“How is India?” and other questions about India

I hear the same question everywhere I go in India, and I hear the same question every time someone writes me from America. The words might be arranged in a different order, but the essence of the question is always the same:

How is India?

I will now attempt to answer this question once and for all…for now, at least.

When I’m asked this question by people here, I always give the same answer. “It’s different,” I’ll say, “in a lot of ways. But I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

That’s my concise answer. The problem posed by that question, however, is that a concise answer doesn’t do justice to the richness of Indian life. Diversity, I think, is the most underrated aspect of Indian culture.

I prefer to lay to rest archetypes like “East” and “West” because of India. After all, in India, where does the East end and the West begin? You’ll see cows lying in the road across the street from a McDonalds. You’ll hear Hindu priests chanting prayers in roadside temples not far from the Reebok stores playing Akon songs. You’ll see people drinking Tropicana and eating locally grown fruits and vegetables.

India is diverse but not without unity; hot, but not unbearable; crowded, but not uncomfortable; festive, decorated, colorful and spicy; part Western, part Eastern, and always, always a place I’m glad I’ve come to.

Are you attending high school, or the intermediate stage before college, in India?

Everyone, it seems, wants to hear about school. So it’s a shame I have no idea when my classes will start. Because of some quirk in the legal system, my college – Hislop College – is one of only a couple schools in the city that haven’t been in session since June or July.

My school was supposed to start in a couple weeks before I arrived in late July. Then it was supposed to start two weeks ago. Then it was supposed to start last week. Now it’s supposed to start this week, and I’m checking the local newspaper every day for updates.

The education system is set up differently than in the United States. Primary school is the equivalent of grades 1-10. After that comes two years of junior college – standard XI which I will attend – followed by what Westerners think of as “college”.

I should also mention that students choose their careers much earlier than in America. 12 year olds may be able to tell you their career plans with much more seriousness than “taxi driver,” “astronaut,” or “basketball player”. Career changes are much more rare than in the US. Rarely will students change their intended profession as American college students are prone to doing.

When classes finally start – if they ever do – I’ll have more to say about school in India.

Are you learning to read and write Hindi?

Hindi is one of the classes I’ll be taking at Hislop. I’m quite anxious to start learning – if I could only take one class, it would be Hindi. With any luck, I won’t be too far behind the other students. I’ve also been picking up some Marathi. You can read more about my experiences with languages here.

About the Indian restaurant [from Independence Day], what new food was on the menu…

It was all Indian food! My memory is failing me, but it was similar to the Fourth of July in that most everyone ate their variety of traditional cuisine with their families. We didn’t have a cookout, however…

I plan on writing a more thorough “Indian food” post at some point, so keep your eyes open if you’re interested.

Played any tennis?

No. 😦

Tennis, by the way is called lawn tennis here. When I first told people I played tennis, they thought maybe I played table tennis or badminton. Hopefully I’ll find some other lawn-mowers soon, although I’d need to get my racket shipped.

However, I did play basketball this morning with Mayank and one of his friends. Every basketball court I’ve seen has been outdoors, and usually less furnished than most Park District courts in Champaign. It was still fun to play, although for some reason everyone assumes I’m better than I really am.

I wonder if it has anything to do with my height…


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3 Responses to ““How is India?” and other questions about India”

  1. pyoder Says:

    P, G, B

  2. John Says:

    Thanks Chris!

  3. Gibson Says:

    Re: Sports Names

    USA “Hockey”=Indian “Ice Hockey”.

    For some reason because of the Commonwealth or something both India and Pakistan have some of the top Field Hockey teams in the world. And for some reason everywhere BUT the US it’s a male dominated sport-they first started playing it in the 1928 Olympics, but only in 1980 was there a women’s Olympic tournament. You’ll see a lot of charity cricket matches in Karachi where a good portion of the teams are well known hockey players.

    Do you think you’ll try and get your Indian acquaintances interested in Ice Hockey?

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