Yesterday in one of my classes at B-school we had this discussion over how Bollywood movies are a Hollywood story with songs, dance, and how kissing is a strict no-no in the movies. It wasn’t offensive because of the context but it made me think that about our stereotypes and how does it impact our lives whether in India or abroad. So I thought I will get opinion from you guys!
You talk to anyone about Indians (or about people from other states in India) and there is almost always a preconceived notion.
Here are a few of them from my experiences.
1. Do you have Snake-Charmers all over the streets?
My first reaction is I laugh out and then explain how rare it’s to see one these days and how I really enjoyed that when I was a child. The point however is does it portray an image of India when I say yes? I think it does as it triggers an explanation session about other aspects of India which are way more important beyond snake-charmers!
2. Is it true that you guys marry without seeing your partners?
I am not annoyed when people ask this. It’s slightly unusual for them to understand this concept which is understandable. I don’t think there is particular impact of it but it leaves me thinking about bigger issues like dowry, exploitation etc. The debate between love and arrange marriage is another topic but we need to think about these issues and how we can best handle them as a society. So do we care about this stereotype? Well I will say Yes and No.
3. Bollywood is all about songs, dance and colors:
I enjoy this conversation whether in India or abroad because it triggers so many different responses. I think any sane businessmen would like to pursue a hit idea. So there is nothing wrong when directors portray these characteristics in their movies because that’s what we are about and we love it! It goes without saying that we have witnessed radically totally unique movies in past few years and they have made some serious global impact so I guess there has been a positive impact of this particular stereotyping.
4. Wow! “their” son is studying in America:
Seriously? Trust me most of the people abroad would rather join our AIIMs, ISBs and IIMs than any other university in the world. They probably go abroad maybe because of excessive competition (which isn’t good at all). It’s frustrating at times if you realize high-quality education is often based on one-exam on one particular day. The positive impact of such stereotyping is that government is working religiously on expanding high quality education. I just hope they do it in all areas and not just engineering and MBAs. On a lighter note, you have to see how Indian students at times behave abroad, it’s hilarious!
5. India has a lot of poor people?
This one is disappointing because it is true. We still have a high infant mortality rate, areas without basic sanitation and clean water, farmers dependent on rains for their crops, and numerous other factors. The situation is sad but it’s hearting to see that we are evolving. Studies about rising middle class and rich outnumbering poor have time and again proved that. I hope one day I can deny this stereotype and say “oh no, we don’t have anyone below poverty line”.
6. See that “Chinese” girl (usually from North-Eastern states India), she is so low-character:
This one pisses me off, because
- they are Indians and
- you are an Indian and racist, and
- by judging someone’s character by outer appearance tells something about your character.
While I haven’t done any research on any particular state of India but from my experience, Eastern states are one of the most progressive and literate states in India. They vote judiciously, they don’t talk about politics and cricket all day instead their mantra is to work hard. I think if such stereotype doesn’t end it can impact our citizens, workforce, students etc from North-Eastern states which can adversely affect India’s growth in general.
Do we care?
We do and we should. I believe such stereotypes are reflection of what we are. You may like them or dislike them but it’s a mirror of how we behave and what we do. So, I would say take these stereotypes in a positive way and let’s make some changes to make us a better society.
These are just very few of 1000s of stereotypes we see everyday around us. I am sure you also have heard many of them, let us know what they are and how you think they impact our society.