Comprehension/Analysis/Evaluation "How India Became America" by A. Kapur
- Outline Kapur’s views on India’s development. (Comprehension) (16 Punkte)
- Analyse how Kapur tries to communicate his views. Consider the article’s structure, argumentative techniques and use of language. (Analysis) (24 Punkte)
- Choose one of the following tasks:
3.1 Referring to work done in class comment on the question to what extent India’s development as seen by Kapur reflects aspects of the American Dream. (Evaluation: comment) (20 Punkte)
3.2 Imagine you are an American businessman who considers investing in India. Write a letter to the editor in which you refer to Kapur’s views. (Evaluation: re-creation of text) (20 Punkte)
Akash Kapur’s views on India’s development are deeply ambivalent. As someone who grew up with an Indian father and an American mother, he is able to evaluate the globalization of his birth country with great insight. Since he lived in rural India when he was young, and went to pursue his secondary education in America, he is aware of the extent of both cultures.
Kapur remarks on several positive changes that have occurred, foremost, the Americanization that has raised the prospects of countless people. This began in the early 1990s with the liberalization of India’s economy, and ensued by a change in urban and rural landscapes. Shopping malls were built, but there were also changes to the countryside’s traditional housing.
However, not only India’s architectural makeup changed. Kapur also positively notices changes in its native people because of the means of consumerism that the newfound prosperity made possible. Now, a reconciliation has occurred that has brought the ideologies of America and India closer together, and India’s attitude towards capitalism has taken on a markedly American spirit. Moreover, a shift in the Indian value system took place into that same direction.
Nevertheless, Kapur is increasingly apprehensive of what is happening. Prosperity distracts India’s people from a possible crisis of the environment, which is a byproduct of abandoning fields and plantations. Additionally, he registers major changes in the societal order, which was formerly structured by the caste system and religious hierarchies. Consequently, he also evaluates Americanization as a potential threat.
Kapur’s article can be divided into several bigger sections. After his introduction, he follows with a historical outline of India’s Americanization and the reconciliation of the two cultures, only to lay the groundwork for his warning that they should be aware of the possible dangers it entails.
In his more general introduction, he uses the metaphor of a crumbling wall to illustrate the decreasing divide between India and the rest of the world. He notes the examples of Starbucks and Amazon. To emphasize the validity of his observations, he quotes an unnamed Indian newspaper, clarifying that this might be “the final stamp of globalization” (l. 5).
Further, Kapur embeds former developments from the 1990s into his narrative, and adds his emotional stance regarding these, giving the article a more relatable, personal touch. In this regard, Kapur states that he has followed the changes in India with “exhilaration, but occasionally, and increasingly, with some anxiety” (l. 14f.). This emphasizes that he was already aware of the changes back then, and expresses the ambiguity he had already felt towards it.
Intertwining his biographical facts with changes he noticed after coming back from the US could be perceived as subjective by the reader. But then, he also bases his observations on the authority of the well-known Indian novelist R. K. Narayan, who reduces American and Indian philosophies to the opposition of austerity vs. limitless materialistic pursuit. This gives Kapur’s arguments more weight. But then he discards Narayan’s musings directly after the quote by saying that upon his return, they already “felt” (l. 27) outdated.
In the following section, Kapur describes the “reconciliation” (l. 29) that is taking place in detail. This term is an interesting choice of words, since it has a rather positive connotation, and with India’s colonial history, one should not expect them to take kindly to another nation implementing their ideologies upon their national identity. Nevertheless, Kapur clarifies that we are dealing with the “Americanization of India” (l. 29), which has both tangible and intangible effects. Again, he uses conclusions that can be observed openly, and findings that he draws from his own personal experiences.
Kapur further dedicates two paragraphs to the intangible manifestations of the Americanization. According to him, this is the more severe development. This is why he concludes his illustrations with this part. Kapur again refers to the India of his youth, and contrasts it with the present to illustrate the major changes in the “spirit of the country” (l. 37). The old India was “an isolated and dour place of limited opportunity. The country was straitjacketed by its moralistic rejection of capitalism” (l. 38f.). Then he backs up his personal observations with official survey results (Pew) to give them additional weight.
Whereas much of the article seems to look at the positive sides of Americanization, Kapur’s conclusion is infused with a plethora of negative thoughts. He shares his trepidations with the reader in highlighting the negative aspects of Americanization/globalization, and illustrates this via the examples of how it destroys century-old traditions, and chips away at the caste system, religion and families. To him, these thoughts are so frightening that they turn into sleeplessness. He finishes by reiterating the “I have learned” (l. 62) phrase from the beginning, once more stressing that he speaks from personal experience.
The American Dream comprises a catalogue of values that were compiled and aspired to by many in American society over time. Among other things, they include ideals like democracy, liberty, opportunity, and equality, and encompass the idea that every US citizen has the same chance for prosperity and economic success, as long as one follows the maxim of hard work, determination, and initiative.
India’s Americanization has been accompanied by a shift in attitude that almost resembles the stereotypical American optimism generated by the American Dream. Kapur says that he perceives changes in the “very spirit of the country” (l. 37), which lead India away from being a “place of limited opportunity” (l. 38) with a “moralistic rejection of capitalism” (l. 39) toward a country that is no longer lethargic, but “infused with an energy, a can-do ambition and an entrepreneurial spirit” (l. 40). This is an effect of the idea of equal opportunity and the individual right to pursue happiness. Now Indians value American ideals such as free-market capitalism. Through “hard work and inventiveness” (l. 47), everyone has the same shot at prosperity, and ultimately the means to afford goods. Objectively, Kapur states that Americanization has “lifted millions from poverty” (l. 57f.) and even rural areas have “undeniably grown more prosperous” (l. 51), being now able to partake in consumerism and enjoying the fruits of the Dream.
Moreover, with the idea that society will not prevent social mobility, the boundaries of the ancient caste system have become more penetrable. Kapur, however, lists this under the negative effects of the American influence. He says that affluence destroys the traditional order formerly defined by caste, religion and familial hierarchies, leaving society vulnerable to “lawlessness and violence” (l.55). For him, the positive effects of the Dream cannot go on indefinitely, and he is worried that it might turn into an American Nightmare that already leaves him “lying awake at night” (l. 60).
Dear Mr. Baquet,
With great interest I read Akash Kapur’s article How India Became America in your newspaper from March 9. I am a businessman myself, and I have a genuine interest in expanding to Asia and more precisely in investing in India.
If I can trust Mr. Akash’s views, the US and India seem to have grown closer together ideologically, and a new market for American values and goods has opened up. Especially now that Starbucks and Amazon are entering the Indian stage, it should be safe to assume that the country is ready to be a major global player, and I am ready to invest in an economy that is so obviously booming.
Of course, I highly value the shift in India’s attitudes, especially concerning their work ethic, since I come from a very hard-working family myself. According to Kapur, Indians consistently rank among the most optimistic people in the world, which can affect their economic growth only positively. It is also great to see that they are now admiring proper American values. Believing in free-market capitalism, globalization, and multinational companies is a step in the right direction, if you ask me. And, of course, I positively noted that India appreciates and supports America’s war efforts.
It is astounding to see how much outsourcing companies and other American businesses already have affected the Indian population. For communication and business relations with the US, the use of American idioms and accents can only be advantageous. This makes it a lot easier for us to understand them. For some reason, I cannot sympathize with Mr. Kapur’s distress over a slight change in vowels and the use of American colloquialisms.
What I can relate to a little bit more is Mr. Kapur’s fears concerning the aftermath of dealing with Americanization. Quickly accepting the values of such a great nation that has worked on them since the very establishment of its own formation should not be underestimated. He does have a point in stating that the side effects of consumerism can be harmful to the environment, but general prosperity might just outweigh the consequences. We just need to learn to be a little bit more responsible with our resources.
What is very important, however, is that India should not forget its own identity, and I hope for their own benefit that they learn to cope with the changing social structures. A business partner that is distracted by societal upheaval is not desirable.
With kind regards,
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