Jun 16, 2018

Asian Muscle #3: South Asia

South Asia is dominated by India, a land of 1.3 billion people speaking over 700 languages, mostly Indo-Aryan in the north (Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Assamese) and Dravidian in the South (Tamil, Telugu).  It is the birthplace of four of the world's major religions, Hinduism. Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism, plus there are many adherents of Islam, and Christianity.  It is an extremely poor country, with a GDP per capita of U.S. $1,700 (compared to $39,000 in Japan and $30,000 in France).  But there is a huge middle class able to afford cars, houses, trips to Paris and Munich, and gym memberships.

This bodybuilder is from Tamil Nadu, in the south.

The Tamil language is Dravidian, so nothing like Hindi:

Show me your sausage.
Hindi: Mujhe apana sosej dikhao
Tamil: Uṅkaḷ tottiṟai kāṭṭuṅkaḷ

Punjabi, however, is Indo-Aryan.  The resemblance is obvious:

Hindi: Mujhe apana sosej dikhao
Punjabi: Mainū āpaṇā lagūcā dikhā'ō

Punjab is 60% Sikh.

Mumbai, formerly called Bombay, was a major British colonial capital. The most common language is Marathi, which is Indo-Aryan.

Manush Chauhan, called "The Indian Billy Elliot," grew up in Mumbai.  He is now dancing for the Oregon Ballet Theater and speaks fluent English, but if you want to impress him, here's how to say "Come to my hotel room":

Hindi:    mere hotal ke kamare mein aao
Marathi: Mājhyā hŏṭēla rūmamadhyē yē

422 million people, or about half the population, speak Hindi as their first language.  They are concentrated primarily in north central India, around New Delhi, although many others speak Hindi as a second or third language.  You can get along in India fine with some conversational Hindi plus English.

2015 Mr. Delhi Bodybuilding Contest

Nepal is known for its stunning Hindu and Buddhist temples, its view of the Himalayas, and its gay-friendliness.  Not only are same-sex relations legal (as opposed to, say, India), but there laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Bhutan, a small Himalayan country with less than a million people, is known for its distinctive penis shrines.  40% of the population speaks Nepali, and the rest a variety of languages related to Tibetan, notably Dzongkha.  

The 1947 Partition of India resulted in two states, the primarily Hindu India and the primarily Muslim Pakistan (divided into east and west).  Millions of people with the "wrong" religion immigrated to and from the new states. Hindustani was already split into Hindi (spoken mostly by Hindus) and Urdu (spoken mostly by Muslims), so Urdu became the official language of Pakistan.

Today Pakistan often is at odds with India, and the people often look west toward the Middle East.  It is more conservative than India on gay rights.

Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, was once the poorest country in Asia.  Economic growth has been tremendous.  The World Bank estimates that only 16% of the population is now living in poverty.

In 2017, Naseef Rahman represented Bangladesh at the Mr. Global bodybuilding competition.

Sri Lanka, called Ceylon by the colonials, is primarily Sinhalese.  The Tamil minority have been pushing for independence for years.  After a 26-year long civil war, the Tamil Tigers were defeated.


  1. Who would've thought the theocracy (Nepal) would be more progressive?

    Pakistanis speaking Arabic is one of my nitpicks as they start making media about the campaign against al Qaida. Not least because Pakistan has a P in it.

    Bangladesh is one of those countries Big Business loves to exploit. I'm fond of reminding NorCal Democrats (who are a big reason we lost to the Golden Horror) that it wasn't over 100 robots who died in a fire at a textile mill in Bangladesh.

  2. Nepal is a secular state under the new Constitution, although the prohibition against converting to a new religion has received criticism.


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