There is an old adage that goes – in Rome, do as Romans do. This extends to immigrants, for whom respecting the culture and National identities of host nations is expected. Of course, this is just common sense too since immigrating to a foreign land is a privileged one shouldn’t take lightly.
Most immigrants, however, struggle to come to grips with dual identities – one of their country of birth where they may have spent their formative years, and the other that of their adopted homelands. Case in point is the story of Avijit Das Patnaik, an Indian who migrated to Singapore a decade ago.
On 14 August 2008, Mr. Patnaik posted a picture on the Facebook page of the Singapore Indians & Expats group with about 11,000 members. That graphic apparently showed a Singaporean flag on a T-shirt being ripped to reveal an Indian flag underneath. Along with the image, Mr. Patnaik posted a caption reading ‘Phir Bhi dil hai hindustani’ (Still my heart heart is Indian), picking the phrase from a popular Bollywood song.
The message was self-explanatory; Mr. Patnaik, like many first-generation immigrants still identified himself as an Indian. However, the post did not go well with fellow Singaporeans and other digirati who found it “offensive” and “insulting to Singapore”. The post was quickly taken down and Mr. Patnaik’s employer, the Singapore-headquartered DBS Bank got involved.
The Bank released a statement on its Facebook page saying that Patnaik was no longer its employee.
“Since the incident, a disciplinary committee has been convened and as of 24 August, he is no longer with the bank.
DBS strongly disapproves of such actions by our employees. At the same time, it is fair and right that all employees are given the benefit of due process.”
This is not the end of Patnaik’s troubles. According media accounts, police have filed a report and investigations are underway. According to the Singapore Arms and Flag National Anthem Act, any person that treats the flag with disrespect may be fined a maximum of 1,000 Singapore dollar.
There are obvious lessons for immigrants here: in Rome, do as Romans do… and when in Rome, don’t offend Roman sentiments.
Other news source: Netizens call on Govt to revoke Indian national’s PR for defacing Singapore flag, even after he loses DBS job – The Independent
The news accounts of an Indian American being considered for Supreme Court by President Trump is generating a lot of buzz among Indians and India diaspora around the globe.
According to IANS news reports
Amul Thapar, an Indian-American appeals court judge from the US state of Kentucky is on President Donald Trump’s short list of potential nominees to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement a day before.
The first South Asian to be named to a lifetime federal judgeship, Thapar is one of three minorities on Trump’s list of 25 names, which was put together in consultation with conservative legal scholars, the US media reported.
The others are Frederico Moreno, a federal district judge in South Florida, who is Hispanic, and Robert Young, a retired Michigan Supreme Court judge, who is African-American.
So, who is Amul Thapar?
According to Wikipedia:
“Amul Roger Thapar (born April 29, 1969) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He is a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Thapar was born in Troy, Michigan to parents who had immigrated from India. He was raised in Toledo, Ohio, where his father, Raj Thapar, owns a heating and air-conditioning supply business. His mother, Veena Bhalla, owned a restaurant. She sold her business after the September 11 attacks and served as a civilian clinical social worker assigned to assist veterans. His parents are divorced. According to his father, the family encouraged Thapar to become a physician but he dreamed of becoming a justice on the United States Supreme Court.”
- “President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Judge Amul R. Thapar for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit”. whitehouse.gov
- “The Front-Runners and Full List of Potential Supreme Court Nominees”. The New York Times
- Donald Trump interviews Indian-American Amul Thapar for SC justice nominee – Indian Express
- Indian-American on Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees – Business Standard
An insightful article by Soutik Biswas that first appeared in the New York Times and also BBC:
What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat? The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.
But that’s not the case at all. Past “non-serious” estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.
If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.
But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of “cultural and political pressures”. So people under-report eating meat – particularly beef – and over-report eating vegetarian food.
Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.
Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.
The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption – are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.
Vegetarian cities in India
- Indore: 49%
- Meerut: 36%
- Delhi: 30%
- Nagpur: 22%
- Mumbai: 18%
- Hyderabad: 11%
- Chennai: 6%
- Kolkata: 4%
(Average incidence of vegetarianism. Source: National Family Health Survey)
On the other hand, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob find the extent of beef eating is much higher than claims and stereotypes suggest.
At least 7% of Indians eat beef, according to government surveys.
But there is evidence to show that some of the official data is “considerably” under-reported because beef is “caught in cultural political and group identity struggles in India”.
About 20% of Indians are vegetarians, according to new research. Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP promotes vegetarianism and believes that the cow should be protected, because the country’s majority Hindu population considers them holy. More than a dozen states have already banned the slaughter of cattle. And during Mr Modi’s rule, vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people transporting cattle.
The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat.
Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob conclude that in reality, closer to 15% of Indians – or about 180 million people – eat beef. That’s a whopping 96% more than the official estimates.
Delhi, where only a third of residents are thought to be vegetarian, may well deserve its reputation for being India’s butter chicken capital.
But, the stereotype of Chennai as the hub of India’s “south Indian vegetarian meal” is completely misplaced. Reason: only 6% of the city’s residents are vegetarian, one survey suggests.
Many continue to believe that Punjab is “chicken loving” country. But the truth is that 75% of people in the northern state are vegetarian.
So how has the myth that India is a largely vegetarian country been spread so successfully?
Some 180 million Indians consume beef, according to new research. For one, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob told me, in a “highly diverse society with food habits and cuisines changing every few kilometres and within social groups, any generalisation about large segments of the population is a function of who speaks for the group”.
“This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes.”
Also, they say, “the food of the powerful comes to stand in for the food of the people”.
Why India is a nation of foodies
“The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat. Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised.”
Secondly, the researchers say, some of the stereotype is enabled by migration.
So when south Indians migrate to northern and central India, their food comes to stand in for all south Indian cuisine. This is similarly true for north Indians who migrate to other parts of the country.
Finally, some of the stereotypes are perpetuated by the outsider – north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.
The foreign media, say the researchers, is also complicit “as it seeks to identify societies by a few essential characteristics”.
Chicken is thought to be the most popular form of meat eaten by Indians
Also, the study shows up the differences in food habits among men and women. More women, for example, say they are vegetarian than men.
The researchers say this could be partly explained by the fact that more men eat outside their homes and with “greater moral impunity than women”, although eating out may not by itself result in eating meat.
Patriarchy – and politics – might have something to do with it.
“The burden of maintaining a tradition of vegetarianism falls disproportionately on the women,” say Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob.
Couples are meat eaters in about 65% of the surveyed households and vegetarians only in 20%. But in 12% of the cases the husband was a meat eater, while the wife was a vegetarian. Only in 3% cases was the reverse true.
Clearly, the majority of Indians consume some form of meat – chicken and mutton, mainly – regularly or occasionally, and eating vegetarian food is not practiced by the majority.
So why does vegetarianism exert a far greater influence on representations of India and Indians around the world? Does it have to do with “policing” of food choices and perpetuating food stereotypes in a vastly complex and multicultural society?
A recent article in BBC.com features Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala and her views on arranged marriage.
When Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala produced a board game about arranged marriage, most news reports about her wrongly assumed she was dead against it. Actually her position is far more nuanced. And one goal is to explain to people in the UK and elsewhere how it works.
Balagamwala’s kickstarter campaign generated a lot of buzz and raised thousands of dollars more than what she was seeking.
Balagamwala was at the Rhode Island School of Design in the US when she came up with the idea.
“I was about to head home to Pakistan at the end of the year, and I had some proposals waiting for me, so I started stalking the Facebook accounts of those guys to find something about them that my parents wouldn’t approve of, so I could get out of meeting them. And then I thought to myself, ‘Why not get rid of the problem once and for all?’ So I created a list of every ridiculous thing I’ve done to get out of an arranged marriage and turned it into this light-hearted board game.”
She tested her game out on her friends, a mixture of South Asians and white Americans.
An American male friend was in fits of laughter while playing. He admitted to Balagamwala that he’d been worried the game would trivialise the subject, but said that he now had a better understanding of it.
Link to an article in scroll.in
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Non Resident Indians are continually looking for investment opportunities in India. A few weeks ago, we blogged about “NRIs for real estate investment in India – Know the simple Rules” The Government of Indian recently announced new rules under which select small savings schemes like Public Provident Fund (PPF) and National Saving Certificates (NSC) will not earn you the same rate if you become non-resident Indians (NRI).
A summary of changes to rules and what it means to NRIs:
- NRIs will no longer be permitted invest in small savings schemes like NSC and PPF. In the past they were allowed to retain their PPF account if they had opened it before becoming an NRI.
- PPF and NSC currently fetch an interest rate higher than bank savings rates. Some of it is subsidized by the Government of India. (Current rate of PPF is 7.8 per cent while Post Office savings account get 4 %)
- PPF accounts would be deemed to be closed prior to maturity in case the holder becomes a non-resident Indian (NRI). The investor will be then paid interest at the rate applicable to Post Office savings accounts till the date the PPF account is closed.
The Indian government notification on PPF dated October 3 states,
“Provided that if a resident who opened an account under this scheme, subsequently becomes a non-resident during the currency of the maturity period, the account shall be deemed to be closed with effect from the day he becomes a non-resident and interest with effect from that date shall be paid at the rate applicable to the Post Office Saving Account up to the last day of the month preceding the month in which the account is actually closed.”
The finance ministry notification adds:
“Provided that if a resident Indian having purchased a certificate, subsequently becomes Non-Resident during the currency of the maturity period, the certificate shall be encashed or deemed to be encashed on the day he becomes a non-Resident, and interest shall be paid at the rate applicable to the Post Office Savings Account, from time to time, from such day and up to the last day of the month preceding the month in which it is actually encashed.”
Other media accounts
- PPF closes, NSC gets encashed if holder status changes to NRI – Hindu Businessline
- Facing PPF, NSC account closure? Here is what NRIs should do – Moneycontrol
- Changes In PPF, NSC Rules: Here Are Five Things To Know – PPF is one of the most popular investment option for long-term savings. – NDTV
- PPF accounts to be closed, interest lowered to 4 per cent if you become NRI – Business Today