Random Book Notes: Indian Customs and Culture

This evening I perused a couple of books on Indian culture and jotted down a few notes.  This are far from detailed but they are the tidbits that leapt out at me as I read.  Note that these are VERY quick notes and I’m sure they’re completely overgeneralized in many cases so correct me if I’m wrong but be gentle, please!

  • Gained independence from the British Empire in 1947 becoming, eventually, three different countries:
    • West Pakistan; primarily Muslim
    • East Pakistan, became Bangladesh in 1971
    • India; primarily Hindu
  • Interpersonally, Indians like to invest time in others, really getting to know them.  In some cases it’s not unusual for an Indian person to want to spend a week or more with someone who is a new business contact
  • Indians tend to be intensely curious about Westerners and often gather in crowds around them.  They also tend to have much more conversation about family and personal matters than Westerners
  • Hinduism or Sanatana dharma, the eternal way of life
    • One God – Brahman with three aspects
      • Brahma – the creator
      • Vishnu – the preserver/sustainer
      • Shiva – the completer/destroyer
  • Indians do not tend to use toilet paper and are, in fact, rather disgusted by the Western habit of doing so.  They wipe with their left hand and wash afterwards.  As a result, the left hand is considered unclean and should not be used to touch food.
  • Meals
    • Morning tea: 6:30-7:00am, tends to be sweets, eggs, biscuits
    • Lunch: 1:00-2:00pm, rice and curries
    • Dinner: 8:30pm
    • If invited to an Indian’s house for dinner, it tends to be expected that you will be 15-30 minutes late in arriving
  • Body Language
    • The head and ears are considered sacred, never touch the head of a child
    • Pointing with the fingers is considered rude, instead Indians point with a jerk of their chin in the desired direction
    • Grasping the ears is considered a sign of sincerity
    • A point of confusion is the typical Indian style of head shaking. Shaking back and forth with a bit of sinusoidal tilt is often taken as meaning ‘no’ but in reality indicates fervent agreement
    • Traditional Indian greeting is the namaskar with palms together with fingers extended and a slight bow.
  • Family
    • Most Hindus married by walking seven times around a ceremonial fire; this is just part of the ceremony but this seems to be a repeated theme
    • It is vitally important for a wife to bear a son; only a son can perform the necessary ceremonies required to save the parents from “put” or hell.
    • Daughters are viewed as less desirable because they often require payment of a crippling dowry
    • Indian proverb:
      • Children from 0-5 should be treated as princes
      • Children from 6-16 should be treated as slaves
      • Children 16 and older should be treated as friends
    • Family groups are very tightly knit and children are always in the presence of many relatives.
    • Babies are not allowed to cry but are fed on demand whenever needed.  Diapers are not typically worn and children can pee freely wherever
    • The bond between mother and son is the strongest in most families
    • The bond between wife and husband is next to weakest with only the bond between sisters being weaker

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