We tend to think that it is about
“Your culture, my culture
Your language, my mother tongue
Your temple, my church
Your perspective, my perspective
Your world, my world”
But the truth is dear brothers and sisters, our nation is one and our nation is home.
Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true. India is a land of historic pluralism and heterogeneity, a virtue with which every Indian is born with, made inevitable by India’s geography, reaffirmed by its history and reflected in its diverse ethnography. India has rightly been called the epitome of the world with its 1700 odd dialects, a gamut of religions, all the 28 states and 7 union territories housing not just a multitude of cultures, senses of music, dance, arts and theater but over 13 races from across the world but harboring the fundamental commonality of “live, let live and if possible, live while appreciating others”. India’s culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life.
However, the whole of India is not a melting pot, existing to achieve cohesion. Rather we have become “a bowl of salad” searching for harmony. Indian culture is a continuous synthesis and therefore the Indian mind has assimilated much of the thinking of other cultures, making itself richer, durable and virtually indestructible. Diversity in culture also gives us diversity in thought processes, a pre-requisite for a nation with multi-faceted growth. Ours, therefore becomes, a pluralistic democracy, giving us the privilege to be many things at once. As an engineer, I’ll conclude with proof, that there exists a Diversity Prediction Theorem which states that the diverse group almost always outperforms the group of the best by a substantial margin.
It is, therefore, a pity, that in recent years, the communal clashes and all-too-frequent denunciation of each other has been reborn due to lack of appreciation of a kind of beauty that is different from ours, but opus dei all the same. The reason that our indigenous cultures have stopped being “cool” is that they have not been marketed as well as that of the westerners. Or it could be because of either of the possibilities of we being too egoistic or we being simply ignorant. Friends, the most Brobdingnagian tragedy of ignorance is that it compels the system of mind to lose its capability to entertain an intelligent thought.
On the other hand, Swami Vivekanand’s reaffirmation of “Vasudhev Kutumbakam”, Sri Rabindranath Tagore’s pluralism which allowed him to write the national anthems of two nations, Satyajit Ray’s belief of cultural intercourse, Sardar Patel’s idea of national tolerance, Dr. Kalam’s talisman of brotherhood, Ashoka’s thoughts on peace, all tried to kill the expansion of cultural sectarianism as they all believed it, and so do we, that it is closely associated with an artificially separatist view of culture. However it’s not mere talk. In the recent times, the corporates are taking huge initiatives to promote unity by celebrating various festivals, recruiting a diverse team, etc., Dr. Kiran Seth’s endeavour of Spic Macay, The Special Marriage Act, the introduction of the study of cultures at school level curriculum are all big leaps.
It is true that only through performance music and dance traditions thrive. The great Kumar Gandharva’s work, a gamut of underground collaborations like The kabir Project, the Laya project need to be thrown into the public eye for mass consumption and the department of art, culture and languages of our government as well as the Ministry of Telecommunication can step up to the job.
Bruce Tuckman gave a model for nation-building and team development. He said that there are 4 steps to it.
1. Forming- where divergent groups come together
2. Norming (self evident)
3. Storming- where divergent and diverse groups exchange not only their thoughts but their thought processes so that some kind of friction also develops
4. Performing- where the nation becomes mature and rises up to the occasion whenever and wherever need be.
Even though we are still toiling on the “storming stage”, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because I believe that we are inching towards the path of progress despite the fact our country is comparatively young and way too populous.
Let me take you to the bone-chilling winters of 1947, when a Hindu family was desperate to get out of Lahore and move to India after the partition but were fearful for their very lives. Their neighbours, the shahane pathans, devoted Muslims, not only saved them from getting butchered but ensured that they left the city safely. How did they do it? The ladies at the neighbours had cried to the city that if anybody durst so much as touch the Hindu family, they would shed all of their clothes and jump off from the highest terrace at Lahore…
Two families of two different cultures, caught in the irony of time. They had a choice to make, and they chose friendship over madness. It was in 1947 but still, 65 years later, friends, we all face the same choice.