Competition Entry #11 | Freedom to Dream: India at 70

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ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry

 

The Right Blend Of The Past And Future
By Tanmay Shanker, 19 years old, Gurgaon

 

As our nation completes seventy years of its independence next year, it is important to look back and retrospect on what have we achieved so far and what lies ahead in the future. Our forefathers worked tremendously hard to unify our country and secure independence from the British Raj seventy odd years ago, and in doing so successfully strengthened the fundamental values and ethics on which Indian society is based. It is these values that I will talk about today, values which we seem to have forgotten, or perhaps overlooked, in our haste to develop into a modern, progressive India.

Since time immemorial, our nation has been based upon and characterised by the immense pride its people have for our rich culture. Long before the British had even set their sights on our shores, India had begun generating values and traditions unparalleled anywhere in the world at the time, and setting the foundations for the composite heritage for which our country is world renowned till today.

Since prehistoric times, India has never looked back in this aspect, and repeated colonisations of the country by dynasties belonging to varied cultures has only served to diversify and enrich Indian society. Till today, people from across the globe throng to our cities to get a glimpse of some of the remaining vestiges of a time gone by. From its towering minarets to its scores of dance forms, India is globally famous for its customs and traditions, and for the importance its people give to them.

But somewhere over the years, this importance has been diminishing. Ironically enough, our zeal for our rich heritage, the thing that India is most known for, has been slowly, but surely deteriorating. This is because we often confuse the concept of progress with westernisation. There is an emerging and rapidly disseminating trend in the Indian mentality to blindly lean towards anything that is western. We wrongly associate development and growth of us as a people with getting as close to adopting western practices and customs as possible.

As we move into an age of rapid modernisation, we have almost made it habit to easily disregard all that we, as Indians, hold dear to us and what has been a part of our DNA for centuries. There is a corresponding trending mindset that our age old traditions and practices are somehow only relics of the past, and still embracing them today is a sign of regress. Some might go as far as saying that those who still avidly follow such customs are often looked down upon as people who have ‘been left behind’ in today’s era of globalisation. It is again ironic to observe just how desperately we are striving to imitate the habits and practices of the very people who ruled over our nation for two hundred years.

As a proud and distinct race, we Indians must understand that it is in fact these values, traditions and customs that make us stand out in the world today, and that it is these very ideals which we must actively propagate and promote so as to instill the love for our civilization in generations to come. Nowhere am I claiming that we should not seek to grow as a nation; it is imperative for us to develop and remain a robust and powerful country in the international community. However this should not be done at the cost of neglecting that which makes us envied and even revered as a nation the world over. We tend to forget that ours is the very nation that gave the world religions like Buddhism and Jainism, beliefs like Sufi and Bhakti, and practices such as Yoga. Yet, we seem to appreciate the worth of these ideas only when we see foreign cultures embracing and enacting them with open arms. It is of paramount importance today that we seek to progress as a nation alongside the traditional customs and beliefs that have exemplified Indian society for centuries.

A great example of where this idea is best forwarded is the Jaipur Literature Festival itself, which seeks to spread modern and revolutionary ideas, while ensuring that our cultural integrity is not compromised. Held in Jaipur, a city known for its rich history and world famous monuments, the Festival is given a traditional get-up, and entering the Festival premises feels nothing short of entering one of the famous domes of the Pink City. Therein, ideas about the past, present and future of our great nation are discussed and deliberated upon by Indian and foreign writers and thinkers alike, and thus inculcate in people of all age groups something they may have forgotten in their haste for modernisation; a true sense of what it means to be an Indian.

Thus, the India that I dream of is one which can grow and develop while retaining the important traditional values and customs which we are in our very blood, and that make us unique from the rest of the world.

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