Here is the insider deal on what everyoneshould “know” about India, no amazing facts, no little tidbits, stuff commonplace enough, but that which would make you an “old India hand” in front of your Indian pals:
What we would like you to know: India is the world’s largest democracy.
What you should also know: Corruption is rampant in India, hindering its democracy. Also, interestingly, even communists contest elections in India.
What we would like you to know: India has a living history for thousands for years.
What you should also know: The modern day concept of “India” however, is relatively recent, except for a few pan-Indian empires in the past, the place was pretty fragmented.
What we would like you to know: India is one the BRICS, one of the frontrunners in the emerging world, looked upon at the next destionation to be in by companies worldwide.
What you should also know: A lot of Indians at the same time live in crushing poverty, without basic access to health, sanitation and water.
What we would like you to know: India is the birthplace of Yoga, Kama-sutra, spirituality et al
What you should also know: Most Indians don’t practice Yoga nor follow Kamasutra. A lot of the thingamajig that passes for Yoga/Tantric knowledge in the West would appear ludicrous to Indians.
What we would like you to know: India is incredibly diverse, perhaps the most diverse place on earth.
What you should also know: This diversity doesn’t mean there is no notion of nationhood, its celebrated usually as “Unity in Diversity” (Bonus: Using this phrase generally makes Indians go all tingly with pleasure)
What we would like you to know: Indian food is the best.
What you should also know: Indian food is the best: eaten at places which appear satisfactory to your hygiene standards: no point blaming India after eating at aquestionable roadside stall and drinking water off a rusty tap.
What we would like you to know: Taj Mahal!
What you should also know: To not believe “guides” who describe sordid tales of Emperors cutting off the hands of the artisans after the Taj is finished so they can never build another. And please, if visiting between 11 am and 5 pm, do rent those cloth shoes peddled inside, even if it looks like a rip-off, lest you want your feet scalded by the hot marble.
What we would like you to know: India can be experienced in her trains.
What you should also know: A long distance (24 hours and above) journey is not for the faint-hearted especially in a sleeper class. Prefer a shorter trip, but do try it!
What we would like you to know: Indians are extremely hospitable, the saying goes “Guest is God”.
What you should also know: Use your instinct, some of the most hospitable looking strangers on trains/ touristy places can also be the thieves/pickpockets. Mugging, though, is rare in India. Crime by deceit is more popular.
What we would like you to know: Bollywood comes from India!
What you should also know: Bollywood is notIndian cinema. Its “Hindi” cinema – of one language. There are other thriving, big film industries in India; Tollywood – Telugu, Kollywood – Tamil et al.
What we would like you to know: India is a cricket-mad nation.
What you should also know: But it is not India’s national game, infact India has no national game
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