Tuesday, 22 November 2011

On Indians

Spending every day on a beach for a week is fantastic, but doing so means there's precious little to share with you, the readers of my blog. I thought I'd take a different angle with this post and attempt to describe the Indian people. This may make no sense whatsoever, but if it does it would be a fitting description of Indian people as a whole.

I'll start off by saying that to group all Indians together and try to describe them as a single people (which is my plan) is a ridiculous notion. The people are different everywhere you go, sometimes only marginally, other times drastically.

Indians never cease to amaze and amuse me and occasionally shock me into silence. I am constantly amazed by the warmth that the people of this fine country exhibit. Everywhere I go I encounter people smiling broadly and laughing loudly. The happiness is contagious and I've often had to stop my self grinning like a maniac while walking down a busy street, garnering funny looks from the laughing locals. Laughs, smiles and jokes are a way of life in India, and yet I'm always left wondering - why?

India's economy is booming, and that is a gross understatement. The new wealth in India is remarkable, staggering even. India is going places, fast. New money is everywhere, it is flaunted and put on display, mostly garishly. It's not enough just to be wealthy, one's wealth must be flaunted at every possible occasion. There is this crazy urge to be seen to be wealthy.. A crazy urge which seems to be killing the smiles and laughs and jokes. Yes, the smiles are still there, ditto the laughs, but they're different - hollow. In public, the wealthy laugh too loudly and speak too loudly. Trying, it seems, to draw attention to themselves, to show a carefree side which probably no longer exists.

It seems to me that the happiest Indians are those who don't have all that pressure of wealth placed upon their shoulders. The rickshaw-wallahs, dabba-wallahs and chai-wallahs. The people who are still surprised to see foreigners and are eager to have their pictures taken with them. The laughs from them seem genuine, the smiles truly happy. These are the people of the India of old, before the craziness of the dash for riches permeated their society. These are the people I love to meet. Those who have so little always seem to have the most to give.

I'll deviate now to something which I find very peculiar - the India-Pakistan relationship. Leaving aside all the history between these two nations I'd like to discuss a strange reaction I got when I asked an Indian man about his thoughts on the relationship. A little background though - this man is from Pune (a city about an hour from Mumbai, fairly large and progressive), he grew up in Mumbai in a fairly well-off family and after school set about making himself a lot of money. He is not incredibly rich, like some Indians, but he is rich enough to want to be seen to be rich. His brother-in-law is a high-ranking army officer.

When I asked him about what he thought about Pakistan this was his exact response:
"I'm telling you, If  I ever meet a Pakistani... or a Bangladeshi... I will slap him in the face!"
I was shocked! Such raw hatred for an entire country of people. I wanted to know why. I asked him...
"I know it's the 20 which give the other 80 a bad name, but I don't care, if I ever see a Pakistani I will slap him in the face!"
More shock! The 20 which give the other 80 a bad name. Here he was, happily admitting that the whole of Pakistan is not to blame for the animosity between these two countries, but that wouldn't stop him from physically assaulting a Pakistani person unlucky enough to come across him. I find the mutual hatred these countries have for each other astounding. Hatred for each other is ingrained in the societies to the extent that even a man from progressive Mumbai would happily attack his counterpart from Islamabad. This is not the way the world should work.

That conversation made a huge impact on me. It took me completely by surprise. I was suddenly left questioning if everyone felt this way. Could a people so outwardly happy harbour such hatred for other people? Even my favourite Indianisms lost there flavour for a while.

The flavour quickly returned, though. But you're probably wondering what the hell an Indianism is. It's an Oliver Goosen invention, that's what it is. India is full of Indianisms. They are, by definition, very funny and distinctly Indian. An example of an Indianism would be talking to someone about cricket and the topic of Sachin Tendulkar pops up (as it inevitably does), "He is the maximum best batsmen in the world, my god!"
Say that with a pseudo-Indian accent and place emphasis on the underlined words and you'll see what I'm getting at. Indianisms are everywhere, in the way Indians speak, advertise and joke especially. Indiansims stem from the almost childlike way that Indians speak. I don't mean that in a condescending way at all, I just think it's oddly charming. When you've sat next to someone who describes a cricket shot as 'ultra-powerful, hyper-goodlooking' you'll know what I mean.

Indianisms are best experienced so I'll share with you a few of my favourites.

On the side of a road I spotted a cement factory. The building proudly displayed a sign which read: "Cement produced with robot technology!"
I was astounded! Here, in a random location in India, robots where making the cement for new buildings. What sheer brilliance, what incredible ingenuity!

I spotted another fantastic Indianism in a bus earlier today. Innocuously hidden just below a No Smoking sign were the words: 'NO SPITING!' I was lucky I spotted that because I had a spiteful comment lined up for the guy next to me who kept extending his seat space by stealing mine. But seeing as spitting wasn't prohibited I decide to mark out my territory with my saliva...

My all-time favourite Indianism comes from quite a large brand of... something... I'm not even sure what they're selling, but their name is one for the records. They trade under the fantastic title of Bumchums, and they advertise everywhere! I get some strange looks from locals every time I come across one of their signs. They all look at me and I can see them thinking, "What the fuck is that guy laughing about?"

No comments:

Post a Comment