Your burning questions about India and being Indian…. answered!

Over the years I’ve encountered some really lovely people who are genuinely excited about the fact that I’m from India – or sometimes they’ve guessed Bolivia, Mexico, Spain, and in one extremely curious case – Malaysia?! I don’t get it either! And usually they have asked me really intelligent, culturally competent questions – so this list is meant to be a loving tribute to them. However, to that one guy who told me that I had “surprisingly good hygiene for an Indian” – go ahead – pick any finger. How about the big one in the middle? That’s the one!

1)      What’s with the head bob thing? What does it mean?

Well, what do you want it to mean? No…seriously, what do you think it means? It could be a reluctant yes or an apologetic no. It’s a – you already know the answer, the answer is within you, stop searching for the answer outside. In some cases it’s a – lets see how long I can be non-committal before this dude in front of me cries Uncle.

2)     So have you read the Kama Sutra?

Yes, we are given Kama Sutra instruction in all schools. Until the 6th grade its all theoretical. Laboratory and experimental work begins in 7th grade. I mean, come on, we do have a shit load of people – we are sex machines!

3)    Wow, you have a lot of gods.

Yes, yes we do and they all have their various cabinet portfolios. We have a god of thunder, and a goddess of science, and a goddess of music, and a god of medicine. And at any given time you can piss 2000 of them off and still have 600 watching your back! That’s some well designed redundancy right there!

4)      What’s with the dots on your forehead?

All Indians are born with a congenital birth defect – a third eye – and the dot generally covers it. Also, Gwen Stefani looked pretty hot in her dot, so suck it!

5)       So do you believe that when you die you’ll come back as a cow? And hey, why are cows so sacred in India?

Hindus do believe in reincarnation because – well, this is our hell! To be born again and again and go through life until we’ve stockpiled enough good karma to break the cycle and have our atoms become one with the universe. Soooo, what I’m saying is you are all making hell more bearable for me – thank you!! I’m not sure what the reincarnation hierarchy is – it could be amoeba, grasshopper, sparrow, cow, human, or it could be the other way. Now the official reason as to why the cow is sacred is because the god of destruction, Shiva, rides a bull called Nandi, and you dont want to piss Shiva off coz he’s a mean mofo [this is meant to be a compliment gangsta style so don’t be offended Shaivites]! At the time that the world is destroyed, dude’s going to be dancing, literally!! Just between us though – cows may be holy but…. they’re also quite yummy! What can I say – I’m not a very good Hindu – in my next life I’m probably going to be a fruit fly!

6)      So what’s the difference between Hindu and Hindi? And how do I keep from mixing them up?

Hindi is the language and Hindu is the religion. And you keep from mixing them up by using that keen intellect of yours. If you can explain to me – in excruciating detail – the infield fly rule then there’s no good reason on earth that you cant keep the language and the religion apart! I have faith in you – hey, you can use that as a mnemonic – the faith has the ‘U’!

7)      Why is India so dirty?

Well, it is a 9000 year old civilization that hasn’t changed location much so yeah we’ve let a few things slide in the cleaning up department. Also, we’ve always had guests – first the Aryans, then the Greeks – those fuckers leave their yogurt containers all over the place, the Mongols – kept constructing mausoleums, the British – 250 years of bad food, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French – no one picked up after themselves!

8)      How is it that Indians are so good at math?

Yes, its true , some Indians are really good at math….and some aren’t. Some of us are good at art….and some aren’t. Then there are some of us who are polite, generous, loyal, funny….and there are some who are unadulterated assholes! Go figure!

9)      Why is India so crowded?

Because there are a lot of people in a small space, see point above about Kama Sutra and sex machines. But all our 1.2 billion people are looking at Michelle Duggar and thinking …”yo, that bitch be all kinds of crazy!!”

10)      Do you ride elephants/ sleep on a bed of nails/ drink eyeball soup/ eat monkey’s brains?

Yes…. only on Tuesdays and Thursdays….. at weddings….. that’s the best part and is reserved for the most respected member of the family. That Steven Spielberg – quite the keen and rigorous anthropologist!

11)      You must love yoga

I do and here is a breakdown of the yoga poses I do every day and I’m really good at them:

  • Shavasana: “shav” is a corpse, so this extremely challenging position is accomplished by imitating a dead body
  • Bakasurasana: position with mouth open wide as you stuff food and alcohol into it
  • Getremotasana: a stretching position as you reach over from a sedentary state on a couch to get the remote off the coffee table.
  • Pavanmuktasana: a position that literally means “release the wind” – I will let you figure that one out!

12)  Can you explain the caste system?

Sure, it was a failed social experiment and we are still living with the consequences. 5000 years ago it seemed like a good idea that the son of a farmer would be a farmer and the son of a camel dung salesman would be a camel dung salesman and the son of a snake charmer would be a snake charmer.  5000 years later and with 20/20 hindsight, lets be honest, we’ve had better ideas. Though, in the history of bad ideas, that wasn’t even our worst. There was child marriage, and sati (widows being forced to burn themselves alive when their husbands died), and dowries.

13)  Hey my doctor/dentist/IT technician/ is Indian – do you know him/her?

Yes, yes I do. He/she, as it so happens, is the 2nd cousin of my grandparent’s neighbor! With only 1.2 billion people, its really hard not to know everybody. Though I have to admit that while I’m great with faces, I’m terrible with names!

14)  Your names are unpronounceable – how do you say this one Lakshman Narayan Balasubramanian?

Ummm, like its spelled! Laksh – man Na-ra-yan Ba-la-su-bra-man-ian! Now you say these – van Leeuwenhoek, Przybyszewski – can I buy a freaking vowel already!!

15)  How can you like cricket? That game is so stupid!

OK HEY NOW!!! You insult cricket and we are going to have a problem – and I mean all of us – the entire freaking country is going to have a problem, all 1.2 billion of us will kick yo scrawny ass! Cricket isn’t just a game – it’s a philosophy – its spiritual and complex and wonderful and just coz your pea size brain can’t begin to comprehend it does not give you the authority to cast aspersions! When we have a World Championship, we invite other countries! Let’s examine football shall we – 99% of the game is spent trying to AVOID letting your foot come into contact with the ball – what genius came up with that name!! You do know that the rest of the world calls it American Football don’t you?! Also, while I’m on this rant, I can’t believe that most Americans complain about soccer being boring to watch coz nothing happens and then proceed to sit through an entire baseball game … where NOTHING happens!!! You leave cricket alone! Now turn around and back away – slowly!

UPDATE: Check out part II for this post!

For Weekly Writing Challenge



  1. Shiva is probably counting the days to when he can tandav on your day of reckoning.

    Fantastic piece Samhita. Love it. That Kamasutra bit was deja vu. I have been asked that question way too many times. Now I am curious. 🙂

  2. Hahaha, very funny! I am going to use some of your explanations, if you don’t mind! Though I personally find the statement-question pairs the toughest, like: There are so many poor people in India! Laxmi Mittal is Indian, isn’t he?. Also, being vegetarian does not mean one is a rabbit!

    • Thanks so much @srinivasanravi!! I actually think I do need to do a sequel to this one because a lot of friends have pointed out that I missed quite a few questions. And please feel free to use any of these explanations in part or whole!

  3. Love every bit of this. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked these questions. I loved the responses…brilliant.

  4. This was a great read Samhita, loved it. May all our Gods (of the various cabinet portfolios) bless this to go viral enough to serve as a ready reckoner for those burning questions about India 🙂

  5. Well written Samhita. Great sense of Humor. Being an Indian American and having visited India numerous times with my american clients, I think you could add one more common Q – arranged vs love marriage :-). My reply to them have been that it is akin to buying a car from internet after reading reviews/recommendations vis-a-vis from a show room after test driving. I think you should go for a sequel…..good luck..

  6. Arranged Marriages.. how did you forget this one? 🙂

    One thing that was mentioned to me: Was the chilling effect the car/driver had on the passengers of a car when the driver tries to over taken using the on coming lane..I could relate to it only when i drove in the US for some time 🙂

    One good thing mentioned was:
    Personal safety is upto an individual, you dont find un-necessary caution placards, ex: Warning big ditch can result in broken legs..

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