Tuesday, September 9, 2014

There Is No 'Gray' Area in India

I'm in training for my new job and there are a LOT of Indians working in our company. In addition to that, we have an entire Indian branch in Hyderabad. So when we were learning how to fill out work requests to send out to our Indian counterparts our trainer warned us that we had to be specific. Whatever we wanted done, we needed to write it out exactly as we wanted them to do it. When it  came to the job, there was only black and white, there was absolutely no gray areas.

I had a mini-Aha! moment when he said that. OMG. I've been with my husband for 6 years now but I hadn't put a finger on that yet. (Shh... I've warned you all many times that I'm slow with things like this LOL.) My husband is just like this. He doesn't over think things the way I'm used to people around me doing. If you say put the book on the shelf, he's not going to question what shelf he will simply stick the book on whatever shelf he reaches first. He's not going to ask me 20 questions about which shelf, how to place the book there, etc. and I can't expect him to know if I don't tell him specifically what I want.

For most of our marriage I've been pretty good at not nit-picking what he does and how he does it but somehow hearing this statement from my trainer put things in a better perspective for me. Now if only I could effectively explain to my husband that for an American there is only gray and very little black and white lol. At least for me there is. I tend to over think just about everything. I reflect on even minute details sometimes. I like to contemplate. He does not.

For my husband it simply is what it is. He doesn't question everything. Before meeting me he didn't look deeper into the world around him. He just lived according to what he was told. A lot of things he was told weren't true LOL. If only I could get away with sharing some of the insane stories his friends had told him were true! Maybe I can manage to sneak a few of those things in from time to time while he's not looking.

My husband saw the world exactly as his parents told him it was. He believed the things he was taught growing up and he heeded the words of elders without question. One prime example that we don't agree on is the way he was taught that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs. He insists that they have more nutritional value. Being the stubborn American that I am, I researched this and found that it isn't true at all.

Brown eggs are brown simply because of the chickens they come from. Back in Amritsar apparently they charge more for brown eggs and some shop keepers even use tea to dye white eggs brown so they can sell them for more money. Either way, there is absolutely no difference in nutritional content. I showed this to hubby on some very reputable websites and he still wasn't believing it. He couldn't grasp that what he had been told could be inaccurate.

Maybe the egg thing isn't the best example but it shows the basic principle that hubby grew up believing what he was told. He never thought to question it. I was raised to question everything. I grew up in a circle where it's common to hear "don't believe me, look it up for yourself" and "do your own research, don't just take my word for it." We were encouraged to seek out the truth on our own. That's led me to be who I am. An eternal skeptic.

I've warped my husband now. 2 years of living here with me and listening to some pretty intense podcasts and watching some eye-opening documentaries and he's becoming a skeptic as well. I still don't see him researching things as much as I do but he listens intently and we discuss quite a bit of the things I research. Now I have to wonder how he's going to manage in India when he goes back home lol.

How does your Indian view things? Are there gray areas in his line of thinking?


  1. I first noticed that child like 'trait' in fellow student Indians at university in California. Geez, I wondered if the entire country had Aspergers or something.

    Having lived & worked in Indian culture for over 15 yrs now I recognize the difference, it is the lack of 'critical thinking' - 'the intellectually disciplined process of actively, skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.'
    -From the The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking

    Or according to a Mr Glaser an expert in the teaching of critical thinking & development-
    "A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports or refutes it and the further conclusions to which it tends. The habits of mind that characterize a person strongly disposed toward critical thinking include a desire to follow reason and evidence wherever they may lead, a systematic approach to problem solving, inquisitiveness, even-handedness, and confidence in reasoning."

    To put it simply in 'western' culture we are taught & encouraged early on to ask 'why' & gather evidence, then use evidence along with logic & reason to support our conclusions (critical thinking).

    In Indian culture they are taught not to ask 'why' (in fact asking 'why' can be considered rude & disrespectful) and reasoning is usually limited to 'because that's what everybody else says/does/thinks'. You'll see this even at higher educational & research institutions in India like IIT.
    You'll also see a lot more decisions made on purely emotions rather than reason in Desi culture.

    I was thinking about this the other day when my Indian gardener was watering the flowers outside in the rain. Why would anyone do anything so silly? Because 1) He's never been taught to reason/think for himself, 2) He feels that is part of his job & routine, whether it is 'necessary' or not.

  2. This aspect of not questioning your "superiors" based on the notion that it would be considered as rude and disrespectful applies even more so to Japan than India. Japan is a developed and hi-tech nation - even more so than the US on the hi-tech part. How would you account for its success? Japanese Aspergers is not the same as Indian Aspergers?

    Your gardener may not be the fool you are making him out to be. The fact that he watered when it was raining was likely because he felt obligated to do so as he was being paid to do the job by you. It is like commissioning a sign/billboard with misspelled words - it does not reflect badly on them if you get back the final product exactly as you requested it. That would be a reflection on you.

    Also, what happened to the "gray area" when someone representing an entire nation (and as a proxy for the Western world) famously declared: you are either with us or against us? What about the application of minimal critical thinking skills to ponder the possibility of not being with you may not necessarily mean that I am against you?

  3. @beatrix

    What u say maybe true but must u rub in. Your gardener now becomes the representative of all indians. You mean to say that all americans are critical thinkers and all indians are dumbheads??

    It is highly unjust trying to compare two different cultures with two different historical and social trajectories and drawing conclusions.

    You often make goof points but the way u put it often smacks of rudeness.

  4. Oh the gardener watering the plants in the rain! We have the car washers washing the cars in a downpour from hell, soaked wet to the bone but still washing them cars! It makes no sense but they are not questioning it, and I am sure they would be scolded by those hiring them if caught not washing the car every morning because the employer is likely to be affected by the same lack of critical thinking. There are also those who fix potholes with wet cement during a heavy rain, whatever is applied to the road gets washed away before it will even dry and nobody even apply any logic there.
    Critical thinking a skill that is now just starting to be taught in select schools, there might be hope for the next generation.

  5. I guess my bf is an exception to the rule because all he ever doea is ask questions! I feel bad for the sales people when we go shopping. I am the complete oppsite i never ask questions which annoys him. I am used to him doing all the work. When we first met he asked so many questions i thought i was being interrogated hahaha.

  6. That's exactly what I see! In some ways it's good and in some ways it's difficult to live with.

  7. It's good he likes to ask questions. I sorta interrogated my hubby when we first started talking. He thought it was great I asked him so many questions though lol. I asked literally hundreds of questions to try and figure out what kind of person he was before I would meet him in person.

  8. The finest example of American 'critical thinking' is the ice bucket challenge, you have heard about it surely. I was mesmerized by the deep intellectual and spritual meaning of this activity. What profound wisdom, I thought, since so many people are doing it, there must be some 'deep meaning' to it. Many celebrity Indians were also indulging in this foolish activity, nothing better is expected from them anyway. Then a women from India came up with something more meaningful. She donated a bucket of rice to the needy and started something called the "rice bucket challange".




    Miley Cyrus poured rice over herself. She could not think about donating the rice but poured over her head.


  9. Mr Apple-

    Now see here, what you wrote is yet another example of what APPI is pointing out about 'no gray areas' in India:

    "Your gardener now becomes the representative of all indians. You mean to say that all americans are critical thinkers and all indians are dumbheads??"

    Now that is not at all what I said & is an example of black/white thinking vs 'shades of gray' thinking'.

    You also wrote-

    "It is highly unjust trying to compare two different cultures with two different historical and social trajectories and drawing conclusions."

    No, it is interesting comparing & discussing 2 different cultures & their histories as well as their social trajectories - It is also interesting discussing the possible outcomes & conclusions of these factors.
    There is nothing 'just' nor 'unjust' about it, it is part of the 'critical thinking' process that is a part of our western culture.
    If you in your non western culture find that our western cultural questioning, comparing, analyzing & evaluating differences somehow rude, unjust or simply makes you uncomfortable, I'd suggest you learn to deal with with it in a rational & less emotional manner.
    The world is getting to be an ever smaller place & we shall all be dealing with more & more cultural differences now & in the future.

  10. Beatrix

    I have no desire to start a fire fight here. I have already said, what you say may be be true but the way you put it is rude. AAPI and other expats in their blogs have been severely critical about many aspects of Indian life and I have never felt offended with it. I think and I guess that your intentions are noble but in your enthusiasm in making your point, you forget that you come across as rude and aggressive. You were not comparing, you were claiming the superiority of one over other. You passed a judgement. This was definitely not an attempt at critical thinking. I humbly suggest that you so more restraint in airing your views.

    "If you in your non western culture find that our western cultural questioning, comparing, analyzing & evaluating differences somehow rude, unjust or simply makes you uncomfortable, I'd suggest you learn to deal with with it in a rational & less emotional manner"

    What was that???

  11. DaRonBurgundy: Shhh....don't you know that the famous critical thinking part does not apply to Texas or to large parts of the southern United States? Otherwise the Iraq war fiasco would never have happened.

  12. BFs and husbands are always exceptions to such rules :) Otherwise it is kind of hard to explain away "critical" gray area thinkers marrying "black-and-white thinking" simpletons.

  13. I am with apple on this one. I have seen no evidence of remarkable critical thinking acumen in any of Beatrix's posts. But plenty, when it comes to rudeness.

    Don't try to conflate rudeness with "shades of gray" thinking. Just plain nastiness masquerading as something better.

  14. Apple-

    You wrote-

    'You were not comparing, you were claiming the superiority of one over other.'

    So you are saying blind obedience, rote learning, & 'black & white/all or nothing' type of thinking is superior to the 'critical thinking' promoted in western cultures?
    What is the reasoning behind that I'd like to know?
    I do find 'critical thinking' to be superior, especially since I work in health & safety.

    I said in 'western' cultures we are taught & encouraged early on to practice 'critical thinking' - does that mean ALL members of western cultures actually practice any or all of the features of critical thinking?
    No, it does not.

    Did APPI, Cyn or I say ALL Indians practice this 'no shades of gray' thinking" No we didn't.

    I think in your enthusiasm to defend Indian culture(s), & your Indian tendency to 'all or nothing/ no shades gray thinking you implied things for which there is no evidence in what i actually wrote.

    I am very direct, forthright, & clear in how I write & speak. It is a part of my career in public health as well as my personality. If you find that my posts are too 'enthusiastic' or 'rude' for your tastes, too bad. If you disagree with me, say so & give clear. rational, reasonable statements as to why.

    Apple, I find many of your posts a bit naive, somewhat daft, at times irrational almost to the point of being outright ridiculous, overly defensive, & some of your replies show an absolute child like lack of reason - but those your are views & you are entitled to them.
    This is the internet, so expect some flak, someone is always going to disagree with you.
    Where APPI, Cyn & I do have an advantage over you is that we've actually lived in both western & Indian cultures - might want ponder that a spell.

  15. Dear Apple-

    The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on someone's head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.

    The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised considerably more than $100 million for research into degenerative neurological disease.

    The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and then nominating others to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated participants have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation

    Really Apple?

    You don't know anything about medical research nor the many ways it is funded?

    You don't know how awareness of a disease is spread by public & privately funded organizations?

    Well, guess what!

    The United States leads the world in research (as a result of the promotion of 'critical thinking') which will probably keep us at the forefront of medicine & technology (despite our economic & political foibles) for centuries to come.

    Now that research requires a lot of $$$.

    We weird Americans (& many European countries) like to have a bit of fun when donating to charities be they for research or otherwise (just a strange aspect of our culture).

    To generate donations for charities in the US we have $1,000 a plate dinners, fancy dress balls, raffles, wet t-shirt contests, auctions (of just about darned near anything you can think of), bike rides, treks, marathons, ice bucket challenges, you name it we probably have done it.



    Possibly, but it gets people to give up their $ for good cause.

    Like most intelligence animals, humans like to have fun.

    Educate thyself oh spiritual & deep intellectual thinker-


  16. Miley Cyrus is a blemish on American society. As for the ice bucket challenge, I can't comment on whether or not you know the full meaning of it or not so I won't start a debate on it, but using it doesn't fit your argument in this comment. It's actually quite clever of an idea and designed to make people think deeper about ALS. I'm not advocating or defending the challenge, just observing that this was a bad example for you to choose to prove your point.

  17. Washington D.C. isn't in the south and Bush wasn't the sole decision maker on the Iraq war. Yes he played a big part in it, but war is a not something one man gets to choose and decide on. Most of our government (which I do not support in any way) doesn't come from the south. It's funny how so many Indians like to try to point fingers at the American south when they know nothing about it that they didn't see on TV. If you think our TV shows are a good representation of American life, then you have no right to ever be bothered if people start thinking Bollywood is an accurate representation of India.

  18. Hmm....you must have missed my posts on how white women only go to India to molest poor innocent Indian boys and leave them broken and heart broken. :P

  19. Actually, I wasn't pointing to the American south as bad. Just pointing out that to evoke a stereotype will get stereotypes in return. About TV and film, good heavens! hopefully everyone just sees them as pure entertainment and would never imagine for a minute that Tom Cruise and/or Arnold Schwarznegger are really going to drop from the sky in Black Hawk helicopters to rid the world of evil.

  20. I agree about cinema. Bollywood, Nollywood, Hollywood, etc. are all ridiculous interpretations of their respective cultures. I'm not big on Arnold and I can't stand Tom but if someone wanted to drop Channing Tatum out of the sky or John Abraham I would not complain. :P