‘Indian’ from India

Today being Columbus Day in the US, here’s an old clip of the ever astute and hilarious Hari Kondabolu:

And Arvind pointed out this clip from Good Will Hunting, where the two kinds of Indians are differentiated based on dots and feathers. I know the “dot” refers to dotheads, a pretty ignorant stereotype about Indians originating from the fact that some Indian women wear a “dot”. And though I’m not familiar with American Indians, given the context, I’m guessing that the “feather” reference is an equally silly stereotype.



  1. rakela says

    I am willing to give Ramanujan a free pass, given that he grew up in poverty with limited opportunity. Unlike Vivekananda and Gandhi, he was a much more traditional Hindu. He believed in his family deity and performed rituals, unlike either of them. He was not a reformist. He was also a very strict vegetarian and would cook for himself in England. I don’t know if I would call such behavior “casteist,” but he certainly observed his caste rules.

    Ironically, it was his caste that gave Ramanujan opportunity in the first place. Given the existence of a Brahmin network that could contact Hardy, Ramanujan was able to connect with the mathematical world.

    The problem is that most people– Indian and non-Indian alike– tend to romanticize Ramanujan’s superstitious side, going so far as to deem it necessary for his genius. Even Hardy fell into this trap, but later recanted his statement.

  2. Srishti says

    Ironically, Ramanujan was ostracized by his community and caste for crossing the 7 seas based on the prevailing religious beliefs that Hindus shouldn’t cross the seas. Even Gandhi had to take permission.He also ended up marrying a 7 year old, who survived him by a few decades in widowhood and was pretty much his only companion. She was incidentally also ostracized ,maybe it’s because I’m a woman but she ended up bearing the burden of a community’s and his religious views.

  3. the eddy says

    With such sea-phobia prevalent amongst many Hindu communities , I am amazed how could Rajendra Chola invade Srivijaya-ruled South East Asia or how could the Maratha Admiral Kanhoji Angre pester the European sailors or how could Raja Dahir of Sindh loot Arab ships (as alleged) ?? Nevertheless , India has always proved to be laggard in science , especially in Naval engineering (& continues to be so) . The above beliefs , even if were not solely , but might have greatly influenced it.

  4. Srishti says

    Different rules for different castes and communities and at different times.That’s how the Tamil rulers reached Indonesia/Malaysia or even Sri Lanka. And rules were bent, for instance, for Gandhi. In other cases they traveled and settled in new lands like Fiji.
    I don’t think India was or is or always has been a laggard in science or technology. Or any other present-day political entity.
    It’s that kind of sweeping statement tends to discredit atheists and makes them no different form supremacists of the religious variety or indeed, the racial variety.

  5. the eddy says

    @ Srishti

    There was nothing sweeping about that & I always write in “greys”. India (mostly Brahmins) were good at numbers ,Manufacturing all sorts of ideas (good or bad) thus certain sciences .But when it comes to Material Engineering, there is only one thing that comes to mind – Iron . Indians (esp. ppl of Bihar-region) were Masters of Iron but that too only during Gupta era. Compared to the Chinese , there is not much we can boast of in Technology. In fact much of contributions to Indian knowledge Technology came from invaders ,majority of whom settled here..

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