Decidedly Indian

A Twitter friend asked, what is decidedly Indian?

There was no further context available, and after giving it some thought, I said – Sarees

A few other suggestions did come along, I believe: as my friend finally settled on Mughal Architecture as decidedly Indian. (Yes, she did add – go figure!). She has finally settled on “crowds”.

It is pretty difficult to identify what is decidedly Indian – given that food, culture, clothing, terrain and sensitivities change every 200 miles in every direction.

Personally speaking, Mughal Architecture exists in large parts of Asia, unless we refer to Indo-Saracenic Architecture. Still, it is not a decidedly Indian, because there are enough of other architectural styles which are fairly evenly spread across the country, which are quintessentially Indian. Even with Crowds, I’d think China would lead. (Though India leads China on population density: 29 vs. 75). Also crowds are more a city phenomenon?

I recall a talk we had with a few colleagues, a few years ago, as we were building a visual digital product that would be used by children in rural India. Someone mentioned that the scene would be “a typical Indian Village”. My very perceptive ex-boss, asked a very pertinent question – what does a typical Indian village look like?

There doesn’t exist anything called a typical Indian village. The vegetation, the construction of buildings, the dress, the climate, the greenery (or lack of it) varies – widely.

Diversity, then.

That is what is decidedly Indian. But it is intangible. You cannot take a photograph of diversity and label it as Indian. Because you can photograph people from various regions or people following different faiths. To capture the essence of diversity in a single image is very difficult.

For now, I leave you with this village in coastal Maharashtra; Decidedly Konkan.

The Indian Village


12 thoughts on “Decidedly Indian

  1. I cant simply figure what makes us Indians have the same discussion again and again without reaching a conclusion. It is the same talk that was 1995, 1999, 2004, 2009…

    A. If you are speaking of a symbol representing pan india, sarees are not decidedly Indian. For, many Indians – says punjabis, muslims orkeralites may not wear saree.

    Mughal archictecture isnt in Assam or Tamilnadu.

    B. When you say – typical Indian – the statement doesnt imply that it depicts a prototype of THE Indian , village in your case. What it means of all the boundaries we have as countries, cultures, etc ( we as in humans) it fits into the WORLD perception of India. Say if someone says Cheese Burger is so American it doesnt mean it is THE american symbol. No one says why not Thanksgiving Turkey for America? The idea is what anything is ost representative of in the world, thats what your boss meant. Not what i it Sole and Complete representative of.

    And to answer what is decidedly Indian, let me quote Upamanyu Chatterjee.

    I suppose Indian is someone who cant afford to change or who refuses to change his Indian passport.
    As someone said, Jai Ho.



    • Fair enough. I think the question and the thought was in a much lighter vein than you have perceived. 🙂 This is an ongoing question, to which, I guess there is no one answer, it is about perception – though you do have some interesting answers below. The point is not to argue something out of representing India, it is to get to something that represents more and more of what represents.


  2. I can completely identify with your post. I am often asked about my accent and the food I eat. The curiosity for most outsiders is to understand what is decidedly Indian. I am at a complete loss for examples. I resort to a small essay instead of coming up with a thing, time or person.


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