Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sniffing Out the Curry & India's Anti-Outsider Approach After the British Raj

During the sermon the Gujrati preacher made a fairly racist statement. It was meant to be funny and I did find it entertaining but I also found it offensive in some ways. He said whenever he came to America he could tell when he was near Indians because he smelled the curry. He said all motels in the US were owned by Indians.Of course, he almost has a point. Indians do own many of the hotels here. Not all, but many.

Another fascinating point the missionary mentioned had me doing some research. I don't know if he was misinformed, if he purposely stated this to try and emphasize some point he was trying to make or if he mentioned it to foster support. What he stated was that after the fall of the British Raj that India had gotten rid of their missionary visa. He said that you had to get a tourist or some other kind of visa but that they didn't allow them in. You had to be Indian to be a missionary to India.

Now, my first thoughts on hearing this had me thinking that it made sense. After all, I've witnessed most Indians being very India centered. This shows up when teachers tell young children that they should only eat Indian food and that other foods are bad for them. It showed in the Indian retail market where Indian made goods dominated the markets. I simply had to look this up.

It was a lie. Here's the proof - Travisa Outsourcing: Missionary Visas. I was disappointed for many reasons. First was because it would seem that some of the horror stories of corrupt ministries in India were likely true. Second was because he might have felt the need to say this to an all white church for some less than ideal reasons. Third was because I couldn't believe he didn't know this. It's his job to know these things. It's his field of expertise. Granted, he wouldn't need a visa and his wife wouldn't either now but I'm certain he worked with other missionaries (because he talked about it) and should know these visa's are offered.

While I will never know what his reasoning was or why he said this to a crowd that never would have needed to know it, I just found it very disappointing.

After service I talked to them and found a few more things they said disturbing. They told stories of having windows broken out of the church that sounded very real. I had witnessed similar incidents (not directly to churches) in Amritsar. Then they told other stories of "testimony" nature that seemed rehearsed and not likely true. One was of a man getting shocked by electricity and having his clothes completely blown off his body while watering the church roof on a Sunday. While this man was saved while doing church work, another woman had tapped a power line with a wet sari and died instantly.

The story may have been true but just the way they told it reeked of the typical Christian propaganda. I think one thing that bothered me was that they said they had expressly forbid working on Sunday in the church but that this man was determined to water the roof and talked them into allowing him to. My next concern was that this occurred while the building was being built and specifically the day after the roof was attached to the building. I don't know Indian construction but why would the electricity be on and run to the house with live current flowing to a building that wasn't finished being built yet? When hubby and I turned on our electricity to be separate from the family, we had to apply and wait a while for the box to be installed. I can't imagine you would do this before the building ever had a roof on it.

There were a few more things that struck me as odd but I think you all get the point. I felt like they were worried I might point out something they didn't want their financial backers to know. They weren't preaching about how bad Indians have it or how poor the country was so I don't know why. But I just got the impression that I made them nervous.


  1. Here there was a plot of land nearby my husband applied for electricity as soon as it became available to the area because the wait is so long and there wasn't any structure there at the time.

  2. Let me also add that milk powder, baby powder and juice powders are all very widely available and used in India. So that joke he shared with you, mentioned in a previous post? Neither funny not accurate in any way. Just like his powers of smelling curry.

  3. It sounds like these two were "playing to their audience." Being familiar with the place you are talking about, I know that there are a lot of, shall we say, 'emotional' Christians there and they probably thought they could gather more support with these dramatic stories. Yes, you probably make them nervous: you are familiar with both worlds. He's wrong about the missionary visa, yes, but right in that the Indian government became very suspicious of evangelizing Christians, especially foreigners. this is a direct result of colonialism. Also, I used to work with a Christian from Kerala, and he told me that the Indian govt. has particularly cracked down on Christian schools. This was/is because right-wing Hindus perceive, sometimes justified, sometimes not, Christians as being anti-Indian and pro-British colonial. 70 years on, and still a lot of things that are done in India by the govt are direct reactions to the British Raj.

  4. Indian government has not cracked down on Christian schools. In fact some of the best institutions in India( both small schools and that of higher education) are run by Christians\Christian missionaries. This is especially true of Kerela where your colleague comes from and where there is a sizable Christian population-hence not politically possible to reprimand school managements, let alone closing them.

    I believe people who preach religion for a living are generally very smart people. The know the pulse of the people and put forth their arguments so that they strike an emotional chord with the audience. The argument does not have to be factual. This is true for most religions.

  5. I went to a christian school in Mumbai and my husband went to a missionary catholic school. I also went to another missionary catholic school later myself as well. Some of the best schools in Indian cities, widely recognised as such, are christian/ run by missionaries or a convent. I am not aware of any government crackdown on any such schools. In fact they were some of the most popular and well regarded schools.

  6. I met several women who attended Christian schools in Jalandhar while I was in India. Interestingly enough they had both been divorced and knew other girls from the school that had been divorced. I also knew a few people who were bribed into attending church in India. A lot of shady things go on with Christian schools in the north that give them all a bad reputation (to me, not necessarily to Indians). Maybe these kinds of things are what the government is cracking down on. India isnt' entirely wrong. The Christian church does have some of the same elements as the British Raj.

  7. I know it wasn't accurate. I had seen both milk and baby powder in Amritsar (no juice powder though). I found his comment on the curry quite racist toward his own kind as well. It played of a stereotype that I feel is offensive to my in-laws and others I care about.

  8. I'm not completely disagreeing with you but I know from experience Christian teachings are slanted towards their religious views. Also, I volunteered extensively in educational institutions and I know that curriculum is thought to be the best if it has the most conformist view. Conforming to the general beliefs of the area. I've seen corrupt US textbooks to back that up. I can't imagine that the books sent to Christian schools in India would be any different. They select only from publishers that support their agenda and teach only what that particular school or area already believes. It's a strange situation but it's basically a method of brainwashing and teaching conformity to their views.

  9. i don't think there was any crackdown on christian schools in Kerala Christians & Muslims are huge vote banks who vote as a block no political party will even think of upsetting chrtians Hindu parties in Kerala don't even win a single seat in state assembly.while declareed muslim party like muslim league wins in election.christian church advices christians to have large families against the national policies but govt doesn't restrict them

  10. i don't think there was any crackdown on christian schools in Kerala.
    Christians & Muslims are huge vote banks who vote as a block. No
    political party will even think of upsetting chrtians. Hindu parties in Kerala don't even win a single seat in state assembly.while declared muslim party like muslim league wins in election.Christian
    church advices Christians to have large families against the national
    policies but govt don't restrict them

  11. president bush as a born again did not visit Mahatma Gandhi's Samadhi at New Delhi's Raj Ghat

    Christian have started to mimic hinduism to sell christianity to naive rural hindus & indians by setting up christian ashrams etc. even today christians fool naive hindus by selling them ideas of christian devi , christian meditation etc the follow hindu rituals but pray to jesus as hindus already consider jesus as a holy man.christians also started christian bharatanatyam

  12. A common stereotype in India is that "Christians" are promiscuous, smoke, drink, get divorces, etc. Pretty much the opposite of the stereotype in the US!

    There are definitely problems with missionaries and forced conversions and the like, but to say that all Christians are doing that is like saying all Muslims are Al-Qaeda. It's simply incorrect. Christians in India are as diverse a group as anyone else. There's Goanese Catholics, Keralite Syrian Catholics, Anglo-Indians, and Protestant converts. I'm sure it doesn't stop there. But even those cultures are all incredibly different one from another and they can't be grouped all together! The only thing where they're all considered 'similar' is when they're a vote bank :D

    Right now the government is cracking down on a lot of different kinds of corruption (even putting their own ministers in jail) so it doesn't surprise me. The shady schools will and should have troubles, but the ones who aren't shady should be fine. If there really is widespread persecution of minority religions, that's a different story altogether, but as wwert said, it is a fairly large vote bank one does not want to anger, particularly in Kerala.

  13. Catholic schools in India have a very good reputation and do put out excellent graduates. Even in the US Catholic schools often rebrand themselves as "preparatory" schools and their students are usually as well prepared, if not more so, for college than those with a public school education.

    The fundamentalist Protestant schools and homeschooling text companies are a completely different thing. It's the difference between a college like Notre Dame or Baylor University, and one like Pensacola Christian College. The first kind is a respected institute of higher education; the other is a Christian madrassa. Both exist.

  14. Ok, I'm just going to be totally honest with my feelings here for a moment.

    The amount of postcolonial BS in this whole story is so staggering I don't even know where to begin. You are spot on with the phrase "typical Christian propaganda." The narrative of these missionaries always has an "us vs. the savages" undertone. On the surface, you're going to spread the Good News, but underneath that is the Civilizing Mission.

    This man has been Civilized. He is now Better Than his "lost, tribal" counterparts. And he is crowing it proudly as if it were something to actually be proud of.

    The other narrative is the one of the Persecuted Christian, which he is also playing up to his audience who is lapping it up, getting ready for the upcoming war on Christmas, where these stories will come out about how not just the United States, but the whole world is against Christianity.

    He is the poster child for the self-hating Indian. He has accepted the white man's religion (note he is is not preaching to a Mar Thoma congregation nor a group of Anglo-Indians) and married a white woman. He has, in effect, become what he sees as the superior race, if not in skin color, at least in culture. How this is different from the Western girls who convert to Hinduism, wear sarees daily, take on Indian values including the misogynistic ones, and praise Indian culture over American culture in all aspects, I cannot see.

    I am certainly not against Christianity nor even missionaries. I'm just against THIS KIND of Christianity and THIS KIND of missionary. He's not spreading his faith as much as spreading a frightening, stereotypical, neocolonial, and outdated version of India and Christianity both.

  15. Thank you for your comment. Yes, it is common in some Christian and Catholic churches to prevent women from using birth control methods of any kind (including not having sex) which leads to more children in the marriage.

  16. I agree. But, Christianity mimicking Hinduism is not new! I've seen and experienced first hand churches here in the US who preach Hindu concepts and I'm researching some things now for a post on the parallels of Hinduism and Christianity. Stealing Hindu ideas is nothing new to the Christian church.

  17. Thank you. I don't understand the vote banks. That's new to me but I know not all Christians are like this. But, I've heard too many horror stories of things they do that are disturbing and as always, those are the ones you hear the most about.

  18. Did you know I lived in Pensacola once. I knew students that got kicked out of Pensacola Christian College because they didn't tell on their friends when their friends broke the rules? That college is well known in the area for throwing people out. It's not very Christian-like. Liberty University here in VA is the largest Christian University in the US and they don't act like that. One of their students was even on America's Top Model recently. She wasn't shunned for it, and let me tell you -she broke several rules including using foul language.

    It's sad. The state of churches in this day and age is just not good in most situations. It's not the religion that is the problem - it's the people who have perverted it.

  19. Love it! You're so right. It's demeaning the way this man talked about his own people just to foster support among a bunch of old racist bitties!

    He's not at all different from the pardesi's who absorb Indian culture blindly. It's really sad and you know I've blogged on the pardesi issue before. It's not right. Both cultures have problems and issues and we're not doing anyone justice by completely discounting a whole culture (ours or theirs).

  20. its not about birth control methods its about encouragement to have large family so that christian population is maintained.


    The Catholic Church's programme to felicitate large families will be
    held at Changanassery this week. 'Jeevasamridhi', the programme launched
    by Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council pro life committee and Chavara
    Family Welfare Centre, will honour couples who got married after 1990
    and have more than four children, and couples who have been married for
    40 years and have more than five children.

    As the dwindling
    Christian population has been a concern, the church took the initiative
    to promote the concept of big families. It plans to felicitate 5,000
    families with more than four children. In Pala, the programme identified
    500 couples who have not restricted the number of children to two.
    "Even young couples are in favour of large families. We are not making
    this an aggressive campaign. It is just to promote family values and
    tradition, and we need to maintain a balance," says Fr Jose Kottayil,
    programme co-ordinator.

    Church officials maintain, kids from large families should be given
    preference in school admissions and hospitals. In Changanassery, the
    programme will be held at SB College on Sunday at 11 am.

  21. have u ever heard of The 10/40 Window. & how christians want to convert entire populations of this region into christianity

  22. A bit besides the point, but just in case you'd like to know,the most common juice powder in India is called Rasna. It isn't called juice powder, just Rasna. Ask any Indian, they will know of it. It's like Bisleri or Amul in India.. very ubiquitous.

  23. Agree with you and Andrea above. These types of missionaries are very predictable and disappointing. Just like the charlatan babas in hinduism. Both will over-sell their 'product' using well known 'tricks' and completely discount anything that doesn't agree with their sales pitch.

  24. Interesting. Thanks for sharing. That isn't their agenda here. Here and in several other countries it's about their views against birth control. They should never promote violating laws. It's written in their bible they are supposed to respect the laws of the land.

  25. I haven't heard of it as the 10/40 window but yes, Christianity's main goal is Matthew 28:19 which instructs them to go into all nations and preach the bible. The point is to convert as many people to Christianity as possible.

  26. I know those brands. I didn't know that's what they were because I don't use juice powders but I remember the commercials.The Bisleri commercials cracked me up and the tune is still stuck in my head.

  27. But what are "his own people"? Isn´t that also a stereotype? Not knowing the man personally he might just not identify with Indians and ´Indianism´ (anymore?) but with Christians and Christianity - and at that a certain Christian Movement, too. If ´we´ limit people like him to his cultural and native heritage, ´we´ buy into exactly the same thinking usually criticized by ´us´.

    As for the call to missionize: most likely the worst part of Christianity.

  28. He identified himself as an Indian but also stated he was an NRI for a good portion of his life. He only referred to Hindu's as being a different group. He made no mention of other Indian religions. It would be hard to put him into any group but in my comment I was referring to the Hindu's he grew up with. He openly stated he had converted from Hinduism and now was blatantly disrespecting them in unnecessary ways. Now that you bring it up, you remind me of how some people leave their culture behind and then act like it was a terrible culture. Americans do this, Indians do this and so do many others from around the world. Essentially now I think this man really had turned against his culture (the one he grew up with) just as some expats tend to do. (I'm basing that off of all I heard and not just the tidbits contained in these few posts.)

  29. It´s difficult to get the whole picture only from a blog and I don´t want to harp on this much longer. But what you write is exactly my point. I think that his point of reference are Christians, including Indian Christians. His nationality might still be of importance .- I agree with you here - but it sounds that he identifies more with his belief that his nationality. Which is common for people with a rigid religious view. Religion is seen here as a surrogate identity. Instead of "only" being an Indian he is now part of a bigger community: not necessarily in numbers but in subjective meaning. That doesn´t excuse him being offensive, though, and spreading lies but it makes a lot of sense to me. Again, only a shot in the dark here!

  30. I am replying late because have not been on the internet much recently.

    My former colleague is an older gentleman, around 60 yrs old, and he was telling me about some things that I believe happened 20 or so years ago. These things did not happen in Kerala, but somewhere in the north I believe. Unfortunately, we were on our way to an educational meeting (we were working together as education consultants in north India) so I wasn't listening with my full attention and now don't remember the exact details. It had something to do with some Christian-run schools completely outlawing/forbidding the celebration or recognition of festivals like Diwali. This was interpreted as anti-Indian and there was a move to restrict what Christian-run schools could do in India. Only Muslims (I believe) can have essentially a separate school system. There is also the collective historical memory of meddling British missionaries, so in some parts of India, Christians are very much viewed with suspicion.

    Another younger colleague of mine (30-ish) from Dehra Dun who also attended a Christian-run CIE school said she felt that as the CBSE board became more and more popular, the Christian/missionary/CIE schools lost a lot of students to them, and that their prestige declined somewhat. EVERYONE in India wants to send their kid to an "English-medium" school. The draw of the Christian or so-called convent school is/was the status of being educated in English. It's even a plus for women in the marriage market, to be able to say that they were "convented"! CBSE is not as rigorous as CIE but much more accessible to more people. Hence today more and more young Indians get an English-medium education, but overall the quality of English teaching and learning in India has declined.

    I worked for 3 years as an edu. consultant in north India, and I am very familiar with the Indian (CBSE, CIE and other regional boards) education system, issues and problems, and the politics involved. I've also worked in the education sector in Thailand, Italy, Indonesia, Timor Leste and New York City, so I know of what I speak!

    And yes, you are right, overall Christian-run schools have historically enjoyed a very high reputation in India because of the perceived 'international' aspect of the education, quality of English-language instruction, access to well-trained teachers and good resources. However, that has changed in the last 20-30 years. So-called convent/mission schools are for the most part very Indianized today, in that the curriculum is not in the least international and the teachers are for the most part 100% Indian. The son of friends of mine attends a "Christian" school in Rajasthan; I was helping him for a while with his English, and the school was the same as any other CBSE or Rajasthan-board school, as far as a I could tell from his text books and assignments. The "nuns" at the school even wore saris!!