Why South Asia Matters

This post is for my friend Andrea.  Andrea and I grew up together- she's a much faster swimmer than I am, she has two beautiful children, and she knows that I'm "always talking about India."  Which begs the question:  "Why am I always talking about South Asia?"  Because without South Asia...

1) The world would be bereft of my two favorite Indian exports:  Bollywood (a much larger and more prolific film industry than Hollywood) and bhangra (the irrepressibly exuberant and cheerful dance from the Punjab, a province which is now split between India and Pakistan).
2) China would be the only powerhouse talked about in Asia.  Because of Chinese Premier Hu Jintao's current visit to the White House, all NPR was talking about last night is how many American students are taking Mandarin/Cantonese.  I would like to note that Hindi/Urdu is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world (after Mandarin, Spanish, and English).  I dream of a world where millions of American students are studying Hindi (or Urdu, or Tamil, or Bengali, or Punjabi) because...
3) India is the world's largest democracy and the second most populous country in the world (1.2 billion people).  The US clocks in at a puny 307 million people, and although we've got the oldest democracy, India's political process involves many, many more people.  58% of the Indian electorate regularly votes, compared to 54% of the American electorate.  You run the numbers... that's a whole lot more people involved in the political process.

4) Since it was just MLK Jr. Day here, let's not forget Gandhi was the original civilly disobedient, non-violent protester.  Gandhi's movement ended up removing the most powerful empire the world has ever seen after the British had flexed their muscles for over 200 years on Indian soil.
5) And let us not forget that India/Pakistan/Nepal is the birthplace of four major world religions:  Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.  After Indonesia (which has 19% of the world's Muslim population),  India and Pakistan each have 13% of the world's Muslim population and Bangladesh has 11% of the world's Muslim population.

But if that doesn't convince you, take a look at the following map and think about a region's history that starts at 4000 BCE...  that always gets the historian in me!
Image from:  http://www.southasians.info/southasia/southasia-map.php

(For the record, I don't count Afghanistan as a part of South Asia.)

And if you're still not convinced... well, check this out.  Because Bollywood production numbers in English are just, well, lame:
(From "Marriage Comes to Town," Bride and Prejudice.)