Here’s the thing about white hippies in India: they’re crusty.
They’re the only ones wearing clothes that look like they haven’t seen soap. The clothes are ill-fitting and off-colour. Nothing matches, nothing is even trying to match. The women wear yoga pants and harem pants, the men wear sarongs. They have dreads. Their hair is in messy buns and looks like it hasn’t been washed in weeks.
The rest of us? If we can afford to, we look good. There are men and women walking around in designer clothing. Our shirts are well-pressed and well-cared for — after all, clothing is important for making a first impression. Our hair is meticulously styled, our jewelry is on point.
White people come to India looking for a break from their normal lives. They expect Indians to abet them in their quest to find enlightenment — mostly, we just think they’re freaks. We ask to take pictures with them because they look like clowns. We’ll give them preferential treatment, because anyone who chooses to dress like that is clearly insane, and therefore might spend a lot of money when they don’t need to.
White backpackers aren’t this crusty in Europe. Oh, I’m sure there’s a certain level of crust, but they can’t be as free and unburdened in Europe. There are people of consequence who could see them. Here, they strut around like they don’t have an audience. Like Indians are foliage, there just to provide an exotic backdrop for your grand adventure — they can’t actually see you. If they do see you, it doesn’t matter.
I was guilty of aiding and abetting this sort of behavior, once. I was eighteen, backpacking with three white friends, and we decided to go as crusty as possible. I went so native that Indians thought I was white as well.
My friends complained constantly about how they were treated like freaks, like sideshow attractions — my thoughts now are: maybe you should have dressed better. Taken a few showers. Washed your clothes a few times. There are plenty of white business people in Bangalore, and they all dress professionally and appropriately. They don’t get nearly as much attention as do white travelers. There’s a reason for that.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. You’ll still get treated better than any brown person could hope to be treated. You’ll show up to the best restaurant, and the maitre’d will wave you in; you’ll go to a mall and the security guard won’t bother to check your bag. The manager of the establishment will show up and offer to give you a personal tour, or off-menu food — all while ignoring the Indian customers that are trying to get his attention.
So dress however you like, its no skin off my nose. But remember: this is what we think of you.
This is such a necessary post, amen.