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THE DIRTY PICTURE

India is a hot topic on the internet these days, and what’s being written is not flattering. A Chinese girl has posted pictures of her wedding to an Indian, with her dressed in Indian bridal wear, and her family and friends enjoying themselves. Among the most striking reactions is this: “Is she asking to be gang raped?’’

The posts reveal a number of misconceptions about Indian habits. Many refer to the Indian habit of washing themselves after using the toilet, instead of using toilet paper as they do in China. The reactions convey disgust at Indians using the same hand for eating as they do for cleaning themselves in the toilet, and pity their compatriot for having to do this.

Warning signs

Other posts talk about the low status of women in India, and warn the bride that after some time, “as soon as in half a year and no later than 5 years’’, her husband will treat her “no higher than Indian women’’. The tragedy, says one post, is that there is no legal divorce in India.

These comments seem surprising given the frequency with which Chinese strike friendships with Indians, even asking them admiringly about the IT sector for which India is famous. However, this diarist has often been asked about the caste system, and also about the low status accorded to women — this last question was asked by a shop assistant who had only completed middle school!

The Delhi gang rape only confirmed this image. That report was followed by one about the rape of a Swiss woman by eight men in front of her husband in Madhya Pradesh, as the couple were camping out at night. Then came the report of the rape of a 15-month-old in an IAF officer’s home in Delhi by two men. Apart from horror and sarcastic comments about the reasons for India’s high population, reactions to the latter incident included comments about how Indians routinely raped animals. Some advice was also given on supplying free porn to Indians, and the following question was asked: “If there were no woman in India, would things like sewer pipes or wine bottles be raped too?’’

Rotten smell

Amid all the scorn being heaped on Indians, a few voices stand out, saying that rapes happen in China too, but are hushed up. One post cites a report about Chinese communist party village cadre gang-raping a 12-year-old, and the incident being explained as a “visit to a young prostitute’’. About the Chinese bride and her Indian husband too, a few have pointed out that when Chinese girls marry white men, there’s no fuss, and Chinese men marrying Indians, Japanese and Koreans are seen as having brought glory to the nation, so why the double standards? Some even wish her well, while one says given the conditions in China, she’s escaped from misery.

The real flood of negative remarks on India was sparked off by a series of images posted in 2008 by a Chinese who claimed to have travelled through India for two months by train and bus and gotten used to the odour of cow dung on the streets. The entire post was re-posted in 2010. The author was not entirely uncharitable, even concluding : “India is indeed ‘dirty’, but I have gotten more out of it than any other place I have been.’’ But the images were something else — cow dung, mounds of garbage with animals feeding on it, and the ghats of Benaras. Horrific images of rotting corpses in the Ganga, including those of animals, with people bathing apparently not very far away, make up the bulk of the pictures. The Chinese bride has been warned not to drink water from the Ganga. Incidentally, the author of the post claimed to have swum in the Ganga.