Monday, August 14, 2006

What the world thinks - does it matter?

Outlook magazine is running a series of articles and the results of a couple of opinion polls under the theme - what does the world think of India? The inevitable question ofcourse is, why does that matter? But if you can ignore that question for a while there are some good reads there. There is an interview with Amartya Sen where he makes some interesting observations which I can't resist from quoting here.

On a question referring to India's socialist past.
"... I'm not sure what you mean by India's socialist past. A country that failed to achieve the most elementary progress that most socialist countries in the world achieved easily (despite their failures in many other fields), namely universal schooling and basic education supported by the state, primary healthcare for all provided by the state, comprehensive land reforms and so on which pre-reform Russia, pre-reform China, Cuba, Vietnam and other socialist countries achieved, can hardly be described as a socialist country...."

On a reference to Indian diaspora's contribution.
"...It's also important to recognise that India's success as a functioning democracy, with a relatively free media, regular multi-party elections and a lively civil society has also helped the diaspora gain respect and acceptance abroad...."

On a reference to India's growing 'power'.
"...We have to think more critically and more fully about exactly what powers we want, in what sense, and precisely what we want to do with power. Having more power is not a virtue in itself."

There are articles from among others Dominique Lapierre, Ayaz Amir, Gurcharan Das and of all people Donatella Versace!

As for the opinion poll, it was conducted in New York, London and Beijing where people were asked various questions geared towards getting their opinion about India. Well I generally use opinion polls for entertainment purposes. They failed to correctly predict the results of both the American and the Indian elections! How the hell can they be true guages of the opinions of entire countries? So in the spirit of entertainment I am quoting 2 results from this opinion poll.

How apt are the following attributes describing Indians?

Hard-working and disciplined

91(NY) 82(Lon) 44(Beij)

Do the following things about India interest you? (Affirmative responses given below)

Hindi cinema/ Bollywood

33(NY) 30(Lon)

At least the Beijing wallahs like our movies :)

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