The Jacksonville, Florida newspaper runs a column called “Dare to Ask”, where readers can ask uncomfortable or politically incorrect questions. Now when I teach my “Business with India” workshop at Caltech and elsewhere, I alway tell my executive attendees to open up and ask me ANYTHING, without fear of offending me or others. People have asked me about arranged marriage, about cremation, about corruption, about how India can tolerate the British after 200 years of rule, how Indians can play a game like cricket. They have asked about the value of life (and death), about street beggars, about how the land of the Kamasutra is now so apparently conservative and more. I’ve been asked why Indian motels smell too of spice? I’ve been asked if Indians are mostly doctors, engineers and 7-11 employees. I do my best to provide nuanced, sensitive answers that bridge the gap between East and West.
So I was not offended, when Philip Milano asked me to help answer a question from Tatyana in Illinois, “Why does it seem that people from India are always trying to return things to get a better deal, re-use their coupons, or use coupons and disounts fraudulently? It is way more often Indian people who are trying to barter or put one over on me to get money.”
Here is the final column as it appeared this week.
Some Indians may ask why I choose to answer such potentially controversial questions. I firmly believe that we different people can understand each other better, both similarities and differences, we will learn to deal with each other more effectively and have far less stress, wars, and wasted efforts. We can smile, laugh and celebrate our differences, nothing wrong with that. But staying quiet, simple allows misunderstanding to harden and become prejudice.