Being an entrepreneur, closet poet and writer is enough to keep one’s hands full. In addition, to be a dilettante in anthropology, with a passion for uplifting the homo sapien aka ‘us beings’ in some possible manner, is plenty to clog an average person's band-width.
To make matters worse, I am a woman and to make my isolation complete, I do not subscribe to the stereo-typical feminist bandwagon either. As if, all of this was not enough to weigh me down, I lost weight in my late thirties. Substantial enough for people to say from 5 feet distance, “Oh I did not recognise you, as you look much younger”. It seems as if I look like an anomaly, not fitting in my age-group anymore.
I was reminded of a meeting some 7-8 years back in New York (amongst a string of experiences) when I entered the room to negotiate a business deal with a middle-aged man with strong credentials and legal background. His disappointment at seeing a young Indian girl was so hard to ignore, he almost looked over my shoulder to see if my mentor was accompanying me or at least someone closer to his status. Though at the end of a few interactions over a short period of time, I could somewhat fit into his man’s world. Perhaps, it was slightly easier exercise in the western culture.
Back home in India when I compare, I find that we are very quick to make extreme judgements. In this technology enabled connected world, to make sense of enormous amount of data, we are making over-reaching simplifications. With a smaller frame now, as a more extended wardrobe became accessible to me, to my chagrin, I lost at least in some eyes my Indian-ness along-with.
To my mind, the essence of our culture is more abstract than definitive, a civilization that has grown organically, feeding on the assimilation of various forms and ideas. Even in day to day experiences, for instance, keeping diversity concerns aside for a moment, we would rather prepare an elaborate photogenic dinner table for guests, hold fewer dinners and rather suffer from ‘atithi bhayabheeto bhav’ than ‘practice athithi devo bhav’. It was common earlier for an Indian host to have unannounced guests anytime, share a simple meal that was usually prepared for the family. It would be a more honest, less cumbersome and certainly more satiating experience for all.
Indian-ness was about being sensitive to the community, still experienced in some villages today. It has become conventional parenting now, to coach your wards to run away from the sight of someone else being in trouble. Over time, same child improvises on this, to hide to a safe spot, video graph and post what he witnessed, than to save someone. The wisdom of the spiritual journey is forgotten, a moral deficit is more than acceptable in ‘kalyug’. Wearing a perfect Indian outfit, decorated with the clichés of sacrifices, a convenient one amongst them being, neglecting your physical fitness.
We train our protégé to be clever at other’s cost. To never be naïve, to not necessarily have a new vision of life but be subservient to physical comfort. To me, the other facet of being naïve, is to explore the world from newer angles. To be able to walk without wearing an armory all the time, to be raised in an environment of trust.
What would happen if we came to raise smarter generations, that are genetically disabled for youthfulness; with all the paraphernalia of Indian-ness but without the rooted concept of basic honesty to self and society? I lost weight, or did we? I rest my case.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)