The second Chinese invasion

My sister recently mentioned to me something or someone she had read on the internet who said if the world is not careful, we shall all be speaking Chinese in 40 years.

To which I would like to add this Diwali – if India is not careful, we shall all be celebrating our traditional festivals with Chinese made goods.

At first these used to flood only the street markets of Bombay but this year, as I meandered through the upper-end malls across the city, the twinkling lights, the lamps, the small statues of gods and goddesses, the candles, the lanterns all somehow seemed to have been made in China.

They all did look rather flimsy to me right from the start and I was quite taken aback when I asked the salesman and he said, “I can give you a 101% guarantee that it will not last you beyond one season.”

Usually guarantees were meant to assure you about the long lasting quality of the goods, I thought.

But the goods were so cheap that he advised me to buy two of each, “Just in case one goes kaput, you don’t have to run out again to buy another. Because there is no question of repair. These are use and throw, not like when our mother used to clean them up and store them at the end of every Diwali and bring them out again the next season.”

“So what is not Chinese here that I can get?” I aked him.

His reply was deadpan and stunning. “Only the salesmen, Ma’am. Only they are all guaranteed Indian!”

Sure, quite apart from the attempts at military invasion on the borders I can see there is a full scale economic invasion of the traditions of India by the Chinese – there is not a thing one can do about it, it seems.

So much so that even the robust ‘nationalist’ called Narendra Modi had to use Chinese made security cards at his Patna rally as Nitish Kumar pointed out, proudly displaying his own card wrapping made in Bihar. But I wonder for how long that will be possible.

These days I have to launch a city wide hunt in all the unlikely places for Indian made goods – like remote controls for set top boxes.

I went through at least half a dozen, bought cheap at the neighbouring store but they didn’t last me even one year put together.

Each burnt out even with mnimal use in less than two months or so. Each time I took the old remote for repairs, I was advised to throw it away and go for new, only to return to the store a few weeks later with the same complaint until my cable operator adivsed me to go for Indian,

“It is a bit expensive but I can guarantee you it will last you at least a year if not more.”

But while I can do with Chinese in terms of air conditioners and remote controls, even telephones and brief cases, I find myself rebelling against the idea of lighting Chinese made lamps in my home during Diwali and hanging China made lanterns, albeit Indian styles and designs on my window.

I used to think it was okay so long as these goods were limited to street vendors but now if upper crust malls and so called nationalists see nothing wrong in being Indian but buying Chinese, it leaves me with a mounting sense of frustration.

I believe the threat is really very real because on a recent visit to Nagpur in the heart of India (the nation’s zero mile begins from here) which is known for little more than its oranges, a seasonal crop that does not travel too well or too far, I saw an invasion of the Chinese who somehow didn’t seem like our own ethnic North east Indians, Burmese or even Tibetans who generally sell woolens and other goods on the streets and from door to door.

When I asked a shop keeper, he told me in reluctant admiration, “They do not get in anyone’s way. They just stand quietly by your side and observe.”

Observe what, I asked.

“The trends, what sells and what does not. Who buys and at what prices.”

Whatever for? I asked in wonder.

“They will then go back and make these fast selling items in China and send them here for sale.”

Now China is famous for its own silks but I believe such hordes are even swarming Kancheepuram, to learn how to weave our traditional sarees.

Do I want to drape myself in a Kanjivaram saree made anywhere but in Kancheepuram? Most certainly not! But I wonder how long I will have that choice!

PTOM:China may have already invaded India

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