Wednesday, March 24, 2010

India: Why You Have To See It Before You Die....

While I've never been afforded the opportunity to travel, my love of other countries and cultures is still a passion of mine. And my latest cultural obsession is India. It seems that the more I learn about India, the more I love. From the clothing, the culture, the food, the history, the family It really is amazing.

Let me begin with their values. While no country is perfect, India for the most part, holds traditional family values close to it's heart. Parents are cared for in their old age. They live with their grown children. This is so different from our country and is deserving of absolute respect. I mean when you think about it, isn't that really how it's supposed to be? Our parents cared for us until we were too young to care for ourselves, and it only seems right to care for them as they age. Aging parents should not need to worry about rent, food, medications and such. They should not have to decide whether to eat or to purchase necessary medications due to limited income. Nor should they fear being sent to a nursing home to be ignored or face neglect and/or abuse. Our parents should be respected for the decades they have lived and honored in our homes as they approach death. In India, honoring and caring for parents in their old age is the norm. They are welcomed, honored and respected. It is the way it should be, and we as Americans should take a second look at traditional family values.

The Indian culture also respects parents enough to trust them to know what is best for us by selecting a life partner for us. Yeah yeah, a bit tough for our Western thinking to wrap our brains around, but consider this. In a culture where caring for family takes precedence over anything else, parents (as most parents do) want the absolute best for their children. They see it as a responsibility to select a partner who will be a good husband/wife. Men and women know their roles and strive to be the best at them. How many times have we allowed our children to make their own decisions when selecting a partner and have seen them date person after person only to become bitter because of the hurt they've endured due to one failed relationship after another? Or how about the pain we've felt when we see our children divorce after knowing at the wedding that the relationship would never work out? Consider the Indian culture as a parent. Since divorce is VERY shameful, the responsibility of choosing an appropriate spouse falls on our shoulders. It is up to the parent to select someone who will be an appropriate provider, partner, a protector (men), and potential parent. We as parents would want someone who will love our children as much as we do. Who will bring honor, respect and joy to our family and that of our children. Boys are raised to be good husbands and fathers. Girls are raised to be good wives and daughters. With an entire culture being raised this way, it's no wonder why marriages last lifetimes and there are almost no single parents. In fact, couples who share children almost NEVER get divorced due to the fact that both parents understand that the child would be disgraced and neither parent is willing to put their child though the humiliation of divorce. Oh it's so different than America isn't it?

In addition to the traditional family values is the adherence to modesty and virtue. Women in India are expected to dress modestly. Foreigners who do not dress that way are representing their country very poorly and it is considered inappropriate and rude. Saris or sarees are still very common. If a woman is dressed in other types of clothing, upper arms and upper legs are not to be shown. This to me is so cool! To the Indian culture, the chest, cleavage, thighs and shoulders are considered private and are saved for their husband. Ah the good ole days! When virtue and honor were the norm. Actually if you think about it, it makes sense. A man most likely does not want to think that other men have seen his wife nearly naked and may be thinking inappropriately about her. Her body is considered special and to be honored, not displayed publicly. I find that thinking beautiful. I find myself saying, “Yeah! THAT'S how I want to be thought of. That's how I want to be treated.” It's a tragedy that Western men don't view women like that. Perhaps our divorce rate would be considerably lower if we adopted that thinking. Archaic you say? Perhaps....but so what? What has progress produced in our society? Perhaps going back to the beginning is what we need.

Take a look at the food. Wow. So diverse! Indian food is a lot like American food in that different areas have different ways of cooking. Much like the difference between an authentic Philly Cheese Steak, TexMex and Sausage Gumbo. They're all wonderful foods yet indigenous to their region. Oh sure, you can get them in other places of the country, but those are usually made from either someone who took the recipe with them when they relocated, or they're wannabes. In India, it's the same way. My research of curry caused a lot of confusion in the beginning until I found out that curries are different in each region. Some curries are red like a chili, some are brown like a stew and some resemble sautéed ingredients not having much of a sauce at all. Yet the common thread in all of them is the use of the same spices. I made my first Indian dish last week and found it amazing. When I told some online friends from India what I had made, they knew immediately (of course) from what region the dish was from. There is also a very high percentage of the Indian culture that is vegetarian and so there are a LOT of delicious dishes that are not only vegetarian, but vegan as well. How cool is that?

I would also like to add that it seems the Indian people are one of the few countries that actually like Americans. Perhaps their view of us is a bit distorted and false. Many still view us as a country of the 50's. When we too held family values, people stayed married, women dressed modestly and people genuinely cared about each other.

It seems that the more I learn about India, the more I love. It is my intent to make it the first stop in my plan to live in other countries. Do they have their troubles? Well of course they do. It's not a Utopian society. And there really isn't a need to go into it here, because it's the first thing the media wants us to know is the bad. And if you know anything about India, I'm sure you already know about those things. But once we get rid of the little box of our Western thinking and open our minds to other cultures, the more we will see just how unimportant things we have always known are, and how beautiful the world and all it's people really are.

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