Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Manu Smriti to Madonna

We are a culture suffering schizophrenia, in our journey from Manu Smriti to Madonna! There has been a triple jump, literally; a hop, skip and leap of values in the short span of one generation. Our kids are increasingly returning home from colleges in the west. They are bringing with them the ethos of an individualistic world. An entire civilization seems a-sway under the onslaught of what is being celebrated as a global outlook. The omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence of the media are by now a cliché. And look at us; we have found ourselves two very convenient scapegoats, the west and the media. It is quite de rigueur to bemoan the idyllic past and blame it’s oblivion on these two bogeys.

The truth is that our “Ram Rajya” was a long, very long time ago and there has since been a very slippery slide downhill. In living memory, we have always struggled with a horrendous number of socio-economic issues. And to these, have been added cultural concerns now. While liberalization did douse some of the socio-economic fires, there is the growing challenge of maintaining and sustaining a national identity in the face of huge divides within. It is a marvel how Indians forget their Punjabihood, Gujaratihood, Tamilhood and Nagahood when abroad, thumping their chests over how richly diverse their country is; when in fact they cannot stand each other back home. Sample http://raagshahana.blogspot.com/2011/09/open-letter-to-delhi-boy.html  and this is an atom on the iceberg, forget the tip.

A Delhi girl living among Kannadigas, a Punjabi in Pune, a Tamilian in Mohali, a Manipuri in Mumbai, a Hyderabadi in Gandhinagar…these are all the check points of potential hernia. There is such fierce regional pride and resistance to the “intra-foreign”, one wants to scoff on hearing the platitude of unity in diversity. There is no unity, only heart- burn and bitterness at perceived slights, unhealthy stereotypes and provincial insecurities. From this choleric pot comes forth the magic spell and solution of blaming the outsider. It is a national fetish. Blame the regional for the state’s ills, the international for the national shortcomings and the planetary for the world’s woes. Anything to avoid assuming responsibility for ourselves.

It is dispiriting to live with so much of regional chauvinism. Perhaps, the time has come to begin teaching cultural class in our Primary Schools. This challenge of appreciating our own unique nuances will have to be met. Forget multicultural studies across nations, how about our inland identities and attendant hues? Stop negating and begin affirming our famed diversity, shall we?! 

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