Kalpana Chawla, Bobby Jindal, Manoj Shyamalan, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Amar Bose, Vinod Khosla — the list goes on. There is something all of them have in common — they all either were born in India or have a lineage that goes back to India. There’s something else they have in common — they are accomplished people and Indian populist culture is after them.
I am not able to pinpoint, as much as I have tried to, what makes someone Indian. Is it the fact that you were born there? Or that your parents were born there? Or that your work was focused on India? Or that you pay taxes in India? Or have properties or businesses in India? Or that you have an Indian passport? And ultimately and most importantly, do these achieved people care that they are Indian, in any combination of these ways the society deems them to be?
I read a news article on my feed today — granted it is not a viral — it was an animal attack in Thailand, inflicted on someone Australian. The real news is just that. But I found this on Indian print — because the animal was an Indian elephant. There are perhaps 10X incidents in India on a given day, many of them involving Indian elephants. Do they make it to news?
It is very easy to explain this economically — in a country of 1 billion people, people getting killed or doing pretty much anything is hardly news. For something to be news, it has to be statistically significant. And it is much easier to viralize an Indian elephant in Thailand, or an Indian-American in America, as opposed to an Indian or even a 1000 Indians in India. And so, any news about Indian in India, even of 20 of them die in a bus accident or train getting derailed, is hardly news.
To be sure, the achievement of these people are no mean feat. They deserve applause and a mention as any individual does. To get inspired by these people is one thing, but viralizing them disproportionately to how we would treat similar news in India, just shows how small and jingoistic we are.