72 years and counting... we still carry the legacy of cultural slavery


Bananas


Sometime around last year, a video went viral and a segment of the Indian population lost their chill. That was a video of Mrs. Indira Gandhi speaking fluent French in an interview – and we couldn’t pride on her enough. French is not the language of International transaction, English does that job. Then what renders this segment of the Indian population breathless seeing an Indian diplomat speak this foreign language fluently. This exhilaration is known as cultural slavery. We may be celebrating our 73rd Independence Day today, but a large part of our demography is still chained in slavery: mental slavery, cultural slavery. The worst part is, it is clueless of bonded labor it has signed up for. It is ruled by the idea: everything Indian is inferior, but food, language, music, what have you – of foreign origin are superior.

Let me share a little experience here. It was my last day in school. I gathered my credentials from the Class teacher and bowed down; trying to reach for her feet. She stepped back with a start, “what are you doing?” she screeched, shocked.

“Seeking your blessings, ma’am.”

“Oh.. oh child... we don’t do all this in such schools. Maybe in those government schools of mofussil where you mother received education allows this. Not our school.”

She did wish me ‘all the best’ though. She had always harbored this grudge for my mother as unlike other parents, my maa always spoke in Bengali during PTA meetings, and because, though the teacher tried to correct me multiple times, I always referred to my mother, as maa, not mom, not mamma, not mommy. Her refusal to accept my regards made me feel dejected that day, but today, almost as old as she was then, I look back at her with pity. Little did she know, she was suffering from acute inferiority complex.

This slavery is still being handed down to generations across our country. Every kid in my apartment complex greets me with a ‘Hi’ and a wave. Our plush localities and the metro life we lead in it is too upmarket for the Namastey with folded hands. We don’t extend a copy of the Panchatantra to our kids, we buy them books of Disney fairy tales. Our teenagers don’t recognize the heavenly notes of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s sarod, or the rhythms of Ustad Zakir Hussain’s tabla. Music to them translates to Taylor Swift, Jay Z, or Cardi B. I was compelled to listen to and eventually grow fond of the Backstreet Boys at 13, after being ridiculed and shamed for admitting that I liked Altaf Raza’s qawwalis for the charming beat they had.

The ads of fairness creams suggesting women of fairer complexion get the offer letter thrives on our colonially possessed mind, convinced that fairer is better. The modern education we receive conditions us to believe that no part of our culture deserves a podium in the international arena. We were once reduced to the land of the snake charmers; we continue to be so in our enslaved minds. Again, progress of countries like Japan, Russia and China measured against that of ours is impressive; unlike us, none of these nations have succumbed to foreign influence on culture and language, have not disowned their own. While countries in the developed west are adopting ancient Indian lifestyle, be it Ayurveda or Yoga, or the use of turmeric in their diet, ‘elites’ of this country see nothing beyond a handful of classless gomutra jokes worth sharing in our culture.

Self-loathing minds infested with inferiority complex can only command pity. They, don’t contribute in the making of a superpower. The sooner we free ourselves from the shackles of such mental slavery, a legacy we couldn’t throw over since 1947, and learn to take pride in ourselves, we will fail to be independent in the absolute sense of the term. Happy Independence day, nevertheless.