Friday, February 16, 2007

The composite ABCD

The acronym for American Born Confused Desi was an inspired coinage on the part of Indian Americans.Per Wikipedia ".....ABCD is a term that refers to people of Desi origin (of South Asian descent), living in the United States. "Confused" refers to their confusion regarding their identity, having been born in America or lived there since childhood and been closer to American culture than their native culture...."

However, there is much in the behaviour pattern of the South Asians of America which can cause confusion not only to themselves, but in others too as they search for a composite image for this increasingly visible group.

A magazine published from New Jersey describes itself as the "largest circulated Indian publication in the USA". It should be safe to assume that scanning the pages of this publication would assist in building a composite image that would be true to the reality, and provide glimpses of the standards and aspirations of South Asians in the country. Certainly, leafing through a recent issue, the articles did reinforce many of the positive stereotypes which spring to mind when thinking of South Asians in America. I recall a security guard at a New York club who addressed me as "Doc". Clearly he assumed that an Indian crossing those portals had to be a Doctor of some sort.

Many of the ads in the magazine - real estate brokerages, technical services, investment houses, home decor - clearly speak to a target audience which was clearly affluent, upwardly mobile and sophisticated.

And then suddenly there was an ad across two full pages, placed by a "World Famous Peer Sahib" based in England offering spiritual remedies for issues such as "husband and wife domestic problems", "marriage of your own choice", " affected by any kind of evil spirits or black magic".

There were other ads from psychics, one from a lady who "...mends marriages, Stops enemies, solves business, financial and family problems" and another describing herself as "Spiritual Doctor" modestly claims that she "...Performs miracles ; restores love, happiness and success.."
Another website offering services to "...prevent & destroy black magic, evil powers and jadoo.." includes the catchy slogan "....Doing business with God".

Interestingly, all of the ads mention "immigration problems" among their catalogue of ills for which they profess to have solutions.

The Peer Sahib from England confidently proclaims in his ad that "..100% guarantee in less than one week your every wish will come true" . I presume that under the Truth in Advertising laws, this claim is capable of strict verification.

What place do these services have in the make-up of the composite Indian image in North America ? Where do they fit in amongst the lawyers, IT gurus, astronauts, research fellows, management consultants and finance professionals that make up the popular image ?


ishani said...

On a different level, these ads are mainly small budget and may not find any takers in mainstream media. I think ethnic media would be the only vehicle to carry them, besides of, perhaps, small regional publications serving niche regional segments. In fact, I think the Indian diaspora has grown bigger (both literally and otherwise) to feel the need for ethnic publications, organisations etc at least in countries such as America & Canada. I think Wall Street Journal (which has now tied up with HT and is published from Delhi & Mumbai) Fortune, BusinessWeek, NYT etc are more the kind of publications that Indians would like to be seen reading or advertising in.

Kaisar Ahmad said...

I have been reading this particular magazine for over a year - it is well written and produced. The content is valuable and upscale. But the advertising obviously is beyond editorial jurisdiction. The ads I mentioned on protection from "black magic", etc. have run consistently. Small budget or not, they must make coomercial sense to the advertisers, which means they have a market.

I am sure you are right when you say that "Fortune, BusinessWeek, NYT etc are more the kind of publications that Indians would like to be seen reading or advertising in" but liking and doing are diferent.

ishani said...

I think increasingly, Indians are featuring more in mainstream media in US. For that matter ET or TOI is more relevant for Indian Americans than ethnic media such as India Abroad etc - which may have to an extent outlived their relevance. We look at most of these publications regularly in India but find greater value in the mainstream media.
Following is some material from Wikipedia on Indian Americans to help highlight the fact that Indians in America are more mainstream now that ever before

Indian Americans are now the richest ethnic group in the United States. Median household income for Indian Americans was $68,771 in 2004. The median household income, nationwide, in 2004 was $46,326.

Asian Indians have outperformed all other minority and majority groups in most measures of socioeconomic achievement. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution on April 26, 2005, (House Resolution 227) to honor the Indian American community and Indian Institutes of Technology graduates. Many individuals, particularly those in the fields of medicine and technology, consider Indian Americans the epitome of the model minority.
They may assimilate more easily than many other immigrant groups because they have fewer language barriers (English is widely spoken in India among professional classes), more educational credentials (immigrants are disproportionately well-educated among Indians), and come from a similarly diverse, tolerant, and democratic society.
Indian Americans are well-represented in the fields of medicine, engineering, finance and information technology.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census Indian Americans have the highest median income of any national origin group in the United States. ($64,093), and Merrill Lynch recently revealed that there are more than 1000 Indian American millionaires. One in every 9 Indians in the United States is a millionaire, comprising 1% of U.S. millionaires. (Source: 2003 Merrill Lynch SA Market Study). This affluence has been matched by a high degree of educational attainment.

Kaisar Ahmad said...

All these statistics are well known and no doubt factual, but the ads for combating black magic are also a fact and since they have been running for ages, must elicit some response. I certainly have no wish to minimise the achievemnets of my fellow Indian- Americans, but was speculating as to who amongst all this affluence and sophistication could be providing a market for these ads.