Thursday, September 25, 2014

"No, I do NOT speak Indian!"

Photo of Taj Mahal from Wikipedia

In lieu of my recent Talented Thursday theme, I have a surprise, a special surprise for you! I have a guest blogger who is writing on my behalf, in place of me! Woohoo! :)

This female blogger has become a dear soul 'sista' (sister) of mine since meeting her in the blogging world through another blog challenge. We met through her stories - I was SO fascinated by them - the way she wrote with sharply curved storylines that reminded me so much of Agatha Christie's writing style - a mystery writer - in particular Murder on the Orient Express, the first book of hers that I read: you never knew 'whodunit.' (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whodunit).

Vinodini Iyer is a blogger, writer, poet, design professional, and a 'lost' painter based out of India. She calls herself a lost painter because, although she was academically trained in the Fine Arts, somewhere along the way she lost her touch with painting. Writing is a childhood passion she reconnected with a few years back and there's been no looking back for her ever since. She blogs at http://vinodinii.blogspot.in/.

As a child she would haphazardly scribble amateur poetry on the last page of her school notebooks, in particularly boring classes. Her mother would in turn find those pieces of writings and compile them in a file and send some of them to the local newspapers to be published in the kiddies column.

She started blogging about six years ago, but has turned into an active blogger only a few months back after participating in a few blogging challenges. One of these challenges is where she met me.

She writes about her random experiences in life. She is fascinated by the unknown mystical and pursues the same with a childlike wonder. She considers herself a gypsy at heart, a gypsy who loves writing about her journey of life through various voices, sometimes her own, sometimes of her characters! They could be in the form of essays, poetry, or short stories. Of late though, she has been veering more towards short stories. One of her short stories is about to be published in an anthology.

I'll let my blogging sista take over from here ...
Elly and I have known each other for about two months now. While she enjoys reading my stories with twisted endings, I’m in awe of the tremendously informative blog posts she writes with careful research to back her write-ups with. Since we had decided to do a guest post on each other’s blog, after she obliged me with a wonderful story on my blog on August 1, 2014 (http://vinodinii.blogspot.in/2014/08/my-newfound-friend.html), it is time for me to invade Elly’s blog space. I chose to talk about India in this post for Elly’s apparent interest in the topic.
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While India boasts of a rich and vibrant culture, there are a few misconceptions the world has about India. This observation has been made on certain generalized assumptions one comes across while interacting with people outside India.

India has also been ridiculously and falsely perceived as a poverty-stricken nation. Ridiculous assumption, specifically because the world is well aware of the royal heritage and background that this country originates from. Our historical monuments, rich cultural resources, and lifestyle are a testimony to the wealth of culture and riches this nation boasts of. So, the documentaries and photographs depicting the dreary poverty in India that you might have chanced upon are only one side of the story. This is the land of the aristocratic Tatas, Birlas, and Ambanis. Go on, Google them if you haven’t heard about them.

People visiting India for the first time, at times are pleasantly surprised or rather disappointed to see Indians commuting by cars and buses as opposed to elephants. Fortunately technology spared the elephants long back, sent them back to the jungles, where they belonged, and gave us vehicles that ran on fuel. Also, a few people come to India with the hopes of seeing snake charmers on the streets, but, well, the snake charmer has probably become redundant long back and has switched to selling cheap cellphone covers outside the railway station.

At times, it is the fair-skinned Indian baby born in a foreign land that evokes awe, for the color of its skin. Especially, since it is another general assumption that Indians have either black- or brown-toned skin. Well we sure are proud of our honey-colored complexion, but just as there are different hair colors like red-heads, brunettes, and blondes elsewhere in the world; in the same manner Indians also have a wide variety of skin colors and facial features. And hence, we do have fair-skinned people around along with a wide assortment of wheatish, honey, and black skin. The best part is that our sharp features blend beautifully with almost all skin tones. I say this at the risk of sounding vain and immodest, but the fact remains.

Photo from students.ou.edu

A few months back, I met a lady from Sweden who was confused when I told her that not all Indians speak Hindi or Sanskrit. We have 29 states and 7 union territories in India which speak 18 different languages! And yes, for people who thought there was a language called ‘Indian’ (yes, I’ve heard that too!), you got it wrong. There’s no such language. Just as there is no language called ‘American.’ Hindi is our national language. Also, ‘Hindi’ is not a religion and ‘Hindu’ is not a language. Also not all Indians are Hindus; there are Indians who follow other faiths like Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. Most of the educated Indians these days are well versed in English.


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My whole intention of writing this post for Elly’s blog is to enlighten the ones who are genuinely interested in knowing more about India, but have been thriving on half-baked information that the media feeds them with. There are many more such myths and illusions that people outside India carry that I have not delved into here, or else this post would have gone much longer than acceptable limits of maintaining the interest of the reader.

Elly, thank you so much for inviting me to ramble on your blog space. For once, I did not write a thought-out story, but just went with the flow of words to come up with a blog post that I thought would hopefully add some value to your blog.
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I am particularly honoured that Vinodini is gracing my blog, zesting it up with a bit of spice and writing about a topic that has always intrigued me. Thank you Vinodini for sharing this enlightening post on India. Namaste.

I encourage you readers to share your thoughts in the comments below to support my wonderful friend in her attempt to write in my style.

66 comments:

  1. Ok Vinodin. I admit it. I am guilty of the belief that India is mainly poverty-stricken and that all (East) Indians have dark physical features. However, I do know from chanting that Sanskrit is an ancient language used in chanting - LOVE it! I think that the main languages in India are Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu, are they not? ;) <3

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    1. I don't blame you Elly, a lot of people have these misconceptions about India. Well, as I have mentioned in my post, there are more than 18 languages spoken in India. Hindi is the national language and is the most spoken language.
      Well there is poverty - but we possess a lot of wealth too. And yes most of us are dark colored...but we have a wide variety of skin tones :)

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    2. Elly, I wish to thank you so much for having me over. It's been a great pleasure to be sharing space with you here. I loved every bit of this :) <3

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  2. What a great opportunity for you and Vinodini to have this collaborative opportunity Elly! It was interesting to read what she had to say. I have been blessed to travel to India in 2010 for 3 weeks and again in Jan/Feb of this year.

    I have visited Mumbai, Goa, and Coimbatore, but mostly stayed in Kolkata. I did find that I was the only one in Kolkata I saw with light skin and hair which I thought was unusual. Some of my greatest memories were when I was walking along a street and I would see a father with young children look at me and smile. This happened several times. I took this as an invitation and walked over to say hi. The father would instruct the child/children to say to me "hello, my name is . . ." I would reply with my name and smile. We would shake hands. The children were a little hesitant, but of course, as all children do, they warmed my heart!

    I felt welcomed and accepted. The family of my friend who I traveled with have accepted me as family as well.

    I had so many incredible experiences in India. Thanks for stirring up these memories!

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    1. es it was fun to do this collaboration Candess - I found it so - a bit of an experiment for us as we switched writing roles/styles! ;) I'm glad you got a chance to experience India and had a great time by the sounds of it. And got to meet some fair-haired and skinned Indian people, that further solidifies what Vinodini wrote about, i.e., she wasn't exaggerating! ;) <3

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    2. Thank you Candess. It's been a pleasure for me to write a post on Elly's blog. It's great to know that you loved your visit to India. The Kolkata experience seems to have been a special one for you.
      Do come over again. India is known for it's hospitably. Great connecting with you on Elly's space :)

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  4. This was such an interesting piece and it's great to "meet" another blogger. I have three friends from India, and all speak a different language. Some speak multiple languages to different members of their family! It amazed me when I was 12 and meeting them for the first time. Thank you for such an informative piece.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the article Lexi. That must be quite the challenge: multiple languages all within the same family - how amusing (to me)! ;) <3

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    2. Thanks Lexi. Great to meet you too! We do speak multiple languages. I speak four different languages including English. At home with my family I speak three different languages :)

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    1. Thanks Nisha for your support(ive comment)! ;) <3

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    2. Thanks Nisha! Hope you liked the post :)

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  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences of India, V. I guess, some of the stereotypes you list are thought to be true here in England, where we have a large population of Indians. A current tv commercial shows an elephant walking along the road amidst traffic. This sort of thing only perpetuates the myth.

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    1. How interesting Francene as I equate India with small motor bikes and cars, not elephants! ;) <3

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    2. It's been my pleasure Francene, to clear some of these myths. The media is surely responsible for a lot of these myths. The tv commercial you mention of the elephant walking along the road amidst traffic only reiterates my statement.

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  7. Great to make a connection with Vinodini too! Great update on photos!

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    1. Great Candess! Yes, I'm glad I updated the photos...much better don't you think? ;) <3

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  8. Thank you once again Candess. Lovely meeting you!

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  9. Interesting post! I've never been to India, but it sounds like a beautiful place filled with beautiful people!

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    1. Yes, I agree Kristen. I haven't been either though perhaps only in my dreams! Perhpaps you too will visit some day? ;) <3

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    2. Thanks Kristen! I'm sure you will love it, if you ever happen to come to India :)

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  10. My father was stationed in India during World War II. I used to listen to his stories about it at bedtime. For a couple of years my manager was a man from Calcutta - a fascinating country indeed. Alana

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    1. Yes, I believe it is a country full of rich culture and history! :) <3

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    2. Yes Alana, it is a fascinating country. I'm sure you've heard some interesting stories from your father about India.

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  11. Elly & Vinodini,
    I have been very fortunate to travel to South India and the Taj Mahal. It was beautiful. I went for Ayurveda treatment in Kerala. So funny that I met a famous singer there. Actually, I ran into him (literally) at the place where I stayed. They were filming and had to stop as they fixed his hair again!!
    There is a place with the colorful puppets that I have wanted to visit but I didn't have time. Such a lovely country. I learned all about coconut coil. I wrote a long newsletter and what I learned, especially the delicious food! Thank you both for the wonderful reminder of my time in India!!

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    1. Sounds wonderful Amy! I'm glad you got a chance to visit and had some wonderful experiences, including Ayurvedic treatment! :) <3

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    2. Amy, great to know that you have had an interesting trip to India. The place with colorful puppets that you wanted to visit is called Rajasthan, which is towards the west of India. Kerala must have been quite a beautiful experience. I'm glad I could rekindle the memories of your wonderful trip :)

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  12. Loved reading this post as I read both of your blogs regularly, I do love your "stories" Vinodini and now I feel I know so much more about you! Thank you for the insight into India, although I have been to the Far East many times I have not been to India....... 18 languages wow ... I did not know that ..... mind you some English people say that we Scots speak a different language!!!! but 18 is a lot!!

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    1. Thank you Lisa! Yes, 18 is a lot and these are only the popular ones. There are many more languages deeper in the rural areas that we are not even aware of.
      You've always encouraged my "stories " on my blog. Thank you so much for reading my post here on Elly's blog :)

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    2. Thank you Lisa for visiting. I'm glad you enjoyed reading the post. :) <3

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  13. Wonderful post, Vinodni! Too many misconceptions and misinformation is out there when it comes to India. I have come across this question too - "so you speak Indian?" And don't get me started about the elephants and snakes! One time a school teacher in the US (I was present in the classroom doing my research) when teaching about means of transportation actually said - Elephant too is a means of transportation if you are living in India! I am not kidding, I witnessed this in an American classroom. I had to correct the teacher after the class was over that most Indians hardly ever ride an elephant for their daily commute :) And as for the poverty of India,...well I don't want to make this comment into a full-fledged post, so I better stop now! Thanks Elly for hosting Vinodini on your blog.

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    1. And thanks for reading it Beloo, and of course, for your comment. I do not suffer from those misconceptions you speak of! ;) <3

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    2. Thanks Beloo! These are the most commonly asked questions and misconceptions one comes across. The incident you narrated about the teacher telling her students about elephants being a mode of transport in India made me smile. I wonder how disillusioned their imagination must be about India.

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  14. I always wonder why when there is so much information available these days, people persist with asking such questions. Personally, I find them condescending!

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    1. Sorry you feel that way Corinne though understandable. Hopefully more people will be informed or educated on such matters so these myths are broken down. :) <3

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    2. I understand how you feel Corinne, especially when we are going great places and it's out there in the open for people to read and see. It is a bubble people live in that needs to be poked ;)

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  15. Great post Vinodini. This is a misconception that I have witnessed and people persist in believing in things that are largely untrue. Since I am based out of India, I've seen it among people of Indian origins who nurture such misconception. I am so glad you spoke about it. It's very irritating!

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    1. That's hard to believe that even Indians believe that: wow! ;) <3

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    3. Yes Vishal, I know what you're hinting at. The people from India who hold these misconceptions are the ones who do not value their own country's culture and achievements. They are blindly in awe of the west assuming that we are an underdeveloped country. Sorry to say that these people belong no where.

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  16. This reminds me of the time I visited Seattle in 2010 and took a ferry out on the river. The gentleman there was surprised to hear me speak English and said, 'You seem to know the language very well, being from India.' ! I mean, what?! Anyway, I gently told him that not only did I speak the language, but also taught it to others, since I hold a degree in the subject. That and the fact that we speak many languages very easily :D

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    1. I'm glad you were able to educate him Shailaja. I find it unusual to think that people believe that only Canadians/Americans/BritishAustralians speak English and no one else. I'm originally from Holland and not everyone speaks Dutch only. They teach English at school. :) <3

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    2. Shailaja, I have had the same experience when I met an Australian lady I became friends with, in one of the yoga vacations I took to Kerala a few months back. She could not believe hers ears when she heard me communicate in English. She was even more surprised when I made her read my blog. She kept telling me that it was hard to believe that Indians could speak and write such good English :)
      I'm glad you're able to relate to this Elly :)

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  17. I totally agree.. Esp with movies like Slumdog Millionaire getting into Oscars, there is a misconception that India is more or less a slum. I'm glad to read your post here, Vinodini and cheers to Elly for collaborating with her.

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    1. Thanks somethingiscooking.Yes, Slumdog Millionaire is definitely a perfect example of how only one side of India is highlighted. I'm glad Elly gave me this opportunity to clear some of these misconceptions.

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    2. Oh, but somethingiscooking and Vinodini, despite the misrepresentation perhaps in that particular movie, it was a great movie don't you think? Such a twisted story, just like the ones you write Vinodini? ;) <3

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    3. Lol that's quite a compliment Elly...my stories being compared to a film that I like, despite all the myths it portrays. Yeah I like Slumdog too :)

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    4. Good! I'm glad to hear that we are on the same page about that! ;) <3

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  18. Great post, Vinodini :) full of patriotism and zest!
    And Elly, i love your intro of Vinodini... She is such a talent! :)

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    1. Yes, it was a great post Asiya even though it isn't Vinodini's usual style. See she can do it too, write nonfiction. ;) I wrote the first part about Vinodini regarding her style of writing like Agatha Christie, while she wrote the rest. And yeah, she IS talented. I call her a BRILLIANT writer...I'm waiting for that to settle into her brain. ;) <3

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    2. Hey thanks Asiya! I thought Elly's blog was the best to clear these myths and yeah, it did make me feel a lot patriotic :)
      Elly, I do write nonfiction, its only recently that I discovered my affinity for fiction. And yes, you do make feel good about myself with all those kind words. Inspires me to write better than before :) <3

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    3. Oh? I don't think I knew you wrote nonfiction, except for this piece here? ;) I'm glad I inspire you Vinodini. :) <3

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  19. So good to see this collaboration...Elly and Vinodini..This was much needed...I don't understand why people still believe so such things when so much information is available...I don't say Indians are perfect, no one is, but we are not a country of snake charmers! sigh!

    Random Thoughts Naba - A Book Review and Some Chitter-Chatter…...

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    1. Well snake charmers sound so much more fun, enticing, romantic? Perhaps that is why these notions fill inside people's heads...they want a 'charming' view of India, one that fits into their worldview perspective, a landscape of whatever choice they prefer. ;) <3

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    2. Thanks Nabanita! I loved invading Elly's space for a bit ;) It's about time people acknowledge these facts about our country :)

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  20. Thank you Vinodini to actually clear the doubts that hover over the heads of others regarding us Indians.
    So many myths...and so many stereotyping.
    You did well :)

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    1. Yes, unfortunately there is much stereotyping in the world isn't there Red Handed? I'm glad she was able to dispel some of the myths as well. :) <3

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    2. Hey thanks Red! There are so many more of those myths but I'm glad a could cover some of them at least :)

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  22. My Aussie teammate was extremely shocked when I told her that there are 18 national languages in India and the fact that I look like an Asian, even more confuses them. But I have to say they are always I interested and inquisitive about Indian culture. These days the common perception here is all Indians are from IT background. Brilliant post Vinodini. I always enjoy reading your posts.

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    1. I'm even surprised that there are 18 languages in India, though on the other hand it is heavily populated, so perhaps why not. If your Aussie teammates have that perception about Indians, it could be that perhaps their telecommunications company or companies are outsourced to India as they do in Canada, for at least one of them. ;) I love reading Vinodini's posts too...that's how we met in the first place! ;)

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    2. Thanks Rajlakshmi. I understand where the perception of Indians being from IT field doesn't surprise it. After all Indians are known to be academically quite strong.
      Oh yeah, the languages bit does take people by surprise...but well as Elly put it, a heavy population explains the number of languages we speak.
      Thanks again Elly. Loved writing this for your blog <3

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    3. Actually, I think a more common misperception is that all Indians are vegetarians, rather than IT. ;)

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