Are we jumping at the opportunity to westernise our lifestyle and ignoring native practices?
Gone are the rural customs and way of living in our region. It’s not hyperbolic to say that our state has westernised by leaps and bounds compared to the rest of the country. Thanks to the multitudes who have made it to the US either for higher education or employment or both, their homecoming during vacation marked a heady revolution in their homes back in India be it villages, towns or cities. The kith and kin living in the precincts of some remote village in Andhra Pradesh have suddenly found themselves westernising their native dwellings to suit their children abroad.
Gone are the ‘muggu’ (kolam) in the dung-topped (a dust-proof antiseptic) front yard, the glass-topped dining tables, air-conditioners, meshed doors and windows, westernised baths, not to talk of ‘filtered safe drinking’ water, cornflakes, mega televisions with English DVD facilities — in a word, the home if not the village should look like a mini California house or else the grandchildren refuse to step in leave alone live for a month or so!
In the process, out goes our culinary skills and Andhra menu or a vestige of it may still find a place on the dining table — and in comes pizzas, burgers, (ordered from nearby town) noodles, steamed rice, bland dal (pappu) and bland vegetables cooked in sauces. The house should be sterile lest the NRI children develop infection. No early morning baths, no change of clothes, no timely meals, no timely sleep. The jet lag continues into a lotus eaters’ stupor-just laze around on a bed with the TV on and not do anything. That’s holidaying in India. The NRI parents go around meeting the most important persons in the family with gifts in hand, apologising for their children not being able to identify anyone or anything.
The other end of this spectrum are the home-bound NRIs who, post-recession, have secured plum jobs and have created gated community living for themselves — very close to US standards but still very much in India — a via media for getting the best of both worlds. There is a sudden spurt of interest in classical music and dance which are our cultural identities.
The Americanisation of kids was their nightmare earlier in the US especially as their kids reached the early teens. Today, they have everything in their power to usher in the Indian traditional arts along with sports and other outdoor hobbies. Everything falls into the extra-curricular activities purview so that once the terrible teens are safely traversed under constant parental vigil, a la ‘traditional’ Indian upbringing, the reinforced Indianness would be able to combat the velocity of inevitable tornados of the West. Higher education in the West would look into other than academic achievements. There is no scope for miscalculations here; it’s a sure shot. Indian classical music and dance are disciplines unto themselves that require diligence in order to surmount even the fundamental stage.
There is yet another third dimension: a few either among the NRIs or an American-influenced Andhra Pradesh, who genuinely take to classical Indian performing arts with a sense of pursuance and innate desire to take it forward. But then, exceptions are never the rule!