What We Get Wrong About India
“India is the world’s largest democracy and many experts believe it could become the world’s next superpower. And after President Obama visited with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015, it looks as though India and America could be at the start of a new beneficial chapter in their relationship.
As the two nations get closer, it does make me wonder how much do we really know about India and what do we get wrong?
Officially, there are 20 other recognized languages, including Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil and Urdu. And it’s estimated that there are hundreds of other languages and dialects spoken in India — making it one of the most linguistically diverse nations in the world.
And diversity is not just limited to language.
Hindu’s are the predominant religion in India but minorities like Muslims, Sikhs and Christians also have large populations.
Diversity can also be found in India’s cuisine. Now a common assumption is that Indian food is very spicy and that all dishes fall into the category of ‘curry’. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The variety of food in India is overwhelming.
In Punjab, non-vegetarian tandoori dishes are a specialty among others while in Kerala, the focus is on fish and vegetarian dishes like idli or dosas. Indian cooking by all accounts does not shy away from using spices but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has a lot of chili – although I personally love it.
Now , many people also have this perception that India is full of snake charmers and religious gurus. It’s also common assumption that every Indian person is fantastic at IT. While it is true that all these stereotypes do exist and the nation does have a booming tech industry, almost 50 percent of India’s 487 million laborers are actually employed in the agricultural, dairy and horticultural industries.
What about what people wear? Many foreigners who arrive in India are surprised that not every woman wears a sari and not every man wears a turban. That’s true to some extent, but working women in cities like Delhi also tend to mix up traditional dress with western clothing.
Arranged marriages are still common in India but it has changed with the times. These days a couple are usually involved romantically first and will then go through the rituals associated with arranging a marriage when they decide to wed — these marriages are sometimes called ‘love-arranged marriages.’
Movies have a lot to answer for when it comes to misinformation about India. Life is not like a Bollywood fil, where people burst into song — although that would be amazing — nor is it like Slumdog Millionaire. According to a 2011 census, 70% of people in India actually live in rural areas — which makes sense given the amount of people employed in agriculture. But there is some truth to slumdog, in large cities like Delhi, one in six residents live in an urban slum. You can find out more about what life is really like in Delhi by watching this amazing video that Lissette did.”