In other words, this couple of parts must be
- jointly exhaustive: everything must belong to one part or the other, and
- mutually exclusive: nothing can belong simultaneously to both parts.
In Hyderabad, a city I spent 24 years of my life in, an old-timer restaurateur mistook me & my ex-man for NRI’s (Non Resident Indian’s).
The first time I took full and complete advantage of it. Maybe even felt a little smug. But it stopped being funny after the second, third, fourth time.
I didn’t have a fake accent, did I ? What could possibly have made him feel like I didn’t belong ? His words stayed with me.
Debating this dichotomy with ex atop the Charminar at sunset, a poignant truth revealed itself. Urban Indians look disproportionately different from the masses. Outwardly by way of appearance, but most distinctly, by way of demeanor.
We are the epitome of arrogant intelligentsia that day by day has less and less in common with the culture and country we geographically tag ourselves to.
Why ? Because we have high-speed internet ? None of us took Westernization 101 classes but we seem to have pursued it with a vengeance.
We’re the cool table at lunch hour. We don’t fraternize with those who can’t speak fluent English. If you can’t hold a conversation about the most happening act of the moment or the sitcom’s everyone’s binge watching – you don’t belong.
Our lifestyles, clothing, language, cultural preferences exhibit so much self-alienation from our roots, as to beget questioning – How Indian are you really ?
If the Indian in us only arises to flout rules and be thankful for cheap labor so we don’t have to pick up behind ourselves – How Indian are you really ?
The questions I’m asking are obviously the extreme end of the spectrum, you can and should argue with my view-point. This is an open dialogue.
So answer me this —
Can you read, write and speak your native tongue ?
Did you take any active interest in it ?
Can you talk knowledgeably of your choice of native music ?
Do you have an native music of choice ?
Do you consider wearing traditional clothing outside of the religious context ?
Can you answer yes if said native language was English ?
Does this overt affinity to a language and a culture so alien to our own not trouble you ?
If so, could this development not be arrived at by still staying true to your roots ?
I am the hypocrite here. I too have no answers to the latter questions. I agree that in a highly competitive world, Indians have a big advantage with the English language. I agree that the brain-dead content that Indian media passes off an entertainment is completely out of sync with the quality we are now accustomed to but the promptness with which we have taken to western culture is what I am questioning.
Which begs to question —
Is this a natural progression ? Or is it an opportunist Indians’ knee jerk response to the colonial hangover so deeply embedded in our sub-conscious. Isn’t elitist behavior an intelligently disguised form of racism ?
When did anything that is un-apologetically Indian become dowdy ? Why is it that one decade of fast internet speeds has reduced our sensitivity to the rest of the country that is not as privileged ?
Simple questions to arrive at my point –
When we go abroad, do we try to adapt to the lifestyle of the country or do we continue to exist in your own shell ?
And if the answer to this is the former – Then why have we not accorded our country the same respect whilst we are still living here.
Culture evolves into itself over a period of time. I’m asking what we can do to weave a bit of our originality into the need of the hour.
This is after all a debate. I look forward to your responses.