Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Brief and Tragic History of Indophilia

(The following satirical post is an expanded version of a comment I left at Sepia Mutiny. Thanks Jai, Andrea, and Cicatrix for adding fuel to the fire)

There once was a country called Indophilia. It was located in remote mountains in a remote ocean near Thailand.

People often remark on the similarity of Indian and Indophilic culture, but having visited both places I can say that they couldn't be more different. India is a noisy, crowded place, where the cities are full of gridlocked traffic, cheating taxi drivers, and shoddily constructed buildings that often fall apart. Smells range from burnt rubber to rotting fruit to excrement, and even fabulous movie stars get themselves embroiled in humiliating custody battles that are covered in minute detail by sleazy tabloids.

In Indophilia, by contrast, the only smell is of incense, and the only sounds one hears are of ascetics reciting mantras and children laughing. The country is thought to be quite poor, but the citizens are among the happiest on earth. The high altitude ensures a pleasant climate. The newspapers and television stations are good-humored, and full of cerebral, sophisticated debates that are widely understood by everyone. There are no movie stars, because there are no movies, and no one misses them in the least. And indeed, how could anyone miss films with titles like Hum Masti Kar Rahe Hai Ha Ha Ha (HMKRHHHH) or Timepass?

Early History

The name "Indophilia" is of course what foreigners call the place. The local name is an ancient Sanskrit word, "Phuttinguonumaniam." The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, when he discovered the island by accident in 1512 (he was looking for India), found it very difficult to pronounce, and so named it "Indophilia."

For nearly four hundred years, Indophilia was known mainly for its spices, precious gems, and silks. But it never entered into commercial trade for these goods. Rather, all three of these commodities are in such plentiful natural supply in Indophilia that foreign vessels, when they could find the place (which was a surprisingly rare occurence), simply showed up and were given a shipful of goods to take with them.

Until the early 1990s, the country was mostly autonomous, cut off from the rest of humanity. Indophilia did not even get electrictiy until 1993! And television was only introduced in 1998! Occasionally long-haired, drug-addled westerners visited the place, and found it groovy. They drank the water without fear, and never got diarrhea. The famous rock musician George Harrison visited in 1969, and was so popular that a fountain was later constructed in his honor in front of the Indophilian Royal Palace -- the Gently Weeping Guitar.

Religion and Government

Indophilia is, needless to say, an overwhelmingly Hindu nation. Like Nepal, Hinduism is the state religion. But it is a very organic, tolerant species of Hinduism that is really quite different from its Indian variety, which has led some western scholars to argue that it is in fact a different religion entirely. Professor I. Kidding's 1996 book Indophilianism: A Distinct Faith argued as much, though questions were raised about Professor Kidding's rumored conversion to the faith and her decision to marry her teenaged Indophilian boy-servant in a hushed-up jungle ceremony.

Whether or not scholars can agree on labels, the Indophilian version of Hinduism is notable because men and women are treated exactly the same, caste is abolished, and the ritual practices are short and efficient. (For example, the Indophilian marriage ceremony takes a mere fifteen minutes.) As in India, Cows are considered sacred, but every cow in Indophilia is always accompanied everywhere it goes by a human child (generally male) who makes sure the cow is fed regularly and remains disease free. These "Cow Boys," as they are called, are chosen in a special, sacred ceremony called the "Ro Deo," which occurs on the Lunar New Year.

The entire government structure of Indophilia is run on Hindu principles, which has sometimes made it the butt of foreign jokes. The French philosopher Voltaire, who once visited Indophilia, scoffed at the system, saying, "The Hindu government works very well in the exotic and marvelous island nation of Indophilia, if it is that there is nothing the government is obligated to resolve" (the translation from the French is a little rough here, sorry). Jonathan Swift also laughed at Indophilia, saying, "Ha! I once modestly imagined an exotic nation full of talking, hyper-rationalistic horses called Houyhnms, but these people are ruled by cows that are called Indophilians. Truth really is more hilarious than fiction." For the most part, these insulting statements have been inconsequential, since western nations like France and Ireland have a long history of being involved in bloody wars that have decimated their economies and left their cultures in a sorry state.

Dress and Customs

Adult women in Indophilia wear embroidered, sequined saris made of the finest silks everywhere they go. And men wear emerald green silk turbans that vary from two to three feet in height. (Doorways are generally extra high in Indophilian architecture, to accommodate the tall turbans of Indophilian men.)

In India, as I understand it, Hindu women wear bindis as a sign of marital status. In Indophilia, however, bindis are worn by everyone, all the time -- men and women.

One startling aspect of Indophilian culture is the excellent posture and enviable physical fitness exhibited by everyone (again, men and women). It comes from Indophilian passion for balancing large jugs of water on their heads. In fact, the balancing of jugs on the head is considered the Indophilian national sport. Children are taught to do it from the age of three, and some practice doing it for hours on end, even if no water needs to be carried on foot to any particular destination. As a result of this widespread practice, Indophilians stand straight as rods. Interesting tidbit: the Indophilian word for "foreigner" is actually "Teira," which means "crooked" or "bad posture."

The End of Indophilia

Because Indophilia was so peaceful and spiritually blessed, its leaders never thought it necessary to build an army, since the idea of it went against the sacred Hindu principle of nonviolence. When Indophilia had disagreements with its neighbors, it found that the mere presence of an adept Indophilian Yogi was usually sufficient to bring disputatious or territorially acquisitive foreign leaders to the state of harmonious bliss where war is unthinkable. In certain extreme cases, where foreign leaders did not respond to the Yogic presence, Indophilians had resorted to offering small gifts of precious gems (which are plentiful in Indophilia) to foreign leaders. These had generally been sufficient.

Unfortunately, in 2003, Indophilia came under attack from its hyper-militaristic neighbor India. Neither spiritual nor material pressure was sufficient to stop the invasion. India's leaders were dead-set on conquering Indophilia, mainly because India's longtime enemy, Pakistan, had suddenly withdrawn its claims on the equally exotic (but sadly, war-torn) state of Kashmir. When Pakistan's leader converted its entire army into a single, massive cricket team, India was left without a clearly identifiable enemy. India's government was in trouble; a new war seemed like the only way to distract citizens from the deep corruption and hopeless incompetency of its elected officials. That is when they thought of Indophilia.

At any rate, in the war between India and Indophilia, India won. Indophilia was converted to a "research" station and renamed "Laloo Prasad Yadav Island," with a mansion and tennis courts built for the Chief Minister of Bihar. All native residents were "relocated" to the Rajasthan desert, and given 5000 Rupees, 3 hectares of land, and a diesel tractor to try their hand at farming.

But with Laloo's recent political troubles, the future of the island is in question. There are rumors that the Indian government is in talks to sell Indophilia to the Americans, who want to build a military base there in preparation for the impending invasion of North Korea.


DesiDancer said...

I don't think I've laughed that hard in months!! Thanks for fleshing out the history of humare desh, Indophilia :)

12:08 PM  
brimful said...

Dude, pure genius!

12:15 PM  
Andrea said...

Love it :) Especially HMKRHHHH and Timepass ... lol ... but I thought that in Indophilia there were movies, with beautiful actresses and even more beautiful actors and NO KISSING EVER, that are funded by independently wealthy men and women who had absolutely no connection to organized crime at all.

12:19 PM  
Amardeep said...


Bollywood is not compatible with the Indophilian strain of Hinduism, which allows acting and singing but forbids lip-synching, melodrama, or capitalism. Before the catastrophic Indian war, the locals were entertained pretty well by the jug-balancing games, and generally lived in a state of absolute karmic bliss and natural harmony.

Since the Indophilians were relocated to the Thar desert, however, there are reports that some of the youngsters have started watching Hindi films. Words like "chokri" and "chikna" have also entered their vocabulary. Unfortunately, the Indophilians' world-famous posture has also suffered somewhat.

12:49 PM  
cicatrix said...

ah, Kashmir...I remember it well. Watching from my verandah as the sun set over the Himalayas, backlighting the frolicing Cashmeres and Pashminas with a red-gold glow...The sherpas would nimbly leap after them, gathering the precious hairs that the animals constantly shed...

1:08 PM  
Sunil Laxman said...

That, Amardeep, is a fantastic post.

2:46 PM  
Jay said...

Ok I just laughed my gluteus off!!!Amardeep, I almost want to use this as required reading for one of my courses.

5:21 PM  
brimful said...

Heh- I want to use this as required reading for half of San Francisco!

9:58 PM  
Kush Tandon said...

Every night is Diwali and day holi in Indophilia. Women and girls are always dancing and singing to folk music - the whole day. Excellent.

Man, that New Yorker article on ID is pretty good, Thanks!

1:56 AM  
Ms. World said...

HA HA HA from northern Thailand! Even though I really hate the fact that I'm an Indophile which sounds like I have some weird disease I really don't have another name for it. But I'm coming across lots of older European & Canadian travelers who are hardcore Indophilians who love to go there for yoga study and are supposedly drawn to the people. However, once the rickshaw drivers start asking for more than a few rupees these Indophilians pack their bags for the next inexpensive developing country that offers yoga retreats.

2:12 AM  
andrea said...

Amardeep, your comment about the incompatibility of a Bollywood-style cinema with Indophilic Hinduism does make sense. I guess I have been in touch with that new generation of Indophilian youth post-exile that has come up with such inventions as a cinema where men and women stare adoringly into each others' eyes . The horrors! But you can't really blame them, as they've been through a lot since leaving their beloved utopia.

1:20 AM  

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