Outsourcing in Reverse: Cheerleaders in India

So there is something of a divide on the streets about whether Indian women should embrace an American form of entertainment that has spawned a multi-billion dollar swimsuit calendar industry.

"The dresses which the cheerleaders wear, that does not define our tradition," says Alan Shikoli, a local businessman. "And it's not good for our country."

Around the corner, 18-year-old Anargha Krishnatas walks with her two friends, dressed in a tight tanktop and black jeans. "We'd like to join!" she exclaims when asked about the Indian cheerleading squad. She grew up, she says, watching American music videos. "Whenever we see those American channels, we see those girls dancing — oh we want to do that."

But to portray the divide as one between two generations or two sexes is over simplistic. In conversations with a dozen young Indians in Bangalore, it's clear that they want the entertainment and the liberalization that comes with greater wealth and greater exposure to the west. They also want to maintain their own culture.

"America is kind of spreading all over the world. Everything is getting Americanized. I'm not exactly wearing a dhoti and kurta. I'm wearing jeans and a T-shirt," says 19-year-old Kirit Chatterjee, dressed in Levi's and a yellow striped shirt. He and his girlfriend walk, holding hands, toward a bowling alley. "Everything is getting more Americanized."

But asked if he thinks it's a good thing, he thinks, then shakes his head. "I don't want to appear biased or anything, but I like my country as it is."

Walk down Brigade Road in Bangalore and you'll see the balance India is striking between Western influence and tradition. Twenty-something women walk in groups, shopping, wearing sleeveless shirts. Women wearing saris walk past them. Levi's and Adidas stores line the street. There are pubs all around, but the local government has banned dancing because it was deemed too licentious.

At the game, where tickets were subsidized and went for as low as $2.50 each, the 42,000 fans were in some sense no different than those that fill the Washington Redskins' Fawcett Stadium. They did the wave, they fought in the seats, they drank beer. Lots of it. And they ogled the cheerleaders.

"The Cheerleaders? Oh, they are hot, they are rocking. I want their numbers. Can you do that for me?" quips 21-year-old Goney Kakwani. He and his friends have imitated, screamed at and pretty much stared at the cheerleaders all night. Dozens of empty beer cups sit at their feet.

But challenged as to whether he would want to see Indian cheerleaders dressing like the American cheerleaders, dancing like the American cheerleaders, he sobers up a bit.

"Indians should be Indians. Indian beauty is like — they wear beautiful clothes. They can wear their clothes. They don't have to wear anybody else's clothes."

The Redskins cheerleaders think their Indian counterparts will do just fine, and will be embraced while maintaining their own traditions.

"They're going to bring their own flavor. They're going to have their own kind of dancing," says 29-year-old Klohver Tynes, a lawyer and first-year Redskins cheerleader. "They're going to fit the culture of India. And they're going to do it their own way."

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