We live in an era that shrugs off age old norms and throws traditions into the bin with impunity. One very potent reason for this is, clearly, the globalisation of almost everything. There is hardly any corner of the planet left untouched by the all-permeating influence of electronic and digital forces. They ensure that people who hitherto lived in silos, oblivious to the goings-on in the rest of the world, now have to fall in line with modern trends that keep blowing towards them, riding on the winds of change.
Indian society is a prime example of this. International fads inexorably and continuously reach the ‘commonest’ man and alter his lifestyle. There are few Indians today who have not tasted a burger or a pizza. Even inhabitants of the far-flung rural plains of our country have surely been offered a bite or two of these delicacies by their adaptive young ones. Even the beggar child on the streets has, no doubt, had occasion to partake of such fare, courtesy of a passerby.
It is not only in the food-stuff that these inroads are perceptible, however.
Indian youngsters have been sporting jeans and the like for decades now, but the latest dress code followed by urban youngsters is no less than global-chic. They also don hairstyles that perhaps defy logic and gravity to amaze the onlooker. Young men, more so than young women, have started experimenting with their hair as never before. Some of the hairstyles in vogue these days resemble beehives, squirrel tails and even ice cream scoops!
But the real transformation that has occurred in the past decade or so has been the realisation amongst us Indians that we can be totally ourselves and yet be global! The 20-somethings and 30-somethings, especially, have adopted an attitude that is Indian in nature but western-oriented in outlook. There is a notable degree of professionalism that has become an innate part of our young workforce of late. They know that they have to deliver in order to survive and flourish. ‘Sifarishes’ do not make their careers. Work ethics and performance do.
A prime example is the Indian cricket team. They have no complex any more while playing Australia or England. The Indian players are as likely to celebrate a victory at Lords with a ‘bhangra’ as with westernised high-fives. They eat ‘Aaloo parathas’ and ‘Achaar’ on tour with more frequency than they eat bagels and quiches.
There lies the crux then. Today’s generation of young Indians is able to hold its own in every setting across the world. And the world too is increasingly getting used to Indianisms. No longer do people stand and stare in European towns at sari-clad tourists with bindis and monkey caps. The digital revolution has worked both ways you see — India has become almost as familiar to the West as the West has to India.
Another reason for this acceptability of Indian themes and colours across the world is the sparkling successes of Indian CEOs who head mega corporations, and Indian professionals in IT, finance, engineering and medicine across the world. The world understands India a little more than it used to. Foreign travellers to India and temporary residents from other countries still appear wide eyed at several chaotic Indian ceremonies, but they learn quickly that India also has enough comfort zones for them to feel at home in. This is 2016 after all!
The other factor that makes Indians handle global tidal waves with adroit adeptness is the strong family structure and innate spirituality of our society. Not many Pokemon searches or candy-crush sagas can contaminate a ‘raksha bandhan’ get-together over a meal of ‘matar-paneer, puris and halwa’ with mummy-papa, chacha-chachi, mama-mami, nana-nani, dada-dadi, bhaiya-bhabhi and a host of kids in attendance. There is something about these age old mores and customs that make them virtually unshakeable, despite the ravages of time and modernity.
It is thus for India and Indians to keep making all-out efforts to shine on the global stage while retaining and holding on to that inner foundation, those undefinable characteristics that make us truly Indian.