Kalvarayan Hills Experience, personal notes about people
The bad behavior of many western tourist in India has changed the perception that locals have of us. Nowadays, in the big and touristic city, travelers are seen as “credit cards walkers”. They often try to cheat and the color of the skin is the green traffic light for starting the procedure. In spite of this, india is generally one of the safest places on the earth for travellers and feeling the danger is still rare.
Outside the tourist cities, Indian people change drastically and here, on the “hills”, even more. For them, watching a western foreign is a sort of fabulous happening. This happiness is increased by their strong belief about the social caste system that locate us, western and white-skin folks, in one of the highest caste. It is important to emphasize that the social caste system, a system of social stratification, is still deeply-rooted inside Indian People and even more on the Malayalis. This system is still a shameful tool of social discrimination despite the Article 15 of its constitution created for fighting this phenomenon.
Regarding the Malayalis, I believe that the main reason of their strong believe on the social caste system is their partial isolation from the Indian social development. Just for giving an example, the cultural and technological gap between one of the advanced city in india, that is Bangaluru, and the area where i have been ,Polluvapady, is dramatic. It seems to be in two different country and in two different historical periods.
The happiness for western, white skin, strangers is translated in a kind of reverence and extreme kindness. However, it is uncommon for a Mayali to start a social interaction with a white people or even smile to them. I assumed that, for them, is a sort of bad manners to approach without being approached by those higher in the social caste. Everyone has to stay in its social position, often predetermined. They seems to follow that last sentence, rule for them, strictly, without envy for others, and no desire to climb the society to improve their status quo. The latter, as we know, are quite common social phenomena in the consumerist cultural ideology.
The little inhabitants of this land, the children, have a carefree approaching with the foreigners. They do not care very much about the social system or other social rituals of which adults are fixated. Without any embarrassment, a child approach you quickly, curious to discover the strange “alien” just arrived to his land. They express excitement just because you are talking with them. Soon, it is easy that they can become your guide and your friend, and they are very jealous of their friendship with the stranger.
I have to admit that I remember with affection the two little boys, Elumalai and Udoria (13/14 years old), who accompanied me to the villages and that helped me to interact with a different culture. Moreover, i noticed that walking with a child is a white flag for tribal people, letting them to be more opened with the stranger. I have elaborated a simple hypothesis about this: they think that if a child of their caste can freely interacts, plays, smiles with an high caste person so, even them, can lower their worries for the rules that manage the social interaction between social castes.