A couple of days ago, I came across this article on Rediff about Patni computers ripping off its employees by failing to pay them dues that were owed to them. The article itself was somewhat shocking, but such happenings are neither new nor surprising. (And I don’t know whether this instance is true.) What really interested me was the discussion in the comments at the bottom of the article.
Now I don’t normally read comments on Rediff or the Indian Express because they seem to be the prime place for people to anonymously vent their most politically incorrect thoughts. This article is no different. Some comments supported the company, saying that workers dupe companies about their experience and try to jump ship after being taken to America. Others said it’s the companies’ fault for employing harassment and other heavy-handed tactics against their workers. But a huge proportion of the comments were about something else: a phenomenon I hadn’t been so strongly aware of before: anti-Telugu sentiment.
Through the years, I’ve come across a variety of perceptions about various groups because I’ve always lived in the midst of a slightly different culture. I am Telugu by birth, but have lived in Calcutta for most of my life. Lately, it is in the US. So I’ve always been aware of misconceptions and stereotypes about Indians, “South Indians” and Telugu speakers. While I lived in Calcutta, though, this was mostly good-natured misunderstanding. People from various other parts of India, though, seem to have stronger opinions. North Indians, for example, seem to view South Indians as “simple” folk: the way Europeans viewed “natives”. It’s not specific, it’s not targeted at individuals. It is a perception of South Indian culture as a whole. (I should say I personally think South India is way too diverse to be treated as a single culture.)
But the comments on this article were different. Here’s a precis of the reasons for the negativity about Telugu IT industry workers: They fake credentials in order to secure jobs. Academics, experience, and capabilities on their resume are fake or heavily inflated. They use such fake resumes to gain an unfair advantage over everybody else. They are often caught out and bring disrepute to Indian IT workers.
I know from personal experience that there is a percentage of Telugu workers for whom this is true. I don’t work in IT, but know several people who do — and know some Telugu people who have faked credentials. (I also know several non-Telugu people who have faked credentials.) Not only do they do it, they strenuously defend doing it. So, why do they do it?
It’s my theory (and this applies to non-Andhra people as well) that this happens wherever you have smart people who lack opportunities. It is not a failure of the people, but of the system. Most Andhra students are bright, but they are simply one among several million. EAMCET and the engineering system in AP don’t give students the opportunity to distinguish themselves in any way. Apart from a very few, all of the hundreds of thousands of colleges are the same.
Maybe this is the only way for people to escape, to assert their individuality, to be somebody or something other than an unrecognized cog among millions of other cogs.
A lot has been written about the Great American Dream. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it’s got something to do with “making it”, becoming what you want to become, pursuing whatever happiness means to you successfully.
Is there an Indian equivalent? I think so. For many Indians, the Great Indian Dream is to go to America and pursue the Great American Dream.