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The white woman and India

May 20, 2004 16:23 IST

The spectacle on the night of May 18, of all these Congress leaders, many of them intelligent men and women, debasing themselves in front of Sonia Gandhi, pleading with her to lead the country, made me feel sick. If Sonia had any dignity, she would have stopped it, but she just listened, with a slightly bored expression, right till the last Congressman and woman had wallowed in dirt before her.

And again I asked myself the question which has baffled me for 35 years, although I am myself a white man and a born Christian: why do Indians have such an attraction towards the white skin?

After reading the newspapers on Wednesday morning and seeing how newspapers such as The Times of India still root for Sonia Gandhi, with columnists such as Dileep Padgaonkar saying that her becoming prime minister would be in tune 'with the highest Vedantic ideals,' I wonder: does India, one of the most ancient civilizations on the planet, need a white woman to govern her?

I am sure Sonia has great qualities, but are Indians so dumb, stupid and backward, that they cannot find among themselves someone intelligent enough, non-corrupt enough, to lead them? And what about this craze for Mother Teresa? She may have been a saint, but nobody has harmed India's image in the 20th century so much: when you say India in the West, their eyes light up and they answer: 'Mother Teresa/ Kolkata/ poor people/ dumb people/ starving people/ who do not know how to care after their own underprivileged/ who need a white woman to show them how to pick up the dying from the streets/ to look after orphans'!

Is this the image Indians want today? An image that is harming them, which is stopping Western investors from investing in India? Yet, Mother Teresa is worshipped here, from Kolkata to Chennai, from Delhi to Bangalore, and when she will be made a saint by the Vatican, perpetuating this colonial, superior-minded, Christian symbol of white superiority over the brown/black man, all the Indian media will rejoice in its own mental slavery and the Indian government will probably declare a national holiday!

Why don't Indians understand that brown is beautiful? White people spend hours on the beach and put on a hundred creams to get tanned. And in winter they even artificially lie under infrared lamps in beauty parlors to get brown! Why this obsession for the Indian woman to have white skin?

How come the two most popular actors in India have fair skin and nearly blue eyes? Why this craze for 'fair' brides? If you find the answers to these, you will understand why the fatal attraction for Sonia Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

Obviously, colonisation has frozen the Indian mind in certain patterns and the British made sure, through Macaulay's policies, of leaving behind an enduring inferiority complex among Indians, by constantly harping on the flaws of Indian culture and inflating them. That is why today Indian intellectuals repeat like parrots what their masters had said before them: 'Hindus are fundamentalists/Brahmins are exploiters/Gowalkar was a Nazi/Indians are corrupt and no good.'

But that does not explain everything: most colonised countries have aped their masters after having hated them. No, in my mind the greatest factor behind India's love for the white is the absurd theory of Aryan invasion

According to this theory, which was actually devised in the 18th and 19th centuries by British linguists and archaeologists, the first inhabitants of India were good-natured, peaceful, dark-skinned shepherds called the Dravidians, who had founded what is called the Harappan or the Indus Valley civilisation. They were supposedly remarkable builders, witness the city of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistani Sind, but had no culture to speak of, no literature, no proper script even. Then, around 1500 BC, India is said to have been invaded by tribes called the Aryans: white-skinned, nomadic people, who originated somewhere in western Russia and imposed upon the Dravidians the hateful caste system. To Aryans is attributed Sanskrit, the Vedic or Hindu religion, India's greatest spiritual texts, the Vedas, as well as a host of subsequent writings, the Upanishads, the Mahabharat, the Ramayan, etc.

This was indeed a masterstroke on the part of the British: thanks to the Aryan theory, they showed on the one hand that Indian civilisation was not that ancient and that it was posterior to the cultures which influenced the Western world -- Mesopotamia, Sumeria, and Babylon -- and that whatever good things India had developed -- Sanskrit, literature, or even its architecture -- had been influenced by the West.

Thus, Sanskrit, instead of being the mother of all Indo-European languages, became just a branch of their huge family; thus, the religion of Zarathustra is said to have influenced Hinduism, and not vice versa. On the other hand, it divided India and pitted against each other the low caste, dark-skinned Dravidians and the high caste, light-skinned Aryans, a rift which is still enduring. Yet, most recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries point out that there never was an Aryan invasion and many historians, including the malevolent Romila Thapar, are distancing themselves from it. Yet, most Indians still believe in this absurd theory.

Wake up O Indians: you are as great, if not greater than the white man. You can do as well, if not better than the white man. Not only did your forefathers devise some of the basic principles of mathematics, astrology, and surgical medicine, not only are your people among the most brilliant in the world today -- half of Silicon Valley is of Indian origin, 30 percent of the United Kingdom's doctors are Indians -- but you still hold within yourselves a unique spiritual knowledge, which once roamed the world but which has now disappeared, replaced by the intolerant creed of the two major monotheistic religions which say: 'if you don't believe in my true God, I will either kill you or convert you'.

Wake up India, brown is beautiful, smart and it is the future. Dr Manmohan Singh, whatever has to be said about the Congress, you have partly redeemed India's pride, and our good wishes are with you.

The author is the correspondent in South Asia for Ouest-France, the largest circulation French daily (1 million copies)

Francois Gautier