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India's youth reinterpreting God in a whole new way

Poulomi Banerjee , Hindustan Times   August 13, 2014
First Published: 20:25 IST(13/8/2014) | Last Updated: 12:03 IST(14/8/2014)

There's something about traditions that makes it as disturbing as compelling. The more obscure its origin, the more does the society cling to it. Some fade out with the passage of time, to be replaced by fresh ones, and some (often the ones that should have died an early death… the dowry system, for example), need long years of protest, social awakening and legislation to put them to rest.

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"I think the most important Indian tradition, one that finds mention even in our scriptures, but forgotten for many years, is that of questioning and rebellion. Our scriptures encourage us to question everything, even God. In the last few years the youth have been trying to revive this tradition. For example, it is a good tradition to respect our elders. But if you find elders disrespecting women, it is important to question and stop them," explains Amish Tripathi, writer of the best-selling Shiva trilogy.

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The tradition of rebellion wasn't part of the list of traditions the youth (those in the age group of 18 to 25 years) were quizzed about in the fourth edition of the HT-MaRS Youth Survey 2014, conducted across 15 states.

But relationships, family values, spirituality and relevance of a few old Indian traditions were. Their relationship with God continued to be important to India's young, with 56% of the respondents claiming they pray regularly.

The percentage was higher among the female respondents, with 60% of them saying they believe in the power of prayer. "I believe in a higher power, but don't feel the need to give in to elaborate rituals. I think many youngsters today are interpreting God in their way," says young writer, Durjoy Datta.

For many, spiritual well-being is balanced with the faith in traditional methods of ensuring physical well-being, with 47% of them saying they do power yoga to keep fit.

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However, the faith in God doesn't extend to a dependency on astrological intervention to help fulfil one's aspirations, with only 35% admitting to believing in it strongly. The reason might also be a lack of faith on the astrologer than on the system itself.

"Everybody knows there is a science there, but they also know that it is difficult to find a good astrologer these days," agrees Amish.

India is known for traditions such as treating guests as gods, the joint family system, listening to elders and not smoking in front of them. Datta feels, however, that these have to do more with the kind of person you are than being symbolic of any one culture.

"Traditions such as respecting your elders have to do more with being a nice person. No culture in the world would tell you to not respect them," he points out.

And while Yash Raj and Karan Johar romcoms continue to pull crowds to the theatres, when it comes to taking the plunge in real life, traditions continue to win over romance.

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Forty percent of the respondents said they would marry the person chosen by their parents, without any questions, while only 4% said they would marry a person they have chosen themselves, even if their parents objected to him/her.

What's shocking is that only 38% of respondents (37% male and 39% female), said they would break the marriage if dowry was involved.

Sixty-one per cent of female respondents believed working men and women should divide the housework, as compared to 35 % male respondents.

"Many of my readers are from among the youth and I find that there is not much of a difference in attitude between men and women. However, girls have moved a lot further in their emancipation journey and many Indian men have not been able to keep pace," says Amish.

Full coverage: HT-MaRS Youth Survey 2014 

In some areas, however, such as a women's responsibility in keeping the relationship working, women need to give themselves an easier time. Seventy-nine per cent of female respondents said women should try to save the marriage before divorce.

Sixty-two  percent believed many Indian traditions need to be preserved. "One Indian tradition that had been lost during the British and post-British era is that of studying our ancient past. We must study our Vedic heritage. It will be good for youngsters to do that today,," says Amish.

At a time when the distance between regions and cultures are shrinking, thanks to the world wide web, it is important to keep one's identity, without closing oneself to what is good in others.

Methodology of HT-MaRS Youth Survey

#HTyouth on Twitter

Also see

Sentimental Indian | Prayer | Astrology | Power Yoga | Family | Marriage | Traditions | Sentiments

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