Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Perceived preceptions

I must say that the title is a bit exaggerated. This post is about the many perceptions people have about India. Traveling first time to a place outside of India, I managed to become target of some perceived perceptions about India.

One: Do you guys have Facebook? Do you know what I mean by Facebook, the social . . . 
Well, Facebook is not something great and it is certainly not every one should be part of but imagining that India would not have heard of Facebook is preposterous.

Two: Do you know Beatles, and the others?
Well, George Harrison was so bugged with life there that he chose to visit India and took refuge in an ashram while also learning to jam with Pandit Ravishankar. Now, will not India have heard about the Beatles. But there are people who do not know about the Beatles but then that's okay. We need not know about things outside of India without knowing the things surrounding us locally!

Three: Have you heard of Starbucks, McDonald's and Subway joints?
As if globalisation spared us! India welcomes all these joints with open arms and after a while has even developed its own version of the big Mac! So much so . . .

Now this has to be the most famous one:
Four: Do snakes always slither in the streets?
Yes and they are so many that they could actually be sleeping next to you while you are out on a holiday in one of the many National reserve forests.

I very well understand that every country has an image of itself. But sometimes these images are quite jaded and lost in time. The India of yore is not the present one. The last thirty years have been quite influenced by change. Many companies setting up shop in India and the spreading tentacles of education has tremendously changed her left, right and centre. In fact, India is often seen as a potential market for many industries and is no longer referred to as 'third-world' as it used to be known as before.

Its time people read a bit about India before making naive comments and silly remarks.


  1. :)

    The question I was asked by a friend was- Do you travel on elephants back...??
    =) To which I replied.. yes.. my elephants name is Jumbo Jr. My sister's elephant is Bubble. :)

  2. You are really cute Susan dear... Yes, unavoidably we always have a pre-conception of what a contry is just by what the TV has shown us. That's it, no more no less. As for me, I love everything that comes from your country, beautiful people (especially pretty women)and I'd rather they did not have Mc donalds or Starbucks... or .. ah DO you have Zara shops? LOL

    Lots of Indian people live in my island and I have a few colleagues who come from there or their parents (Immigrants-yes)

    Now what do you think or know about the Canary Islands? Any idea of where they are?
    Still trillions don't know they exist , trillions donot know they are very near Africa ( but we have never been there) yet, we are part (a colony?) of Spain, and trillions think we are kind of Hawaian, dancing by the sea... And trillions think that everyone in Spain love Bullfights and so and so... Stereotypes

    So we need to visit and live in the places before we take 'perception'...


  3. Well said Susan....I will keep that in mind!

    Thanks for your comment, hope I did not offend you!
    I changed my post after your comment.

    jeanne :)

  4. Good one Susan :)

    Well, all I could say about this post is that whoever asked you these questions are just not well informed and updated. They need to read up more on world news :)

    Have a great day Susan.


  5. I know what you mean.;) When I lived in the US, people asked me constantly if polar bears were walking the street in Sweden. Hmm. Made me chuckle.;)

  6. oh, dear susan! it truly is the same about anything or anyone that appears to be or is a bit different from the one doing the looking - i mean, it could be about women [a woman can't do construction work, a woman can't run a corporation, a single mother can't be a physician] or a country [all americans eat nothing but hamburgers, all americans are rich, all americans drive luxury automobiles and live in mansions] - and so it goes - that whole thing of perception - our perceptions are based upon what we are exposed to and/or not exposed to - our own belief system - ignorance - etc - but then, that gives us individually the opportunity to educate, to make aware, all those ignorant uninformed and/or indifferent individuals who are blinded or limited in their perceptions! [gee, i was rambling - but hope that makes sense even a little] - neat thought-provoking post, susan!

  7. I have to add my two cents.

    We are all ambassadors of the countries we were born/raised in (or the ones we like to call our own), and the perceptions "outsiders" have of "our" countries are based on the limited amount of information they receive (not seek) from media houses.

    If you look at the Incredible India promotional ads, it's very easy to get the kinds of perceptions you experienced -- India markets itself as a mythical land, so to question those who question you about things like snakes, Subway, and Facebook doesn't seem the wisest thing to do (although I completely understand the natural instinct to do so).

    Try putting yourself in their shoes. How much did you know about Ireland? Or for that matter, how much do you know about Norway, or Zambia, or the Fiji Islands? We are all victims of ignorance and/or limited perceptions...but that is why traveling is said to open your mind and your heart. You not only learn a lot about other cultures and its people, you also get the opportunity, as Gypsywoman said, to make others aware of ours.

  8. i love the last one about snakes - have been asked the same quite a few times :)

  9. I met a few American university students a fortnight ago. They seemed to be quite informed about India. Probably because of the Indian students in their university.

    But their idea of poverty in India is born straight out of Slumdog Millionaire.

  10. Yes, I completely agree - there is nothing worse than ignorance, people should try and learn about a place before asking this rather patronising questions. India is, indeed, a rapidly changing country, with the economy growing larger with every passing day. It is rich in culture and has an amazing heritage, but this does not mean it is behind the times, far from it in fact.

  11. Sameera:

    Glad that I am not alone in experiencing these questions.


    I love you dear Dulce sweetest :) We don't have Zara in Chennai but we do have a Zara bar!!! LOL. Frankly I didn't know about Canary Islands until I read about it in your blog.
    Yeah, one should know about places and not have a stereotype based on popular images :)

  12. Jeanne:

    Why did you take off that post. My answers to all those questions were in the affirmative, that's why I made a joke about not answering them.

    You are so sweet Jeanne dear.

    I cherish your visits here.


    The ones who asked these questions were mainly students, not the older people. They are well informed. In fact they inquired after Dr. Singh and Lady Gandhi.

  13. Zuzana:

    Polar bears??? Now that beats the questions of this post. Chuckling. Have a great remainder of the week dear Zuzana.


    It is definitely an opportunity to know about other places and culture. But going by what you perceive is not quite forthcoming.

  14. Mansi:

    After a long time! Victims of ignorance, yes but then some reading would do good. Well, if one suddenly chances upon an Indian, one is taken unawares and thus preconceived notions are let out.
    But given the fact that we are in the news and also make news, sometimes it does not harm to go a bit further and learn about other places.
    Thanks for that counter point dear Mansi.


    Long time, no see. Hope you are well. But there is a point there. In UK there are no snakes, probably that's why the fascination with snakes

  15. Vinay:

    Sounds nice. Oh yes, I forgot Slumdog's trails.


    Sometimes ignorance repeatedly from different people gets on the nerves. It shows a very narrow perception of things. I somehow feel people like to keep India like that in their mind. It's another form of eurocentrism.

    Joy always :)

  16. Nice pic.. "A walk in the clouds".. wondering if you've watched that movie.. it is amazing!

  17. Sameera, of course I have seen that movie.Keanu Reeves is adorable!!!

  18. Wonderful... hee hee :)
    You have listed them down so well Sus:)

    thank god no body asked u, which tree houses your home, or what kind of leaves u use to cloth urself...

    people have such ridiculous notions
    ...don't even get me started on it!!

    it's like asking a south indian, so sambar and rasam for lunch and dinner...every single day!!

    Good day to you Sus
    Hugs, give me a hug need one badly :)

  19. Awesome post :)
    But I must also confess that I am bewildered about the fact that people still have these notions and perceptions about our country!
    I mean... for instance;' do we have Facebook??!!' ohhh come on!!! :D

  20. Ruchi:

    Travel around outside India and you will also experience it first hand. Time to pack your bags and start dear Ruchi.

    All the best :)

  21. Susan,
    Am confused who to feel sorry for - you the poor soul who was inflicted with this torture or those ignorant ppl living in a world of their own oblivious to the rest of the world!

    It's sad that people relate to the India of the old still when it is the only economy ot not suffer the brunt of the recession that almost messed up USA and Europe!

  22. Minal:

    It is almost after a year that I am replying to your comment. Glad that I chose to reread this post otherwise I wouldn't have been able to read your comment.




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