Wednesday, November 11, 2009

They Don’t Believe – The Larger Picture

Genre: India

Continuing from my previous post on how people from other cities in India refuse to believe some common realities about Mumbai, moving one step ahead, here is a sample of misconceptions harbored by Americans about India as a whole.

They refuse to believe that multi-national food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Subway exist in all Indian cities and that most of us 21st century Indians have grown up on staple diet of same (unhealthy!) fast food as them!

They refuse to believe that we have access to English music and Hollywood movies in our homes and that most of us are as ardent fans of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and VH1 as them.

They refuse to believe that all of us who have come here for our Masters and are in our twenties are un-married and not even thinking of getting married anytime soon. Their impression is that in India, everyone gets married by eighteen.

They refuse to believe that Indian cities have 50-floor high skyscrapers and underground metro networks. In fact, most amusing part was an American grown up in rural Blacksburg asking me if landscape in “under-developed places” like Mumbai comprises of fields and forests! I so much wanted to tell him - “Idiot, on the contrary, it’s YOU who lives in a village!”

For most Americans, India still remains an under-developed third-world nation in some obscure corner of the world. And I don’t blame them completely. Agreed that people in this part of the world are intellectually challenged but we are the one who have played a major role in creating this image of India in the Western world.

We are the ones who lap up a British movie showcasing extreme-negative image of India and proudly claim it to be “Indian” movie simply because it won the Best Picture Oscar. More than that, we have “leaders” throwing shoes and slapping fellow legislators in the House, setting public property on fire without caring a damn to the fact that these “action scenes” are telecast live on TV and makes world news, eventually strengthening India’s image of a “poor law-less country stuck in anarchy and ruled by barbaric hooligans”.

It’s high time we realize we have inflicted enough damage to India’s reputation in the world and it is going to take substantial effort to correct this (if at all someone decides to). In the meantime, the next time an American exclaims “Oh My God! You have McDonalds and Pizza Hut in India???” (heard this almost 10 times so far!), I am simply going to tell - “No man! Are you crazy? We live on a staple diet of grass and mud.”

PS: This is my first post published using Windows Live Writer that came with my Windows 7.


  1. Your views are 100% bang on the spot. However, there are still people like me, who do not watch Friends, not even know about western music, and hate skyscrapers.

    But certainly, your observations and comments in the blog are highly accurate, in my opinion.

  2. Very well written. Accurate description of the myopic view that Americans have not only of India, but also many other highly developing countries.

    Its quite surprising to know that Americans expect all Indians to be married at the age of 18. From my experience here, its the other way round. Most of the students that I TA here are not only married, but have kids at home

    Yes, we are the people responsible for creating this negative image of India. And this image was there before Slumdog reinforced it. After the movie, many people hounded me with questions as to whether what was shown in the movie is true. I wanted to reply that most parts of Philadelphia are worse than most parts of Mumbai

  3. I came across two more cases - " Are you a freshman?" Man if we don't look huge like you doesn't mean I can't be a grad student and then the famous suprise question from them.."Hey how do you speak such good english" I really at times want to tell them that I can speak atleast 5 language! Toh Enlish kaunsi bari cheej hai.

    Btw nice post..You rock karu :)

  4. @KK

    It's not compulsory to watch FRIENDS or listen to western music. I myself am not a big fan of either. But, may I know why you hate skyscrapers? :O


    Yeah, a lot of Americans do get married pretty early and give birth to more children than they can take care of, but still think of themselves as "progressive" and us as "retarded".

    About Slumdog, even I was asked by a dozen American friends if Mumbai is really like that...and trust me, Roanoke is worse than Dharavi!

    @Thought (aka Chayan)

    Yeah, that too! Nobody believes I am a graduate student!

    About the English thing, well you are more prone to that comment coz you speak with your pseudo-American accent! :P

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  6. @Rohan

    Welcome here!

    About the intellectually challenged line, "this part of the world" = USA (not India!)

    So, now you agree? :P

  7. Hahaha..oops

    Sorry, my bad.
    Figured you lived in India.
    That's why I thought this=India.

    Anyway, well written.

  8. @Rohit

    I USED TO live in Mumbai for 22 years since my birth. Shifted to Amrika just three months back.

  9. pseudo american accent..u should have thanked me..warna atlanta airport mei na jane kya ho jata :P

  10. totally agree about the image we sell to the world. i met this american lady some time back and though she's wiser now after spending 1.5 yrs here, she was sharing her initial impressions and expectations about india, and trust me i dint know whether to laugh or cry!

    she was even surprised we hav ATMs here! all the world knows about is gandhi and yoga...and thats just plain sad

  11. So, true!

    I went through the same situation. I was once talking to a British gal (fellow intern)and I was astounded to know that she thinks India is a land full of snake charmers!

    But, yes if we really want to change the way people think about us, we should write blogs, upload pictures n videos on youtube, where India is portrayed as a developing nation n not a poor country.


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