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It's frightening... what people think of India!

Last updated on: February 28, 2008 19:50 IST

India is the most frightening thing to have happened to this planetÂ… Okay, now that I have your attention, let me save my life by clarifying I was just kidding. Actually, what people think about India is much more frightening. Surprisingly, many people out there do not know much about our country -- something that became evident to me when I moved to America and was bombarded with questions about my origins.

India is poor. All Indians are Hindu. These are just some of the things I have heard in America. And these are just two of the many stereotypes about Indian people and about India.

In high school, a friend once asked me if India was a land of "poor people." He had seen a video online that depicted the lives of people in India who were uneducated and under-nourished. My answer was a firm "no." I explained that although one can see poor people living on the streets, this was definitely not the case for everyone in India. India is full of smart and competent people who can rival the smartest in America. Not everyone in India is poor. There are many people who are very rich. India also has an influential middle class population. Poverty is more evident in India because it has one of the largest populations in the world (over 1 billion); if India had a lower population then it would probably have less poverty.

Another incident I recall was when I was reading in study hall and one of my best friends asked me if I could speak "Hindu." He was studying India in his history class and wanted to know more. It took me a while to understand what he was saying. I jokingly replied, "Yes. I can speak Hindu just like others can speak Christian and Muslim." He laughed and realised his mistake. I explained to him that Hindi is a language and Hinduism is a religion. I told him I am a Hindu but I speak Hindi. He looked somewhat confused and then asked me what the language "Indian" was. "No, 'Indian' is not a language," I replied. "Although there are hundreds of languages in India, 'Indian' is not one of them." That day I learned how little some people know about my country. They do not know much about the language and confuse it with religion. I wondered why the history teachers in my school neglected to teach the students about this aspect of India.

By now I thought I had heard it all; it turns out I was horribly wrong. I was eating lunch with my friends when someone from my science class asked me, "Is it true that India has no electricity?" I must admit I was surprised. This was an unexpected question. I replied that some parts of India experience power outages often, but electricity is not a rare commodity. I told her that even though India has power outages the government is coming up with ideas to solve that problem.

"India has invested a lot of money into generating renewable power. It currently ranks as the 3rd largest wind energy producer and is advancing in other renewable resources," I added. She was a little shocked. I explained that I visit India every year and have noticed, over the years, that the number of power outages has significantly reduced in New Delhi. Back then, the power went out many times a week, but now it is less frequent. In the end, she understood her views of India were wrong.

In five years of American schooling, I have had some interesting experiences with my classmates. Many kids ask questions that can sometimes seem ridiculous, but almost every time it seems that something or someone had influenced their incorrect view of India. Whether it was a class or a video, the point is that India is not poor, has more than one language and does have electricity. Even though my classmates might have wrong views of India, I am glad they asks me these questions because I can quickly clear up their confusion that makes my country look like a 3rd world nation.

Dhruv, 15, lives in Texas.

Dhruv Goel.