Being Indian

by Ambareesh Sr Ja




Dear Steph,

How have you been? I hope you are as happy, healthy and vibrant as when I first met you and I wish the same for all the people that you care about and who care for you.

As I recall reading not a long while ago, time and space are relative. Though you may claim to know it already, I’m pretty sure that most of the people I know are not aware of the magnitude of this relativeness.Time and space- they pass way more swiftly as we get older. Take a 4 year old kid and his father for example. Imagine him crying for candy around noon, and the strict Dad asks him to finish his meal first. One year for the kid is 25% of his life time (so far). The same is about 10% for his father. When the kids are ordered to wait for a couple of hours for their goodies, what grown-ups don’t realize is the fact that it is equivalent to making them wait for a cup of coffee for half a day or more. I’ve heard of couples who got divorced for less than that.

I would love it if you were to keep the above relativeness in mind while reading the rest of the letter. On a later date, and from a later perspective- anything and everything mentioned here may look, sound or feel different. It is due to the state of transience we live in.

How is it to be an Indian?

A seemingly simple question that you threw across my cognizance has snowballed into something that forced me to get lost in my last score years of memory.

Imagine living in a country which hosts 1 billion people and 1500 languages. From Ayyavazhi, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism to Zoroastrianism I can safely presume that there is a religion for every letter of the alphabet- and some of them originated here and spread far out into the world. This is just the beginning. Soon ‘Indian’ would literally be used in favor of the word ‘diverse’. Make a note. You heard it here first.

In India, if one were to sit in an express train and take a nap, she might wake up in a place where the spoken word is unspeakable and the food unrecognizable- even if you were truly Indian in all respects. The beauty is, this might happen if you go in any of the four cardinal directions; the outcome being different every time. Never be startled if you run into fifty different type of Indians, and I am sure you are to meet a dozen more. Ten years ago, if you chose a set of twenty people across the world- one would be an Indian. By 2015 one in seven would probably be an Indian. As someone jovially pointed out, this is indeed a unique way of world domination. We’ll all jive to different music, lick clean a million different delicacies, wear a thousand traditional clothes unique to their last strand, and pray to one among the 330 million Gods that are supposedly praised in our holy scripts.

We invented the zero.

We boast of the richest men and the filthiest of slums.

A majority of my fellow countrymen may not give a hoot for any kind of sports, except for cricket. We are yet to qualify for a soccer world cup, but when a man named Sachin Tendulkar used to walk down to bat, even the million Gods stopped to watch.

Here broad mindedness may still be a rare quality. Remnants of  parental control run through our genes, and with the turn of the millennium all of them wanted their progeny to be engineers or doctors. Marriages are ‘arranged’ for you by your elders and someone might still question the need for ‘finding’ your soul mate yourself, and so you might very well sleep with a person you’d no idea existed a month ago, on your nupital bed. Mini skirts are frowned upon, and rape is often seen as the victim’s fault.

However, what makes people interesting are the things that they love and not the ones they hate. Nine out of ten movies we make might qualify as musicals according to western standards. But I admire the way the colourful songs celebrate love and life, no matter how ridiculous the lyrics may sound. I love the fact that we are so strongly bonded to our roots, and the proud heritage. That marriages last for decades, till death does them part. That most families that I know of take care of their previous generations with love and respect. That even if you don’t have a dime of money in your pocket, you can survive for weeks. [Unbelievable? The Golden Temple of  Amritsar, Punjab (A state in Northern India) – provides food for a hundred thousand people irrespective of their sex, religion, cast, creed or birthplace. Every. Single. Day]

I thought of a hundred things to tell you about my country when I had first heard your question, and a million more by the time I picked up my pen. I could ramble on about the gorgeous places and the culture and the cuisine and ….the rest of the million things. But all of this is easy to find. What I think would be beyond staring, at this peninsular nation through a satellite-run-periscope, is understanding the way it makes you feel. Imagine your favorite type of music blasting in your ears from a set of headphones. Literally to the brain numbing level. Believe that happening to all of your senses. Add to it the enormous magnitude of size, novelty and diversity. There you have the recipe of this amazing country.


Incredible India!


Where everyone is truly alive.



Yours lovingly,

Ambareesh Sr Ja.