The Indian Culture is a quite enigmatic one for us, Mauritians. The Mauritian society is made up of a majority of practising hindus. Hindus, whom we associate to the Indian Culture, but who do not always represent the proper culture. Apart from this local representation, we know of Indian Culture through the occidental eyes. India and its weird gods and goddesses, a strong patriarchy with archaic beliefs and practices. But that’s all on the surface, how about the essence of it all?
I will not pretend to be an “Indian Culture” expert for I’m not. I’m only expert in knowing myself for now. Not being an expert doesn’t, however, take away the right to ponder and speculate out of the little I know.
All this question of “Indian Culture” actually started trotting on my mind since the last time I went to a hindu wedding ceremony. In Mauritius, we are quite used to the rituals and don’t necessarily value them enough. Yeah, I said “value”.
The so many rituals and ceremonies around a single wedding represent a real way to make a transition. These help to make the appropriate demarcations in one’s life. Then, there is the part which always kind of amuses me: the crying part. It only amuses me because we all know when it is going to happen and it in fact happens, even when the bride is leaving for the neighbourhood.
But well, there you go with my first concrete example. Behind this moment where the pride leaves the house of her parents(and when the DJ puts the most sad Indian song he’s got in his repertoire), lies a great representation of Indian Culture. I mean, the real one, which we just tend to wipe out in a country like Mauritius, rooted in Asia aspiring at Europe. This moment is one where the parents most often cry out of relief, joy and pride actually.
This is the symbol of a turning point in their child’s life(hence, their very own lives). This is the very anticlimax of all the months of preparation for this big event. Such a “ritual”(in inverted commas as it’s an unsaid ritual) gives to the family the occasion to take a deep breath. For, whatever be our culture, we do need to let go at some point. The occidental culture doesn’t give the occasion to “let go” on a wedding. It’s not all about being sad instead of rejoicing, no! It’s all about letting go, being blessed…
Many of the rituals in the Indian Culture(not necessarily hindu, there’s a big difference!) are indeed real symbols. They help moving on with the various steps in life. In Christianity, there are 3 definite symbols: birth, marriage and death. Hinduism, Buddhism and other somehow Indian influenced religions contain much more symbols.
I had the great chance of travelling to India for ten days a couple of years ago. Yes, I saw the rickshaws, the elephants, the barefoot people and kinders, the three-wheels taxis, people sleeping on the floor. Just as I saw the Mercedes, super tall buildings, bright and rich clothes, people assisted by so many other people they did not even have to look down to see where they were putting their feet. Only 10 days of my life, that is not much. I did not see the biggest palaces; I did not see the most awful slums. But I believe it was enough for me to feel the essence of Indian Culture.
India is a land of contrasts and a soul of oneness. You indeed see the elephant next to the BMW car on the street. And well, both of them are on the very same street, they co-exist with no much hypocrisy(not the case in China). Of course, my perspective of Indian Culture is not all about an elephant and a BMW car, but I believe it pretty much sums up all, even the aspects which words cannot describe.
When walking in India, you can definitely put a social status on a face. You can see who is the master and who is the servant. I personally felt that social status was not as much as a taboo as it is in Mauritius. Nevertheless, the majority of the Indian population is way down on the scale.
I have observed that the more you move to an “occidentalised” land, the less you can apparently make social status demarcations. Hence, I realised that people from the occidental countries most surely have the same feeling I had when walking in India. They probably get uncomfortable seeing and feeling this stratification omnipresent stratification, where the poorer is seen another, dresses differently and most of all has another look in the eye. This exists in Mauritius and I’m among those who do not feel it that much for I was born here. In India, this very situation is pushed to the core. Nevertheless, the Indian Culture in its core has the omnipresent moral values. You breathe some well-being of the soul.
This might be somehow due to a “false consciousness” but really, it is there, it exists. I felt I could forgive this country its weird practices for a second but these are not only simple practices and rituals, these are linked to some absolute unsaid truth. Just as I can imagine it was in pure Africa, some decades ago.
Also, Indian Culture known for the need for some decent physical interaction knows no bound as far as extoriorising one’s emotions is concerned. Indians would not hesitate or get shy to dance on their favourite tune of the moment. And when I say Indians, I really mean Indians of any age! Indians are patriot and hearing them sing “Chakde India” made me shiver.
So yes, not to keep on depicting all possible situations, what I wanted to express here is that I have found that Indian Culture is much more that what the many hindus in Mauritius think it is and show to us all. Indian Culture is not only about the form, the practical, the reason, it all has a soul!
It is indeed an Incredible Indian Culture!