Ever noticed how we Indians are stereotyped in movies - Hollywood and Bollywood? Well, there are many who complain about this stereotyping, but what we fail to see is we do behave in a unique manner - not just as a community, but as a nation on the whole....
Look at festivals, for one (that’s our specialty!). We celebrate all festivals, be it Diwali, Navratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi – with equal gusto! Getting all our family and friends together and spending some quality time making memories, we get lost in the spirit of celebration. And then when the lustre of the festival wears off, with all the hype and hoopla behind us, we are back to work - from poojas, and aartis we are back to meetings and deadlines......from sarees, ghagra-cholis and pathani salwars, we are back to trousers and work wear with barely any trace of the cultural excesses of a few days before.
It always surprises me how we Indians, as a society, bounce from traditional to modern and back to traditional in a matter of a few days (sometimes even hours)! One minute we are worshiping the almighty with folded hands, the next we are back to our emails and our whatsapp and our facebook! During festivals, our profile pictures change to those of rangolis and diyas; even the pandal sometimes and we are busy forwarding or emailing the pictures of our attempts to prepare the traditional culinary wonders that our mothers and grandmothers made with the finesse and ease that will make even the finest of chefs queasy. But soon we get back to work and await the next festival.
Our values are ingrained in us, from our earliest childhood. We are always taught that we can have a free flight as long as we are securely tethered to the ropes of our values and culture. An Indian child will always want to learn more and earn the best of the degrees and go abroad and maybe even settle there for life; but just before giving that most important exam, he will not forget to visit the temple of his most trusted and beloved deity. An Indian girl will read fairy tales of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and want her Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet, but when it comes to getting married, she would rather have the blessings of her parents and her grandparents and her whole extended family. We want our kids to be the best at everything, and yet, when someone praises our kid, we rush to put a black tika to ward off the evil eye, the buri nazar!
We are an amazing mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. We are very proud of our culture that makes the young respect the old and the modern stay connected with the traditional. There is always the new, but it doesn’t replace the old - in our culture, it co-exists. We have come from big one and two story houses in villages to small flats of two or three rooms in the big cities, but we still manage to find a place for our beloved Gods in what little space we have available. No matter where an Indian travels across the world, he always travels with an assorted collection of small and big idols and photographs (always more than one!) of Gods that would have been handed down for generations. Every girl that gets married carries an idol of the Annapooorna and a Balakrishna in our culture. When we do Vidyarambha for a child, we always start with a Shree kar.
We buy foreign made expensive cars, and then perform a pooja and install an idol of Ganesha in it before we go for that much awaited ride. Breaking of the coconut is a must when it comes to beginning most big ventures. Lighting of the lamp is a ritual followed in most houses, irrespective of whether they are a ramshackle one room home or a bungalow.
But this in no way means that we shy away from the demands of the modern world. We have our laptops, tablets, smart phones and LED TVs. We have our Jaguars and Mercedes and our Audis. We also have our share of discotheques and clubs and bars. We are a nation that boasts of being the birthplace of the most beautiful woman who went on to make us proud by dazzling the world in her Miss World crown. We know all the latest hit songs, we watch English movies; we even act in them! Our children study in foreign universities. In many families, we have more relatives abroad than in our native places.
Liberal thinking has caught on. Cross marriages are not that frowned upon anymore. We have become a broad minded society that is somehow more tolerant today than it was some years ago. The concept of live in relationships too is being openly discussed and even movies are being made about it. (Its acceptance, especially by the older generation, is a different matter altogether, of course....)
Our women have gone out of the kitchen and taken over the boardrooms and courtrooms that were once considered to be men’s forte. Our women shine in the sports field, they even dazzle in the Parliament. Why, with all our cultural baggage, we have had a lady Prime Minister way back when, something that even the (so called) modern nations haven’t had yet!
But however far we might have reached, how much ever modernistic we are in our thoughts and approach, we still prefer to abide by the rules of Vaastu when we are looking to get our dream house. We may celebrate Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day; but it is really Diwali that lights us up. And why not, we are, after all, a nation that prefers our jeans, but with matching Kurtas and bangles and our kadas!