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  • Nivriti Adnani

Are Indians Immune To This Illness?

Imagine this, you go to visit a foreign country for a week and fall in love with its culture and the lifestyle of its people . So, you decide to extend your trip, return your ticket back home and give up your passport at a consulate for safekeeping. However, you are looked at with sympathy and forced to return home anyway. ‘That is insane, why would they not want tourists here? It’s such a beautiful place! ’ Well, actually, it is the “cure” for a condition termed as “India Syndrome” coined by French psychiatrist, Régis Airault, which under no circumstances, affects Indians or takes place anywhere but in India.

Airault describes India Syndrome as the delusional behaviour that “hits people from developed Western countries who are looking for a cultural space that is pure and exotic, where real values have been preserved”. Why does this syndrome only affect foreigners in India? Will it affect me in a foreign country? Why have I never heard of any cases of this syndrome? Well, it is never talked about in the Indian community because Airault says that this syndrome is not experienced by just anyone or anywhere. It is a mental illness experienced only by foreigners visiting India. “It's crucial to realise that sometimes we in India lose our minds since Indian culture is so different from our own." So, does that imply foreign culture is not as different for Indians as to cause India Syndrome but Indian culture is too different for foreigners so they experience delusions? Essentially, yes, that is exactly what Airault is saying. In most cases, it is said that the India Syndrome can be cured by simply sending the person back home, while some people become permanently delusional. They believe that they are possessed by spirits or are God incarnate. Some have even vanished and have still not reappeared, which all sounds legitimate to a point, except for the part where sending a person from one place to another can cure their mental illness.

There are consulates and embassies in India with psychiatrists who treat patients with India Syndrome with Airault's book as their only source of information. Now, I’m not saying India Syndrome does not exist; maybe it does, but the fact that Airault’s book about this syndrome, ‘Fous De L'Inde’ (Crazy About India) came out over 20 years ago and there is still no other official psychiatric report or a respectable news outlet with factual information from sources other than the book is strange, no?

The India Specific Mental Illness

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