It is not an obvious fact that The United States of America is one of the most developed countries across the globe. India, on the other hand, is a developing country. India’s development is marked by changes in the social, cultural, political, educational, and economic character of the country, and has begun to display American influence. It feels like India is reasonably attempting to emulate the American culture in all possibilities. In this article, I will investigate glimpses of America as I see in India. I shall do so through the lens of an Indian who has lived 29 years of her life in India, having come to pay a visit after spending two and a half years in California, the USA.
1) Fashion- India, which was once well-known for being a highly orthodox country, seems to have come a long way from its traditional roots. This is especially true because the nuances of the fashion industry have changed from Indian saris and salwar suits to American miniskirts and bikinis. In addition, jeans and t-shirts have almost become obsolete due to their replacement by trendier versions such as palazzos, etc.
2) Growth in Café Culture- Tempting the youth and the old alike, American café culture has grown its presence not only in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata, etc. but also in small towns like Darjeeling (West Bengal), Gangtok (Sikkim), Ranikhet (Uttarakhand), Kasaul (Himachal Pradesh), etc. This is the scenario everywhere across India. The surge in the number of cafés is strongly marked by the rise of coffee culture that seems to have given the Indian traditional chai culture tough competition. Factually, this is evidenced by an exponential growth in café houses such as Starbucks, Coffee and Beans, Hardrock, Thank God it’s Friday!, etc., which dominate the market. Considerably, many private cafes have also mushroomed in towns and cities alike.
3) ‘T-Mobil’ and ‘Spectrum’ Plans in India- If internet connections such as ‘T-Mobil’ and ‘Spectrum’ have continued to offer family plans to avail as many as five mobile sim cards and Wi-Fi access to American life, then India has seen companies such as Reliance Gio or Airtel have recently started to offer such family plans too.
4) Digitalized India- If America went cashless decades ago, India seems to be heavily immersed in the game. Platforms like Google Pay, WhatsApp Pay, etc., have become very prominent for selling and purchasing. However, even small establishments like paanshops or vegetable vendors have started to prefer digital payments.
5) Growth in Nuclear Families- America has always been known for its small atomic families rather than the prominent joint families that mark the Indian lifestyle. Nevertheless, the Indian lifestyle of prominent families, where all generations lived together under one roof, ascertaining a number as significant as 30 or more, is now rapidly inclining towards having nuclear families. This influence seems to be extended even in family planning because Indian couples are visibly choosing to keep their families small by having one or two children, unlike their ancestors who had many as ten children or more.
6) Americanized Indian Laundry System – The Indian laundry system, also known as dhobi ghat washing, was popular in Indian families. This system comprised manual washing and drying of clothes on the strings hooked between enormous poles. However, laundry franchises like TumbleDry, which replicate the American design of laundry rooms that clean and dry clothes within a few minutes, are growing in number. This is particularly true in metropolitan cities where the demand for this quick and easy washing is increasingly high.
7) American Vegan Culture- Veganism is not a new word in the USA. Although its roots were planted a few years ago, this new kind of living has become quite a phenomenon, with Indian kitchens turning vegan. Markets and restaurants providing exclusive vegan food are also on the rise.
8) Fast Food Culture and Drive-Thru - Each day, India seems to be leaning towards fast food culture that is marked by a quick order-pay-and-take-out system. Food giants like McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Domino’s Pizza, etc., have visibly increased the number of their outlets nationwide. Moreover, the demand for ready-made and packaged food is also witnessing a solid increase along with the need for drive-thru facilities. This shows how even India’s food industry is being heavily influenced by American standards.
9) Music and Hip-hop Culture- India’s Bollywood seems to have lost its charm and seemingly been replaced by all-American music. The tradition of artists like Bob Dylan, Steve Wander, Tupac, and Michael Jackson is evergreen. The influence of these artists has percolated deep down the Indian consciousness of all ages. In addition, pop stars like Eminem, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Celena Gomez, Drake, Maroon 5, etc., continue to entertain and Americanize the Indian masses.
In conclusion, it can be said that the American hue touches India’s development. But I wonder if this development is progressive because it transforms India in an unchecked and unruly manner. For instance, in the name of modernization, Indians may wear miniskirts or bikinis, but they are forgetting that no outfit can be as oomphy as the Indian sari. Perhaps, Indians may adopt America’s veganism or fast food/ packaged-food culture and pretend to tell themselves that these are healthy. But they are once again forgetting that what remains unmatched is the fresh-home cooked food that comes straight from the Indian kitchen. In addition, Indians may also adopt American hop-hop music and revel in it, but they are sadly forgetting that the voices of Lata Mangeshkar, Muhammad Rafi, and Kishore Kumar that come from Bollywood are unapologetically timeless. Therefore, Indians may be willing to get Americanized but in doing so, they are compromising with the Indian cultural aesthetics that is magnificiently rich in its own being.
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