Cultural Experience | India

No Place Like Home: India vs Rest of the World.

A Comparison of Lifestyles Where  Neither is Found Lacking

1. Traffic 

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Rest of the World: Lanes exist and traffic lights are worth following. Traffic rules are a thing.

In India: Squeeze in where you can and if the cop says to keep going past a red light, you do it. And the cop will tell you to do it. Also, cows have more of a right on the national highway than you do. God made all that grass for them to graze after all.

 

2.Shopping

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Rest of the World: Even Forever 21 jewelry that’ll probably break once it’s twice-worn costs a cost $8-10.

In India: All 4 of the items above cost a total of less than $6 from street-side stalls and they could probably be worn by the next two generations after me…maybe as some kind of black metal than these “silver” articles but something is better than nothing.

 

3. Efficiency/Resourcefulness

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Rest of the World: Five seats, five seatbelts, five people.

In India: Note that technically only two people can sit at the front of this vehicle. Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi term, meaning an innovative fix or a simple work-around, sometimes used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue. Case in point, the picture above. 2 seats and yet over 20 people travelling. Bend rules, check. Full-use of a resource, check. Complicated issue solved, check. 

4. Roads

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Rest of the World: According to the Oxford dictionary, “a wide way leading from one place to another, especially one with a specially prepared surface that vehicles can use.”

In India: There are some great national highways but overall our road quality is, diverse, to say the least. Wide, narrow, smooth, rocky, doesn’t matter- just something that gets you from Point A to B. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you’ll start going one way and have to stop your car and walk the rest of the way. Maybe you’ll have to reverse back some 25 kilometers to get out of the mess you’ve gotten in to.

 

5. Queue

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Rest of the World: A straight line of people awaiting their turn sensibly.

In India: The hindi word for why is kyun (the n is silent)? Sounds an awful lot like queue . And it’s the reaction most people have to queues too. Whether it’s checking for your seat allocation on the train or the admission lists outside colleges, people don’t realize that the lists aren’t going anywhere and seeing it sooner or later won’t change anything. Try telling them that it’ll probably be faster for everybody if everyone followed an orderly manner and you’ll get a thousand glares burning right through you.

 

6. ‘Brands

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Rest of the World: Real brands with really hefty price tags.

In India: Don’t even try to figure out what’s real and what’s not. The amount of replicas available  are a welcome treat for those on a shoestring budget. The quality and appearance are nothing like the real thing, nor do half the people buying these realize exactly what they’re buying, but it’s good fun to see the bright hues on the stalls.

 

7. Seaside at the beach

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Rest of the World: White sands and blue waters invite swimsuit-clad people who like to relax under the sunny skies and dip their feet in the waters from time to time.

In India: Beach and sunshine are archenemies. No one steps out in the boiling heat and definitely not in a wide, open area like a beach. Early mornings are for the few health freaks to jog in the fresh air. Late evenings are when the whole world runs to the beach for the slight breeze. Hardly ever do people come to relax and people waddle in the waters fully-clothed in their jeans and t-shirts. Most of them are there for the food in the stalls scattered around the beach, not the beach itself.

 

8. Drying Rack

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Rest of the World: A portable device that can be used indoors and put away when not in use, or a permanent fixture in backyards or drying areas of houses and apartments.

In India: The grill, the sofa, the curtain rod. Not to say that everybody does this- we don’t at my house- but driving along the oldest of shanties and newest of skyscrapers, unfortunately, the most common sights are people’s vests and boxers.

 

9. Happiness

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Rest of the World: Most of us associate happiness with money and power. We aim for better things in life with the hope of being happier.

In India: Not to glorify poverty or anything but without a roof over their heads and no promise of three meals a day, people in India still seek pleasure in the smallest of things. Children may not have the Hot Wheels cars of Barbie dolls but they will derive their games out of sticks and stones. Families may always pray for a better tomorrow, but they do not curse their today either.

Ananya Bhattacharya

New York University | 7 stories

Ananya Bhattacharya is a rising junior at New York University, double majoring in Journalism and Economics, with a minor in Creative Writing. She can't travel without a good book to read and she can't sleep without a good meal to eat (foodie alert!). Having grown up in three countries in three different continents, she can't stay put in one place for too long- an avid explorer, she documents her life, partly as journalism and partly as poetry.


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