Monday, July 30, 2007

There is a certain family that I have known for years. They have been my friends and mentors for ever and have typically provided me some of the most practical advice at various stages of my life. Although they have lived away from their native land practically all their life, I still thought them as some what clannish – you know the sort of people who will be friendly to all and largely helpful but at the end of the day will herd together leaving others out in the cold ?

Then one day I got a mail telling me about the upcoming wedding of their daughter. The invitation was expected but the details of the wedding were not. The daughter, who I did not expect would marry any one from outside her caste, creed and language for there was little possibility of her parents arranging a match outside those boundaries had done just that. The groom was some one from another state , naturally spoke another language and if caste equations were to be looked at was from another caste. He was educated in the US , chose to come back to India and took up a relatively unglamorous job. For the career choices he had made and other related reasons, he wasn’t on the best of terms with his family. Not the likeliest of mates that you would choose for your only daughter but the parents and the daughter collectively felt that this was the right choice.

Every day we read stories of people who choose to stay in the confines of their comfort zones an it is therefore heartwarming to know that people exist , who quietly , without making a fuss or splash are breaking out of such shackles and setting worthy examples to follow. Choosing neither to be lured by the allure of money or comfort and ease, they are breaking unfamiliar ground and are willing to take the risks and the headaches that are involved in treading an area where social support is inadequate at best , non existent at worst.

So much of the status quo around us is warranted in the name of religion , culture, convention and tradition. So much of that keeps us divided as a nation is justified on the basis of convenience. You hang out with , form ghettos with and marry and set up families and eventually communities with your on kind because it is easy. It is convenient. It is simple. It is pragmatic. And so we have ethnic, linguistic, religious, and tribal and all manner of cliques and the cliques become more important than our foundational humanness.

There is innate nobility in all cultures and languages that can not be negated. We should not lose it , in fact we should make every effort to conserve it and preserve it. It is said that of the 6000 languages in existence in the world , one disappears every fortnight . That is a pity because every two weeks we are losing a bit of the beauty of language and literature of a culture that God created to be prosper and flourish.

We are established in families, societies and communities and the commonality that brings about certain stability and an amount of settled ness in our lives is certainly a great help. But if those identities become cages and shackles , if they prevent us from embracing, engaging and adopting another language, another culture, another way of life that is different from our own , then we has lost a pound to gain a penny. There is verse from the Bible that says “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things”. To me one of the noblest traits that one can possess is the ability to discern beauty in a culture that is different from one’s own and the courage to embrace it unmindful of the inconvenience and the discomfort.

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