When Prof. Gopal Krishna Gokhale started the Servants of India Society in 1905, he would not have imagined a situation when servants from India would flood the world. All the imperial powers that ruled India at one time or other have left behind enough traits that make Indians the preferred servants everywhere. English (or Arabic) speaking, cheap, culturally flexible and servile to the core are some of the factors that make all Indian servants the best cost effective option anywhere in the world. House maids who can double as any other requirement of the masters, qualified nurses who can be forced to do even menial works and technicians who are ready for any work are the real images about expatriate Indians. The much acclaimed influx of highly qualified Indian software professionals to Europe and USA has not brought about any substantial change in the overall image. On the contrary, such hardcore professionals do not get the value and treatment they deserve from the hosts when they happen to hold the same passport as the servants at their homes.
India as a nation has made unbelievable progress in its comeback trail (to its old glory) ever since the unleashing of its potential once again during the Rao regime. The diffidence and depression that had accumulated during centuries of rule by foreign nations and foreigners have been overcome to a large extent by the opportunity thrown open by knowledge industry. From time immemorial, Indians have excelled in knowledge and unparalleled expression emanating from unfettered freedom. No other nation or culture would have produced as many literature works toying with ideas and concepts as diverse and complex as in India. Philosophers and scientists could express their complex theories and ideas in precise and concise Sanskrit verses, many of which remain un-deciphered even today. Writers and poets glorified, praised and even condemned arrogant rulers in words of immense erudition. Even God could not escape the scholarly dissertation of genius men who enjoyed their freedom of expression found nowhere else in the whole universe. Yet when we came out of the clutches of British in 1947, the psyche of common man in India had a deep imprint of servility.
Indian nation has started looking taller and taller among the world nations. But servility still remains the hallmark of Indians everywhere and it is more so among pravasi Indians. Language skills, hardworking nature and ability to adapt may be the key elements that have contributed to the success of Indians as expatriates. But the single most important feature of pravasi Indians that is being silently appreciated (and misused) by all foreigners is their servile attitude. This servility is all pervasive and expresses itself in all our activities. Whether it is cultural, religious, social, official or personal, Indians are willing to concede and tend to be accommodative in all spheres of life abroad. An average Indian on the streets of Dubai or Singapore or London or New York is easily identifiable by the fear on his face than anything else. And it is this fear that makes him the most pliable worker in his workplace.
Reasons are aplenty to explain our ubiquitous servility. Indian nation never resorted to war and killings to colonize for centuries now. And even in the best or worst of our times we never had slavery as a social institution. The practice or tendency of individuals to terrorize and rule over others was never a need at any time in our civilization and culture. Thus the ‘gene of terrorism’ has always been absent or dormant in the Indian psyche. On the contrary, we had always glorified those who surrender everything and take to penance. In spite of repeated prodding by the likes of Lord Krishna and Swami Vivekanand, we could never abandon our suicidal preference for giving up rather than fight to death for a righteous cause. The successive waves of colonization, cultural subjugation by English and missionary education have only made our condition worse. But we can and we shall overcome if we make a determined move. Centuries of programmed subjugation can be easily overcome in a few decades, if there is a similar programmed action plan and a will to do it.
It was no surprise that the latest list of richest people in the world contained an ever increasing number of Indians. And a determined set of Mittals and Murthys will continue to take over almost all the big conglomerates in the days to come. There is a clear ray of hope for India and Indians in this direction. Money can break barriers and more money can buy anything including respect. All that is required is a little more ‘being Indian’ in all that is being owned by the Indian rich. Simple and symbolic gestures by the rich Indian owners can go a long way in getting the due respect for all Indian employees everywhere. Instead of aping the Western ideas in everything, the rich Indians must start looking and talking like Indians. Give the western employees their forks & knives and sticks to the Chinese ones, but why not clean bare hands for the Indians in a company party? For those in doubt, I suggest a study tour among the richest Arabs in their oil rich countries and companies.
Along with symbolic gestures, there is need for solid action in selective areas. India must put an immediate end to the export of house maids and servants to the outside world. It is easier said than done because of acute unemployment and dire economic reasons. But a determined nation can always find the will and wealth to provide alternate employments for our mothers, sisters and daughters than allowing them to get bashed in alien lands. One of the main reasons for Europeans and Americans getting respected everywhere is the absence of European and American servants outside their countries. It is definitely not because there is no poverty in these countries but because their national psyche has got so adjusted thanks to determined policies of their governments and society. If the richest Indians can root for this cause, it will be one of the best they can do for themselves and all Indians.
Strength respects only strength and no Indian can talk from a strong platform in foreign countries when servants from India are one of the most pitiable sights around. A huge GDP and a double digit growth rate will not make any nation a superpower. We have to do much more before we can get others recognize us as one. And some of the basic things that needs to be done are symbolic than substantial. We must get over the era of Indian servants and ubiquitous servility before we can aspire to be at the very top of world nations once again.