If you are residing in a foreign land or have met a foreigner, I am sure you might have heard a few stereotypes about India. From Indian culture, Indian food, Indian language and Indian people, stereotypes surround India from the western perspective. Some of the common stereotypes about India are –
Indians can’t Communicate in English.
The western POV always assume Indians are weak at English. But this is not entirely true. A majority of the Indian literate population can communicate in English. Not only that, even the people who couldn’t afford proper education have now improved their language skills, especially in English. Even though few cannot converse fluently, they understand the language. For most Indians, English is just another language, not a bar test for societal acceptance.
Misinterpreted Indian Accent in Hollywood
Indian culture and Indian people are very diverse. They belong to different areas with a vast set of traditions. So, Indians have different accents. But this is not how Hollywood or the western culture represents Indians. Indian people from different backgrounds are assumed to have the same generalised accent when speaking in English or their regional language. And this is not the truth.
India indeed has poverty. Among 116 countries, India holds the rank of 101. So, is it fair to assume that every Indian a foreigner comes across is poor? Many think that Real India and its people lie in the poor areas of the country. However, Real India doesn’t lie among the poor. It lies in the vast Indian culture and its people. So if you are a foreigner, remember to explore the culture, not the slums and cheaper hotels and restaurants.
Every Hollywood film ever has always represented curry as the only Indian food. However, Indian cuisine is as vast as its culture. Indian cuisines consist of more than rice and curry. India has around 100 varieties of snacks and more than 75 types of sweets. Indian curries are more than 150 types and, don’t even get me started on starters, different rice recipes and beverages. So, to assume and represent only one food item named curry would be wrong.
Hindi is the Indian National Language.
There is a thin line between official and national. Hindi is not India’s national language, even though most people know how to speak, write and read in Hindi. India has 121 languages and 22 official languages. So, to state that any one language has a hold on all of India’s population would be an understatement.
Indians are Hindus
Hindus are the majority population in India. India has many religions like Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahai faith. Even though the Indian government recognises other religions as minority groups, not every Indian is a Hindu. Some people in India don’t believe or follow any particular religion either.
Tea is Every Indian’s favourite.
Yes, India has a tea stall on every Indian street. And yes, Indian people love tea and all kinds of tea. But does every single person in India loves tea? No. Some prefer coffee over tea on any given day. Tea is not the only beverage with a long deep-rooted history with India. Coffee does too. Notably, coffee and tea’s usage in India began in the 1600s. Also, fun fact, Lassi is said to have originated in Punjab in 1000 BC. So, no Tea is not the most classical or favourite beverage of every Indian. Saying that I hope Western shows stop bringing up tea whenever an Indian is in the area.
Bollywood is the Indian Film Industry.
An awful stereotype for people outside Bollywood and those who love cinema without any bounds is that Bollywood is the Indian film industry. Apart from the Hindi film industry, Telugu and Tamil are among the most significant industries in India. Indian films are present in 24 languages. Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Bhojpuri, and Gujarati are among the top industries of Indian cinema. Most of these industries do not contain themselves to a label and have influenced Bollywood movies to a large extent.
Misrepresentation of Indian Characters in Hollywood
Hollywood misinterprets Indian people to a tiring level. Hollywood has shown most Indian characters to belong to poor, low-income or middle-class communities. However, big Indian stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Dhanush have portrayed rich characters with a considerably good background story. But Hollywood often represented many Indians as minor comic characters like drivers, doctors, clerks or nerds without proper character development or background. The Indian representation of Hollywood is changing now and hopefully becomes better in future.
All Indian Women Wear Saree.
Perhaps, the most frustrating stereotype for Indian women is that every Indian woman wears a saree. It is not true at all. There are many other traditional wears, like churidar, kurtas, shararas, salwar kameez, lehengas, palazzos and Anarkalis, which Indian women like to wear regularly. Not only the ethnic and traditional wear, but Indian women have also always liked western wear, including culottes, jeans, trousers, skirts, shorts and more. Western wear in India’s fashion industry is ever-evolving; most Indian women do not prefer traditional wear either. So, no, not every Indian woman loves saree and wears saree, and not every Indian woman has a liking for Indian ethnic wear.
So, no, not every Indian is the same. Even though our cultures or religions are similar in a few aspects, every Indian aspect maintains its uniqueness. Every Indian you meet has their individuality. So, let’s break these stereotypes once and for all. Shall we?