Curious Sights That Are Truly Made In IndiaBy Luis G
Indian has always been closely associated with the spiritual, the exotic, the outre. A placed mired in mysteries and superstitions. India is, by far, to western sensibilities, one of the most emotionally remote regions. It is a place of wild sensibilities, dazzling colors, bizarre traditions. A place of spices, of historical heritage, of societal systems and hierarchies we can barely conceive of, let alone imagine.
It is also one of the countries with more culture, more age-old wisdom, and more diversity than most others. India is the second most populated country on the planet, with over 1.366 billion people as of the 2019 census. It’s always going nose to nose with China in that department. It is a diverse ecosystem for some of the world’s most miraculous fauna and flora. It is also a place where race segregations, economic strife, and societal problems run amok. The Republic of Indian has been a secular federal republic since 1950. No queen, no king, just a parliamentary system with no bound religious rules. It is also multilingual as well as multi-ethnic. India also has one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world, with an ever-expanding middle class. Today we’re going to talk about some of the things that make India and her people a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Bull In The China Shop
Did you know that in part, the expression “don’t have a cow” comes from India? Cows are sacred animals here, and in many parts of the country, they consider them a natural reincarnation point—it’s all part of their religious cycle.
That’s partly why cows and their male counterparts, bulls, are given the run of the land. They are extremely venerated. In India, a large portion of their meals is based on vegetables and chicken on account of the fact that they can’t eat cows.
Over 95% of copies and pirated products come from the Orient. Particularly China and India. There is a huge market of knock-off brands and items in that area. It’s basically an integral part of their economy. One that the local establishment can’t fix.
How integral, you may ask? Well, it is a 560 Billion dollar industry, and in that section of the planet, where poverty is so prevalent, governments can’t risk an actual crack-down on sweatshops or illegal factories of this kind.
A Strange Passenger
That picture below, although odd to Western sensibilities, is rather normal in places like India. Poverty is a huge problem; it’s a problem that affects not only the working classes but the governmental infrastructure. That includes public transportation.
In order to transport themselves from one place to another, most people of that country and area have to be very ingenious. And the same goes for their goods. In many places, a goat or a donkey is an invaluable object. One that gives sustenance and attracts would-be robbers.
Why are cows sacred in India? Why do they, like the bull below, have the run of the place? Hindus make about 80% of India’s populace. That’s over 1.3 billion. In their religion, these animals are godlike and should be protected and venerated.
Cows were the favorite animals of Lord Krishna, and they serve as symbols of wealth, strength, and abundance. In ancient Hindu scripture or “Vedas,” they were animals that could bring about great fortune. What happens if you kill a cow? in some places, you could be condemned to 5 years in prison.
Another animal that’s widespread in India and most of that region is the Camel. Camels are the equivalent of horses, and in-country with so many public transport issues, they are still used frequently to get from one place to another.
Camels, like the one above, have a certain hierarchy. They are treated with respect, and part of that respect comes with the decorations and patterns seen above. It is a sign that the camel is loved and that it is venerated within a family.
Weird Road Signs
Everything in India is a bit confusing, even road signs. They say all roads lead to Rome. Well, in India, they have sort of taken that philosophy and run with it. But why is that? How can a single road lead to the same place 3 times and in 3 separate directions? We don’t get it!
Simple really. Infrastructure in India is in a bit of disarray; and that’s putting it mildly. Some roads or regions have seen reinvestment and new road systems put in place…but the old ones, the ones they were supposed to be replaced were never taken out of commission.
Cows And McDonald’s
As we’ve said, cows are sacred animals in India; that’s why it is one of the only countries in the world where vegan burgers outpace regular beef burgers. McDonald’s has had to adapt to this cultural necessity with a very vegan friendly menu.
In India, McDonald’s, as well as other fast-food restaurants, have menu options that are not normally seen in the rest of the world. Their franchise does have beef products, but they are mainly for none Hindus or foreigners. Its best seller? The Veggie Burger.
Survivors will be prosecuted
The Asian and African continents are two of the only regions where mega-fauna still prevails. Abundantly. While in other places of the globe, deforestation, poaching, and the mayhem we humans create have basically made large animals, particularly mammals, extinct, but they still roam free in India.
One of the most dangerous predators in the area is crocodiles. These magnificent reptiles swamp large portions of rivers. They are extremely aggressive and territorial and are known to attack on sight. That is why warnings like the one above are commonplace.
The Doctor is In
Cholera affects 3-5 million people worldwide and causes more than 130 thousand deaths a year. In India, due to bad sanitation habits and poverty, there are thousands of Cholera outbreaks annually. Untreated Cholera has a mortality rate of 25-50%.
Given those staggering numbers in the paragraph above, it’s not a sobering sight to see a doctor whose name is Cholera. In India, little translation hiccups like that are a dime a dozen. There’s a fairly good chance that the doctor doesn’t have that ill-fated portmanteau in his native language.
There are over 324 million Facebook user ins India as of January 2020. That’s more than 24% of the population. That might not seem much, but given the poverty rate and the fact that the internet is still a commodity for the rich, those numbers are huge.
Facebook, like most brands associated with technology in India, is seen as status symbols. Their icons and logotypes are used to denote social class. Why? Because having Facebook means you have technology, even the most rudimentary, which in turn translates to the fact that you have money.
Strong Arming It
One of the country’s worse problems is a decades-long dispute over Kashmir with its neighbors Pakistan and China. That dispute has been fought on land and partly, at least with China over the sea, particularly in the area of fishing.
On account of this dispute, which also includes Sri Lanka, the Indian government has taken an aggressive stance over fishing rights in their territorial waters. If they see a fishing boat, they impound it and put the crew in prison. That’s why boats, like the one above, are abandoned by foreign fishermen whenever a patrol boat is spotted.
Two-thirds of the people in India live in extreme poverty. That’s over 68.8%. They survive on less than 2 dollars a day. Although India, as of right now, due to reforms, is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, it still faces a HUGE economic schism.
That’s why pictures like the one above are a dime a dozen. People have to get creative in order to obtain what their counterparts in the West take for granted. And creature comforts like having an ice-cold Coke is a luxury few, if any, can afford.
Infringement laws are extremely lax in India. Most corporations have few if any oversight in the region, and the local constabulary really has no power – or desire – to enforce them. That’s why brands can be hijacked at the drop of a hat.
There’s legislation governing Intellectual Property since 1957, but the truth is that the organism detected to enforcing is overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. There are thousands of open cases in Indian court filed by large corporations like Google – on this issue. Few, if any, lead to anything.
Multiculturalism also lends itself to a diverse language pool. There are over 22 official languages in India and, more importantly, more than 19,500 dialects. India is an extremely diverse region full of different traditions and languages. English, in many cases, is the global one.
Sanskrit, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, etc… Communication in the outskirts of the major cities is somewhat precarious and hard. That is why, given the advances of globalization, many people in India prefer to speak or at least try to get their meaning across in English.
Lock Up Please
Over the years, as it is common in places of extreme poverty, the crime rate in India has increased. Its most dangerous city is Delhi, follows by Assam and West Bengali. India is considered one of the most dangerous and violent countries globally, primarily for the cases of assaults on women.
That is why scenes like the one above, two flip-flops secured by a padlock, aren’t that uncommon. Theft is a major issue in most of India. Most theft goes undetected until the person gets home and realizes they are missing something due to pick-pockets.
Now With H2O
Did you know that only about 2% of the water on earth is considered freshwater? And more importantly, only 1% is actually accessible? Bet you didn’t know that. In places like India, with over 18% of the world’s population, clean and safe drinking water is scarce.
On account of this fact, plus the occurrences of Cholera in the area, manufactures have to put out ads’ like the one above. Not only telling their client that they have drinking water, but that said drinking water is composed of H2O. Just to be clear.
Mangos and Grapes
As we’ve discussed, there are over 19k different dialects in India. The country, an ancient bastion, was under the rule of the United Kingdom, the Brits’, up until 1951. As such, being a colony, it adopted a lot of that Empire’s traditions and, more importantly, its language.
Nonetheless, things are bound to be lost in translation. Things like the difference between a mango and a grape, as seen in the photo above. It’s relatively normal to witness these types of amusing faux-pas in India, and foreigners are accustomed to it.
India is an emerging economy, which simply means that as a whole, today it is better than yesterday and so forth. It’s making strives to better itself and its citizens. Nonetheless, it still faces many of the issues that plague countries its size, amongst them the rising air pollution levels.
It is one of the most contaminated places in the world, and that, coupled with the fact that poverty is rife, there’s really no time to exercise. Malnutrition and weight-related problems are extremely common in India. That is why mannequins have been adapted to the issues. Some are extremely thin, and others have a belly.
Monkeys, known for getting into all manners of hijinks at temples and cities, are also considered holy creatures. They share the same status as cows. They are believed to be a form of the God Hunaman or Bajrang Bali.
Monkeys are said to represent the power of this god; strength and wit. That’s why they have such freedom in India. Certain temples, devoted to this God-like the Monkey Temple of Galta, Jaipur – are homes to thousands of monkeys.
We’ve talked about India’s obsession with brands, primarily Tech’ brands, and their respective status symbol in the country. Well, the people of India have in part hijacked these brands and used them for just about everything you can imagine.
Clothing stores with the name of Google or Whatsapp. Restaurants called Tik Tok or Facebook. Streets even named Apple or Instagram. Seeing your favorite brand or at least your favorite cellphone App in India, at the supermarket or on a menu, is rather common.
People in India have to get creative in order to survive and make a buck. That means, in many cases having up to 3 jobs a day. Some of these jobs have to be done at the same time. It’s tough.
That’s why images like the one above are so common in India. A security guard at a bank also making dresses and working diligently on his sewing machine. It’s a picture-perfect example of the lengths people have to go to survive in India.
Where to start
This pic’ below is rather ubiquitous in India. There’s really no oversight by the authorities as far as road safety is concerned. Although only roughly 1% of people in India own cars, the country is responsible for more than 13% of the global deaths due to road accidents.
India has the highest rate of road incidents and traffic violations in the world. An average of 414 people dies on the roads per day, that is approximately 17 an hour… and those are only the ones the ministry knows about. Traffic accidents are a huge problem in India, so much so – that just look at the kid – it’s a spectator’s sport.
ATMs are open 24/7 in India, and some of them become a refuge for just about everything you can imagine. In India, unless the bank hires out a security firm or there’s a guard in place inside the ATM, a picture like the one below are common.
People, dogs, cats, cows, monkeys, just about everything uses an ATM for temporary shelter on hot Indian nights. They afford a certain level of comfort and protection and, in many cases, due to India’s cataclysmic monsoon rains, are government-designated shelters.
The symbolic significance of animals in India, particularly in Hindi, is that they are the vehicles of gods. They are avatars of the divine. Deities unto themselves. That’s why certain animals basically have the run of the pace and can literally do as they please.
The bull is Lord Shiva, the tiger Maa Durga, the elephant Ganesh and so forth. In India’s culture, animals are heavily regarded and respected. Amongst them, aside from the cow are, rats, mice, peacocks, buffalos, goats, snakes, chickens, monkeys, and dozens more.
Religion Specific Warnings
“Only those who strongly believe in rebirth should risk going near,” the warning highlighted by a tiger and crossbones. Ominous, right? Well, in India, warnings like that are everywhere. Dangers, particularly from savage wildlife, are everywhere in the country.
Tigers are estimated to kill anywhere from 0-50 people a year in India. That might not seem much, but taking into consideration that the largest single population of tigers in India, in Sundarbans, is shy of 100 Bengal tigers, that 0-50 ratio suddenly seems HUGE.
Copyright laws are a joke in India. Even regional franchises infringe them and do as they please. The laws are extremely lax, they haven’t been updated since the 50s, and the oversight committee dedicated to enforcing them is all but imaginary.
That’s why blatant copies, like the one above, of international brands and franchises are extremely common in India. Normally, you can find something of this nature on just about every street corner in India. They are everywhere, and some don’t even try to disguise it.
Duct tape the wonder tool! In India, owning a car is already a HUGE luxury; fixing it and maintaining it is almost a near-impossible task. Prices in the area for auto parts are through the roof, and in many cases, people have no other choice but to improvise.
If you crash your car in India, which given the country’s traffic problems is pretty normal, you’ll most likely have to get creative with a fix. It’s not just that the parts are expensive; it’s that the waiting period for mechanics is interminable.
Mutant Cars are another bizarre facet of India’s automobile craze. People built their own transportation out of whatever they have on hand. Cars like the one below, which can be seen on almost every street corner of the country, are commonplace.
Cost of transportation, personal transportation, your own vehicle is extremely expensive. The average worker makes less than 2 dollars a day; imagine how many days they’d have to work for JUST to buy a car. As such, they have to make do with what they have and can build.
The temperature in India ranges from -2ºC to 40ºC. That’s the average. Normally the most populated cities in the country don’t experience anything below 25ºC. In summer, the thermometer can climb up to 47ºC… That’s 117ºF. And you still haven’t added the humidity.
India is an extremely humid country and, coupled with its temperature, and A/C isn’t just a must; it’s your only line of defense against dehydration and feeling ill. That’s why almost everyone, despite their financial woes, has an A/C. In many cases, like the picture above, they find ways to share their power.
The Indian Cobra, also known as the Asian Cobra or the Spectacle Cobra can be found just about anywhere in the region. It is one of the “big four” species in the world that inflict the most snakebite on humans in India.
Over 1.2 million people have died of snake bites in the past 20 years in India. Most deaths occur during the monsoon season – between June and September. Snake bites are a global threat, with over 5.4 million occurring on the planet every year.
India is one of the regions that are most prone to flooding. To what extent? To the fact that people, as pictured below, don’t even consider it an issue. It’s just part of everyday life and, in many cases, doesn’t even warrant acknowledgment.
Heavy rains in the region always lead to a rise in river load. Waters spill over into adjoining towns, and, well, a catastrophe occurs. The worse month are from June to September during the monsoon season. Floods also cause widespread crop damage, which translates to food shortages.
The Bus Rapid System (BRTS) is the main source of public transport in India. Busses account for more than 90% of Public transport in the region, and several – if not all – the main services are run by the governor.
Nonetheless, there is a crisis brewing in India in the Public Transport system. The low per-capita income makes it near impossible for most people to attain tickets for public transport, and that’s coupled with lack of planning, overcrowding, and roadway congestion. That’s why buses overflow, and in many cases, people have to dismount like that lady above.
Hanuman, the part human-part monkey character, is the main protagonist of one of India’s most revered epic, the Ramayana. In Hindi, Hanuman is one of the most selfless gods in their pantheon of deities. Full of strength, vigor, and energy.
Monkeys are also famous in other Indian religions. Sun Wukong – also known as the Monkey King – is the main character in Buddhist and Taoist traditions. He is the protagonist of the classical Chinese tale: Journey to the West. That is why monkeys are so revered in the area.
Public Transportation Redux
Traffic congestion, high infrastructure costs, the difficulty for non-motorized personnel, loss of public space, and solution, among many more issues, pressure India’s public transportation platform. Urban transportation is a huge issue in India and one that the government is failing to actually meet.
That’s why people, like the lady above, have no other choice but to get creative with the way they get from one place to another. Public transportation in the area is swamped by millions of disadvantages, creating labor shortages in many areas.
That man below is somehow, as odd as it might seem, tied to India’s happily ever after institution. That’s right; he’s a wedding inspector. What exactly is that? Well, we’ll tell you in a jiffy. Just read ahead and stay tuned.
Wedding inspectors validate that everything in your nuptials went according to contracts signed by family members. In India, arranged weddings are still a custom, and those contracts and agreements have to be analyzed by an objective party; hence that photo above.
The region is both the third-largest consumer of energy in the world as well as the third-largest producer of it. Electricity was introduced by the British during India’s colonial period. The first generator was brought to Darjeeling in 1896.
The first Power Station in Darjeeling produced 120kW and was mainly for the tea plantation in the region. Nowadays, India’s electrical grid has an install capacity of 375.32GW. Per capita, the average electrical use is 1,208kW, one of the highest in the area.
When Ganesh needs to travel, Ganesh gets VIP treatment in India. Elephants are widely revered in the area, and it is considered a good omen when one stumbles onto your path. People will go out of their way to help an elephant.
Devotees are confident that Ganesh will grant them prosperity and protection against adversaries if they help him out. There are hundreds of festivals associated with Ganesh, and worldwide he’s one of the most iconic and revered figures of India’s pantheon of the divine.
Soccer is extremely popular in India. It’s one of the most played sports in the area, and matches are watched throughout the region almost religiously. That’s why pictures like the one below are rather normal. Folks simply don’t have money for large televisions.
Did you know that India has never played in the World Cup? They have had no entries in the tournament since 1950. Why? There are many rumors and suppositions, but the main one is that India withdrew when FIFA imposed a rule forbidding players to play barefoot.
How much is India’s television industry valued at? More than 13.6 billion dollars. India produces a lot of quality shows and movies. People in India value their TV and, like A/C, they’ll go out of their way to buy a TV.
TVs are major economic players in the area, and in any case, it’s one of the most bought appliances. The market size of Television sales has only escalated on a yearly basis, and experts think that by the year 2026, India might even rival the US’ consumption.
The World’s Largest Family
The World’s Largest Family resides in India. Ziona Chana holds the world record for being the head of the world’s largest family. The man has 39 wives, 94 kids, 14 daughters-in-law, and 33 grandchildren. They live in Baktawng Village in Mizoram, India.
Ziona Chana is the leader of a Christian sect formed in 1942. The sect is called “Chana Pawl” and was established by the man’s father. He first came to the world’s attention when his kin was featured on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
The Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets in Dehli is by far one of the world’s strangest museums. Time magazine once labeled it as one of the “10 museums around the world that are anything but mundane.” The museum was established in 1992.
The museum is dedicated to the global history of sanitation and toilets. It was created by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak with an objection to highlight the importance of sanitation in the country. It’s won multiple international awards, including the Stockholm Water Prize of 2009.
As we’ve previously said, elephants are among India’s most sacred and best-loved animals. There is the avatar/ vehicle of the elephant-headed Hindi god, Ganesh. Ganesh is the god of beginnings, and he’s one of the region’s most famous and worshiped deities.
Ganesha is the patron of intellectuals, bankers, scribes, and authors. He is the God of wisdom and understanding and is said to have an enormous intellect. His left tusk represents emotion, while his right represents wisdom. It is said that he brings good luck.
Rituals and traditions are an important part of Indian Culture. There are over 6 million different regions and faiths in India. Many tribal religions are still very active in certain parts of the region. Faith that differs from the norm.
Nonetheless, the 6 most prevalent religious factions in India are divided into Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, and are also known as Dharmic religions. India is a multi-religious country and one where its populace heavily enforces traditions.
Onions, as well as spices, are part of the culinary stable of India. Almost all meals have onions. In India, onion crops have an annual production of over 19.40 million tons. It is one of their most invaluable produces and exports.
There are about 1.20 million hectares devoted to onion farming, and the are three sowing seasons for the crop, Kharif, Late Kharif, and Rabi. The picture above of people peeling and dicing onions is rather widespread, and everyone who has ever visited India has probably returned home with a similar photo.
Before we slip off and bring this article to a close heart are some extra stats about India. India’s forests cover over 21.4% of its area. Its wildlife has traditionally been viewed with tolerance and appreciation amongst its citizens. And it has many protected habitats.
It is a land of extremes. Of extreme faith. Of extreme gender inequality. Of extreme devotion to the land. Of extreme poverty. India is a land that you either love or hate; there is no in-between. You can spend your trip scared witless, counting the days until you get back home, or never wanting to leave and planning your next trip to this magical place.