Modi ji’s NRI government and Badri ji’s ‘Good Non-Resident Indians’ poem (substitute ‘desis’ etc)

Ashis Nandy: incisive, if controversial

Ashis Nandy: incisive, if controversial

As the hoopla and hype about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s triumphalist trip to the USA and United Nations General Assembly dies down, this may be a good time to re-visit Indian politics from another angle. The online publication recently published an interview of the noted political psychologist Ashis Nandy about his views on Modi. Good and bad. Worth reading in full; here’s an extract:

Q. The Swachhta pledge doesn’t even mention open defecation, which is a huge problem. Doesn’t this mean his campaign emphasises on urban priorities and is guided by a certain sense of aesthetics?

A. Absolutely. What will the foreigners think? What will NRIs think? How would they feel when they go to these areas and feel a sense of inferiority about their country? He is brightening the face of the NRIs, as the Bengali saying goes. This is an NRI government. The NRI consciousness dominates this government. Even UPA II was partly that. The Indian middle class has grown in size but it hasn’t thought through what could be the new ethics for our times. It has neither the capacity to learn nor has produced people who can seriously think about it. A huge majority of our middle class believes in the simple slogan that the only future is to become more like the West.

Badri RainaWhich brings me to an old but still very relevant (perhaps even more relevant now than when it was first written) poem by my professor friend Badri Raina in New Delhi who recently emailed it to me; also quite applicable to other expatriates, especially desis :

Good Non-Resident Indians

Good Non-Resident Indians,
They live off Christian land;
but why Indian Christians
may be bashed
they fully understand.

Good Non-Resident Indians,
they prosper in the Emirate;
but poor Indian Muslims
may not be trusted
in the Indian state.

Good Non-Resident Indians
Non-Indian wealth enhance;
they invest not in India,
except the temples they finance.

Good Non-Resident Indians,
they are Indian to the core;
but they will not live in India,
they love the dollar more.

– Badri Raina, Modest Proposal & other Rhymes for the Times, SAHMAT, 2000, p.49

2 Responses

  1. Is there a problem with improving aesthetics? Ashish is perhaps more interested in the means than in the end. To put a stop to open defecation, which is the end, I would use any means. I don’t see a problem with that. On another note, the doggerel by Badri Raina is not worth printing. Not for what he has said, but simply because it is unaesthetic and lacks elegance. Surely, you can quote someone who writes better?


  2. “Absolutely. What will the foreigners think? What will NRIs think?” Does this mean Mr. Nandy is unaware of the fact that this PM talks of toilets even when he is visiting foreign countries (and has been appreciated for having the courage to do so)? Beena, based on your preamble I thought this was one commentator who was going to say it like it is. For the most part he indeed has but there are glaring inaccuracies which makes his overall observations susceptible to criticism such as this post.


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