India – The view from Singapore

Random thoughts, Travel / Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

India, as always, keeps its head high as a popular destination for worldwide tourists and adventurers. According to a survey on World Tourism rankings, which is compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, approximately 14.6 million tourists visited India in 2016. India is the 8th most visited country in the Asia-Pacific region in 2016.

If you look at the total number of people traveled across the globe last year or the yesteryears, travelers from Asian countries contribute to more than any other continent. At the same time, if you take the number of Asian travelers to India, it’s somewhat low. Don’t they think India is beautiful and very diverse in its soul itself? India is the world’s 7th largest country by area. So, how much do they know about India? When comparing India with other countries, what are they missing? I recently had this thinking when I met my Asian friends in Singapore.

Singapore is the ideal place to get an overview of different Asian cultures. Because Singapore is renowned for its multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-culinary harmony between several races, mostly Asian. There are three major races in Singapore; Chinese, Malay, and Indians. Also, you can find nationals from almost all Asian countries. That’s exactly why I prefer Singapore as a representation of the whole Asia. I am not forgetting the fact that Singapore has its own unique culture.

I am in Singapore for a few years now. Good thing that has happened to me is I have friends from all Asian countries. I took this as a chance to meet and get to know about different cultures. It is really interesting and very fascinating for me. I find similarities between our cultures and some dissimilarity, which is expected. But what made me disappointed are their misconceptions about India or in other words, the generalization of India and Indians. That is the motivation behind this article.

According to their imagination, India is a very large country and people speak some common “Indian” languages. Some of them were aware that “Hindi” is used in India and that is because they had watched a few Bollywood movies before. Some of my friends think that “Tamil” is the common language in India because they see many Tamil people (they belong to a state called Tamilnadu in India) in Singapore. This is not the fact.

I have no intention to blame them; instead, I like to briefly explain to them and all others who have the same thinking about India. It’s very difficult to explain everything in one go but I will attempt to explain the same way as how I have clarified with my friends.

  1. Language

Is there any common language called Indian language? My friends had this confusion in their heads before I explained to them that there is nothing called as Indian language. “Hindi” is widely spoken in India, mostly in the northern and central regions of India. Unlike many of my friends’ thoughts, Hindi is not our national language. In fact, India doesn’t have a national language. There are 22 official languages in India now. In addition, English is considered as an official language. Also, the same language will have many different dialects within each state itself.

  1. Food

My friends think that “roti-prata” is a common Indian bread. They only heard about “roti-prata” and “biriyani”. Few of them know “dosai” as well. You can find this in most of the so-called Indian restaurants in Singapore. Again this is also another generalization of Indian cuisine. I would say, most of the above mentioned Indian food restaurants are not authentic. They are just variations of Indian cuisine, mainly influenced by Malay and Tamil culture.

In India, each state has its own unique cuisine. Actually, India is the best place where you can experience several unique cuisines. My friends have the thoughts that all Indians can take very spicy (more chilly content, not the actual spices) food. It’s not true. There are some differences between south and north Indian food. For instance, south Indian uses more rice than wheat loving northerners. The way they prepare and eat is also different. You will also find it interesting how different parts of India treat and serve their guests.

  1. Culture

It is expected that, if language and food are different between different places, then the culture will also be very different. Many of the festivals are celebrated together across all over India, but many are not. Each state has its own festivals and most of the states still follow their own traditions. I consider this as a good practice to respect your own culture and stop it from being forgotten.

I belong to a southern India state named “Kerala”, one of the 29 states in India. We Keralites (people from Kerala) celebrate a traditional festival called “Onam”, which you cannot find anywhere else in India. The same way other states have their traditional festivals.

In summary:

India is so big and incredible. It is self-contained and beyond our imagination. The only way to get to know is to “travel” ☺.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is from my personal experience and observations. You may have a different feel about the same topic. Apologies if you felt hurt by any of my comments. Please consider it as unintentional. Thank you for your time.

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