One of the hottest topics in India the last few weeks have been the English TV-program Top Gear. People from the show were in India some time back, and the story from that trip was presented in their show in December. I must admit that I have not seen the show, so I don’t know exactly what was said there. But it is clear that they mentioned India in a way that was quite negative and that Indians have felt as offending and insulting. This escalated that high that the British Prime Minister actually was asked to give an official apology to India, something he refused. The Prime Minister said: “The Government is not responsible for editorial decisions made by the BBC or any media organization. This is a matter for the BBC – I don’t speak for the BBC,”
For me who work in Indian and in the Indian culture every day, this is quite interesting. The comments off course say something about British humor, but does it also say something about the Indian attitude towards critics? As I have not seen the program, I cannot comment on how offending it actually was, so my comments here are based on what I have observed myself. And yes, I do realize that I should be a bit careful in what I say here.
My experience is that Indians are quite eager in avoiding conflicts, at least when you compare it to Norwegians. I do remember one story from quite early here in India. I had quite a lot of work to do, and was asked to go to a meeting at the other side of the business complex where I worked. I accepted to do that, but asked to get someone to drop me back as quickly as possible. The person I should meet is quite high in the system here, so I assumed that he could organize some easy transport for me. I ended up being driven back by a person who came quite late, and took a long route, as she did not had access to take the shortest path. I told her, in what I feel was not at all offending, that this was not exactly what I had asked for. And honestly, it would have been quicker for me to walk back then to wait for her. Immediately when I was back on my desk, the person I had met called me and asked: “What was all the tension about?” I remember I got a bit shocked about his response. The girl who had dropped me had clearly told him that I was not happy with what she had done, and he called this to be “tension”. To me there were absolutely no tension at all, but I guess she didn’t like it when I told her honestly what I thought about her using so long time in dropping me back to my office.
One of the most respected and popular businessmen here in India, Anand Mahindra @anandmahindra posted a tweet regarding this a few days back. He said: “What do you make of the storm&fury over the BBC’s TopGear program on India? Should we be sensitive? Should we care? Are we afraid to face reality?” I think he have a very valid point here. Most of the feedback he got is that people are too sensitive, and that they should care less if there are some bad critics. What do you think?
Talk to you soon