why do many of us Indians blindly accept that foreign practices are better than Indian practices, particularly if they are from the west?

An interesting editorial in The Economic Times, “An unusual shortage in Venezuela or is it cultural resistance?” about the shortage of toilet paper in Venezuela, states that
“Americans use an astounding 23 toilet rolls per person every year on an average, roughly equivalent to a quarter of a tree, as paper is processed from wood pulp.
Given the population of the US and adding other toilet roll-using nations in the calculation, entire swathes of forests are cut down every year for this. That is a bum deal indeed for the environment.”

The editorial also mentions “the discriminatory practice of categorising nations as “wet” or “dry”, with the paper-aided deemed superior.”

For those who are interested in more information on toilet paper, Wikipedia has at least one page devoted to this subject. For now, I am concerned about our attitude to “Indian or foreign: which is better?”

One morning during a business trip outside India, my host and I were joined at breakfast by his business associate. When my host introduced me as his dealer from India, the business associate said something in the local language and started giggling, while my host was plainly embarrassed. In response to my query, my host said it was a private joke. When I insisted on knowing the ‘private joke’ (since it was apparent that it was about me):
Host: He said that in India, you eat with your hands.
I: Actually, we eat with our fingers. In any case, why is that funny?
Host: Er, well, … you don’t use toilet paper for cleaning. You use your hand. … Sorry!
I: No problem! You need not apologise. We are as concerned about hygiene as you are. We have a system for this. Let me explain. Yes, we don’t use toilet paper, we use water. But, we wash our hands with disinfectant soap after ‘cleaning’. Secondly, we use the left hand for ‘cleaning’, but we use the right hand for eating. In any case, don’t you use your hand to hold the toilet paper for ‘cleaning’?
Host: I’m so sorry!
I: Don’t worry! I’m not upset. In fact, I’m pleased I could explain to you. I’m sure you saw that I was smiling during our discussion!

When we come across any foreign practice that is different from the corresponding Indian practice, many of us Indians blindly accept that the foreign practice is better, particularly if it is from the west. Others refuse to consider that our traditions and practices could do with improvement and/or change. We must understand that ‘different’ does not mean ‘inferior’ or ‘superior’. We should not blindly accept foreign ‘superiority’. At the same time, we must have an open mind and must be open to change.

What are your thoughts on this subject?


7 thoughts on “‘Imported’ is always better?

  1. Another ‘phoren’ practice we’ve adopted is that of conferring the so-called ‘national awards’ that is lobbied for and politicized too. Morarji bhai was the only PM to stop them. The Brits had their knighthoods, which, it now transpires, can be bought at a price! For Indians, they had Rao Bahadurs. When they left, our ‘desis’ came out with the Bharat Ratnas and the Padmas that evoke more controversies.
    First of all, the present practice of awarding them to those who are dead and gone has to be put an end to forthwith. Seven dead have been awarded the highest of them all and most have been politicians, many of whom don’t deserve, and others have been left out. From the 43 awarded so far, 20 have gone to politicians both living and dead, 6 from the world of art and culture, 4 each from education and science, 4 freedom fighters. The highest percentage went to UP followed by Maharashtra and TN.
    We ought to end the copied obnoxious practice here and now!

    • I agree with you on this, Nagesh.
      I believe these awards have no value whatsoever. Just because Manmohan Singh / Sonia Gandhi / Rahul Gandhi decided that Sachin Tendulkar should be awarded the Bharat Ratna doesn’t make Sachin Tendulkar a greater person. This holds for all those who’ve received Bharat Ratnas or the Padma awards. Likewise, achievers who haven’t received Bharat Ratnas or the Padma awards are in no way lesser persons.

      As you correctly said, many such awards are conferred after intense lobbying and string-pulling.

  2. I agree with you on this..Different doesnt have to mean that one has to be inferior and other superior.. Knowing different practices ensures that we have more than one choice and can choose depending on what we wish , but it never amounts to one being better than the other …

  3. I dont know why we do that , I genuinly feel that we have some very good habit and people in west have them too, instead of arguing or ridiculing we should accept the best .. for example one think i like in west here in uk is that everyone wishes everyone a good morning etc , and it is a good feeling .. even if it is a stranger , you can say Hi to anyone .. but i think twice of saying hi to a fellow indian 🙂

    but frankly i find it funny using toilet paper.. yes ..:) I find myself in lot of trouble sometimes when i go to places i dont know about …

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