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One community: What you really need to know about India

“One common misconception is that a lot of people in India are uneducated. Or that India is really dirty,” Tarang says. “But people in India are educated. There are famous mathematicians that have discovered very important things in math. And also, it’s not dirty.”

How does it make you feel when people say that?
“It’s really annoying for me in general. There are a lot of places in India and you cannot just generalize everything. There’s more than a billion people!”

“In India, we have a different way of educating people,” Tanishqa points out. “When Western people look at it, they’re like ‘What is this?’ But it’s just a different curriculum.” “Some people also think that India is technologically backward but that’s not the case,” Yamini adds. “But mostly when people see countries like India, in Asia or Africa, they think the countries are backward. India is a developing country with a rich and diversified culture and heritage and many of the top technological companies are run by Indians.” “India is not one culture. Even if you move a few kilometers from one village to the next, the dialect will change,” Tarang says. “There are 24 to 26 languages in all of India and that’s not including the dialects of each region so it’s very diverse. I feel people overlook that a lot.” “For each area there is a different culture. So there are different dance forms, music, dressing styles, a lot of changes from region to region,” Yamini explains. “People try to preserve their culture. That makes the culture great.”

What would I experience if I were to integrate myself into India?
“Tradition,” Tanishqa is quick to answer. “Because each part of India has a different tradition. I think people just generalize it into religion.” “In our family, my great-grandmother bought a silver bowl when I was born,” Yamini tells. “Because there was a tradition that when your great-granddaughter is born, you need to buy a silver bowl and give it to her. And that’s not religious.” “My aspect of tradition would be learning different types of food that my great-grandma taught me,” Tanishqa adds. “And when I explain it to certain people they ask ‘Oh, it’s your tradition from religion? Was it written in your Bible?’ They assume it was something from religion that my family is following. Mostly people think we are all that we are all religious Hindu and that most of us are vegetarians.

“I think some people just look at a person, I mean, it’s normal, and they just want to figure out where you are from, and they just assume you are Indian,” Tarang points out. “But I know there are some Brazilians who look kind of the same and they just assume we are Brazilians.”

Why do you think people don’t ask?
“Probably because they are embarrassed.” “I also think they feel scared to ask, they are scared they’ll look stupid in front of other people.”

Any final message from you?
“If you have any questions, just ask people. Don’t make up your own assumptions.” They all agree: “Ask before assuming.” “Don’t generalize.” “Ask people, it’s OK.”

In the photo, you see Sabrina from Italy, Tarang from India, Tessa from Uganda and Tanishqa from India, all dressed up for Nations Day in September.

If you want to tell us about your nation, please get in touch. We'd love to do more stories like this.