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A modern reflection of India

Last update - Sunday, January 15, 2012, 02:08 By Priya Rajsekar

I recently had the pleasure of reading the cleverly titled Upworldly Mobile by Ranjini Manian, an author and entrepreneur. The book – which comes highly recommended – dwells on business and behavioural skills for the new Indian manager.

Though the book primarily focuses on an Indian audience, many of the insights are of huge relevance to the outsider, especially when one considers that over 30 million Indians now live abroad.
Since the Indian economy has been opened up, millions of Indians at home also routinely engage with their foreign counterparts. Here in Ireland, Indians are among the largest economic migrant groups, working in health, IT and hospitality, among many other industries.
In recent years Ireland has been doing more to reach out to Indians with a view to pursuing their business interests. Under the circumstances, it is hugely important to be cross-culturally ‘aware’ to succeed in personal or professional relationships.
With this in mind, I recall reacting to Irish Independent writer Ian O’Doherty’s rather uncomplimentary comments on the Hindu god Ganesha. To quote him again, he asked of Hindus: “…do you really care whether some mad Christians are into yoga or not? And anyway, none of your several thousand of gods exist, either. Except Ganesh [sic], obviously. A god with four arms and the head of an elephant? Now that’s worth worshipping.”
No doubt Ganesha does pique one’s curiosity, with his elephant head, ample girth and broken tusk. But rather than resort to sarcasm, the writer could have sought an explanation.
In her aforementioned book, Manian refers to the symbolism of Ganesha on more than one occasion: the big ears teaching to listen more than speak, the broken tusk for humility and awareness of one’s faults and the belly standing for the ability to take life as it comes.
The author also discusses the topic of Indian names. Most Indian expats will probably agree they make a conscious effort to give their child a name that would be easy for foreigners to say. But even today, older Indians have names that are often long-winded and hard to pronounce.
Manian recommends shortening Indian names more than 10 syllables long, rather than adopt the stance of ‘It’s their problem.’ Many may disagree, but Manian has many points to argue her case. This might well apply with other cultures that are prone to using long names that are hard to pronounce for westerners.

When my Irish friends ask me for tips ahead of their business or holiday trips to India, I always find myself asking them to leave behind the clichés and go with an open mind. Manian points out that while statistics may show India is way down on the friendliness index, the opposite is more likely. Replace snake charmers with world-class neurosurgeons, cows on the roads with impressive metro lines and hairy soothsayers with sought-out IT wizards for a more modern, contemporary reflection of India.

Priya Rajsekar is a freelance writer and co-founder of College Canteen, a student- academic social network.

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