Let us stop scoring self-goals

Some years back, I worked with a company that was sales and service agent of a European manufacturer of machines used to produce high-precision parts. One day, I accompanied the manufacturer’s Service Manager to a customer’s factory where we had installed a machine a few months earlier. This was only a ‘courtesy visit’. After completion of the installation, the customer had requested us that, if any senior service personnel from the manufacturer happened to visit India for any other work, we should organise that person’s visit to their factory so that he could check that they were operating and maintaining their machine in the required manner. Since the Service Manager had come to India to attend a meeting along with us to finalise a huge contract to recondition old machines at another customer’s factory, we had added an extra day to his itinerary to enable him to visit this new user.

The customer’s General Manager asked us if we would like to see their entire factory before seeing our machine, and we agreed. After going around the Production Department, we saw a door with a board stating:

QUALITY CONTROL DEPARTMENT
ENTRY FOR AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY

As we neared this door, the GM looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you cannot enter this room. Please wait here for a few minutes.” Looking at the Service Manager, he said, “Please come in, Mr. M.” As the GM turned around to open the door, the Service Manager gave me a puzzled look.  I simply shrugged. He entered the Quality Control Department with the GM. Both of them came out after a few minutes, after which we proceeded back to the Production Department where our machine had been installed.

The GM’s driver, who had picked us up at the airport in the morning, dropped us back at the airport after our visit. As soon as we got down from the car at the airport, the Service Manager asked me, “That was strange! I’ve been itching to ask you this, but I waited till we’re alone. Why did the GM say that you cannot enter the QC Department? I saw the board saying ‘Authorised Personnel Only’, but then, why was I allowed in?” I replied, “Because you are a European, while I’m an Indian!” He was silent for a few seconds, obviously trying to digest my words, and then said, “I cannot understand this. If there’s a rule, it should apply to everybody. Why should I be exempted?”

This incident shows how we Indians take such great pains to show the world that white-skinned people (Europeans, Americans, Australians, etc.) are so much more important to us than our own people. We bend or even break our own rules to favour them. Why, then, are we surprised when these people treat us as inferior to themselves?

NDTV reported on December 17, 2013 that, in retaliation for the arrest of India’s diplomat, Devyani Khobragade in New York, “US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges including diplomatic immunity. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.” Firstpost reports that “These were unilateral benefits we gave without any need to do so. The US does not give us any such concessions on its territory.”

Why did our government give US diplomats all these unnecessary privileges in the first place?

To quote Mohandas Gandhi, “They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”

The sad truth is we have voluntarily given away our self-respect to the rest of the world. We have been scoring self-goals.

It is up to us to regain our self-respect. We will find that regaining our self-respect is much more difficult than losing it, but we must make a beginning. Let us stop scoring self-goals.