I was going through a discussion with an American colleague and a good friend, who is on a tour to India office. This started as a general “know more about India” discussion. He was curious to know about many things about India, Indian culture and Indian beauties (read Girls). He had a perception of India which was very different from reality in many contexts. Most of things he knew about India were result of a little study of India and about India from Google, some stories over-heard from people who have visited India earlier and a few news article.
I would not say that he was wrong, but he was not right either in understanding the India and Indian people, or Indian culture. I was surprised to hear that he still believes that India is a land of Mysticism and Magic, Spiritualism and Communal Rights. As per his understanding – Indians, in general, tend to be very short tempered when they are given power and authority. He quoted “Maha-Bharata” as an example from our scriptures, which is all a story of a worst kind of war between princes of same clan. I was amazed to see how much research he has done about our history, and his interest in India and Indians. I would like to add here that it was a healthy conversation, and not to show us as an inferior race.
There is one good thing about Non-Indians. They are quite open-minded to take inputs, do their home-work and research before jumping to a conclusion, and accept where they are wrong. He was putting his thoughts across because he was looking for some answers to satisfy his quest in search of the India, which he was looking forward to but was unable to see during his visit to real India.
Slowly there was a good gathering around us as the discussion proceeded. I was initially reluctant to put my opinion frankly. There were two reasons. First, he was my boss, secondly, I was afraid that if I contradict him in front of so many people, it may hurt his ego as he sounded he did a lot of research. The gathering was divided among two groups automatically, one who agreed to his points of views, and second who were finding my explanations logical and showing their support.
He had put a good amount of effort in doing the research about Vedas, our ancient history and modern history, our beliefs etc. I could not find myself as a fit candidate to answer his queries which were backed by historical facts and facts from our scriptures. But then I realized that I must not hesitate to bring forward the points, where he is probably drawing wrong conclusions from his study. He quoted the Maha-Bharatha as an example, but forgot about the Ramayana? We may not be able to understand the things in the correct context if we are biased during analysis and drawing our own conclusions. These epics are meant to give a great learning about good and bad to humanity so that we can learn what is good for us and what could lead to disasters like Mahabharat.
He was biased in his study of India. That was also clear from the example he quoted from the Mahabharat. He noticed the great war between cousins of same clan, but forgot to see there were the Pandavas and the Krishna and the Balram. No social set up is perfect in itself. It is the moral values that bring the society and people up or down. Sometimes, it is our limited knowledge and understanding of the things that make us think the wrong as the right.
Well the discussion was a serious debate, and thankfully, I could help him clear some of his (and a few other of his non-Indian colleagues accompanying him) misconceptions about India and Indians, through proper logic and examples. At the end he also sounded positive and satisfied with the length and depth of the healthy discussion, and the conclusions he made after this an hour and half long debate session made him find a better version of India. Things were still the same but his perception was new. He was not looking to some of things from a Westernized perception.
Well… after discussion was over, he sent me a few links from Quora on similar threads. While going through the articles sent by him, I came across a hilarious post on web which covered some of the topics (mis-conceptions) we touched in our discussion. I would like to share this here with my readers too.
A fun-time read and good to clarify some of the similar misconceptions, if you like to read it, you may find it here.
Also, you are welcome to share your experience and understanding of India (or any other country or culture, or even the cultures within the vast variety of India) here by commenting in this post or using the contact me form from top menu items.