What Oprah’s Research Staff Failed To Inform Her About India

Note: This list was written as a quick response to Oprah Winfrey’s visit to and report on South Asia in the Summer of 2012.

1) Yes, it is customary in (most parts) of South Asia for people to eat with their hands, as well as practice other forms of practical everyday environmentalism like wrapping food in banana leaves rather than plastic and using water instead of toilet paper; 2) Slumdog Millionaire is a fictive, narrative movie not real life or, even, a realist documentary; 3) Far from being shy or inarticulate, most South Asians speak in at least three languages fluently and many read and write in as many languages; 4) Before you let the concept of arranged marriage shock you consider the US Wedding/Bridal Industry and read Bharati Mukherjee’s great 2002 novel, Desirable Daughters; 5) Be sure to sample the true tastes and smells of India: Limca, Thums Up (“Taste The Thunder”), Maaza, any brand of soda water, Marie biscuits, Cadbury eclairs, pan, train station coffee and, my favourite, Washing Powder Nirma (for one man’s ode to Washing Powder Nirma go here); 6) Yes, study the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi but also, at the very least, read the writings of Badshah Khan and Rabindranath Tagore — an excerpt from his beyond remarkable 1913 collection of poems, Gitalgili, is above; 7) Bollywood is important to Indians, but regional cinema (i.e., Tamil, Telugu) glitters even brighter

End Note: Other posts I have written for “The Sociological Imagination” on India are here and here. Note 2: More lists by Audrey Sprenger about sociology and other things are right here.

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2 replies »

  1. If Oprah Winfrey had called Indians a bunch of racists and classists – believe me, that’s closer to the truth about “we” South Asians. But, how unintelligent! What’s wrong with eating with the hands! People have always eaten with their hands since the days of the hunting and gathering tribes and earlier. That’s the original function of hands – to make food and eat it. You don’t need to go to the university and get a degree to know that much. Not to mention we are a nation of more than a billion! Where on earth are we supposed to get the spoons and the forks from! It’s a short-sighted reading of another culture. On a more serious note, I would be a fool to expect anything different from Oprah Winfrey – a media puppet of the American corporate world.

  2. Its not gitangili but gitanjali (etym: gita(song)+anjali(offerring), the offerrings of song)

    Come on Prakash, you didnt apply your reflexivity but just toed the Marxist line… Ethnomedology is actually a beautiful thing

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