2014年5月22日星期四

Chinese Stereotypes of India

When I tell someone in China that my history / area studies field is India, the reaction is usually negative. Anyone who has been there or who knows a friend who has been there seems to be the know-it-all experts on the situation of India.

1. "India is so dirty."
2. "India disrespects women."
3. (a) "You're gonna get the Delhi belly."
(b) "You're gonna get lifelong parasites and suffer it for your whole life." 

Less Frequent But also Condescending and Stereotyping reactions--
4. "You will have to pay dowry if you marry a Brahmin and then you will have to undergo sati once he dies."
5. "Buddhism is no longer practiced widely there... (implied: why should you go?)"-- publisher

Photo credit: Humans of New DelhiBuddha portrayed in nirvanaKingdom of Dreams, Gurgoan
6. "My Indian classmates call home a lot and their English sounds funny." - Pomona College student
7. "The ascetics and sadhus never take baths and practice all kinds of weird stuff." -- college professor as he shows photographed spectacles of disheveled sadhus


I am usually annoyed by these repetitive exhortations, but I am too polite to tell them to shut up and too passive to debate with them or invoke the maxim that "whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true." (A similar exchange occurs when they find out I am vegetarian.) All of these contain some truths (Urban spaces in North India are often dirtier than China; women do experience different levels of discrimination in India; Delhi belly and parasites do exist.), but also reflect the disregard Chinese people have of other cultures and moreover, their idea of what a youth should pursue in his or her life. India is very complicated and some practices extends beyond the national boundaries into broader (South) Asia as well as the desi diaspora in the West Indies and East Africa.
My post is not just for venting about paternalistic attitudes of Chinese elders, but should also serve as a place for critical examination of perceptions of India. Granted, Chinese people's disdain of other cultures is not unique to their views on India. Adrian Belic once observed in an interview with the China Hipster Podcast that when he asked where people around the world wanted to go most, many people say they want to travel to some place personal and different. When he asked Chinese people, they always seem want to go to the biggest Chinatown. He used to think that only Americans had that kind of "We're the best" mentality, but he has seen it among Chinese people as well. Chinese people display similarly reactions to Chicago, which "safety" is a large concern. 
To quote my friend Alex Hsu's observation of the Chinese people he interacted with in his post sharing The Case for Reparations on Facebook --
When I mention I'm from Chicago, I am often made to comment on Chicago's crime rate and the history and current state of American race-relations. My Mandarin is hardly up to the task; my English might not be either. Coates's is. I will be sharing this with my friends here. Amazing. 
From what I hear about India, now I know that a lot is just the mentality of horrors Chinese people like to circulate about unfamiliar terrain. Another lesson learned: I should not be as susceptible to advice as I was five years ago.

On the other hand, I have met some Chinese people among the younger generation who are more open to other cultures, picking Iran or Israel over Europe when planning overseas trips. Among the older generation, European countries are also fair game for bashing when it comes to thieves. 

I was also pretty scared before coming to Chicago. I also went to Chinatown when I visited Chicago for the first time. It was awesome, but so was Little India.
Chicago Chinatown Entrance

没有评论:

发表评论