Monday, June 8, 2009

Why is Modernization confused with Westernization?

Why oh why? I have been plagued with this question for quite sometime now and reading Fareed Zakaria's book "POST AMERICAN WORLD" (wonder if that will ever be a reality in my lifetime) has me obsessing over this trend which is on the rise.

What we call modern is sometimes just western. This has spilled over in both the public and private spheres. From the way we think, to how we dress, and what we drink or eat. I am no loony irrational rightist. I love some of the old western values. But today when the western world is being governed by a bunch of evil bankers, it(or the part we interact with politically and economically and culturally) has been reduced to a born again East India Company.

We are becoming the mirror images of each other. And that other is a culture being forced onto us from Wall Street and Corporate Boardrooms. Its not a mass pop culture. I prefer to call it mass hypnosis.

Gone are the days of Rooh-Awzah,Dabur drinks,panna,etc.Its always much easier and cooler to slug down a Pepsi or Coke. Coca-Cola is single-handedly depleting our groundwater resources. In Plachimada and Mehdiganj it tried selling its solid and extremely toxic waste to the farmers as fertilizers. But oh its so not cool to drink the local nimbu soda. Hum modern hain bhai!!

I dread the time, we will have Walmarts in all our cities. Reliance Fresh is anyways a kick in the stomach for the local sabzi wala..a once upon a time proud and independent small businessman. But so desperate to copy our NRI cousins, we would rather take a cart and shop in a climate controlled superstore, than be found carrying a 'jhola'(a bio degradable commodity our parents happily reused) and sweating it out in a sabzi market. Each one has their own justified reasons. Ignorance and lack of foresight being amongst them. We think its rustic and not done to drink tea from a 'kulhad'(an earthenware tumbler which again is bio-degradable and supports small artisans. We prefer to clog our drains and poison our earth with plastic cups/bottles because the Gora Man does it. DOwn with the 'suraahi'.

We are having to fight patenting of our very own basmati seeds and turmeric. Thank God for the fact that atleast some of us are fighting it. God Bless their souls. If the New Age East India Company would have its way, we would lose the right over indigenously grown herbs,crops etc. Do we know or rather do we care? We just go on singing the song of globalization without understanding its full implications and oblivious to the real hand who controls it.
Rice Tec’s claim on Basmati rice is said to be the most audacious instance of ‘bio piracy’ by Western transnational corporations (TNCs).The Indian government has successfully contested in the United States the grant of a patent on the commercial use of the traditional medicinal properties of turmeric.Another well-known example of bio piracy is the patent on the herbicidal properties of the ‘neem’ tree. Reference:
But heck, how does it matter if we have KFC,MacDonalds,Pizza Huts, in exchange of all this. Right? All in the name of modern and global?

The Saree industry is hit hard due to recession as well for other reasons for sometime now. The cheap Chinese imitations being one of them. Indian women still love sarees though wear it on some special occasions only...understandably so. But when we would rather wear a gown/or what have you, than drape a saree around us even when the moment demands it,(weddings,pujas) its baffling(to me). I am not sashaying in a saree all the time. But this growing trend of (celebrities in both national and international events) donning gowns is something I do not understand. Are we trying to prove something here? Are we saying that we become equals only when we talk,eat,dress,think alike? Personally I think Indian women look better in a saree versus a gown.What say you? Today evening I saw a 6 year old boy cycling,wearing the Muslim skull cap. He was just back from the mosque and he looked beautiful. He was who he is without having to conform to an accepted and popular but false ideal.

Hypnosis is leading us to imitate culture and the way we think. So I guess our school farewells will soon be called proms. The teenage parties will have condoms instead of candies. Oral sex will not be considered sex.The average age of sexual activity will be 14. Feminism too has become colored. I hate to dig skeletons out of the grave, but what was the Pink Chaddi Campaign all about? I have many friends who supported and celebrated the event but they could never defend their actions completely. I hate and condone what the Shiv Sena did but sending chaddis their way?? Its like a 2 year old spits at me and in anger and despite being an adult I spit back at him. Doesn't the illogicality of the approach and strategy of that campaign hit anyone? Are we copying the bra-burning movement of the 1960s which took place in America(which many historians say is a myth and no such thing ever took place. I am sure we gave some cheap thrills by sending pink chaddis, to whoever we sent them to. Calling ourselves pub-hopping,footloose and fancy free is a way of showing our emancipation?

We are 'The Modern Mother' who prides in the fact that our child does not say namaste or does the 'ancient'feet-touching-as-a-mark-of-respect-to-elders thing. I have taught him to say Hi or Hello and address elders by their last names like the 'Jones' do. "Hi Mr. Sharma, how are you today?" is more like it. We might change our mind though, if the Americans think namaste and touching feet, is the 'in' thing like Yoga and Indian Zoomba.

We prefer Eckhart Toole over Ishavasya Upanishad or Geeta(easier to read and who will bother with Sanskrit and the authentic translations when there is French and Spanish to master).Ballet sounds better than Bharatnatyam.Old age homes in the name of a fast changing and modern world. Spaghetti straps over dupattas. Grimm's fairy Tales is good but why give up Panchatantra completely? I come from an ethnic group which has lost its script. I know what that kind of loss feels like. Integration and assimilation is good but does it have to come at the cost of indigenous knowledge and skills and a certain way of life.How difficult is it to be modern and yet Indian?


Child Of Adam said...

Excellent post. We have indeed forgotten who we are. We have lost our identity man.
I was watching this episode of Roadies (I have no idea why), and I saw this girl abusing the other, calling her.. "bloody dehati!! villager bitch!!" I was shocked. I didn't know that being a villager in India , is now considered an abuse!!Why?? Just coz they don't wear super fancy clothes?? Coz they rather have a simple daal chawal meal, than lunch worth 1000 bucks from Pizza hut!!??
We are fast becomin a nation with the max diabetes cases!! Its simple why... we don't eat what we should.. rather we stuff ourselves which pizzas and burgers and blah blah.. It all seems so corelated... the western pizza huts, help propagate disease.. the western hospitals set up clinics in india to cure those diseases.. its shocking to see kids who are 7-8 yrs old, suffering from diabetes... We've forgotten what it is to lead an active life...
You are spot on when you write about the reliance fresh thing... sadly, the stuff which reliance fresh and big bazaar.. and vishaal mart offer, aren't even fresh man.. they are cold stored!!
Drinking tea from a kulhad seems to make us look like losers na... "dude... when there is a plastic cup, why do u drink from that weird earthern stuff?? yuck!!"... have heard this so many times.!!

Till 200 yrs ago, we had 35000 varieties of rice!! Now we barely have a few!! Arey, now people abroad have started claiming that Yoga and related asanas were actually chinese or english!! These ppl come to india, learn our stuff and go home to propagate it, claiming it to be theirs!! We sit and only say "arey... kamaal ho gaya.. to yoga bhi amreecan hai!! "

We haven't learnt to balance being an Indian and being modern!! screw being modern.. we are too busy trying to be western and yet don't know what modernisation is!!

Kislay said...

Brilliantly said . And reliance fresh veggies are not fresh at all . Our own pav-bhaji , chat and samosa have taken the back seat , making way for burgers and pizzas . Every thing you have said makes sense, every word . Jhola , kulhad , surahi , sabzi-mandi , western clothes . Some people even start speaking with accents . I often wonder, how will people react if I start wearing dhoti kurta to work .

Vinod_Sharma said...

You make me nostalgic. Those were the good days. These days, thanks primarily to our media and the ad agencies, we are just losing it. May be that is why Muslims here and perhaps elsewhere too are reacting to ensure that their identity is not swallowed, and are wearing it more on their sleeve than they did two decades back.

Are things going to change? No, because this de-linking from everything Indian, including religion, begins very early in school. That is why we have more and more disconnected individuals dominating public space and looking down on "dehatis". Varun Gandhi exceeded many limits. But, he is the only guy from his kind of background who has the courage to say that he is proud of his faith and not apologetic about it. I don't know whether he means it or not, but that re-ignition of self-esteem is badly needed.

Coming to the West, this claiming of the best around as their own started 2000 years back. Have you not noticed how Asian Jesus has become a blond, light-eyed, English-speaking European? And how Christianity itself has been hijacked and patented by the West. And you are worrying about rice?!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!! As you say, we are moving towards the Walmarts and the reliance fresh and people here have now realised just how important the local grocer is!! Now they talk of fresh groceries from the local grocer - while we are too busy aping the west and letting go of the best parts of our cultures..

My parents have a smokeless oven at home.. which totally uses wood - which is easily available there.. So its all very environment friendly. Apparently, they had a tough time getting earthenware coz all the earthenware available was bought up by local 'resorts' to 'impress' the western tourists! To think that for so many years, nobody cared too hoots about earthenware!

As for people wearing western outfits to weddings and pujas - just don't make sense to me.. Its just a way of pretending to be 'modern' forgetting that modern is as modern does - not as 'modern' dresses!

And the sad thing is, that in this mindless drive to ape the west, we end up picking up the worst things.. How I wish we were copying their professionalism, their punctuality or their politeness - instead of their clothes, their swear words... Sad.. Even yoga as become popular after the west adopted it!

I try to ensure that my daughter has as much of a blend as possible.. How successful I am - only time will tell..

Amrita said...

Every word made sense in the post. I most agree with the rising fad of wearing western clothes even for important functions. As you said the Indian woman s structure is more suited for a saree or a salwar rather than the trousers which are more for the Caucasian body. And in this mindless rush to fit into those tight clothes look what a whole bunch of anorexics we have produced.
Our eating habits, our medicinal plants, our ways of living have been here since time memorial - they have no adi no ant - yet rather than appreciating and inculcating them, we are going after a reflection :(

Chrysalis said...

COA: You are so welcome here. ANd I agree with all you say. WIth almost 70% of the population living in the villages...bloody dehati is blasphemy!!GIve me daal chawal anyday. Wetern hospitals and what about the EVIL pharmaceuticals...AFrica ka chaupat kiya and now India!! And yes I heard some Chines was trying to patent some Asana....its like world going wrong...I need my Kalki Avatar fast.

Kislay: Dhoti-Kurta...haha u don't want to try it. If wearing a saree can make me a BEHENJI!! you would become a BHAIYA and in the derogatory sense..Maybe the HR will have a talk with u to evaluate your mental health...APne hi desh mein yeh haal hai...I want to jump into the well.

Vinod ji:You are so right about the Westernized Jesus. I never thought about it to be honest.
Muslims as well as some Jews are hanging onto their identities with all their might.
Hum to secular hain!! whatever that means? How easily we use that word. Do we even know what it means. Its fashionable to say "I am secular" I so agree with you this disconnect with true religion and everything else is making us into zombies who think they are wide awake.

Chrysalis said...

Smitha: Love the sound of your parents home. You should put up some pics. And what an irony..earthenware for impressing the Gora Sahib.
Well said "modern is as modern does not as modern dresses"...this is why I don't get the connection between spaghetti straps/drinking/smoking/pubbing or whatever and feminism.
I know there is so much to be actually learnt from the west..proffessionalism, punctuality...I too am rying hard with my kids..but its difficult when the environment around is going on a totally different tangent.We have to change the society one child at a time.

Amrita: Yes Amrita we are running after the elusive mirage. All the "desi ilaaj" unable to withstand what they are selling us. Anorexia,bulimia,emotionally detached children hooked onto TV and internet because both the parents are too busy chasing the 'dream' name it and we will copy it and with such a misplaced sense of pride.

José said...


I didn't have to read everything in your post to know that I agree with your line of thought.
Now, should people REALLY make an introspection, or are they affraid of what they may find ?

Kind regards,


Chrysalis said...

Jose: Welcome here. And you are right I think people do not want to introspect clueless as well as afraid of what they may find.

Kislay said...

You said the pharmaceutical companies screwed up Africa . Have you seen The Constant Gardner ? It is a movie based on that , how the White Man is exploiting that continent .

manju said...

Nice post, Chrysalis- I agree with all that you have written.

I feel that the thing to worry about is that we have lost our sense of self-respect.

Adopting western customs would not be so bad if we did not think of them as 'superior' to our own.

Young women who wear jeans and T-shirts look down on those who wear Salwar-Kurtas.

People who consider English to be their mother tongue (and there is an increasing number of these in Indian cities) think themselves to be far above those who speak in 'vernacular' languages.

Chrysalis said...

Kislay: I have seen the movie Kislay. Its based on the book by the same name. I have worked in the AIDS field and know or sure how they are destroying the continent. Medicines,oil,diamonds...its not in their interest to actually see a strong sel reliant Africa.

Manju ji: Its one of my pet peeves when people look down upon vernacular education,and anything and everything Indian.I just remembered from shehnai during the wedding to DJs we have come a long way. As u said very correctly ,the problem lies in the fact that we think everything phoren is the way to go and superior.

Renu said...

very nice post ! actually it is just like the way girls want to do everythiong and doing it whatever boys can do or do. as they think thats what equality is, whereas I think tht everybody is equal anyway, nobody has to copy anyone, rather do what is good for you.

I still remain loyal to my grocer and green grocer:)and jhola:)

Chrysalis said...

Renu ji: Long time. SO good to see you again. And you have said something which is worthy of another post. About women wanting to do everything men can do and thinking that is equality or feminism. That has to do with a sense of low self esteem about whatever they have been doing...being a homemaker,mother,primary caregiver..etc.
Anyways am I glad to hear you are loyal to your green grocer and your jhola.Way to Go!!

Renu said...

But I have read most of your posts:). Your posts seem to always stimulate my mind and I feel so happy to see that a young girl is saying all the things that I have been shouting for so many years:)

Chrysalis said...

Renuji:Thanks.This change in thought process is new found. I was saying very different things couple of years back. But I guess that is what is called evolving...I have a long long way to go.I am sure I still have got somethings totally wrong.

Anonymous said...

To all the people who flaunt their western values : Why not create another Google, or Amazon, or at least Twitter??

Talk about selective amnesia!! This was a good post, well written!

Destination Infinity

Chrysalis said...

DI:Thanks.And ya sure what about some originality.

Pranab said...

Hi Chrysalis,
I have been reading your posts whenever I get time. This one however is particularly interesting and well written. As I started typing my comment, so many thoughts started flying in my mind that I decided to write my comment as a post @


Kislay said...

Everything phoren and western is good , worthy of repsect and emilation , is the White Man Syndrome . And I am confident , had the dominant race in the West been black or latine american , this would obsession would have been much lesser .

Chrysalis said...

Pranab: Really liked your post have left a comment there. Will be adding the link to your post so that others could take a peek too.

Kislay: I am not usre if the obsession is merely to do with color. I think its more to do with a dominant economic and military force which translates that power in to other spheres as well...cultural,social,political etc etc etc.

Child Of Adam said...

@ chrysalis
I agree with what u said to Kislay. A lot of our obsession stems from our need to be economically more sound, and militarily more advanced. Ultimately we aim to be more powerful... The west has been economically better off than India...

Ashwadhy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashwadhy said...

As usual Brilliant Post! Makes me wonder were we are headed! Will there come a time when we loose all that we so treasured in our race to become the hep westerner? Hope realizations dawns soon.

Chrysalis said...

Ashwadhy: Thanks. "Hope realization dawns soon" ...amen to that.

Sara said...

Exactly my thought, I also wrote a post few days back about how Bollywood is playing a big role in our Weternization.

Chrysalis said...

Sara: Heartening to see so many like minded people ...will check out ur link.

Anrosh said...

' hypnosis ' is what is happening to india ..
the fact is we have information, but they are presented in ways not appealing to the youth, who are as you call it hypnotised, but if the same info is presented logically it makes a lot of sense.

let me talk about clothes itself - jeans - in a tropical humid climate would jeans make any sense but salwar kurta or saree would ( not nylon, or polyster or silk ) but simple cotton ( it is a fact that the best of these are imported !)
saree is sustainable ! how many even think about it ? yes it is impractical at times..i agree, but stereotying salwar kurta/saree wearers as old fashioned is a common phenomenon!
the indian exercise - yoga does not need a gym, why is it not taught in schools -- never understood ?!

sun is abundant in our country - but solar energy ( for all reasons including distribution is not encouraged for reasons too obvious !

let me stop here ..i'll write more on my blog later.

on another note as vinod writes - jesus is middle eastern ! not even asian :)

Anrosh said...

kislay, what is reliance fresh?

Chrysalis said...

Anrosh: Eggjhactly!!! And looking forward to read your post on this. Reliance Fresh is like Walmart of the Veggie World. Retail therapy entering the veggie/fruit sector. Reliance sells beautiful looking veggies in high end stores ...the farmer being at the bottom most rung of the ladder and receiving peanuts I am sure compared to the Mr. Ambani who will make another most expensive and senseless home in the seat of his kingdom.. Mumbai.
Farmers in Jharkhand and Orissa already clashed and vandalised Reliance Stores in protest. They were offered jobs with Reliance ...LOLOLOL (this is laughter filled with pain and sarcasm)

Der said...

Chrysalis... I have no idea why this trend continues. We Americans don't have the answers! In my 31 years alive I have been subjected to the biggest farce ever: the trading of culture, values, and faith for an almost purely consumer-based lifestyle. And we bought it. Maybe it was buy one get one free?

Even as much as I try to reject it, I'm still consumed by things. And isn't it odd that consumption used to only be a word for a really nasty disease, but now it's a word for how well the economy is doing?

As far as the seeds go, I hope they keep fighting! Farmers in my hometown have been fighting Monsanto and their ilk for decades, and slowly losing. (Amazingly enough, I grew up in a land of rice paddies and mosquitos... in America!)

andrea chiu said...

I am so glad to read your wonderful article. Im looking forward to read more of
your works and posts. You did a good job! Try to visit my site too and enjoy.