Know thy neighbor as thyself

By Alok Joshi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/3 16:08:39

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

Recently, a Chinese bartender in a Sanlitun bar surprised me when he began singing the tune of an Indian song.

My gym often plays contemporary Indian songs for belly dancing classes, and many of the 80s generation can still hum "Jimmy Jimmy," a popular Bollywood dance number.

All this sounds nice. But deep down I know there is a lot of misinformation about India in the minds of average Chinese citizens.

They still think India is a poor country marred by the caste system and religious dogmas. They still believe all Indians are dark-complexioned and that all Indians are Buddhist. They consider the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, a temple, and a lot of them often ask me if I can have four wives! It amazes me that the Chinese know more about distant countries than they do a neighboring nation. My fair complexion and impeccable English often leads them to conclude that I cannot be an Indian.

Many Chinese imagine India the way it was portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire (2008), a famous British film directed by Danny Boyle. Thanks to Aamir Khan, especially his recent box office hit Dangal (2016), which most Chinese have watched and like, there is something modern Chinese like about India. But unfortunately, few Chinese know the real India. Their perceptions are often based on what the media projects. When I am in India, the news I read about China is negative. It is the reverse when I am in China and read about India, and it pains me.

Why are there so many misconceptions about each another?

Indians across the border also have wrong notions about China and Chinese people. For them, China is a country that only makes "fake" products.

Assuming the role of an unofficial ambassador of China, I often spend a lot of time during my India visits clarifying misconceptions about China and presenting a real and positive image of the country.

I admire the Chinese for their hard work and discipline. When I first came to China, many people questioned me, "Why China? Why don't you work in another country?" Now, they ask why I continue to live and work here.

Tourism can help a lot in removing mutual misconceptions.

After all, seeing is believing. A couple of years back, I took a small Chinese group, including my boss, his mother and daughter to India. I showed them the real India, the good and the bad side.

They were so impressed that they are planning a second visit.

Similarly, a lot of Indian tourists are coming to China. Few people here know that an Indian woman won the Miss World 2017 crown in Sanya, Hainan Province in November last year.

I wish the two great nations comprising 2.5 billion people can work toward knowing each other better and become closer.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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