Nothing gets my goat more than being stereotyped and/or patronized. I wear my nationality with pride and being from Bangalore is one of the best parts of me. It is a city that I love dearly, despite all its misgivings- crumbling infrastructure, horrible traffic and inefficient systems. I’d like to think that Bangalore is fairly cosmopolitan, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. So it often comes as a surprise when colleagues tell me I seem un-Indian, that I seem removed from the rest of India. The Bangalore I know, is filled with people exactly like me. Sure, Bangalore was always a bit more westernized than the rest of the country. Bangalore always had a more “global” feel. Everyone I know grew up listening to VH1 and watching what we thought were regular TV shows. OK, so I grew up watching the Bold and the Beautiful, nothing like a little pre-Game of Thrones incestuous drama to entertain a 10 year old.
Given this background, I do feel like smacking certain American and one British colleague (you know who you are Mr. Sparkhill) into next week when they tell me that a. I am articulate b. ask about my very Anglicized name c. ask about the cows on the roads. Sure, I can string two words together in English, but so can a million other Indians. Granted, a majority of us massacre the language on a daily basis, some of us up the frequency every time we talk. Some of us aren’t satisfied with just murder but do the Bhangra on every grammar rule there is but give us a break already- most of us grow up learning 4 languages simultaneously and often do this Google translate type function in our head where we translate our “mother tongue” into English, so it is no wonder that we can’t able to speak like the Queen. This may knock every westerner’s socks off, but there are hundreds of thousands of us with names just like theirs. That said, the sole purpose of being given names that are what is loosely referred to as ‘Christian’ is not because our parents had the single minded ambition of our future colleagues getting our names right. The world does not revolve around you and the Paris climate agreement is proof of that. And no, the country will not be receiving awards for cleanliness no matter how much our monogrammed suit wearing, slightly longer than comfortable hug giving PM screams himself hoarse about ‘Swachh Bharat’. But then again try cramming 1.25 billion people anywhere and you will get the mess that we call home. Given our national penchant for spitting and releasing all kinds of bodily fluids in public places, it does not for a sterilized environment make.
Go ahead and take pictures of the cattle on the roads, the open drains, the beggars, and the traffic. But also take pictures of the fancy hotel you stay in, the plush locality that the hotel is located in, the nicely designed offices you have traveled to. Don’t be surprised when some of us are better read than you are or have eclectic tastes in music. By well-read I do not mean our home grown, potential Pulitzer Prize winning Chetan Bhagat with his complete disregard for English and a good story line, nor am I talking about having Justin Bieber on our iPods.
Don’t be surprised when we enjoy something other than a spicy curry and a “Naan bread” or that we are capable of enjoying a movie without ridiculous dance sequences. Not all our weddings involve elaborate costumes, dowry and an ugly groom and evil in-laws. Not all of us work to support our aged parents. Not all of us meet our spouses on the wedding day. Not all Indian women are shy, submissive, face shielding, giggling morons with no brains behind the kohl lined eyes. A lot of women I know could easily add a few more shades to those 50 shades of grey. Not all Indian men are lecherous, uncouth, animals waiting to molest the first thing in a saree. Granted, a good bunch need to be given the Inquisition. And sure, majority of them were not on the receiving end of divine generosity in the looks/personality/IQ department. But still, stop putting us in this mould. Stop with the false sense of entitlement every time you are in the country. You aren’t doing us a favour with your ‘Namaste’. Give the whole Oprah’s “there is order in the chaos” condescension a break. Stop making the entire country a personal ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ vacation. And finally, stop watching ‘Outsourced’ as your official guide to Indian culture. Call centers may not be the cream of the crop where employment opportunities are concerned but last I checked, they don’t have those in the midst of a bustling slum either.