Monday, June 28, 2004

Japan and India

As I was watching the movie "Last Samurai", I sensed this uncanny similarity between our (Indian and Japanese) cultures. Though my knowledge of Japanese culture is limited to a couple of movies, a couple of visits to the Japanese sections of some good museums and some websites, I feel strangely one with this people; it is the kind of sense of oneness I felt with the Rajputs.

Perhaps what impressed me so much was their respect for honour. Probably, in my most subconscious mind, that is what I seek to achieve, and that is what endears these people to me. Being a woman, I identify myself with Rajput women. It is not just the Rani Padminis and the Rani Durgavatis, but the ordinary peasant women, the wives and daughters of warriors that inspire me to better myself constantly. To me, these are the epitomes of womanhood; affectionate, dutiful and proud. They make me proud of being a woman. And surprisingly, the woman Taka in the movie too, made me feel the same way.

When I browsed the www for articles on the Samurai and the Meiji revolution, I found many similarities between our situations through the centuries. We, Indians were a composite mixture of warring kingdoms and allowed Islam and the West to take advantage of us in the name of trade and modernisation, respectively. Consequently, we lost respect for ourselves and became worshippers of white skin. While I do not know if the Japanese are as rootless as we are, from my googling, I saw many articles that eulogised the Meiji revolution and few about the honourable ways of the Samurais. The supporters of the Meiji revolution have a lot in their favour. It is because of this revolution that Japan is a developed nation now. But my argument is that this revolution did not have to do away with all the great things that Japanese culture stood for, in the name of modernisation! Their counterparts in our country, the "liberal" leftists, also eulogise the British and Islamic invasions, saying that they are the reason we developed trade (we let every invader plunder our resources), we became modern (meaning that we learned how great the English were), and pluralistic (that is, we learnt to bend over backwards to please our pseudosecular "intellectuals"). From what I saw, the same is true of the Japanese too. The western countries took advantage of Japan and robbed its soul through meaningless modernisation. The same happened to India at the hands of the British. While Emperor Meiji helped the West in Japan, our own Rajas and Nizams did that in our country.

Before people accuse me of being an old fogy who loves to live in the past, let me make one thing clear. I am all for modernisation. But the modernisation should be meaningful. Any modernisation that makes us forget who we really are, is despicable. If modernisation provides food, water and education to families which could not afford them otherwise, it is good. But if the same modernisation makes these people think lowly of themselves it will have very bad consequences.

I can see the ill-effects of modernisation in India. Schools in India do not teach respect for Indian culture. I studied at a not-so-well-known school in Bellary, a large town. The name of the school was in Kannada. In this school, our prayers were all in English. Not one Samskrita shloka or a Kannada prayer was taught. We used to speak in English all the time. I love the English language, but I hate not knowing my own language. My parents taught me to love Kannada, but what about hundreds and thousands of other kids who studied in that school? If this is the state of Kannada in Bellary, what will it be in Bangalore? These days, when we visit MG Road, salespeople in shops do not respond to you unless you speak in English. Do we need this kind of rootless modernisation?

If people are educated only with facts and not biases, things will improve. Japanese should have been taught the greatness of the Samurai, along with the greatness of the West. We should have been taught about Aryabhata and Brahmagupta's theorems along with Pythagoras' theorem. I do not know the situation in Japan, but in India, barely 1% of the people know about these things. I sincerely hope that things change for the better.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

End of Power on Sulekha

The End of Power on Sulekha
I was reading the comments posted here, and some peoples' attitude shook me, really. Some of us weep for Kashmir, in spite of Article 370 and inspite of it being the biggest drain on the Indian taxpayers' money. And some more people want to divide India further, because NI is supposedly "holding up" the country's progress ! It really takes all sorts to make a world (or a country, in this case)!

Let me make one thing clear first. I am a South Indian. I am a proud Kannaditi and a prouder Indian. But, being a native of Bellary, which borders Andhra and is a place that has a lot of Telugu influence, and having lived in Madras for some time, I can really appreciate the plurality of our country. That is what India is. It is a plural society. I might be called a Hindutva fundamentalist for saying this, but the main thing that unites our country is the sanAtana dharma (don't call it Hinduism, please) and samskritam. Recently, at a Samskrita Bharati meeting here in the US, I saw people speaking all languages come together and converse in Samskritam(an 18-month old baby included), and pride welled up in my heart, for being a part of this amazingly diverse country that is India.

I still remember the time when my Mother was teaching us this patriotic song, 'bhAratIyaru nAvu endendu ondE'. There were tears in her eyes when she sang 'kAshmIradinda kanyAkumAriyavarege kaMgoLipa tAynADe prANakU migilemage'. Though I was too young to understand that emotion at that time, it left a lasting impression upon me. India is one single entity. The uneducated Bihari, the ultramodern employee at the posh MNC in Bangalore, the communist from WB, the truck driver in Punjab are all Indians first. We, as Indians, must do what is possible by us, to make the lives of each of these people better. I would try to convert the commie, not try to secede WB from India!

There could be one very influential reason why the NIs and SIs are the way they are. They faced many onslaughts from Islamic invaders. Until the sea-route was established, whoever invaded India, came through the North. This protected the South from the invaders, but changed the culture of the North Indians considerably. That is why we see NI women wear veils, but not SI women. Unfortunately, it was not just the culture that was changed, it was the complete attitude of the people. NIs are much more courageous and hardened than SIs. When SI was being ruled by the Wodeyars, NI was under the direct rule of the British. Because of prolonged tyrannic rule, peoples' expectation from the Government went down drastically. (Even after independence, we have not exactly had good governments.) That is why we see so much corruption in NI. People passed this attitude on to their offspring and they passed it on to theirs. It is nothing that good education cannot fix!

Blaming NI for the slow progress of our country is not fair. This is especially because NI also deserves a fair share of credit for SI's progress. Until we understand that we are Indians irrespective of the region we live in, our country will not progress economically or culturally.