For a long time now I have had this niggling observation about Indian culture, but wasn’t sure if it was just me, isolated incidents or something I was imagining. I now think it is a cultural thing, Indians don’t seem to be able to apologise for anything, but seem to be very quick to blame everything. Is apologising just not part of the Indian culture? Is deflecting an issue away from them a way of dealing with (or more like not dealing with) it?
I have talked before about apologising being an issue in the context of Indian men here, but more recently I have observed this behaviour in women as well. Small things, where one is clearly in the wrong and a simple “I’m sorry” would just make it all feel better was not forthcoming. I let that one slip under the carpet, after all it wasn’t a big deal.
But then recently it happened again, this time over something a bit bigger and much more personal. Rather than just apologise when I pointed out my friend’s inappropriate behaviour, I received a defensive response. Something that could have been made better by simply saying “I’m sorry that came out wrong”, turned into me somehow being wrong for being sensitive to her insensitivity. Rather than waste my precious energy pointing out the wrong here, I have just let it go. Its not worth my energy, but the inability to say a simple “I’m sorry” now mars this friendship.
Is it me? Is the inability to say “I am sorry” cultural, and therefore my expectation that someone will utter those three important words culturally insensitive?
If you believe this article, the word “sorry” was never part of the Indian culture, or this one where it is just not something people do. In my research I found this article that may explain it, apparently studies show that refusing to say sorry to someone can actually boost your self-esteem. Pity it doesn’t say what it does to the self-esteem of the person whom you have refused to say sorry to.
So maybe the refusal to say sorry is just another way for people to make themselves feel better. In a warped way it kind of makes sense, the longer I stay in India the more I realise what an individualistic society it is, so this would be consistent.
The concept of deflection and blame is one I am all too familiar with, I get it a lot on the comments on my blog. For example, on a post I wrote about the plight of women in India some comments I received included ” There are issues of racism in Oz too” and then another this one “Wow.. Thanks for ur grt insight. Now can u go back to ur country and clean racism. Pls..”….. ummm thanks but what has that got to do with female foeticide in India?
I have also watched over the past few months as the issue of rape in India is discussed more in the media, it is common to see well educated people respond with comments about how there is a “rape culture” in other countries not just India. So what? There is a rape culture in India and that is the country we are talking about, deflecting the issue only condones the rapist’s behaviour and doesn’t do anything to help the millions of survivors and victims.
There are many interesting articles on it such as this one which talks about the need for cultural change for India to progress and this one that also “blames” the culture of blaming (amongst other things) for hindering development.
Yes deflection happens a lot on the big issues, but also on the little ones every single day. We took a wrong turn somewhere because I didn’t speak loud enough, not because you didn’t hear me. You’re late because traffic was bad, not because you didn’t leave home in time. It is ever so subtle, but so pervasive in the culture, the way things are justified. An individual never seems to be responsible for their own actions, it is always someone else’s fault.
So do you think Indians can say sorry? If not why not? Do you think the blame game is just a part of Indian culture? If so why?
PS. I am sorry if this post offends anyone, I take full responsibility for it.