Thursday, February 3, 2011

Incredible India

I’m sick of this India that is being paraded around the media today.

Sick of fascinated white people coming here with their funny accents, reddened faces, dirty footwear and cameras.

Sick of the same people taking a select few photos and going back home and expounding to more fascinated white people about the “life-altering” experience they had while visiting my country.

Sick of these people telling everyone – such a beautiful country, but so much poverty.

Sick of all the TV commercials made by Indians and aired on Indian television about the fact that every Indian child is poor and suffering and needs Rs.X to live to see another day.

Sick of the Incredible India tourist attraction scheme.

Sick of a national newspaper using its front page to talk about this country of “contradictions” and then proceeding to tell all potential participants in a contest to explore the theme of Asli Bharat – the unshining India with the beggars and drains and whatnot. (The Times of India, dated February 3. Read the specs of the contest. The online version doesn’t link directly…)

All this makes me wonder if I live in some alternate universe.

Do I even belong in the same country as all these poor and underfed people? What about me and all the other Indians like me? The ones who speak English and don’t say pisa for pizza. What about us?

In fact, we’re so insignificant that the politicians don’t ask us to vote for them. No one takes us seriously. All we have to do is work enough to push up the per capita income to around Rs49,990 something. We need to be around to ensure that MNCs are investing. We need to work to ensure that the GDP is in order. We need to run the posh-looking businesses so people can say this is a prospering country. We need to be around for the Incredible India campaign. We need to be around so people can call India a country of contradictions where people wear their Cavalli's with the same elan as the shopowner lady wears her saree.

Pain and torture make for better drama and add effect, I know that. But what the fuck is it with selling ourselves short? I don’t get it.

I have only one question though, is India the only beautiful country with poor and underfed and homeless people? Are we the only country where suffering is the subject of our illiterate and idiotic national-level contests?

Sometimes, happiness sells. Ask the damn chocolate makers!


  1. Beyond a point, existentialism can only be answered through the spiritual route. The civilization changes constantly for the good or worse and I think the pace of change, from the time we started aping the west, is just not good enough for the onlookers.

    I just did a trip to Himalayas and it was heartening to see life existing in mountains, unabated by the changes around. Just blame it on the population or the ludicrous democracy; On second thought, a bite of chocolate sounds a better option :)

  2. As a white foreigner with a funny accent but a lot of close Indian friends, I'll admit to the same confusion. The contradictions and the suffering are real, but, as you say, there are contradictions and suffering juxtaposed with beauty and accomplishment everywhere.

    As an anthropologist I understand (though I don't condone) agencies from out-of-country playing up that stuff. It makes things sound adventurous, and adventure sells.

    But I've been baffled by campaigns from within India and even some conversations among my Indian friends that seem to do what you're saying: embrace the contradiction and the suffering as if that itself is the Indian cultural identity.

    There are so many wonderful things about Indian people and the complex Indian culture. So many positive contributions and accomplishments that could be embraced and celebrated to great effect.

  3. @Raj - I agree with you... we're still uncomfortable with it...
    @Nevets - I want to say that every country has a little bit of everything. To highlight one while making the other look/seem like it doesn't belong is just weird to me. When our own national media is saying this, it upsets me. I don't appreciate a specialised portrait of my country. It is what it is.

  4. Well said! The India seen by the tourists depends on what they see or what they like to see.. If they visit Mumbai, they can either visit the slums and proclaim India is poor and starving or they ca visit the posh bungalows and restaurants and shopping malls and declare India doesn't require any more foreign grants..

    But the contest? That too by Times?

  5. There are contradictions in every part of the world. It's just the nature of these contradictions that are different.

    And we Indians are guilty of the same 'taking select photos' charge baba. My entire family is 'preventing' the leaning tower from falling.

  6. @Runawaybride - Read the paper of the date I mentioned
    @gogol - Yeah I know... they're also on my hatelist! nonsenses!

  7. if media plays a role in exploring Incredible India then surely there will be more generousity among the people of India.