People always talk about how we should respect and uphold Indian culture and abide by Indian values.
Our culture isn’t just our food, arts and traditions. In a broader sense, culture defines us—who we are as people, how we aim to live our lives, what sort of behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable and who should be rewarded or punished according to societal norms. Most importantly, our culture contains the implicit rules by which we live, viz. our values. Just as an example, one might say the United States values wealth, competition, individualism and religion. These pretty much constitute the essence of American society and culture.
When we think of Indian values, we normally think of personal values such as family, religion and respect for elders. However, ask someone to articulate Indian values, and there won’t be any clear answer. Do we value wealth or education?
Do we value democracy, where people have a greater say in how they would rather be governed or do we entrust faith in the hands of a selected few to whom the law doesn’t apply?
Do we believe in frugality, or do we want to show off our wealth?
Do we value our local communities, or do we value being part of India as a whole?
These questions don’t have easy answers. And there are conflicting responses to any of these in India we see around us today. Scholars, unable to account for this conflict, make profound statements such as “there are many Indians within India”. Some romantics even call this “the beauty of India”, where everything is unpredictable.
I call it CONFUSION.
Values can never be unpredictable, and they are consistent, even in volatile times. And what we are hoping for is a value clarification, especially for the new generation. A clear set of values will give a direction to people’s lives.