Part 7 in a series, #returntoindia.
It’s easy to think all Hispanics are alike, unless of course you are a Mexican being compared to a Cuban. The differences go much deeper than different foods and spices. It’s even easier to think all Indians are alike. And even further from the truth.
At least the Hispanics speak the same language. Each state in India has its own language—22 official languages in all. In fact, over 1600 languages are spoken.
And yes, there are different foods and spices. Take breads, of example. We think of naan as Indian bread—but each region has its own flat bread. You can taste the different spices in each region, even in something as ubiquitous as the chai. Color palates change too. So does the climate.
The linguistic, ethnic, political, religious and topographic variations are mind boggling. Yet somehow, there is a sense of being Indian that recognizes a common identity constructed around a complex social structure. It is remarkable, really.
When we visit Immanuel Business School the instruction is in English, but the students speak two different languages—neither of them Hindi. The faculty comes from different states—with different languages and tastes. But everyone wants to know what we think of India.
These subcategories and subcultures are India. People of different religions, languages and palates have been getting along for centuries, with a shared understanding of hierarchy and a karmic view of fate.
As we travel across India, everything is different.
And it’s all the same.