Thursday, 15 August 2013

An Identity Crisis ???

     When I salute our flag or hear our national anthem sung, I experience a sense of pride, a wave of patriotic fervour that lasts a moment or so. It is followed by an inexplicable twinge of guilt. Is it because I feel less Indian than I should? I, like most members of my cohort, am more comfortable expressing myself in English than in an Indian language.The food I eat, the books I read, the music I listen to, the movies I watch are rarely Indian. When I look at my peers and myself, I see an entitled, increasingly indifferent generation with no sense of what being Indian means.We are the products of a system of education that teaches history as a succession of dates, a sterile and dry recounting of facts that are reproduced during exams for a passing grade. This impersonal and unengaging pedagogy of history turns what should be an enlightening examination of our heritage into a chore as unpleasant as a visit to the dentist. As a result, most of us grow up associating history with boredom and with nary a clue as to our roots.

      The notion that mimicking western culture is "cool" has become a part of our collective consciousness. The art and literature being produced in India has steadily been acquiring a western sensibility. It seems like I inhabit a world that is becoming increasingly homogenized. The much vaunted "Indian Unity in Diversity" is being eroded and replaced by the bland universality of the Anglo-American sensibilities. The Indian ethos is being irrevocably changed to resemble a westernized one. Growing up in a society that tacitly professes the superiority of the Western culture discourages one to explore one's cultural identity.I may be making a broad generalization based on an unscientific observation of a small group of individuals that may not be representative of the general public but the question needs to be asked - Is our generation going through a cultural identity crisis? 

          The preceding generations had a sense of purpose, a distinct identity and an intuitive understanding of what being Indian meant. Our grandfathers were part of a generation that fought in the struggle for our nation's freedom. They laid the foundation for an Independent India which they envisaged would be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Our fathers were the first post-independence generation, inheriting a nation in transition, faced with all the challenges that come when sailing across the uncharted waters of a democratic system of government. They were the pragmatic problem solvers who ushered in a green revolution and made India an agriculturally self sufficient nation, who put a man in space, who fought wars against enemies trying to encroach upon our lands.They also saw the emergence of a rapidly expanding educated middle class, rise in per capita income, increased life span and reduced infant mortality rates.

    This pragmatism came at a cost; This period also saw the entrenchment of corruption in our governmental machinery, a widened gap between the richest and the poorest sections of the society, an exponential rise in the national debt, financial scandals and environmental disasters, a veritable drought of scientific research and artistic achievement, an exodus of our brightest minds to other countries, not to mention an alarming and unchecked population growth that threatens to exhaust our already meagre natural resources. The legacy they bequeath to us is a welter of problems that permeate every sphere of Indian life and are inextricably linked to one another. We owe it ourselves and our nation to set things right.

    But without an inkling as to what our national character is, what kind of bequest would we leave to the next generation? A nation without an identity to an ignorant generation without a clue??   

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