I was familiar with the word ‘Indophile’ as I have come across it several times before while reading British Colonial History as part of my syllabus long back. Several famous British colonialists were found to be Indophiles. What prompted me to talk about it suddenly is the article in today’s The Hindu, ‘The Indian Influence: Israelis are smitten by the charms of It appeared in the fourth page of Sunday Magazine. The subject of the article is a woman called Merav Yossef-Levi, who subtitles ’s cultural heritage.’Bollywood films into Hebrew to make Israeli’s familiarize with the culture of India. Though mainstream Bollywood can hardly be considered a medium of cultural transfer, a percentage of films from India do proper justice to the culture of the land. But, then I came across a couple of other words which I had to look up, though I sort of knew what they were generally about; ‘Indophobia’ and ‘Indomania’. The former refers to hostility towards India and the people of Indian origin and their culture. The latter refers to an unusual interest and passion towards anything Indian.
These things were really funny to read about (in an especially lazy Sunday morning, I tell you, with a large mug of coffee going cold right under your nose!) though at times resulted in new revelations. It is known that British colonialists were divided into two groups; Ones who were really interested in exploring the culture of India and the ones who totally disregarded anything Indian and liked to see the people of the newly conquered land as only barbarians who were waiting to be exploited. Indophiles and Indophobics. When I started looking at what all the conflicts between these two groups were, I found the results astonishing. I think only a few Indians are aware of the intellectual war that was happening in the Occident in those days… Friedrich Schlegel wrote in a letter to Tieck that India was the source of all languages, thoughts and poems, and that ‘everything ‘ came from India. In the 18th century, Voltaire wrote that ‘I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges, astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc.
Then we have people like Lord Macaulay… his words are famous and they are something that a language student in India will never forget. He said, ‘I have never found one among them who would deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.’ He wrote that Arabic and Sanskrit works on medicine contain ‘medical doctrines which would disgrace an English Farrier – Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school – History, abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long – Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter.
I don’t think the Indian Mutiny of 1857 helped the views of British any better because of the massive killings of the colonial masters by the native soldiers. Robert Clive has written about the death-pits of the Nawab of Bengal… but where I come from there is a fort where the Cannons extend to the sea; those cannons were used to blast Indians to the sea, as a punishment for treason… they still face the sea, even after 300 years, bearing the names of those who built it. I guess, we can forget history now since world is a better place than then. At least we don’t have armies marching all over the globe anymore. It is happy to see someone from somewhere taking an interest in the Indian culture. The dark ages of false beliefs are going down the drains, I hope, even though I still remember the questions of an American friend who happened to see a lot of Bollywood flicks before coming to the University for a programme. She asked me (two days after reaching India and five hours after joining for a course with me) why I don’t wear any colorful clothes like they do in the films…! I had to suppress my laughter to a point where I thought I’d get a heart attack. I had a hard time trying to make her understand that Bollywood songs on YouTube has nothing to do with India or Indians as most of them are just pure rubbish trying to take people for a ride, or an escape route for people who have more than a fair share of issues to deal with…
It’s a funny funny world out there, my friend. We should just let it have us.’ Says a character from a regional language novel I read recently.
- Charleston women bring Indias Bollywood glamour home (wvgazette.com)
- The Indian influence (thehindu.com)
- Are You Indian: My review (tillie49.wordpress.com)
- REVIEW: Defragmenting India (dawn.com)