Videsh is my Desh
“Oh, you’re from Gujarat? Are you a Patel?” I hear this at least once whenever I meet a new desi friend studying in Boston. I’m a Master’s student studying at Northeastern University, only about a few hours’ drive from states like New York and New Jersey, where Gujaratis are famous, or shall I say infamous as a community.
While as an Indian, you’re probably being judged for coming and stealing jobs. As a Gujarati, you are known for hogging all the hotel and business franchises (Sub-racism within racism is a real thing, people!).
Known for our business tactfulness and apparent Green Card greed, I can already read people’s judgment about me once it is made known I am from Gujarat. Having grown up in the states, I wasn’t aware people like me were put in a category or why people had to be stereotyped in the first place. Quite a few of my desi childhood friends and family friends are Gujarati, South Indian, Punjabi etc. and I never felt type-casted since the US is so diverse and colorful (quite literally), and you would never make any friends if you kept to your own community.
However, as you grow up, you gain a better understanding of sociology and the way humans are designed to think and group people as per their experiences and mindsets.
Nevertheless, besides the judgment that comes with being a Gujarati in the US, I do feel proud of the work we do for society and the work ethic we are known to have. Besides that, it is indeed a luxury to have authentic mango aachar or readymade pani puris found at the nearest Patel Brothers store (or Bodega, as they say in New York).
Any stereotypical discriminations?
I wouldn’t say I grew up in a stereotypical Gujarati household; my parents always made sure we were exposed to different people, cultures, mindsets, and places. That being said, there are things that come to me naturally as a Gujarati. Our love for food (especially sweets), our welcoming and happy-go-lucky way of life, our mindful money management, having references at every corner of the world, our funny jugaad tactics and so forth are just some many things that can be said to be a part of our genes.
At the end of the day, everyone is their own individual person, and judging someone based on where they are from, is a loss to many potential bonds that could be formed. Being open-minded and allowing yourself to be pleasantly surprised as your mind breaks the stereotypes society has so carefully engraved in you, is a truly satisfying experience.
Speaking from personal experience, I live in an apartment with diverse people from all over India, of all religions. And the things we learn from each other daily are truly astounding. Over time, we have grown to be a family who respects and understands each other, something that every society in the world has been trying to achieve (probably since the time of Neanderthals).
My advice to international students
As an international student who is about to graduate, I definitely have some advice for other international students who want to study abroad in the future.
- Learn to cook (more than just Maggie and Khichdi, you can’t have that everyday)
- Network outside of familiarity (you won’t regret it)
- You will be judged regardless of whether you are from the US or any other country (don’t take it personally)
- You will learn to become truly independent and enter adult life (your parents will be super proud)
- You are a work in progress (and your journey will not always be as smooth as you expect it to be)
- Embrace new cultures, food, hobbies, and most importantly, people
- Incorporate self-care into your routine to avoid burnout (it is more important than you think)
Also read: Truth Behind Gujarat’s Model of Development
Live life the way you want
Student life is amazing, the amount of growth you will experience is incomparable to other stages of your life. The world truly is your oyster, and you can aim for the sky and achieve what you wish to. I would just like to say don’t put yourself in a box, venture out of your comfort zone and don’t fear the judgement that comes with it.
Truth Behind Gujarat’s Model of Development
Now you don’t need to “Kuch din to gujaro Gujarat mein”- to know what is the real story behind the wall
Modi’s “Trump” Card – The Wall
During the visit of the former US President to India in 2020, a wall was built on the streets of Ahmedabad. The convoy of the President was supposed to pass by this street.
This wall was allegedly built to hide the slums dotting the road that his convoy would use. This was an attempt to hide the poverty on the streets of Ahmedabad and protect the value of the brand “Modi”.
The BJP supporters and the local municipal corporation claimed that the wall was built to avoid encroachment and to provide safety to the US President.
The real story behind building the wall cannot be ascertained for now. We don’t know for sure whether it was a government of Gujarat’s deliberate ploy; or just an allegation by the opposition.
Whatever it may be; the most hilarious part here is that both these camps assumed that the President of a nation with the maximum number of satellites in space doesn’t have access to the top view of things. Hysterical indeed!
Do we as citizens of this country have the top view of what exactly is the real story behind “Gujarat- the model of development”?
A hoax or a reality?
Let’s climb up the wall to see for ourselves!
What Is The Gujarat Model?
Gujarat was the first state to run a tourism campaign on television of that magnitude. Amitabh Bachchan’s “Kuch din to gujaro Gujarat mein” ad flashed on the television very frequently, along with other ads.
The ad break between television shows started with Ambani’s Reliance handset’s tagline saying- “Kar lo duniya mutthi me” and ended with Amitabh Bachchan’s “kuch din to gujaro Gujarat mein”.
The idea of packaging Gujarat as a product, just like a mobile handset; in order to sell it in the future with the idea of gaining profits- monetarily or electorally; is what is the Gujarat model all about.
Gujarat was refurbished, packaged and displayed to the general public as if it were a product. Now, if it is a product, it will attract the attention of investors who would like to invest in it for profits.
Gujarat, the state of the public, was a private product now. And the public representatives were the private entrepreneurs.
The model of Gujarat which gained fame during the second term of Chief Minister Modi gathered full momentum by 2014. The Gujarat model was used as a prime campaigning point by the BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which was won by the BJP.
This model of Gujarat became the model of India as Narendra Modi took charge of the nation in 2014.
The Indian Model Inspired by Gujarat
Narendra Modi began by branding himself to the world through frequent visits to other nations. He introduced a new India to the world, attracting foreign companies to invest in India.
The policies of privatization of the top Indian government companies fast-tracked disinvestment. This allowed private investors from India and abroad to buy the government stakes.
The growth plan had three key components:
- major jump in infrastructure to facilitate inflow of corporate investment
- significant jump in governance to address the requirement of corporate elements
- unprecedented increase in incentives and subsidies on investments to the corporate sector in order to attract investments
Infrastructure development focused majorly on roads, airports and power. Governance concentrated on swift disposal of investment propositions, easy accessibility to bank credit. The concentrated departments were aggressive in accelerating the procedures to facilitate investment flows.
These government stakes and contracts were offered to the rich, making them richer. The gap between the poor and the rich widened.
The gap between the top and bottom 10% of asset holders in rural India are 500 times. The same in urban-India stands at about 50,000 times
The Adani & Ambani Ends At The Modi Stadium
If you don’t follow cricket, you might wonder where this is coming from.
The recently inaugurated cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, considered the biggest stadium in the world, was named after the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. And you know what? The two ends of the stadium are named Adani & Ambani ends.
Just like this stadium, Adani and Ambani are the two extreme ends of the economy of Gujarat. But we need to see what lies between these two ends. Is the common man able to contribute substantially to the economy of Gujarat?
But Let’s Know the Real Story
There has been an impact of the significant jump in corporate investments on the economy of Gujarat. After the massive incentives to corporate elements, the government is left with limited funds to spare for education, health, environment and employment for the public.
Gujarat spends less than 2% of its income on education (the usual is 5-6%). As a result, 45% workers in Gujarat are illiterate or have studied only up to class five with a poor quality of education. The quality of higher education is resulting in an increased number of unemployed engineers and science graduates.
The rich are not only getting richer, they are getting educated as well. Roads, bridges and laptops are reaching the villages; but professional education doesn’t make its way there.
Though Gujarat has seen an immense growth in infrastructure, the workforce carrying this out is categorized as informal workforce. Around 93-94% workers are informal. They do not have wages above the stipulated laws of minimum wages and do not get benefits of being employed like social security, provident funds, etc.
The wages in Gujarat are almost the lowest amongst the major states of India, declining rapidly over the last decade.
The politicians of Gujarat boast about the highest workforce participation in India. But that is what they want to project in the media; hiding the fact that they cannot create productive jobs with decent income levels for the youth.
The expenditure on health is 0.8% of the state income, way below the usual 4-6%. Gujarat is slowing down very quickly in almost all health indicators. 45% children in the state of Gujarat are malnourished and the maternal mortality rate is increasing, leading to the state’s poor rank.
Although 40-45% households in Gujarat are dependent on natural resources for their livelihood (farming, animal husbandry, forestry, fishery, dairy etc), the depleting and degrading resources have reduced the productivity and incomes in these sectors. Due to the heavy industrialization, pollution is affecting the ecosystem as well.
Relaxation of most of the environmental clearances for setting up factories for a few industrialists has been another major cause of increased pollution.
Capitalist approaches and the quest for “state-of-the-art” technology have deprived a few parts of the society of their basic necessities. The tribal people who are not usually associated with development are affected the most. Most of them are forced to migrate to beg on the roads or live in huts in rural areas with no basic amenities.
It is not surprising that the Gujarat high court has told off the state government frequently, asking them not to forget that they are also a part of the state’s population.
The Hollow Hype
Japan was once hailed by the world for good governance as it continued towards development even after so many natural and human disasters. Countries around the world were keen to understand the Japanese model of governance and development, which was surely worth emulating.
But Japan is now struggling economically, and overall quality of life has degraded significantly.
There are a few good aspects of the governance of Narendra Modi in Gujarat, and the Gujarat model is an innovative version of neoliberal politics.
But tagging him as the superstar PM and the model of Gujarat as the bible of governance is not the correct way of opinionating things.
Every state must take the good from this model; just as Gujarat needs to take from every other state.
The True Meaning Behind the Trend of Affordable Luxury
Luxury goods are the only area in which it is possible to make luxury margins – Bernard Arnault
Gone is the era of brands like Chanel and Gucci ruling the shopping world. This is the era of affordable luxury.
According to yourdictionary.com: “Affordable luxury is an alluring good or service with a steep but affordable price.”
So these “affordable luxury” brands are telling us that they are going to provide us with goods that are comparable to the best products of Porsche and Rolex at a price that the common person can afford?
What are these brands? What is the idea behind affordable luxury? Is it real or just another marketing tactic to fool people?
Luxury in its Primitive Meaning
Just by definition, luxury in its primitive form is “excessive”.
It’s something scarce, made from the best of quality products, and has a sky-high price tag which only a person with a 10-digit salary cheque can afford.
These are products made for the finest of raw materials and have the highest standards for the use of their textiles, leathers, and craftsmanship.
If we go by the definition above, the entire craze about “affordable luxury” is just a play of words.
It is something that only the higher section of the society, the financially privileged people, could afford.
It is there to distinguish between the privileged and the lesser-privileged.
It’s Not Just The Brand Name, It’s The Quality
Think about Chanel, Gucci, and other prominent brands. It’s common among the masses that it’s the tag of these brands on their products that makes them different.
But can a tag justify the long life span of a commodity?
Most of the luxury products in the market have a long lifespan which not only makes them a hot item but also a one-time investment.
Lets share a story of a person who owned a Mercedes S550. The car was bought in 2007 and the owner sold it when it had travelled about 150,000 miles in 2017. Now, even when the car is at its 3rd owner, it’s still running strong.
That’s the beauty of a luxury brand. The higher price does not only define the long legacy of a brand but the fine quality of the product.
It’s a one-time investment that runs for a long time bringing customer satisfaction.
The motive is to generate an opinion among the masses that spending such money isn’t a bad idea.
Never on Sale, Never on Discount!
Has Porsche or Prada ever put up a sale? Or the grand items that are sold at auctions put up at discount? Well, no!
As strange and unbelievable it may read, it is common for big brands to destroy their prized products just so that the authenticity of their brand can be maintained.
So how is it possible that on one side, possessions worth millions are destroyed instead of being made accessible to the general public, and on the other side some brands claim that the common person can pay for it?
That’s where the dirty marketing gets born!
The Essence of Affordability
Due to the rise in the demand for luxury brands, the market runners have been issuing a new trend.
The idea of affordable luxury is not just on paper but is an actual scenario that’s news in today’s world.
The new monsters in the market like Coach, Kate Spade, etc have been claiming that their products are luxurious and are available at a rate that even the common man can afford!
Now the doubt that arises here is, if it’s luxury, then how can the common man access it?
Brands are definitely known for their prices. Luxury products have sky-high rates so that they can’t be easily accessible to the middle-class public.
As already mentioned that luxury in the raw form is scarce, then what is the motive behind the idea of making luxury affordable?
Also read: Best Luxurious Eco-Resort in India
Is it Noble?
Now, what would your reaction be when you hear that you can wear shoes comparable to Nike Mag self-lacing trainers that are worth about 200,000 dollars at a cheaper rate?
People would be swooning over such a hot commodity. The whole stock would be sold in seconds without any marketing.
But ever thought that the artifact that you bought at a cheap rate, thinking that it’s a brand product, could actually be a hoax?
It could, in reality, be a marketing strategy played by the companies to get their product sold?
Thinking about it deeply, Even the thought that such an expensively priced product is sold at an “affordable” rate is funny!
Don’t take the legitimacy of this article wrong, it’s good news that something cheap could compare to the rate of diamonds.
The bad news here is that affordable luxury hurts the legitimate brands whose motive is to provide the best.
Not only that, they lead wannabe luxury brands to be termed as cheaters, even if their products are not that bad, ultimately harming their reputation.
Affordable Brand Vs Luxury Brands
With a real luxury brand the most important factor is its dream equation. This dream equation depends upon the availability and the demand of the product.
The real luxury products in the market are made in small numbers and are only made available to customers who are willing to pay for the excellent quality materials.
These are the people who are willing to satisfy the short supply of these products and pay a lot, just to display them at their homes.
The minute these products start getting produced in greater numbers in order to be made available to the common public, they lose the authenticity to be called luxury.
Affordable luxury runs on the idea to merge the mediocre brands with the best, and such an idea does not result in a pretty scenario of “equality”.
There’s a strong difference between the actual luxury brands and these affordable luxuries. It’s their comparison that cements peoples’ opinion one way or another.
So the “noble” idea to make luxury affordable to all, well it’s not really that noble!
The Cycle of Repairing and Wearing!
Taking a hypothetical case of Ananya. Ananya is a normal worker with a monthly pay-cheque of rupees 50,000.
She saves for months and buys a watch for her father. The watch is from an affordable luxury brand and claims to compare with many luxury brand masters in the market.
Now of course the cost of this affordable luxury can not compare with the Rolex watches but these cannot be claimed cheap, too.
The watch looks good, her father is teary by the gift and everyone’s happy. And now the circle of “affordability” starts.
After some time when the “luxurious” watch stops working, Ananya’s father spends some money to repair it.
It’s not really disappointing as a few bucks are nothing against the value of a luxury product, but you know what’s disappointing?
It is the scenario during which the father will continue to repair the watch everytime it breaks down, thinking that it’s a luxury item so it’s okay to spend on it.
The cycle of repairing and wearing will continue and ultimately after sometime the total expenditure on the “brand” product is going to exceed the total expenses needed to buy a real luxury product.
This is the sad reality behind these quasi-brands. They claim to be affordable and yet are sufficiently expensive.
And the fact that they have a much shorter life span compared to a real luxury product proves that they’re a myth!
Know What an Oxymoron is?
Ever heard about an open secret? A secret that is known to all. A conversation, incident, or fact that is secret just in words but already known to all.
That’s the exact figure of speech used to define the term “affordable luxury”.
It’s a commodity that is affordable by all and yet known to be a luxury, so sorry to break your dream, dear reader, but the idea of being able to buy luxury at a cheap rate is not attainable.
The product you buy is just luxurious in words.
The oxymoron “affordable luxury” is a myth that should be dismissed forever, and instead, the affordable items should be termed as what they actually are.
Giving The Premium Items Their Desired Place
Anyone who’s bought affordable luxury products from the market, knows that their quality isn’t that bad.
Yes, it’s true that these quasi products are like peasants in front of the aristocrats like Prada, but if they are compared to the local products, sold in small shops, they don’t lose at all.
So why not instead of using an oxymoron to describe them, call them for what they are?
The idea is not to blend the best and the mediocre but to keep the best at best and the ordinary at ordinary. This is where the premium commodities come to play.
The quasi-brands attempt to condition the choices of customers and make them buy the low quality premium items under the hoax of “luxury”.
Well not to defame them, but it’s not like marketing them as premium could turn out to be a bad thing.
Why Affordable Luxury And Not The Real One?
After understanding the difference between the affordable luxury and real luxury, the one question that might have arisen in everyone’s mind.
Why is there a need for affordable luxury and Why does India not produce its own luxury brand?
The answer to that is the mentality of people here. The market owners know that there is negligent presence of big brands here.
Indians have a value conscious mentality. The drive to shop for something does not run on the idea of acquiring an asset but if that asset is going to be useful for them or not?
Indians do know that they can use their brand products as a status symbol yet chose not to buy them due to their exorbitant prices.
It is due to this that the tactics of affordable luxuries are born. At the same time the need to understand the real meaning of these affordable luxuries arises.
When people will know the difference between the affordable luxury products and the real luxury products, awareness will rise, along with the desire to own them.
India rather than using the tactics of “affordable luxury”, might through diligence and hard work, be able to build a Chanal and Gucci of its own.
Luxury is meant to be appreciated, regarded, relished, delighted in, and secured.
Genuine luxury has an expense and is an incredible satisfaction all by itself, so people should discover it and audaciously value it!
Khalistan Factor – Pakistan’s Pet Project – a Trial to Demolish India
Are the Pakistani Khalistanis trying to destroy India?
Do you know what January 26 means to any Indian? It’s the day India officially became recognized as a legitimate democratic republic. Usually, this day is marked by great jubilee and stunts by the Indian army trying to show off its might and valor. But 2021’s Republic Day was different.
It started off as an innocent protest by Punjabi farmers
That’s right, the police were greeted by angry Punjabi farmers who were protesting three newly tabled laws that they felt were unjust. They (farmers) decided to show their anger by engaging in official and permitted (by the Delhi police) tractor protests which plied through approved roadways.
But then things went deadly wrong
Well, what was intended to be an organized and peaceful tractor demonstration by the Kisans soon ended up turning into an all out war against the police and Delhi itself.
These farmers used the tractors as weapons when they tried to destroy the barricades that were designed to protect and separate the citizens of Delhi from the protestors.
They also ‘got physical’ with the police. Everyone, including the police and farmer leaders were shocked and ‘running for their lives!’
There were many victims and even a few casualties. In fact, over 100 police personnel were injured in the attacks and clashes.
It didn’t start off this way
Indeed, the demonstrations had started over two months earlier. Back then there were peaceful protests by the (mostly Punjabi) farmers. The demonstrations took place near and on the outskirts of Delhi. After all, the farmers wanted the central government to know their displeasure with laws that they felt were ‘unfair!’
States that bordered Delhi also witnessed some of these peaceful protests. These states were Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. There is over 60 kilometers of land that separates these states.
But, alas! Protests and demonstrations that start out peacefully almost always end up being hijacked by malicious and violent external elements and entities. The peaceful farmers’ protests were no exception.
Enter the Khalistanis
The Delhi police should have seen it coming.
After all, the Khalistanis and their (banned) organizations and groups always hijack peaceful protests. These are protests that Punjabi farmers initiate against the central government. It happened earlier in 1984.
And how did the police know that the Khalistanis were behind the attacks? Well, the fact that some of the farmers raised the Khalistani flag was a dead giveaway. This was obvious since the Delhi police had footage of this on video!
Had the police been smarter, the rampage on the capital by the miscreants on tractors could have been completely avoided. So could have the broken bones and ribs that the police sustained!
What made matters worse was the fact that these miscreants hoisted the Khalistani flag on some buildings that have historically symbolized the pride and autonomy of both the Indian government and nation!
One of these buildings was the Red Fort. Some of these farmers hoisted both the Indian national flag and the Khalistani flag. It was almost as though they wanted to agitate both the Indian government and the Delhi police. And do you know what?
It almost worked.
The Delhi police really began to feel the heat
The Delhi police was indeed baffled and taken completely by surprise. After all, they had been expecting the farmers to peacefully protest and not try to siege the capital with Khalistani separatist agendas!
Now they were faced with the less than enviable task of identifying and arresting the guilty persons – the Indian government and people of Delhi were demanding this and mounting pressure on the Delhi police to do this!
The police did make some progress to this end, but it wasn’t what they either wanted or were looking for. They wanted to find all of the parties responsible for the attacks. What they ended up doing instead was identifying a few of the guilty – one was a noted Punjabi actor with an arrest warrant.
The issue goes to international audience
What started as a protest at home, became a human rights violence, thanks to international celebrities chipping in to voice the plight.
Many international celebrities and personalities came to the defense of the protesting farmers.
One noted personality was Greta Thunberg. She made a tweet on February 3 that changed the nature (and perhaps the destiny) of the farmers’ protests permanently.
Thunberg is one of those enthusiasts from the Nordic nations (Sweden) who is never tired of being vocal about climate change and the havoc that it’s wreaking on the global climate.
Thunberg legitimized the farmers’ actions
Well of course, Greta would support the farmers. After all, from her standpoint, they were helpless victims who were unjustly facing the wrath of the Indian government and Delhi police.
But oh, if only she knew the entire story! Her tweets did more than just justify the farmers’ protests, it took the entire protests on the international stage.
Thunberg gave the Khalistani factors the ammunition they needed
Well, in case you were wondering how she managed to do this, the answer is simple. She used a social media Toolkit which was created by Mo Dhaliwal.
This is where things got interesting as Mo Dhaliwal is the founder of the PJF Khalistani organization. Greta credited Khalistani factors for the protests that took a sudden and violent turn. She did manage to delete the initial tweet, but alas, till then the damage was done!
Thunberg’s initial tweet had ‘let the cat out of the bag!’
Okay, so in case you were wondering how she did this, she hinted towards a devious and sinister plan that certain Khalistani elements both in India and Pakistan had been hatching all along to try to disrupt the protests and hijack them.
The tweet had another unintended consequence – it helped Delhi police identify three culprits behind the protests turned violent on Republic Day. One of these was Disha Ravi, an environmentalist activist in Bangalore.
The other two were a lawyer named Nikita Jacob and an engineer named Shantanu Muluk respectively.
And what did the police find them guilty of? Well, they were charged with helping to design the toolkit. This toolkit essentially was a smear campaign that was designed to make India look bad on the national and international stage.
But if only this was all the toolkit did!
It also used the farmers as a pawn in the attempt to launch a war on India’s national economy and fight with the central government.
The police have acted
Well, if you really wanted to know, Disha has been arrested and is currently detained at a Delhi police station. The other two are in the process of being released on bail by the Mumbai High Court.
But the police didn’t stop there. They have asked for information that will help them identify 70 members who participated in a Zoom meeting organized by the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF.)
Now before you furl your brow in shock, know that Pakistan has actively tried to engage in actions that were designed to destabilize India in the past.
After all, Pakistani terrorist organizations have repeatedly tried to raise a real ruckus in Jammu and Kashmir multiple times. Also, Pakistan did fight two wars with India – one in 1965 and one in 1971. Both were over national sovereignty.
The reality is that Pakistan wants to do more than just give the Indian government and its citizens a real headache.
It wants a part of Indian territory. After all, various Pakistani political parties have never ceased to argue to the international audience that all of Jammu and Kashmir rightly belongs to Pakistan.
Does Pakistan have deep sympathizers in India’s Punjab?
Well, all roads that start in Jammu and Kashmir go to one place. Do you know what that place is? It’s Punjab! And guess what? Pakistan influences those roads and the organizations (Khalistani) that operate on them.
This gives Pakistan huge leverage to influence and manipulate the Punjabis, especially the youth, to ‘work’ for them!
Did General Zia Ul Haq open Pandora’s box?
Ah yes, that corrupt guy. Ok, so what else is new in Pakistani politics or with the Pakistani government?
Well, Ul Haq got tired of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto messing Pakistan up with his bad policies and governance so he overthrew him (Bhutto.) UL Haq then renovated Sikh places of worship and invited many Sikh pilgrims.
In case you were wondering what this has to do with Pakistani involvement, be patient, that’s coming up! Many Sikhs shared the element of a hatred towards India in common with Pakistan. They (like Pakistan) wanted to be separate from India. Khalistan was to the Sikhs what Kashmir was to Pakistan.
Pakistan stoked the fire
So if you were wondering how it accomplished this, the answer is simple. It began a program of actively recruiting unemployed Sikh youths in India. Once these youth had crossed over into Pakistan, the government would train them and fund them in launching terrorist attacks against both India and the Indian government!
Pakistan has ulterior motives in India
Indeed, Pakistan may be more than just an observer in the violence that recently took place in India during Republic Day. Pakistan has deep territorial claims in India. This may be why the Pakistani government may have actively (though discreetly) played a role in helping to launch the terrorism that drove the violent acts that occurred on January 26, 2021!