Regardless of being residence to 1.4 billion individuals, the typical Indian — for a lot of the West — stays a dorky, bespectacled engineer who wins spelling bees and speaks in an odd accent.
India celebrates 75 years of independence from British colonial rule on August 15, and Indian expertise and tradition have swept throughout a lot of the globe — from yoga and spirituality to the CEOs of multinational firms like Google and Twitter.
But simplistic portrayals of the nation nonetheless dominate many minds in North America and Europe.
Right here’s what individuals typically get incorrect about India:
Indians should not synonymous with Hindus
Beginning with the fundamentals, India is a diverse country with a number of main religions, together with — however not restricted to — Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. About 2.9 million individuals additionally determine as atheists, in response to the 2011 census of India.
In India, the language and tradition can change each 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles), with a easy “hi there” altering from “namaste” to “sat sri akal” to “assalam alaykum” over a two-hour drive. Every state has its personal major languages, together with a whole lot of dialects.
Past the ‘Indian accent’
In a rustic this numerous, it’s inconceivable to have a single “Indian accent” — except you are speaking about chef Manish Mehrotra’s iconic institution that finds itself on the coveted “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” record.
For the uninitiated, Mehrotra’s Indian Accent restaurant has branches in New York, London and New Delhi, and touts “international Indian meals, not Indian Indian meals,” because the chef himself described it to the South China Morning Submit in 2018.
With English being the second-most extensively spoken language in India, in response to the 2011 census, it’s typically used, for instance, because the medium of communication between a Bengali speaker from the jap state of West Bengal and a Malayalam speaker from the southern state of Kerala.
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon — seen right here in opposition to the window — was a well-liked character on the long-running cartoon ‘The Simpsons’
So whereas many Indians might not have “native speaker” proficiency within the language, you possibly can think about their horror when confronted with the “Apu accent” from “The Simpsons.” US actor Hank Azaria, who had voiced Apu for the reason that present began in 1989, apologized “to each single Indian particular person” and stepped down from his position in 2021 amid criticisms of racial stereotyping.
Not all Indians are vegetarian
The West sees India because the chief of the vegetarian motion. But whereas the proportion of vegetarians could also be greater there than in the remainder of the world, solely about 30% of the nation’s inhabitants identifies with this dietary choice.
Based on the 2019-2020 Nationwide Household Well being Survey, near 70% of Indians devour meat or eggs in some type, and about 7% eat beef.
The final determine, nonetheless, could also be underreported due to the cultural and political implications of acknowledging this in a extremely charged surroundings. In recent times, there was a crackdown on the consumption of beef within the Hindu-majority nation, the place the cow is taken into account sacred.
Poverty porn won’t get you additional marks
Whereas Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” obtained India to the Oscars, this got here at a excessive cultural price. Poverty is certainly the on a regular basis actuality of a majority of Indians, with almost 60% of the nation’s inhabitants residing on lower than $3.10 a day, in response to the World Financial institution.
However the voyeuristic portrayal of their lives on the massive display might be seen as a romanticization of poverty for Western audiences — exhibiting crowded streets, open sewers and malnourished kids via a sepia-colored lens.
Including to the “white savior advanced” to “assist” the poor Indians overcome their destiny — like within the Jon Hamm-starrer “Million Greenback Arm,” or Patrick Swayze’s “Metropolis of Pleasure” — solely takes away the locals’ autonomy, argue some.
The Indian movie business is not simply Bollywood
“Bollywood,” or the Hindi movie business, is commonly seen as the only consultant of Indian cinema. Lavish weddings, over-the-top dance sequences, and flashy colours reinforce cliches that grandiose units, musical numbers, and majestic gestures of romance encapsulate the essence of India.
However India produces movies in a number of languages, with a few of its greatest gems made in regional languages. From Satyajit Ray’s 1955 Bengali-language movie “Pather Panchali” to this yr’s Telugu-language epic drama “RRR,” which collected $90 million within the first week of its launch, it’s clear that the Indian cinematic universe is huge and rising.
India will not be your land of self-discovery
Hermann Hesse’s iconic 1922 novel “Siddhartha” was an early introduction to Indian spirituality for a lot of Europeans regardless of years of colonial incursions throughout the subcontinent.
Over time, this fascination has burgeoned into a global development and hundreds of foreigners journey to holy cities like Rishikesh and Haridwar for a style of yoga and the choice medication system of Ayurveda.
A girl walks on the streets of Rishikesh, a holy city visited by the Beatles, who’re portrayed on a mural behind her
However whereas the Beatles and the Julia Roberts movie “Eat Pray Love” might lead some to imagine they’ll obtain nirvana within the streets of India, many residents shun the overtly mystical and superstition-laden picture peddled in in style tradition.
Indian meals ≠ diarrhea
Lastly, India’s variety is greatest portrayed in its meals, restricted to only curry. Shifting past the “hen tikka masala” and “naan bread” — which by the way in which interprets to “bread bread” — the nation has a gastronomical map that may compete withentire continents.
From Kashmir’s multi-course wazwan, Bihar’s litti chokha, and Goa’s pork vindaloo, to Manipur’s Kangshoi, Rajasthan’s laal maas, and Karnataka’s pandi curry, itemizing Indian delicacies would require reams of paper.
Whereas the usage of spices might not go well with all palates, the frequent western portrayal of Indian meals as one thing that’s blindingly spicy or “all the identical” isn’t just problematic, however downright incorrect.
In an more and more well-connected world, many of those stereotypes at the moment are being known as out on the web for what they are surely: antiquated. In the meantime, the worldwide neighborhood has additionally proven an rising willingness to study, as individuals make investments extra time bettering their intercultural information and competencies.
Edited by: Brenda Asirvadappan