Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Across the Himalayas

Today when I was speaking with a Chinese friend of mine, in the course of conversation I asked him if Chinese people knew a thing or two about India. He answered negative and said that when he thinks about India, he does see three images -
1. Jampacked local trains with people hanging from door bars
2. An Indian businessman who is astronomically richer than common people
3. An Indian woman in a saree with a bindi on her forehead.

And that was quite interesting I thought!

He told me few things about China. It seems that they have their own different internet - a different facebook site, a different search engine called baidu. The whole internet world is totally different and the government controls what you can search and what you can't search. Thousands of sites are deemed illegal and thousands of words are deemed sensitive - like "government", "Dalai Lama", "Party" and so on. Youtube, blogspot, facebook, picasa are blocked. All this is a part of "Golden Shield project", nicknamed as "Great firewall of China".

He told me that it all started with the concept of "harmony". It seems that the leaders announced few years back that the society needs to be "harmonious" and later introduced internet censorship and other controls. When people started writing about it online, the word "harmonious" itself was blocked. So now whenever something gets censored, people say it has been "harmonized". Doesn't this usage ring a bell somewhere if you know what I mean?

I asked him whether people like it and he said that they get used to it. Some people find some tricks out of it but those tricks become useless after some time. According to what he said, there was no concept of multi-party in China. Since centuries, people are divided into two classes - a power class small in number and common people. If people oppose and fight, they fight for an entry into the power class by displacing others. Then they start controlling it themselves.
There were no multiple dynasties co-existing in history, since ages the concept of multiple power classes has been absent. The government is omnipotent. The people who face the wrath of government simply disappear and you cannot search their names online. You cannot discuss the "sensitive" things in public.

There is a Chinese proverb - a paper cannot hold the fire. He remarked jokingly that in China, the government papers have managed to hold the fire and will continue to do so because since ages people have liked to follow a strong leader. That's the way it has been and it won't change.

Then I asked him a personal question - how do you feel in U.S.? He said that he doesn't find it better or worse in any way. Though the freedom to discuss sensitive things and going against the government is absent in China, you can do everything else in the world. And while saying all this, nowhere I felt a hatred towards his motherland. A sense of mild dismay was there but time and again he remarked that China was and is a powerful country.

Sigh! The whole thing was totally new and different. Himalayas are indeed very tall.

He asked me that if we Indians do not have a common language or culture then what makes us stand as a single nation.
And I said "I don't know!" because I too can't really figure that out. You might say that we have some unifying thread underneath but these days its really difficult to see it.


Manasi said...

"Getting used to" is such a dangerous thing. Haven't we got used to the substandard conditions that we have to endure every day. I guess same applies to tolerating the restrictions.

Suneel Madhekar said...

The unifying thread that lies underneath is that we're Indians!

Prajakta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Prajakta said...

Yepp..I liked the title and the figure of speech (which?)implemented there. However I do wonder whether it had been the tall Himalayas that had been preventing any healthy chat across itself.

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