Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Burden of Tradition and History...

A few days ago, while writing a shopping list in Hindi, I found out, not only have I degraded my calligraphy skills in Hindi (as if it were even possible in the first place), 6 years after I last wrote a sentence in Hindi in my board exams, I can barely write anything in my native language. My Hindi teacher at school had predicted this long ago. Of course, he meant it in a degrading manner. It is significant, that Hindi is the only Indian language I know of, so it is kind of scary that when the need arrives, I won't be able to communicate my ideas in writing through this language. Maybe, I am not a language person after all. It surprises even me that after having lived the whole of my life in Gujarat, I can barely speak Gujarati to this day, and can read it to a certain extent due to its proximity with Hindi.

But, during the same period, my English language skills have improved vastly. So, from where I see it, I have just evolved to get better connected to the Global community.

As the world gets even more globalized; tradition, heritage, and language will eventually become a burden passed on to the youth by their myopic elders. After all, India has more than 2500 years of history and culture; at some point we will have to let go of a few unnecessary things, get our culture in sync with the modern times. If we keep falling back on the excuse of conserving our age-old traditions, the Indian culture will stagnate overtime. Moreover, it is the open-minded questioning, and revolting attitude of the youth that can usher in new innovations both in science and life in general.
Why cling on to diversity and identity, when we all can unite under the umbrella of a global culture? Most of us here may not remember the song Vande Mataram, but if just a song were a yardstick of patriotism, then it would have been a cheap commodity. In an increasingly inter-connected world, we are required to know about the cultures and traditions of other countries too. So, it does seem selfish of our elders to make us remember and value all of their traditions in addition to everything else.

So, a day may come, when like Sanskrit, Hindi may also be lost at the altar of Globalization. It is also possible, that with our sheer numbers and hopefully strong economy we force a diminished version of Hinglish on the world. Either way, life and tradition as we know them now will definitely change over the course of our lives. That does not make us or our descendants any less "Indian" than the freedom fighters who fought for our independence. India, does not live in its languages and culture, it thrives inside its people and the spirit will always remain the same even if their mode of expression changes. That spirit is of humanity.

So, the next time you are degraded by the elders for alienating from the traditions, you can give a logical explanation, that of evolution. We have not forgotten the traditions, we just happen to know their latest evolved version.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I hope I become a believer again…

The following discussion may seem a bit odd to some of you. It is because I generally shy away from such deep and serious matters at college and try to be light hearted. But as I have been told, blogs are meant to show your inner self, to express what you truly believe in. So, here I go, giving up all pretensions, writing straight from the heart.

If any of you has been close enough to me in my personal life, you must be under the pretension that I am a very religious person, in that, I never, throughout the year, eat breakfast or anything for that matter, before taking a bath, and offering prayers. Some of you might even have seen me going to temple many times. What you don't know is that this is only what you think you see me doing. Though the habit started years ago when I was still at school, when I was indeed a staunch believer, and offered prayers sincerely, I realized along the way, that it becomes difficult to be a true student of science, and be a theist at the same time. As a result, what you see me doing today, is justified by my mind as a healthy way of living, so as to clear my conscience that I am still faithful to my true passion—that of science. The essence of science is to question long-held beliefs with hard-facts. If you, regardless of being a disciple of science, are blinded by unsubstantiated beliefs, then, you really can't understand science in its most basic form. At best you can be agnostic, looking tirelessly for some sort of symmetry between the laws of physics and the unexplained.

Even though people like me question its very foundation, religion truly is one of the greatest concepts, one that defines the whole mankind, just like science does. It gives hope to some, living in acute poverty, from the sub-Saharan Africa, to various parts of Asia, while making other millions to sacrifice their lives in the name of holy war, to save and secure something, that they have never seen in their lives, and probably may never see; that has simply been hammered down over generations.

So, what is so attractive about believing in God? Why hand over the reins of your destiny in the hands of an invisible entity that might not even exist? Perhaps it is the only solace for the destitute, who after working for 18 hours, still live on the edge, without shelter, clothes, or food, that some almighty power shall take pity, and improve their lives, in a world full of selfishness and distrust. Perhaps, one feels, that may be after suffering so much, they could satisfy the almighty with their prayers, to secure a better life the next time. OR maybe, for the powerless, it seems like an attractive idea, that there is some great, ultimate power out there that can set every thing in order, with just a thought, what they would never be able to achieve on their own.

Of course, a desperate man will believe almost anything. Can Science help such people? No. And it might never be able to. Unlike religion, science cannot provide hope or spiritual satisfaction, it can only provide material comforts to those who can pay for it and work to obtain it.

Had there not been the concept of religion; the destitute, knowing that this is the only chance at a life that they have, would have eventually worked up a civil unrest. So, religion makes people behave in a certain humane way, which we call as Morality. Religion drives inside the minds of everyone, a conscience and feelings of guilt for something interpreted as to be wrong.

And that is why, I never discourage people who believe. Perhaps, they are the only reason, that us, the followers of Science are able to work in a comparatively peaceful world today.

When I look at the sadhus thronging Kumbhs, or moving around the country praising God, living at the bare minimum, but still satisfied and happy, I find that with science comes the restlessness, which though, is necessary for the continuity of a civilization by constant innovation, robs us of internal peace. We live away our whole lives in our constant pursuit of true knowledge, while these men of God live off, blissfully ignorant.

What attracts me the most towards religion though, is the concept of immortality. May be it is a consequence of youth, but it is difficult for me to come to terms with the only scientifically logical explanation of death, that of an end of existence. Somehow, the idea to linger on seems way too attractive than the absolute end of consciousness. Unlike the villainous way in which it is mostly portrayed in literature, the idea of being able to see the generations change, the world develop, and may be one day perish, only to be reborn again, does seem attractive. The idea of Moksha, as described in Buddhism and my own religion, however, does not appeal to me. May be it is because I have mostly lived a comfortable and well-off life, but nevertheless even the constant circle of life and death sounds more attractive.

As the long tug-of-war comes to an end, as always, Logic triumphs, but still somewhere inside me, a part hopes, that I become a believer again...