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Ep. 1-4: India - A Kaleidoscope of Cultures, Traditions & People

Mohammed is a pastry chef from Gujarat, India

A day spent in India is never wasted. Everywhere you look, someone, something’s happening. In a country of 1.4 billion people, six main religions and more than 1,300 different dialects spoken on the streets, a lively kind of chaos and an intense sense of life are

what make India so special.

“India is so much fun, everyday is an adventure,” says Mohammed Umer Campwala, a 30-year-old professional

pastry chef.

Mohammed, who goes by Moh, grew up in a prominent business and political family in West India in a province called Gujarat.

Generations back, his great grandfather built a successful bakery business from a humble beginning and grew it into a thriving franchise.

“[My family] was already famous, so whenever we used to have any functions, we would expect VIP guests and a lot of Bollywood film actors,” says Moh.

Growing up, he was neighbors with Irfan Pathan, the famous Indian cricketeer, and spent his youth playing cricket after school and at his family play farm with his pet deer and goats while other kids played with stuffed animals.

Irfan Pathan (left), former Indian cricketer, holds the record for being the fastest Indian bowler to achieve 100 ODI wickets (Facebook)

Way of Life

Today, Moh’s family is part of India’s upper middle class. “[In India], most people are middle and lower class. Rich people are in the minority,” he explains.

Typical lower-class jobs are sewage cleaners, street cleaners, cooks and maids working for middle and upper-class families. “They’re unskilled and uneducated and make very little money at their jobs."

In Mumbai, India’s most populous city, a sizable population of the lower class are employed by the company Dabbawala, where men dressed in white shirts and donning the traditional Gandhi Cap deliver lunch to the entire city.

Education is the way to get ahead in life, but it's not free, and India's rural population, which make up 65% of the country, is still very backward in their thinking, says Moh.

“You have roads and schools [in rural areas] too, but lifestyle depends on family belief and the family is run by the man of the house. If a father does not allow a girl to go to school, she can’t. But now, things are changing.”

India’s caste system also creates barriers for lower caste people, who are often poorer than higher castes. In India, the caste you’re born into determines everything you do from who you can marry, to what you eat, your profession and death rituals. People from the lower-caste known as Dalits or “The Untouchables” still face severe discrimination in their daily life.

Unfortunately, the caste system is not going anywhere, says Moh. “It’s been going on for thousands of years.”

Culture & Customs

Despite the challenges of everyday life, the streets of India are filled with smiling faces and laughter shared between friends and family. In India, the sense of community is very strong between family members, one’s religious community, neighbours and friends.

“Everyone in India is free at night after work,” says Moh, “so we just take our mopeds, wear our shorts and slippers and go out, eat some street food and just hang out.”

The food and culture in India vary by region. For example, North Indians are described as highly ambitious, entrepreneurial and love to party, while the common stereotype of South Indians is they’re highly educated, non-showy, conservative and a bit of a culture snob.

In India, clothing, language, architecture and festival celebrations all differ depending on where you live. But one thing that’s constant everywhere is their approach to weddings and arranged marriage. Weddings in India are a multi-day celebration that could last up to 10 days and 5,000 guests, according to Moh.

“It’s not about how much money you spend, it’s about paying respect to your community and making sure you invite everyone in your community," he explains.

Wedding gifts in India are also pretty outrageous by Western standards. “Apartments, cars, lots of gold!” says Moh. (You can learn more about Indian weddings and arranged marriage by clicking on the podcast episode at the top of this page)

Travel Recommendations

If you’re looking to visit India for your next vacation, here are Moh’s top recommendations:

Somnath Temple, Gujarat

· Kashmir – northernmost region of India known for its beautiful valley and nature scenery. It’s been called a paradise in winter.

· Somnath Temple – ancient Indian temple based in Gujarat, considered the richest in the world.

· Taj Mahal – famous white marble mausoleum commissioned by the fifth Mughal emperor of India to house the tomb of his favourite wife.

· Goa – southern state in India famous for its beaches, oceanic views and nature.

· Participate in a festival! There are endless festivals taking place across India all year round (check your calendar before you leave), and they’re a great way to have fun and to experience the local culture. If you’re in Gujarat, Moh recommends participating in Navratri, a celebration famous for its Garba dance lasting nine nights and Uttarayan, a kite-flying festival.


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