No one is India

In the past year I have had many an opportunity to interact with individuals from across the globe – Australians, Europeans, Asians and almost all the dinner table conversations involved references to each one’s culture, country, so on and so forth. Given the global village we live in I would imagine that the horizon of one’s world view would have extended. On the contrary I was met with huge disappointment.

I had to grapple with extremely lop sided opinions of what the Indian sub continent was all about. I was surprised to find references being made to Bollywood as something comical with stars running around trees. Most Indians are vegetarians and don’t consume alcohol. That naan, butter chicken and other tandoori fare are staple Indian food. That our English isn’t all that good after all. That we are loud and crass and that India is a poorly developed third world nation. That bhangra music is Indian music. Well while I’m not out here to refute any of these facts and nor am I intending to parade my patriotism, but I sincerely feel that these views are askew and reflect a very narrow perception of the sub continent. While it could be applicable to a certain portion of the pie it doesn’t necessarily have to extend to the whole circumference.

And when I meet these opinions I am at crossroads because I wonder how I can correct these conceptions or should I say misconceptions and just land up responding “Well it’s not like that. And that’s not reflective of the whole.” I guess the whole is more than just the sum of the parts. I don’t blame them for what they feel or know because they have probably experienced just a very thin slice of the Indian Diaspora. Most of the views are due to what the media promotes and the small percentage of Indians they may have interacted with. At this point I would like to stress that Indians born and brought up in the US of A, UK, Singapore, Australia are for all practical reasons more American, British, Singaporean and Australian with just a delectable amount of Indianess. They however cannot be representative of India as a whole. For that matter no Indian can be representative of India as a whole. That’s because we as a Nation, we as a people are as varied as can be. Different colours, cuisines, dress, languages, music, dance, lifestyle, film, religion and food habits and I guess the differences permeate every aspect of life. So to all those who say that

a. Bollywood is of running around trees- please watch Rang De Basanti, Page 3, Corporate and many other Indian films that I can list out

b. Indians are vegetarians and don’t consume alcohol- not anymore. The upper urban class youth hit the pubs like its going out of style and relish seafood, meat, poultry just as much.

c. Naan, butter chicken and the other tandoori fare are staple Indian food- that’s the staple Indian restaurant fare abroad. There is the spicy Andhra Cuisine, coconut based Kerala cuisine, lip smacking Gujarati cuisine and many many more. Our staple food is simple.

d. That our English isn’t all that good after all- Most of us talk with a neutral accent and most young couples converse in English and are not confined to their mother tongue.

e. That we are loud and crass and that India is a poorly developed third world nation- we can mind our P’s and Q’s as well as anyone else. To quote from wikipedia “With a GDP growth rate of 9.4% in 2006-07, the Indian economy is among the fastest growing in the world.[87] India’s GDP in terms of USD exchange-rate is US$1.125 trillion, which makes it the twelfth largest economy in the world.[

f. Bhangra music is Indian music – It is! But so are the lilting notes of Pandit Ravi Shankar.

No one is India- E M Forster




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