You Can’t Learn India in 12 Easy Steps

Despite what this article may imply. You can’t even truly learn India in 12 hard steps … in fact, if you weren’t born there, you might not be able to truly learn it at all. Just like anyone who wasn’t born there will always be gaijin in Japan, anyone who wasn’t born in India will always be videshi, even though she will always be welcomed if she respects her hosts and host country. In an effort to explain why, we’ll attempt to convey some of the hidden complexities behind the “12 easy steps”.

  • Religion, Caste, & Language Play a Dominating Role

    While there are only a handful of major religions, there are over a dozen minor religions with more followers than the entire population of many countries. While Hindi may be the official language, there are over forty languages commonly spoken in the various provinces, and India has four languages in the top twenty. In the rural areas and the older population, caste is of pre-eminent importance, but among the younger generation in the urban populations, it plays less of a role. And some of the modern global consulting organizations, like Wipro, have officially adopted a “no caste” policy in hiring and promotion (but it may still play an unofficial role among the executives and “old-timers”).

  • Festivals and Beliefs are Complex

    And they vary depending on province, religion, and even family. You can’t know them all, or their importance.

  • Joint families are the norm

    This goes not only in the home, but at social events outside the home.

  • Namaste

    One word, a thousand meanings.

  • Uncertainties and Poor Infrastructure are Common

    And even the most impressive modern facility can go down without warning as much of the infrastructure it depends on (water, power, etc.) is poor and at the brink of failure.

  • Flamboyancy is Frowned Upon

    Just because they wear brightly coloured clothing doesn’t mean they are outgoing. It’s what is normal and reserved for them.

  • Schedules are Guides, Not Timelines

    Indians don’t work by the clock. And even though those that conduct international business tend to be more reliable than those who don’t, the uncertainty of India makes keeping schedules on a regular basis almost impossible.

  • Emotional Turmoil Affects Business

    Business is not separated from daily life in India.

  • Family First

    Even the CEO of a multi-national must cave into the wishes of his elders at thome.

  • “Face” is Very Important

    Everything has to be dished up with a spoonful of sugar.

  • Visitations aren’t always scheduled

    … and it works both ways.

  • Harmony Must be Maintained

    But if multiple harmonies are in balance, which one takes precedence?

Maybe that’s easy for you, but all I see is fractal complexity.

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