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Sim Sim Salabim

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Just an average day in India...

India is a mystical place with fakirs, rajahs, turbans, snake charmers (and other slightly demented street performers), the Ganges and Gandhi. It's also full of temples overgrown with humid jungle and occasionally home to an evil cult, elephants and tigers. Snakes are everywhere, so it's a good idea to have a cute and heroic mongoose with you to take them on.

At least, that's what fiction tells us. Often, this trope goes hand-in-hand with a case of Mistaken Nationality and Interchangeable Asian Cultures, as India for some reason suddenly takes on Arab and Persian characteristics in some American films. In some older Hollywood movies, it's not uncommon to see Aladdin and Geniesnote  tossed together with Hindu deities. To be fair, this is Truth in Television to an extent as India has a large Muslim population (13.4%, according to The Other Wiki) and was ruled by Islamic kingdoms for century-spanning portions of its history, such as the Mughal Empirenote  so it's certainly been more influenced by the Middle East than most Western countries have been. Also, the languages of northern India are mostly Indo-Aryan, making them distantly related to Persian and — even more distantly — to English (That's where the term "Indo-European" languages comes from of which Indo-Aryan is a subset just like Germanic).


Becoming a bit of a Discredited Trope these days, at least in Europe and North America, where there have been significant pushes for more accurate portrayals of foreign cultures, and a notable percentage of the population can and will call works set in India out on any inaccuracies. Of course, even Bollywood itself would release several films set in the Mughal Empire, leading to further confusion to an already confusing mix.

The phrase "Sim sim salabim" itself is an old stock magician's phrase like abracadabra or hocus pocus, and originally derived from Scatting within a Danish or German (whichever came first) children's song titled Højt på en gren en krage (sad), "High on a branch a crow (sat)", or Auf einem Baum ein Kuckuck (saß), "Upon a tree a cuckoo (sat)". Either way, the original phrase in the song is Sim salabim bumba saladu saladim.


See Stereotypical South Asian English, and Countrystan, which is Fictional Country north and west of India, with a similar Muslim influence with a touch of Ruritania.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kushan in Berserk, with some "Arabian Nights" Days and The Empire thrown in, and fakirs able to turn animals into monstrous humanoid soldiers. This mix-up is not as outrageous as it may sound, as it's a fictional universe with fictional states that only loosely correspond with a number of characteristics of some real-life civilisations which holds also true to the Midland which is an amalgamation of western European countries.
  • While his country is unnamed, Shuraiya from Shugo Chara!, and his followers, are extemely stereotypically Indian.
  • Kaolla Su and her family in Love Hina feature some Indian stereotypes, although the manga establishes their homeland, the island kingdom of Molmol, as being in the South Pacific.
  • As it does with every other racial stereotype in the book, Mobile Fighter G Gundam plays this to maximum effect with Neo India's Cobra Gundam, piloted by a hypnotist/snake-charmer. Who also has a giant cobra as a pet.
  • In Eyeshield 21 the World Cup arc has this in, of course, Team India. They all wear turbans, one of the players is a snake charmer, and their coach has a very thick beard.
  • Actually averted in Legend of Heavenly Sphere Shurato. While the Tenkuukai is modelled after the Hindu beliefs and myths, the series avoids using stereotypes linked to Indian people.

    Comic Books 
  • The Indian state of Gaipajama (with town names like Sethru and Jamjah) in the Tintin book Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh.
  • Asterix visits this version of India in Asterix and the Magic Carpet.
  • Omar, one of the Escapist's friends and allies in The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist. Though he's from a fictional North African country and has an Arab name, he also has Indian facial features, vague magic powers, and a Sikh turban. This is totally intentional, given that the Escapist is a superhero with a fake history stretching back to the 1940s.
  • Lextropur in the Nick Knatterton adventure of The Indian Diamond Suitcase.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2019 live action remake of Disney's Aladdin has incorporated Bollywood elements in an otherwise vaguely Arab-set Agrabah.
  • India as seen in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, although being set in one of the princely states (ruled by princes of India that co-operated with the British in exchange for pretty much free rein), the whole 'very backwards' thing is justified. A stereotypical Indian wise man even shows up in Egypt in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Jumanji's world inside the gameboard seemed to be a Flanderized mix of this and Darkest Africa.
  • The James Bond film Octopussy takes us to a very trope-laden India. Snake charmers, sword swallowers, fire breathers, fire walkers, beds of nails... the lot.
  • Ricky Gervais's character in Ghost Town seems to follow this mentality when asking fellow dentist Dr. Prashar for advice:
    Bertram Pincus: Dr. Prashar - you're from a... scary country, right?
    Dr. Prashar: I'm from India...
    Bertram Pincus: But, you're not... Christian, like us?
    Dr. Prashar: I'm a Hindu...
    Bertram Pincus: Yeah. So, um, how would you extract information from a hostile?
    Dr. Prashar: Well... as a... Hindu person... I would just... ask him... politely...
  • The country of the "Easterners" of Help!
  • The Jackie Chan movie movie Kung Fu Yoga, despite being hyped up as a joint production between Indian and Chinese studios, ends up overdoing this trope that it makes the James Bond movie tame in comparison. Probably why the movie became a hit in China and flopped badly in India.

  • Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books and their various adaptations. Kipling's Jungle Book story "Rikki-Tikki Tavi" is the origin of the cute and heroic mongoose trope.
    • "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" in all likelihood is itself based on the Panchatantra "The Faithful Mongoose", as was a Sindibad tale (where a weasel was substituted for the mongoose). Kipling was pretty cognizant of Muslim and Hindu folktales since childhood.
    • Kim can't be left out; it may be the best example of this being a cross section of India during The Raj.
  • Cleverly subverted by Barbara Cleverly in The Last Kashmiri Rose (2001) - as there is no modern interest to display Colonial India as a Disneyfied place of superstitious natives ruled by brave colonial administrators and turbaned rifle-armed Martial Race troopers, she could freely display the vices of the system: idleness, drunkenness, exploitation of cheap labor (even poor Brits could afford Indian servants), incompetence...
  • The fictional Indian city of Hara in Robin Jarvis' Deptford Histories book Thomas, populated by Talking Animals. There are temples, a humid jungle, elephants, and anthropomorphic mongoose warriors battling against an evil snake cult.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Outsourced - Right outside the office you see the street has some sort of Middle Eastern looking drapes hanging in the middle of the road.
  • The Far Pavilions - the 1984 TV series and the 1978 novel on which it had been based - has them all: snakes as murder weapons, cruel and superstitious natives, sati, characters Raised by Natives, the might of The Raj putting things back in order and so on.
  • Goodness Gracious Me, where the British-Asian cast subverted this trope with a recurring gag about a naive group of Indian and Pakistani students opting to spend their gap year seeking enlightenment in faraway backward Third World Britain. They encounter all the typical British tropes turned Up to Eleven, for instance a cockney Pearly King, and deal with them in the same language and manner that British people used to describe quaint things and people they met in India.

  • Invoked in tool's song "Die Eier von Satan". The song is a joke revolving around a cookie recipe, with the last steps before baking being to roll the cookies in powdered sugar then speak the magic words "Sim salabim bumba saladu saladim".

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The Great Khali. Tigers, sitars, Bollywood dancing, the Mowgli haircut - over his career, his WWE iconography has had it all.

  • Parodied in Bleak Expectations when Gently Benevolent poses as an Indian dignitary with an over-the-top accent and a number of stereotypical catchphrases, along with a huge turban set with a jewel that definitely isn't sucking anybody's soul out. He's quite offended when Pip says that his costume and accent were racist.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer: The Kingdoms of Ind, in the far southeast of the Old World, are a fractious land of small kingdoms, deep jungles and many strange gods, a haven for spice traders and home to many elephants and to tribes of tiger-headed beastmen, in contrast to the goat- and sheep-headed varieties prevalent in the western lands.
  • Averted in Magic: The Gathering with the plane of Kaladesh, where the designers deliberately set out to avoid cliche portrayals of "Indian Fantasy". Whilst the Indian aspects of the setting (beyond the apparent ethnicity of the human population) are comparatively subtle, Kaladesh being defined primarily as the "Optimistic, Spiritual Dungeonpunk Plane", they avoid the cliches like turbans, snake charmers and fakirs. Instead, the most prominent pseudo-Indian elements are the plane's high level of technological advancement and its equally strong spirituality, which means it strives to balance nature and technology for the greater good of humanoids and the wild — this calls to mind India's rich environment, its deep faith, and its status as one of the world's technological powerhouses.

    Video Games 
  • Punch-Out!! has Great Tiger, a "boxer" who fights with attacks like teleporting and illusions. Partially justified, as Great Tiger is also performs magic for show, and he presumably plays up some of the stereotypes as part of his image.
  • Street Fighter has Dhalsim, who wears a skull necklace (probably a reference to Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction) and uses attacks with names like "Yoga Fire". Later story developments give a more down-to-earth story to Dhalsim's skulls: they are the skulls of little children who died of a disease in his home village, thus they're Tragic Keepsakes.
  • World of Warcraft: In the World's End Tavern in Shattrath's Lower City, there's an NPC with this as its name.
  • The "Maharajah" level in Quackshot features, among other things, a fire-breathing tiger.
  • Diddy Kong Racing has Taj the Blue Elephant Genie, with his trademark stereotypical Indian accent.
  • The skin and song "Whoop-de-doo" in Lumines has this as a motif. The song is comprised entirely of traditional Indian instruments and vocal samples, the blocks take the appearance of stones encrusted with pink and green gems, the background is an elaborate doorway leading out into a partially cloudy sunset, and the cursor is a multifoil curtained arch. When played against the AI with this skin, the AI character is an androgynous person whose appearance is inspired by Indian folklorical tapestries.
  • The Pokémon Medicham plays up aspects of this trope, particularly the pink legs resembling bedlah pants. When it Mega Evolves, it's played up further, as it appears to wear a turban with a big jewel on the front, golden armlets, and teardrop-shaed crystals dangling from the top of said "pants."
  • EarthBound has Dalaam, a vaguely Indian place existing on a Floating Continent. The mystical training that Prince Poo receives there has strong overtones of Buddhism.

    Western Animation 
  • Jonny Quest: For our purposes the original 1964-1965 series is the Trope Namer, if not maker. "Sim sim salabim" are the magic words used by Hadji, who grew up in a version of this India. He could control snakes by playing his flute, had fakir style powers such as levitation, and incredible skill at hypnotizing others. Amusingly, when he said the words in "Calcutta Adventure" he added "and all that jazz", suggesting the words did not have any real power and he was just using them for show.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures also gave Hadji some quite sleazy hacker skills; though this was meant to subvert this stereotype, little did they know that hacker skills would make him even more of a stereotypical Indian, now that India is a big software development superpower in reality.
  • Somewhat averted in a Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? episode, in which Carmen is plotting to make her own dinosaur. Zack and Ivy land in a boat of Indian spices, discover Carmen stealing the Taj Hall, and have to deal with a merchant to get a Carmen clue. (The Taj Hall is the Indian version of Carnegie Hall, by the way. It's often confused with the Taj Mahal, but they have little in common.)
  • Played straight in Batman: Gotham Knight, complete with mongoose and cobra action. The plot of the short is that Bruce goes to India to get lessons from a fakir on managing pain.
  • Invoked in an episode of Family Guy, parodying "random selection" for "further screening" at airports:
    Stewie: "Jonny Quest"... okay, welcome aboard. "Doctor Benton Quest" ... alright, have a good flight. "Hadji" ... hmm, uh, listen, you've been randomly selected for additional screening.
    Hadji: But you didn't even type anything in!
    Stewie: Look, if it were up to me, you'd be right there on that flight, but ... uh, I'm going to need you to take off your shoes, and that lovely, uh, hat.
    Hadji: Sim sim salabim!
    Stewie: Yeah, I'd cut back on that.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Shows up in an old episode, where Homer and Apu travel to India to visit the Kwik-E-Mart HQ.
    • And again in the later episode "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore", where Mr Burns sends Homer to supervise a new nuclear power plant in India. While Homer has a very stereotypical image of the country, the Indian workers are revealed to be just playing along with it because he offers very advantageous working conditions - even better than the ones he had himself back in Springfield, in fact. Burns is not amused.

    Real Life 
  • Subverted in a comic strip story drawn by Sergio Aragonés about his trip to India. He took a flight and found that a large group of Hare Krishnas, an ostensibly Indian religion, were on the same trip, thankfully in a different section of the plane. As he saw the group disembark and chanting noisily as they marched, Sergio noticed that the native Indians were gawking and laughing their heads off at this ridiculous bunch of Westerners that had arrived.


Video Example(s):


Great Tiger intro

Perfectly normal guy in a turban meditating on a cloud.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SimSimSalabim

Media sources:

Main / SimSimSalabim