Adam Osborne on Elite Indians & Lack of National Pride

Introduction: What the man who invented the portable computer thought of India

– by S.Gurumurthy

Of course, Adam Osborne invented the portable computer. Turned a billionaire. Ended as bankrupt. His father Arthur Osborne spent the best part of his life with Ramana Maharishi.

Brought up and educated in Tiruvannamalai, Adam Osborne went back to the US and then came back to India. Settled in Kodaikanal, he was to the ordinary Indian the ‘White Tamilian’. He loved roses. All true. But this is ‘not just what Adam Osborne, who died recently in mother India’s laps, was. What this man-who sought solace in India-thought about India and Indians is far more important to English-educated elite Indians.

Writing in Data Quest magazine in the US well before he came back to settle in India, Osborne recalled his life at the Ramanashram in Turuvanammalai thus: “I was surrounded by Indians who were proud of their nationality and heritage”. Not just that. He says they “believed they had a lot to teach us Europeans”. Here the reference is to the’ ordinary Indian, the Indian proud of his nation.

He also finds another category of Indians, the elite and highly successful Indians and as a sample, Indian Americans. This is what he says about them. “Today I find myself dealing with Indians, many of who do not feel proud of their Indianness. Indian Americans represent the most affluent minority in America, ahead of Jewish Americans and Japanese Americans. This is a statistic and not an opinion. Indians swarm all over the Silicon Valley. Indians are recognized throughout America as technically superior’.

“And yet as a group, they lack national pride,” he says. “Indians are not proud of their nationality as Indians. Something I realised many years ago. Something that puzzled me, I have frequently talked to Indians of their lack of national pride, with telling results. Invariably, after making this assertion from the lecture podium, I find myself surrounded by Indians: Engineers, scientists, doctors, even lawyers, all asserting the correctness of my observations, ‘You are correct,’ they will ‘I am not proud that I am an Indian.”‘ Asks Adam Osborne, “Is India’s colonial heritage the sole reason? Who knows?’ “But, says Osborne, ‘whatever the reasons, it is a pity.”

What has it cost us? Osborne thinks this has made India a third world nation. He says: Since the day Indians learn pride, India will rapidly move out of its third world status to become one of the world’s industrial powers. Moved for India he swears: I will return to India, to preach Indian pride. I will preach that Indians must learn to be proud of being Indians…. irrespective of their race or religion.”

Suppose they regain their pride. Says Adam Osborne: “Then there will be no more shoddy Indian products” Why? Because every worker will generate output with the stamp of a proud man on it. With self-evident quality that screams out: “That is the work of an Indian!” Osborne thinks this will even bring down corruption. “And corruption will decline. Even though these root causes of corruption transcend the bases of lack of Indian pride of which I speak, nevertheless a proud man will pause, more than a man without pride, before extending his hand to receive a bribe.” He concludes: “A proud Indian will try harder to be responsible for products and services that others will praise. And it is in that praise that India’s future Industrial greatness lies.”

National pride is thus equally the winning formula in trade wars as in actual wars. No amount of foreign investment is substitute for that. Will our elites who undermine the pride of Indians day after day realise Adam Osborne’s prescription for them? For two reasons, I have quoted Adam Osborne. One, as he is a White man, his words are important to the Indian elite who want validation from the west. Second, as he sought solace in India, his words are important to me.

Source – Organiser , June 1, 2003 

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