Lakshmi Subramanian, Specialist Travel Writer
Indian Stereotypes: CONSERVATIVE, SPICY CURRY EATING, STINGY PEOPLE WHO DON’T DRINK?
India does attract many stereotypes which are quite annoying to its citizens. While it is true that the country is full of contrasts and contradictions, there is much more to India than Snake Charming. We definitely are not a bunch of snake charmers, writes Lakshmi Subramanian.
Here are some common day-to-day examples of Indian Stereotypes:
It’s easy to spot an Indian. Just find someone wearing gloves and cap even during summer.
Most Indians, especially vegetarians, take ready food with them while travelling. They would request the housekeeping staff to heat the food and give it along with cutlery.
Indian people especially the Tamilians, always start a conversation with “Did you have your food?”
Indians are Cricket fanatics and they don’t follow any other sport.
Indian food comprises only Chicken Tikka Masala, Rohan Ghosht and Yellow Dal. Indian women don’t drink.
One late evening, I was going in a cab with a couple of my friends and got friendly with the cab driver. He was quite intrigued by Indian culture and we started talking about festivals, people and films amongst various other aspects. He was quick to point out that all Indian films have the same theme, similar plot and lots of singing and dancing. As I am quite patriotic, I wasn’t very pleased with the way the conversation was heading. I decided to apply my journalistic mind here and tried to convince him that his viewpoint was not entirely true. But because time was short I couldn’t really get my message across. This is one of the most common stereotypes which I hear about Indian movies. This is not all…
The Climate is not always tropical
Feeling hot hot hot!! It’s indeed quite difficult to make generalisations about the climate in India. While it is true that a tropical wet and dry climate is more prevalent, there are 3 distinct seasons – summer, winter and mon- soon. The climate also varies vastly from one region to the other. For example: South India would experience a more tropical climate whereas North India would experience an Alpine climate coupled with snowfall. Summer does tend to be quite hot with temperatures reaching as high as 45 degrees centigrade in the months of May and June. It starts cooling off once the monsoon starts around end of October. Monsoon rains can be very heavy causing floods and severe damage especially along the coastal areas. During the winter months the temperature could vary from 5 degrees to 12 degrees centigrade but doesn’t generally go below that. So, we do experience rain and we have actually seen snowfall. The predictions of the meteor- ological department are getting better as well.
Are all Indian marriages arranged?
The answer to the question is a ‘NO’. It is true that arranged marriages are quite common in India and most parents would prefer if their children went the traditional way. This stems from the fact that Indians believe in both emotional and financial stability. It also gives one a sense of security. But with the extensive influence of globalisa- tion in India, things are changing. The current generation would not marry without knowing the partner even if it’s for a short period of six months. People have come to realise that compatibility is as important as safety, security and stability.
Another common misconception that goes along with arranged marriages is the fact that India is a male-dom- inated society. In the olden days, the man would be the breadwinner and the women were happy taking care of the house. This is closely associated with the ideology of a perfect family. But as society progressed, Indian women started taking on more challenging roles along with taking care of the house. In fact, States such as Meghalaya and Kerala follow the Matriarchal System where property and wealth passes from mother to daughter instead of father to son. Women do take centre stage in all aspects of life.
All Indian ‘CURRIES’ are spicy
Wikipedia describes Curry as a dish originating in the cuisine of the Indian Sub Continent and South East Asia. The common feature is the incorporation of complex combinations of spices or herbs usually including fresh or dried hot chillies. The truth is that curry is not a term we Indians use a lot back home. The wet dishes would be called gravies or masala. For example, Corn Capsicum Masala, Gobi Manchurian Gravy. Curry is a term normally used in South Indian homes for dry vegetable dishes. For example, Aloo Curry, Beans-Carrot curry. Also, not all Indian dishes are spicy.
Yes, Indian food has lot of spices in it but not all dishes are extremely spicy. Traditionally, an Indian meal attempts to balance six different tastes – sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent. Only one or two of the tastes will stand out and not all of them will be included in all dishes. In some regions the sweet taste will be prominent and in some spicy. So, there is no thumb rule.
Indians can’t speak English
When I moved to Belfast a couple of years back as a snobbish journalist, I got talking to an old couple in the neighbourhood; after the initial pleasantries, they immediately said, “Your English is really good.” It’s a weird feeling when people comment on our English. Well, most Indians complete their education in English-medium schools. And, language skills are a very essential part of our school and college curriculum. India was, in fact, the hub of call cen- tres until very recently. Of course, we could at times speak English with a little ‘DESI’ twist. It’s some- thing like saying Dal Tadka or Chicken Tikka Masala without a non-Indian accent. According to Elizabeth Beena Alexander, ESOL Tutor, International Meeting Point, Belfast, “Very few people are aware of the fact that there are 20 officially recognised languages in India with various accents. While people in Spain would speak Spanish, people in Italy would speak Italian but people in India don’t speak Indian.” We normally speak our regional language at home and English outside.
While Indians are being typecast by a section of peo- ple, there are people who are completely enamoured by Indian culture as well. “Indians have introduced a broader cultural perspective to an indigenous com- munity which tends to be inward looking. For exam- ple, Catholic vs. Protestant issues. Not only have we enjoyed Indian food for decades but we now have the opportunity to enjoy festivals such as the Belfast Mela in Botanic Gardens where the whole com- munity is welcomed to enjoy Indian culture,” says Jennifer Brown, Project Manager at TotalMobile UK.
Q: What do you call a dinosaur that drinks curry?
A: Mega sore a*se