The Age of Hindish:  America India, Bhai Bhai!

Vinay Lal

[published in the Hindustan Times, 26 February 2006]


At a Glance...



Fast, Counter-Fast, Anti-Fast


Shahrukh and the Shiv Sena

Manmohan Singh and the Naxalites

The Ayodhya Judgment (2010)

Corporate Greed and Bhopal's Continuing Tragedy

BP, Union Carbide, and Corporate Responsibility

Caste, the Census, and Modernity

A Monumental Non-event: TheIndia's Commonwealth ’Games

The Strange and Beguiling Relationship of India and Pakistan

Prabhakaran‘ ’sDeath and the Politics of the Double

Prabhakaran: In the Shadow of Che?

A Pyrrhic Victory? The ‘End’ of the LTTE and the ‘Tamil Question’

The centre will hold (with apologies to Yeats): Reading the Indian elections of 2009

Framing a Discourse: China and India in the Modern World read the PDF version here.

The Politics & Ethics of Reservations

Pakistan: A Select Political Chronology, 1947-2008

The Ajmer Bomb Blast

The Courage of Bilkis Bano

Musharraf’s Lincoln

Snakes, Ladders, and Indian Billionaires

The Dalai Lama’s Laugh

Reading Nandigram through ‘The Hindu’

India’s Problem with Toilets (with some thoughts on Stalin, Tanizaki, and Gandhi)

Kashmir Earthquake, 2005

Anti Christian Violence

Muhammad Afzal and the Death Sentence

Muhammad Yunus and the Nobel Prize

Bamiyan Buddhas


Sweets and

India's Moment: Elections 2004

Indian History

Mukhtaran Mai, the Conscience of Pakistan

India - US Relations in 2020

The Karma of Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola in India

The Future of Indian Democracy









As John Edwards is poised to commence his state visit to India, one recalls the visit of his adversary and one-time predecessor, George W. Bush, some fifteen years ago.  A much loathed figure around the world, Bush was nonetheless received with respect by Indians.  We weren’t much pleased with the fact that Bush, confused by something in common between Man Mohan Singh and Mohan Das Gandhi, believed that he was encountering in India a political dynasty equal to that forged by his own father.  Some of our leftist countrymen and countrywomen, who mocked ideas of development and progress, and called our hard-working youth who stayed up all night to resolve the medical bills of Americans cyber-coolies, greeted Bush with abuses and burnt his effigies at monster rallies.  Unfazed by all that, Bush told us that he was glad to see democracy in action in a different part of the world. 

We then had friendship treaties with Iran, Russia, and many other states, but for most of us our love-affair had always been with America.  So many of us thought, ‘No place like America.’  Even those of us who had never been to America had heard of the Patels in their motels, and though we didn’t like donuts very much, we would have given anything to run a Dunkin’ Donuts shops, even in neighborhoods peopled largely by blacks and Hispanics.  We were then just emerging as an economic power, but much to our disappointment, China was still occupying the lion’s share of the news.  No matter how well we did, we never seemed to catch up with China.

Today Edwards will be arriving in a different India.  Our Satwinders are no longer someone eles’s Sams, nor do the Jaswinders of Jullunder have to pretend that they are John or James.  All right, the Americans didn’t ever take to curry as much have the Brits, who with their boiled peas and steak and kidney pies did the only smart thing, but Michael, David, and George have all learned to eat appam and avial in Cochin and Trivandrum.  Today the Americans come here not just to visit the Taj Mahal, go trekking in the Himalayas, or smoke cheap joints at Kovalam, but because we are a ‘happening place’.  Whoever thought that Americans would come here to hang out?   China’s next door, but no one’s going there.  Most of the Chinese never really got to learning English, and the Americans, who have a hard enough time with English, found that the Chinese have far too many characters in their language.  Hindish is now spoken widely around the world and Americans are slowly switching to it.  Are yaar, let’s have chai-shai.

We have made common cause with Americans.  Some will call it conceit, but we both have every reason to be proud.  We have the oldest civilization in the world, they have the oldest democracy.  No one has come up with as many schemes to make money as have the Americans; and our scriptures command us to pay as much attention to artha as to moksha.  In both our cultures, we respect women as harbingers of wealth.  We have our Lakshmis, they have Ayn Rand.  True, we’re still doing the bidding of the Americans, helping them to hunt for Muslim terrorists and letting them run their intelligence agencies from offices in Mumbai and Delhi.  We’ve known a thing or two about terrorism, and could teach Americans some things about terrorism as much as about spirituality, but at any rate what choice do we have?  Our Duryodhana, Dusshasana, and Ravana missiles have a long reach, but the Americans still have much bigger bombs.  America India, bhai bhai!