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ANIAMMA JOSEPH

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 1/15/2016 |





CULTURAL HERITAGE AND MODERN MAN
  
Culture is an abstract concept which is illustrated through concrete/ physical matters, instances and situations. It is a way of life. It is a system of beliefs, values, customs, traditions, thought and behavioural patterns manifested in various deeds. It is the ethos of a group of people in a family, a community, a state, or a nation. As for India, it is the ‘Sanskriti/ or /’Samskara’  of our Rashtra, and we are proud of our culture—the so-called ‘Arsha Bharatha Samskara’.
  
Culture is a blend of many different aspects and factors with diverse patterns of thoughts, behaviour, and actions reflecting the character of a people. It can vary from person to person and group to group. There are many things which constitute culture. Religion, philosophy, costumes, cuisine, drama, film, media, art forms, artefacts, sculpture, painting etc.make up the culture of people. It is said that culture started with agriculture. When finally, after a long period of nomadic life, people started settling to take care of their crops, cultural practices started taking shape knowingly or unknowingly. Man was becoming more and more social and more community-based in his way of life.
  
Cultural heritage is the legacy which is passed on from generation to generation. It is a baton of civilization which is exchanged among generations through films, television channels, art forms, folk lore etc. It is spirituality embedded in specific performing devices and forms.
  
Who is a modern man? Modern man is supposed to be the latest addition to humanity. However, even in the early ages there were people who thought and did things much ahead of the times. So Modernity is a late phenomenon with a possibility of early happening.  Modernity has been posed against tradition since time immemorial, and as a result a modern man is always considered inimical to everything that is traditional. There has also happened an erosion of values in the modern man’s treatment of culture and cultural heritage.
  
The individual and the tradition have always been at loggerheads. What had been collective thinking and gains   turned into individual merit and achievement. A shift of focus has occurred in man’s relation with his cultural past and heritage. The second and the third generations the world over have a different perspective to life and the world at large compared to the first generation. Films are the determining force in the lives of many a young man or modern man. They are further and farther alienated from the past and everything that belongs to the past. Values have changed; vision has dimmed.     What once was enjoyable and palatable is no more so for the modern men. They are uprooted from the cultural heritage of their ancestors and the gap between the two generations is widening every moment.
  
However, this is not the end of the story. Oases of hope are seen here and there. A group is still here who nostalgically looks back upon the fertile culture of the bygone days and wants to retain the vestiges of the past. They revive and rekindle the dying art forms which used to keep humanity together once upon a time. The transition from the crop economy to the cash and later the paper and eventually the virtual one has   not incapacitated them in understanding the worth of their heritage. They draw amply from the epics and the mythologies and all other available reservoirs to keep themselves balanced and sedate, rather than being materialists and shallow.
  
There was a strong dichotomy between the western and the eastern culture half a century back. But now the difference is not as wide as it was in the past. The old world thrived in the melting-pot theory. Everyone was assimilated in the crucible of a singular dominant culture.  But now the situation has changed. The world has gone for ‘salad-bowl’—everyone, every nation has turned into some ingredients of a salad bowl. While becoming parts of the whole, each individual, each nation retains its ethnic value. But, there is the threat of danger along with the beauty of unique individuality or ethnicity.
  
Culture is not singular, though. It has multiple layers and dimensions. It has sub-cultures, mass culture, and popular culture as well as a mainstream culture. There is a Hindu Culture, Muslim Culture, and Christian Culture, apart from a Family Culture, Atheist Culture, Dalit Culture, Feminist Culture, Aborigine Culture, Urban Culture, Rural Culture etc. When we think of Cultural heritage, whose culture do we take into account? The mainstream or the sub-culture? Do we consider the “obsolete citizens” of an “unintended city” as is written by Ashis Nandy in his introductory article “Indian Popular Cinema as a Slum’s Eye View of Politics” as representative of a cultural heritage?

Films are probably the strongest vehicles of cultural patterns. But the paradox is that, very often what they represent does not reflect our real culture. The majority of the people, especially the youth blindly imitate the trends and the fashions of the film world. Writers who are the messengers of culture are only secondary figures to the super stars of the celluloid. Even writers themselves have lost their sense of direction and values. Does the cultural heritage fully represent the females and the down most caste?  As long as inequality persists in human relationships, if a modern man questions the cultural heritage on that respect, he cannot be deemed a rebel against tradition or heritage. Of all types of cultures, there is something as a human culture which encapsulates love, equality, liberty, fraternity and justice in all fields. Whoever values that culture becomes a caretaker of the contemporary generation, who is grateful of the transcending spirituality of people like Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore—people who lived in memory of a glorious past. As Tagore wished in his Gitanjali, “Into that heaven of freedom,... let my country awake.”


[DR. ANIAMMA JOSEPH]

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