Among its western counterparts, India was once known as a ‘third world country’. Our Prime Ministers like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi have done their best to show India’s actual strength. However, this diplomatic victory has not translated into changing westerners’ public perception of Indians. Their efforts are often whitewashed by stand-up comedians who constantly belittle Indians into a stereotype in front of an average Joe.
Hindus and Indians are the main targets of standup comedians
Over the last 15 years, stand-up comedy has developed into a new zoner in India as well as outside our country. The main theme guiding these comedy specials is jokes based on religion and region. These jokes get massive applauds as they are a departure from everyday business. Advertently, it translates into both subjects getting overused.
While, inside India, Hindus are the main target of these jokes; on the other hand in comedy shows focused towards the western audience, Indians become the main target. Apparently, comedians having their roots in India also harbour these anti-Indian ships and start to degrade the average Indian on the world stage.
Comedians’ jokes are not bound in reality
A major section of Westerners, still consider India as the ‘land of snakes’. The theory was pushed by western intellectuals trying to find a morally superior way to colonise India. Modern-day comedians have only worsened this perception
Comedians like Russel Peters, Hasan Minhaj, Aasif Mandvi, Aziz Ansari are some of the prominent comedians of Indian heritage to have earned names and fame in western countries. Vir Das is also one such name, but he is not fully dedicated to comedy. Das fluctuates between professions, depending on his mood.
Psychological schema of jokes’ impact on Indians
If you watch their shows closely, you will rarely find a joke which is based on the on-ground reality of India. Actually, westerns have a special ‘image of backwardness’ reserved in their mind for Indians. Deep inside they laugh about it.
However, when they see Indian graduates dominating every sector of the western system, these westerners get cognitive dissonance. On one hand, they have grown up considering Indians as inferior. However, when they land in the workplace, they find these supposedly ‘snake charmers’ issuing guidelines to them as boss.
They are looking for a way out of this cognitive mess as they have a hard time accepting Indians as superior. Then come these comedians who are supposedly aware of India and Indians. What these comedians like Vir Das do is that they affirm cognitive bias lying in the mind of these westerners.
Breakdown of Vir Das’ impact on Indians
People listening to them do not actually know that these comedians are coming from elite backgrounds; a class that lives in its own affirmative loop. So, whatever they propel, the poor western audience takes them as archetypal truth about India.
Consider the recent ‘I come from two India’ show by Vir Das. A western has seen the coverage of heinous Nirbhaya rape in 2012. He/She must have started to believe that rape is an everyday offence in India. Now, when that person witnesses neighbouring Indian people, their point of view is bound to change.
Suddenly, Vir Das (a person who for some unknown reason has been accorded a high status in society) comes with a statement “I come from an India, where we worship women during the day and gang rape them at night”.
After listening to this, the person will start to believe that rape is an everyday phenomenon in India. After all, why not should he believe it? For him, his neighbour is just another Indian shifted to his place, while Vir Das is a reputed and more credible name. But the fact of the matter is that India has one of the least rape rates in the world. In fact, a rape accused in Indian jails is not treated well by other inmates.
Comedians just make money while harming India’s reputations
This is the everyday story of an Indian living abroad. These so-called standup comedians, like Hasan Minaj and Russell Peters, seem to believe that making fun of Indian accents or jobs Indians generally do overseas is cool. This is one of the prime reasons why every time Hollywood features a certain Indian character. That character is bound by a gritty accent, and is shown living in a crowded family or just working in an IT company.
Yes, there are problems in every country, but these problems are not representative of the whole country. When being Indian is the main crux of your identity, you should be presenting the full side of being Indian to the world. You are representing a country; it’s natural that a certain level of criticism is expected from you. When that criticism is not rooted in ground reality, it becomes a tool for defaming the country, in turn creating a more falsehood laden burden for future generations.
These NRI standup comedians should at least respect their roots, and since they are so influential abroad, they should work towards creating a more sophisticated image of India and Indians