One of the most fascinating books on India is the work Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies by that Christian bigot Abbe Dubois, who traveled widely in South India in the late 18th century and early 19th century.
A resident of India from 1792-1823, Duboi, a French man, had the opportunity to observe the customs and practices of Hindus, particularly the Brahmin community.
After observing Indians at close quarters for over three decades, Dubois contrasted the licentious habits of Hindu men with the chastity of the Hindu women in his book:
Whatever may be said to the contrary, Hindu women are naturally chaste….I would even go so far as to say that Hindu women are more virtuous than the women of many other more civilized countries. Their temperament is outwardly calm and equable, and though a passionate fire may smoulder underneath, without the igniting spark it will remain quiescent. (Part 2 Ch 12 P.313-314)
But having given the Hindu women the highest compliments, Dubois confesses his inability to explain the reasons for their chastity:
Is this dormant coldness of disposition to be attributed to the secluded way in which they are brought up, or to the reserved demeanour that is taught them from infancy, or to the unbridgeable gulf that is fixed between them and their male relatives, with whom the least familiarity is not permissible; or, what is not very likely, can it be put down to climatic influence? I cannot say. (Part 2 Ch 12 P.313-314)
While their women get his praise, the morality of Brahmin men receives a severe lashing from Dubois’ trenchant pen.
Source: Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies by Abbe Dubois
(New York: Cosimo Books, 2007)
Morality, Culture and things like that change every few years and differs significantly across regions, religions, race, generations and so on. I am not sure how relevant his “observations” are in the current context.
Talking of changing values, here is a clip that always amuses me. It is Kamal Haasan venting with sarcasm on the problems around the name “Virumaandi”. I am referring to the first half of the clip.
India, and particularly, Tamil Nadu, is complex territory. In contrast, the U.S. is so homogeneous.