Lessons from NRI H1 Holders: Colonial Mindset Absent in USA-Systems Designed for Everyone


Travel teaches us a lot! Every country provides something or the other for us to learn. Compared to western standards, nothing seems to happen quickly in our country. To be more specific, the colonial mindset is still lingering in our country. When you take a look at the developed countries like United States, systems are designed to make sure that they are fair to everyone, not to the elite. Though the US was a British colony before 1776.

India was under the British rule for nearly 200 years. The British merchants who came to do business turned into ruthless rulers after finding India to be a rich and soft target to exploit. Rules were designed exclusive to give great privileges only to a small set of people. They designed a system favorable for exclusive royal British and to rule the Indians mercilessly, suppress them and keep them at a bay in order to exploit as much as they can. During this time, Indians were subjected to sheer colonialism and as a result, they developed a colonial mindset. Even after six decades of independence, the system has not changed much.

Master slave perspective
Indians under the rule of the British got into a ‘Master and Slave’ perspective. The British rulers had little respect or trust towards the Indians, in fact they used to treat Indians as second-class citizens (as they did to all native people in their colonies). A feeling of inferiority complex was nurtured in their minds. Today, even after more than sixty years of the independence, if you go to some villages and talk to elderly people, they first say “Nee Baanchana Dora”, a slang of “Nee Baanisanu Dora” (master I am your slave).


British left, but leaving behind the colonial mindset
Many people believe that the colonial mindset does not exist today, but it is still strongly prevailing and is resisting our country’s economical and social progress. We can see many inequalities in the present system today. India is shining for a small set of elite and powerful in India, enjoying a lifestyle of privilege and luxury. Where as a large mass of people in India is still uneducated and even struggling to get basic needs fulfilled.

Designing systems for the elite public won’t allow it to happen in USA
When America won against the British, King Edward was shocked when General George Washington did not become King. George Washington stepped down and handed over the command to a civilian government. This tradition of not holding to a position of authority is democracy. When a President completes a term, he becomes a common citizen. George Washington was reluctant President of USA for 2nd term. For his 3rd term, he persuaded congress/senate not to elect him and let him spend his time as a regular citizen.

People in America have modern mindset and an environment of fairness for all is accepted and agreed by all. They treat all citizens as same-not two sets of people, the elite and the commoners. There are about 45 lakh people who commute into New York City everyday. There is only one class in the train, not even a ladies compartment. Whether you are a senior V.P or office boy, you sit in the same compartment. In case, if there is no space, new trains are added to make the trip convenient to all people.

Even Bill Clinton lost his law license for 5 years for lying under oath. Paris Hilton, a celebrity and grand kid of 5 star Hilton Hotel founder, spent 23 days in jail for driving on a suspended driving license.


Feudalistic leadership is the norm in India
Almost everybody in our country knows that the government employees (government servants) work as if it is still a colonial country. If not all most of them, treat people similar to the way British used to. Serving the people is their duty. To serve us better, they should not have arrogance and most importantly they should be considerate to all people.

Our policemen show colonial mindset
Take a look at our policemen to understand it (impact of colonialism) better. Indian policeman never have a smile on their face nor they deal courteously with the common people. While in the US, the same rank 40-year-old policeman calls everyone ‘Sir’ including our 25-year-old H1 holder and 22-year-old student visa holder or even the cowherd from remote village who got immigration based green card. But why it doesn’t happen in India? This, we believe is because they have their roots originated from the British rule. The police in the ‘British Raj’ was to create a fear in the minds of the people and to control the colony by force. This system of control and deprivation does not go away even after independence from colonial rule.

Middle class creates a vibrant market
Lets take a look at post office or railway clerks. They do not say hello back even if we say a very ‘warm hello’. It is as if they are doing us a favor and we are the servants. Would we appreciate the same from a restaurant owner who believes he is doing a favor by giving us tea or idli even though we are paying a fair price? This attitude of the clerks comes from colonial past where even basic rights are also given at the mercy of the colonial master and their petty officers.

Our young job seekers in private sector are no better
When looking for a job, they seek a ‘good position’. They don’t want to be competent or a star performer and get achievement for the company. They want a ‘good position’. Clearly this comes from a feudalistic/colonial past where the social order guaranteed everything else. If you did not have a certain position, in the social order, you were inconsequential or had no real rights. Actually, you had a demeaning existence. A ‘good position’ was a passport to good life i.e., respect, income and a decent job.

When you need to work anywhere, you need to work for a big company. Again big company means more status. People routinely are willing to take contract positions or not so great job profile position in a big company. Whereas in the US, the best people tend to go towards new emerging opportunities/startup companies. Steve Ballmer for example, left Stanford University to join a small company called Microsoft and helped it to become a giant (He never went back to complete his MBA).

Our employees
When someone reaches a certain job position, instead of respecting the position and the privilege given to him/her to serve the people using their training, competence, and talents. They tend to develop the arrogance of the feudal lords or the colonial rulers. The funny thing is that most people are OK with it. They are servile. However, the moment they get into the higher position, they immediately become arrogant. In this cycle, it seems neither the superiors nor the common man want to get out of the colonial/feudalistic mindset.

Our education
When systems are designed or when any services need to be delivered, we stick to serving only a small fraction of the population. Take school (10+2) education for instance. America a sworn capitalistic country provides free education till 10+2. 85% of Americans have 10+2 qualification. 75 percent of the top 5 percent by income families send their kids to government schools. (YES 3 out of 4 of the richest Americans send their kids to govt. schools). Whereas, only 8 percent of Indians have 10+2 qualification. Essentially, the upper middle class is forcing a scholastic education (with no other options) to entire population. South Korea, Japan and Germany have 95%, 80% and 70% of work force with vocational degrees. Where as in India, it is a meager 5%.

We don’t want to move away from colonial way of thinking
Culture is so deeply ingrained that when we have a choice to move away, we refuse to do so. We are still sticking to the colonial/feudalistic past. For example, income levels have risen quite decently at least for a section of Indian population. You would expect that people would make different choices now. However, even the ‘model’ of success is based on the colonial mindset. So when a person has a choice to go with a new modern, renaissance driven option, they still go for the same ostentatious wedding or home instead of a modern functional, practical wedding ceremony or house.

“I’m OK, you’re OK” has not yet dawned on most Indians. We are still operating out of – “I’m OK, you’re not OK” (feudalism) or “you’re OK, I’m not” (colonial 2nd class citizen). We have to stop this sadistic tendency of suppressing the other person to make us feel superior. Remember, British induced colonial mindset to exploit us and they did not have the same rules back in Britain. In Britain, all British citizens were treated equally.

Recommended Reading:
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What H1 Visa NRI’s Have Learnt from America – Expectations from and Duties of Government
Cars in India cost twice as much as in the U.S.A.

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