The “India” Outside of India

When my teammate in London asked me, “Isn’t Diwali the festival in which you make those coloured patterns?” (she was referring to rangolis), she got me thinking how Indian culture and customs are generating a lot of curiosity the world over. It’s interesting to see how as we embrace foreign cultures, clothes and cuisines, the world is embracing the idea of “India”. Today, I present to you 10 Indian things that have taken the world by storm:-

10. Chicken Tikka Masala Biryani

Biryani

When in India (and abroad, apparently) eat biryani!

Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) remained a synonym for Indian cuisine last decade, with Hollywood celebrities flying in personal chefs who specialized in (perhaps a less spicy?) CTM. But biryani seems to be the new favourite this time around. I know this for sure! The other day, I was on a video call with my manager from UK and we were making small talk on food and what we eat for lunch. And that’s when he told me how he just loves biryani! He proudly declared how they get many varieties of this Awadhi/Hyderabadi rice dish right outside their office, and how it’s loved by all.

9. Saree

I too am guilty of joining the sari-brigade ;-)

I too am guilty of joining the saree-brigade 😉

“The nine yards” have been making women appear slimmer and prettier since time immemorial! Saree is regarded as the national costume of India by most tourists. When my friend from Catalonia vacationed in Jodhpur a few years back, she too got herself draped in a traditional bandhani saree. I’m guessing, this sartorial wonder figures on every woman’s list of “top 10 things to do in India”.

8. “Namaste”

How to greet the Indian way

How to greet the Indian way

From greetings to small-talk to full-fledged conversations, citizens of the world want to say it all in Hindi which is fast becoming the second-language of choice! I remember from my days of interning in Lleida how my HR manager would use Google Translate to say “suprabhat” (good morning) and “dhanyavad” (thank you) to me. Even we Indians don’t speak 100% Hindi on a daily basis!

7. Hindu Gods

The controversial Saraswati-swimsuit (Photo Credit: here http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/05/10/hindu-goddess-swimsuit-sparks-outrage/)

The controversial Saraswati-swimsuit (Photo Credit:WSJ)

The ill-fated Australian fashion designer who showcased her latest line of swimwear with Hindu Gods painted on them faced flak for blasphemy. But that doesn’t mean every country is scared of the Indian deities! Ganesh is quite popular in the West, thanks to the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities. Last time I asked a Thai friend if he knew anything about Ganesh, he replied, “Oh, yeah! The elephant, right?”

6. The Big Fat Indian Wedding

All that glitters at Indian weddings is gold

All that glitters at Indian weddings is gold

Everyone from Liz Hurley to Katy Perry have had their dream wedding – Indian style! After all, no other culture celebrates the union of two humans with such pomp and gaiety. At the last Bengali-Punjabi wedding I attended, I noticed how elaborate the decoration was – every inch of the walls was adorned with flowers. The bride and the groom looked ravishing in their silk wedding trousseau and gold ornaments. I had never seen a Bengali topor alongside Punjabi choora before.

5. Bhangra

Bhangra

Bhangra (Photo Credit: indonri.com)

It’s what everyone’s dancing these days. This high energy Punjabi dance form burns calories along with the dance floor. If you’ve missed your morning circuit-training you can make up for it with a round of “balle balle“! 😉 You can do the bhangra even if you have two left feet! My Belgian friend will tell you I’m not lying.

4. Desi Music

Now that we are on the topic of dance, let’s not forget the music that accompanies it. Punjabi rap originated in America, thanks to the NRI population, and travelled all the way to India, influencing most countries en route! I remember hearing Hindi songs at a Spanish supermarket, where they never once played English!

3. Bollywood – Movies and the Stars

A still from "Devdas" (Photo Credit: chandrakantha.com)

A still from “Devdas” (Photo Credit: chandrakantha.com)

You must’ve guessed number 3 on the list! When song and dance are discussed, you can’t forget Bollywood. Most of my overseas friends wonder why all Indian movies are musicals. Nevertheless, they lap up the local translations of Hindi movies and recognize most actors I wouldn’t!

2. Yoga 

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit: wellandgood.com)

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit: wellandgood.com)

The age old practice of yoga is so popular abroad that they’ve created their own forms now. There are so many to choose from – “power yoga”, “hot yoga” (done in humid conditions) and even “doga” (yoga with dogs)! Every other celebrity and non-celebrity out there is going to some or the other yoga class to find inner peace and outer flexibility. I remember a Spanish friend telling me she did pranayam everyday!

1. Modi

Modi @ Madison

Modi @ Madison (Photo Credit: ndtv)

Finally, how can I discount the Indian that everyone is cheering for! The recently elected Prime Minister of India – Narendra Modi! His determination and strong leadership saw him transition from being a tea-seller to the most important person in the country. His magnetism attracted  hundreds of listeners at Madison Square Garden and he charmed them all just the way he won over most Indians.

All of my examples show that as India gets increasingly globalized, the world is getting increasingly Indianized! Here’s another proof – from the sky:-

Perhaps the world is going more Indian than I think?

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Oindrila’s Omani Dream

A few weeks back, Oman asked me what I would do if had a chance to visit this charming country. Today, I’m going to answer by revealing my wishlist for an unforgettable trip to this Arabian attraction. If you observe carefully, you will notice that each of my yearnings is closely linked to the next. Fasten your seatbelts as I take you on a flight to my Omani fantasies!

Arrive in Wadi Al Khoudh:

Removed from the big-city-bustle of Muscat, this pristine valley is unaffected by the ticking of clocks. Soon after landing at the Seeb International Airport, I would take a short drive to treat my eyes to the emerald waters of Al Khoudh, one of Oman’s several beautiful valleys. The trees lining the hills and reaching for the heavens would inspire my imagination to take flight and I would feel one with the citizens of the skies.

"Ye haseen wadiyan... ye khula aasman..." (Oh! These enchanting valleys... these boundless skies...) [Photo courtesy: http://www.omantourism.gov.om/]

“Ye haseen wadiyan… ye khula aasman…” (Oh! These enchanting valleys… these boundless skies…)
[Photo courtesy: omantourism.gov.om]

Birdwatch in Barr Al Hikman:

The Omani east coast is a town square for migratory birds. I would never miss the wondrous sight of the white salt flats coming to life as thousands of herons flap away and squawk as they call out to each other… or that of the slender gulls swooping down on small fishes as they wade through the waters. I would observe how easily these creatures leave their homes to explore a foreign land… how they free themselves of worldly attachments and travel light, with nothing but their friends and family for company.

Birds of a feather... (Photo courtesy: http://www.y-oman.com/)

Birds of a feather…
[Photo courtesy: y-oman.com]

The pearly peninsula in the winter months is a wetland that doubles as a bird sanctuary. But just as the sun grows in the summers, the avian croaks and clucking noises give way to the soft sounds of salt crushing under the feet of the salt-harvesters. It is strange how so much salt can evoke such strong feelings of sweetness when you marvel at nature’s culinary gift that complements most world-cuisines.

Chew Kebabs while I Sip on Kahwa:

Oman can cook up a storm in its kitchens with dishes ranging from the sweet to the extremely spicy! Ever wondered what a vegetarian like me would do in the heartland of meat-lovers? Well, you’d be surprised with all the delectable veg options Omani cuisine offers us! Right from Sakhna, the unconventional sweet soup, to the cardamom-spiced coffee-Kahwa, their offerings are so aromatic and flavoursome that you, like me, won’t be able to wait to dive into the dishes!

Dive in Dimaniyat Islands:

If you haven’t done “it” before, you can always lose your deep-sea-diving-virginity in the calm waters of Dimaniyat. Only when I wetsuit-up in style and go below the sea-level, will I understand how meditative it feels to swim with the sea-turtles and witness marine-life in the layers of coral reefs. The depths of the seas, I’m sure, hold just as much promise as the heights of the tallest cliffs.

Green turtles gliding over the corals [Photo courtesy: http://www.omantourism.gov.om/]

Green turtles gliding over the corals
[Photo courtesy: omantourism.gov.om]

Explore the Arabian Grand Canyon:

The literal highs and lows of nature can be best appreciated at canyons where one can experience vertigo-inducing heights on the summits and deep gorges in the ravines almost simultaneously. Oman’s diverse landscape includes its very own Grand Canyon that I would love to trek up to. The breathtaking views on my way will only be the icing on the cake (a GRAND cake at that! 😉 )! And because I like to have my cake and eat it too, I would camp under the sunshine till the sky shows me some diamonds. There’s no better end to a day than to stargaze and wish upon a shooting star!

Grand canyon in all its grandeur [Photo courtesy: scoopempire.com]

The Grand Canyon in all its grandeur
[Photo courtesy: scoopempire.com]

Look Fashionable while I Shop:

I can never resist donning the local attire when I’m on a trip. The colourful Omani dresses and the ethnic prints will tempt me to dress up and ask the local women to help me with the lihaaf. With clothes ticked off my list, I would next head to one of the many souqs for some retail therapy! The fragrant frankincense products will entice me first, and only after I’ve bought some for my home will I be able to move to the other souqs. I won’t forget to bring back palm-leaf and leather artifacts just as I won’t forget to indulge in some silver & gold shopping! 😉

This pretty Omani girl knows what's "in" [Photo courtesy: flickr.com/photos/digitalazia/4776088429]

This pretty Omani girl knows what’s “in”
[Photo courtesy: flickr.com/photos/digitalazia/4776088429]

Go Back in Time at the Bat Tombs:

These tombs have been existing since the 3rd century BC and are still far from disappearing! The Bat tombs in Al Khutum & Al Ayn are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. While I delve deeper into history, I will do a detour to Bahla Fort and lose myself in its myriad alleys as I admire the 12km long Bahla Wall.

Bat Tombs - The giant beehives [Photo courtesy: .andantetravels.co.uk]

Bat Tombs – the giant beehives
[Photo courtesy: .andantetravels.co.uk]

End my Trip on a High Note:

My last day in Oman will naturally sadden me with the thought of leaving this vibrant country of sun, sand and serenity. To keep my spirits up, I will shake a leg with the Omani locals at a Fann aṭ-Ṭanbūra performance till I enter a state of trance.

Muscat at Night [Photo courtesy: vacationsandtravelmag.com]

Muscat at Night
[Photo courtesy: vacationsandtravelmag.com]

I have written quite a bit about this place that I have never seen before, but I have only been able to cover 8 letters of the English alphabet. (You’ll know if you’ve really been following this blog-post.) Imagine how much more there is to Oman – camel-rides on the undulating sand-deserts, dhow-cruises with a view of the Omani skyline, cave-tours near natural springs and learning the melodious Arabic language! Oman deserves a long vacation… so you can soak it all in.