Saturday, November 7, 2009

Misconceptions Galore

How many times have we seen really bizarre questions being asked about a particular country? Ignorance doesn't seem to be the only reason for this. Over the course of nearly four years in this country, I've seen that people in the United States and people in India have several misconceptions about the other country.
I must have easily been asked more than a dozen times if my writing as a journalist in India was in English or my mother tongue. When they would know that growing up in India, I have been speaking English since I was three or four, it would surprise them to no end. And then questions would come up like, "You learnt English, but did you also write for English newspapers and magazines?" "How is it that people in India would speak and read English and not just their own language?" I would reason with them initially, and then learnt to decipher with who to reason, and who to just smile at when they asked this question.
I have also come across those who say, "But people in China do not speak English. How do you?"
Another extremely common question asked is, "Do you still see camels and elephants on the road everyday?" There are so many people who fail to keep up with current developments and know that India has developed by leaps and bounds in the past decade.
M once told me that when she said that she didn't eat chicken regularly in India, her colleagues remarked, "Did you not eat chicken regularly because India is a poor nation and you wouldn't get it often?"

On the other hand, I've seen people from India have misconceptions about the United States as well. My mother was really happy to see that families here make the effort to spend time with their children. She really liked that parents would take their toddlers to the library on a weekend or take them to a park or that parents and their adolescent children will go together to a restaurant. Like a lot of people in India, she too was under the impression that in this country parents have their own schedule and children are on their own and that a healthy family life was difficult to have here.
I'll again bring up my trip to India. Even when I lived in India, I never really developed a taste for alcohol. When we would go for dinner to family friends' houses, uncles and aunties would offer wine or other alcoholic drinks and I would decline. They wouldn't say anything, but their look said that if she has lived there, then also why doesn't she drink alcohol? Why would they think that just because I live in America, I would enjoy alcohol?

A tells me that we have to tell one person at a time what the ground reality is and that that is the only way people know what the base reality is. Will keep updating this post as I come across more of such discussions

1 comment:

  1. Spot on! It sometimes is so annoying when educated individuals ask you such questions....its like globalization has caught on in terms of consumer and electronic products, but not so much in terms of understanding everyone's culture! Stereotyping and generalizing is also the culprit....