Sunday, June 8, 2008

Of Indomania and Indophillia ………

Today I was watching “The Last King Of Scotland”. The movie did show the historic extradition of all Asians from Uganda. There were around 50000 South Asians living in Uganda at that time. And my Mind wandered off thinking as to how many times Indians faced such problems. I had but one way of knowing, by searching for it in the Internet.

I was not particularly thinking of how many Hindus have been prosecuted in India or abroad because of their faith. There are many such instances. Of course there is Aurangazeb who was possibly the worst ruler any country ever had. His religious prosecution saw no limits. There were the Portuguese who have even cut hands of people worshiping Hindu gods. However I was more interested in finding out how many Indians irrespective of their religion have been a target of ethnic cleansing abroad.

I work for an Israeli company and have seen how strongly the Jews feel not just about the holocaust but also about the event where there were expelled from their homeland by the Romans in the 1st century and had to face innumerable difficulties up to the 20th century because of it. Even now in the 21st century Antisemitism does not seem to die. Did the Indian Diaspora ever suffer like this? I searched the Internet for Answers. Of course other than the few exceptions in Uganda or the Fiji Islands, the Indians living abroad have faced fewer problems. The latest concern for us is Malaysia. It has been reported that around 4000 temples have been brought down and the Indians living there face discrimination in every day life. These are however unconfirmed.

Indophillia is by and large a more recent thing. It started when the British captured Bengal and everything Bering the name of India became a fad in Britain. People tried to find out more about India’s history and culture. They also visited India to understand and see for themselves what they were reading so much about. It is this impression of British India that the rest of the world still believes in. Hindu Philosophy did gain a high level of acceptance when Swami Vivekananda went to the USA. Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagwad Gita after the Manhattan project was a success. Bollywood movies have made in roads in possibly every European and American country. But the notions about India still refuse to disappear.

The image of India remains that of a land of snake charmers and extreme poverty in the west. With a population of around 1.2 billion and about 23 % of them living below the poverty line this perception is not completely false. However it is not the complete truth. Four of the top ten richest People are Indians. India has the largest Middle class, it is the largest democracy, it speaks around 25000 languages and it has more than 200 different Religions and cultures. I see India more as a mini encyclopedia of the world. India is possibly the only county which has shown against all odds that Secularism and democracy do work in chorus. Mark twain once remarked about India that, “The one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.”

The perception of the world about India maybe changing, but I guess it will take another 100 years for them to come in terms with reality.


DRJG on October 16, 2008 at 12:10 PM said...

Like your posts in general.

When one thinks about it often language is used for political purpose. There is nothing short of miracle of a lower level about rope "trick" for instance, and calling it trick is merely a matter of putting shame on a land that had ordinary poor people performing it out in open with no tricks whatsoever. It was witnessed with much awe by the Europeans who reported it back home and that is how it got publicity.

And yes, with a billion people about many contradictory things will be true.

As for Indians and / or Hindus (did you know Hindu was the name for the people and the country given by Arabs, whom we gave that name, and Germans used the word Hindu to mean Indian, so for instance the phrase Hindu Muslim means Muslims of this nation?) being persecuted abroad, this is not easy to be found on the net especially - often victims do not speak out and just as often persecutors would not admit that there has been any wrong doing. So one has to trawl carefully.

Once we caught such a piece of news coverage on CNN in Germany about an elderly man being beaten up and left on train tracks by hooligans because he was Indian - but while the news proceeded the cable went out, and that was the only time this happened in all the time we lived there. We left soon.

Mostly there would be obfuscation or outright denial, until you meet hostility suddenly, and Indians tend to retreat and forget or try to, in interest of peace of mind and spending time with more useful endeavours, pretty much along lines of women who would deny any need of a movement - in both cases it is in interest of not being seen as trouble maker, and getting along.

Queen of Dreams by CB Divakaruni is worth reading in this context.

DRJG on October 16, 2008 at 12:19 PM said...

If it were possible to edit comments one would not need to use a second comment for what one might have forgotten - which is in this context this.

If you remember, the amount of anger and uproar in south Asian and other communities in UK about Big Brother and Shilpa Shetty was phenomenal, to the extent she was then given literally royal receptions in an effort to make up, and leave a good feeling.

This fury clearly indicated the experiences the community has lived through, individually and collectively, all along.

Today the picture is much changed since a quarter of a century ago, when faces looked closed in UK, while today the same faces look confident and proud while locals are opening up and evolving thanks to the migrants as well as to their own character that makes it possible. But that evolution is not true everywhere - at least not to that extent, anyway.

DRJG on October 16, 2008 at 12:23 PM said...

Finally - why worry so much about what others think? They will see if they can, but for India it is more necessary to be India. Not a copy of others with shame about not being a perfect copy.

DRJG on October 16, 2008 at 12:25 PM said...

About Vivekananda, read about his being persecuted in Arun Shourie's well researched works.


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