Rich Indian Tourists in India

June 21, 2009 Link Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

In our recent travels in India, we have come across a cultural phenomenon that is, I think, unique to India.  The Rich Indian Family on Holiday.

Disclaimer: Realize that I speak by way of stereotypical generalization.

Rich Indians are tourists in their own country.  Carefully educated towards the echelons of corporate life, self-considered to have supremo status, used to the pampering of servile people around them who readily tolearate their obnoxious behaviours to see these people interacting with others is like watching a circus: when the stupid, foolish, and boorish clowns come in.

If these people represent educated and priviledged people in India, then India is in BIG TROUBLE.

They certainly exhibit a lack of personal culture.  The behavior one sees is so obnoxious as to be unbelievably absurd.

In my youth, I heard people decring the Rich fat Indians paddeling their boats, so to speak, in Indian contexts outside their normal circles.  Engrossed as I was with other things besides the ‘bazaar scene,’ like hiking in the himalayan countryside, I didn’t observe this much in my youth.

In college I saw it more, and was a little chilled in heart to observe how the rich stabilize their position in relation to others.  Then I was young, a single woman, foreigner, and I suppose attractive (although I prefer the reality-check that an Ashram Sister gave me: even a donkey is beautiful in it’s youth.) I had easy access to rich and poor alike.  The rich considered me one of their own, and when I was with them, included me in their conciousness of social positions, aspirations, etc.

Their lack of equal respect towards those they considered beneath them made my heart shrink inside.  I always felt as though I was choking around them.  Their circle of love was terribly conditioned and limited.  My being felt constricted.  Nature was my only respite.
Now, I am old.  I think I must look very old.  One person in his mid-forties, less than a decade younger than me, asked if I was around 75!  What to say.  My life has been very tough.  My heart and humane expectations of others have been broken again and again, ad nauseum.  What to do?  We have to go on, digging deeper, striving for some light of wisdom and understanding, inspite of it all.

Since Anni left her form, It is my wish to wear always the same style sari that she was cremated in.  I never want to forget for one second, the utter impermanence of this world in every aspect.  So, outwardly, the Rich foreigner is gone.  This removes me securely from the fold of the rich.  Appearing to be without funds, without much family, without possible influence, without personal decoration, I am now invisible to the rich on holiday.  It’s dryly amusing.

I watch, as some seek to teach me my position — I mean, one puts up with this to a sickening degree in the ashram, where many of Amma’s sons and daughters jockey for position over one another.  One even witnesses people putting themselves “under” others in gratuitous ways.  It’s all high drama; we observe with amazement.

But I had somehow hoped that such stupidity was the special purview of Amma’s work with these individuals in the Ashram and at her programs during the tours, which is all we have really seen of India in the last 10 years.

In the popular hill stations – Dalhousie, Simla, Mussorie, Almora, Dharamsala, Darjeeling, Jammu – the pre-monsoon summer brings out the rich Indian tourist in droves.  Tibetan people throng the hill stations where the climate is a little more bearable for them (now there’s a guest worthy of reverence: the spirituality of the Tibetan presence in Dharamsala, with it’s numerous monasteries and nunneries is palpable).  Link and I were in the middle of a Momo (Steamed tibetan vegtable dumpling) Transaction – 4 or 5 for Rs 10, when one late-twenties Rich Indian Tourist interrupted our quiet and orderly proceedings.  The momo lady, being poor and culturally acclimatised, gave way to the rich Indian.  I was also “poor,” so, I could wait while she attended to the demanding needs of the big-baby rich boy.  The Poor expect each other to have understanding, as they grapple with the self-centeredness of the rich.

First he demanded his plate of momos.  It was quickly delivered.

Next he said, “What am I to eat it with?”

Chilli sauce was added.  It was explained that he could eat it like that.

Then the lady said “Ten Rupees.”

Suddenly, Big-boy was quiet, and she was given time to finish with us.

These people are amazing.  They cruise the streets like they think they are movie stars, their big abdomens clearing the way before them; their eyes rotating in their sockets, as they scroll the scenes around them, looking to see who they think is who, who they think they should see and be seen by.  It’s pretty pathetic.  Add to this the fact that most Indians coming to the ashram and staying are from the upper stratas of society.  They can’t quite do the Rich-Tourist thing, as the ashram is an uncertain place, a new territory in which many are not sure who is who.  Some figure they know who’s who, and act accordingly.  Many of the very poor have told us that they are not welcome in my home-Amritapuri.  We have seen what happens to some of them.  It breaks our hearts.

Since all our answers are inside us, I have asked myself a few questions about the rich, Indian tourist – a shade above the bully.

I see that this gross, self-centered, uncultured display comes from the embrace of false and short-sighted ideals.  Their education, family life, and the appetites that money can create and temporarily satisfy, have geared them towards societies of physical enjoyments and their conceptions of lifestyles there: US, EU, AU, SA, etc…

This is combined with cultural ideals that they have picked up from movies 鈥?one outstanding ideal for men is the “Bachelor hero.” For women, it seems to be the “Wilting sexy sop.” Add to the filmy ideals extended family, generational influence, and numerous other factors, including the ideal of the “Big Man” (which I have yet to discuss).  Put it all together, and we have a fairly immature human being who is prone to short uprisings as the “Hero” ideal indicates, but in whom, generally, kindness, consideration, and Love exist only as paying policies.  And so many aspire to be like this.

Of course, I can be just as harsh on people from my own background of rich, majority-white countries.  And I am aghast at the behaviour of many.  Many western people mistake the patient and tolerant attitude of Indians towards their cultural ignorance, and the respectful attitude given to foreigners for being the Guest, to be an indication of some sort of recognition of their own personal superiority.  As we are neither/nor, all these attitudes we find silly and irksome.

In High School, I rebelled against my western peers, who placed Indians outside of themselves.  In the ashram, this is extreme.  Predominantly white people from rich countries have built their own enclave, the “Western Cafe”  Parents bring their children to India, and the children eat pizza, drink coke, and learn very little about India.  Fortunately, because it is the Ashram, they atleast can experience the joy of selfless service through their work at the western cafe.  However it’s beyond my understanding how parents don’t seek to utilize every moment of their children’s precious childhood for positive and ethical ends, but leave them to theirselves.  Anyhow.  There is a palpable antagonism between Indians and westerners in the ashram which doesn’t exist outside of it.  I have always ascribed this to Amma’s attempt to help Indians stop treating white skinned people in servile ways.  So, the pendulum hasn’t swung to the center of the simple “Human being” yet, and people have huge brainwashings towards each other, which have replaced other huge brainwashings and conditionings.
We only have one real duty outside of ourselves: to treat each other with kindness and respect.  Spirituality, I think, is really the art of unbrainwashing ourselves from all the false conditionings we have gotten and given to each other.

May we all strive to live, learn, and be, in the truth of our inescapable oneness.
Loving you, Kamala Aunty.

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