What is an Indian (part 2)?

Hi Everyone

In my previous article I wrote about what an Indian is, based on my experience living in India for more than 14 months now. In that article, I wrote about how Indians are in an international perspective. In this follow-up article, I will write more about what that characterizes the local people I have meet her in India. As I wrote in my previous article, I do not mean to harm anyone, I have no formal background for making the observations the way I do, and everything I write here is based on my everyday experiences.

Let me first quickly point back to one post that I wrote during the summer. Yesterday I discussed this with my Norwegian neighbor and a Norwegian visitor also. In India, at least it seems like; most people are Indians, while in Norway the visibility of people from other countries/regions is much clearer. With almost 1.5 billion people in India, you might ask if there is really room for anyone from outside. Well, that’s a good question. Let me also quickly point out that I do think that the presence of foreigners is much bigger in other areas than Mumbai. For example in West Bengal, where Kolkata is the main city, it is a huge population of people from Bangladesh.

So, back to the main question. How is “an average Indian like”? If you ask Indians themselves, which I to some extend have done, they will say that there are huge differences depending on where in India you are from. As a foreigner I can agree on that, but still, I do think that it is possible to find some equality here. Most Indians are quite spiritual. They do believe in their religion, and this affects their everyday life and behavior. On the surface it is maybe not that easy to observe, but if you look a bit deeper that is absolutely possible to see. The idea about karma is absolutely important here. How you act decides your fate. And as Indians believe in reincarnation it decides your fate not just in this life, but also in your next life and in generations to come. Based on this, it is easy to say that most Indians are quite friendly. They don’t like to hurt anybody. If you can avoid conflicts, that is a good thing to do. I have seen this again and again. Instead of making some big arguing, people kind of agree that they do not agree, and just leave eventual problems unsolved. Instead of starting to fight, you like to be in peace and not take the risk of harming yourself or eventually harming others. As a foreigner this is off course mostly nice. Most Indians are very friendly people, and easy to go along with. But this idea of avoiding confrontation off course sometimes also generates problems. Particularly if things are delayed or things like that. Instead of telling that something is delayed, the Indian will probably just not say anything. If they say that something is delay, you might get frustrated, and then the conflict can occur. If they don’t say anything, then you cannot be unhappy, so no conflict can occur. Well, I can off course understand that logic, but for me as a western, it is sometimes really frustrating. I would rather like people to tell me that something’s are delayed then have to sit and wait for hours. The trick here is to ask. And make sure you ask the questions in such a way that it kind of “forces” a proper response.

I do also feel that Indians are kind of traditional. Yes, there is a huge western influence here, which off course increases with the huge presence of Indians abroad, like I wrote in my previous post. But still I feel like they really like to stick to their habits. Food is one quite clear example on that. In my opinion, most Indians are not really keen on experiment with different kind of foods. When I first time went to south India, my colleagues up north told me that the food would be so different. Well, to me, it tasted almost the same. And as a Norwegian, I’m quite used to Italian, American and Japanese food.  And the differences there are absolutely much bigger than the differences between northern and southern Indian food! Also when it comes to clothing and differences between genders I do in some way feel that Indians are traditional. Ok, some people would probably disagree a lot with me here. But even when I look around at the office, I will see maybe 50 % of the girls wearing Indian clothes. Same at the streets. Approximately 50 % of girls wearing traditional clothes. For the men’s, I do agree that it is different. Most of them do wear western clothes. Both at the office and at the streets. But remember also that this is in Mumbai. How will it then be at the
countryside? I have been at some more rural areas, and clearly the number of people wearing traditional clothes there is even higher. And the differences between genders when it comes to who does what are also bigger. More about this will follow in a later blog post.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

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