Thursday, December 9, 2010

The noble Indian

This blogger recently ran across 'Top 5 myths about India', via a tweet... Interesting post by someone traveling through India. It is nice that "MW" recognizes that India is much more complex and interesting than easy sound bites (her "myths"), and she clearly has fallen in love with India... That's great to a certain point, unfortunately "MW" appears to have a slight overdose of "noble savage"...

And so it seems that India appeals to your "higher self"... while materially impoverished its people have "simple, but satisfying" lives"... are "on the whole much more content, much warmer and more generous...", and finally, quoting Tonybee, in Hinduism "...the spirit of mutual good-will, esteem, and veritable love … is the traditional spirit of the religions of the Indian family..."

Hmm, reminds me of almost thirty years ago when I was in boarding school in Ooty. A 'guest' teacher spent a few days with us. He was from the U.S. and, as was fairly common at the time, had come to India to "find himself," dissatisfied that his material wealth did not fill his spiritual needs... He told the class how his two cars, three TVs, nice job and house, etc. weren't fulfilling, and how he envied us because we were so lucky to grow up in such a spiritual place. He was a nice enough guy, but the class consensus was that he was an idiot, and that most of the students would gladly switch places with him in a heartbeat!

In truth he was a dilettante - yes, he could travel, eat, etc. simply; choose to live from day to day; eschew and not pay much attention to worldly possessions; and not spend very little time worrying about the morrow. However, unlike the 'people' around him, if he ever had a problem, or got badly sick, or decided this was no longer for him, he could just pull out his American Express or VISA card and solve his problems... buy help, get treated, or fly back home. Believe me, that makes a huge difference!!

So, yes, most of the time it's not too dangerous. However, spend more than a couple of days there and expect to add "eve teasing" (or "absconding", or "encounter") to your vernacular. When you feel like rhapsodizing about the beauty of Hinduism, spend a few moments thinking about the institution of caste and the evils thereof! Ask yourself if the much-vaunted "mutual good will" also extends to the Dalits and those not lucky enough to be born in the "right" part of society. As you join your hosts in "the Delhi equivalent of Forest Hill" realize that you are light-years away from the reality and existence of hundreds of millions...

Enjoy the good things, enjoy the beauty, enjoy the food, revel in the marvelous discoveries you will make, have a great time. However, please remember you are mostly seeing and experiencing the best India has to offer, and don't get too swept up into thinking it's all "sweet contentment."

Eve-teasing (Wikipedia)
'Eve-Teasing' Makes India's Streets Mean for Women
Railway cops just can’t seem to teach romeos a lesson
Eve-Teasing Threatens Women In India and Bangladesh

Previous related blog entries:
Education emancipates? - Jun 26th, 2010
Misc update (caste) - Aug 29th, 2009
Optimism (unfortunately unwarranted) - Aug 31st, 2008
Updates - Aug 25th, 2008 (#3)
Frame of reference - Jun 27th, 2008
Caste - May 26th, 2008

I am as free as nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.

- Dryden's The Conquest of Granada