22 January, 2013

India - Ready for Change ??

(Picture courtesy : indianfusion.aglasem.com via Google)
India is quite literally in the spotlight, of late – a spotlight that is shining harsh and bright and bringing to the fore a lot of feelings and attitudes that were hitherto, hidden within the recesses of the mind. 
On the one hand, we have a large section of Indians, both in India and abroad, rooting and clamouring for justice and a need to change for the better, the very basic fibre of our society and of course, the legal framework.  This section of the population is demanding and insisting that our politicians accept more responsibility, stop being so mule headedly ignorant and also for them to stop diffusing their illogical, irrational and unreasoned thoughts.  This section of the population is showing its outrage in many different forms to the ridiculously absurd, imprudent statements being made by self-appointed god men, politicians and the police alike. 
On the other hand, one finds the hard core traditionalists with the “will not change, should not change” attitude being exhibited with unabashed insolence and effrontery. 
Where is the country heading with the population exhibiting such remarkably different attitudes to a problem that has essentially underscored the history and tradition in the country, from eons ago ?
Mohan Bhagwat spoke of Bharat and India.  His contention being that these were two completely different entities.  He spoke of a model traditional society in Bharat, presumed and opined that this particular model society would have no evils in it, since it was based on tradition and ancient values.  He spoke of modernisation as one of the main causes for the “troubles” that we see in the country today.  Many others too have spoken against the “westernization” of the country and the subsequent corrosion of the erstwhile morals and values in the country.
However much the traditionalists like to cling on to their hope of a caste based, ancient society as the panacea to all evils in the country today, they cannot deny the existence, the birth and the growth of a totally new class in India today – the youth, the urban middle class.  These sections of the population are fast growing and as the days go by, are demanding that they be addressed. 
This had led me to wonder if our country is indeed heading towards a serious cultural divide.  It has been on my mind for quite some time now.  It was when I started to think on these lines that I realized something that is true even today.  It has been true for ages and it still holds good today.  A traditional Bharat and a modern India are pretty much one and the same. Why ? The answer is quite simple.  There still exists a strong core of the outmoded ways that erstwhile Bharat was said to have had, in the minds of the people today in India, who claim to be ultra-modernists.
Like I had said in one of my earlier posts,  to facilitate “change” to happen and succeed in any civilization would need the people in that society to introspect, delve within their minds to see if “change” is what they want and more importantly, if they themselves are willing to change their mindsets in the process.  One would then realize along the path of introspection that it involves moving out of the comfort zones on many different aspects of life, in many different areas of life that had hitherto been taken for granted.  It is probably at this point that many would balk.
Take marriage, for instance.  Once married, among almost all the communities in India, the woman is expected to wear a mangalsutra around her neck, she is expected to wear a bindi on her forehead and in some communities, it is absolutely essential that married ladies fill their maang (hair parting) with sindoor.  A man however, needs no such adornment to tell the world that he is a married man.  A woman, however, does. 
Yet again, once widowed, a woman needs to give up these very symbols that she was needed to wear when her husband was alive.  In extreme cases, a woman is shorn bald and is expected to stay put in an ashram of sorts.  If the wife died, however, it made no difference to the men in terms of having to “give up” something. On the contrary, men were encouraged to marry again, the pitiable excuse being that someone was needed to take care of the children from the earlier marriage. 
This brings me to a very pertinent question – how many ultra modern people living in the modern India (not Bharat, mind you) insist on their daughters and daughers in law wearing these “symbols” of marriage ?  Trust me, there are many.  To take off ones Mangalsutra is, even today, in many of the families that call themselves modern, a sacrilege. 

There is nothing wrong with the Mangalsutra, per se.  But when that becomes a medium through which society subjugates women, their actions and their thoughts, when that little chain and pendant takes over a woman's identity so much so that she's lost without it, so much so that society does not recognise her without it, therein lies an issue.
How many people in “modern” India today would agree to their daughters or sons marrying someone from another caste without flinching at the thought even a little bit ? 
How many people in “modern India” would tolerate the fact that there indeed are Hindus who eat meat ?

How many people in "modern India" would be willing to let their children have just a civil wedding without the traditional ceremonies out of fear that society would label them rebels or outcasts ?
These are but simple examples which prove that there still very much exists a very traditional Bharat in the minds of people who outwardly project themselves as a part of the community which considers itself uber modern.
If there indeed have to be winds of change blowing through the country, what needs to change first is the attitude of people.  Superficiality would be among the first things that would need to be shed.  Truth be told, this is another one of those junctures at which people would turn back and choose to revert to their comfort zones.  This is the crux where people would choose not to stick their necks out.  These are the moments when people would seek security in numbers rather than be a loner that has to stand up to a wall of people who are pretty much fused to traditions, no matter how unreasonable.
This is probably why “change” proves so difficult to bring about in any society.  India is experiencing, like I said earlier in this post, a thirst for change from certain portions of the younger generation on the one hand while some other portions of that very generation remain fastened to traditional whims and fancies which have been passed on generation to generation.
This is precisely the reason why we have so many politicians still shooting their mouths off, why we still have so many self-proclaimed god men spewing utter rot.  For, they are only too acutely aware of the fact that inside many of the Indians who claim to be modern, there still exists, there still resides a hard core traditionalist.  It is that traditionalist inside their minds that still rules the roost. 
I am not saying that India (or any other country for that matter) needs to give up traditional values and sentiments to make way for change.  Tradition is what reminds us of who we are and where we come from.  But problems arise when tradition starts being used as a crutch to satisfy personal ideologies, as a prop to subjugate or keep in check a portion of the population. 
This is the very crossroads on which stands a large portion of India’s population today.  We have a large segment, a substantial slice of the population which calls itself educated and urbane – suave, polished, self-proclaimed debonairs on the outside who claim to be modern but within whom the old-school conservative, orthodox purist still calls the shots.
Yes, the country does need the winds of change to blow but these winds of change have to start off as the invisible tendrils of change on the insides of the mind before they can gather enough strength to be able to visibly sweep, transform and revolutionize change on the outside.
Like Leo Tolstoy once said
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself (or herself)."

2 voice(s) said so:

Aparna said...

Interesting insights Gauri. I have been lucky to be non-stereotypical in many ways and accepted the way I am by both my parents and parents-in-law, so I completely agree that it's about peoples attitudes that can bring about such changes.

Damyanti said...

Change begins small. Agree with each word of this post.

--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2013

Twitter: @AprilA2Z