Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


A spitting image indeed

Published Jul 26, 2012 02:02am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

LOOKING at it dispassionately, it is evident that middle-class Indians have acquired many reckless and jarring values from Pakistan.

Mindless consumerism pervasive in India today is something Pakistanis have indulged in for decades — the fawning slave-master nexus with Washington DC and, not least, the nascent attraction for mixing religious bigotry with RDX. In all these, Indians have followed Pakistan’s lead.

When Dr Manmohan Singh landed in Washington on his maiden visit as prime minister, the children of his top officials — including the foreign minister, the foreign secretary and the national security advisor, among others, not to exclude the prime minister himself — lived in the US. To catch up with Pakistan such a post-Nehruvian push was necessary.

Giving the military an excessive role in guiding foreign policy (in the name of strategic advantage in Siachen, for example) is another element that wasn’t originally there in India, quite the opposite of what has been the norm for Pakistan.

I think this is what Fahmida Riaz lamented in her biting poem ‘Tum bilkul hum jaise nikley, ab tak kahaa’n chhupey thay bhai?’ (You’ve turned out just like us, where were you hiding all this while, brother?) A friend of reason and ready wit from across Wagah once dilated upon the idiomatic Urdu expression of unnees-bees ka farq to set the quotient of consumerist gluttony between India and Pakistan. According to him the difference was in the ratio of 18:21. Why not the idiomatic 19:20, though? “If I say unnees-bees, my Indian friends will feel offended,” he chortled.

Much of the early consumerist dichotomy can be explained by the fact that crony capitalism came to Pakistan way before it was ushered into India in the 1990s. I had heard of a distant cousin who was addicted to Coca-Cola a couple of decades before anyone in India knew of the cultish American drink. In fact there was such a groundswell of opposition, a veritable mass movement against it, that the soft drink was expelled from the country by the government that restored India’s democracy in 1977.

Earlier, international brand names such as Burmah-Shell, British Petroleum and Esso were eased out from postcolonial India in a drive to seek a self-reliant, egalitarian and level-headed society. It is another story that the generic name of engine oils used by motorcar mechanics continued to be Mobil Oil (popularly pronounced mobiaayel) for several more years to come.

Call it populism if you will, but Indira Gandhi’s campaign to nationalise private banks in the late 1960s had popular support just as her curbs on royal privileges and a halt to privy purses for feudal scions, a relic of the colonial period, found mass approval. In this regard Bhutto’s populism with similar egalitarian motifs may have followed the example of a pre-consumerist India.

An early role model for middle-class Pakistanis was perhaps the dapper founder of the country himself vis-à-vis the Indians, who mostly followed Gandhi in shunning ‘conspicuous consumption’ as wasteful.

Gunnar Myrdal records in Asian Drama — An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations, a peerless study of the South Asia of the 1960s, how Pakistani diplomats had an edge over their Indian counterparts in conviviality and social graces, given the right occasion. But for Ziaul Haq’s divine intervention the equation might have remained in Pakistan’s favour, though to no great advantage to its hapless masses.

There was a time up to the 1960s when tourist pictures from Pakistan on the 3D Viewfinder showed Pakistanis dodging around in their Toyotas when Indians were happily lumbering on in their very basic Landmasters, a forerunner to the Ambassador. A class of women flaunted jeans and goggles when their Indian counterparts still donned old-fashioned baggy shalwars.

Khushwant Singh wrote of the Lahore match during the revived cricketing ties with India in 2004 when beautifully attired Pakistani women thronged Gaddafi Stadium. There was only one woman in a burqa and she was the mother of an Indian player, Khushwant Singh observed. To make up for the lapse, if it was that, the Indians have mustered up skimpily clad women as cheerleaders for their cricket matches. The women are mostly foreigners in case the village elders are watching.

We all have learned, however, that cultural percolation from above has not worked in Pakistan just as its economic variant — the neo-liberal school of top-down development — has failed miserably. The idea that well-meaning men and women with borrowed liberal motifs could become the trendsetters for the masses, comprising mostly illiterate men and women, has recoiled hard.

If there was any hope for a modest advance it was snuffed out with an official push for religion to pervade all spheres of life. India is following that roadmap to disaster. Instances where villagers have defied the state to issue Taliban-like edicts against women — what they wear and who they marry, etc — have increased. Urban zealots driven by religion — Hindu or Muslim — have not resisted the temptation to use RDX to stress their point.

And now Anna Hazare’s men see similarities between Messrs Asif Ali Zardari and Pranab Mukherjee. Just as we watched Mukherjee being sworn in as India’s new president, with all its perks, including constitutional immunities against criminal investigation, not to speak of prosecution, Hazare’s team delivered a simultaneous demarche, launching an indefinite fast to expose as-yet unspecified corruption involving the new resident of the British-built Presidential Palace.

Allegations about probity apart, there is not much more in common between Mr Zardari and Mr Mukherjee. One is a political head of his country who has given top priority to peace dialogue with India, the other holds a largely ceremonial post and was not known in his political avatar to push for anything except what helped India’s big business.

It must be this terse image of Mr Mukherjee that prompted the terrorist Omar Sheikh to ring up President Zardari from his prison cell pretending to be the Indian foreign minister. The security alert that followed happened because Pakistanis don’t seem to trust India as a responsible neighbour. If anything, they are likely to see it more as a spitting image of themselves, increasingly so.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (57) Closed

Vinod Vohra Jul 26, 2012 01:22pm
Jawed Naqvi's articles have always been a bit bizarre. He's obsessed with nit-picking for those things in India which make Pakistan look good by comparision - or so he wishes. The first sentence is a give-away ... "nascent attraction for mixing religious bigotry with RDX" Well, its not so nascent in Pakistan from some time now! :-)
Hindy Jul 26, 2012 08:53pm
Naqvi Mian.. Despite your repeated attempts to equate Pakistan/Muslims with Indians/Hindus..ground realities prove otherwise. It must be killing you to see your beloved land of the pure now reduced to existing on western alms, its citizenry now killing the less pious moslems after wiping out the Hindu population... The Indian muslims may cry and moan...but compared to Pakistani Hindus...well I am too embarrassed to even make that comparison...Yeah yeah..Gujarat....That is waht will happen if Moslems burn trains carrying Hindu women and childre,,, No apologies for that
U M Jul 26, 2012 05:30pm
hahaha! Well-countered!
Mohinder sandhu Jul 31, 2012 01:30pm
No matter what jawed naqavi writes about,he has to end up comparing india with pakistan and then try to show how pakistan is better off.Mr naqavi is a indian muslim, writing article after article criticizing india yet he will never consider a option of moving toa better place.I was in amritsar about two months ago, where about 35- 40 hindus from sindh and some sikhs from peshawar were protesting in front of Deputy commissioners office for permanent residency in india.This is what is happening in 2012.
Am I wrong ? Jul 26, 2012 05:06pm
Dear Naqvi.. Your comparison of Indian middle class with Pakistan is really hilarious .We might have same kind of DNA , but our attitude is different from Pakistanis . We as a society are not extremists and that's why we are progressing though we have numerous loopholes in our society. Pakistan is an aimless state . Request you not to come up with such funny articles in future .
Ramalingam Jul 27, 2012 07:57am
Sunil - as a south Indian living in Chandigarh and other north Indian cities for the last 43 years, I have never faced any problems...ever.
Sandeep Jul 26, 2012 07:25pm
Mr. Naqvi, You are correct about the trend in India of "Consumerism" and the fact that India lagged behind Pakistan for decades in this consumerism. I also agree that Jeans clad women were first to be seen in Pakistan. But the difference ends here. Pakistan indulged in consumerism on borrowed money and is till borrowing, while India tightened it's belts (made a few mistakes) and have earned so that they can indulge. Further if readers were to take your last paragraph seriously which I reproduce: "It must be this terse image of Mr Mukherjee that prompted the terrorist Omar Sheikh to ring up President Zardari from his prison cell pretending to be the Indian foreign minister" then Pakistan rather the world has a lot to worry about. A terrorist calling the president of the country from his cell-phone sitting in a prison can either be construed as total security failure or ................. You know what I mean!
observer Jul 26, 2012 03:12pm
The Indians too, only state the obvious. Obvious to everyone but Pakistanis. Nothing More. OBL is a case in point.
Indian Jul 26, 2012 09:52am
Oh sure!! We are your slaves my master!!!!!
-A- Laghari- Jul 26, 2012 04:02am
G.a Jul 26, 2012 12:18pm
I think Indian middle class may also be growing as, apart from Sardars, Indians don't spend on themselves or anyone else for that matter. They call it simplicity and we call it stinginess. I don't mean to be disrespectful like so many educated Indians are towards Pakistan with their hurtful comments here (result of a world class education system I suppose). I am only stating the obvious.
Kuppuji Jul 26, 2012 12:13pm
I would appreciate it if Mr Naqvi offers comments about his own current lifestyle and compares it with that of the 1980s. I should think that, just like other middle class Indians, he too got for himself newer gadgets, car, home and whatnot. I believe he ran out of Ideas this week to pontificate about cunning Indians and so started comparing Indians and Pakistanis drawing comfort from imagining that Indians always followed Pakistanis in almost all areas of life. We are used to his columns.
raika45 Jul 26, 2012 11:53am
You forgot no.7.Fast forward to 2010.Pakistan in dire financial straits and has to barrow from banks and the IMF.Mega floods and earthquake still till today has thousands homeless.India is chugging along well and Pakistan is in a delima.What not with the internal strife that kills dozens and maims as many daily.
shiva Jul 26, 2012 02:03pm
"Clearly, India follows Pakistan some 50 years later."...............but overtakes to leave Pakistan behind by 100 years?????
SS Boston Jul 26, 2012 09:59am
Mystry solved
J.S.Hussain Jul 26, 2012 03:56pm
As a Pakistani-Canadian I agree with some of the observations of Mr. Naqvi. I personally feel that Pakistan and India must try to re-establish relations on political, social, economic and educational lines. The armies in both the countries must be cut to a reasonable size.
Devendra Jul 26, 2012 04:34pm
I firmly believe in the freedom of expression, democracy and the right to offend. I am glad Dawn believes in this freedom of expression as well. Jawed Naqvi is the living example and proof of that freedom.
Aditya Jul 26, 2012 06:07pm
Ha, Ha , Ha - just found a link on twitter and watched a TV anchor (some Maya) converting Sunil to Islam on live TV yesterday. Wow - thats the way Pakistan will progress. I have no problems with Jawed Naqvi criticizing India, its people and its policies. Because there is a lot to criticize about India. But I disapprove Mr. Naqvi's constant efforts at amalgamating India and Pakistan and using them in the same sentence. If you have guts, lets see if you can write about such incidents when describing Pakistan. India has serious problems, but you will never find mainstream media indulging in such blatant conversion rituals. The difference between India and Pakistan is that what constitutes as the dirty fringe ideology in India, is mainstream in Pakistan.
khattak Jul 26, 2012 06:33pm
i am astonished to see so many indians commenting,,,,,,,,,,,rather 90% who r commenting and reading the pakistani news paper are indians,,,,,,,,,which proves the point of indians following pakistani foot steps.
gary Jul 26, 2012 06:36pm
In the late sixties,100 pakistani rupee was equal to 130 indian rupees. Today 100 pakistani rupee is equal to 50 indian rupees. In all these years Pakistan was showing glamour with other people's money, India tried to stand on its feet with education and reliance on home based technology. Today Indians are ahead than Pakistanis.
Karachiwla Jul 26, 2012 07:44pm
Same goes for the films, if you look at our pakistani film industry in 60's it was on top compare to bollywood
J.S.Hussain Jul 26, 2012 04:08pm
I respect your opinion praising India's turn towards market economy. But then are you aware of what has lately happened to the the economies of Europe and USA and in comparison what has happened to the Communist China's economy?
does not matter Jul 26, 2012 08:32pm
pakistan extinction: 2020 India extinction : xxxxxx
observer Jul 26, 2012 03:04pm
Oh Goody Goody! Lets have our own Let and have a go at Karachi. On second thoughts why bother, they are doing an excellent job all by themselves.
Plal Jul 26, 2012 08:57pm
Mr Naqvi, India can not be compared to Pakistan politically,economically and otherwise.India was founded on basis of Modern, liberal outlook while Pakistan on religious basis,regime change was done through bullet in Pakistan while ballot was used in India,due to foresightedness of Manmohan Singh Indian Industry are expanding in foreign land and Indian Corporate Management skill is being used in acquiring well known Foreign companies(eg;Mr Laxmi Mittal is biggest steel producer of World similarly Tata(Jaguar), Birla,Public Sector Co are following the trend-no Pakistan company has that World standing.Educationally Indian IT and other knowledge based skill is dominating the world over -Pakistani are lagging far behind.In recent times in Sports also Indian Cricket was world#1 in test cricket,T-20 Champion and World Cup Champion ,Pakistan does not have this honor in past decade.Regarding Women -girl schools are being bombed in Pakistan while Indian women are leading International companies(Indra Noyee),going to space and dominating on World Beauty Contest.
Suvhasis Jul 26, 2012 10:12pm
Javedbhai, please go out.
Rahul Jul 26, 2012 10:42pm
I for one find his remarks beyond rational thinking, and fair. As to his motives in trying to assert that India, for all its faults has the same range of issues as Pakistan, I have no idea but I for one do no not take him seriously any longer. But reading his biased and under-researched articles that would do do justice to the old regimes of the Soviet union is comic pleasure, no more.
thomas Jul 26, 2012 11:04pm
Here's one area where Pakistan is painfully different from India: . Religious minorities can largely practice their religion peacefully in India. That is not at all the case in Islamic Pakistan where blasphemy laws are used regularly to terrorize nonmuslims and keep them in Dhimmitude. Too bad you never address that issue do you, Mr Naqvi?
BNS Jul 27, 2012 01:27am
Great observations, JN. So instead of learning lessons from the same they are repeating the same mistakes. It appears that in reality you are writing in favour of India not against. India is a great nation. And rightly so. India did good things and it progressed well. it should not repeat same mistakes that are proven to go nose dive, as Pakistan is doing right now.
NASAH (USA) Jul 27, 2012 02:10am
"LOOKING at it dispassionately, it is evident that middle-class Indians have acquired many reckless and jarring values from Pakistan." As far as 'mindless consumerism' is concerned -- both India and Pakistan got it from the United States. But if you a little deeper the mindless is not that mindless -- the economy of the United States depends upon it -- can one say the same for India and Pakistan?
Imran Jul 26, 2012 07:40pm
India is simply Pakistan times five.
akhter husain Jul 27, 2012 08:29am
Consumerism basically is the blood line of trade and business but it has to be kept within a limit.
Rajendra M. Parikh Jul 26, 2012 03:33pm
Dear Readers, Mr. Javid Naquvi should go and visit Damascus, Syria. and stay for two days, and then start writing this kind of article, I would consider a totally garbage. Thanks Sincerely, Rajendra M. Parikh Arlington, Texas USA
shankar Jul 26, 2012 02:18pm
To be fair to Mr. Naqwi, India and Pakistan are quite similar in most of the bad things in society - corruption ( I think India has a clear lead here ), unchecked population growth, indiscipline, unequal distribution of wealth, self serving bureaucracy, dismal standards of infrastructure, inability to get along with neighbours, bloated armed forces, craze for anything foreign, love for white skin, gender injustice, sectarian violence, black money, tax evasion, water wars amongst the states ... I can go on and on
sunil Jul 26, 2012 02:19pm
Be realistic. Do the North Indians consider the dark complexioned South india to be from the same stock? Face the reality. South Indians are probably closer to Sri Lankans than Paksitanis!!
raika45 Jul 26, 2012 02:25pm
India,Pakistan and Malaya [now called Malaysia] all got independence from the British.While you two countries ,Pakistan And India are comparing yourselves in one way or the other,with your millions of population,we a nation with 27 million have more money in reserve than your country.27 million people have 124 billion American dollars in reserve.Does not that tell your governments as to how to run a country? Instead of showing thumbs to each other? You both countries are a joke, embroiled in a political,regional and religious mania.Added to that a corrupt political system.
siddhu Jul 27, 2012 02:47am
O my God!! no wonder why Pakistan is a shining example of best foreign policy and economic policy.Mr.Syed you should be proud of these acheivements of Pakistan.hehehe
Transplant Jul 27, 2012 04:45pm
I traveled extensively through Pakistan in the late 70s and remember it to be a conservative and provincial society. Women were harassed by men in most cities if they were not dressed modestly or if they looked foreign. As a light skinned Afghan with brown hair I remember people asking me if I was European, the ignorance was unfathomable. I did not see women clad in jeans sporting goggles anywhere in public. Maybe Javed Naqvi is speaking of an elite group of people dressing in western clothes in their private lives not public.
Avesta Jul 27, 2012 03:36pm
I traveled through Pakistan in the late 70s and I never saw a woman clad in jeans and over sized glasses.
does not matter Jul 27, 2012 06:46pm
1. Free Enterprise without building own industries---collapsed industrial infrastructure. 2. Free Trade-------resulting in more imports than exports resulting in empty reserves 3. Alliance? More like a parasitic dependence on foreign aid. Alliance is between equal partners not between Masters and Slaves 4. Friendship? China is using Pakistan as a tool to keep India engaged in war like situation so it is just a friendship between two opportunists with no real basis other than a common enemy India and that China also a country worth begging from. 5. I don't know how distant Pakistan is when their GDP depends upon remittances coming from Pakistani diaspora living in these western countries and all welfare projects are dependent upon these foreign aid and total export is based upon the special grants provided by US and Europeans.
Shubs Jul 26, 2012 11:04am
Maybe some numbers would help: GDP of Pakistan (2011): $211.1 billion GDP of Maharashtra (2011): $224.12 billion Of course, Maharashtra is not fighting a war. It is also not spending hard earned money on covert ops across the globe. Maybe that helps.
Manoranjan Kumar Jul 26, 2012 10:29am
The GDP of Maharashtra state in India is equal to the GDP of Pakistan as a nation. Pakistan has seriously benefited from its 'First Movers Advantage'.
N S Parameswaran Jul 26, 2012 03:31am
How can we be different at all. We are all from the same stock and DNA. It is this fallacy that we are different that led to partition.
Prakash Jul 26, 2012 03:47am
A hopeless article,Author does not know what he is talking about except that he needs to speak ill about India.
Syed Abbas Jul 26, 2012 04:37am
In South Asia, Pakistan has been the trend-setter. 1. Free Enterprise - Pakistan 1947, India 2000 2. Free Trade - Pakistan 1947, India 2000 3. Alliance with the West - Pakistan 1950, India 2000 4. Friendship with China - Pakistan 1960, India 20xx 5. Distancing from Socialism - Pakistan 1947, India 1990 6. Distancing from dying Corporate Capitalist West - Pakistan 2000, India 20xx. However, India succumbed to Thatcherism and Reaganomics, Pakistan did not. Clearly, India follows Pakistan some 50 years later.
A.J Jul 26, 2012 04:42am
Javed: In your quest for finding similarities between Indian and Pakistanis, I think you did not give much stress to education. I think this is what sets apart India from Pakistan. Not to belittle Pakistans traditional education system (Madrassas) it has made Pakistans future generation less employable in the current dynamics. Where as substantial amount of Indian have access to right kind of education that opens their door to better tomorrow by learning things that are more relevant to todays world.
Madhur Jul 26, 2012 04:47am
For a change Jawed appreciated some thing about Gandhi -simple life style . I think this whole question of consumerism is to debated from a broader perspective, it is not question of India -Pak or American MNC's . Deeper you dig into it you will come to basic question - whether all the progress mankind has made in last 200 years should be junked and are we ready to lead lifestyle our forefathers have lived . I think it would be interesting to know if author is ready to junk every consumerist items from his life including electricity, vehicles , concrete house , computers , papers , piped water etc .
Honestly! Jul 26, 2012 04:48am
Naqvi saab has too much time on his hand and not enough ideas ...!! such a time waste on obvious things as the above gentleman aptly noted .
rocky laroia Jul 26, 2012 05:22am
you stretch a lot to make the comparisons! sorry, i dont think india and pakistan are that similar to each other.... rocky
Al Jul 26, 2012 05:32am
Dear Mr. Parameswaran, You are conflating stock/DNA with culture. Anyway, you are missing Naqvi's relentless and obsessive attacks against Manmohan Singh, Hindus, the U.S., and anything that smacks of capitalism. He is a communist and collectivist. Read his past columns and you will begin to see his thinking. He also is given to false equivalences between Pakistan and India that strectch credulity.
Manoranjan Kumar Jul 26, 2012 10:26am
It is news to me that Pakistan liberalized its economy in late eighties. The size of the entire Pakistani steel industry is equal to a small foundry company in India. Naqvi sahab there has to be a method to the madness.
Pitambara Mishra Jul 26, 2012 06:19am
You are right.
Cyrus Howell Jul 26, 2012 07:35am
‘conspicuous consumption’ from The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorsten Veblen, published in1899. still has something to tell us about us.
Shubs Jul 26, 2012 08:23am
Let's see what Mr. Naqvi is pushing here...economic protectionism, state patronage, socialist governance...he even has issues with individual liberty - the choice of individuals as to where they want to live and work. Maybe one should remind him that Marx and his ideas are dead - a relic of a bygone era which has been proved to be a failure the world over. So many journalistic stretches here that it boggles the mind. Villagers issuing taliban-like edicts have shocked the country - according to the author, this is because of state patronage of religious fudamentalism!!!! Take the banking sector in India today, with nationalized banks of yore falling over themselves to reach the professional standards of private banks, both Indian and foreign. Who benefits? The Indian consumer. Take the Indian auto industry. Where would the Tatas, Mahindras, Bajaj's, Marutis, TVSs of the world be without open markets and competition from world leaders in the industry? Again, who benefits? The ordinary Indian consumer. Would this have happened in his dream world of a protectionist state? Pig-headed ideology doesn't feed empty stomachs Mr Naqvi, nor is there any precedent in the world of any nation progressing through antiquated thinking such as yours.
Shubs Jul 26, 2012 08:31am
Yes, middle class Indians have embraced consumerism. But it is a huge leap of faith to call it 'reckless consumerism'. They consume more because today they can afford to, with larger disposable incomes. If a person graduates from earning Rs 5000/month to Rs 20000/month, and if he buys a flat screen tv and car for his household, to be labelled a reckless consumer would be the height of abuse. Especially in the Indian context. Does Mr Naqvi know middle class Indian households where budgets for education, housing, food, medical expenses, even children's weddings are slashed, just to fund 'CocaCola consumption'?? I'd like to meet these people, since honestly, I know none. This is lazy, ideologically driven journalism, where incredible stretches are made to back-fit into pre-conceived conclusions. Nothing here, just more of the same. Move on people.
U Gupta Jul 26, 2012 08:35am
I do not believe Jawed Naqvi writes like ordinary Indian or Pakistani or understand them at all. He seems to be pretending like hard core communist but imagine luxury of lost Datcha and bitten by jihadis. We really fails to understand what he wants to convey.
Prakash Jul 26, 2012 08:46am
Jawedbhai - Why arent you writing about the Assam riots where muslim settlers are on a murdering spree ? Does only Hindu communalism bother you ?