Multiculturalism: Loss of One’s Identity?

In a society of multiple cultures with western influences banging right on our heads, citizens belonging to a particular “Diaspora” somehow shift from their own roots. Living a life with the idea, “live life king size” or “take everything as it comes” etc, make an individual try out everything possible. One does not want to lose out on anything which others are experiencing. Living in many worlds has become a habit, especially for Indians. The Indian Diaspora is changing every minute and whether or not it, it is healthy is for you to decide.

Indians are extremely enthusiastic when it comes to good living in multiple worlds. They will wear Nike shoes and Kolhapuri chappals with equal ease; speak first class English at offices and desi bhasha at home eloquently. They prefer making trips to Malaysia and Bangkok rather than the cellular jail in Port Blair. Well, even if they do go to the cellular jail and come back to the mainland with heavy hearts, they easily forget the essence of freedom and are back to the same old mundane routine, infused with the daily politics, in which no one wants to dirty their hands. Who are these Indians? Or is everyone the same across the globe? I don’t think so. Well-acclaimed Oscar movies’ DVDs will be present at everyone’s home, but the screening of a regional film is not even worthy of being given a thought. A week’s stay in Hawaii is better than just visiting a few pilgrimage sites or even some places of national importance, even though they are half the price than the former one. This is simply ‘incredible’.

Talking of multiple cultures, or say even diversity in the Indian Diaspora, it is simply amazing. You will see a McDonald’s and KFC in a metropolitan and some miles down, a showroom of ethnic wear. The other countries visit India to see the sporadic culture, the oneness of Indians, the uniqueness, and the way in which Indians progress with every new age. William Dalrymple in his book, City of Djinns talks about the wonderful nature of Indians, embracing every new thing that comes by. But in the midst of all this progress and the willingness to incorporate a classy style of living, we are losing touch with our glorious, rich past which has given us our very identity. It is true that even though Indians globalise, India is never going to lose its soul. Some traditions do get lost, but some survive too. We have to preserve those traditions which are fading out.

Dalrymple in his book also talks about how dangerous globalisation is. The real India which people talk about is not in those films and literature, and it is better to be modern than traditional. But what is important is that we balance it very well. Although books by Indian authors and books on India, written in English, sell like hot cakes far and wide, but when it comes down to India specifically, the books in regional languages are not read. This is because every one is not well-versed with regional languages, because of the very fact that the regional languages are not promoted. Every child here in India knows who Enid Blyton is, but only few at the age of ten know who Premchand is.

When we talk about cultures and diversity, we cannot negate the role of history. What is missing in Indian history is the very approach towards the subject, an academician who can address the Indians interested in history in a specialised way. Taylor, Fergusson have made available fantastic pieces of work on history to the readers but addressing it to the masses can be possible only by someone who is well versed in multiple languages. All over the world, you will find historians with impeccable academic credentials who also reach out to the public but in India you have nobody doing that. No Indian historian has brought a narrative style, unique to his own, and no one has really tried enough to break stereotypes. What is the use of all the progress then?

Anywhere you go in the world, Indian authors writing fiction in English are so well accepted and appreciated. They win prizes, hit jackpots, but how many readings have you found on non-fiction work? Abysmal, I can bet!!

Being a student of history, it does pinch me that in India, a culturally diverse land with the most amazing histories ever, does not give impetus to the subject, let alone its learning. History is not considered to be a professional choice here, but in England, in universities like Cambridge, people choose history as a preferred option. The History Channel, the steaming pot of history is so well-acclaimed. Why? Because it is a foreign channel? If you feel that this channel would have worked better or even near to a rating of ‘average’, I will take back my words. In India there is no culture of history, no professional line except a P.H.D. People here lack familiarity with the subject. The lack of awareness of the past impedes a fair dialogue in the present too. This lack of awareness also leads to a proliferation of myths and gives rise to hagiographic details. Had people been more aware, perhaps this entire hue and cry about Jodhaa Akbar , and the controversy over A.K Ramanujan’s work on the Ramayana would not have taken place. Why do some people not consider the importance of monuments and historical sites and some languages and primitive things? It is because they are oblivious to most of the things, most of the details, and various other nuances that have not been able to come to the surface? Historians write on events, but fail to give a narrative style and fail to connect with the masses.

A movie like Lage Raho Munnabhai will always be more popular than Gandhi, My father ..

After all, how is a piece of information about your own culture going to affect your life, anyway? Isn’t it?

Aditi Raman

[Image courtesy:]