And then came another Western invention that was adopted even faster by hundreds of millions in India: Facebook. Tunku Varadarajan wrote, rather tongue-in-cheek, after he fled from Rupert Murdoch:
Social media was invented for Indians, says Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media professor at Columbia and co-founder of SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association. "They take to it naturally and with great passion. It allows them to do two things they love: Tell everyone what they are doing; and stick their noses into other people's business."Five years have gone by since the Facebook comment. In this age of newer and newer fads, is there anything else that was accidentally invented elsewhere for Indians?
I think there is a claimant for that throne: WhatsApp. More than a tenth of the global 700 million users are in India!
Here is a ground-level observation of the widespread use of WhatsApp in India. One evening, I went to the supermarket, which is a part of the Reliance business empire, to buy a couple of items. Well, ok, I needed an excuse to walk about and observe people.
I was soon at the checkout counter. Three cash registers and three female employees. All the three were Tamils and only one was clad in a sari--the other two were in churidars. While the sari/churidar issue might not be anything to write about for the natives, er, locals, to this outsider the change in women's attire in traditional Tamilnadu is simply astounding. I can not ever get over the changes, and will always feel sad that young girls do not wear half-saris anymore and adult women are ditching saris in favor of churidars and jeans. Oh well, I can't complain much about this--the women will ask me why I don't wear the traditional veshtis! ;)
So, there I was at the checkout counter. The women were engaged in rapidfire chat even as they scanned the items, weighed the produce, totaled up the amounts, and handed back the change to customers. How do women multitask like this so effortlessly?
In that conversation, one of the women at the counter told another, "எனக்கொரு வ்ஹட்சப்ப் மெசேஜ் கொடுத்துடு" (send me a WhatsApp message about it.) And she continued on ... apparently I was the only one there who was stunned by this!
I am sure India awaits the next new thing that was accidentally invented elsewhere.
On the other hand, if Indians get rid of their obsession with cricket, it will free up their minds to invent everything by themselves--like how George in Seinfeld becomes a genius when he is forced to give up sex for a few days. Not a chance, eh? Indians will rather give up sex before they forget cricket, and they will even trade messages about that on WhatsApp ;)