My wife Shabana was doing a web search and stumbed across a sobering (though, sadly, not all that surprising) new business model in India (see her blog entry on it): Renting out people (preferably "tall, light-skinned men") to masquerade as relatives at well-to-do people's weddings.
the Best Guests Centre in Rajasthan
…offers three categories of guest. The “deluxe”, at £10, is a lofty, fair-skinned, English-speaking guest with an elegant line in small talk. The “standard” is educated, speaks Hindi but looks like the average local and costs £6.
The “budget”, at £5, is a Hindi-speaking school-leaver of darker hue, reasonably well groomed but less polished. They are under instructions to smile, be friendly, join in the dancing and singing, and appear to be having a rollicking good time.
The racial overtones here are obvious and disturbing, but I find the class implicit class assumptions most striking The darker, less sophisticated "budget" guest is expected to be the down-to-earth party animal, the guy who not only keeps things fun but, I suspect, "keeps it real."
Today, Bollywood pays lip service to the virtues of the Indian heartland (e.g., the absurd idealization of village life of Shahrukh Khan's "Swades", a plastic propaganda film worthy of the Soviet tradition of Socialist Realism) at the very same time it brainwashes Indians into identifying with "Beverly Hills 90210."
P.S. I note for the record lest any accuse me of India-bashing that I don't think this phenomenon is unique to India. I can imagine a similiar enterprise doing brisk business in Lahore or Karachi.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised if India is a little more schizophrenic than Pakistan about this due to its fervid embrace of all things American, and the concommitant internalization of its neoliberal pecking order.
Perhaps I'm biased–I'm married to a Pakistani and despite my being a "gora" (Urdu for "white") have had a connection to Pakistan all my life–but it seems to me that while Pakistan has more than its share of problems (which are dissected down to the minutest detail in the international media) one at least sees some resistance to the global monoculture among those benighted Pakistanis. Whether out of post-colonial foresight or just diehard conservatism, many Pakistanis still resist the Borg, perhaps in vain. I'm not sure the same can be said of post-ideological India, which seems to eagerly await assimiliation into the neoliberal, postmodern Hive.