Monday, June 24, 2013

Dr. Geeta Kochhar on "FROM CHINESE MA LA TO INDIAN MASALA: A Love Story"

India and China, the two great nations of Asia, are often talked about in correlation. But what is the relationship and what shape will it take in future is a topic of hot concern. Some view it from the point of rising competition and some analyze the evolving cooperative partnership. There are many more who believe that the normalizing and maturing relationship is superficial and the fundamental differences will burst out sooner than later. With such divergence in opinions and counter-opinions existing in the current literature on India-China relationship, it is imperative to go beyond political realms and see the ground realities as they exist now. It seems more of blossoming relationship than a nearing dead end.
            Almost two decades back, learning Chinese in India was seen as a crazy decision, for the future prospects were too limited. Today, learning Chinese in India is hot in demand with limitation only in finding qualified and recognized places with adequate seats. The rage is not just for knowing the world’s most challenging language, but for establishing interactions with China. One factor underlining this fact is of course the unparallel rise of Chinese economy that open doors for trading with the outside world; however, the other issue lies in linking with the neighbour before connecting to the larger world. This seems to be the bottom line for extensive people-to-people interactions between both nations.
            The ‘Cheenefication’ of India and ‘Indianisation’ of China are the buzzwords within the two nations. Consciously or unconsciously, there is more of one’s culture that is spreading in other’s culture and is accepted in the society with a warm welcome. In many parts of India, the love for Chinese food started with the entry of noodle culture. Gradually Chaomian (炒面 commonly known as Chowmein in India) became a hot favourite dish of the youngsters, albeit with an Indian touch of Masala (spices) added to it. Now we see the Chinese Baozi (包子 commonly known as Momo in India) selling on every next street corner of mega cities in India, flavours added. Though this food has direct relation to the culture of North-East India brought in to the center of Indian mega cities; people in Indian cities are also aware of it being an inseparable part of Chinese food. Alongside, there is expansion of Chinese restaurants claiming to serve authentic Chinese food and a rise in the demand for Chinese green tea.
            In the same manner, we find Chinese have much wider acceptance to Indian Masala tea and Indian curry. There is hardly any Chinese city where one will not find an Indian food outlet; while the love for learning and adopting Yoga (瑜伽) as a part of life is spreading. Latest Indian movies are all easily available on Chinese websites and the Indian soap operas are running on China’s national channels in prime time. Many young Chinese girls are fond of learning Indian style dancing and the fascination for Indian dresses never stops at Pashmina shawls (羊绒围巾).
            The love for China among the people was never a zero sum equation, even after the border conflict that created a rift among the political elite. Indian Bollywood movies were all fascinated by the China and Chineseness in their projection. The late 1950’s had many popular Bollywood songs like “Jana tha Japan, pauch gaye Cheen, samajh gaye na” (Was wanting to go to Japan, but landed in China), “Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu” (My name is Jin Jinzhu ) etc. probably the realization of the blossoming love. Even after the many odds in political relations, Indian movies have all carried the love for Chinese dressing and style at its centre. The not so recent movie “Chandni Chowk to China” is a direct assertion of closeness to China.
            In China, the beauty of Indian Bollywood took roots from Raj Kapoor, but went on to create an image of beautiful Indian women (印度美女) with Aishwarya Rai clinching the Miss World title. From a naïve understanding of every Indian can dance and sing to a mature understanding about India, China has marched a long way in the last three decades. Today, you meet any ordinary Chinese in any city of China; you will be surprised to know how much they can relate to India. Extensive business links is one that has reshaped the inter-linkages and thus one easily finds Indian communities well established in Chinese cities and Chinese presence in almost all parts of India. Besides, there is overwhelming presence of Indian students in China and Chinese students taking up various disciplines in Indian colleges and universities. The current interaction is no way limited to elite and political meetings, but has redesigned the matrix on which the people of both countries want to blend. So, the inter-cultural marriages are on a high rise. A love story created and designed to grow within specific parameters has already broken the boundaries. Love is blossoming among the masses and there is no possible control. People-to-people exchange is working in the right spirit with a deeper understanding, but maturity of the relationship still needs time.   

Dr. Geeta Kochhar
Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University

1 comment:

  1. A very intriguing article Dr. Kochhar. I've written something on similar lines in my article on my blog on my experiences in China.


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