Lessons of economics and globalization from Raj Kapoor’s song – Mera joota hai Japani

Amit Varma, the editor of Pragti has a nice piece.

He says one can learn economics lessons from the famous Raj Kapoor song: Mera Joota hai Japani.

There are two lessons that we can draw from Mera Joota Hai Japani. The first is about economics. The tramp in the film, conveniently named Raj, wears Japanese shoes, Englishtani trousers and a red Russian cap. (I love the word ‘Englishtani!’) None of these affect his Indiannness. And there is no one implying that his wearing foreign products is anti-national because it harms the domestic industry. There are his personal choices: Jab buyer-seller raazi/ Tho ya karega economic kaazi?

And yet, the Swadeshi sentiment of “Be Indian, Buy Indian” has made a comeback. To be fair, every Indian government has been guilty of such flawed thinking. (Remember Nehru’s belief in Import Substitution?) But the current one of Narendra Modi has added much advertising gloss to it, with fancy catchphrases like ‘Make in India.’There is a fallacy behind such thinking, though, and it is the most pervasive economic fallacy of all: The Zero-Sum Fallacy.


Apart from the economic lesson, there is also a cultural one here. An old trope that has again become fashionable recently is a nativism that holds that everything that originated in India is good, and foreign imports are bad. Family values are good, Western values are evil. Everything to do with Hinduism is good, and all that Muslim or colonial ‘outsiders’ brought is bad.

……And yet, the way I see it, all of these are truly Indian. Culture isappropriation. That’s a feature, not a bug, and we should embrace it. Indeed, what makes Indian culture so wonderful is the diversity of the influences that have shaped it.

And that, finally, is the big lesson from the song above. Raj Kapoor, inspired in that film by Charlie Chaplin, wore a shoe from Japan, trousers from Englishtan, a hat from Russia and was, nevertheless, an embodiment of what it meant to be Indian. Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani!

Nice bit..



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