Being Indian - 1 : Cultural Invasion



One of the common themes in these times is the oft-heard erosion of values in India and the threat to our way of life; that Indian values are under threat… What does Being Indian mean, devoid of any religious connotations? In the following mini-series, I have tried to place what is essentially my opinion on Being Indian, and what are its ramifications… and present my views on Indian Culture’s well known inclusiveness – which is as per me the defining characteristic of being Indian -  as well as try and meet allegations of the spectre of cultural invasion, or the erosion of Indian Values


To me, Being Indian :
v Gives me an ability to think, read and write in 3 Languages with consummate ease and complete confidence...
v Gives me an edge as I can live my life in a truly free democracy, where the colour of skin doesnt matter, where my name doesnt matter
v Gives me an edge {form 1 above} because I can access the best of Western Literature as well as Eastern Literature, in addition to Indian Literature without having to go the additional mile to learn new languages or cultures
v Gives me an edge because I can communicate with someone in South Korea or Singapore or Philippines or Indonesia or USA or Germany or anywhere else; I can do business with them while not having to go the additional mile to learn a new language; at the same time, it allows me to stay very close and combined with my culture, as I converse in 3 languages with total ease
v Gives the confidence of the backing of an inclusive and open culture that has survived severe onslaughts, more than any other culture almost, and has not only flourished - but has taken the best from every culture to come into contact with it - the uniquely Indian power of assimilation
v Gives me an edge as I have to deal with stunning diversity on a daily basis - I interact daily with Muslims, Christians, Sanaatan Dharmis, SIkhs or North Indians, South Indians, East Indians, and so on including all types of skin colours; and it allows me to deal with them, befriend them and do business with them without any cultural connotations or limitations or biases...





Openness and Inclusiveness means that you are welcome to trade with India, tour India, have mutually - underline that - beneficial relations with India. That is it; dont interfere, and stay the hell out of our affairs. Intermix with us, associate with us, - but do not interfere. The fact of the matter is that the West does interfere and poke their unwanted nose everywhere; that is where we Indians draw the line.


One can be open and inclusive while simultaneously drawing the line; it is eminently feasible to do so. Openness and Inclusiveness are typically internal terms, internal realities referring to the internal cultural reaction and their socio-political effects; external interactions are governed by a different set of factors, which do not include openness and inclusiveness in the cultural context.

In the external context, being open and inclusive means not having territorial designs, not being judgemental of other cultural or having a supermacist self-image, being accepting of other realities and cultural contexts {as different from political realities and context}, accepting those differences and working around those differences without offending the other party / culture, and without being judgemental , holier-than-thou and moralistic.


Morals, while absolute, have widely divergent yardstick and norms in other cultures; ditto social norms. We cannot and should not dictate our cultural view to other cultures - it is their culture, their problems are theirs to solve, not ours. We have no conceptualisation of their internal realities and factors, and our opinion or interference is thus not required.


We can easily see that externally we have been very careful, as a nation, to be non-judgemental and inclusive, accepting of other nations and cultures. Unlike The Great West, we dont chastise USA on their racism problems, or dictate to other cultures {as a small example}. We dont bring out insulting reports on internal factors of other nations - unlike the holier-than-thou USA which does it all the time, as an example. We are very internally focused as a nation and as a people, with the only exception being our penchant for following Sanaatan Dharm and its followers everywhere. But point to be noted : even there, we have never intervened or interfered to the best of my knowledge; which is more than can be said of the developed world, with its myriad cultural and political means of subvention as well as intervention


That is why we cannot drop our guard : their problems are theirs only so far as they dont impact us or our nation's internal security paradigms. You may have business relations in India, you may have business contacts, you may have the same roots & origins – like PIOs, or the same religion; you may be our security or strategic partner and/or well-wisher - that does not give you the right to pontificate. We can manage our own problems; we don’t pontificate to you; and the least we expect is that you reciprocate…


That is truly walking the talk; that is truly inclusive and mature…


I live my way, you live yours. I accept your way - and the least I expect is that you accept my path. If you dont, then there is going to be a clash. Openness and Inclusiveness between cultures works only when both are the same; when only one is Open and Inclusive, you cannot have Openness and Inclusiveness without clashes, which is what we see in the international context as cultures collide. And when the collision is in both the cultural as well as the political sphere, problems get intertwined and exacerbated.

Politically, one can easily see a myriad attempts at interference : crass and in-your-face - like building up Pakistan; Trade and Economic Issues - Solar Power, AMS, Climate Change, Tech Transfer, UNO; Myriad targeted reports on various internal issues, and so on and so forth. These are real problems, and cannot be wished away. Neither can the reality of the connected world : I refer you to the seminal book by Dr Raghuram Rajan {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/04/book-review-fault-lines-by-raghuram-g.html} , as well as the book by Michael W Hudson {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/05/book-review-monster.html} ; the impact of the globally connected economy on unrelated markets is now a fundamental truth and cannot be wished away.



Culturally too, one can easily spot a variety of attempts at intervention through various quasi-cultural methods, as well as outright political methods; but these pale into insignificance in the light of the other challenge to the culture,  it is also true that it is culture that is at the foreground in the connected world with its exposure to other cultural ideas, mores, norms, modes, practices and realities through the increasingly aggressive media and its exposure to people



In such an atmosphere, while it is absolutely vital that a defensive mechanism be in place in every way in the political sphere, I am not too concerned about the impact on culture; which is why I am not at all defensive on both the overt cultural aspects like Movies and Music, as well as the less apparent cultural aspects like tolerance, respect of elders, open world view, inclusiveness, When it comes to realpolitic, it is important that we build strong defenses; that is where the focus needs to be – not on building defences and angry reactions to an imagined cultural invasion which may not be as serious as we think it to be!


Nothing stated above means we forget the past; which is the single biggest reason for some people to mount a defend Indian Culture action sequence. These reactions we shall look at later; As regards bitterness and history, when a people have bled as much as we have, it will take a long time, a very, very long time to forget. But what past to remember – only a partial recollection, or the full story? Why not remember the full story, especially since the developed world is developed only on the stolen wealth from the colonies? Why only a partial recollection of history? Further, contemporary history has proven that it would be naive to forget the relevant past, which we do tend to ignore : witness the US-Pakistan duo, and how it is consistently supporting Pakistan to our detriment. Witness the Economic and Trade negotiations in everything from Agriculture to Climate, and witness the western onesided selfishness.


Let us look at what happened in 1947, which was enough to tear apart the core, the base, the bedrock and the entire edifice of Aryavarta, the Golden Land {of which India is a larger version, having expanded in some regions, while contracting elsewhere}; it was enough to rip out its entails. It was a brutal jolt, a shock to the core of our being, our raison-de-etre. A land where everyone was at home was no longer home to some people... and yet…


In the midst of this disaster, from the ashes of ruin, rose Modern India - the living image of Ancient Aryavarta, a land where everyone is welcome regardless of anything, so long as you are an Indian Citizen. Yet again, all religions, colours and cultural realities found a means of peaceful co-existence. Sure, problems remain - but how many of those problems are due to the colonial experience? Have we had enough time to eradicate that memory and that damage?


This is a theme we will examine in later articles, for now, the learning from the above example for us is that if such  a brutal jolt could not destroy the core of our ethos as a civilization, it is being pessimistic in the extreme to believe minor cultural factors will succeed in overcoming us; this is a time for us Indians to look at the entire past, and draw confidence from it; and look at our contemporary approach  and culture, and draw pride for it – not defensiveness.






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