Suck Goes to High-Tech India


Despite the late hour, Amrit wants to introduce me to her next-door neighbor, a 22-year-old woman who has just finished college. Having had her pick of programming jobs, she has signed on with Medicom, a medical-supply B2B and is poised, in her first year out of school, to earn more than anyone in her family ever had. Amrit says this girl represented the tidal shift in what sort of lives Indian women could today lead.

Sure, I'd love to meet her.

Shubha Lokeshaiah greets me in her flourescent-lit living room, which is all of fifteen feet from the Singhs' bedroom. Her mother is here, too, and so even if she does seem raptly to be watching a dubbed Friends episode on the TV, Shubha and I awkwardly, silently negotiate that we will not risk the impropriety of shaking hands. Instead, Shubha simply sits down across the room from me, next to her mom.

In contrast to the Singhs, Shubha speaks with a thick accent, and so quietly I could hardly hear her from eight feet away. She is dressed in a vivid red salwar kameez gown, which covers her from neck to toes. Despite her outward modesty, though, she stares me in the eye and speaks proudly and forcefully, as though everything she was saying was a matter of pure fact. I ask how she became interested in computer programming, which until very recently was rarely a woman's occupation.

"This is a communications time," she explains. "One hundred percent different than 10 years ago. Most firms would rather work with women today, because we are more serious." She looks forward to getting her own apartment someday — a radical break from tradition, in which women live with their parents at least until marriage, often longer.

I assume that makes her family uneasy, and ask Amrit to ask Shubha's mother — who presumably hasn't understood a word up until now — how she feels about the prospect of her unmarried daughter leaving home. "It's like breaking up with our servants," she says: a matter of economic reality. She thinks the family will be better off. And so what 10 years earlier would have seemed inconceivable — some inseparable blend of shameful impropriety and financial impossibility — is now A-OK. The fact that some young Bangalorean women have become quite rich, in the space of a few years in their twenties, has very quickly put the kibosh on whatever age-old cultural traditions and taboos once held.

Then again, there is that television. The new structure wouldn't look so good, and maybe mom wouldn't be quite so supportive of sending her unmarried daughter to live on her own, if she herself didn't spend her hours watching those attractive, friendly Americans live their shiny lives in their parent-free world. The Internet is having its liberalizing effect on some Indians' lives, but only in the context of television, which — way more pervasive, way more persuasive — has already done most of the cultural heavy lifting.


Speak your mind about today's Suck
Goes to India

Let's Go Bangalore!
E-Commerce, Mom and Pop-Style
The Accidental Feminist
Money Changes Everything
The Billionaire Socialist
Those Crazy Kids and Their Cult
From Hyderbad to Worse
Masterbuilders on the March!


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