India: 21 Tips on Surviving Life in Modern India

May 18, 2011

For returning Indians, a must-read to ward off culture shock. To everyone else, this will help you scratch the surface of this country that charms and frustrates anyone who dares venture forth. 

Here are some pointers on leading a happy life in the India of the Gandhis, call centres, Pizza Hut, DLF and Road Rage.

Read and learn. Here we go.

(Ed's note to non-Indians: Click on the words marked with an * for their definitions and a glossary of essential Indian terms. They may baffle you, but you are going to need to know them, for India to make any sense to you!)

841 India: That which defies definition (Photo: robynejay)


1. Be rich. Very rich. Money may not buy happiness, but a Crore* or two lying around doesn’t hurt.

2. Don’t buy anything without bargaining. Nothing. It is just against the Indian spirit. If your kid asks for a school trip to Egypt, propose Jaipur*. If he turns out to be a bargainer, raise the offer to Aurangabad.

3. Have lots of kids. You must have a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer and a magistrate in the family. Can't rely on outsiders anymore.

4. Do not watch TV. Colors et al are all channels dedicated to the cause of social injustice and women empowerment; you’ll get bored. Krishi Darshan* is more entertaining.

5. Forget that you have a middle finger. We are a peace-loving country; no obscenities here please.

6. Chai Paani* (literally tea, water) is not that. Seriously, who would drink tea and water together. Even kids know what it means.

7. Go private. Prefer ICICI to SBI. Unitech to DDA. FedEx to Speedpost. Airtel to BSNL. You don’t want anything to do with the government or their offices. Leave that to the losers.

8. The media is the new government. If you lose as much as a dog, just call up Aajtak*. If you can convince them to take up your cause, rest assured a dog will be found, yours or not.

9. When in trouble, claim you are from the media. Nobody messes with the media.

10. Get blocked on Twitter by Chetan Bhagat*. You don’t belong to the intelligentsia till you can offend the greatest writer of our times enough to grant you this status symbol.

11. Everything can be outsourced in India. Get a maid, a cook, a driver, a gardener, a bodyguard, someone to pick your trash. You’ll even find a young engineer to walk your dogs. They are aplenty, and come cheap.

12. It is not law and order. It’s law and disorder. Never bother calling up 100*. Most likely it will go unanswered, which truly is the best case scenario for you.

13. Do not argue with your sabzi-wallah (vegetable vendor). If he gets pissed, he won’t just not sell to you but make sure nobody else does either.

Anything can be blamed on Pakistan. Didn’t do your homework – the Pakistanis stole it.

14. Anything can be blamed on Pakistan. Didn’t do your homework – the Pakistanis stole it. Made mistakes in the homework – the Pakistanis stole it and returned a wrong copy.

15. While out and about, make sure you know the name of the area ACP/DCP/Head Constable*. If a cop busts you, claim that Mr ACP is your maternal uncle. And hope the person you name isn’t the one stopping you. In which case, god be with you.

16. Don’t go out during the day. Too much traffic. Also, don’t go out in the night. There’re rapists everywhere.

17. Know your cricket. You must know the names of all IPL* teams, Tendulkar’s test average, and the marital status of all Indian players. A strong opinion on match fixing will be helpful. If you think short leg is related to a flat foot, then this one needs a lot of work.

If you think short leg is related to a flat foot, then you need to work on your cricket knowledge.

18. Never rant about how bad things are in India. Especially if you are a non-resident. Indians don’t like outsiders blowing the cover.

19. You can never bad mouth Shahrukh Khan. He has a private army of millions all over the country. For your own safety, claim to be an SRK fan wherever you go. Add that to your introduction. “Myself, Ravi Kumar. 5 years experience in Java, including 4 months and 12 days onsite. Big fan of Shahrukh Khan.”

20. You will be frisked wherever you go. The mall, the movies, the metro, haldirams, the library. Everywhere. Don’t complain – it’s for your own good. Privacy be damned, but at least the terrorists will be thwarted in their plan to blow up the grocery store.

21. If you believe in god, rest assured you will lead a happy life in India. With over a million gods, you can get a dedicated hot line to one of them. Just make sure you do the needful at the local temple.

There. Follow these tips and you will live happily ever after. Just don’t forget our chai paani* for showing the path.


This post was originally published on AmreekanDesi in September 2010.