how the world sees america

En Route to India

backpack.jpg
Mumbai, site of this market, is on my list to visit in India as well as Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore.
I showered, shaved, and lightened my backpack so it wasn't a mess of computer wires and cameras. Figured I should check that stuff rather than carry it through airport security.

Conveniently, an American accent seems to help at the airport. Not sure why, but it's either that or my winning smile. And my passport seems to get the benefit of the doubt even though its flooded with stamps to far off places from Antarctica to Morocco to the United Arab Emirates (just Arabic script). So glad that, after a bit of a hassle, I have a press visa in there for my destination.

Have to run to catch my flight. I plan on using the time on board to ponder my experiences in the UK, write some reflective thoughts and regroup for what's up next! Have suggestions for what I should explore in India? Share them below.

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Comments (7)

JB:

Three years ago, I was fortunate to go to India on a business trip. I would return to India in a heartbeat for either business or pleasure. There were so many interesting things to see and experience.

With my blonde (Light brown and graying) hair and blue eyes, I stood out in a crowd to say the least. I was treated with warmth and respect every where I went.

JRLR:

Hi, Amar,

I want to get back to my recent suggestion to you re: health care and services for international patients in India, if I may. Suggestion was:

"3. It might be of interest as well to hear and read what HEALTH professionals think of America (and of health care in America), at one of those famous medical centres that cater for patients from the West who experience unacceptable delays in being treated, or who cannot afford being treated in the US."

My wife and I were just talking about you and your journey to India and she gave me references that might be of interest to you, as she has watched recently a fascinating tv documentary on medical tourism in India.

Should the matter be of interest to you, you may want to Google "MEDICAL TOURISM IN INDIA" and refer to:

http://www.apollohospitals.com/ (Apollo Hospitals Group: 7000 beds in 41 hospitals);

http://www.apollohospdelhi.com/ (Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi -- link to "International Patients")

http://www.tajmedicalgroup.com/ (Taj Medical Group -- Medical Surgery in India)

I am referring to the Apollo Group simply because it was the one presented in the tv documentary my wife watched. I am referring to Taj Medical Group because I have just found their site on the Web and it enables me to refer to more than one of those Groups...

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ADVOCATING ANY TYPE OF SERVICE HERE. NEITHER AM I RECOMMENDING ANY INSTITUTION TO ANYBODY. I AM NOT LINKED IN ANY WAY TO ANY OF THE INSTITUTIONS REFERRED TO OR ANY OTHER OF THE KIND IN INDIA, AND TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, NEITHER IS ANYBODY I KNOW. I AM ONLY ANSWERING YOUR SPECIFIC REQUEST FOR SUGGESTIONS OF TOPICS OF INTEREST, TO BE INVESTIGATED BY YOU WITHIN "POST GLOBAL: HOW THE WORLD SEES AMERICA". I WISH THIS TO BE UNEQUIVOCALLY CLEAR.

Hope you are enjoying every minute of it...

I must go.

Anju Chandel, New Delhi, India:

Good to have you in India, at last!

You, for sure, would focus on your main objective of knowing 'How India sees America'.

You could also try to explore how Indian themselves - younger generation in particular - have been influenced by American values and things in life?

And, of course, do not forget to share with us your first-hand experience about 'How America sees India in this era of outsourcing and its emergence as future's economic superpower'?

You could also share with us if India has been able to use its "Soft Power" successfully to impact the worldview - life, culture, etc. - and to what extent?

Amar:

Hey there, I'm in Abu Dhabi right now on a 3 hour layover. I've just written a piece on my experiences in the UK, on how England perceives America: think prepubescent Don Quixote in a sandbox. A bit harsh. Am editing now.

Currently there's a free internet portal here in this bizarre art deco airport. For such a wealthy city, they should give this place another look. From here I'm off to Delhi in about an hour.

Few responses: Mandy, I'll definitely spend a lot of time in rural parts of India. I name the big cities in the caption because they're recognizable and give you the idea I'll be moving about, but by in large I'll try to keep out of them at least 50% of the time.

As far as gender is concerned: both on the promiscuity front and the leadership front, I absolutely love the idea. India is in love with the Clintons, it seemed to me last time I was there. Would be very interesting to follow up. I also always ask about upcoming US elections with my interviewees and can't wait to do a big post on that.

As for film-watching habits, I'm always interested. News coverage is another interesting thing to explore. As is the Disney-Bollywood relationship. Other topics I find interesting are U.S. pressure militarizing India, the India-US deals, pharmaceutical pressures, clean water and coke, Uranian mines and religiosity. Lots to explore! My first interview, I think, will be with my grandmother tomorrow afternoon my time, tomorrow morning yours.

JRLR, I do owe you a methodology post. It will come. As I decide my India itinerary it will be a good time to explain the thinking behind it. As for race, I spoke to those interviewees in person and reviewed the footage. To be honest, there is not a lot there and it would have taken me a long time to edit and post. I can't post 30 minutes raw. It floods the system and would take me a day to output from my computer anyway. At some point I'll transcribe it, but I just don't have the time now, and there's not a great amount there. Also, I haven't heard back from those students in weeks, and the one who spoke about race, Mahmood, didn't seem particularly keen on me adding it in. A key point is when there's forty minutes of interview and one minute shown, I got to pick what I find most interesting. It might not always be what an interviewee finds most interesting, which can frustrate interviewees I know, but that's part of the trade it seems. Anyway, I haven't forgotten. But it will have to be something I do when I get a week to myself to transcribe and do housekeeping things. Methodology though is coming.

Also, must say I love how Indians in call centers work up American accents - that's worth exploring just to contrast with UK! And the Walmart Effect in India is also quite interesting, along with the pressures its generating on local governments to curb street vendors who've been operating for years. Lot's there. Gonna go finish writing the piece but thanks again for the comments! Amar

Mandy:

Oh, and I forgot to mention that if you have time, try to visit rural India. Delhi and Mumbai really don't give you the full picture of India. 70% of Indians still live in rural areas and I bet their preception of America will be different from their urban counterparts.

Mandy:

Perhaps a little glimpse into how America is portrayed in Indian popular culture, in this case, in a popular Bollywood movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Hdjp1lEeWU

It's an Indian version of the song "Pretty Woman" but what I find interesting is the ways in which American culture is portrayed in the video: from the giant American flag in the background, to the GAP apparel, to the break dancing, and the attempted rap in the middle...quite amusing I find. (The movie was set in the US...NY, I think).

I spent a month in India last summer and some things I noticed while there: there's definitely a stereotype among some people that because America is so liberal (comparatively, at least) that Americans must be very promiscuous. The college kids who I talked to watch a lot of American TV and movies and it's really interesting to see which Hollywood movies become popular in India. Almost everyone I talked to had seen American Pie, Eurotrip, etc (you get the idea) while very few had seen or even heard of movies like the Godfather, Fight Club, etc. Anyways, it might be interesting to see how most Indians perceive Americans and then find out to what extent that perception has been influenced by American pop culture. I know some people were definitely shocked when I explained to them that movies like American Pie don't really accurately represent the US. And while it never happened to me, I knew some female backpackers (they were actually European, not American, but I don't think that makes much of a difference here) who were physically groped on the streets by guys who presumed it would be okay and that those girls wouldn't mind...don't ask me how anyone in the world could think that way (it would never have happened to an Indian girl: in India, girls and guys can't even hold hands in public).

With the upcoming US election and the possibility we may (finally) have a female president...it will be interesting to see what most Indians think of that. On one hand, gender inequality is one of the most noticeable negatives about India, on the other hand, India is also one of the first nations to have a female prime minister (Indira Gandhi, who governed India for over 10 years and was one of the most powerful politicans of her time). And with the growing levels of protectionism in US politics, it will also be interesting to see what the reaction is in India among businesses and workers alike.

Anyways, enjoy India! I really loved the place...it's so diverse and the people are genuinely some of the warmest I've met. :)

JRLR:

Hi, Amar.

Glad to hear you are en route.

Suggestions? Here are three.

1. Why not meet one of the greatest spiritual masters you can possibly find there and try and find out how he sees America through the experience of Americans who go and consult him in their SPIRITUAL quest? So much for OLD TRADITIONAL INDIA.

2. At the other end of the spectrum (NEWEST INDIA), it might be interesting to hear how America is perceived by some of those Indians who now work at jobs that were imported from (outsourced by) the West, more particularly from America (phone services, computer services, accounting services, etc.). How do they perceive America, based on the type of WORK they are now doing, some interfacing daily with Americans?

3. It might also be of interest as well to hear and read what HEALTH professionals think of America (and of health care in America), at one of those famous medical centres that cater for patients from the West who experience unacceptable delays in being treated, or who cannot afford being treated in the US.

That's all for now.

PS Was thinking: Never heard what had been said on RACE by those British American movie fans. Anything yet on methodology?

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