INDIAN CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY

INDIAN CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY

Indians have been described as eternal optimists: philosophical, laid-back and resilient. One Indian said: "We are comfortable in our skins. No existential angst or Freudian guilt torments us.”

Indians like to talk, converse, gossip, engage in animated discussions, indulge in conspiracies and watch soap opera dramas. Part of this may be related to their tradition of having an oral culture. Long before many things were written down stories and information were passed along orally from generation to generation. It can also be argued that Indians simply love the act of talking. Traditionally, the sound of a word has had more significance than the meaning and some sounds were regarded as having spiritual and magical qualities. A good conservation is not necessarily defined as a deep or revealing one about oneself. Indians can have engaging animated conversations about any topic: even ones that are considered superficial and small talk in the West: the weather, films, food.

There isn’t much privacy in India. People are everywhere: on the streets, in homes and even supposed quiet spots of natural beauty. Indians tend to be very people oriented. They are rarely alone. They are usually with a family members, a friend, a coworker. Success is achieved by advancing within a group and helping the group to advance. Jayaji Krishna Nath, M.D. and Vishwarath R. Nayar wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “Individualism, in its Western Euroamerican consciousness is foreign to the traditional Indian social consciousness and experience. However, this is changing. Sudhir Kakar, a distinguished psychoanalyst who has taught at the Universities of Harvard, Chicago, and Vienna, and written extensively on Indian sexuality, notes that “individualism even now stirs but faintly” in India (Kakar 1989:4). [Source: Jayaji Krishna Nath, M.D., and Vishwarath R. Nayar, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, sexarchive.info \*/]

Deepak Mehta posted on Quora.com: For a country the with the size and diversity of India, it is an ominous task to characterize people. Everyone is just so different. Nevertheless, here is my analysis...India is a society where people still place a lot of importance on material aspects and still have this habit of poking their nose into other peoples' business. And the worst part is that people still care what others think.” Sometimes Indians promise more than they can deliver. One India man told the Los Angeles Times, “We like to please. It is very difficult for us to say no.”

In India, the ideal stages of life have been most clearly articulated by Hindus. The ancient Hindu ideal rests on childhood, followed by four stages: undergoing religious initiation and becoming a celibate student of religious texts, getting married and becoming a householder, leaving home to become a forest hermit after becoming a grandparent, and becoming a homeless wanderer free of desire for all material things. Although few actually follow this scheme, it serves as a guide for those attempting to live according to valued standards. For Hindus, dharma (a divinely ordained code of proper conduct), karma (the sum of one's deeds in this life and in past lives), and kismat (fate) are considered relevant to the course of life. Crucial transitions from one phase of life to another are marked by sometimes elaborate rites of passage. [Source: Library of Congress, 1995]

See Society

See Separate Articles: 1) HINDUISM AND INDIAN CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY, 2) INDIAN SOCIETY

Friendship and Hospitality in India

Great importance is placed on friendship. A passage of the Yajur Veda reads: May all beings look on me with the eye of a friend; may I look on all beings with the eye of a friend. May we look on each other with the eye of a friend.” Making casual friends in India is very easy. Making close friends and finding out what people are really like underneath their exterior layer of friendliness and politeness takes more time. Behavior is often formal and ritualized. They are many rules as to how one is supposed to act and not act and it is ingrained to follow these rules.

Phil Reeve wrote in the Independent, “Few places are as hospitable as India. The countryside seems populated with people willing to drop everything to help an unknown foreigner find his destination or to serve him tea.” Hospitality is valued by Hindus. Muslims and Sikhs. Providing hospitality is an important responsibility for Muslims. Hindus are taught to treat a guest like a God. A great effort is made to make sure a guest is happy and well provided for. Faux pas are overlooked.

Deepak Mehta posted on Quora.com: “We treat our guests with utmost respect and hospitality: Atithi Devo Bhavah ( English: 'The guest is God' or 'Guest become God') is a motto that almost all Indians follow with utmost dedication and compassion. Even the poorest of the poor treat their guests to all kinds of luxuries.” [Source:Deepak Mehta, Quora.com, March 28, 2013]

A special effort is made to make foreigners feel welcome. Tourists who venture outside the cocoon of organized tours find they overwhelmed with invitations for tea, food or a visit to a person’s home. It is not uncommon for an Indian to approach a foreigner on the street and invite him or her to a village festival or a wedding party. Sometimes poor families offer extraordinarily nice meals. Offers of money are inevitably turned down and regarded as an insult.

Mellowness, Tolerance and Having a Good Time

It has been said that Indians are not naturally assertive: that they are gentle, accepting, forgiving of shortcomings, use euphemisms. One man in western India told the New York Times, “Americans walk very fast because they are very busy and have things to do. Indians walk very slow.”

There is not the kind of emphasis on face as there is in east Asian cultures. Instead there is more emphasis on one; place with hierarchies (namely the caste system) and acting as one is supposed to do in that position. and how they treat those above them and below them. There is great emphasis on knowing one’s place. At large social gathering it is carefully worked out where people sit. This results in inequalities put also reduces power struggles and competition.

Traditionally the main form of entertainment in India has been sitting around chatting. Around endless cups of tea, Indians like to gossip and talk about politics, issues of the day. Even people that would be considered poor by American standards enjoy discussing literature, science and intellectual topics.

The Kama Sutra, composed between 400 B.C. and A.D. 200, reads: “Spending nights playing with dice. Going out on moonlight nights. Keeping the festive day in honour of spring. Plucking the sprouts and fruits of the mangoe trees. Eating the fibres of lotuses. Eating the tender ears of corn. Picnicing in the forests when the trees get their new foliage. The Udakakashvedika or sporting in the water. Decorating each other with the flowers of some trees. Pelting each other with the flowers of the Kadamba tree, and many other sports which may either be known to the whole country, or may be peculiar to particular parts of it. These and similar other amusements should always be carried on by citizens.”

Indians have traditionally entertained each other at home with conversation and food. Going out usually means seeing a movie. Villagers entertain themselves with weddings, caste celebrations and religious festivals. Wrestling matches and cockfights are popular in some places. Traveling actors and magicians and movie shows entertain people in some places.

Indian Spirituality

National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting wrote: “Everywhere in India life is suffused with a spiritual dimension, which connects people with nature in a unique way...There is no separation between the spiritual and the everyday. In this culture, all life is connected like strands in a fabric. It’s a different way of thinking about the world.” Some say Indians are pulled in opposite directions by Hindu asceticism and what seems like innate entrepreneurial spirit.

It has been said that Hindu concepts breeds fatalism, accepting one’s lot in life and not rocking the boat. Hindu teaches otherworldliness in respect to earthly rewards and teaches one to accept the injustices of life. High positions are not earned and low position must be accepted. One Indian man said: "We are incorrigible karma-freaks, and that saves us from doom. We reinvent ourselves at will. What can't be achieved in this life can always wait for the next." But it has also been said that Hinduism produces irresponsibility and induces a certain amount if passivity in regard to corruption and injustices.

See Separate Article HINDUISM AND INDIAN CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY

Indian Directness, Practicality and Temporary Quick Fixes

Indians are very direct. They can be very opinionated and they are not afraid to say what they think. They do not go out of their way to avoid confrontation like some East Asians do. The Indian press is vibrant, irreverent and free. “No big brother glares at us,” one Indian said. Describing what Indian self-sacrifice was like in her family, the film maker Mira Nair said, that once when her parents were quarreling “my mother took this gin bottle, picked it up. and smashed it over her own head.”

Indians aren't into big productions. They feel the money could be better spent on something useful. Best-selling author Shobha De wrote in Time, "The Indian mind is cunning and inventive. We think on our feet and can improvise our way of impossible situations...We are curious interested people. We learn, absorb, mimic and clone competently. We have millions of professionals."

"Jugaad" is a colloquial Hindi-Urdu word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules. Depending on the situation, it can be both a good and a bad thing. "Jugaad" loosely translates to a "temporary fix". It is good because it allows people to patch up things for the time being and carry on with their work without having to wait for expert help. It is bad because it is addictive. People become so accustomed to these quick fixes that they do not do any job properly even when they have the time and resources to do so.

Soureesh Ghosh posted on Quora.com: “Indian people pride themselves to be "jugaadus" and they really appreciate this trait. I personally feel it's a foolish thing to do. Possessing a pro active mind, which can think ways out of problem quickly, is very much desired. But as we know too much of anything is baneful. Now we are in a habit to always look for shortcuts and temporary solutions. Everybody is so obsessed with being a "jugaadu" nobody wants to go down the long hard way in order to get a permanent long term solution. [Source: Soureesh Ghosh, Quora.com, June 17, 2013]

The writer V.S. Naipul said they he knew for sure he was in India when his luggage went missing. The writer Salaman Rushdie said he knew he was back when he entered a Ambassador car and the air-conditioning didn't work.

You Know You Are Indian When...

On common beliefs that shape the life of an Indian teenager, one person posted on Quora.com, “You know you are an Indian if (compiled from various sources): 1) There are only two career options…doctor or engineer. 2) You refer to any elder as "Uncle" or "Auntie". 3) You keep worrying you will get "too dark". You hate the sun!. 4) You knew all major life decisions were made by consulting an astrologer. [Source: Anonymous, Quora.com, April 2, 2014 /=\]

“5) It doesn’t matter how much you scored in your exams, the score of the neighborhood Bunty, Bablu and Pinky is way more important! Comparison is key. 6) For NRI's (Non Resident Indians): While most of your classmates traveled to Florida or the Bahamas during the summer, you were taking long flights to India. 7) You do not take off the plastic seat covers from your new car, furniture, electronic device the whole year and if possible, for the year after that as well. /=\

“7) (for NRI guys) You wore your favorite leather Jacket, t-shirt and sports shoes during your first night out! 8) (for girls) You secretly slick your hair back with coconut after taking a bath and claim its some fancy new branded gel that you bought over the weekend. 9) You aren’t allowed to cut your nails or your hair on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Mondays or after sunset. 10) Your kitchen cupboards have more plastic containers of all possible shapes and sizes than actual groceries. /=\

“11) Your parents try to cure you with Turmeric, Ginger, Honey, Vicks, Vaseline or a warm cup of milk before consulting a doctor. 12) When you are trying to be cool, you swear in English. When we are actually angry, you switch to the dirty, highly effective local ''gali''. 13) Your Mom always asks for an extra shopping bag! She hoards them at home when asked about it she says: "Some day it will come to use." 14) Your parents give us the ‘birds and bees’ talk without ever mentioning the word ‘sex’. Your actual sex education came from the "Titanic" and the English dictionary! /=\

“15) You have a room or corner dedicated to the Gods! 16) You have been forced to believe that those who watch television deserve spectacles! 17) You find nothing wrong with this picture: PS: its the jeans! 18 "Good morning Sir!" You find it difficult to call your boss/professor by his/her name, even when your boss insists, fearing he/she may get offended. 19) You can use the same expression to convey the following emotions: Yes / No / Maybe/ Perhaps / OK / Thanks / Sure / Not sure / Why not / I agree / I disagree. Come on, we do it! 20) You stare at everything. You stare at girls, boys, uncles, aunties, couples, foreigners and other Indians with a gaze that can put Superman's X Ray vision to shame. When confronted about it, you say "Who me? I was looking at that thing behind you!". /=\

“These quirks are special. They make us who we are. They make us embarrassingly, painfully, hilariously, unabashedly, unapologetically and proudly Indian. They may not always define all of us, but more often than not, we take a lot of pride in them. Us Indians, we are an interesting lot. A large part of our vibrancy comes from the fact that we say ‘chak de’ and move on! And we don’t mind taking pot shots at ourselves! We know that taking ourselves too seriously only leads to unwanted trouble. Sure we have our faults, but without these oddities, who are we anyway? We are, and always will be, desi all the way.” /=\

Negative Characteristic Traits of Indians

On some nehative aspects of the Indian personality, Deepak Mehta posted on Quora.com: “"Chalta hai" (It happens) attitude: Compromising with the circumstances and not making any effort to improve them is the worst kind of attitude that a person can harbor. 1) Jumped a traffic light? Sab karte hain. Chalta hai. (Everyone does it. It happens). 2) Need to bribe an official to get work done faster? Sab lete-dete hain. Itna to chalta hai. (Everyone either gives/takes bribe. A little is fine. 3) Witness a girl getting molested by a group of barbarians? Main kyun padun beech mein. Ye sab to chalta hai. (Why should I intermediate? Shit happens!) [Source: Deepak Mehta, Quora.com, March 28, 2013 ^|^]

“The blame game: There are two version of the game: Passing the blame: Played at all levels by all kinds of participants. 1) We tend to blame every entity (living/non-living, relevant/non-relevant) except for our own selves (how can a holy figure like us be at blame?). It wasn't the state government, it was the the center. It wasn't the HRD Ministry, it was the Finance ministry. They are not approving the budget. It isn't the school administration, it is the educational policies. It isn't me, it's that rock over there. 2) Blaming the players while being a spectator—sspecially the government. The government isn't doing this, it isn't doing that. Agreed! But what are YOU doing? Except for sitting on your lazy ass and bickering? ^|^

“Bribery: Bribery is so commonplace in India (and especially, in government offices) that if a government official does not demand a bribe to get your work done (or more importantly, not get in the way of your work getting done), you can count yourself lucky. Why is bribery so prevalent? People don't believe that taking a bribe is wrong (legally or morally). The people performing the most important functions in the society (professors, doctors, policemen, soldiers) are (or probably used to be) paid the least (at least before the 6th Pay Commission). ^|^

“Constant comparison with others: Woh padosiyon ke bete ko dekha? School topper hai. Tu uske jaisa kyun nahi ban sakta? (Look at the neighbor's kid. He is the school topper. Why can't you be more like him?)—an average Indian parent. Amreeka dekho kahan se kahan pahunch gaya. India ab bhi wahin hai jahan 50 saal pehle tha. (Look how far America has come (progressed)! And India is exactly where it was 50 years ago— An average Indian citizen Every kid is not the same. The neighbor's kid is probably not as good at sports or debating or quizzing as your kid. SO STOP COMPARING! America has been independent fr more than 230 years, India for just 66. And India has come a long way since then. SO STOP COMPARING!” ^|^

Bureaucratic Side of the Indian Personality

Indians are fond of titles. They also like to use big words to express their erudition. Insurance policies in India usually begin with the same 191-word sentence. There is also a fondness for phrases such as “begging the favor of your esteemed perusal." Martin Cutts, a dispenser of awards for bad writing, who was hired by the British Council to help reform the English language in India, told Newsweek: "It's the reverence for the heavy style that is puzzling to me. One day the people here are going to say they are too busy to read these turgid documents written by some self-important ninny."

Simon Winchester wrote in Smithsonian, "The government office-worker in India is characterized as a painstaking and honorable clerk, a little man who spends a lifetime managing the intricacies of India, with just a quill pen and a fine sense of decency and fairness." One official told Smithsonian, "The slowness of the British remains. The dedication to duty, too. But the bureaucrats of today fair? Wise? Not at all. A few, very few and very senior, may be. But more likely they're scared, obstructive, quite unwilling to make decision. They are afflicted by the babu mentality."

Dhat is a mental disorder found in India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in South Asia characterized by severe anxiety and hypochondria associated with the discharge of semen and a feelings of exhaustion.

Pompous Side of the Indian Personality

On some negative Indian characteristics that can me changed Rama Rao Garimella posted on Sulekha.com: “First is the “Indian punctuality”. It is no hyperbole to state that in India no function (except marriage as the stars otherwise may get angry and ruin it at the outset itself) starts on time. Both the organisers and the attending people follow the rule blaming each other. The organisers think that by starting the function on time they will be disappointing many habitual latecomers. The people attending think that the functions anyway do not start in time and going at the scheduled time would be a waste of time. There is a third dimension of the Chief Guest to this tardiness. [Source: Rama Rao Garimella, Sulekha.com, 2007 *-*]

“Most of the Chief guests are pompous and suffer from some delusions of grandeur or some personality disorder. They don’t get the chance to be the CG often and when they do, they want to make the best use of it by making others pay with their time. They pretend to be busy and want to impress their audience that despite several pressing engagements they kindly condescended to attend the function and dispense their God given wisdom and wit to the audience. If in the bargain the audience had to wait for an hour or so, they should have no reason to complain and on the contrary should thank their stars for only a short delay. The greater the importance of the person the more are his chances of being late and the delay caused is directly proportional to the importance of the person invited for the function. The political leaders and cine artists are the worst culprits of this practice. When these honourable men start dispensing their wisdom they tend to be verbose and loquacious and do not look at the clock. They keep talking till the cows come home. *-*

““I”manship and dissembling mainly to impress the others around is also equally annoying. There is no need for a rich or wise man to shout from roof tops about his wealth and wisdom. If he has the necessary qualities people will automatically recognise his talent and honour him. People proclaiming their wisdom when they do not have it in good measure is a gross insult to the listeners’ collective intelligence. However the Indians always clamouring for honours which they do not deserve keep harping on their achievements before all and sundry at every possible opportunity.” *-*

Superstitious Indians

Indians can be very superstitious. Omens are seen in all kinds of things: the calls of birds, the cries of animals, and strangers people meet. The licking sound of a gecko or a woman with fruit in her hand can mean good things or bad things depending on the day of the week.

Legend and myth are often regarded as fact in India. Hanuman, the monkey god, is particularly popular in northern India. In January 1997, when a balloon carrying the adventurer Steve Fosset landed near the northern Indian village of Ninkhar, local people thought the balloon was Hanuman’s floating temple cart.

One villager told the writer Sy Montgomery, "if you did not believe in science, how would you fly an airplane? Without belief in science, the airplane would fall down." "This is the central mistake of science, the gunins say," wrote Montgomery, "It examines only surfaces an allows our own reflection to obscure the deeper powers."

Children sometimes have a leather strap wrapped around their waist as a sign of good luck. There are beliefs in the evil eye. Women with green eyes are called “cat-eyed women” and regarded as evil. To acknowledge gifts to a child too early is believed to provoke the evil eye, and bring misfortune. The oldest reference to firewalking is of ascetics in India 3000 year ago.

Coarse and Crude Side of the Indian Personality

Rama Rao Garimella posted on Sulekha.com: “Licking fingers is perhaps indicative of the appreciation of the taste of the food imbibed. Eating food with hands is bad enough and presents a revolting sight in foreign circles but licking fingers as chewing bones to suck the marrow looks downright repulsive. Although eating with the help of a knife/spoon and fork hands is more hygienic, even the rich and well heeled use their hands at the dining table leaving the cutlery aside. Eating with hands and licking fingers involves eating not only the food but everything that was on the hands before the meal. This practice should be stopped and the change should percolate from top. The Media especially the cinema must show even the lower middle class heroes and heroines eating using cutlery. Similarly all the TV serials must compulsorily show the affluent and middle class people eating only with the help of the cutlery. The masses will imitate and get into the habit.” [Source: Rama Rao Garimella, Sulekha.com, 2007 /*/]

Spitting and stubbing cigarettes wherever they please is another abhorrent practice. Even in the parties of the well heeled, some guests can be seen either spitting at all odd places or stubbing cigarettes on the floor/carpet much to the chagrin of the hostess. Even page 3 personalities indulge in this. If this happens in the parties of the well heeled, one can imagine the havoc it creates in ordinary people’s homes. It shouldn’t take long to find a nearest bathroom to spit or an ashtray to stub the cigarette. One should also imagine the size and extent of damage the stubbing will cause to the carpet/rug and the owner. Similarly spitting and throwing the cigarette stubs out from the balconies of high rise apartments can cause considerable damage to people down below. More bad habits like belching loudly, gargling after a meal and making odd noises while eating and bathroom habits are common knowledge. /*/

Funny Unique Indian Personality Types

One person posted on Sulekha.com: “Here is a list of individuals who make life so interesting in this country. 1) OYC Female :- Outgoing Yet Conventional female. The same one who wears a plunging neckline and tries to clasp the non existent collar while praying in a temple. The same one who wears a sleeveless chudidhar and tries to cover her shoulders with the dupata. The same one who wears a tight jean and tries to hide her butt with her short kurta/shopping bag, etc. 2) The UTH guy:-The Under-repair Toothless Hairless guy. He cannot look beyond his tummy and most of his joints crackle when moved at moderate speeds but still oggles at every shapely B&B. Ratio of hair dyeing and teeth brushing is the same. 3) The SoB:- The SpOrts federation Boss. He knows nothing about the task he is handling or has no achievement in the sport but firmly controls the administration. He often ridicules those who question his handling of the sport or his failing health. He screws up matters beyond redemption. [Source: Sulekha.com, 2009]

4) ICC : I Carry Corruption. He mostly does not bother about what sort of allegations are levied against him but he will stick to his chair. He maybe in charge of the most sensitive portfolio in the country but will concentrate of running mindless bodies. He gives new meaning to the saying "Money is their god and how to make it is their religion". 5) PIMPS: Pseudo Intellectual Maniac Publicity Seeker. You can find such individuals mostly in TV debates. They become middle class heroes thanks to visual media. The intention of such individuals is to be in the limelight and to get there, they come up with bizarre ideas, environmentally damaging proposals, childish acts which may threaten their security, crazy proposals for development, etc. In reality such individuals are hollow cylinders but have great PR skills.

6) GOPI/SIC: Gold Purchasing Idiot/Site Collector. Both are distinct individuals, however, if the income level is high or the level of obsessive compulsory disorder is high, an individual can be both. Such individuals won't holiday, eat or dress well but spend their lifetimes on accumulation. 7) BLISS : Bhakra Living In Superstitious Sentiments. He will dirty the street corner with a barrage of eggs on an Amavasya Day. He will not give a single morsel of food to a hungry person or have a street fight over paying extra five rupees to the auto driver but he will dump his family wealth and honor at the feet of a con godman. He strongly believes that evil spirits affects wealth and health of himself, his family and foes. The entrance of his house will have strange colored threads hanging all over.

8) LOOSE Money: Lacks Optimistic Opinion Seeks Easy money. These sort of guys invest a good portion of their earning to buy lottery tickets, get rich quick schemes, etc but loose their money and end up as frustrated individuals blaming luck for most part of their lives. 9) BUDGET: Buys Discounted dead Goods Every Time: Always wants a better lifestyle but cant afford it at full rates. Spends most of his holidays browsing through newspaper for discount on clothes, furniture, provisions, holidays, vehicles, insurance policy, etc.

Regional Differences in India

There are sharp differences between north India and south India. Most south Indian can't speak or understand Hindi, the dominant language in the north. Highlanders in Simla aren't very fond of lowlander in the plains who they accuse of "vandalism, tardiness and mischief" but they also say that as soon as they top three or four thousand feet they begin to behave themselves. Writer Gita Mehta said the India's "lack of homogeneity" means that "most Indians view most other Indians as foreigners."

Summing the views that many Indians have Ranjeet Singh posted on Quora.com: 1) Maharashtra and Mumbai (Bombay): fun , unruly , noise creator , average looks; 2) South states: - educated , good english , below average looks , best mannerism, open minded; 3) North east: violent men , rough , beautiful girls , open minded; 4) North Himalayas: alcoholic , beautiful women , handsome man, good manners, some are terrorist (in Kashmir) beware; 5) North Indian: abusive , uncultured , conservative , fight prone , good looks , women beautiful. [Source: Ranjeet Singh, Quora.com]

Parsis are a very small but influential religious group in India found mostly in Mumbai and the Gujarat area. They are taught from an early age to live by the Zoroastrian motto: “Good thoughts, good words, good deed.” Highly valued virtues include honesty, charity, and cleanliness. Failure to abide by the moral code reflects negatively not only on an individual but the community as a whole. Children are inducted into the Parsi moral code through the naojot ceremony. Parsis have an elaborate code of purity and ritual.

See Minorities, Places

Indian Muslims

Most South Asian Muslims are Sunnis. Religious observances are pretty much in line with orthodox Islam. In recent years Indian Islam, Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweek, has been “turned into a dour, puritanical faith, policed by petty theocrats and religious commissars.” In the old days, Indian Islam was regarded as easygoing, pluralistic and colorful. While South Asians have traditionally been Orthodox followers many aspects of their daily lives outside religion had more in common with their Hindu neighbors than Muslims living outside of South Asia. Both mosques and Hindu temples use crackling loud speakers to blare chants and prayers.”

Islam in India and Pakistan is influenced by Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam that incorporates ecstatic experiences and the veneration of Muslims pirs or saints. In Delhi, many people visit the tomb of Hazrat Nizamamuddin, a pacifist Muslim holy man who told his father that helping the poor and hungry is more positive than saying prayers.

Many Muslims in Bengal—in eastern India and Bangladesh—are descendants of relatively recent converts to Islam and many of them still cling to customs rooted in Hinduism and pay homage to Hindu gods even though its is forbidden by the Koran. Some say they will go to hell because they passed a mosque and didn't pray and then worshiped the Hindu monkey God. Islam—particularly Sufism—has also had an influence on Hinduism. Sufism in northern India affected the rise of the Hindu bhakti (“devotional”) cults and the special worship of Krishna.

Muslims are generally poorer than Hindus, who regard Muslims as members of a separate, inferior quasi-caste. The purity requirements of Hinduism, discourages Hindus from marrying, sharing meals and even drinking the same water as Muslims. Many Muslims lives with Hindus in the same village. The lives of the two groups are set up so they can interact socially and economically while following their religious practices.

Many of India’s most successful actors have been Muslims, including the three Khans: Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman. Shah Rukh told National Geographic, “It’s so strange that in a Hindu nation like India they think of me as God...Muslims just rock in the film industry.” He said. “The Hindu-Muslim partition never happened in the Indian film industry. It is completely secular—it welcomes everybody with open arms.”

Sikh Character

Sikhs profess a faith in one God, human equality, universal love and honest work. They value respect for elders, kindness, generosity, compassion, modesty, community, family, strength, monogamy and a healthy lifestyle. Sikhs have a reputation for being hardworking, energetic, ambitious and fierce warriors. They take pride in being the "best farmers, fighters, entrepreneurs and sportsmen" and are ashamed of taking hand outs.

Sikhs consider themselves a “people of the book.” They shun alcohol and follow a strict moral code and rules that are similar to those of Islam. They are basically two kinds of Sikhs: ones have been initiated in the Khalsa Panth and ascribe to the “Five Ks” and sahajdhari, lay people who do not completely follow the code of conduct but are accepted as Sikhs if they respect the gurus, express devotion and participate in worship.

The Sikh playwright and critic, Kaur Bhatti wrote; “the fallibility of human nature means that simple Sikh principals of equality, compassion and modesty are sometimes discarded in favor of outward appearance, wealth and the quest for power.” Sikhs are sometimes the butts of Polack type jokes told by other Indians.

The Khalsa military fraternity of orthodox Sikhs dominates Sikh public life. They strictly follow the Sikh code of conduct and undergo a baptism. Their community is known as amritdhari (“those who have undergone baptism”). Beginning in the 18th century Sikhs were taught to observe the Khalsa Panth, or the "Five K's,” as signs of allegiance with the Sikh community. They are: 1) kesh (having uncut hair); 2) kangha (holding the hair in place with a comb to remind Sikhs of their stewardship responsibilities and to symbolize cleanliness); 3) kirpan (wearing a dagger to symbolize the fight against injustice); 4) kara (wearing a steel bangle to represent the unbroken link with God and to symbolize responsibility); and 5) kachh (wearing a special underwear that resembles breaches that don't go below the knee to symbolize cleanliness, physical activity and sexual fidelity).

Sikhs regard hair as a symbol of God's creative beauty. Devout Sikhs believe that no hair on any part of the body is to be cut. Beards are uncut and turbans are necessary to cover the uncut hair.

Bengali Character

Bengalis love it when attention s focused on their language, culture and achievements. They bristle at criticism of Calcutta. Paul Theroux wrote in the Great Railway Bazaar, "Bengalis were the most alert people I had met in India. But they were also irritable, talkative, dogmatic, arrogant and humorless, holding forth with malicious skill on virtually every subject except the future of Calcutta.”

Bengalis have a reputation for preferring to sit around and talk rather than work. Bengali workers are known for showing up late, going home early and spending much of their time at idly chatting.

The Bengali poet and novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay told the New York Times, "We are an emotional people. We love to create and we love to talk. Some would say we talk to much. Whenever two or three people get together, they stop all work, and begin talking for hours." A bureaucratic from Uttar Pradesh told the New York Times, "If there are 10 Bengalis, there will be 11 opinions. The Bengali may have no food on the table, but he's off arguing somewhere about the Vietnam War or the last book he has read or whether it is a good idea to change every signboard in the city from Calcutta to Kolkata."

People from Calcutta are regarded as friendly, warm and intellectually arrogant. Known throughout India for being frank and informal, they like football, fish curry and arts and literature. A Bengali proverb goes that anger turns men into kings and women into whore.

Tamil Character

Tamils have a reputation for being friendlier and more relaxed and easy going than other Indians. They place a premium on hospitality and avoiding conflict. From an early age, Tamils learn a large variety of emotional expressions, body language and gestures. Many Tamils enjoy teasing another and being purposely ambiguous. In general, people from southern India have a reputation of being friendlier and more excitable than Indians from the north.

Paul Theroux wrote in the Great Railway Bazaar, "Tamils are also modest. Before they change their clothes, each makes a toga of his bed sheet, and, hopping up an down, and working his elbows, he kicks his shoes and trousers off, all the while babbling in that rippling speech.

Tamils and people from Madras in particular are regarded as hard workers, tolerant, pragmatic, down to earth. They tend to put their faith in science rather than idealism and greatly value humility. Although the vast majority of them are Hindu there have been few incidents of violence directed at Muslims.

Influence of Indian Thought on the West

Kalpana Srivastava wrote in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal: “Eastern influence on Western thought goes back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Alexander the Great (4th century BCE) made it as far as northern India, and the Roman philosopher Plotinus made a trip to study the philosophies of the region in 242 CE. Theosophical movement in the 19th century that a real interest in Eastern thought (including Buddhism) emerged. The Indian authors have always realized that the Supreme is the Infinite and perceived that to the soul in Nature the Infinite must always present itself in an infinite variety of aspects.The insights in understanding human nature as per Indian thoughts is derived from various Indian philosophical traditions like Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Jainism, Buddhism, and other Researchers and Scholars in India have attempted to explain these concepts.” [Source: Kalpana Srivastava, Industrial Psychiatry Journal, July-December 2012]

John D. Mayer, Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today, “If you have ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a widely-used psychological test, then you may know that it divides people into 16 types based on their personalities. The 16 types are based on the sorts of mental functions that are key to an individual's personality: whether, for example, a person responds more strongly with feeling or with thinking, or whether a person prefers to get information by sensing through sight, sound, taste, etc., or by using intuition. The Myers-Briggs typology was based, in part, on the psychological writings of the Swiss physician Carl Jung. Jung's theories, in turn, were greatly influenced by Hindu thinking, as well as by yogis who practiced Buddhism and other Eastern schools of thought. [Source: John D. Mayer, Ph.D., Psychology Today, March 2, 2009 <=>]

Early in his career,Carl Jung wrote: “In India since ancient times they have the custom that practically everybody of a certain education, at least, has a guru, a spiritual leader who teaches you and you alone what you ought to know. Not everybody needs to know the same thing and this kind of knowledge can never be taught in the same way. In Hinduism, yogis must recognize and distinguish among four types of students - four personalities. One kind of student does well learning things and can pursue knowledge to connect to divinity by following Jnana yoga, which emphasizes the intellect. A second student prefers working and can pursue divinity through Karma yoga, which emphasizes work. A third type of student is gifted in loving, and seeks the divine through devotion and friendship using Bhakti yoga. Finally, some students are empiricists and hope to test Hindu religious ideas in a series of steps involving meditation and specific mental exercises, using Raja yoga.” <=>

"Carl Jung built his typology on the Indian model", observed the religious scholar Huston Smith, "while modifying it in certain respects...". Jung noted in his 1921 book on personality types: "I have found from experience that the basic psychological functions...prove to be thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. If one of these functions habitually predominates, a corresponding type results. I therefore distinguish a thinking, a feeling, a sensation, and an intuitive type. Each of these types may moreover be either introverted or extraverted..." <=>

“Jung's typology was disseminated in the United States and elsewhere in the West in large part by Katherine Cook Briggs, and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, through their test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Katherine Cook Briggs had read Jung's work on psychological type; it resonated with her and she began work on a test to measure the types. Her daughter, Isabel Myers, learned about test construction and built the Type Indicator itself. <=>

“Part of the Hindu philosophical spirit of helping healthy students to develop was reborn in the work of Myers and Briggs. The two women very carefully wrote out the test feedback to reflect the psychological strengths of the test-takers. Myers wanted to discuss high-functioning people; she believed that feedback descriptions ought, "to apply to each type at its best, as exemplified by normal, well-balanced, well-adjusted, happy, and effective people." Although each personality type was different, none was better than another. Despite its modest measurement properties, the test became widely employed. <=>

“Today, the MBTI is widely used in management training, education, and counseling. The detached, non-judgmental quality of MBTI feedback communicates the sense of equality among learning styles. It is deeply embedded in Hindu thought, from which some of the key concepts originated. The care with which the test's feedback was created may be one of the reasons that the MBTI has become so widely used.” <=>

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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