My employers told me that it’s okay if I could not come up with ten points for this list and I was like *What? What are you talking about? I can come up with twenty! We Indians are a talented bunch* There is so much that we are good at, so many qualities and vices in our population. I’ve added both good and bad points in this list. While I haven’t put down twenty points, I have added one extra for good luck (Truly Indian ishtyle)
11- Extravagant weddings
Nobody does it better than us Indians. Forget quiet dinners, forget sophisticated toasts. We have bands, baajas, baarats and barrel-loads of fun. India is famous all over the world for the ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding.’ Various Hollywood celebrities have come to India only to get married. This list includes the likes of Elizabeth Hurley, Katy Perry and Heidi Klum. Kavita Daswani puts it all very aptly in her book ‘For Matrimonial Purposes’ when she said that in India, the marriage is secondary, everybody cares about the wedding. And you can’t really blame them, can you? Weddings are, after all, a gala affair in our country. And it is not just about the wedding itself, it is also about the various functions that come after and before the wedding- the sangeet, the cocktails night, the mehendi, the reception, the other small ceremonies. All of these come together to make an Indian wedding a truly enjoyable affair. ‘The Big Fat Indian Wedding’ if it is to be successful, must include expensive jewellery, good food, drinks, aunties showing off their shiny saris and hundreds of guests! (a couple of politicians or Bollywood celebrities should be thrown in for good measure) Nowadays, people have taken the already grand celebrations one step further- destination weddings. Rajasthan and Goa remain the most popular wedding destinations.
10- Rash Driving
I have seen innumerable examples of NRIs coming back and criticizing the road sense of Indians. Annoying though they are, I cannot really blame them. Indians seem to have cultivated a complete disregard for traffic rules. Rash driving is the norm of the day. Helmets are rare and drivers wearing seat belts are rarer. The lack of traffic policemen, faulty architectural road planning and very little fear of fines- all seem to contribute to this rash driving. Road accidents are on a rise and road rage is commonplace. Our newspapers are full of articles about underage drivers involved in accidents. It is indeed a sad state of affairs.
India is a goldmine of traditional arts. They are literally too many to name. Our rich culture, years of accumulate knowledge and talented craftsmen- there is no match for them, Be it painting, embroidery, jewellery making, woodwork or anything else, we have mastered it all. Be it the phulkari of Punjab or the chikan work of Lucknow, the embroidery done in India is beautiful. And the same is true for paintings as well – the madhubani paintings or the works done in kalamkari- all are gorgeous. Some more examples of traditional arts include the zardozi, theva, warli, mirror work, tye and dye, leheriya, blue pottery, ikat, patola, walnut wood carving, bell metal craft, Tanjore paintings etc. The varied traditional arts of India are a part of our heritage.
8- Name Dropping
Admit it, you have done it too. We all do it at some point or the other. We love dropping names to make ourselves seem important. At parties, social gatherings, family functions, kitties, clubs. How many times have you heard sentences like “I only got this done because my husband knows so and so important person” or “I am having xyz very important person over for dinner tomorrow”? A lot many times, I can bet. I have even experienced young schoolchildren doing it, let alone adults. We all like to bask in the reflected glory of the rich, the famous, the powerful. Besides, it is helpful is certain situations- like at getting work done in snail-paced government offices or sometimes even job interviews. Heck! We do it even without any conceivable reason, but only because we can. Maybe showing off is ingrained in us.
7- Killing off our daughters
It pains me to write this here but it is the bitter truth. In our country, the patriarchal mindset has ensured that daughters are killed off without any remorse so the family can try for a son who will carry on the family name. *Who wants daughters anyway? They are a burden. You pay to feed them and clothe them and then pay dowry to marry them off. Unnecessary expense*- this seems to be the attitude of most people in our country. Even when they are allowed to live, girls almost always occupy a secondary position in the family hierarchy- never equal to the boy. The sex ratio is skewed, female infanticide is on the rise, abortion of female foetus’ is common and the mindset hasn’t changed very little in the past few decades. We still view our daughters as a burden. A 2011 report states that India has lost 3 million girls in infanticide. Three million. If that figure does not send a chill down your spine, I don’t know what will. While it is true that female infanticide is practiced most widely in the rural parts of our country, it is also true that the so-called urban, ‘modern minded’ people practice it too. Illegal sex change operation centers have sprung up like mushrooms in our country. Girls, when they are allowed to be born, are killed off in two or three days. It is appalling, it is shocking and it is saddening. I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country where girls are killed rampantly and remorselessly
We belong to the land where the philosophy of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ or ‘The Guest is God’ reigns supreme. No meal is considered complete until the guest of honour has been forced to take third and fourth helpings of every dish. We gladly give up our own room so that the guest can sleep in peace. We load visitors with offers of cold drinks and refreshments. If guests are staying over, we become their personal chauffeurs, cooks and guides. We are a loving people and we know how to shower this love on our guests. Truly, hospitality is something we excel at.
Certain Western scholars might disagree with us, but we know better. Don’t we? We know it was Aryabhatt who discovered ‘zero’. Discovered it as early as in 498 AD. The whole world agrees that when it comes to mathematics, Indians have a certain knack for it (I must an exception then, since I can’t calculate to save my life). The oldest known use of the decimal system was found in a Jain text in India. Some of the greatest mathematicians the world has ever seen belonged to our country. Think Aryabhatt, Brahmagupt, Ramanujan, Shakuntala Devi etc to know what I am talking about. Maybe it has something to do with our ancestry, our genes, our rigorous school system, who knows? The bottom-line is that we are awesome when it comes to geometry, algebra and all those calculations.
Nobody does this better than us. I mean nobody. We love penny pinching, we love the high we get after we manage to buy a top that costs 200 for 150 bucks only. We cannot get to a place unless we haggle with the rickshaw-wala over the ‘exorbitant’ fare he demands (Thirty rupees to get to the metro? Rehne do bhaiyya. I go in fifteen everyday) We cannot buy vegetables until the greengrocer doesn’t agree to knock off three rupees from the kilogram of potatoes (Loot macha rakhi hai!) We are really really really good when it comes to bargaining. It may be that local businesses that thrive in India allow us to do it, or that street shopping markets are everywhere (Be it sarojini nagar in Delhi or fashion street in Mumbai), the fact remains that we cannot buy things unless we bargain a bit for them.
There is no one equivalent word for ‘jugaad’ in the entire vocabulary of English language. Maybe that is because it is something only Indians excel at. The Wikipedia article on ‘jugaad’ describes it as ‘a creative or innovative idea providing a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing problems.’ This seems to be as good a definition as any to explain what jugaad means to all you unaware people out there. We do it almost unthinkingly- use jugaad to find our way around difficult situations. Can’t get work done at a government office? Contact a relative who knows a person whose friend is a cousin of the head of that particular department. Simple. Don’t know the answer to question number three in the test? Use sign language to ask the topper sitting across the room. From the simplest to the most complicated of tasks, we know how to work things around to our convenience.
2- Criticizing the Government
I’m not saying this is something exclusively Indian. I’m sure people all over the world do it. All I am saying is that we Indians seem particularly adept at it. We criticize our leaders, our ministers, the way things are done, the corruption in the system, the nepotism, the everything (with a good reason too) and yet we do very little to change all of that. Except making inspiring ad campaigns, that is. Just look at the number of jokes on Dr. Manmohan Singh or Mayawati on the internet and you will know what I am talking about. But then again, with things like the porngate scandal in the parliament, I guess we have every right to criticize. With the recent advent in social media, criticism of the government has become more and more open. Political parties, of course, leave no stone unturned to target the common man who dares to raise his voice against government malpractices and exercises his right to free speech.
1- Hurting the Religious Sentiments
*sigh* I’m sure I’m hurting the religious sentiments of thousands of people just by writing this. We are a very sensitive race, are we not? And very religious too. Almost everything seems to hurt the religious sentiments of one religious sect or the other. Certain nudes done by the great Mr. M F Husain hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. Dhoni hurt them again when he posed as Lord Vishnu for an ad campaign. The religious sentiments of Christians were hurt when upcoming actress Kavitta Verma posed wearing a rosary. The religious sentiments of Muslims in India were hurt by Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’. Ajay Devgan’s ‘Son of Sardaar’ hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikhs. Hindu religious sentiments were hurt by actress Khushboo’s comments upon virginity. The religious sentiments of Christians were hurt by the portrayal of priests in the movie ‘Kya Super Kool Hain Hum.’ I could go on and on and on. Exercising one’s right of freedom of speech and expression is almost impossible in our country where court cases are filed and fatwas are issued at the drop of a hat.