Independence Day Special: 7 Things The West Gets Wrong About India


-DW Information

Regardless of being dwelling to 1.38 billion individuals, the typical Indian — for a lot of the West — stays a dorky, bespectacled engineer who’s gained spelling bees and speaks in an odd accent. India celebrates 75 years of independence (its 76th 12 months) from British colonial rule on August 15, 2022, and Indian expertise and tradition have swept throughout a lot of the globe — from yoga and spirituality to the CEOs of multinational companies like Google and Twitter.

But simplistic portrayals of the nation nonetheless dominate many minds in North America and Europe.

Heres 7 issues individuals usually get flawed about India:

Indians and Hindus are usually not synonymous

Beginning with the fundamentals, India is a various nation 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 keeping with the 2011 Census of India.

In India, the language and tradition can change each 50-100 kilometers, with a easy “hi there” altering from “namaste” to “sat sri akal” to “assalam alaykum” in a two-hour-long drive. Every state has its personal main languages, together with a whole lot of dialects.

Past the ‘Indian accent’

In a rustic this various, it’s not possible to have one “Indian accent” — except you”re speaking about chef Manish Mehrotra”s iconic institution that finds itself on the coveted “Asia”s 50 Finest Eating places” listing. For the uninitiated, Mehrotra’s “Indian Accent” restaurant has branches in New York, London and New Delhi that touts “international Indian meals, not Indian Indian meals” because the chef himself described it to the South China Morning Put up in 2018.

With English being the second-most broadly spoken language in India, in keeping with the 2011 Census, it’s usually used because the medium of communication between a Bengali speaker from the japanese state of West Bengal and a Malayalam speaker from the southern state of Kerala.

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon — seen here pasted against the window — was a popular character on The Simpsons

So whereas many Indians could not have a “native speaker” proficiency within the language, you’ll be able to 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 function in 2021 amid criticisms of racial stereotyping.

Not all Indians are vegetarian

The West sees India because the chief of the vegetarian motion however whereas the figures could also be greater than the remainder of the world, solely about 30% of the nation”s inhabitants identifies with this dietary desire.

Based on the Nationwide Household Well being Survey 2019-2020, near 70% of Indians devour meat or eggs in some kind, 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 setting. Lately, 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 further marks

Whereas Danny Boyle”s “Slumdog Millionaire” obtained India to the Oscars, it was at a excessive price. Poverty is 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 keeping with the World Financial institution.

The voyeuristic portrayal of their lives on the massive display screen could possibly be seen as a romanticization of poverty for a western viewers — exhibiting crowded streets, open sewers and malnourished youngsters by way of a sepia-colored lens.

Including 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.

The Indian movie trade is not simply Bollywood

“Bollywood”, or the Hindi movie trade, is usually seen as the only real consultant of Indian cinema. Lavish weddings, over-the-top dance sequences, and blinding colours reinforce cliches that grandiose units, musical numbers, and majestic gestures of romance encapsulate the essence of India.

A mural of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray as seen in Kolkata, West Bengal

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 12 months”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 the “Indian model of spirituality” for a lot of Europeans regardless of years of colonial incursions throughout the subcontinent.

Over time, this fascination has burgeoned into a world development as 1000’s of foreigners journey to holy cities like Rishikesh and Haridwar for a style of yoga and the choice medication system of Ayurveda.

A woman walks on the streets of Rishikesh, a holy town visited by the Beatles

However whereas the Beatles and the Julia Roberts movie “Eat Pray Love” could 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 common tradition.

Indian meals ≠ diarrhoea

Lastly, India”s variety is finest 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 with whole 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 could not go well with all palates, the widespread western portrayal of Indian meals as one thing that’s blindingly spicy or “all the identical” isn’t just problematic, however downright flawed.

In an more and more well-connected world, many of those stereotypes are actually being referred to as out on the web for what they are surely: antiquated. In the meantime, the worldwide group has additionally proven an growing willingness to be taught as individuals make investments extra time enhancing their intercultural information and competencies.

Supply: DW

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