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.

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