Cultural Backlash-3 : The Clash Of Civilizations

Published May 25, 2013 by vishalvkale

This is the ninth article of the culture series

So far we have seen the linguistic aspect of culture – and how slowly the importance of local languages is being felt again in the rise of the regional news channels, newspapers and literature in the local tongue. In this article I shall look at the most contentious issue – the moral brigade and the clash of the East and the West in our own backyards. 

But first, let us establish some percentages, and fix the scale of this entire east-west brouhaha. India has a population of 1.25 billion, or 125 Crores. Of these, it is known that 18.2% are in the age groups of 15-25 years as perIndia Demographics Profile 2013. Furthermore, the total population of the top 50 cities in India is around 8.68 Crores  {List_of_most_populous_cities} – 6.8% of the total population of India. And the 18-25 generation comprises only 1.2% of the total national population in the top 50 cities of India. Even if you add the age groups upto 40 years, this only goes up to 2.57% of the total population. Add all the top 200 cities in India – and you still get a total of just 5.1% of total population

Who are these 2.57%? They are the 18-40 age group in the top 50 cities of India. We know 38.2% is the distribution for 18-40 years age group in India – which equal 3.29 crores youngsters in the top cities of India. This number is 2.57% of the total population. These are the people who are actually in the forefront of the adopt-westeern-values brigade. This trend is actually observable only in the top 20-30 cities of India. They are the young professionals in various cities of India who listen to western pop, jazz and rock bands; sport western clothes; date; jabber and chatter in pure desi English; and other such norms that tend to rile some sections of our society…

These numbers are important for us – for they enable us to visualise just how premature this entire clash of civilizations stuff is. 2.57% cannot cause a significant change in a culture that has shown resilience even under extreme persecution – you can take Goa Inquisition as an example. Despite 200+ years of relentless torture and forced conversion, Hindus still constituted 35% of Goa population in 1851. Thus, it is being foolish in the extreme to believe that a mere 2.57% of the population of India adopting western values will have a significant impact on what we can call Indian Values. Any  worries we have on this score are premature; it is all in the future.

The point is, can we spot current trends that indicate a reversal in this increasing westernisation of our society? That will be the surest indicator of future change trends. We know that increasing westernisation is a clear and present trend in the cities of India. But, luckily, the reverse is also happening, as can be spotted from several contentious as well as welcome events that are happening around us. 

First of all, we have the oft-repeated examples of the moral brigade that is evident in Mumbai and Delhi. The inroads made by western values have tended to disturb the more conservative among our society. This is not a surprise; it was only to be expected. The intense surprise and outrage being vocalised by the pro-west brigade is totally in the wrong is this – if you look at this from afar and dispassionately, without taking any sides. The reverse kickback of the fundamentalists in our society was only to be expected; remember we are a deeply conservative society. The behavioural trends mooted by the the young brigade in the metros was bound to cause a ripple in the pond. This is the first, and extreme example of a reverse trend – a backlash if you will. It is these interactions, repeated innumerable times, that set norms of behaviour in a society. The youngsters are heralding change; they are the ones bringing in change, And when you get change – resistance is inevitable. The need of the hour is a mature response – not shrill outrage. 

Second, there is an increasing trend of Indianness in dressing as seen in current fashion in garments in both males and females alike. This may be a fad – time will tell. It is too early to call. There are examples youngsters taking to Indian Classical Music – and the rise of income is creating a market for them. The internet and Media are giving them exposure; will this create a new wave? This remains to be seen – but it is yet another reverse trend. 

Third, rise in regional movies; more and more regional movies and television programmes are getting beamed into homes; as an example – the Marathi smash hit serial Eka Lagnaa Chi Dusri Goshte, and Uncha Mazaa Zokaa introduced people like to Marathi cinema and serials – bringing people like me closer to my culture. 

Fourth, the continuing resilience of the family unit – which has endured the gut-wrenching challenges posed by modern life and the problems of providing for a family in addition to a far more liberal and confidant female half. Rather than get torn asunder, the institution of family and marriage has adapted wonderfully well; love marraiges are on the rise – with everything else proceeding like an arranged marriage with elders getting together and planning it out etc. A working wife has been, by and large, accepted in most urban homes, where the whole family has made adjustments. And quite a few working women still take time off from jobs to focus on kids… Aishwarya Rai is a classic and famous example of this. 

There are other examples that we can spot on a daily basis – the office pooja before Diwali; the home and office cleaning on Diwali; restriction on Non-Veg in some offices and many, many more that we can see with observant eyes on a daily basis. Remember, it is these innumerable interchanges that establish cultural and societal norms

This it can be seen that a western takeover is anything but sure; a backlash that spans every range from the mature to the extreme is in evidence. And my bet is on Indian Values surviving – in a somewhat adapted form – which is what India does best. She absorbs and moulds influences from outside and integrates them into herself…

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