Ten things I love about India

It is only fair that after my last post about my problems with India, I write about things I absolutely love about India. A friend pointed out that despite all the hatred, I might still be patriotic towards the country and I wanted to explore this further. Besides, this post will be like a stress therapy for my mind if I focus on the positive side of things.
I have tried to examine positive things with each point that I had made against India in the previous post.

1. Respect for women
I wrote in the last post about how I hate women’s inequality for women in India. I am going to counter this by saying that the Indian society has an inherent respect for women where they are considered the symbols for purity (Goddess Ganga), wealth (Goddess Laxmi), fertility (Goddess Parvati), knowledge (Goddess Saraswati), patriotism (Bharat Mata) and many more. These Goddesses are as powerful as any of the male Gods in mythology and are adored throughout India. Every person in India is taught to acknowledge and respect women for their being. There are many countries where historically the men were supposed to have a higher status in the society and women lacked many civil rights. In comparison, India has always considered a man to be incomplete without a woman. These values have a deep meaning for Indians and it reflects in their attitude towards women in many ways. For example, an Indian man would generally always speak with decency without the use of any foul language in front of a woman. Also, in some regions, if a man touches a woman by its feet by mistake, they would sincerely apologise and say a little prayer in their mind for forgiveness from God. In Sikhism, a man and a woman have equal rights for everything. The Sikh scriptures consider both genders as having the same soul.

Within the Constitution, women have been given equal rights as men in many aspects and India is one of the few countries that have had an active role of women in politics. While many “developed” countries are yet to elect female Heads of Government, India has had a woman Prime Minister, a woman President, a woman Speaker, a woman Leader of Opposition and many many women heads of government in various Ministries, villages, cities, and states. And these women in politics are never considered to be subordinate to men by their colleagues or by the general public.

Unfortunately,  this respect for women is often translated by mean as needing protection of different forms of symbolism for women. The protective instinct is shown by using power or control and that’s where the problem of inequality comes into place. However,  the basic premise of respect of women in the society remains the same. I love that Indians respect women. The only change required is the translation of this respect into attitudes towards women.

2. Spirituality and Lack of Materialism

While I complained about the rising fundamentalism in India in my previous post, I must counter this by suggesting that I love the fact that India is so spiritual and lacks materialism. Of course, one could argue that India may be becoming more and more material by the day. But the fact is that when I compare the greed for money, power and status in many western countries with the Indian society, I find that Indians are much more satisfied and happy with what they have. It is not that Indians lack goals in life or may not be able to achieve wealth and status. They do have goals but those goals are beyond just earning lots of money and owning mansions. People generally just want to be satisfied with their life, have a loving family and not worry about providing some basic necessities of good food, good clothes and a big enough house. I understand that a part of the reason for such humble ambitions is that people in India often see much worse conditions around them (homelessness, poverty, unemployment). As a result, they may think that they always feel thankful for what they have. But I believe that a large part of the reason for non-materialism in India is spirituality and importance given to inner peace, karma and charity. Almost every Indian donates to charity if they can, whether it be through charitable or religious organisations. They genuinely believe that they should share what they have with people who don’t. And at the end of the day, all Indians want is to have a peaceful death, and in case of many Hindus, a humble death with moksha (nirvana) at the bank of River Ganges in Varanasi. This attitude of India is inspirational for the entire world.

Love this documentary about Varanasi and it captures spirituality in India beautifully.

3. Indian Mythology

I absolutely love Indian mythology. I love the stories of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses and their life on earth and Heaven. I absolutely love the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. And the stories of Sikh gurus, the Panj Pyaare, and other religious texts in Sikhism have so much to teach. Take any faith in India, there is so much to learn from them. All of them contain such deep analysis of human behaviour and human conscience. I feel sad when I hear people who are not aware of these wonderful stories and choose to ignore them by saying they are morally biased. I think that there is a deliberate point made in these stories to show the various aspects of Good and Evil. I love the fact that Indian mythology doesn’t have any pure white or pure black characters. Every character is grey, just like humans, and that’s what makes it so interesting to me. In fact, I think that if people would read and analyse these religious texts, stories and scriptures properly, they would learn so much about how to deal with all the social issues that I had pointed out in my last post.

Can I please ask you to watch this video explaining a short story in Hindu mythology? It’s a bit long but have patience, it makes a good point 🙂

4. Recognition of the Third Gender

While I criticized India in the last post for not recognising the existence or rights of LGBT community, I counter this by appreciating the fact that India is one of the very few countries that genuinely respect and recognise the Hijra community. Hijra is a community of people who do not identify themselves as a man or a woman and often dress in feminine clothes. Recently in 2014, the Supreme Court officially declared India as having three genders- Male, Female and Transgender. Here, the definition of transgender is the Hijra community and they are slightly different from the Western definition of transgender. I love that Hijras are welcomed in India as a part of their culture. There are many instances in Indian mythology where transgenders had such important roles in epics such as Mahabharata. In fact, the ancient Indian scriptures recognise many many more types of genders than these three. In all family celebrations in India, the Hijra community are welcomed to give their blessings to the family. It is considered to be bad luck to refuse to acknowledge or welcome Hijras in your home for such occasions. And these traditions have been going on for a long time in India’s history. While the West has started recognising the other gender only recently, the recognition of transgenders in India has long been a part of the Indian society and it is indeed something that India should be very proud of.

5. Curiosity

I love the fact that Indian population is so curious and analytical about other cultures. I make this point against the argument I gave for racism in my last post. People in India are genuinely interested in learning about other cultures, lifestyles, and history. Given that the Indian education system only covers a small part of the world history, Indians are very well aware of the historical events of their own country as well the world. And if they are not aware, they are curious to know, to understand and to analyse. Perhaps this has to do with the inherent inquisitiveness of the Indian society. I mean every Indian family knows how everyone in India indulges in gossips about everyone they know. But the good thing is that this inquisitiveness is also translated in learning. And there is a genuine respect for education, learning and work in India. Everyone learns and works in India. People want to learn and they want to work. They don’t want to sit at home.

And this may be the reason why Indians are such fast learners and are well able to compete on an international scale. Just the fact that India has adopted the English language in their daily lifestyle seamlessly shows their brilliant competence in learning a language that is not natively spoken in the country. Besides just being curious about the world, Indians are curious about everything. When I compare the knowledge and awareness of people in other countries with that of Indians, Indians are clearly more aware, more learned, and they understand the importance of knowledge. The young population in India at present is especially curious about the world, about the social and economic issues, about what’s right and what’s wrong and they try to take in as much information as they can. Unlike before, India is not in a separate bubble any more but is a part of a global community.

6. Lovely golden complexion

I love the Indian complexion. I talked about hating racism within India in my last post. The positive thing about me for Indian complexion is that it is so beautiful. This is just my personal thing that I love about India and its people and it probably sounds very vain. I mean not just the fair or dark ones, all complexions are so lovely. I wish people in India would feel more confident and comfortable with their gorgeous golden bodies 🙂

7. Independent Films in India

While Bollywood largely reigns over the Indian movie industry, the independent films, the low and medium-budget movies without big banners or actor brands have been offering the genuinely good, socially developed and technically sound movies for many years. While I agree that Bollywood also makes a few movies that are brilliant and have tried to bring awareness about many social issues, it is the independent films that have pioneered a paradigm change in the Indian film industry. Some of my favourite movies that are not Bollywood and are brilliant in their filmmaking and acting are Water, Lunchbox, Kshay, Filmistaan, Udaan, Ship of Theseus and many more. The actors in these movies are also very socially aware and genuinely put in effort into the art of acting. I love the indie movie scene in India and I cant wait for it to catch up with Bollywood so that many more people in India can appreciate it.

8. Indian food and celebrations

Indian food is something that I miss soooo much! The complexity of flavours and techniques that is involved in Indian food across the country is amazing. And there is not one country in the world where Indian food is not available. I crave Indian food all the time I am outside India and my plans to visit India are always accompanied by a list of restaurants and chat stalls that I must visit.

And the celebrations in India for every festival or family event are so special and meaningful. I love learning about the customs related to every religious event and it’s genuinely awesome to see people celebrating different festivals and events in their own unique way. These events bring families and people together. I absolutely love that. Of course, my family and friends are the things I miss the most about India and these celebrations give me a pretext to visit them and celebrate with them.

9. Informal Economy

I love the informal economy of India that includes the various bazaars at night and the street food stalls on the roads that sell local goods and services for fraction of a price. This informal economy brings a character to the Indian cities and villages. I used to love the weekly ‘budh-bazaar’ (Wednesday market) in my local neighbourhood that was set up by local individuals every Wednesday night. You could get almost everything under the sun. And such great food! I know that lots of cities now have shopping malls and organised markets. But I would still prefer to go to one of these weekly markets because of all their energy and humbleness. My bua (aunt) introduced me to this rags market in Delhi which is so brilliant to buy clothes at fraction of a price. And you’re helping local people here by buying those clothes. I love visiting that place. With the growing popularity of shopping malls, informal economy has a diminshed importance now. I feel that it is the informal economy that brings the humility and non-materialism among the Indian people and I genuinely respect that.

10. Hope

While I complained about Indians being complacent in my last post, here I argue that Indians are hopeful and optimistic. Despite all the criticism for India, for the increasing poverty, unemployment. social issues and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, Indians remain hopeful to be able to address this and lead a good life. They don’t want to be exactly like Western nations. They want to grow in their own way, keeping their basic Indian values intact. The reason for the intolerance debate (and all the reactions to it) is that Indians hope to make a difference by giving their perspective about things. Despite all the corruption and government scandals, Indians remain hopeful and take efforts to operate in this confusing economy. It is this Hope, in fact, that India has grown so much and made a respectful place for itself in the global economy. Hope helps India grow, despite the hopelessness of the Indian politics.

This was an exercise in finding the positive in the often discussed negativeness about India. It has made me realise that while criticism is important, criticism without hope is pointless. I have understood that patriotism is something that is deeply personal and I do care for India at some level. These things I love about India are things that I would fight for. Even if people think I don’t have a right to point out the mistakes that India might be making, I need to fight so that these positive things of India are not consumed by the ever-increasing negatives.

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