Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mindless and Uncouth

Malvika Singh writes a weekly column “Mala Fide” in The Telegraph of Calcutta.

Today she has written something which I am always fulminating about. I’m glad to see someone else saying this for a change!

Sadly, the traditional way of celebrating festivals has given way to uncouth lighting of firecrackers that make deafening noise rather than beautiful sparkles. The bangs carry on even after Diwali, making a complete mockery of happy enjoyment. This selfish and perverse public spirit has made living in our cities and towns devoid of dignity. Clearly there is a brutish and crass band of citizens who can only assert themselves and show bravado because they have nothing else to show.

Often this is due to anarchic growth that happens outside of civilised norms of functioning and without stringent rules that enforce integrity of operation. This belief that money can buy all moral values and ethics, that it can overrule all laws that govern civilised society, that it is the final power, has made modern, middle class India into an ugly monster that has begun to feed on itself and is running riot destroying every semblance of gracious human activity.

Ostentation, this great over-riding need to show off in public spaces, has overwhelmed our urban, fast-becoming-rich society. Aesthetic sensibilities have changed radically as people try and follow the style of the international middle class. Quiet elegance, the like of which you see across rural India despite its economic deprivation, is lost in the bustling urban areas where a wild and robust all-over-the-place manner has taken root. It too will pass, but after having done its damage. For a country like India, where style, design, skill and aesthetics has been an intrinsic part of life and living, to have to go through these tiresome contortions is a waste of energy and time. If only our public institutions and educational systems had recognised the real and true strengths of this varied and dynamic culture, we would have emerged as a solid and secure nation sixty years after having got our political independence.


Yves said...

The noisy fireworks are a feature of life here too. On November 5th the English traditionally celebrate Guy Fawkes' Day, with ritual burning of the effigy of the man who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. So fireworks are on sale in all licensed outlets, and every day and night are occasions to let off these bangs.

I think dear Rama that no institution other than a vicious dictatorship could stem the flow of what is happening today: the overthrow of traditions which is similar to what happened in Europe when the Roman Empire was assailed by successive waves of Huns, Vandals and Goths.

rama said...

Thnaks for your comment Yves. No one would want a vicious dictatorship, with a policeman in every bedroom. "Highness", the cultivation of civilising values and qualities - how does this happen? I have been greatly inspired by the Buddhist and Sufi ways of silently, steadily addressing this imperative, across generations, centuries and millenia. Best, rama