Wednesday, March 19, 2014

[Indian Culture Workshop 2013-2014] Session 1: Who are the Indians?

Last year, we introduced the Indian culture workshop entitled "Multiculturalism in Action" organized by Professor Siumi Maria Tam. If you are interested in Indian culture as well as its interaction with Hong Kong society, and yet you missed out the workshop, don't worry-- from this semester, we will start summarizing each of the sessions to give our reader a general idea of what this "Multiculturalism in Action" is about. 
(For general introduction of the workshop, please refer to our old post here.)

Session 1:Who are the Indians?: Truths and myths
Speakers: Prof. Tam, Mr and Mrs Rao
When we speak of Indians, what stereotypes would come across in your mind? 3 Cs- Curry, cotton, and cows? They smell? They are good at I.T and bargaining? Bobbling heads when they talk? Good at bargaining? Or, the famous comedians Russell Peters, and Vivek Mahbuhani?

This session aims at bring the stereotypes Indians face in Hong Kong to the front, and disarm it through the explanations. Mr. and Mrs. Rao have been in Hong Kong for more than two decades, and Mrs. Rao is even a English teacher in local high school. They both notice the similarities between Chinese and Indian culture. Mr. Rao introduces India as a very diversified country. She houses varies of religions that are in practice: Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. India has 22 recognized official languages and 400 different dialects. These languages are distant from each other; even the scripts of the languages are also different. Internal diversity in terms of festival celebrations are indeed very different in varies regions in India. Using historical reasons to explain India’s diversity is that part of the Sindhi province was given to Pakistan in 1949, and a small part of Pakistan then became Bangladesh in 1971. This encouraged the largest migration in human population history, and allowed the exchange of culture and religion. Other than intra-migration, a sizable population of Sindhis is found in Hong Kong. Sindhis in Pakistan fled to countries such as, Taiwan, Africa, Malaysia and some of them eventually settled in Hong Kong.

Indian culture is not just about “Hindu culture.” Rather, it is a blend of different cultures, from Greek, English, to Mongolian. With Mr. Rao introduced some of the demographic and historical information about India and Indians, Mrs. Rao shared her experiences precisely as an “exotic” school teacher, and also as a minority citizen in Hong Kong. A lot of discrimination against Mrs. Rao’s traditional presentation—the way she dress and her long hair, although things have changed and getting better in the recent years. While she was looking for a teaching opportunity, her school asked her to guarantee she would not preach her religion. She even avoided in the lifts and the other public spaces in the past. She claims that those stereotypic acts do not hurt her as much after years, but still makes her wonder why the local is ignorant about her home culture. Mrs. Rao uses the indirect discrimination she tackled over the years in Hong Kong to disarm those prejudices. She invites students explicitly to learn and ask more about Indian culture in daily life whenever they have chances; every Indian is more than happy to introduce you and explain to the majority Chinese about their culture, so as to break down the boundaries between the minorities and the majority. 

(Middle Row, from left) Prof. Tam, Mr. and Mrs. Rao, with students from the workshop

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