The misconceptions that American/foreigner may have about India and Indians!
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~Gandhi
Along with China, India’s global perception continues to improve. Today’s generation is very open-minded and has global outlook. However, while living abroad, we do get some out-of-the-blue questions about India every now and then. Here are some of the common misconceptions or myths about India:
1. Elephants in our backyards: This is one of the perceptions that elephants are everywhere in India, which is not the case. Actually, there are very few elephants to be seen, unless you venture into the remote area and jungles.
2. Everybody snake-charmer: Again, snake charmer are not so common. The scene of a cobra dancing to the tune of a charmer is very rare; very few people make their living by putting on the snake shows.
3. The Indian Curry: Not every dish Indians eat is curry based. More and more Americans are trying and enjoying Indian food, but curry is invariably linked with India; nothing wrong with it. An Indian restaurant manager always has interesting anecdotes to share about his experiences with American customers, like this one:
“Can I have some curry samosa please” asked an American customer when the waiter came around to take order.
“How would you like it – spicy or mild” The waiter asked without reacting to the choice of entree.
“Medium”, he replied.
The waiter came back with 2 Samosas and the chutney/sauce to dip in.
I guess Indian sauce is also curry for some. 🙂
4. India is next to Iran or Iraq: India is sometimes confused to be in the Middle East by many. I don’t think much of it, my geography is not that good either – about small European countries and their locations, or all of the African countries for that matter.
5. Too many Gods: We only have one God, probably the same God that rest of world has. His/her skin color is debatable, because many Indians prefer fair skin as well. 🙂
6. The Bindi/tikka on the forehead is not a tattoo:The ‘dot’ in on a women’s forehead is not a permanent tattoo. I heard this on a radio show where the host was trying to find out more about the tattoo that Indian women have on their foreheads. It took me a while to realize that he was talking about Bindi; also known as tikka or kumkum or sindoor….depending upon where you come from in India. It is a part of the ladies’ make-up accessories with traditional roots and customs.
8. The tigers: We do have tigers, but only in the forests. The tiger population is fading quickly worldwide and this powerful animal has become an endangered species.
9. Taxi-driver and computer engineering only?: These are not the only 2 occupations we excel in. Gas stations and motels are other businesses often linked to Indians overseas. During a fund raising event once, Hillary Clinton joked about Gandhi by saying, “He ran a gas station down in St. Louis.” She later apologized. The reality is that Indians are successful in every walk of life overseas, and growing very fast.
10. The cricket is not ‘cricket, the insect’: The game of Cricket is not popular in North America, so very few Americans know about it. “Is it just like baseball?” is the common inquiry. That is when you should start to explain what a googly is.; good luck! 🙂
11. Indian ‘too’ traditional: Just because there are lots of ladies dressed in Saari or Punjabi suits in the mall and supermarkets, that does not mean we Indians very traditional. May be more traditional than American customs and attires, but India is modernizing (and westernizing) at a very fast pace!
12. We don’t speak ‘Indian’: They speak many languages in India, may be too many, but none is called Indian. And, English with Indian accent does not count as ‘Indian’ either. 🙂
13. Hot and rainy: “Is it always hot there and does it rain all the time?” Seems like many of them have seen Monsoon Wedding movie! Weather in India is not much different from weather along the west coast or Midwest without snow. Indian does get very hot summers and equally cold winters. Overall, the variations in weather from region to region are just like we have in North America, Canada and Europe.
14. Every Indian is vegetarian:Not very popular myth anymore. The non-veg dishes in Indian restaurants sell like hot cakes these days.
15.Turban or chunary: Some confuse or mix-up the Indian tradition la attires with middle eastern wears. Turban and chunary are not Muslim head-gears; these are just part of Indian traditional dress.
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