Sunny Sarkar

India for Dummies

1/4th the size of USA, 4x the population. Very crowded everywhere you go. You can ride a car for 12 hours straight and still see nothing but houses and people. One out of every six people in the world are from India.

Every state in India is different. Think about Europe as a country, and each European country as a state. Just like every single country in Europe, every single state in India has a completely different culture, language, tradition, religious practices, weddings, food, etc. For example, a Bengali wedding will be very different from a Tamil wedding which will be very different from a Rajasthani wedding. I know Indian couples here in the US who don't know each others' languages and speak English at home.

Cities and villages have a dramatic difference in lifestyle, food, education level, social conservatism vs liberalism, and wealth. My city, Calcutta, has produced Nobel laureates in peace, economics, literature, and physics; a lifetime achievement Oscar, and a Miss Universe. It also has rampant poverty such that children grow up in slums under railway stations and other horrible conditions as depicted superbly in the Oscar winning documentary "Born into Brothels". Poor people in India may have to skip meals and travel several miles to fetch drinking water, unlike in the US where poverty usually translates to owning a really bad car. Nobody in India feels sorry for a man who owns a car.

Things stand to change economically however, as Indian economy is expanding at a rate above 7% per annum. Put in simple words means that India will double its wealth every decade. That is almost unheard of anywhere or anytime in history outside China and now. Unlike the Chinese however Indian expansion does not depend on cheap unskilled labor, rather it depends on harder to find highly skilled labor, so it is more sustainable at least theoretically. Emphasis on higher education is a cultural trait among the middle class in India (for example: I didn't even know that not going to college was an option), and I think that it's finally paying off thanks to globalization.

Primarily Hindu population. Worlds largest Muslim population by numbers, but not by percentage. Other religions are Sikh (wear turbans and mostly have Singh as last name). Small Christian population mainly due to the work of Christian missionaries and converts from Hinduism due to the ridiculous caste system. Buddhism originated in India and is restricted mainly in the northern mountainous regions. India shelters the Dalai Lama from Chinese law since the Chinese occupied Tibet.

Despite being a Hindu majority country ("Hindusthan" is another name of India), India had a Sikh prime minister, Muslim president, and Christian leader of majority party at the same time up to as recent as last year when the Muslim president stepped down to make way for our first woman president. India already had a president from the lowest ranks of society (dalit, formerly "untouchables"), and a woman PM. (US needs to catch up here, big time). Noteworthy: Resume of PM of India… http://indianprimeminister.org/php/showNews.php?newsid=17&linkid=2

A lot of everyday words and expression used in America comes from India. For example: guru, pundit, holy cow, nirvana, yoga.

History suggests that India truly believes in peace. India has never attacked any country anytime in her 10,000 year history. The Indian "Defense" lives up to its name, literally. When Pakistan led by then General Musharaf attacked India during the Kargil incursion recently, the army fought them out from within the borders even if it was clearly tactically beneficial for
India to cross over to Pakistan and fight the war from a different front.

India is a densely populated, extremely diverse, culturally vibrant country.

"There's never a dull moment in India".

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