Why the World is more Indian than you think

By Somali K Chakrabarti

China targeting Indian wedding market                                                                                                                                                               –  The Economic Times on 18th Oct, 2014

This catchy headline in ‘The Economic Times’ was hard to miss. On reading the article, I found that the glamour of Indian weddings has allured the Chinese, and they see a lucrative market and viable business opportunity in the lavish wedding celebrations.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Impressed by the lavish Indian weddings, Chinese Consul General Wang Xuefeng said his country was aggressively marketing several of its cities like Kunming, Lijiang and Dali as attractive wedding destinations.

Many Indian families are now going to Thailand, Dubai and Mauritius for weddings, but now they are also looking towards China which has several beautiful cities like Kunming which is called the city of spring for its beautiful weather, Lijiang as the city of romance and Dali famous for its pagodas,” Wang said on the sidelines of a programme.

Wang said talks were on with Indian companies and tour operators for collaborations with their Chinese counterparts for organising the weddings in China.

So, as some Indian couples plan for a grand wedding in China, China is setting up several restaurants to dish out Indian delicacies.

Indian Wedding
Big fat Indian wedding

‘Apt time to write this post!’, I thought.

With the Indianness quotient increasing by the day, it is apparent that:

The world is getting more ‘Indianized’ than we think

I recalled my experiences of travelling outside India, on account of my job as a IT consultant and for pursuing higher education. There were times when I was absolutely delighted to see and feel a slice of India in other parts of the world.

Memories of several of those occasions came to me in a flashback, when during my trips outside India, I have found myself relishing ‘Paper Masala Dosa at Dosa Hut in New Jersey, feasting on authentic vegetarian food and Rasmalai served in an earthen pot at the SwamiNarayan temple restaurant at London, or enjoying Indian vegetarian food in a restaurant in Beijing.

The pleasant memories of visiting ISKON temple at Watford, during Janamashtami festival, surfaced in my mind. Hundreds of devotees had come to offer their prayers in the temple that was nicely decorated with fresh fragrant flowers. It was a humbling experience to queue up for the prasadam and eat the delicious food while sitting on the floor in the spiritual ambience of the temple. I remembered the day when I had attended Durga Puja at Camden community centre in London and yet another occasion when I devoured the sumptuous langar at Southhall gurudwara.

Sawmi Narayan Temple Restaurant, London
Indian vegetarian delicacies at a London restaurant

I vividly remember the thrill of hearing Hindi songs, playing on Surinam radio stations, in Netherlands. I recall my struggle to communicate at Midi Station in Brussels; how the sound of a person conversing in English had put me at ease and I had requested the English speaking person to help me with the translation.

Have a look here at the Lufthansa TV Commercial (on http://www.moreindianthanyouthink.com/); you’d know exactly what I am talking about.

The initial uneasiness of the little boy and his grandpa, as they board a Lufthansa flight to New York, followed by their obvious delight when they discover that the in-flight services (with the Asian Vegetarian meal) are so much more Indian than they had ever imagined, is easy to relate to. :P

Indianness is spreading fast, far and wide beyond the country and bits of it can be found around the world.

The aroma of Indian spices and condiments has attracted travelers from all around the world to India since the ancient times; in turn, the spices and some dishes have made their way into the world cuisines.

The taste of Chicken Tikka Masala has appealed so much to the British palette that it is the dish of choice for many diners at the curry houses in Britain. It is amusing to note here that in 2001, Robin Cook – then Foreign Secretary of UK, during a speech in London, had endorsed Chicken Tikka Masala as a ‘true British national dish’.

Indian languages, art and architecture have thrived in different parts of the world

Indian languages Hindi, English, Bengali and Punjabi are among the top 10 languages spoken in the world.

World's Top Languages

You may be surprised to know that besides these modern languages, Sanskrit, the 5000 year old ancient Indian language that was once the soul of India’s culture still continues to enrich the lives of students in some unlikely places in the world.

A Dutch born Irish national named Rutger Kortonhorst, teaches Sanskrit in a school in Dublin. A school in Auckland offers a ‘Sanskrit Language Studies‘ program. Beijing’s Peking University started a ‘Sanskrit program with an objective to train Chinese students in Sanskrit and create a team of researchers for translating manuscripts containing ancient Buddhist scriptures.

‘Sanskrit teaches us the meaning of The Universe.’ says Kortonhorst

Yet again, the world is more Indian than you think.

The imprint of India’s cultural exchanges and trade relationships can be found in many countries


In the past, India had flourishing trade relationship and cultural exchanges with East and South East Asia. Buddhism, Yoga and Ayurveda are India’s gift to the world. Indian culture and temple architecture of Odisha can still be witnessed in parts in Bali and Java region of Indonesia and in parts of Thailand.

Prambanan, a 10th century Hindu temple in central Java, that has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the examples of magnificent temple architecture.

Bali temple - Prambanan
Prambanan – Hindu temple at Java, Indonesia

In the modern times, the Indian diaspora has vastly contributed to the spread of Indian culture and art forms.

While Hindi movies and movie stars such as Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Sharukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan have been hugely popular in the overseas market, the popularity of Indian art forms is not confined only to films.

Right in the heart of central London, an aesthetically done up apartment houses indigeneous Indian art from the 19th century Bengal.

The apartment belongs to Dr Nirmalya Kumar, a renowned professor at the London Business School, who has an amazing private collection of paintings by artist Jamini Roy (1887-1972; the father of Indian modern art) and some rare works of other artists, such as Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Nandalal Bose and Abanindranath Tagore.

The quintessential Indianness of the paintings engulf you as you look Krishna and Balarama, Shiva-Parvati-Ganesha, Mother & Child, folk and rural motifs, village men and woman and animals. You find yourself getting transported to another era, into another mileu in Bengal amidst home-drawn alpanas, Kalighat pata style, Kantha stitch work and Bishnupur temples.

Jamini Ray paintings
Paintings by Jamini Roy

India’s invisible innovation has started showing 


The mention of Dr Kumar here, who also features on the Thinkers50 list, naturally brings to my mind the contribution of Indians in the field of academics and research. Creative minds, from India, are making splashes, in the academic and research space all over the world. Having got the opportunity to learn from some of the brilliant professors at London Business School, I can proudly vouch for the fact that some of the very best professors in the world are Indians.

The heads of innovation labs and Research and Development centers in the Silicon Valley companies are Indians. India has not only become a global hub for IT back office services, but more than 750 multinationals have set up their R&D centres in India. The R&D centers of multinationals such as Microsoft, Google, Astra Zeneca, GE, Philips at Bangalore and Hyderabad, create innovative products and services for catering to consumers worldwide, which may not be obvious the end users, who see only the name of the company, not where it was developed.

Meanwhile IBM, the blue chip American company one of the most iconic American brands, continues to hire more Indians than Americans.

IBM headcount
IBM headcount

Lastly, shattering the myth that Indians do not produce world class innovations, the success of India’s Mars mission puts to rest all doubts about the ability to Indians to produce world class innovations in the most economical and efficient manner using home-grown technology.

India's Mission to Mars
India’s Mission to Mars

So, as the world (and now Mars too) readily embraces the Indian concept of frugal innovation, there is little doubt to the fact that the world is definitely More Indian Than You Think, with the Indianness quotient bound to increase further as India continues to nurture the strength of all its provinces and regions. 

PS :  This post was my entry for Lufthansa’s #MORE INDIAN THAN YOU THINK contest on Indiblogger and was selected as one of the winning entries.

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15 thoughts on “Why the World is more Indian than you think

  1. Bhudeb Chakrabarti 12 November 2014
    You have travelled very extensively unlike many of us . You have further supplemented your field experience and knowledge by your reading of books . Your findings therefore becomes authentic .The people of our country have gone to many places of the world and have also settled down in many such places . They all have contributed in diverse ways . Your article will enrich our knowledge and influence our perception .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perfect example of soft-power that India and Indians have exercised over the rest of the world, through its diaspora and the socio-cultural-religious values that we carry with us as we travel around the globe.

    Liked by 1 person

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