Mr. World, you are mistaken if you think we will respond to your jokes with a smile. To randomly spot a smiling Indian on a road is like randomly spotting tiger on the road in India. They are very rare. You see, Smiling is not an essential part of etiquette in India and Indians don’t necessarily smile when they are happy. (Most of us are not.) We do not smile unless the joke is explained (ask all the script writers of the film). The attempts to make us smile is a tricky affair as we are generally not very kind to the jokers
Indians don’t like joke. We especially do not like jokes that are not announced first as a joke and then delivered. So we won’t mind the Great Indian Laughter Challenge Show. We in fact like it. We expect a humor, we expect not to be serious, and we expect to be entertained. As long as we know it is not serious, it is just a joke, we can take a nasty poke as pure entertainment, laugh and forget about it before we get down to serious business of being hurt and responding to insults.
We are especially hurt when the joke is on our culture and our history. UNESCO got it all wrong when they started looking for places in India to declare world heritage sites. The MINDS of INDIANS are the true world heritage sites. And we are taking a very good care of preserving our minds locked in those time periods, never mind the actual sites. We don’t believe in that material outlook of preserving buildings and architecture. Only degenerate cultures do that.
See how Egyptians have preserved the pyramid, but they no more talk about inspiration of Pharaoh in their political, social dialogue today. Look at Greece, Alexander is no more their hero. They are only concerned about their debts. Look at British, Newton and Shakespeare are no more their national icons, they have lost them to the world. But we are different. Shivaji, Rana Pratap are still our heros, enough to riot if somebody tries any funny joke about them. We are hoping that Lord Ram would reappear as promised and take care of all the mess. We still hold our Vedas, Bhagvad Gita, as our cultural and national heritage that we are not going to lose to the world as world literature. Our Music is our music, our Yoga is our Yoga, so what if tons of foreigners learn and practice it. The point is that we are far more rooted in our past than any other civilization.
So as we are busy repeating to ourselves our glorious culture and heritage, it is extremely annoying when somebody makes a joke on dirty Indian toilets, late trains, poverty and corruption. First of all, that is not at all US. We are those glorious descendants of even more Glorious culture. So identifying us as the people who don’t mind dirty toilets, delayed trains and mind-boggling corruption is a very one-dimensional way of looking at us. When one adds great literature, philosophy, cuisine and arts to the above inconvenient three, it creates more realistic picture of us. To say that others also have all that culture-stuff but also have clean toilets, on-time trains and minimum corruption, is a very unfair comparison. It hurts our feelings.
We can tolerate dirty toilets, but what we cannot tolerate is a dirty joke, or particularly a joke on dirty toilet. We don’t think it is very civilized for the world to make a joke on our dirty toilet. If humor is about stating the obvious in most unobvious way, that does not quite work with us. You see, we are not obvious people. We are special people. We are not materialistic beings to be perturbed by dirty toilets and corruption. We believe in spirituality, and we practice it every day while dealing with dirty toilets, late trains, corruption and the general state of `nothing works’.
So we think it is very frivolous and childish of you, Mr. World to make a joke about us. Your clean toilets, clean roads and good governance do not make you a superior culture. Successful may be. But in the land of nirvana who cares about success?