The Great Indian Stereotypes

Ever since I started blogging, this is something I have been wanting to write about. But with the reading, reviewing and the challenges, my temper had fizzled out and this was immediately sidelined. What set me off once again was this wonderful book review by FictionFan.

The template to be used while portraying India in literature or media

If it is a serious subject

1. Some form of continuing strife – maybe caste, religion, financial, anything at all but overall misery. Majority of population still illiterate of course.

2. Intensely spiritual teachings – saadhus, rivers, some cryptic messages. If you want to go all the way, throw in some snake charmers and the Great Indian Rope Trick. (although I must admit, it is a pretty cool trick). All of the above can be found in pretty much every Amazing Race episode featuring India.

If its a light-hearted rom-com/comic caper

1. All Indians must have long, tough-to-pronounce names, thick accents and dress in garish colours

2. They must be celebrating something 24×7- preferably dancing to Hindi music

3. They must be eating/cooking/offering everyone something to eat. In this, laddoos occupy highest place of honour. The unsuspecting westerner always falls sick after eating Indian food.












At this point you may want to ask me “So wait ! Are you saying all these are untrue ? No troubles at all ? We read the news too you know…..”

Of course not ! India,like any other country, has its share of problems. Sometimes it makes you want to shout in frustration and ignorance is definitely bliss. But it hasn’t been all gloom and doom ever since civilization started here.

The portrayal of cultural aspects also tends to be very one-dimensional and this, in a country which has 29 States, 18 official languages and countless dialects among many other things.

Now you ask “So you just don’t want the truth to be told ? Just want everyone to paint a rosy picture ..”

Not true either. All I’m saying is that if you are going to talk about all the problems, make sure it is a balanced and accurate representation. Like what Neel Mukherjee has done in The Lives Of Others where he writes

…..some grudging acknowledgement had to be made to social progress……

If it is a comedy, make it believable and less of a caricature like Raj from the Big Bang Theory so that we can have a good laugh at ourselves.

To make sure the message doesn’t get lost in the midst of all my ranting, let me borrow the words of Adichie

Embedded image permalink

Source: Harper Collins

Seriously, its not all that bad a country ! Now excuse me while I go and celebrate my 50th post on this blog with a choreographed dance routine in a railway station.


15 thoughts on “The Great Indian Stereotypes

  1. This is really interesting- I definitely see your point! It does get really frustrating to see your nation being stereotyped incessantly. I’m Australian and if I saw a croc, I definitely wouldn’t jump on its back! Though I am very fond of Vegemite…
    My best friend is from Mumbai, and though her family does adhere to some Indian stereotypes (noisy, controlling mother, docile father, amazing amounts of food being fed to you- not that I’m complaining!) I have never seen any of them break out into a choreographed Bollywood routine or charm a snake. She gets just as frustrated as you with these issues!
    I can happily say that Indian food has never made me sick! No Delhi belly for this Western girl- give me all the Vindaloo!
    The only Indian book I’ve read was dealing with quite a bit of turmoil- “Kanthapura” by Raja Rao. I think I have Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance” on my shelf and I’m told it’s depressing. Are there any books about India that you would recommend that combat these issues? Or just any awesome ones in particular?


    1. I’m not saying every aspect is false – movies just tend to overdo it.

      Of the recent books, Em and the Big Hoom was a good one.I’ll be posting about it soon. Raja Rao is on my wishlist but haven’t got around to it yet. Right now I have decided to read through the novels in the winners list of the Sahitya Akademi award .

      So good to know that you can take Indian food 😀 If you ever decide to visit here, let me know – I will take you on a culinary tour. You won’t get a better guide 😉


      1. I actually got offered a scholarship to study in Delhi for 6 months but it clashed with too many things 😦 I do hope to go one day! All the food! Likewise, if you ever come to Sydney, I’ll show you around!

        I’ll definitely look into that one!

        Haha you can totally have my copy of Kanthapura, I really didn’t like the way he wrote. The story was great but his sentences went on and on!
        Oh they definitely do overdo it. Sometimes it’s funny, other times downright offensive.
        I used to date a Greek guy and watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” made me laugh so much because of how spot on it was 😛


  2. Haha…that was funny and at the same time,very true!
    I think Indians suffer from the same prejudice as Africans; the latter are always thought about as some savages living in a barren land with no electricity,proper education or infrastructures.As you said,these stereotypes are not false but very incomplete! Besides India is huge and not all Indians are alike.


  3. Yes!! More balance – that’s exactly what’s needed. It’s all very well for authors to be making a point – the best literature does – but it also has to be believable and readable. Look at the misery in Dickens, but they’re also filled with fun moments. Have you read Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower? It addressed some tough stuff, but I thought it was a much more balanced and believable picture than Mistry’s A Fine Balance.

    Thanks for the link and the compliment! 😀


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