Indian families typically have only one or two children. Girl children are often seen as a big financial burden because girls are always sent off with dowries, whereas boy children are an asset (because they attract wives and dowries). Seeing the families in poverty with still only one or two children, it further frustrates me about families in the US who cannot afford their children and keep popping them out- four, five, six- as if they think they are doing some sort of service to the world.
The many stray dogs are not treated the way that dogs are treated in America. They are treated more the way that Americans would treat rats. They are not outwardly abused and shooed away- there are just too many of them- but they are not interacted with either. I pet two dogs since I have been here. Both seemed incredibly grateful for a little bit of comfort and kindness, but in one case a woman advised me not to, indicating that the dog might bite me. The dog did not seem interested in anything more than a nice head scratch, but in the US, we don't go around petting rats because 1) they might bite, and 2) they are "filthy vermin". That's pretty much the view on dogs here, it seems.
If people are in the same caste (or at least socio-economic status), there is a tendency to really help one another out, but that does not necessarily extend to outside their castes.
The better you can speak English, the more affluent you are. And the more affluent you are, the better English you can speak because you could afford that kind of education. Just being able to speak good English is equivalent to educational degrees in the US. An excellent movie to see that highlights this is "English Vinglish".
The Indian people give the general impression of being very kind and very curious- especially about people who are obviously foreigners.
Light skin is much more valued than dark skin. You see this in beauty treatments, advertisements, and even in cartoons. It was actually rather funny when, at a bazaar, a man tried to sell me skin-lightening cream. As Dan pointed out, "any lighter and she'd be invisible!"
There are many good looking people here- men and women, and beautiful children. Sometimes one doesn't notice physical attraction across racial and geo-political borders. Here, it was hard not to notice. The Indian people have some very attractive genetics!
Being Caucasian-white in this country is a "mixed bag". People are generally very polite and go out of their way to help you, but it's hard to tell if they are doing it to sincerely be kind or if they are hoping for good tips (Likely a mix of both). It's very much the same as having celebrity status in the US. People want to be close to you (for reasons you may not always be privy to), and they are super-excited if they find out you are not a total dick. If you also tip them, they are usually very gracious- there doesn't seem to be a lot of tipping happening from their fellow Indian clientele. Many establishments get very excited when we come in, give us excellent service, and then mention how happy they would be if we could refer our friends to them as well.
The income differential is striking. We are staying at a nice hotel that charges (at a discount) 3600Rs a day, or roughly $54 a night (not including 20% luxury tax). My friend Mary pays about that much in rent each month, and only currently makes about 4000Rs. She also has a son to support. Our tuktuk driver, Jani, makes only 4300Rs a month to support his wife and two boys. A bottle of Head-and-Shoulders shampoo costs 475Rs on sale (with a selfie-stick included free, which is why I bought it). That's about $7, so certainly not a great bargain, but when you think about it, that bottle of shampoo costs 1/5 what some people make in a month. So even in their own country, those of lower means can not even afford that bottle of shampoo. For the average person, if they had the desire and the drive, they could simply never make it in America (assuming they could even afford to get TO America). It's just too insanely expensive compared to the economy of India. So if someone has made it out of India and is surviving in the US- or even doing well- you should respect them. They probably have more intelligence and drive in their little finger than the average American has in their entire body!
Speaking of work, those who have jobs in India work generally 60-hours a week- 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, with only Sundays off. As my friend Mary says, on Sundays she usually only has energy to rest and sleep. So there's very little time for recreation for most people. Either you work A LOT or you don't work at all, pretty much.
In India, parents' lives are lived to benefit their children. And likewise, children take care of their parents come hell or high-water. I've had a hard time explaining to people what it is I do. The concept of a home for seniors blows their mind. "They get picked up at the end of the day by their families, right?"they ask. "Er. No. They live there. We encourage staunch independence in our country. Though that's not necessarily such a good thing in some situations." Unfortunately, some Indian parents work hard to give their child everything and come to America, to a culture that does not encourage that level of reciprocation, and so the children simply take the benefits their parents offer them and become rather spoiled.