By Alex Mathew:
As a language, English has conquered all others to become the universally spoken language on earth. The reason for the success of this language can easily be attributed to two things. One is the fact that it has historically never been reluctant to incorporate words from other languages into itself. For example, the word “chai” is well understood among English speakers. Most words in the English vocabulary are derived from Latin, French, and other languages. The other reason for the dominance of English is of course, the British colonization.
I see a parallel between the success of English as a language and the success of India as a society. As a society, we have always been accepting of other cultures.
During the course of history, the number of people who have conquered large parts of the Indian sub-continent are innumerable. A few examples would be Alexander the Great, Mohammed —bin-Tugluk , The Moghul empire, The British empire, and an extremely large number of smaller rulers. One thing worth noticing here is that none of these periods in history involved “India” becoming some other people. Mexicans had effectively become Spanish, and Algerians became French but Indians stayed Indians.
This large variety of culture were infused into Indian society just like an exotic tea. We have never become “Greeks”, nor have we become “Arabs” or “English”, yet every one of these cultures have left their mark on Indian Society. In modern times we see an eradication of other societies due to the increasing global western slant. This is especially true in several other developing countries who try to ape the West. But in India things are different, every western franchise or product in India has been “Indianized” to a large extent. You will not find “paneer” pizza at any other pizza hut in the world.
Though the West has made its deep impact on Indian society and its culture, we have not been made over. Rather, we have evolved into something even more all-encompassing, the western influence only adding to our already vast knowledge of other people and their ways.
Fundamentalism was never present in India, it is the one trait Indians neither possessed nor incorporated later. Sadly though, things today are changing. People are losing out on what it really means to be Indian. A large part of the Indian people today are either fundamental in their anti-westernization beliefs, or are blind and mindlessly try to ape the west. Learning from, and incorporating other people and their ways into our society was never a problem for us historically. But suddenly today, we are at crisis. We are torn between our past and what we see around us.
If we are to preserve within us, what truly makes us Indian, we must stop trying to resist the evolution of our society and just flow and grow with it. Nothing in this world is ever meant to stay stagnant, and that applies to Indian society as well. In our “attempt” to preserve our roots, we may just end up killing them. What we need in India today is to understand our past, and walk forward towards the future with a glance to the past only to remember who we are and where we are going.
Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcobellucci/1387608630/