An Arrant Illusion (Reflections: Part-IV)

Adapting to the utter rationality and fast-pace of the west is one thing. Imbibing a foreign culture in its truest terms is a second thing, may be even supplementary to the first. Respecting and carrying forward the refined tastes of one’s own culture is altogether a different aspect.

Let’s not mix up !

A simple “Hello” or a sincere “Good- Morning /Afternoon /Evening /Night” are customary ways of greeting in most of the western countries. While doing so, they neither exaggerate on emotions nor suppress it below minimum display. Its cordial.

But today in India, we are in a complete illusion somewhere ! It is very common nowadays to hear a “Hi” but it is usually deprived of sincerity; sometimes the person does not even look at you while greeting thus. Then there are instances of addresses like “Hi Aunty” or “Bye Uncle” in a tone of disrespect; kids here now speak to their friends or even to their seniors in unhesitating terms as “What’s up, dude ?” or “Hey baby !” or “Hang on, man !!” or “Ohh shit !!!”, etc. Labelled slang or not, I find all these extremely impolite, particularly while relating to any typical Indian culture.

I strongly believe that my thoughts here have nothing to do around adaptability or acceptance of our changing times. That is what I clearly noted right at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would have never existed. For it generally means that when you go as a visitor to a different place, you advantageously adapt its ways or politely abide by the customs of that society. It does not say that being a Roman and in Rome, you change your Roman ways, whatsoever be the reason- that’s not adaptability !! That would be either a political compulsion or a social blunder !!!

On similar grounds, I shall also not appreciate such greetings when as an Indian and on social occasions, I meet a fellow countryman or an NRI, whether in India or in a foreign country. Rather, I would yearn to see the original chords of cultural ties reverberate, wherever.

Issues as these sometimes awfully bother me; many a times, I experience some sort of disconnection with my own ‘modern’ society.

It therefore makes me wonder if we could possibly together go back to our customary ways ! For example, revert to greetings as Namaskar /Sasriyakar /Vanakkam /As-Salamu Alaykum /Adaab and the like. Are these not things to be valued ?… Let’s admire with due respect that many foreigners visiting India read and learn a lot about our customs and culture even before they actually land here; and as expected of them, almost everyone observes the rules maximally though they may opine otherwise. But what eludes us, the desi folks ?

The other trend is that many parents here communicate with children to such an extent in English (at home, on the playground, public places) that they forget to teach them the wonderful values of their own culture and sometimes, even their native language- call it mother-tongue or whatever. They are superficially proud of that seemingly big ‘English achievement’ (a mis-conceptualized ‘high status’ or ‘elite society’ by many desi folks), and absolutely indifferent about not been able to teach their kids about their own cultural aspects, let alone any sense of loss at it !!!

Unfortunately, the polished outlook, mannerisms and etiquette of a gora saheb (usually meaning an English gentleman) are rarely observed !! I much agree to the concerned views expressed by Jug Suraiya in his blog titled Mimic Man.

A very few parents /guardians observe and inculcate the young with Indianness in the real sense, even though they have rightly adapted the western philosophy (mostly as a wonderful means) on certain justifiable grounds. That is a good balance which must be well-recognized and highly appreciated.

Well… It is definitely good to learn different languages and cultures. Because apart from seeking answers to the scientific quests on man’s evolution, such respectful learning also shows our liberal spirits and progressive minds. But it should never be at the cost of one’s own cultural values !! How can someone be not excited about the timeless, good aspects of one’s culture or custom ?… Without due regard to it, I am afraid, that way certain cultures and languages of the world shall become obsolete down the line; our own scripts and lawful practices or customs would appear strange to us !!! That would be the dead-end of this arrant illusion which most of us now continue to ignore with vanity.

Wish a healthy balance is maintained…

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7 Responses

  1. Part 4 should have links to part 3, 2, 1 etc. At lest to part 3. It will help someone to read previous parts afresh or browse through if he/she has lost count of it. Without that part 4 looks out of contest.

  2. @ Parsuram Panigrahi: These ‘reflections’ of life deal with distinct topics, that is why I have not linked them. Will try to create a menu.

  3. Do you really think attitudes will change by merely switching languages?

  4. @ matheikal: Yes, definitely to a great extent because culture-behaviour-attiude-thoughts-emotions-outlook-lifestyle-language are very much inter-linked ! Nevertheless, more than a specific language, its the overall form of culture that matters. In India, we have many languages; when we look at that level, we do not note many major differences. But when we broadly compare Indian culture to any other culture, particularly western, than the contrasts are certainly several and sharp. There is an advantageous and disadvantageous part to every side. There is where we ought to strike a healthy balance vis-a-vis our inherent society /culture and true needs of modernity.

  5. Indeed, its what our family teaches us since childhood.

    http://www.volatilespirits.com

  6. You have a valid point. But the current generation is looking towards the west for everything. Family values are also going down.

  7. Media and the 5-figure salary of the software industry are very much responsible for this. They are like slow poison.

    Valid point.

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