“The Americans have no culture,” says the young Indian population! This is, in fact, a common refrain we keep hearing from everyone. Talking to them, it would seem that only Indians have any culture at all, and many of them are very proud of it.
Let me not go into the debate that if America has no culture, why do youngsters want to go that very country and settle there. Instead, I ask them what is it that America lacks and what is it that makes them so proud of India’s Rich Culture.
The objections to America are about liberal values. Young people in India do not mention the word “sex” but what they believe is that sex is easily available in America, and that of course makes the country so un-cultural.
And what about India? “Oh we have traditional systems, the joint family, our civilization which is thousands of year old, our music, our dance and so forth.” The logic is that no other country in the world has all these things.
My heart lights up on hearing all this. Maybe the newspapers are wrong – all they do is report stories of young people having live-in relationships, “freaking out” at discos and the incidence of abortion among young, unmarried girls. So I decide to probe a little to see whether all this is wrong.
What about music and dance? The eyes of youngsters light up. “We love music,” they say. So, can they recite a raga or something else from their Rich Culture? Their eyes droop. “We can sing from a song from the latest movie,” they tell me. Fine, but is that their culture that they are so proud of?
Similarly, the dance is also junked. Most young people can sway their bodies to the Bombay movie songs but they would have nothing to do with traditional dances. “They are so boring,” they tell me.
But then where is the Rich Culture to be proud of? I mean, cinema is good, but every country has it. What I am looking for is those things that make India proud. My questions are now making the audience squirm. It turns out that the only cultural thing that they are proud of is the Bombay cinema. Some movies are cited where the extended family sings and dance and everything is hunky-dory. But, almost all the young people I talk to do admit that things are not so picture-perfect in families as are shown in the movies.
One quick thought to be mentioned is “But the Americans – they have sex with whosoever they want to. Americans don’t get married and if they do, they get divorced. We are much better off.”
Fine, if Americans are so liberal with sex, then what explains the fact that India has one of the largest growing population? Surely, our billion plus people did not come into the world without sex? Going by the population growth, it seems that Indians are having more sex, and much of it is extra-marital too. Very often it is within the family so that keeps it under wraps, but hardly anything to be proud of. In terms of having sex, are we different from Americans, or anyone else for that matter?
So what is our culture and what is it that we should be proud of? I still do not have answers to this. Looking around, I find that our Rich Culture means that Indians spit wherever they want to, love to talk loudly and uselessly, abuse the child beggars that are present everywhere. A person visiting us would not be wrong to say that our culture does not teach us basic hygiene. And, whenever young people want to have a good time, they usually have it when they start singing film songs.
I really wonder what makes our culture so great that we should be proud of. Young people are not learning any of our traditions. Marriages have become occasions for drinking and dancing to film music. I am hard pressed to see any strain of our thousand year old tradition that is so much touted by defenders of our Rich Culture.
Perhaps the young people also know this in their hearts, and do not mind braving it outside the US Embassy to get a visa anyhow, just to be able to leave their Rich Culture and go somewhere which they know is culture-less.