Having been here for a few weeks we must have featured in about 100 photo shoots with random Indian families and individuals who have come up to us ask if we could be in their photos. While we are both style icons, dripping in the hot stench of fashion and celebrity appeal, there is no reason that two sweaty, lost looking westerners should be the focus of so much attention becoming micro celebrities in India.
To begin it was a bit of a novelty, giving the best cheesy smile or epic pose we could, but after the 20th photo we began to wonder why we were getting the celebrity treatment. While the photos fuelled our lusty vanity, it also began to build our paranoia that we were being added to a collection of Indian memes and were being circulated in high schools with hilarious catch-phrases associated with our classy looks or our (Jim’s) attempt to grow an explorer moustache. The fear was too much. As you do whenever you get a small pain in your body, the internet was the best place to look. Fully aware that we were more than likely to find the internet suggested that our most terrifying fears were true and we really were the new face of Indian social media hilarity, we decided knowing was better than blissful ignorance.
However, in perhaps a first for the internet, we were greeted with the suggestion that just as we found Indian people and exotic accessory to our photos and memories, we too were an excellent novelty and bonus to their own snaps. As found elsewhere in the world, a reversed standard of beauty also exists meaning that while we might think the more tanned the better in the west, here fairer skin is the epitome of beauty. If anything the photographs are both a complement and also a payback for the hundreds of photographs we take that feature Indian people to add to our exotic images.
The more times we featured in images, we saw that Rosie would more often than not feature in images with other girls, and Jim would be with the boys, representing the South East London Massive. While we were not in the mood to be in every photo, we did give a few seconds here or there of trying to not look like you are melting under the sun is not too bad.
While most do take a few seconds, Rosie has featured in a few photographs where she has had to wait while the Indian girls have done a few wardrobe changes and with different poses. The best so far has been the mock politician photograph complete with pretend handshake to symbolise agreement of some fantastical alliance or decision to save world hunger. Thinking that these photographs will one day be displayed in front of captivated family audiences looking back on their holiday, or passed around school to show off that a business deal, or important meeting had taken place with the sweaty westerner. In the end we are doomed to become memes, and as Drake said my life is a meme, but so what. We have been able to see such amazing things and if the cost is to be famous for 10 minutes then I think that’s all good. Some people would give their right ball (or boob) to be in a meme so if anything we should be thankful – we are after all becoming celebrities in India with our micro-moment of fame.
While a lot of what happened was very harmless we did also have to deal with the slight underlying sexism issue that does still exist in India. On a number of occasions, I (Jim) was asked if it was okay for a photo to be taken with Rosie. It was a bit of a shock for the Indian men to be greeted with the response that if they wanted a photo with Rosie they would have to ask her.
In the end it is a compliment to be in their photos and I think for a lot of people just acts as another reminder of their time there. Selfies seem to be very popular so I think having yourself feature in images in front of monuments is the best reminder, especially if you are going to be showing them to others. A photo with someone you know in it, is usually always better, and if you are also shaking hands, or standing side by side with a weird looking foreigner then even better. Next time you are asked to be in a photo, put prejudice aside and dive headfirst into the infinite swimming pool of memes. Become celebrities in India. Throw some cool poses, and ask the name of the people you are with, get your own photo with them and start to understand why people might want you in their photograph, you’ll probably start being polite and asking people if you can have a photo of them too.