Thanks Priyam ( Bong) for this guest post!! Thanks for always reading my posts and encouraging me 🙂 I have posted his picture for the readers..
The meaning of ‘being modern’ is very subjective and most often it is in loggerheads with ‘culture’. But are they similar and overlapping? What does it mean to each of us? Well here is my version of it.
Indian economy was liberalized in 1991 when our country hit a deep financial crisis, it not only heralded a new economic beginning but also a social one. Currently, India is going through an unprecedented experience of cultural mixing and blending which is gradually transforming our ideas for future forever. Our parents and grandparents had not experienced a transformation of this order when they were growing up and the few generations to come will not see this as well. It would be fair to say that we have been witness to two contrasting worlds.
What has really changed?
We did re-learn social acceptance, which is an ancient virtue our country we were proud of. When the pizza, pasta and burgers flooded the indian markets, the masses enjoyed it and accepted it as a part of their weekend gala meal. It did not replace our dal-chawal or roti-sabzi but each blended into each other. My wife often prepares the old Bengali fish with teriyaki sauce instead of the Bengali mustard sauce, and the pizzahut next door has started the new Pav Bhaji Jain pizza.
According to me, the Indian woman has become more beautiful and independent over the past two decades. Hordes of female entrepreneurs and politicians have started making their mark. The women from our homes have joined hands to take the country forward. Men are really confused with this status change of women, some see this as a new resurgence of Bhartiya Naari while the other consider it threat to their patriarchal glory.
My definition of modern society has the following tenets- Are we ready to give equal opportunity to everyone? Do we give equal rights to all sections of the society, especially women? Is every work valued in the society in the same way or looked down upon?
Well is the west truly modern? Yes, they fare better than us on many points, but still have miles to go. Women from the west are undoubtedly more independent than the indian women. They are far from stigmas, open and free to make choices- financial, social and sexual. Every work is well valued there, a CEO rides a cycle to office and a carpenter drives to work. Equal opportunity to everyone is partially achieved. We have not seen a woman president in US yet, or my friends in Britain say that the Indians are not often absorbed by companies there and only Europeans get the opportunities.
India has a lot to work on. I would say India gives bright chances to everyone from each strata of society, although some exceptions are there. BR Ambedkar and Prime Minister Modi are some fine examples of how people from lowest strata of society can come up with their talent. The status of women is improving but still has a long way to go. Every work is not equally valued in an Indian society as well. But there is enormous hope, and we are moving in the right direction.
To put the westernization vs modernity conflict in perspective, let me share an example of it. My friend’s little son goes to an international school in his locality which is supposed to enrich him with an exposure which local schools cannot provide. My reference to local schools are either a state board school where education in mother tongue is given highest priority and the syllabus is infrequently updated or the ‘convent’ schools which still follows the Victorian style of education which educates students like a factory and delivers like a standard product. International schools I thought would be more about shaping the child in his own terms and ability. But when I did have a little conversation with the child, I understood that he was taught to eat with western cutlery and asked to wear a formal attire as per western ideas. It was also built into his head that English, French, Spanish and other European languages are the tool for communication for the sophisticated class and vernacular language is quite unnecessary and uncouth. I also asked him the names of his friends and where they live, out of which I figured out that they are all from backgrounds similar to him. The point is that the school which we refer to as ‘international’ lacks what is truly modern schooling, instead teaching children to mimic the west.
‘Modernity’ and ‘Westernization’ are used interchangeably nowadays because the west is modern than us. But we need to get out of another mindset and realize that the rich are always not the most modern people. Probably NorthEast India or Kerala is more modern than many western countries. In a nutshell, modernity is a collective decision on priorities, we as a society should value and accept. In the process of being modern, we do not need to indoctrinate western values but simply improve ourselves with or without the help of the west. I feel, in the past two decades we have largely both modernized ourselves and westernized ourselves as well. India is the only surviving ancient civilization and we must preserve some of our values and blend it with new ideas to move forward to a brighter future.