Culture Corner: India

Dress me up in a sari and call me Brangelina

By Erica Sanderson

This week, the latest installment of Culture Corner tackles the multicolored elephant in the room that is India. Many Syracuse University students hail from this mystical country, but attempts to learn about their culture have been less than stellar. Hosting over one billion people – and you thought Chucks on a Friday night was crowded – India is more than just a speck on a map. Here are the top three associations with Indian culture:

Spicy Food

True. For the bland American palette, some spices in Indian cuisine will have you beat red and crying in the fetal position. But don’t start sweating just yet; not all Indian dishes are hot. Most just act as an orgy of flavors on the tongue. Some of the most common spices used are chili pepper, black mustard seed, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric.

One word is synonymous with Indian food: curry, which many students immediately said. Known for its distinct – to put it mildly – smell, curry is essential to many Indian dishes as the gravy that accompanies rice.

And if you’re in the mood for a juicy steak dinner while visiting India, you’re most likely SOL. Majority of the population is Hindu so the cow is worshipped as a scared animal and is off-limits. Can you imagine what Americans would do without their beloved slaughterhouses? A future without a mass produced, packaged piece of “Bessie” is unfathomable.

Learn more about Indian cuisine at Bollywood is bigger than Hollywood

True? There are no statistics to actually prove this claim, but it’s beyond huge; it’s bigger than the “Twilight” craze – Robert Pattinson start panicking now. Bollywood and all the dancing, singing and love story plotlines, is a moneymaking machine. There are other Indian film industries, but none have matched Bollywood.

Some Indian students have been asked some odd questions on the phenomenon, including if Indians regularly break out into song and dance (they don’t).

Guess you can stop polishing your Indian dance shoes.

Bollywood even has its own Brangelina, Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan. Rai has been called the most beautiful woman in the world and won the Miss World competition in 1994. What now Megan Fox! “A sarong … or, uh, what do they wear?”

False. That would be a sari; sarongs cover the wobbly bits at the beach. A sari is the traditional garb for women. The dress is wrapped around the waist and draped over one shoulder. It’s very decorative and colorful, made out of silk or cotton. The other style is a salwar kaneez, a loose, long shirt worn over pants. Both men and women wear them. Most are made from cotton, due to the stifling tropical climate. Even though students envisioned Indians in this clothing, most Indians wear western clothes: standard jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. Traditional clothes are worn by older generations or for a traditional ceremony. The American epidemic of white sneakers and Levis is spreading.

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