Celebrate diversity and break cultural stereotypes

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

 “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combination of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.”

― Sun Tzu

India being a large country, the culture and tradition of a part at one end of the country are distinctly different from another part at the other end. The vast multitude of art, music, dance, food and traditions add to the cultural diversity and enliven the country with shades and hues of different colors, but not without presenting their own set of challenges.

Cultural diversity

We are, often, so oriented to our customs and traditions that most of us tend to judge others solely by the values and standards of our own culture. We don’t desist from complaining about how foreigners perceive us, but then we Indians have our own yardsticks for judging people from other states. Deeply ingrained in our psyche are the cultural prejudices that we have grown up with.

As a Bengali, who has been a vegetarian by choice for the last 2 decades, my nonchalance for non vegetarian food elicits responses such as ‘A vegetarian Bengali is kind of an oxymoron –the words have a self contradictory effect.’  These, certainly are innocuous jibes, and I agree that a Bengali being a vegetarian is more of an exception than the rule, but the point here is that individual preferences, in many cases, override cultural preferences.

Some of the common cultural stereotypes that prevail are:

  • For a north Indian, every South Indian is a Madrasi, irrespective of the state they belong to.
  • A modern women must wear western clothes.
  • Sikhs are in their senses only at 12 O’clock.
  • People from North East are more like Chinese or Japanese than like Indians.
  • Punjabis are pushy and overbearing.
  • A Gujarati or a Marwadi is extremely money minded.
  • All Malayalis have a strong affinity to work in the Gulf.
  • Biharis are not proficient in English.

The list goes on…

Pitfalls of cultural stereotypes:

While some stereotypes may have some truth in them, many generalizations are entirely baseless. However when we judge a person with our biases, we tend to underplay the individual traits. Sometimes our biases are so strong that they blind us from seeing beyond a person’s cultural identity to know who the individual is and what value he can bring. Taken to the extreme, these stereotypes lead to offensive behavior, brawls and fights resulting in death.

Truly Madly.com has made a good effort to break the cultural stereotypes through these photoshoots.

South Indians - break stereotypes
Image Source : trulymadly.com
Sikkim - break stereotypes
Image Source : trulymadly.com
Jaat - breaking stereotypes
Image Source : trulymadly.com
Tam Bram
Image Source : trulymadly.com

Isn’t it time that we start appreciating our cultural diversity and break the cultural stereotypes? The sound of our own language appears sweet to us as it should, but let that not prevent us from appreciating other languages or other cultures.

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. – Maya Angelou

At the onset of 2015, let us make a conscious effort to minimize our cultural prejudices. What do you think?


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24 thoughts on “Celebrate diversity and break cultural stereotypes

    • January 1, 2015 at 9:45 am

      Thank you so much Deepshikha. Wishing you a very Happy New year and yes I do hope we get a chance to meet sometime this year.

  • January 1, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Well said! Wish you a wonderful 2015! 🙂

  • January 2, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I really really like this post Somali! The cultural stereo types are spot on! I was in Delhi for about a year and I was so surprised to see everyone talk to me and treat me a Madrasi and for a few days I really didn;t understand why! 😀 .. The culture sure needs a large overhaul 🙂

    • January 2, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you Vinay. Yes it does need a overhaul. The lack of understanding about other cultures lead to such biased opinion. Probably people who move out of their homes and start living in different places, open up to different cultures.

      • January 7, 2015 at 2:58 pm

        True that Somali. I think that is one the best lessons travel can teach – Tolerance 🙂

  • January 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    We should strongly start believing on human grounds rather than the cultural differences and appreciate honestly the good things about all the cultures. Loved reading this post.

    • January 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you Anju 🙂 All I can say is that we would have missed out on many of our dear friends had we harbored such biases in our minds.

  • January 2, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Bhudeb Chakrabarti Kolkata 02 January 2015
    Stereotyping provides too simplistic an evaluation and leads to faulty judgment .There is empirical data that all people irrespective of cultural differences are highly talented and competent and contribute to advancement of human civilisation ,It is both morally wrong and legally culpable to discriminate people based on categorisation .Your assertion that we should respect cultural differences and celebrate such diversity is fully valid . Heartiest felicitations for your admirable New Year post . We look forward to many such Blogs in 2015 . A Happy New Year.

  • January 3, 2015 at 12:54 am

    The stereotyping is instilled in our genes…I think so. India has diverse culture and traditions but that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t have the least idea about other states and people.

    A nice discussion to start the new year… 🙂

    • January 3, 2015 at 8:40 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Maniparna. Yes this is the way we are conditioned. May take a lot of concious efforts to break away from such biases.

  • January 8, 2015 at 11:16 am

    True story. ….well said

  • January 13, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Most of the stereotypes are creation of our insecure past. Today with equal opportunities and faster travel modes breaking off geographical barriers – such stereotypes are good jokes at best.

    • January 13, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Thanks for stopping by Rajat. Unfortunately stereo types still exist, and people still pass snide comments on those who appear different from them, but yes hope that this attitude is replaced with an attitude of acceptance towards different cultures.

  • February 20, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    i have gone through this whole campaign, there is one picture which i liked the most and you are missing here, it says I am Manglik and i am not marrying a tree.

    • February 20, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      Oh yes ! That was another one. A Manglik need not marry a tree. Thanks for adding on.

    • March 26, 2015 at 9:36 am

      Have been to Gangtok, Changu Lake, up to the border. Looks like straight out of a dreamland. One of the most beautiful places in the country. Thanks for sharing.

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