Can You Define the Indian You?

I racked my brains to come up with the perfect definition of Being Indian. There was a lot of free flowing matter that came floating by. The resilience against terror attacks, the ability to co-exist in this cultural milieu, the bollywood jhatka-matkas… There’s so much that one can associate this country with in one stream of thought… from chalta hai to yeh dil maange more. What defines being Indian?

My mind can’t help but race through the 24*7 news channels, which attempt to siren off a breaking news every hour. For them to know what defines Indian taste seems highly fascinating. I flip through channels. Turns out, it’s not just news channels recording whatnots. Our soap operas have taken a convenient back seat and we’re enjoying what programs claim to show as Reality, encapsulated. After much deliberation, you are confronted with hard core home truths- but is being candid an innate part of being Indian? Not exactly. We’re the same lot which enjoys the mystical element in life as well. That aside, I’m virtually stranded in the sea of oddities defining what being Indian is. The many contradictions in an Indian’s life- by nature we’re condemned as ‘laid-back’ but also carry the reputation of being the most hard-working lot around, we like wining and dining in the best restaurants, yet stopping by the thele-waali kulfi and paan. Dysfunctional imagery here? Tell me about it.

Anyhow, with immense discomfort, I’ve rooted out the crux of being Indian, and being Indian today (ensuing however many complexities), is being in a state of parallels. Think of the parallels that exist in our society… there’s the parallel music circuit for instance, flourishing in all its being. This circuit’s making its way into the know-how, yet attempts to maintain its identity as parallel and not mainstream (think of Indian Ocean and Parikrama). There’s parallel cinema, distinctive and creative in its own frame. The cinema often commands critique and a particular taste. There are contemporary and modern art forms; an exploration of dance forms outside defined classics. The drift I’m trying to create here is that of equal opportunities in a country like ours. We are indeed and finally giving space to the parallel Indian. Being Indian thus loses definition. And I, for one, am glad for that.

To me, being an Indian in the 21st century sure marks the dawn of a new cult. There is a lot written about our lifestyle and our beliefs, our ideologies and our culture. There are many who preach to us of our ancient inheritances; of thoughts and practices. And yet, no matter how much folklore appeals to us, this age hardly defines us within the realm of our legacies. Freedom then is not just the sense of breaking away from a dominating force; it is also about the assertion of an individual’s identity. And it is here where we encounter the cult I was speaking of. We’re allowing for a kind of freedom that is still new to us. Being a young nation sure has its perks. For one, a young nation allows for young ideas to prosper and for creativity to emerge. I maintain that we are still but in our nascent stage of cultivating the 21st century Indian, yet there are avenues, be it in the arts or the sciences, where opportunities can be strewn along the way. It seems the only stoppage is the conduciveness of the environment at the moment. Being Indian thus entitles one to realize and relegate the very notion of prosperity.

It’s rather interesting how a single thought can roll the ball for so many others. Through this space, I attempt to derive the essence of being Indian- as an observer, futuristically and in retrospect. With prismatic effect, Indian life today can be viewed as a split into many colorful outcomes, all from a single beam…

Ankita Kanwar

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