In France, mid 70s preceding & after PM Desai & FM Vajpayee’s visits there were several docufilms & TV discussions on India which made me dread school the following morning.
Both teachers & classmates would accost me wide-eyed with a variety of incredulous questions on
-Caste system
Was I allowed to take water from the well ? Or was I upper caste & kept myself segregated from lower castes ?

-Dowry system
Would my father buy me groom ?

-Arranged marriages
Would I be condemned to a loveless transaction?
Did we plan our day accordingly ?

-Fetish for sons
Was my being educated the norm ?

Did we get down from our cars & bow to passing bovines ?

The fact that my father didn’t have a bodhi like the Hare Rama Hare Rama guys was also a matter of great surprise.
I won’t even go into the horror of their reaction to news channels flashing trucks loaded of bewildered men being taken away for sterilisation in 1975.

And yes, according to them all Indians were Red & in US reservations. Poor things !
Whereas India had only Hindus & we were
known as such -Les Hindous.

This by the way was not some hick school in the back of beyond but bang in the middle of 16 arrondissement,Paris.

In the late 80s & early 90s we travelled for business & leisure & faced the same curiosity about caste, cows, riots in varying degrees
So this lament of India cutting down casteism in 70 years is a bit misplaced when thats all they knew of us.

By mid 90s we stopped travelling as much for work with our European principals choosing to visit us - & that’s when a definitive change in a few became obvious because
they had their own experiences to go by & were not entirely dependent on media coverage.

IMO, when it comes to India, the Western media by & large has been comfortable mostly with cliches & caricatures.

It was so then & it remains so now.
It tends to ignore anything positive, feeding the Confirmation Bias & hence should be treated with the contempt it deserves - unless of course, one enjoys self flagellation !
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