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India’s culture was one culture I had absolutely no idea about. Some of the practices they engage in at various stages of their life, some of their cultural activities in regard to lifestyles, how their society is stratified, how they go about their marriage and eventually some of the practices and rituals they perform when one of them dies are some of the aspects of their culture I really wanted to know about.
I basically wanted to know about some of common aspects about their deep culture as well as their surface culture. The deep culture basically entails some of the cultural and traditional norms ,customs and values that are not easily learned about by an outsider from another culture unless he or she spent some time with someone who was born and raised in that particular culture alternatively one who has spent some considerable amount of time in that culture. The surface culture on the other hand entails those aspects of a culture for instance norms and value an individual can easily identify in a different culture.
To capture all these from the Indian culture which I had absolutely no clue about, I had no other option other than searching for someone from India with whom I was to conduct an in-depth interview with. My main aim was to learn as much as possible about the surface and the deep culture of India .So I basically went out to look for a much older and mature Indian with a broader life experience.Kamlesh Patni, an Indian who was born and raised in India was the gentleman I met during my quest to fulfill the requirements of this assignment .I requested him to grant me a one-hour interview in regard to his culture in two weeks time, a request that he gladly accepted.
In the interview I gathered a lot in regard to some vital aspects of the Indian culture like values, beliefs and common attitudes .In the interview I basically used open ended questions in order to accurately capture some of the finer details about their culture and also to allow the interview to develop in its own direction .Here are some of the open ended questions that I used to find out much about Kamlesh Patni’s cultural identity.
- What kind of political system does India use, is it presidential or parliamentary system and if at all you use the presidential system what is the structure like, and if you use the parliamentary system then kindly explain if your prime minister has executive powers acts as the de facto leader /chief executive like in the U.K or de doesn’t have those executive powers like in other places like in Tanzania?
- What kind of educational system does India use, is it the British system or if any other kindly name it. Where does the funding of education in India come from? Does is it come from the private sector, public sector or the government provides free education?
- How is marriage and family life handled in India? Is it patriarchal or matriarchal kind of set up?
- What are some of the rituals that are normally performed during the death and burial of an individual in India?
- Comment on India’s deep culture in regard to spirituality and religion.
- What are some of the common festivals, celebrations or holidays that Indians celebrate and what are their significances.
- Kindly give tell me something about India in regard to foods, clothing and languages.
First of all on the request in regard to India’s surface culture, I requested to know from Patni some of the basics in regard to their kind of government, political leadership, educational systems, and the state of their economy. From him I gathered that the political system in India is that of federal constitutional republic. In this system, the President is head of state, the Prime Minister is in charge and head of government.The executive authorities in the country is exercised by head of state who is independent of any influence from the legislature. The legislative mandate and power is basically vested in the government and other parliamentary chambers namely the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. The state and federal state elections normally take place in multi-party system.
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The Indian judiciary is not in any ways influenced by the legislature and executive. The highest court in India is the Supreme Court. According to Das, H. (2001), Politics get so polarized once in a while in India and different groups rise against each other .India has a federal form of government however their central government has greater power compared to the states and their government is pretty much like replica of the British system which is basically parliamentary.
According to Chai H.and Roy, K. (2006) the economy of India is characterized with common problems like poverty, under development, unemployment, and many other socio-economic issues that in many ways influence politics. Eradicating poverty has been one of the main agenda of the Indian national congress for long. The Indian shilling has not been fairing on well against the dollar for awhile now. The India’s communist Party mainly supports most of the left-wing politics and ideologies like that of land for everyone and they also oppose neo-liberal ideas like globalization, privatization and capitalism and privatization. If my company was to do business in India, some of the social hierarchies and social interactions that I will have to be a ware of include the caste system where by people from one group don’t easily interact with the other, and there are specific groups that produce various people in the labor markets.
This kind of a scenario require one to use management styles that are in line with the cultural practices of the locals. To overcome some of the barriers that may arise during communication is to learn the native language. It is true that when you go to Rome do what the roman’s are doing ,because if you attempt to do your own things you are likely not to succeed in what ever you are doing for instance in my case if at all am interested in working effectively with the Indian people ,I have to communicate with their language for my business to be successful.
Education in India is normally provided by the public sector .The funding and control mainly comes from three levels: state, federal, and local. Education for children is compulsory .The Nalanda University is one of the oldest university-system. Few other educational institutions follow systems of education used in western societies for instance the British Raj. In India education basically falls under the control of the state and Government. The state takes up some responsibilities and others are under the autonomy of government. Most institutions of higher learning in India are controlled by unions or the government. There is a lot of progress when it comes to primary education.
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When it comes to marriage and family, India is by and large a matriarchal society where a lot of authority in a family comes from the side of the mother. The type of marriage that is popular among most Indians is arranged marriage. Dating is considered a taboo in India. However, it is believed to have its own advantages and disadvantages. Indian communities give a lot of importance to the values of family. The whole social system protects the all family values. It’s the responsibility of parents to find spouses for their daughters from families of their own choice. There’s no chance of marrying outside the India religion, social class or caste, or even economic class.
When it comes to the deep culture of India, Patni told me that language, dance ,music, religion and food vary and differ from one place to another throughout the country but there is a commonality. Their surface culture is pretty much an amalgamation of those other small subcultures and aspects from different places brought in by immigrants. On matters like religion and spirituality, India is believed to be home of Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism which is commonly and collectively referred to as Indian religions. India has produced Hinduism which is the third largest religion in the whole world and also Buddhism which is the fourth largest in the whole world. This clearly shows how India is one of the very religiously diverse countries in the whole world and also one with the most indigenous cultures. According to Patni who was born and raised in India, the traditional culture of India is basically defined with some strict social stratification or hierarchy. From an early age young people like children are constantly reminded of their functions, roles and duties in society. They believe that spirits and gods have a very important role in their livelihood .Indians are strictly governed by taboos and norms. For instance when an individual dies, he or she is not buried but cremated.
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On matters concerning family, they hold marriage in very high esteem in their culture .Children live together with their parents, spouses and their off springs live together in one family. The eldest of all men in a family heads it and he is the one to make all important decisions, he comes up with rules and regulations which all family members have to abide by. Their marriages are arranged and this is an aspect of their culture that has been in practice for ages. It’s the responsibility of their parents to arrange those marriages.Dowery is also a must and this is officially sanctioned by the Indian government. These arranged marriages happens after considerations like height ,age ,personal tastes and preferences ,class and one’s astrological compatibility of their horoscopes have taken place. In India marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment and concepts like divorce and separation are frowned upon. The divorce rate is in fact very low than any other place or country ,approximated to be 1% compared to other countries like the united states where the divorce rate is approximated to be more than 50%.This is a clear indication that India’s arranged marriages seem to be having a relatively lower divorce rate.
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When it comes to festivals ,India has so many festivals that they celebrate owing to the fact that it is a multi cultural country with people from different backgrounds .The many different religious groups in India have different celebrations and festivals. There are many other national holidays in India for instance they have the Independence Day and the Gandhi are celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in India. There area some other smaller celebration that are only held by various local groups depending on the linguistic and religious demographics. Some of the example of such festivals include the Diwali Navratri, Chaturthi, Ganesh, Holi .Some f them are basically celebrations to mark onset of various seasons for instance harvest time like Onam ,Sankranthi and Pongal. Most of the festivals are normally celebrated by more than just one religious group in India and a good example of these is the Diwalli celebration which is normally celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains .Some of the international celebrations by other major religions like the Muslims for instance are still celebrated by Indians who subscribe to them .A good example of such celebrations is the Eid ul-Fitr, Ramadan and Eid al-Adha.
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Language, Foods and clothing
According to Atreya, B. and Daniélou, A. (1966) on matter to do with language and naming ,most Indians have names given to them depending on festivals and other are also given depending on one’s religion ,region and also the class or caste in which an individual is from. Indians speak different languages but the most commonly spoken language in India is Hindu closely followed by Bengali and in third place we have the Telungu and other common ones include Tamil and Marathi.
Food is a very common aspect of any culture. Different cultures have their own kinds of foods that they like or prefer over other. Food in India is basically classified into three groups Tamas, Rajas and Sattva, which simply means balancing .The kind of food an individual eats is normally determined by the kind of lifestyle they lead. Those in leadership positions are normally served with foods that will give them aggression and make them for be brave enough to face the difficult situations in life while leading others.
Those individuals who are interested in becoming very balanced in their life and any aspect of it for instance when they want to practice moderation, they are encouraged to eat Sattvic diet .Those are those foods that are prohibited among other groups like for instance alcohol is only taken during certain times. Most of the Indian meals are normally prepared with spices and other herbs which add flavor and increase appetite.Indias cuisines are some of the most popular across the whole world. Most of their spices and food flavors are the most sought after across the globe.
According to Vyas, R. (1992) in India clothing is taken very seriously and people don’t just dress up for the sake of it. Different cultures have their own different dress codes and what they consider proper and improper dress code. The most popular dress in India is the draped garments like the sari which is normally put on by women and lungi which is put on by men. Some of the other popular clothes include the stitched variety like the churidar which is popularly put on by women and kurta for men. The kind of clothes an individual adorns in India is greatly determined by his or her social status .Their traditions abhors exposure of any body part, wearing of anything tight or transparent .Because of the hot weather most of their clothes are free size and they are well aerated to allow for fresh air, their shoes are also open for men in most cases because of the heat.
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There are some special clothes for special purposes for instance during weddings, during the dance festivals and many other occasions. Indians like dancing and some of the most popular dances include bhangra which is commonly performed by the Punjab, another common dance is the bihu which is widely performed by a group called the Assam, the garba performed by the Gujarat .Most of these dances and songs are performed in narrative forms combined with some mythological elements .The Indian dances and performances have been for a very long time been accorded very high status. In summary, I got to learn that India has one of the very rich cultures compared to many others across the world.
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