Our generation has an interesting challenge — of integrating opposites
On one end is ancient India’s heritage and wisdom. While we may feel proud of it, we have been helped mostly by abundant geography (criss-crossing rivers and gentler climates than rest of the world)
Our ancestors have had a lot of peace and time to reflect and think about the most fundamental questions of life (apart from cutting edge science for those times).
That is embedded in our mythology and religion — and shown by our capacity to integrate other cultures into our own and birth new flavours.
But this very mythology is flexible and rich — perhaps the intention was to make archetypal wisdom available to everyone to understand (at various intellectual levels)
Some very clever people some time ago used this flexibility to embody very limiting values into our overall generous culture. (call them the we are also-Right)
It isn’t exactly contamination but a seductive interpretation that appeals to some of our base emotions — hence it is more solid, more viral and easy on the brain.
And I must say it is grounded in very natural desires to feel pride and wisdom, connection to roots and tradition.
So one part of ourselves is to reclaim this wisdom not only for ourselves but also for the world — cos at this moment the planet needs the wisdom of every culture, this one is ours.
YET it is to do it in a way that restores its original richness and calls out this ‘capture’ by a limited interpretation (Rather than benefiting from it)
The other part is a misunderstanding by another group of people schooled in western ideas and ways of looking at the world (call them the Left-behinds)
Schooled in the west they feel shame for the colonial past — almost apologetic and in a race to catch up. This modernity is not innate to us but sits as a polish, like make up.
It looks funny and tacky — and instead of embodying the spirit of the West (cultures which evolved in relative scarcity and more hostile climate-geographic conditions), we copy the form
Thats what allows a 7 rupee cutting chai to be served 200 meters from where a 170 rupee small Latte is being served at Starbucks.
Anyways back to the point, Maculay uncle did a good job and so did Oxford — and there we have very limited interpretations of our history (while deeply convinced about their nuance), a discounting of our greatness and a buy in of Cartesian logic without fully knowing it
This gives us language to speak to that culture but only if we distance ourselves from the politics embedded in it. It is our chance to call out our oppression (within and without)
It is to remind that “Gavaar” is basically “Decolonized” and more a compliment rather than a taunt
These two are almost opposite directions and being confused here leaves us debating about the national anthem and divided about it.
We keep remembering our brothers on the border and feeling the guilt of calling out when the nation gets out of hand etc.
Yet, if someone can walk us out of this mess it is individuals and communities because they have an innate capacity to sacrifice, love and be non violent.
It is in this love & connection that we can reclaim the delicious meals of the langars, the baithaks that go on all night with music, the local Kabuliwala who sells you channas as well as stories from Kabul….
This isn’t opposed to tech at all — we can still upload this on Instagram and count the likes on FB but not out of addiction and disconnection but out of celebration.
We can cheer Silicon Valley as it tries to take us to the stars while reminding them of the virtues that our culture stands for (that being seriously needed to balance the cowboy arrogance that can creep into the West and East coast)
Everyone has a part — we must play ours. Everyone needs to clean up — we need to do our bit.
And I have a feeling we will.
On India’s 75th Independence day (2022) lets gift it a renewed and healthy understanding that works for everyone…grounded in the values of our constitution and deeply respectful of our heritage and earlier cultural traditions….
Sounds like a paradox — and yet we can do it the way our ancestors did it… through Samvaad.
I was surprised to remember that Machhu Pichhu ruins were 15th century AD — by when we had Hampi and Vasco Da Gama had landed for spices!
The fuzzy logic that the west is getting excited about was Nagarjun turning logic around its head with his chau-koti (please correct this one) in 2nd century CE!
Thats us….hum hain Indian!