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Mythical Model Minority

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
April 2014
Mythical Model Minority

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

I am tired of trying to live up to everyone’s unreasonable expectations. My grandparents, parents, teachers, and older brother believe I’m a slacker. They say that if I just tried a little harder I would be a success like my brother.

Yes, he is in a prestigious seven-year program that will accelerate his medical education.

Yes, his fiancé is in the same program, and the two are sure to have beautiful children someday.

Yes, he honors our grandparents and their religious superstitions.

Yes, he is respectful to our parents and touches their feet whenever he returns from medical school.

Yes, yes, yes. And, no, I’m not my brother. Nor am I like any of the other high-achieving Indians you feature in Khabar. I’m just an ordinary kid who will attend junior college and hopefully find a job after I get my AA degree in auto mechanics.

Can you save me from my “well-wishers” with a quote from Mr. Gandhi that says it’s okay not to be superhuman?

Dear Friend,

“I had heard of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta as one who roared like a lion in law courts. … It was out of the question for me ever to acquire his legal acumen, but I had serious misgivings as to whether I should be able even to earn a living by the profession. … [Here was] Dadabhai Naoroji’s advice… ‘Do you think,’ he said, ‘that everyone must be a Pherozeshah Mehta? … Common honesty and industry are enough to enable him to make a living.” (M. K. Gandhi)

It would seem that your brother roars like a lion in his chosen profession; your opportunity is to find your own “jungle,” roar (or whisper) there, and refrain from competing with your brother.

Being ordinary in the classroom need not keep you from being extraordinary elsewhere. Frankly, I see my car mechanic—Jagir—more often than I do my family doctor. Almost twenty years ago, my father told me that Jagir was hardworking and knew how to repair all kinds of cars. So I went to him first for an oil change and have been going back ever since; Jagir’s extraordinary trustworthiness keeps me returning for car maintenance.

Please do not think that you have to be part of our community’s mythical model minority. The title of your job is not what makes you worthy of emulation. Instead, the trustworthiness of your character is what matters. To increase Trustworthiness, enhance your Credibility, Reliability, and Intimacy. And lower your Self-orientation.*

Here is how a mathematical model, T=(C R I)/S, might translate into your being a magnificent model in your chosen profession:
T = Trustworthiness
C = Credibility (I can trust what you say about cars)
R = Reliability (I can trust you to repair my car)
I = Intimacy (I feel comfortable discussing anything with you)
S = Self-orientation (I know that you genuinely care about me)

* your-customer-trust-you-the-acid-test

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at]


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