Sunday, January 14, 2007

Moral policing

Read a well-written article in The Times today, about The Moral Police. These people are self-appointed guardians of the so-called "Indian Culture" .

This got me thinking about what we actually mean by "culture". It is a popular practice to interchangeably use 'culture' and 'tradition' and I am not sure if the majority of people knows that there is a difference mong the two.

Culture is defined as "that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc" or even as "the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture." while Tradition is "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation; a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting" . [Courtesy : :) ]

While it may be a bit far-fetched to say that Mallika Sherawat pulling off a co-dancer's pants during a stage show can come under the definition of "that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc" :D, it is surely wrong to say girls dressed in skirts are against Indian Culture. Especially, if it suits her and she can carry it off well, then, surely, that person cant be called uncultured! In fact, a jeans and a tee-shirt are truly more comfortable and easier to wear and maintain than a saree and also, they expose much lesser than what a saree does! :D

Culture is , as defined, our way of life. It is something that is dynamic, not rigid, that which changes with time. Tradition is rigid, unyeilding. Then, what should be "Indian Culture"? Is it defined by the clothes we wear, or the styles of dance,; or is it better reflected by our way of thought?

People blindly follow the customs without even pausing to think about their origin. In the name of cultre, you can see Rajasthani women wearing the pallu over their heads , even in major cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.The practice of covering one's head is common when the climate is too hot and sunny. In the Thar desert, even men wear turbans. But while the turban conviniently disappeared with the migration to the city; in a true MCP style, the pallu stayed firm, as a symbol of obeisance; passed on from generation to generation, forcing even the Modern woman, to cover her head and face in front of elder male members of the family.

Another firmly rooted practice is the attire of the widow. While in the cities, women are now resisting this practice; in rural India it is still followed rigidly. In the olden days, [ancient, infact], widows weren't allowed to look pretty. They had to wear drab clothes. They did not wear any accessories , like bangles, bindis, flowers, etc. At times, they were even disfigured by chopping off their hair, or even shaving their heads. The reason given was that a married woman was 'protected' by her husband, but a widow was all alone, at the mercy of the other 'lecherous men' in the society, so, she was made to look ugly to avoid thier unwanted attention. May be it would have been right, during those days of loot and plunder by invaders, continual wars and lack of proper governance [Like, during the invasion by Mohd. Ghazni and Mohd. Ghori, or even during Aurangazeb's exploits], though I must say the very reason stated for such a practice speaks a lot about the 'man'kind - those that are unable to protect their women and also those who instigate brutalities upon women. But , isn't it an irony that it is continued till now? Apart from bearing with the loss of her husband, the lady is not even allowed any means of happiness. This issue was very well addressed in the movie Dor [if you havent watched it, you are really sad, man! ]

Indian culture to me is a manner of thinking, which is broad-minded, unprejudiced, which is open to adopting mannerisms and customs from the other parts of the world if they are sensible. The kind of clothes we wear or the kind of music we listen to is wholly a matter of choice. The present generation, world-wide, is more open to experimentation. We listen to rock, but we also appreciate Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. We wear jeans to college but we also know to drape a saree well. We like to try out styles from over the world and finally, choose what suits us the best. We are not narrow-minded or resrict ourselves to our traditional mannerisms. This is the culture as it has evolved today and it is high time the Nation woke up to it and embraced it.


Karthik Nayak said...

Chapter 12--Social Studies Text
10th Standard
Likely Candidate

Bastet said...

:P DA !! cant imagine BK teaching abt 'culture' as i talk of it!