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Cultural Aspects in India

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Published: Mon, 26 Feb 2018

If the 20th century was generally recognized to be the American century, then the 21st might very well be regarded as the Indian century. After all, following China, India has the largest population in the world. Like China, it too has a large and fast-developing economy, and it is steadily converting these economic gains into growing political power abroad. Unlike China, however, India is governed by a vibrant, participatory democracy, which, while chaotic, reflects the political values of human rights and pluralism so cherished in the West. Indeed, as countries which have long guided the West in leading the world begin to lose ground to counterparts in the developing world, India is one of the few major future powers in a position to pick up the West’s mantle of human progress and freedom.

Though like the West in its commitment to democracy, India brings with a unique set of circumstances, informed by a history and culture, which stretch back for thousands of years. The common theme of Indian history has been heterogeneity. The abundant diversity found in India today was present almost from the beginning. The country’s oldest historical document, the Rig Veda, which is also a religious one, recounts a massive migration of one conceived ‘ancestor’ group and its intermingling with a loosely described native culture (Keay, 19-56). Scholars have found evidence of civilizations on the Indian subcontinent stretching back to times concurrent with the first city-states of Mesopotamia, Indian history (Keay, 1-18). Between the time of the Harrapan City States of around 3,000 B.C. all the way to India’s current prime minister Manmohan Singh, India has absorbed wave after wave of new peoples, new beliefs, and new ideas and added this to an already heady mix with every passing century. As a result, India’s startling diversity and variety were multiplied in countless directions.

Nowadays there are over 400 languages spoken in India with over 14 official languages recognized according to the CIA World Factbook. Its population, which had stayed predominately rural until recent years, is becoming more urbanized, and two of the world’s five most populous cities are located there. The Indian parliamentary democracy is multi-party, regional, and highly factionalized, reflecting the drastic differences that exist between districts even within the same province.

With all this diversity, it is tempting to impute irreconcilable contradictions between the types of people, institutions, and beliefs found in India. One might ask: how can one form a coherent statement about the existence of an overarching Indian culture? The answer to this has been as much a problem for government leaders as it has been for scholars, but it is one this paper will endeavor to supply in the following ways:

  1. We will discuss the major components of Indian culture (people, frames of references / communication, and group interactions) to illustrate the staggering variety of Indian cultural practices.
  2. We will focus on the notion of the Indian family and its characteristics, and attempt to make the case that the family as an institution provides a unifying theme for Indian culture, and a vehicle, which simultaneously relieves and reinforces the tectonic tensions brought on by societal diversity.
  3. We will discuss the findings of our interviews and outside readings to form a “big picture” analysis of Indian culture.

II. Culture Components

Gannon and Pillai supply readers with two metaphors through which to conceive of the sheer magnitude of diversity found in Indian cultural practices: the Dance of Shiva and a Kaleidoscope. In either case, there is a dynamic tension between change and stasis, creation and destruction, and the rules of general and specific; both metaphors create a framework for understanding that heterogeneity is the rule of thumb when conceiving of India as a whole. To view Indian culture in all its staggering complexity, it is necessary to begin with the component parts: people, frames of references / communication and group interactions.

A. The Indian People

For Westerners seeking to understand the staggering diversity found on the Indian Subcontinent, there is a helpful quote from a Hindu religious prayer, which can assist: “May good thoughts come to us from all sides” (“Religions”). Its simplicity reveals an acceptance of variety, heterodoxy and the unconventional; it turns on its head the notion of diversity being a challenge, and refashions it as an asset. To effectively argue that there is a general, overarching Indian culture, it is important to first acknowledge as true that such a culture is also served by many distinct parts, which have guided that nation’s historic, political, social and economic development. When considering the citizens of India, it is similarly important to perceive the numerous and stark divisions with regards to ethnic / linguistic groupings, social and economic levels, as well as religious and philosophical make-up.

i. Demographics; Social and Economic Levels

India is the second most populous nation in the world, having an estimated population of 1.17 billion (CIA World Factbook, “India”). Though the World Factbook only subdivides India’s immense population into four ethnic categories: Indo-Aryan (72%), Dravidian (25%), Mongoloid and other (3%), the plethora of languages spoken in India – 400 at last count, plus 2,000 dialects – speak to a diversity almost beyond the average Westerner’s comprehension.

India is also a very young nation, with the mean age being 25.3, and with nearly 95% of the population under the age of 64 (CIA World Factbook, “India”). India’s population is also increasing at a brisk, if not explosive rate; it ranks 84th in the world in terms of highest growth rates– higher than the United States (CIA World Factbook, “India”). Literacy is at 61%, and only 29% of the population is urban—a number which has been increasing at the slow creep of 2.4% over the last five years (CIA World Factbook, “India”).

When adopting a big-picture perspective, noticeable differences appear between men and women: males tend to be younger, more literate and more educated (CIA World Factbook, “India”). Males also tend to be more plentiful earlier in life, with a higher birth rate of 1.12 males to every female, but their life expectancy is lower by almost five years (CIA World Factbook, “India”). One of Hinduism’s most potent legacies, insofar as demographic effect is concerned, is India’s hierarchical caste system (Lonner; Zhang, 11 and 14). Although the caste system evolved from Hinduism for over 1000 years, some groups of other faiths such as Christians and Muslims adhere to this ancient social structure (“Religions”).

India’s society reveals large gaps between the lifestyles of upper and lower class Indians; the bottom 10% hold only 3.6% of the nation’s wealth, where the top 10% have accumulated 31.1% (CIA World Factbook, “India”). By purchasing power parity, India is the 5th largest economy in the world, yet, it remains one of the poorest, with an estimated 53% of the population subsisting on less than one dollar a day in income (CIA World Factbook, “India”; Gannon and Pillai 469).

Compounding economic difficulties are social, geographic and political realities, which prevent equal development for all. In a submission to the periodical Cultural Anthropology, writer Kaushik Ghosh describes the conflicting strains of “indigenousness, locality and transnationalism,” which combine to blunt social and economic development efforts being made in India. The reality for India is that, given its immense, far-flung borders (greater than the continent of Europe, according to WorldBusinessCulture.com), extreme geographic features, and the extreme multiplicity of the ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, it is not possible for any change to be applied uniformly and in a way that affects all people equally. Ghosh depicts the isolated tribes of Jharkhand, India, who, in their efforts to lobby their local government and national representatives, become effectively nullified when they are lumped in with other, separate interest groups that are labeled “indigenous.” Another writer, Navtej Dhillon, shares that “the majority of India’s 150 million muslimsMuslims suffer relative deprivation when to education and access to public employment.”

For a time, the Indian government had utilized socialist economic policies, and today the state is still a large player in economic development. The role taken by government can be paternalistic, and elected officials try to reward their voters and supporters with jobs and economic opportunities. Combine this economic reality with the fact that India’s multiparty, parliamentary government is characterized by heavy regionalism and identity politics, and you get the following: certain groups are sometimes purposefully excluded from lucrative government business opportunities (Bellman, “Politics & Economics: Reversal of Fortune Isolates India’s Brahmins”). In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, journalist Eric Bellman describes a government policy in the State of Tamil Nadu, which allocates 69% of government jobs and public college slots for lower castes. Though this policy actually has its genesis in the Indian Constitution, which itself was formulated to correct concentrations of wealth and privilege in the higher castes, the article documents a new dimension to the state policy, which is considerably less altruistic and more partisan.

Yet for all that academics, journalists and political leaders have described the staggering dimensions of social and economic inequality, it is apparent that within India itself, there is consensus insofar as a solution is concerned: education. Gannon and Pillai describe the perceived success of India’s educational sector, which, as mentioned above, has produced an enormous pool of highly-educated and specialized workers (Gannon and Pillai 504). India’s success in these areas also masks startling inequalities, namely the low literacy rates and a general lack of access to education for many people (505). Competition to rise above one’s peers is inordinately tough given the limited number of slots open at public and private universities, and in secondary school, a performance test is given to determine which field of study for which a student is eligible (Cheney, Ruzzi and Muralidharan, 8). Despite the systemic challenges like a drastic lack of funding, deficient facilities, and teacher absenteeism, the value placed on education and knowledge is so present in Indian culture as to make “millions of students achieve at remarkably high levels.” It is this valuing of educational attainment, which has established India as a preeminent figure in high technology fields, and paved the way for long-term economic development.

Despite the endemic poverty, economic development in India has given rise to a sizeable and growing middle class, which contains in its membership the “largest number of college-educated scientists and computer specialists in the world.” (Gannon and Pillai, 469). India is now looking inwards to, in the words of Indian President, Manmohan Singh, “a vast unfinished agenda of social and economic development,” to correct abuses and disparities which occur due to culture, history, politics or environment.

ii. Religion and Philosophy

Every aspect of Indian culture has been impacted by religion. Prominent Hindu and philosopher Swami Vivekananda stated, “Each nation has a theme in life. In India religious life forms the central theme, the keynote of the whole music of the nation” (Gannon 470). Martin Gannon wrote, “For 2000 years of its history, India was almost completely Hindu, but for the last millennium or more, Indian culture has been a synthesis of different racial, religious, and linguistic influences” (470). Tolerance has also sustained religious pluralism of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Secularists, and other persuasions (Census of India).

Despite having an 80.5% Hindu population, Indian culture is not only a Hindu culture (Census of India). The other major indigenous religions in India are Jainism (0.4%), Buddhism (0.8 %), and Sikhism (1.9%), and the major imported religions are Christianity (2.3 %) and Islam (13.4%) (“Religions”). Other smaller religions comprise 0.6% of the population, and are namely, Zoroastrianism or Parsi, Baha’i Faith, Jews, and tribal persons who practice the most ancient religion of animism (“Religions”). 0.1% of India’s population did not state a religion (Census of India).

Hinduism is tied with the ancient Vedic tradition estimated to have formed around 1500 B.C. and had continued to be the sole religion of India up until a thousand years ago or more (Gannon, 470; Heitzman). Indian philosophy, with its thematic undercurrents of cycles, owes much to Hinduism and later dharma traditions (Gannon, 471). The dharma and ancient monastic tradition of Jainism, owes much of its religious precepts to Hinduism (Census of India; “Religions”). Experts speculate the formation of Jainism began in the 9th century B.C. by Parshvanatha whose teachings required a path of non-violence for all living beings and other practices to guide the soul to divine consciousness (“Religions”). Similarly, Buddhism was inspired by the life and beliefs of Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C. (Census of India; “Religions”). Buddhism is a dharma religion consisting of varied philosophies, beliefs, and traditions that have spread to the East. Buddhists in India near the Chinese border mainly follow Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana, which means from Sanskrit “Vehicle of the Thunderbolt”; and those located near the Myanmar border practice Theravada, translated from Pali “Way of the Elders” (“Religions”). Sikhism was established by Guru Nanak in the sixteenth century, who attempted to reform specific Hindu tenants like eliminating the caste system, race, and gender inequities (Census of India; “Religions”).

Islam arrived in India during the early eighth century; largely from the Sunni sect (Census of India; Heitzman; “Religions”). The division of the British Empire at India’s independence forced many Muslims to migrate to Pakistan and Hindus to India, but Islam still remains the largest minority religion today (Census of India; “Religions”). India’s Christian inhabitants are majority Roman Catholic, but consist of several other denominations, including both independent and consolidated Protestant churches of Church of North India and South India (Heitzman; “Religions”). India’s small community of Parsis comprises the last practitioners of Zoroastrianism, which was brought by Iranian immigrants one thousand years ago. There are small communities of Judaism, Baha’i Faith, and tribal animists (“Religions”).

After India’s independence in 1947, the establishment of a secular government further facilitated mutual respect of all religious practices in public society through legislation advocating neutrality in all things rooted in an individual or group’s faith (Sen, 19). Notwithstanding its constitutional obligation, religion and government do still intermix, shown in the management of Hindu temples by the Tamil Nadu state government or the Sikh political party exerting full authority over the state assembly in Punjab (Heitzman). Furthermore, India’s long tradition of religious tolerance began to be challenged by fundamental ideologues starting from the 1960’s. From the 1990’s to the present, riots and religious-based political parties continue to impact public life and its relatively neutral governmental body (Heitzman).

1. Hindu Religion & Philosophy

The general premise of Hindu philosophy is that truth is organic, pluralistic, and sometimes inconsistent, and should be arrived by multiple sources, rather than dogmatic principles (“Religions”). In other words, context matters most in India, a culture that Edward Hall refers to as high-context (Hall, 101). Hinduism is an ancient polytheistic faith originating from Vedism, or simply Brahmanism, brought by invading Aryans in 1500 B.C and thus is subsequently deemed to be the oldest “living” religion (“Religions”).

Hinduism’s major groups are Vaishnavism and Shaivism, though membership in these groups is loose, dynamic, and vague (“Religions”). The leading sects are the Vaishnavas, who worship Vishnu god or a related avatar such as Rama and Krishna, Shaivas which worships the god Shiva, and Shaktis, a cult that worships the manifestations of Shakti, the mother goddess and companion of Shiva. Other smaller sects advocate religious reform and revival, charity to the poor, or follow the teachings of a charismatic leader (“Religions”).

There is said to be “five tensile strands” in Hinduism: doctrine, practice, society, story, and devotion (“Religions”). All Hindus follow these strands to varying degrees and accept their distinct tensions and contradictions, favoring religious enthusiasm over “fundamental rigidities of practice or doctrine” (“Religions”). To achieve absolute happiness one must live beyond worldly possessions through spiritual enlightenment—a journey in search of salvation or mukti in which leads to an ethereal transcendence called moksha (Gannon, 475). Hindu philosophy guides each person on a distinct path to this exultation from worldly suffering along four fundamental avenues that often are intertwined: intense devotion or love of God (bhakti yoga), selfless work or service (karma yoga), philosophy or knowledge of self (jnana yoga), and meditation or psychological exercise (raja yoga) (Gannon, 475). The difficulty of achieving moksha in one’s lifetime is accommodated by the concept of reincarnation in which souls or jivas enter the world through God’s power mysteriously and ascend from the simplest life forms to the most complicated bodies or human form where the search for mukti begins (Gannon, 475). The degree of these three fundamental qualities is determined by the equilibrium of rights and wrongs done in past lives, called karma and is predicted by astrological charts at birth (Gannon, 476).

Hinduism also gave rise to the caste system. A caste or jati (translated as “birth”) is a social organization into which someone is born. It is also a system purported to provide social support and established economic and social roles, making it the most influential contribution to India’s collective culture (“Religions”; Zhang, 11-13). There are over 2000 distinct jatis in Indian society today (“Religions”). Each member marries within the same jati and follows specific rules of behavior such as kinship, profession, and diet, and interacts with other jatis according to their social position (“Religions”). Each jati is associated with five caste clusters or varnas in descending order: Brahmans which are priests, Kshatriyas as warriors, Vaishyas which were originally peasants but now associated with merchants, Sudras as artisans and laborers, and Panchamas which historically had been excluded from the system because of their occupation and ways in life (“Religions”). The fifth varna reveals the mechanism for determining the level of the caste: purity. The rate at which a group comes into contact with pollutants such as dung, menstrual flow, leather, dirt, hair, saliva, and blood, determines its ranking within the social caste system (“Religions”). Panchamas are avoided for fear of contamination, hence the name “Untouchables,” but the Constituent Assembly of India adopted legislation after India’s independence outlawing the reference (“Religions”). More recently, the phrase “Dalit”, which means “Oppressed”, has been utilized in contemporary India, but is officially called “Scheduled Castes” (“Religions”). One sixth of the population belonging to this caste are typically landless, have agricultural professions, and other ritually contaminating occupations such as leatherwork which is the largest Scheduled Caste (“Religions”).

Author Richard Lannoy demarcates mutually exclusive Western conceptions of “right and wrong” or “good and evil” from India’s philosophy which stresses finding the middle way (227). Furthermore, the cyclical nature of Hindu thought lends to an “open-ended sense of perfectibility, less anguish in the face of time, a less fanatical will to achieve everything in a single lifetime” and manifests in India’s holistic, non-linear, and inductive styles of reasoning and dialogue, harmonious existence with its environment, fluid sense of time, and high Long-Term orientation (Hall, 17; Lonner; Zhang, 20).

2. Holidays, Traditions & Celebrations

Both religious holidays and secular celebrations are observed broadly in India, often time with the same holy day being celebrated in unique ways by the varying religious and secular communities. For example, in Hinduism the festival of Diwali plays a significant role, but is interpreted differently by other related religions, such as BuddismBuddhism, Sikhs, and Jains. In its most generic form, Diwali is the festival of lights. Easter, Christmas, Islamic New Year and many others are also broadly celebrated by the Indian populace.

In addition to holidays, the religions of India tend to be very ritualistic traditions as well. One such ritual is the lighting of the lamp before the altar of Lord Brahma while saying a prayer. This lighting represents darkness, knowledge, and ignorance. It is common in many Indian homes to have an altar or a prayer room. This symbolizes the Lord Brahma as the master of creation, and thus reorients the lives of people who occupy the surrounding space towards him and themselves. Hindu women often wear the pottu or tilak, which “invokes a feeling of sanctity the wearer and others”. The different colors and forms depend on the caste and religious subdivision. Taken as a whole, all these act of devotions – large and small – present a pattern as to the approach a great many Indians take toward religion and spirituality: integration. Indians of all religions are also known to regularly make pilgrimages to visit certain holy or nationally evocative sites. This attribute attests to the powerful force of religion in an Indian’s daily life.

B. Frames of Reference / Communication

In the latter half of the 20th Century, pioneering anthropologist and culture-expert, Edward Hall conceived of what he called “the silent language” of culture. By extending the notion of culture from the more well-known and studied “front-stage” elements, and exploring the rich “back-stage” of culture, Hall demonstrated how beliefs, schemas, associated meanings and symbolism could affect intercultural communication as assiduously as spoken language might. The second subdivision of the component parts of Indian culture consider the communication patterns and frames of reference utilized by society as a whole, beginning with an exploration of the expressions and general attitudes found in contemporary Indian society, continuing with a discussion of role relationships, and ending with gestures and non-verbal communication.

i. Expressions and General attitudes

Like few other cultures, the belief systems found in India tend to be exhaustive and encompass a variety of values and philosophical perspectives on a wide variety of issues, such as nature (environment), human nature, privacy, individuality, wealth / material possessions, social positions, government, politics, childhood and child-rearing, time, crime, violence and others.

A prominent feature of Indian society, even in non-Hindu cultures, is fatalism, which is an ultimate acceptance of the hand of fate insofar as guiding one’s affairs are concerned (www.communicaid.com). Fatalism is tied to the Hindu notion of Karma, that “everything happens for a reason” and breeds and encourages passivity, and a surprisingly low uncertainty avoidance score for a country with such traditionalistic cultures (www.communicaid.com).

Indian society is high context and collectivist; thus a prevalent concern in all interactions is the maintenance of social relationship and the preservation of social face. As such, activities which would provoke harsh judgment from one’s peers isare frowned on.

Many experts have noted that successful communication in India depends on precise knowledge of the status of the individual with whom one is speaking, and the relative standing between each party. Edward Hall diagnosed India as having a high-context culture, which is characterized by indirect, face-saving and listener-centric communication styles (Hall, p. 101). In India, communication is informed by role relationships, which, reflecting the society at large, are varied and complex.

ii. Role relationships

Role relationships in Indian society are in some instances outgrowths of the traditional caste system, as well as religious beliefs. The Indian caste system has been and continues to be influential in everyday life of the people. The main purpose of the caste system is to bring a sense of order in the society. The caste system enables people to have their own place in society and keeps away from any conflict.

Outside of the traditional, economic and religious strictures of the Caste system, India as a society is marked by high power distance and tends to embrace clearly articulated lines of authority and respect. Indians base this respect on the behavior, title, class, and status of the person with whom he or she is interacting.

The status of an Indian is determined in part by his or her possession of a university degree, his or her profession, age, and caste. In terms of professions, given the deference provided to authority figures, it is considered more impressive to work for the government than the private sector. Gender-based differences also exist, despite laws to the contrary. The head of the family is almost universally the eldest male. Male chauvinism is well-established, and women do not have the same privileges as do males.

iii. Gestures and Non-verbal Communication

As a high context culture, Indian communicators tend to rely heavily on indirect verbal and non-verbal cues to reinforce their message. In addition, Indians rely on a variety of contextual cues for comprehending meaning. For example, the word “No” or any kind of direct refusal is absent from most Indian discourse because it implicates an aggressive, harsh, impolite, and arrogant tone. Instead “vague and open-ended answer such as ‘I’ll try’ or ‘I will confirm with you another time’” are considered acceptable answers (“India: Prosperous Entertaining – Part I”). Subsequently, a “Yes” does not always imply agreement or acceptance. Extrapolated further, some of these cues have taken on a life of their own, which is separate and considered standard when interacting with others. For instance, in order to show respect, greetings are offered with what is termed the ‘namaste’ or the placing of both hands together – as if praying – coupled with a slight bow. Use of the right hand when touching people or objects is recommended; due to the cultural association, the left hand is viewed as being unclean.

Head bobbles, head wobbles, and Indian head shakes refer are a common gesture found in South Asian cultures, most notably in India. The head shake is the non-verbal equivalent of a multipurpose and omnipresent Hindi word, accha, which can mean anything from “good” to “I understand.” Shaking a head sideways is taken as non approval of certain things, whereas shaking a head up and down is taken as approval, though the meaning is reversed if you are aan Indian from the South. Similarly, a side to side hand wave is frequently interpreted by Indians as “no” or “go away.”

Eye contact with an elder or person in a senior position is considered very rude. Avoiding eye contact with the seniors is considered as a sign of respect. Another non-verbal taboo is to touch a person’s head because it ; The head is considered sensitive and so shouldn’t be touched. Likewise, one should never point with a single finger or two fingers, instead, point with the chin, whole hand or thumb.

Prostrating before God and elders and touching their feet is the humblest way of conveying respect in Indian culture. Known as Sashtang Namaskar it is bowing with four limbs of the body touching the ground. Touching feet of the elders is showing respect. Staring is also acceptable, as staring at strangers is a Western cultural taboo that does not carry the same weight in India. Many people feel quite free to stare at anything, or anyone, that is different from them and as part of their culture. Interpreting this as rudeness is unproductive.

C. Group Interactions

The third component of culture is group interactions, which are limited here to general social interactions amongst friends, peers and professional settings. Generally summarized, interactions can be sub-categorized into greetings, visits, and meetings.

i. Greetings

Renowned expert organizational behavior and psychology, Dr. Madhukar Shukla, describes Indians as outgoing and friendly, an attitude that is bolstered by a sense of privacy, which is less guarded than in the West (Shukla, “India: ConversatonConversation – Part 1). One should not, therefore, be surprised by the ease with which conversation is started, nor with which it covers ostensibly private subject matters.

There are several different naming forms in India, which vary from region to region (Kwintessential.com, “Global-Etiquette: India-country profile”). In the north of India, it is common to see a given name, followed by a surname or family name, whereas in the south, names commonly begin with a reference to the town or region the person is from, followed by the father’s name, and then lastly their given name. Similarly, in Muslim culture, surnames are not common, instead, have a derivative of their father’s name tacked on after the given name by ‘bin’ if the person is a male, and ‘binti’ if they are a female, which in both cases means ‘of’; the name ‘Hajji’ might also have been added if this person had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Sikhs,Sikhs also have a unique naming system, which is the given name followed by the name ‘Singh’ (Kwintessential.com, “Global-Etiquette: India-country profile”). In all cases, however, it is recommended that when addressing someone, one should give the correct name, prefaced by ‘Mr.” or “Mrs.”, or by his or her professional title: doctor, director, chairman/woman, and so on (Shukla, “India: First Name or Title?”). Furthermore, the same source points out that despite the variety, in many parts of India, people will conform to the Hindu style of naming, which is the most widely used.

Upon entering the room, greetings should be offered first to the oldest or most senior person present; in many cases, the oldest person will be the most senior-ranked. Offering a “Namaste,” a handshake or even a pleasant “hello” is acceptable, though there are important caveats to note. Depending on the religion of the person with whom one meets – if he or she is a muslimMuslim – a “Salaam Wale Kum” might be more appropriate (Shukla, “India: First Name or Title?”). Handshakes are acceptable for men; however touch is a sensitive area for many Indians, so a handshake might not be as acceptable for women (Shukla, “India: First Name or Title?”). Experts suggest respecting the physical space of Indian counterparts, and any physical interactions should be at their initiative. The recommendation of the “hello” and slight wave,wave should only be acted upon if the audience is younger, as it is reasonable to assume they would be familiar with this aspect of western culture. (Shukla, “India: First Name or Title?”)

ii. Visiting

“Hospitality is a key value in Indian culture, and the guest is considered the equivalent to god” (Shukla, “India: Prosperous Entertaining – Part I”). Foreigners and Indians alike can attest to the geniality one encounters from invitations by those they just met to “drop on by” at any time. The Indian hos


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