Hello everyone !!
Edit : Yes I’m editing to add this at the beginning. I just realised it’s the Parsi New Year. So to all Parsis, Navroz Mubarak !!
A month ago, I put up the announcement post for a Q&A session about India. This is in celebration of 70 years of Indian Independence. 15th August 2017 marked the 71st Indian Independence Day !!
First of all Thank You to the following people for their questions –
Next, a HUGE thanks to the following Indian bookbloggers and bookstagrammers for helping me with some of the answers (mainly books) –
I hope I’ve mentioned everyone, if I missed out any, please forgive me and do let me know so that I can add you.
Before I start answering questions, here are some of the things people usually get wrong about India (for various reasons) or don’t know about India –
- There’s no language called “Indian” – I understand it’s out of ignorance about the country, so let me make this clear. There are officially 22 languages that are spoken in India. But the actual count, as per the Indian Census is 1652. If that astounds you, let me explain. We have 29 states and 7 union territories and almost every state has its own language. Apart from that, there are regional dialects. The language in fact changes drastically within states, every few meters.
- Arranged marriages are NOT THE SAME AS forced marriages. Yes there are cases of forced marriages, but those are few in number (particularly in urban India). An arranged marriage simply means your parents find a guy/girl, you meet them, talk to them, get to know them and then decide if you want to marry them or not. Based on the reviews I read, When Dimple Met Rishi apparently did a good job at portraying arranged marriages.
- Indian cuisine isn’t limited to Chicken tikka masala or chicken tandoori. Again every state and every region within those states has a separate cuisine.
- We DO NOT go to school/work on elephants. It’s the 21st century and the internet makes it easy to learn about other countries and cultures. You’d think by now, this rumour would’ve died. But surprisingly, people still think Indians travel on elephants. I wish this was true, because pollution levels would’ve come down drastically. People in Delhi, you should really consider this option. People in Bangalore, travelling by elephants might help us with the traffic problems (hoping the elephants would toss some of the smaller vehicles out of its way 😝). Fun Fact: Bangalore traffic actually foiled a terrorist attack. Not even kidding !! Thank you rest of the world !! That’s a BRILLIANT idea !!
- Every Indian movie is not a “Bollywood” movie. We have plenty of regional film industries (Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam etc), which in recent years (in my opinion) have been making better movies than Bollywood.
- India is not in the middle east. I mean, for heaven’s sake, go back to school and learn geography.
- All Indians are not Hindus. India is HIGHLY diverse in EVERY way. Yes, Hindus are a majority, but there are also Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains and people of many other religions in India.
- To all those who hear names such as Rachel or Samantha or Michael or Brendan from a person of Indian origin and ask “No, what’s your REAL name ?” (this has happened with friends of mine), those are common names in India too. Like I said, we do have a sizeable population of christians too in India. People who aren’t christians might also have those names.
- To those who had a problem with the name “Dimple”, it’s a very common name in India, specially northern India. We even have an actress named “Dimple” and her sister’s name was “Simple”. We also have people named “Happy” and NO these are not translations of their “Indian names”, these are their actual names.
- For those who’ve asked me “How are we supposed to differentiate between Taliban and Sikhs when both wear turbans ?” 😕. Maybe use a bit of your brain and do an image search on google 😒 ? There’s a huge difference in the way the turbans are tied and the turbans actually look different. Here’s an image I found on google and these are only 5, there are many other styles of wearing a turban. Also, the turban that “Taliban” members wear is generally worn by many Afghanis, but that doesn’t mean every Afghani you meet is a terrorist 😑.
- In India, we acknowledge everyone as brother/sister or uncle/aunty or grandfather/grandmother (or equivalent terms in respective Indian languages). By everyone, I mean literally everyone (except their spouse), the postman, milkman, driver, neighbours and even complete strangers. So don’t be alarmed if some kid runs up to you calling you “aunty” or any of the other terms, it’s just out of respect. Also when an Indian girl says “brother”, need not be a sibling or cousin, he could also be a neighbour whom she tied a rakhi to (Yes ! In India, you can also get “brother-zoned” 😂)
Now finally, on to the questions…
Q : Which aspects of Indian culture do you think are represented well in books (and other media) and which aspects do you think are often misrepresented or omitted ?
A : I think I already mentioned most of the wrong representations in the list above. As far as an aspect of Indian culture that’s omitted, I’d say the cultures of southern India are often neglected and even people in northern India are quite unaware of it. And of course, eastern states (with the exception of West Bengal) of India are again neglected and never represented.
In fact, as far as literature is concerned, I’ve not come across many Indian characters in books by non-Indian authors. The only author (not of Indian origin) I know of, who gets India and its culture right is William Dalrymple. I have also heard from other bookbloggers that Shantaram does a good job at representing India, I haven’t read it myself, so I’ll just trust them on this. Books by Indian origin authors are usually accurate in representing Indian cultures (Obviously!)
Q : What are some books set in India or with Indian inspired worlds that you enjoyed and thought represented the country well ?
A : My recommendations :
- Books by William Dalrymple
- Books by Ruskin Bond – If you want to read simple stories about nature, people and life in India.
- Books by Premchand
- Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan – It’s a collection of short stories and represents rural India. However, it’s set in pre-independent India. The book was written in 1943, so not everything in the book is the same as modern India.
- Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan – It’s the first of a trilogy, set again in British India, in the fictional town called Malgudi. “The Bachelor of Arts” and “The English Teacher” are the other two books in the trilogy.
- The works of Rabindranath Tagore
These are older books (with the exception of Ruskin Bond books) and not contemporary fiction, which is because I’ve read very few contemporary books on India. I really need to get to those books. However, you can find suggestions from other Indian book bloggers –
- Aritri from The Liquid Sunset hosted the “Discovering India Read-a-thon” and has some wonderful suggestions, that you can find here.
- Vicky from Books and Strips has some great book suggestions here.
Q : What movie(s) portrayed a certain book perfectly that was your favorite ?
A : Since, this is about India. I’ll consider Indian books.
- There was a TV adaptation of “Malgudi Days” that I grew up watching and most Indians I know, seem to love it as much as I do. It’s available on YouTube with english subtitles.
- There’s also a TV adaptation called “Ek tha Rusty”, which was adaptation of a few of Ruskin Bond’s stories.
- “Stories by Rabindranath Tagore” was another TV adaptation, that was done extremely well.
- There was also an animated series “Ramayan” in english, that was created by a Japanese animation studio and I still believe it was the best Ramayana adaptation.
Q : Is there an Indian book you would like to see translated to English so everyone could read it ?
A : For this, I’ll have to say Eitheehyamaala by Kottarathil Shankunni, which is a collection of Malayalam folk tales, because I haven’t come across an English translation of it. All the other books by Indian authors that I’ve read and loved have already been translated to English or are written in English.
Q : What’s your favourite thing about living in India? And what do you wish people outside India knew about your country?
A : My favourite thing about India is the food and people’s ability to do “jugaad”. Now I recently found out that there’s an actual English word for Jugaad, which is “Kludge” (because “hack” is just not accurate enough).
As for what I wish people outside India knew about the country, I’ve already mentioned those.
Emma asked me if I could tell about my daily routine so that people can know about life in India. On the whole I don’t think there’s much difference in routine between Indians and people in other countries. The difference would lie in details and going into those would stretch this post longer. So, that’s the only question I’m leaving unanswered.
I guess I’ve answered all the questions. If there’s anything I didn’t answer, feel free to let me know in the comments.
That’s all for now, Thank You for reading through this post. Have a wonderful week ahead !!