The Indian Summer

I was watching The Amazing Race (7) on tv last night, the racers were in Lucknow. What gets my goat everytime is the fact that whenever India is shown on Western channels (From Agra in TAR1 through Bombay, Calcutta, Kerala, Rajasthan, … hmm they seem to have come here lots of times), they show what we’d call the seedier and rather obscure parts of India, with cows and humans as far as the eye can see.

So, from watching so much of TAR, I’ve formulated these rules of reality programming- TAR in India style.

  • Thou shalt pick the poorest, shabbiest, most unclean parts of the city you visit, whether it be Calcutta or Delhi or Jodhpur.
  • Thou shalt set for the contestants will involve any or all of the following a) A temple b) A palace c) An elephant d) A cycle/autorickshaw e) a LONG train ride in 2nd Class (after all, a ticket for A/c cars costs SO much when converted into dollars, right?)
  • Approved TAR quotes include “These poor people have so less, I feel so helpless”, “Look at these pretty sunglasses, children”,”I can’t understand what they are saying.” (Damn foreigners!), “Juldi, Juldi”, “No, *** rupees” (Insert amount), “It’s so crowded” (Uhm, yeah, second most populous country in the world… HULLO?), “Ahh, they’re driving on the wrong side of the road..” I must say, yesterday had THE funniest quote I’ve ever heard when TAR racers came to India… They were in cyclerickshaws in Lucknow, and two guys were in a rickshaw in front and waving back at a couple of racers. The old woman looked at her husband and said, “Aww, that’s so sweet, I am sure they are gay.”

Evidently, they don’t know that men holding hands in India is considered a sign of FRIENDSHIP, no matter how much most girls laugh at it. Now, if that had been a guy and girl in the ricksahw… THAT would have been cause for comment.

Speaking of which, most reality shows seem to operate on these principles – 1) token gay 2) token black 3) token insert ethnic minority group and most of them seem to have exciting careers as actor/model/bartender, or model/cheerleader/lap dancer. The best one to date has been one this TAR, Team is dating, The guy’s a consultant/POW and the female is ex-beauty pageant winner.. Okay, Let’s give it up for the media whores here, thank you very much.

  • All Indians speak English like Apu in The Simpsons.
  • Any shops visited shalt be dark, dingy and have a faint trace of the neighbourhood chaikada.
  • The episode shalt contain clippings wherein contestants confess how lucky they’re American.

You know what, we’re lucky you’re American too….


20 thoughts on “The Indian Summer

  1. Vignesh

    I was watching the show last night too.. and I was thinking… man if I ever got to ‘help’ out one of these racers, I figured it would be great fun to have mess with them, give them wrong directions, get them onto autos in Chennai, that sorta thing !!

    Hey ! Dont be dissing Apu now ! He is da MAN !!!

    Thank you, come again !

  2. mp

    Hey Shruti,

    I know nothing about this TV show, but hey how often do you get to see the slums in the TV anyway? How many of those soaps, sitcoms and even the news/current affairs programmes would give them any airtime? Did you know that more than half of Mumbai’s population lives in the slums? (Just googled this: apparently a 1995 survey places the number at 58%). Why should you be surprised if they are not invisible?

    “These poor people have so less, I feel so helpless.”

    That’s precisely what any right thinking rich person would feel if they were to come face to face with real poverty/poor living conditions. Of course, we, the middle class, are brought up completely insulated from such reality. The slums have always been invisible to us. (So have been the “sexual minorities.” But that’s a different story all together.)


  3. Sasta da PunkaH

    It’s the damn mericans! I blame da mericans. Perception for them is reality… Most 3rd world countries are known for their poverty. The rest is overlooked…

    I guess showing the nasty bits adds for better viewership- I mean they have to WORK for their $1 million now! hahahaha whateva…

  4. Vishnu

    Shruti, nice one! They say “these people are so poor”, because poverty in America is nothing like what we have in India. At worst, you need to sleep in front of some shop, but you surely do get to eat all day, even if you stand on the streets and ask for “any change”.

    MP, I have had a feeling that the “average” American thinks of India as a place of snake-charmers (something very similar to one of the Simpsons epsiode, when Apu becomes a naturalised American citizen). The sample space being some of my fellow students who I interacted with (and of course some of my Indian (not Indian-American) friends add fuel to this belief). Recently I saw this post which suggested that some textbooks also add to this. Talking about Bombay, the people in slums are largely brought in by the “rich” contractors for cheap labour, mostly in the construction industry. Or maybe the other way around, like the chicken-and-egg question.

    Further off-topic, I have had many encounters with the “sexual minorities” during twice-in-a-year journeys from Thiruvananthapuram to Bombay on the Kanyakumari express!

  5. Shrutz

    @Vignesh I have dreamt of “helping” them too, especially the peskier teams

    @Manoj, do you know the amount of electronics goods that raids uncover in Dharavi, the biggest slums in Asia?

    @Sasie EXACTLY

    @Ashok interesting and popular subject eh?

    @Vishnu, the mystical land of yogis and the great Indian rope trick… give me a BREAK…
    Most Specials show the seamier side of India, if you will notice@Manoj
    Thanks for the link Vish

  6. Anonymous

    Wake up puttar..
    Poverty is not ideosyncratic of india alone..
    Poverty in the US is not something that’s highly unheard of…
    At least the poor in India keep to their poor ways and don’t dream of making it big by taking to arms and crime…google out any damn survey about the US and u’ll get to see the worst numbers on the intense crime ridden poverty stricken parts of the US.and people don’t remain poor there..they can’t imagine a life without the better comforts that dot it..
    Poor Indians have something called humility to exist in any sort of conditions they encounter..i have had the experience of speaking to slum dwellers in dharavi..whatever it is that they do or live in, they have the humility to accept it.most of them dont mind doing cleaning up work and the lesser rated jobs out there..
    I’m waiting for an Indian version of a Reality Race in US, that will shoot 100% of its videos in downtrodden darker DC,rubbing shoulders with drug mafia, marijuana,advertised topless shows,serial killers,school shootout experts etc etc etc…

  7. L*J

    Oh Yeah I watched it too and maaan ur sooo true. BTW this does’nt end wit TAR, in most “Lets have a peek at India” shows alway and I mean always show just a busy market in Delhi or a slumy road in mumbai, where invariably there has to be a cow or a bull and a handpulled cart, people, people and lots of people gawking at the cameras!!

    Wat a bunch of narrow minded idiots!!

    This reminds of me of the awesome dialogue Cicuit cracks in Munnabhai- Thum phoren log India aake bhikari logon ka photo kyon kheechthe ho? Taj mahal kheencho, charminar keencho!

  8. ittiam

    your blog is slowly but surely getting famous…a lot of ppl in my college read it(dont ask me where I got here from)..

    maybe you will someday reach the level of that other great mallu blogger sidin ๐Ÿ™‚

    till then..keep up the good work

  9. Shrutz

    @Anonymous: I have always wanted to see a version of TAR on tv for India, maybe just around India, there’s so much to see/do and disgusting things to eat….. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Yeah btw great synopsis!
    @Lyn The peek into India kind of bugs me too,
    Once all of us went for a trek in the Ponmudi Hills (nearbu anyway) and there was this hut there that housed an old couple. Their conversation was veru illuminating.
    “Some people came and took a photo of us and our home and it came in the newspaper. Foreigners come and give us money. But noone cares for us….”
    @Duttan ๐Ÿ˜€ Buy Japanese I say ๐Ÿ˜€
    @Ittiam Thank you! I aspire to greater heights by your kind words!

  10. Grafxgurl

    lol that was funny….. have had to escort many a white folk through Indian “jungles” and it is HILARIOUS to watch them and their misguided comments.. lol most of the time i laugh like a crazy maniac and get dirty looks from them…lol

    LOVE Amazing race !
    Thanks for dropping by my blog!!!

  11. Elke

    Lol…nice one!
    i guess to some nations, India is all abt poverty, tropical jungles,superstitions and anything and everything that is under-developed.and sometimes i had to see it in a foreign based channel to know tht some of it existed in my country.

    well.i read somewhere that its easy to spot a poor American….obesity is what u go by!
    thanks to the cheap and unhealthy fast-food culture..(Mac Donalds to the rescue!)

  12. Matter of Choice


    me dont like reality dont watch reality tv!

    But yeah! the western media focusses on the poverty whenever they goto any third world nation.

    Hey wait..dont the third world media (say indian media) focus on the richy richy world whenever they go to the first world??
    ofcourse they do. even yash chopra/karan johar are part of media!. and they dont show the poverty/ugliness that definitely exists in US/Switzerland/Australia/austria/london/paris etc..
    So is the problem only with western media? or is it just that mainstream media (be it eastern/western) generally go for the stereotypes ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. dor

    i dont think even de americans are dumb enuff ta think india’s still full of half naked fakirs dat make ropes n snakes dance and elephants n tigers n such lik… guess dis makes for better viewing for de unsophisticated in

  14. arvin

    Anonymous wrote:
    At least the poor in India keep to their poor ways and don’t dream of making it big [i][like americans][/i]

    depressingly true. u think its something to go chest-thumping about?

    dont really see what the big deal is, though. i don’t see how it me what the average american thinks india is like. and u’ve got to remember… TAR is meant for western audiences and it’s got to show stuff they’d find exotic – hence the elephants and cows and naked holy men – and its not like these things are hard to run into in india.

    neway, my point is there are no sinister intentions behind TAR… but it’s hard to convince those of you who swear by CIA conspiracies behind everything that goes wrong (and right) in the world…

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