Indian Culture and Incipient Westernism: The Other Side...
- Observe both the sexes in a Mandir someday. Even ultra-mod people will revert to their culture; gone is the condescension and the disdain. Also observe the adherence to rituals and norms. And spot the rush in the temple which has increased exponentially over time. You will like as not spot a kaleidoscope of people from all walks of life - from the jeans-and-t-shirt clad girls and boys, to the corporate hotshot; from the conservative saree-clad lady to the western suited professional lady; from the staid middle class gentleman to the utlra-mod torn jeans and spiked hairdo-ed businessmen and teens.
- Observe the simple practice of hiding cigarette in front of known elders and teachers that is still commonplace today
- Observe a simple nuance of just brushing your chest in respect and silent prayer on passing a temple, or a church - or any other place of worship, depending on your religion. Hindus even do that to all places of worship. And observe the person who does this; these people will defy all attempts at stereotyping
- Observe the habit of respectfully touching the body of a person whom you have inadvertently touched with your feet
- Observe Indian Classical music festivals - and note the increasing number of modern youngsters who are taking to it - both as fans as well as artists
- Observe how even the most obdurate of non-vegetarians will observe a vegetarian day - as per their individual beliefs
- Observe the adherence to familial hierarchies: how the elder brother is always the elder; how the elder always marries first, how elderly people are shown respect
- Observe the increasing equality of women in our society; and observe how we are learning to take it in our stride. Yes, problems remain - but my point is that ladies are increasingly equal, and that this has not impacted any other parameter. Observe how the familial unit has re-structured to this new reality. Observe the increasing support some males give to their working spouses
- Observe the continued preference for arranged marriage; also observe how, in case of love marriages - everything else proceeds as though in an arranged marriage - parents of the kids meet, decide everything and so on
- Observe the continued strength and resilience of the family unit, and the close relations between cousins, uncles and aunts from both sides of the family
- Or take a look at the top-rated shows as per trps...
This does not mean that the identified areas of worry need not be attended to: namely, the fawning over the west, the threat to our languages, our art and our culture. We ignore these threats at our own peril. But the above does mean that some among us are already adapting, that the pull of our culture is significantly stronger than we had thought possible. We can already see the first and second waves of a cultural backlash - the first being the "moral police" that has been seen in New Delhi and Mumbai. With 97% of the population not in tune with what these "oh-so-modern" (????!) 3% were doing, it beats me how anyone can expect anything else to happen. The second cultural backlash is more balanced - and decidedly more welcome. The slow but steady emphasis on being Indian, on our culture as is evident in the examples shown above.
The above points further underscore the theory lesson I told in my article The Culture Conundrum. The outward manifestation of culture does not change the internal make-up so very easily. The core values are still strong; the core norms of our culture are still unchanged. As I said, this does not mean that they are not under challenge: but they have been challenged before, and have overcome. This reduces the problem from that of a cultural threat, to the level of a cultural - and more particularly - nation building challenge...