IntroductionIndia is as unique as it gets. We get to see different dialects of the same language every fifty kilometers. We get to see different cultures in each State, though there is a huge commonality in several areas. There are different languages too. Only Hindi is common to some States where it is the main language or even only language. It is the second most important language in some States, whereas it is just another language in most of South India. Be that as it may, there are several unique features about India. These things will continue for centuries from now. Some of these are a) Love for the country b) Love for Cricket c) Traditions and religious practices d) Cultural moorings of each State e) The "enough" mindset and fatalism and f) Risk-taking ability of specific economic classes.
Love for the country There will be ups and downs. There are always voices raised by fringe parties that seek to reserve most jobs and most seats in educational institutions across each State, for the local population. Though these tendencies sometimes tend to become somewhat narrow-minded, when it comes to the defense of the country, the country is one. This is because the Indian Army is constituted of hundreds of thousands from all States. They are always united as one force. The ability to stand as one nation is never ever disputed. This was seen in the case of the captured Indian called Abhinandan. Though he hailed from Tamil Nadu, this fighter pilot was seen as the one man who defended the country at any cost. The Pakistani authorities released him without any fuss. The entire nation stood as one man in supporting the Government of India, in getting him released. There can hardly be any doubt on this count. If there is a war, the public of India is always very much united.
Love for Cricket Love for Cricket is a religion in India. It cuts across all class, community or caste barriers. There is a huge amount of conversation even among the illiterate as to how the players could have played and so on. Very small children keep debating one particular shot played by one player. No riots. No traffic jams. No crowds even in malls. An India-Pakistan match brings to the core millions of youth of the country who support every single shot, every single wicket. Any victory against Pakistan, in particular, is celebrated in the best of spirit. People exchange laddus on the streets. Crackers are burst as if it were a Diwali. Politicians congratulate all players. When India won the one-day limited overs World Cup years ago under the Captaincy of Mahindra Singh Dhoni, each player was given several hundreds of thousands of rupees. This was more for players from the particular State. Each and every politician and Chief Minister had a competition. The cash awards were given and the players laughed all the way to the bank. Yet, not a single Indian complained.
The entire nation was so proud of its players. Players like Ravichandran Ashwin and Virendra Kohli became icons overnight. National heroes of the tallest order. Love for Cricket will continue in the very same fashion, even a hundred years from now. The present IPL is a huge sensation. It is a big Cash cow. The BCCI which makes millions does give the players good amounts of money too. The highly successful teams like the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians get huge sponsorships and cash awards.
Traditions and religious practices Traditions of India will be very much the same. The Maharashtrian ladies, for example, wear only the green glass bangles. The same glass bangles are red for most of the ladies from the Hindi belt. The same is of different colors in most of South India. The tradition of wearing glass bangles is common. That is it. It is a tradition.
The dhoti is a fashion in most of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Politicians like P.Chidambaram have made it a national dress. It is now common to see so many politicians dressed in a dhoti. However, it is the lungi or the pyjama and kurtha for the men. Most of this is in white. Simillarly, the ladies in Punjab and New Delhi often wear sleeveless blouses as a routine. Such traditions will never change. The Gujarathis wear the sari in a different way. The draping is towards the left. In entire South India, the sari is worn on the right. The sari is the same. The way one wears it will be very unique, donkey's years from now.
The average Gujarathi man will feast on the dokla. The South Indian can never come out of iddli and vada and sambar. Or dosa of so many varieties. It is another story that these South Indian dishes are now national dishes. It is sold in almost every part of India. The food habits will always be specific to a region. There will be an infusion of new forms of food. For example, KFC is also very famous in Chennai and Bangalore. However, MTR, the hugely popular restaurant chain of Bangalore sits pretty safe and kicking alongside it. In Chennai, it is the Saravana Bhavan, the Murugan Idli shop, the Sangeetha and a few other branded outlets that give the toughest competition to the foreign brands like the Domino Pizza, which is also making money.
Now come the religious practices. Each State has its own poojas celebrated with gay abandon. For instance, Ganesh Chaturthi is a national festival. In Maharashtra, it is a very big festival. In West Bengal, it is the Durga Pooja. In Tamil Nadu, the Meenakshi temple at Madurai said to be more than 400 years old, has its own customs. Come the month of May, every single Mariamman temple as it is called, in numerous small towns and even villages of Tamil Nadu, has its own festival. These festivals go on for three or four days. There is a big economic angle to it too. Hundreds of shops selling sweets, glass bangles, kumkum and coconuts, and all other Pooja items appear from nowhere. The sales of such items run into several hundreds of thousands of rupees. Sponsorships are very common. Hundreds of thousands of people are fed at various points. No one is never ever hungry. The rich sponsor any number of buttermilk serving points. One has to witness the kind of co-operation and happiness. Of course, animal sacrifice is a bit harsh but common to so many communities. The Brahmin community keeps away. Except for this community, generally, everyone is part of the huge celebration.
Even 200 years from now, nothing will change. Rightly so. India's most eminent sociologists who have done extensive research on these practices have always commented that the social fabric gets strengthened due to such practices. So, any attempt to break such traditions will never ever succeed.
Cultural moorings of each State The beginning of the harvest season, sometime around the 15h of January every year, is celebrated in totally different ways in most of the country. In Tamil Nadu, there are no banks or schools or colleges for even as many as five days. The internationally famous protest that leads to the breaking of the ban on Jallikattu, a traditional festival of taming of the violent bull, is seen as a culture that dates back to centuries in South Tamil Nadu.
The way Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu is now the subject of a huge amount of research all over the world. Thousands of tourists dress in the most traditional costumes and get to enjoy the local hospitality. They are treated with great respect and the photographs are carried on Facebook and all social media. The amount of happiness has to be seen to be believed. This author is of the firm opinion that such practices should never be disturbed for centuries. It is a fact of life that the huge NRI Tamil population settled in most of the world, come back to their State, to celebrate Pongal. In the Western Ghats, it is very famous.
Similarly, the manner in which the Kerala people celebrate Onam can never ever change. It cuts across religions. The happiness and bonding are superb. One is told that there are similar festivals in several parts of India. These can be preserved as they are. In fact, they should. The cultural moorings are always specific to a State and even to a particular region. There is nothing wrong with this at all.
The "enough" mindset and fatalism Thousands of self-help books in English are translated into so many Indian languages. Stephen Covey and Shiv Kera are heroes. Yet, the belief that "everything is written on my head" is absolute fatalism. This is so common, almost everywhere in India. Even the most educated of Indians believe in it.
Though it is true that birth in a particular family gets one to particular positions or paths in life, it is also true that one's efforts and hard work will take him far above what he or she even thought possible. This simple fact is somehow not registered in the minds of millions of Indians. Across the nation, the ability to accept what comes gives rise to 'chaltha hai" attitudes. Indians waste so much time gossiping. They talk about cinema and their actors and their heroines. No one ever thinks that there are alternatives.
Yes, the most intelligent who go abroad to the USA, make it very big and laugh at the stupid practices. Nevertheless, the "enough" mindset and belief in fatalism, one is afraid, is so much part of the Indian psyche that it cannot be just wished away. The key question is: why should one put in any effort if everything is pre-determined? Pat comes the answer. You need luck and the 'good time" to even put in the effort!! Such beliefs often cause huge confusion in the minds of youngsters who are always raring to go. In particular, those who join the IIMs and the prestigious ISB, dismiss such thoughts as "stupid".Only time will time, if such belief in fatalism, can ever be broken.
Risk-taking ability of specific economic classes. The average Gujarati and Maharashtrian always deal in shares. Sitting at home, they make a neat Rs. 40,000 post-tax. No one bothers if they lose money. They always make up. A huge amount of this money is up for grabs in the malls and in entertainment and in reinvestment. The game is on.
In the South of India, exactly the opposite is seen. The average Indian here does not believe the Capital markets. Mutual funds are quite famous now. The Indian here is quite happy with the around ten percent return, month after month in some good fund like those belonging to one of the best in business, the HDFC Mutual Fund. The entrepreneurial class is restricted to specific communities. For example, the Nadars of Tamil Nadu, with rare exceptions like the great Shiv Nadar of HCL, are essentially powerful traders who deal in the grocery shops of various shapes and sizes. The Chettiyars are into the money lending business. The Tamil Brahmins do not as a class, get into the business. The recent trends suggest some improvements. Those in the IT sector have set up their own businesses and are thriving. They virtually dominate the IT ecosystem in India and this is one reason why they are now entrepreneurs.
Such trends will continue for generations. Farmers can hope that the next generation will come back to farming. The rich IT class is now back to organic farming in a big way. This trend is seen in so many pockets of India. So, it is going to be a revival of agriculture in some form or the other.
Conclusion. Some dimensions of the "uniquely Indian" culture have been discussed above. Over a period of time, some practices may change. But the spirit of such practices is unlikely to change and this is indeed the way it should be. For centuries to come.