Monday, 23 March 2015

Indian culture and its custodians

    What is Indian culture?
    Few dictionaries and academic definitions-
    1. Culture is a way of life
    2. A human-made environment which includes all the material and non- material products of group life that are transmitted from one generation to the next (NCERT)
    3. Root word "Kri"
    prakriti’ (basic matter or condition),
    ‘Sanskriti’ (refined matter or condition)
    ‘vikriti’ (modified or decayed matter or condition),
    ‘Cult or cultus’ meaning tilling or cultivating or refining and worship.(Hindi dictionary)

    With so many definitions in hand, it is obvious that it is something controversial and prone to myriad of interpretations. The most acceptable definition in our society is that it is the trends which we are following from one generation to another and which distincts us from animals.

    While living abroad, one can realize it in food, festivals, arts, music, religions, yoga etc. In short it is the way to celebrate the life.

    Is culture mutually exclusive thing?
    I don’t think so, amalgamation of culture is the trademark of globalization. And a person celebrating Diwali can celebrate Eid or valentine's day with equal fervor. Culture doesn’t create rigid boundaries. The most beautiful property of culture is that it is adaptable and varies spatial and temporally.
    Hard core conversions from one religion to religion, ghar vapasi, love jihad completely denies the essence of culture by restricting its arena. The people who create divisions in our society in the name of 'Indian Culture' are actually the one who lack the knowledge of what constitutes Indian identity. These are the people who taint the 'culture' by malicious thought. They are not the right receptacles of  culture. They are not the custodians of our past.

    What is moral policing?
    People who promote Moral Policing are such deemed to be custodians of our past while deciding what is good and bad for us in India. They decide if something is in our Indian ‘culture’ or not. Attacking on couples by Shiv Sena, killing a girl for eloping with his love by Khap Panchayats, practicing female feticide, endorsing women as second fiddle and keeping them restricted to four walls, are few of attempts to set the culture intact.

    Is this required?
    Obviously, declining moral values prompt us to do some kind of policing.
    Eve teasing, item songs, vulgar presentation and commodification of women, rape of humanity do require us to relook into our culture. The space of dissent should not be shrunk in the name of protecting culture as happened in documentary ban case, AIB, killing the voices of writers. The documentary ban reflected the culture of shame prevalent in India throughout the globe.

    What needs to be done?
    But we don’t need to protect our culture but prevent it to getting outdated and corrupted. Like Indian culture we have to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and interpretations. We need to bring some congruence between the legality and our acceptability. The law decides what is right or wrong. Indian culture has a foundation that is not so fragile to be shaken by us merely celebrating Valentine’s day or questioning some traditional facts. What threatens Indian culture is intolerance among people, eve teasing, the anti-cultural ‘masala’ in our films and the way our women and humanity are being treated. The Future of Indian culture relies on flourishing diversity while maintaining a thread of unity.

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