Indian Society – In a Dilemma
India has glorified itself in high physical, mental and moral traditions and we keep on crying hoarse about our cultural heritage and our moral traditions. We have shone thus far and still try to shine in the reflected glory of our ancient culture and ancient civilization. There was a time when ‘religion’ — in its true form was followed and our great ‘Gurus’ our saints and sages, commanded not only regard and respect but the reverence of a high degree.
Kings would descend down from their thrones to pay regard and obeisance to saints. The elders of the family had their due regardful place, women were faithful housewives and co-partners to their husbands in their enterprises. Kings cared for their subjects and their weal arid that is how the society functioned. Knowledge was respected and the learned occupied a place of honour.
The Vedas; the Upnishads; the great epics of Mahabharat and Ramayan and the great philosophical treatise — ‘The Bhagawat Gita’, all described the greatness of virtuous and devout living where senses were to be subjected to moral and spiritual values. Such had been our philosophies and our values. Buddhism and Jainism were also the products of our land which preached renunciation of worldly bonds as the way to salvation.
Even before the advent of the Aryans invaders came — captured our lands but could not escape being captured by our culture. The Greeks, the Hums, the Turks, the Afghans, the Mughals —all came from across the borders, left their impact on our ways of life but got a lot from us and from our culture. The Mughal art and architecture gave us great pieces of designs and buildings but a lot of them enshrined within them the Rajput influence. There was a constant co-mingling of influences in art, literature and culture.
The Bhakti movement and the Sufi thought nourished side by side and gave to our culture a queer blending of the essentially Indian way of life. This had been our social set-up where our own values, inherited or evolved, brought down or blended gave the right point and direction to the social life.
With the arrival of the British and particularly after Macaulay’s educational designs, whereby it was very, cleverly envisaged to subjugate the minds before really subjugating any people, that the West really set their foot not only over the way of thought; the way of behaviour; the way of the adoption of the pattern of the western lifestyle.
Slowly but gradually that way of life sneaked into the Indian psyche and created an impression that to look civilized dress like an Englishman, behave like. an Englishman, eat like an Englishman, drink like an Englishman; — to say the least, be an Englishman in mind, remain an Indian only by birth and body.
The Indian Sahibs — the Indian officers and officials immaculately dressed in the English dress — dress for every occasion, — different dress pattern for the office; different for the evening parties; even different for the night dinners and dances — that became their’ accepted pattern and their accepted etiquette. There was set etiquette for eating at the dining table and even for greeting gentlemen and ladies.
English became the elite’s language of communication — spoken and written and even while communicating with servants, bearers, orderlies or sepoys — it began being considered proper to address them in the style used by the English Sahibs who spoke the Indian dialect with a contorted intonation.
The English educational system did, of course, do a lot of good too; at least it opened a vast vista of Western knowledge and thought and literature, but it relegated the Indian thought —the Indian philosophy and religion — so to say — the Indian culture — into a background.
It is here where the crossroads for the Indian Society started and the English have gone; they have abdicated their mule over the Indian land but have left behind their reign over the Indian mind to such an extent that the English way of life and the pattern set by them has become our way of life — it has become normal and natural for us.
The English dress pattern has been adopted in toto and seems to suit the poor as well as the rich. So far as the menfolk are concerned and even the Indian womanhood has exposed itself more and still more even to the limits, in adopting the English dress pattern.
Our eating habits and even our eating tastes have been anglicized and if has become the symbol of elitism to prefer the English dishes more and in preference to the traditional Indian ones.
What seems to have become more marked is the pattern of mutual communication — and incidentally and surprisingly it has become more aggressively marked in the post-independence period — a definite bias in favour of the English medium education for children.
Even middle class — economically middle class — parents try hard to get their children admitted to an English medium school whatever be their financial constraints in the process. Parents feel extraordinarily delighted and elated if their little kids can recite an English rhyme and can converse even in tottering English.
The children studying in such schools — and every nook and coiner boast of an English medium school even in small towns — know the English alphabets; the English numerical; the English tables but when it comes to the Hindi alphabets or the Hindi numerals they falter and fail. They know what ‘sixty-eight’ is what they do not know is its Hindi equivalent.
Hindi has been highlighted as the official language at least in the Hindi heartland of the country — the northern states —but this is the sad state of the language and knowledge at the grassroots level. Is it not a sad reflection of our cultural bankruptcy?
The pattern of education is the basis of the mind mould and the mind reflect; our cultural bias and formulates our cultural bonds. Indian culture — we talk a lot and grow vociferous in singing its glories, but this is how we are giving to our growing nascent minds the orientation in that cultural heritage.
Is it not a double-speak on our part? Is it not playing foul with our psyche? Even the national leaders who cry from house-tops in favour of adopting Hindi and boycotting English, send their children to England and America for studies.
More than beguiling the masses to fulfil their patently partisan political gains, they are beguiling their own selves; their own conscience with this hypocrisy. A pop-music concert is a greater attraction to the younger folk of our country -Ilan a concert of the top class classical music; a wild body language through a western dance draws a greater crowd of the youngsters and even sometimes the elders than a perfect Bharatnatyam or a Kathak or an Odyssey or a Manipuri dance performance.
This is the mental crossroad that our so-called nationalism has brought us to. Difficult, rather very nigh impossible, does it seem now to revert the process of this cultural intrusion. So this is a sad reflection of our mindset and our predilections.
All nations of the world feel a sense of pride in their ownness, in their traditions, in their heritage and do not go slavishly following an adopted culture. But we delight in this adoption, feel glorified with it, rejoice in it and reverberate it in our conduct, behaviour and tastes.
The Indian tradition was of a joint family living where under one roof will be living the grandsires; their sons with their families and even sometimes cousins and cousin’s children. There used to be one kitchen serving to all. Now, of course, things have vastly changed. There are many reasons, of course, to find such an arrangement, impracticable and even impossible sometimes.
The mass migration of population from the village homes to towns where accommodation is limited in the houses; where economic independence has become a must; were both — the husband and the wife have to go out on jobs to make ends meet — a joint family living has to become an anachronism.
That is very practical a problem. Still, the family bonds can persist and the brother in need can think of expecting a helping hand from the brother; where the father’s welfare would be the concern of the son. In this feelingfulness also their tills have been a certain amount of erosion but still all is not lost in this sphere and in this aspect of life. The bonds still bind.
The youth does seem to suffer from a certain amount of dis-enchantment — more because of his state of unemployment causing frustration to him — than for any other reason; but of course, selfish interests do gain an upper hand and are found gaining ground.
The negative influence of the mass media; the loss of moral values as daily highlighted in serials and films, the nakedness of life in every form is casting and dues cast its lewd influence over the young mind and erode his faith in the accepted traditional Indian Values. Corruption in high places is corrupting the young mind into believing this as the only way of life and getting rich-quick by any means — fair or foul — his much aspired ideal.
A story goes that some foreign dignitary went to meet the great political high weight — Chanakya — whose residence was a small cottage on the outskirts of the town of Patliputra. Chanakya was writing down something and on the arrival of that foreign dignitary, he stopped writing and blew off the oil lamp in the light of which he had been writing thus far and lighted up another oil lamp.
The foreign dignitary felt surprised and asked why Chanakya had done that. And the great political teacher told him that what he had thus far been writing was an official note for which he was using the official lamp.
Now he was going to have a personal meeting with the guest dignitary and he would not use the official lamp but his personal one for the purpose. Such was the sense of righteousness in our culture. But as against that, we are hearing of scams after scams at the highest level. This is the level of degradation to which our moral values have dropped down. Morals make up culture.
The nation stands at the crossroads — what turns the next step would take; what way would it follow, on that lies the future of our nation. Mahatma Gandhi had said and rightly so, “I do not want my house to be closed by walls on all sides and windows to be stuffed.
Rather, I want all the cultures to blow freely through my house. But I do not want to be swept off my feet by any of them”. Let us learn_ something from these thoughts of the Mahatma. Can we or can we not — that is the crossroad?