Human nature is gullible and often susceptible to forming impressions of people, places and events. These impressions are sometimes quite hard to break or mould.
Take for instance, the school principal or headmistress. She most often has to be a bespectacled and stern looking woman with a severe hairstyle. She is supposed to have a no-nonsense kind of aura around her. Politicians too somewhat fall in the same category. Well-starched, simple khadi attire with a soft 'Mona Lisa' smile on their lips and folded hands complete the look of a neta.
These images are consciously or unconsciously supported by varied media such as films and television. Talking of films, many actors complain of getting stereotyped because they continue to be offered the same kinds of roles again and again. It is sometimes difficult to break free from the image an actor has portrayed in a particular film.
Even our country, India, has for long been perceived as the land of snakes and snake charmers, elephants and tigers, 'chai' and spices, Kohinoor, spirituality and yoga. It is also perhaps infamous for the heat and dust, traffic chaos, slums and poverty as highlighted in most foreign films. We have often despised such depiction and yearned for India to be projected as a modern growing nation-- at least to the outside world. Why can't film-makers show the rosier side of our country for a change?
We want the world to acknowledge our brilliant information technology (IT) professionals, brainy IITians, efficacious economists and rich cultural heritage. We also take pride in the new awareness levels of the Indian middle class -- be it on issues regarding health, beauty and fashion, politics or corruption.
All said and done, our country was considered a safe and hospitable nation, the petty thefts and fleecing (of foreigners in particular) by thugs notwithstanding. But it took just one incident and several similar ones to follow that shook the very foundation of our society and put a huge question mark on the safety of women in our country. Every other issue seemed miniscule in comparison. No wonder there has been a sharp decline in the arrival of women tourists from abroad over the past few months.
The perception about our country has finally changed, but for the worse. Sadly, India is no longer perceived as a country of snakes and snake charmers, elephants and tigers. She is now seen as one unsafe for women.