Sunday, November 7, 2010

12 India Factoids You Might Not Know [Now With Obama In India]

1. "Namaste" is one of those words like "Shalom" that people who don't know any other words from India pick up. It translates very roughly as "I salute the divinity in you".It's a nice concept.

2. India has a population of about 1.2 billion, which makes it the world's most populous nation.

3. When British India gained independence from Britain in 1947, it split into India and Pakistan. Pakistan was divided into East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by 1000 miles of India. East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan in 1971 and became what we now know as Bangla Desh.

4. Hindi and Urdu, major languages of India and Pakistan respectively, were referred to by the British as Hindustani and considered one language. They are mutually intelligible in the spoken form, yet are written with two different alphabets Hindi has a higher percentage of indigenous content, while Urdu borrows considerably from Arabic and Persian. Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, and Urdu is written in a script based on Arabic.

5. Hindi and English share the stage as the numerically predominant languages in India. 21 other languages have some level of official recognition on a local level. There are literally hundreds of other languages spoken in India. If Obama tries to give a speech in each of these languages, he'll end up staying in India until 2012 and will probably blow a fuse on his teleprompter.
It should be noted that English provides a common tongue to many Indians who otherwise do not share a common language.

6. The Christian community of Kerala, India claims to have been the world's first Christians, converted by Thomas the apostle of Jesus between 68 and 70 AD. They often refer to themselves as "Thomas Christians" and have Aramaic as their liturgical language.

7. Many Indians who come out on the losing end of the caste system in India convert to Christianity or Islam to escape caste discrimination. This has angered some Hindu nationalists, who have responded with violence against converts from Hinduism.

8. Although caste discrimination is outlawed by the Indian constitution, it persists in actual practice. The Indian government actually has a form of affirmative action in which seats are set aside in university and jobs set aside in government. This has been a source of vexation to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu nationalist groups who feel that upper caste Indians who are poor are left behind by the measures.

9. The largest film in the world is not Hollywood but "Bollywood". People in culturally conservative countries, particularly in the Arab world find the lack of nudity and sex to be more compatible with their values and social mores. There is in Israel a Bollywood channel that is popular among both Arabs and Jews from Arab countries residing in Israel.

10. Although Pakistan was founded as a homeland for India's Muslims, India, with a Muslim population variously estimated from around 138 million to about 160 million. Pakistan has over 170 million Muslims. Despite its lower percentage of Muslims, India is one of the top 10 Muslim countries in the world by population, if not by percentage. Pakistan by contrast has a little over 3 million Hindus, with complaints of persecution that goes unpunished and that some say tacitly condoned.

11. We think of India as one country, but it has many languages, a few major religions and internal border controls at which truck drivers actually have to stop and present papers. If India can streamline its governmental regulations, optimise the climate in which business functions and facilitate foreign investment, it will likely continue current trends and become a world economic power to eclipse China.

12. English has drawn from Indian languages. Here are some words that come from Indian languages. Shampoo came originally from the Hindi word Chumpi, which refers to an oil massage of the scalp. Pundit comes from "Pandit" meaning scholar or priest. There is a long list of such words, which came in good part into our language through the British colonization of India.

My favorite quote from India's 1913 Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali who composed India's national anthem.

“Where the mind is without fear, and the heart is held high, Where the world is not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, Where the words came out from the depths of truth, Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits, Where the mind is led forward by thee into everwidening thought and action - Into that heaven of freedom, My father, let my country awake.”


One of favorite Bollywood songs from the 2003 movie Baghban.

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