Saturday, October 11, 2008

Indian Fascination About Foreign


While traveling back from Hampi, I encountered something that is much talked about and is already known, the Indians' fascination about foreigners. I found few Indian co-passengers dying to talk to few foreigners who were sitting next. The Indian guy was desperate to help and guide those 2 German ladies even without their intention to ask for any advice. This transported me to thinking mode asking why Indians are so fascinated about foreigners, foreign goods/brands, people living abroad, and almost everything foreign as if their shit smell better than ours.

On discussion, one of my friend suggested "it is because we give too much importance to fair skin color." In media or marriage, fair skin color is preferred and probably this is what explains Indians' fascination. But I say, this may be not be the complete truth and limited to females, because I've never seen any excessively fair local guy being treated like outsiders, not even to slightest extent. Moreover, in media and in marriages, many a times tall, dark, and handsome is the way to go.

Another friend suggested, since most Indians won't be able to visit other countries and hence, by talking and being friendly with foreigners, they want to get a feel of the land beyond seas. If this is true, then Indians must be as inquisitive to people of African origin as they are to Caucasians. Unfortunately, that does not hold.

Finally, a third friend suggested that "the persons who had willingly worked under British domination, had tried to ape them so much that they passed on the habit to their offspring." This seems to hold some truth but does not justify the fact that this phenomenon involves the whole India diaspora not just those who worked under British.

Another more general conclusion, "foreigners pay triple than an India and they don't bargain." That may be true for most foreigners and explains much of the hotels' and business owners' preference for customers with a Visa. But what I'm referring here is more generalized "thrill" associated with foreign in Indian psyche.

My conclusion: In Indian subcontinent, there exists cast system which has been hereditary for the past hundreds of years if not thousands. Hence, membership of a particular jati is by birth and what a member of that jati does for living is pretty much predefined. The Kshatriyas were kings and warriors, the Brahmins were teachers, scholars and priests, the Vaishyas were traders, and Shudras were agriculturists, service providers, and some artisan groups. This hierarchy was and is not just for division of work but also for defining social status, the facilities available to a cast, and to what extent a person was oppressed by members of higher casts. Also, Mughals too became part of this hierarchy after their invasion. Under such conditions, it is pretty much clear that proximity to higher cast had obvious advantages.

Even if social conditions were not at all bad for lower casts, getting closer to people who are considered superior is certainly advantageous and this behavior is somehow embedded in human psyche. Sometime there are direct benefits of this association, like if you know a film star, you may get a break in movies. More often, there are indirect benefits, like if you know a film star, you get better treatment by your friends and neighbors. Now, what would you do when you find a film star sitting next to you? Start a conversation as soon as possible!!! Isn't it? At least that's what our subconscious directs us to do. This explains why would people in somewhat egalitarian societies would still want to get associated with outsiders who give the appearance of superiority.

In India, Caucasian foreigners dominated for some 200 years and had the physical features similar to or even better than Aryans, the probable ancestors of Kshatriyas and the characters of ancient scriptures/epic, e.g. Ram, Arjun, etc. The physical features and dominance over Indian soil gave an impression that Caucasians belong to the higher end of the cast hierarchy. So, the point is Caucasian foreigners were and are considered elite, noble. And hence, the obvious follows, Indians jump to get associated with them since that is what their subconscious tells, "get closer to higher cast."

The aftermath: Now, we Indians have accepted the fact consciously or unconsciously that there are loads of benefits of being associated with higher class and/or giving the feel of association by way of imitating their mannerism which among other things heightens the status in society.

And the consequence:
1. Many Indians have abandoned their native language and speak English which has also become unofficially official language of independent India (which could not free itself from the foreign language) to be used in parliament.
2. Indians have abandoned their attire (I have never wore a dhoti) .
3. Indians often like to be called by an foreign-sounding name instead of their original names, such as Viky instead of Vikram, Sandy instead of Saundarya.
4. Indians read far more books in English than in other regional languages which is reflected by the meagre number of books published in regional languages and their skimpy price compared to English ones demonstrate that no one is ready to pay more for them.
5. Also, if you notice you will find that foreignm movies are rated much higher than similar regional movies by the newspapers/magazines.

There are numerous such examples which show our preference for foreign and we still take pride in so called Indian culture. Boy! We look so much like Kshatriyas now.
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  1. incisive and true, to a large extent

  2. kya be kitna pakata hai be tu....tu is baat ki itnee gehrai me utra ki mujh nausea ho gaya...chal ab uppar aaja...but since i m posting my comments i will also add that i dont really believe in the notion of foreigners ruled us and that left us with some particular mentality...whtever...bhaiyaa manne aa rahee hai tapas kaun hai...lagta hai mere jaisa koi aur item hai..jise koi kaam dhaam nahi...or ye sala tu hee hai khud apne blog pe ja ke comment likhta hoga..incisive and true hahahaha.warna mere jaisey bewakoof kam hain duniya me.

  3. oh
    I find similar views from other persons too
    this proves that thoughts resonate across the universe.
    But we cant deny the fact that India was subjected to british rule and before that the moguls.
    If we have any faith in the historians,that is .

  4. Such heavy writeups!!! Though seems logical and sensible, needs an empty mind to understand.

    Good anyways!


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