More than 4 people got into a fight yesterday in Hyderabad. Their weapons were sticks and stones (their gun dealer was probably out of town). And they were bravely defending something that every Indian must defend (by injuring others apparently) – Indian culture and tradition. Two families fought with sticks and stones, injuring each other, because their kids were in love with each other and wanted to marry. Love seems to be the precursor to hate/war here in “modern” India, and is deemed a pollutant to the great culture of India – a country famed for its epics, its intricate homage to beauty, and where the world’s most famous symbol of love (the Taj Mahal, despite the conspiracy theories) stands.
It is very important for us to understand that the words ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ are only reflections of the time we live in; they are only our interpretation of the values that we choose to live by. They are synonymous with changing times and global influence. Interpreting them in a different way does not affect their integrity or pollute its sanctity. Rather, in my opinion, that malleability strengthens culture/tradition by making it more accessible to wider range of people. If the gods didn’t want us to evolve, we’d all be amoebas right now. Traditions can be adapted. So why not apply the same thing to our culture?
Looking at things in perspective, Indian culture never remained the same throughout the ages. There actually was a time when women were respected and seen as equals; now it doesn’t exist. There was a time when untouchability was a reality; now the then-untouchables shake the entire nation with their riots (for reservation). And the thing we’re associating with protecting/strengthening Indian culture is…kissing? Seriously? If we had fought like this to preserve Indian culture in the past, the British might possibly have never set foot in our country. If the Indian police force invested more time in controlling traffic/punishing criminals instead of moral policing, we’d have no more rape. I don’t know if it’s funny or depressing that rapists get away and couples who are “caught” kissing spend time in the police station. There are way too many pressing issues that are put on the back burner simply because the spectacle of interfering with others’ personal choices is somehow exciting to us. I do realize that decisions like marriage are something the family as a unit must make; my fight is not against that. My issue is with being narrow-minded, with not being accommodating of new interpretations of culture/tradition. All this translates into the oppression of free thinking and free speech. The recent Tanmay Bhat incident is a shining example of all these things rolled into one. He was criticised for his video, the media had a field day reporting all of that, and the people just ate it all up. Not respecting free speech, focusing on trivial issues, and not being open to interpretation – the incident highlighted all the problems. And guess what? You only gave him and AIB free publicity. You are, quite efficiently – for lack of better words – biting yourself in the butt.
And all this points to the bigger question of what is our fight against really? Do we really have the right to dictate others’ personal decisions? What is the true threat to the disintegration of Indian culture? And also, are we really this stupid?