Sunday 11 December 2011

Stifled between cultures and world views

Growing up in the eighties without a television-set and certain other gadgets, life seemed to be very simple and devoid of the layers that now come to possess me. Long time ago, I wrote a post on how dualisms suffocate me and meandered on my identity which seemed to cris-cross several identities. I feel children growing up in today's world will face the nagging problem of being stifled between cultures and world views. And, it's not only children but many individuals like me who are faced with this dilemma. Let me explain.

Being born in India, there is a specific culture and value system which is present inherently within us. With the onslaught of globalisation and different cultural perspectives of the so-called West, one faces a crisis when it comes to adhering one's own culture as well as accommodating into the Western culture. I cannot draw a line of demarcation between cultures but there are some characteristics that are quintessentially Indian. One glaring example of this is the concept of 'space.' Years ago (atleast from the conversations I heard), there was nothing like, "My personal space" but now this phrase has become a predominant part of every second conversation. Perhaps that's why there is a conflict between the joint-family system and the nuclear one. Personal freedom is being underlined in red by every single individual but this was somehow not given much importance before. I cannot say whether it was good or bad. Somehow, it seems to me that India always put others first and then the self. The seeping of Western media, ideas and MNCs into our psyche has blurred the ideals and values that our culture possessed. Now, I don't mean to be parochial but this is a hard fact that one has to come into terms with.

In turn, the West is now turning to Yoga, spirituality and other quintessential Eastern systems for values and other gratifications while we, on the other hand are swinging between two extremes of the East and the West. Sometimes being caught between these two world views makes one hazy and nauseous. As someone, I don't recollect who, remarked that in today's world, religions, cultures and other systems are placed in the global supermarket and it is up to us to choose whatever we want and follow the same. But why choose something when we have something quite invaluable? Perhaps, it is another dimension of the global to embrace many cultures and practices. Well, I wonder. I, for one, cannot see the world as home!

This post was quite an existential rant, if I may call it so. If you make any sense out of this, please do share your views.

Image: Internet


  1. Nice post. Thought provoking and for the most part I too feel the same as you have.

  2. I agree with you on this Susan. The joint family ties, the ease with which friends and families are there for one another, the idea of one big family is quite missing nowadays. There is a sense of alienation which is slowly seeping into our culture too. I remember when we were kids every evening we would go visiting friends with our parents. That concept is no longer there. People are so busy with their lives that such socializing is kept to the minimum. Dont know whether that is good or bad. But things have changes a lot with globalization

  3. :) Cultural conflict.. Susan, I love you for putting it out there and describing everything so neatly.

    Oh.. my view.. I want to do a super ranting post modern Indian arranged Marriages.

  4. Susan, born in 1933 to a large German family, I remember many family get-togethers, strong cousin-ties, everyone always visiting, helping. My cousins and uncles were forever spending their leisure time, working on the farm with us. And HOLIDAYS! I can NEVER forget those occasions, the hundred or so family, gathering for Christmas at huge Grandma's house; one BIG, happy family.

    Where did it go? WWII, other wars, and as you present: TV, PC, Smart-Phones, commercialism, greed--I could say these stole my life from me. However, to quote as you wrote (fragmented by me):

    " today's world, religions, cultures and other systems are placed in the global supermarket and it is up to us to choose....and follow...But why choose something when we have something quite invaluable?"

    So, by my own choices, I have indeed been the director of my fate--I've pushed 'destiny' onto whichever road suited my fancy, and to "H" with others. it is called 'self-centeredness'.

    Girl, Susan, friend, your posts--each one--are successful in 'robbing' me of a half-hour of thoughtful contemplation. AND I LOVE THEM!!!!

    Thank you.

  5. My Dear Susan,

    A very poignant concern and should be one especially when worldviews are changing by the minute and people in general are accepting them without a second thought.

    One of the problems I find extremely difficult to handle as a student of Humanities and Social Sciences, in particular is where to draw the line between theory and practice or where to converge them and if to converge then how much...

    These were concerns I feel even before, but more pronounced now. For instance, take the MIL-DIL scenario. The MIL ruled DIL obeyed, when the DIL became MIL, it was her time to rule! a frivolous example, I guess the point is clear!


  6. Always thought provoking, Susan. While I agree that the 'old days' of family and ties was very good, I'm not really sure whether I quite agree with the philosophy of putting others first before oneself. I recall this quote: It's good to put yourself first, because then you have more energy to give others. -- Valerie Bertinelli

    I think what has changed is that people now have the courage to voice their displeasure about the past, women especially, put up with a lot in the name of culture, tradition, family etc....

    So I think some changes are welcome and some are not...

  7. Dear Susan, I think this is another one of your truly excellent posts! I agree with you on many counts, there does sometimes arise a conflict between the culture I grew up with and the one I find I must learn to grow old with. But it is not something that one couldn't negotiate.

    My mum who's from a large Goan family who lived in a huge house amidst green fields with second cousins and great-aunts for company had trouble adjusting with our nuclear family set-up in Bombay and in a way, she still does. But she admits that it is liberating to have less people to look after and 'deal with tantrums of' she calls it. :D

    So, there's pros and cons with this idea of 'space'. Sometimes, I wonder if I missed out on something remarkable not growing up the way she did. But then I always grew up with my dear brother and we had quality times with our parents if not our grandparents who lived far away.

    I guess I couldn't exchange this life for any other. :)

  8. Susan, I remember the times you are talking about. There used to a single TV in the entire building and sundays used to be movie time at that lucky person's house. We used to have so much fun playing games instead of online games and visiting friends and relatives.
    Now things are different, in some ways they are better, we have more choices, more options but also scarcity of time. Nuclear families are growing in numbers and joint families are almost extinct. Each has their plus points.
    Thought provoking post, enjoyed reading and commenting on it.

  9. Lots of things to think about here. I've come to the conclusion that the most important thing we can do it listen to that inner voice inside of us and then follow it. It is small sometimes, but it is there. It takes courage to follow it and to go against what we were taught or what the dominant culture believes.

  10. Very thought provoking post!
    Tremendous changes (cultural,social,economic) have taken place in (urban)India in the past 20 years and its natural to feel a little disoriented.More than us,our parents are sandwiched between 2 generations that are quite alien to one another,and find it quite difficult to manage.

    Though I feel much of what passes off as yoga/spirituality in the west seem to be just multibillion dollar fads that miss the whole essence. But I agree that they have taken to it like ducks to water,unlike most Indians,where the consensus is on climbing the material ladder first.Only a man with bread realizes that he needs more than just bread to be happy.

    The changes that are taking place have been set in motion and there is no going back.Best is to learn from the west and be prepared for the mental health issues that will inevitably arise due to urban alienation and such.My City,Bangalore,apart from the IT Tag has also earned the sobriquet of the suicide capital of the country:-(

  11. One might have the most invaluable of things - but I still feel it is always good to have options - the power to choose - however frivolous it may seem at times - but it is empowering. One learns best from one's own mistakes.

  12. can not disagree with you but this is life which is moving forward .All we can do is to keep it real as much as possible.

    Amazing blog .Glad I found it .

  13. I think it's an age-old dilemma, really. The difference, I suppose, was that in the olden days, it was colonialism that blurred cultural lines. Countries were conquered and subjugated, eventually forced to accept another's cultural norms, customs, language, and religion.

    These days, globalization works as a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) form of cultural colonialism. The choice that was denied our ancestors are still ours today. We can consciously preserve our intangible cultural heritage in the face of westernization by using the same media to promote our traditional way of life and psyche.

    Am I making any sense? Haha! Sorry for this long-winded reaction, Mrs. Sus.

    Peace and goodwill!

  14. @AJ: That is quite an observation :) agree partially agree.

  15. Susan, I have felt this many times. Take for example sit-coms like "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother." I enjoy watching them and so do most of my friends. I have always felt that serials like these have had a major influence on my worldview. Under the influence of Western culture (music, film, tele-serials...and so on) I am increasingly getting detached with my immediate surroundings. Looking from a different perspective, my horizon is broadening via constant exposure to technology, however, at the same time, I guess the younger generation is getting more and more frustrated at the dichotomy they have to deal with, between the rosy, ideal world of American cinema and the different, repressive Eastern contexts.

  16. I guess everything has its sides... just like a coin. Its all 'relative'.. the good and bad of things.. it depends on situation to situation. On something as wide as this topic.. one can't generalise, one can't pin-point an opinion. Its way too vast a phenomena. The only truth I believe is, as we grow and communications brings us closer to the world.. there will be a convergence of all things good and bad.. one just needs to go with it... figuring out the right and wrong and everything in between!!

  17. Dear Susan, as you know I have embraced many cultures and traditions through my life, having lived in various countries and even two continents.
    In a certain way my life is enriched because of this, but concomitantly I am also poorer, as I lack that security and that connection to one single culture and one place.
    I think to a certain degree, life some 100 years back was easier, as people lived secluded without to many news agents at their fingertips and no possibility to travel, thus they had a more sheltered and simple existence, despite the hardship of their every day life. Sometimes I envy them.;)

  18. I am totally in agreement..second thing is that it is very difficult for human beings to choose the right thing, they always choose what is easier and all these things shouldnt be left for choosing, instead be instilled from the childhood

    culture of putting self before others could never be better than ours.

  19. To comment or not I was in two minds
    lest people who oft visit here finds
    my true worth and throw me like rinds
    this hesitation only helps & reminds
    thro' all the churns and the grinds
    humanity survives because it binds.

    Does it make any sense, Sus? Guess you have to read between the lines.

  20. I can sort of relate to your grief over the fusion of cultures. I hope it's a good thing in the end. It's hard, though, being multicultural and trying to be secure in one's own identity.

  21. Janu:

    Glad to hear that you feel just like me.


    I think nothing can be done about that, sadly.

  22. Sameera:

    And, I love you back, dear Sameera. Sometimes it's just stifling to differentiate what is good and what is alien.


    1933 is a very long time ago. I'm glad that I came in touch with you, Steve. 78 years of walking in this earth is wonderful. Life must have been so simple and joyous then: no much pollution, population and power politics. You were from a time when food was always eaten with families in a large circle. I should have been born earlier that my original date of birth.

  23. Ash:

    Theory and practice?!? Both are separate, I guess. While some opt for theory, some do it.
    Ah, the MIL-DIL's case is the same throughout history.
    Glad to see you here, Ashes.


    Yes, Corinne, you are right, but somethings which were for the good has changed. I also realise that there's no looking back now.

  24. Karishma:

    Yes, I suppose. Even I have no complaints about my growing up but the dissolving of cultures is quite disturbing. It somehow seems that the West has a larger share.


    And I enjoyed reading your comments, dear Sulekkha.

  25. Betty:

    Quite a spiritual way of seeing the whole thing, Betty. Seems like a good alternative.


    I realise that there is no going back but sometimes when I wonder about things coming a full circle, perhaps there is hope. Even if it comes full circle, I don't know whether I will live to see it.
    We live life and everything goes on. Sad.

  26. Yuvika:

    Choosing gives empowerment but what are we choosing from. Why do we choose something that is already there. Well, I have no rigid answers and it's definitely stifling to be in between, like we are now.


    Welcome here and thanks for coming. Forward, towards what? Keeping it real is sometimes not possible. In spite of not being happy with things, we move on and live life. Well, life goes on.

  27. Age:

    Very age-old indeed! And, I rake it up whenever I feel the angst! And, dear Age, you are making 200% sense.

    Cheers and goodwill, back at ya, Age.



  28. Suraj:

    Where do we draw the line and maintain our own culture?


    Communication is good but then it also has a lot of strings attached and when we want something, we are also forced to accept the downsides.

  29. Zuzana:

    100 years earlier, everything was fine but even that had its own loopholes, take the state of woman for example. But where does one draw the line? Even I envy our ancestors sometimes. No complications.


    What is easier and fun is not something which is ours, most of the times. Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated, Renu.

  30. Govind:

    Binds, yes, but binding as well :)


    Multicultural in food is fine, not in other things. But in today's world, multiculturalism is the norm.

  31. I guess we can't stop this! Anyway, culture is not a static pond, it's more like those rivers, you know. Always flowing. Let's go with the flow. :)



Related Posts with Thumbnails