Indians adapt easily due to diversity
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 23:03
“Man! Indians are everywhere!” This is not a new statement: I have heard that statement from almost everyone with whom I discussed anything related to India in the U.S.
Every single American I have known since I arrived in the U.S. over a year ago has told me they have had Indian friends while they were growing up. At times, I have even thought: after traveling half-way across the globe, is there any place I can go where I can claim I am the first Indian to be there?
After frantic research and lots of travel, the Desi community apologetically and resolutely assured me that every nook and corner of this world has been taken. There is perhaps absolutely no country or region where an Indian has not already been, set up a business in or written computer code for.
This including the lone Indian Bezal Jesudason who (until his premature death in 1995) ran a tourism business and provision store assisting explorers at the last outpost before the North Pole in the Canadian settlement “Resolute.” He is even rightfully credited for putting the High Arctic on the tourism map.
So indeed, the legacy is huge. When I travel through unfamiliar terrains or lonely roads in the outskirts of seemingly nowhere, I always think that surely there had been an Indian who passed through here sometime before me.
And I wonder, what makes Indians such wide travelers and so global? Is it just an inherent tendency to seek fortunes? But if that is true, why does the Indian civilization also have the distinction of not having ever been hostile to any other civilization in its history?
Surely, in the modern world, the quest for individualized livelihood, choices and dreams of career roles that can’t be sought near home projects people everywhere across the globe. But Indians seem to be good at it, and doing well, too.
One of the major reasons we have this characteristic is the British. After being a prized colony of the British Empire for over two centuries, they left behind some important tools with Indians, the most significant of which is the English language. And along with it, a system of education that clearly infused a Western outlook and globalized worldview.
But there is something significant within India that is crucial as to why Indians can adapt and acclimate to any society in any corner of the world: the fact that we are indeed many different countries and cultures within ourselves.
The Rupee, the currency of India, is spelled out in fifteen official languages in our currency notes. And of course there are many more popular languages than that, some of which that do not even have a written script.
Along with languages, cultures and societies also change within different regions in India. Even within religions there are many variations in rituals and customs from the north to the south.
Indeed, for my grandmother who resides in the deep south of India and has never traveled to the north of India, a Punjabi Sikh would be more “foreign” than an American, since she speaks neither Punjabi nor knows much about the Sikh religion. But she does speak fluent English and has many Anglo-Indian friends.
Thus, traveling within India itself is not dissimilar to traveling to another country altogether. It’s just a change in wardrobe for many of us.
So it is no wonder that Indians can get along well with the rest of the world wherever we go. We observe, adapt and learn fast, because it’s just a habit from back home.
Sunil is a graduate student in the Lyle School of Engineering.