Have you ever noticed how ridiculously few people are able to say ‘no’ to your face? If yes, congrats, you are Indian! Yayy!!
In an office, the junior executive will nod vigorously at his boss even though he knows he is doing much more than his smirking-in-the-background co-workers.
In the garage, the mechanic will say yes to all questions asked by his client:
• “Will this oil change make my bike more smooth?”
• “Will it give me more mileage?”
• “Will I need fewer maintenance check-ups?”
• “Will it make my bike fly?”
“I don’t see why not!”
In a fresh romance, the guy will agree to meet his girl, who is upset because she had a bad day at college, even if he is running a 103-degree fever and his phlegm is dark green.
Trust me, they do things differently in other countries. For those thinking, “Hey, but the junior executive, mechanic, and young lover all have ulterior motives and are trying to create a better impression of themselves in the other person’s eyes.” Yes, that’s true. However, there are many ways to do this, and agreeing to things is a very dilute way to create a better impression in anyone’s eyes. And yet, Indians have an affinity for this.
It is a vicious cycle and the more the agreer agrees, the more he is asked to agree. Soon, this submissiveness and I’ll-do-anything-you-ask outlook becomes the foundation of the relationship. If the agreer behaves differently or does not agree, the trust is broken. One can see this clearly with the example of the junior executive and the young lover.
I do not know what are its roots—genetic, historic, evolutionary, or a combination of these—but I know it exists, full on. Indians are a very agreeable species, apparently! The one who is agreeing is under constant pressure to say ‘yes’ to day-to-day things. The bigger apparent Social Worth gap between the two parties, the quicker the agreement.
This raises a few relevant questions. British ruled India for 190 years; that’s approximately 8 generations (imagine everyone from you to your kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s kid taking orders from a firangi!). Was our inherent submissiveness and agreeability the reason for this human rights violation continuing on for nearly two centuries? And the Britishers weren’t the first to raid our neck of the woods, either. Various raiders, with varying skin colours, have been trying to make India their own for countless centuries.
A very significant counter-question is if these conquestors made us this way. Which is an inverse of the above line of thought. Were we the clay that these raid-and-inhabiters moulded into the yes-men and -women we are today? Were we predisposed by evolution or are we predisposed more recently?
This culture of agreeing is so deeply rooted in our blood that when Indians go to a foreign country as students and ask our Caucasian roommate to hand the towel we forgot to take with us into the shower, the look of amazement in his face itself is a huge culture shock. But of course he will give me the towel, thinks the Indian. Why should I give him his towel? Why can’t he take care of his own stuff? Does he think I’m his servant!?, thinks the Canadian.
We Indians are notorious for nodding. We are routinely teased worldwide with the bobbing head. In fact, this gesture now stands for “Indian.” And guess what nodding is a sign of? That’s right, AGREEING! Click To Tweet
There is no denying that this habit may work in the short run, but it is a poor ally in the long run. The silver lining is that we are moving away from this detrimental habit, at least in the cities. And yet, more awareness is needed. The conflict we see everywhere in the country today may well be a sign that we are moving away from this tendency, albeit at a heavy cost.