Too much stupidity, don’t you think!? The friend who gifted me this stupid book is also stupid, by the way, for paying money for it.
Goal # 2 for 2nd May: Read a Graphic Novel
I chose this one in my collection of books unread till date. I’m not sure why some books are left unread, especially when one buys them with all the love and enthusiasm that gets dispensed only for books, and never for people. This one, as I mentioned above, was gifted to me by a friend for my 30th, which was a depressing birthday for various weird reasons apart from the regular reasons to be depressed at a birthday. So, I think I procrastinated reading this one because of the memories attached to it besides my obvious lack of enthusiasm for the book.
Now that I have gotten around to reading and finishing it today for the challenge, I feel like this was time wasted majorly. Did I really need to read and see 230 pages of words and images to know how the Japanese perceive India? Gosh, this was a painful read and I might have laughed out loud only once or maybe twice. This was supposed to be a funny book, but all it did was remind me that pretty much nothing has changed since 2004-5 in India, while maybe the average Japanese tourist has gotten just a tad bit smarter since.
Writing from 2016, I would think that with improved technology and Internet of today this guy could have had a better time getting his translations done, and whatever… maybe in 2004-5 India was still catching up. BUT what really depressed me more than his frustrations was this guy himself. YES, FINE, I KNOW the cover states he is a STUPID guy, but man how truly dumb was this entire enterprise! He got a graphic novel or two out of it, but still, just how dumb can you possibly be to think everything will happen easily and efficiently in a turd world country like India, especially when you are so superbly ignorant and naive about every aspect of life itself!! Who just packs up and travels to a totally alien culture with bare minimum research – that too not to travel and see sites and learn something in the process, but to shove down your passion down someone else’s throat without understanding what that someone else’s passions are!?
To describe India based on only experiences in Old Delhi and behave the insensible way this man does, and then excuse it all by calling himself stupid was to me the worst form of patronization. And it’s not as if Japan can be an easy place for a gaijin to live. I have been that gaijin, and I know Japan is more illogical than India. Simply because you can’t understand the language doesn’t make something illogical, which is what the entire ‘humor’ of this book was based upon.
What does this book do? What was its value? What does it teach? Who are its readers and what are they taking away from the book? Let’s take a moment to evaluate. The readers of the book can be broadly classified as Indian, Japanese and others.
Firstly, the others. These would be non-Indian foreign readers, so I would think their response would be aligned with the Japanese readers. In my opinion, the Japanese would probably take away a very negative opinion of India from reading this novel. Unless they are more informed about the country, or unless they have educated Indian friends who provide a more informed perspective. Usually the average Japanese traveller learns nothing except what their misguided guide books tell them. Inevitably most Japanese travelers (especially the solo backpacking type who come for the boho marijuana smoking spiritual freedom of it all) get duped multiple times despite their self-congratulatory unconventionality. The rest of the non-traveling tribe only ooh and ahh about the bizarreness of the non-Japanese like a visitor to the zoo looking at exotic animals. For them this book provides the most entertainment, because it re-enforces their own warped opinions of all Indians as filthy ignorant backward uncivilized uncouth animals.
Let’s proceed to the Indian readers. I’m 100% sure that the section of Indian society this guy lived amongst and interacted with during his trip have no interest in this book. They therefore will never have an opportunity to introspect and change. Just like the manga copies unsold in the novel, this too would be a failure in that crowd which, ironically, has the most to learn from a foreigner’s perspective. Change is in order for India, but how will it arrive if most human beings living and dying in India have no image of that change? If they don’t feel the need for change, because they have internalized their backwardness, why would they? Without introspection forced upon them by the sight of a different perspective, these human beings will continue on with their hand to mouth animal existence.
Some millennials and educated Indian readers (especially the kind interested in Japan) would show more interest for this book, but except for a few smug laughs, they too learn nothing. In fact this strengthens all the reasons for escaping the turd-world, because change may be in order but we know it ain’t coming! (I happen to place myself in this particular grouping, so my words must be read as self-critique).
Most (first-world) foreigner accounts of the travels and adventures in India end with the overwhelming sense of privilege of one’s own situation back home and also with a sense of gratitude or appreciation for the quality of life one enjoys. This guy expresses none of that. The book ends with “Next time, I’ll definitely do better…” – a typical Japanese response to failure, because one has to ‘fight-o fight-o’ till the end and never give up. What sometimes the Japanese fail to comprehend is that repetition will not necessarily make you intelligent, practice can make you perfect at a skill, but living life and understanding it is not a skill, it is an emotion and an intuitive talent which either you have or you don’t. I should not judge based on one book alone, but I don’t think this author has that talent. He may be observative, but his observations aren’t insightful nor are they deep. I am not interested in reading more from him, and this is my harshest critique for a writer.