Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Real India


What do people mean when they say “We want to see the real India”. I guess what it means is that they don't want to go to the prominent tourist destinations or stay in a five star hotel or travel in an ac car. But I sometimes wonder what is the real India they talk about. Is it possible to see a country , to feel a country which had evolved over 1000's of years - literally in 2 weeks time.

Forget India, is it possible to see any country in so little a  time. I have gone to Dubai and Sharjah . and their history was around 60 years at that time i.e after the oil boom. But what about before that??? What about the oasis and traveling through the desert? What about their day to day life? What more treasures are there over there???? In America, we spent 2 weeks in Washington and a day in New York. But apart from an overview is it possible to know such huge countries where one end may have one history , one culture and another end may have something else.

Coming back to the case of India.  I am so glad for the all India tour in my college, for at that time I got to see some parts of India. But again that's just a parts in North and South of India. What about East and West. The East of India is so shrouded  and I have absolutely zero idea about the Seven sisters (States :  Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim and Manipur). I myself don't know anything about real India how am I to show it to someone else????

When I was a kid I used to be thrilled whenever I read references of India in classics. I read more English Books  of 1900 's. Most of the protagonist would be related to someone who held some post in British India and India was an exotic place of snake charmers and tiger skins . I always used to wonder...where are the snake charmers now???? Maybe you see them in Villages. I myself have seen them only in TV. Maybe they used to be there in 1900s. Then I grew up and was introduced to movies.
Recently in the last 5 years there are three movies which showed India. Outsourced, Slumdog Millionere and very recently Best Exotic marigold Hotel. Which among these showed something closest to real India in my opinion? It is the movie Outsourced followed by Best Exotic Marigold hotel and then followed by Slumdog Millionaire. But there is something I always wonder of the music associated with India. Every time they show India in any channel like discovery or National geographic or History, I hear this sitar or veena music- purely north Indian classical , spiritual types. The funny thing is, I hear these only in these programs. Even the music is different in each area. Can they be generalized?

Coming back to the point.

What is real India? Is it present day  India or  50 years ago 100? 200? 500? 2000? Or maybe even more???Is it its religions? The gods? The temples? Mosques and churches and Jain and Buddhist and Sikh or many more? Is it the cultures, tribal or urban or rural or those belonging to different states? Is it the villages, cities or metros?

Is it the mountains or sea or farmlands or forests , plains or hills, is it drought ridden areas or rain flooded areas??? Is it the slums or extremely posh houses in different places of the city. Is it crowds everywhere or the bare villages in rural India where one does not see anyone.
Are the tall buildings or thatched houses or made up houses of plastic, aluminum sheets and newspaper. Is it the Volvo buses or the bullock carts or maruti cars or government run buses , even they vary from state to state??? Is it the dresses, the food??? The people????

I got a cultural shock when I came to North India. And I am an Indian- still so different it is from my own place.

In whose perspective do you want to see India from, the perspective of  a poor laborer, the orphan children on the streets, the middle class , the "upper middle class" or the rich or the powerful? Of a person who has grown up in villages or towns or cities or metros? I personally see the middle class India because I belong to it. And as it is with human tendency, where we belong is the one we think is prevalent.

A friend had commented some days ago that it is difficult to find any country with a greater cultural heritage than ours.( those were not his exact words but I think that’s what he meant). I wondered why because are they not many countries as huge, maybe be huger than India, so would it not be so there too??? Then my husband suggested , ‘though he doesn’t believe India has any monopoly over the greatest cultural heritage, it does have a rich and varied heritage most probably because India or rather the Indian Subcontinent was home to organized human settlement for a long and continuous period of time.’ Time enough to evolve into different cultures. Maybe India has been the home of people from the west, east, south and north and every culture has amalgamated to form something new. Maybe….

Recently a foreigner joined our office. He was extremely amused about the pigs he saw in the roads. He associated that with India (at least that’s what I felt. And I will admit , I became instantly prejudiced. I felt he was stereotyping India, You know apparently all Indian roads have animals blocking the roads J). I did not say anything as I thought it might be rude or maybe I was being over sensitive. But then  another friend who was not of Indian origin remarked (which made me feel better)  that if one goes to Delhi , one won't find any pigs anywhere.

So , to conclude, I think one finds what he seeks in this place, you might find some common things but mostly it will be things which you want to see. The country has lots to offer so actually it's  totally up to you to choose. Whatever you choose is the real India....Only a small part though. I guess that it is so when you visit any country in this world…

1 comment:

  1. This is such a thought-provoking post. I love to travel and I tend to want to see the tourist attractions, but then I want to get away from them and see the regular day to day life. Restaurants are usually bad if it's a tourist area. I love it when I can find a place the local people go to. I think seeing the "real" place means seeing something the way a local person would see it, which I know isn't entirely possible, but I don't want something to be an act for the tourists.

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