It was just a pure accident that I stumbled upon a post where the topic of odor from Indians was discussed. I searched on the internet and found many similar topics and it was mostly from the US. This perception really surprised me.
I am an Indian and had worked and lived in various countries outside India. The perceptions, which I felt , about Indians varied from country to country and it boiled down to the type of Indians that these people came in contact with. For example, people in Thailand and Singapore think Indians are low lives, that they stink since they don’t bath regularly. For a middle class Indian, like me, it sounded ridiculous as bathing is an integral part of our lives and bathing atleast once a day is considered a must in almost all the homes I know. But on deeper analysis I found that this perception stemmed from the fact that the Indians they have come in contact with are the labrourers, mostly construction workers, who have migrated to these parts many many years ago before the educated ones. Considering the nature of their work, their low pays and the horrible living conditions this is certainly a truth. And this one cannot be associated with a race as people with these jobs and standards smell and stink anywhere in the world. Its the same for Indians, Chinese, Europeans or the Americans.
But in countries like the US and Europe where the educated ones moved in first this perception about body odor, I thought, was not there. They do think that Indians are brainy and smart and also its true that they dont like the smell of our cooking. They are simply not used to this smell and for them it is a stink. Its the same for us when, say, Malaysians cook. I dont think anyone can be blamed here since the smell is alien to them and we cannot live without all the spices et all. And there is nothing much that we can do about this aspect.
But I found today that even in these countries they think that Indians stink. Most of the people who responded to these posts thought it was due to the spices in our diet and its not because of lack of hygiene. That was the good part of this rather unpleasant topic. But some posts do looked like more racist and it was driven more by the hate of the success of Indians in these countries. Migrants, esp the successful ones, are never liked by the natives in any country. Thats the fact!
But thinking about this I thought that we, from our side, can do a little extra to change this perception and others like we are not that courteous. Many of the people who travel for the first time are not familiar with the western etiquettes. So either they have to take the intiative to learn or the companies that send them have to educate them. This will help in improving the image a lot.
Coming back to the smell, I think we should get into into perfumes and deos. They are not part of most of our lives. Having a good bath once or twice a day is considered enough for a good hygiene but in US or Europe or in any other developed countries where the focus on how you smell and look is so much important it will really help if we spend a little on a good perfume or a deo. Whats the point in taking 2-3 baths a day and your natural body odor which is alien to people outside your home causes negative perception. If you smell great then it does not matter if you really take bath daily. Thats superficial and fake but thats what is important in todays world.
India is a great country and we as, Indians, are the ambassadors of our country. The way we act and the things we do impact how we as a race and country is perceived. Lets do our best to show that Indians are as good as anyone and lets try to change our fellow countrymen who due to their indifferences and laziness spoil our image. And more importantly lets try very hard to change the perception of those foreigners who think Indians are low lives.