We have made a lot of experiences with guests at the Ashram and of course, in the same way as I describe them here on my blog, there are guests who write blogs and they write about what they have seen and done in India. We often connect with them through social media – or are even connected before they arrive at the Ashram – so we read there, too, what they share with their friends. Sometimes I feel like telling the writers that they should travel a bit longer, live in India for some time, learn the language and live among Indians instead of surrounding yourself with other foreigners.
Why am I saying this? I have seen so often that people come to India for two months, four weeks or even only two weeks and then write an article with advice saying ‘If you come to India you have to do this…’ or ‘Indians are like this…’. They give very strong statements not about their particular situation or experience. They generalize whatever they have seen and tell everyone that this is India.
Let me give you an example: in one blog I read a woman saying ‘Touching each other, even in friendship is a taboo in India! Nobody hugs each other, physical contact of any kind does not take place!’ I was so surprised to read such lines and wondered how she, in the time that she spent in India and especially at the Ashram, could have missed that people walk arm in arm, that they don’t hesitate placing a hand on each other’s shoulders and that especially friends are quite physical with each other? Yes, men and women in marriageable age don’t usually hug and touch each other very much, that is true. Particularly in friendships though, among men and among women, people are very close, also physically. This lady had just seen a small part of India and did obviously not look very closely – but she makes a statement about the whole of India, pitying everyone in the country for a lack of human touch which only exists in her mind.
While this woman described a negative impression of India, another blog writer surprised me when he rushed to a conclusion that was overly positive for this country. Yes, in India people live in joint families with their parents, aunts, cousins and other family members. It is a wonderful concept that I support and believe is right. At the Ashram, too, you have an example of a community that lives well together, without fights and tension that western people often expect to be unavoidable. That does not mean however what this writer assumed: ‘All over India there are families living in peace and harmony. They love each other, don’t fight for their parents’ money and property and manage to share it all unconditionally!’ Unfortunately not everything looks that bright in India either! Families have conflicts, just like everywhere and in many it is exactly that, money and inheritance, that lets them break apart. We are witnessing a trend towards separate homes right now – something this man might have found out in a talk with us but hardly just by watching the surrounding, as nobody shows their family problems to a stranger…
It is good that people tell of their experiences honestly and freely. Others get an impression of what India is like and may want to come, too. Just don’t jump to conclusions for an entire country, a whole culture and a complete society. What you have seen is only a small frame of a huge country with uncountable facets of life!