Are we culturally becoming decadent?
Over the whole of last one month the English newspapers in India and many leading language papers have been devoting columns after columns to pop star Michael Jackson who recently died in mysterious circumstances. About a fortnight back, sarod maestro Ustad Akbar Ali Khan passed away in America where he had migrated some years ago. The Press in India dismissed this event in a few paragraphs. Even a memorial meeting for him held in New Delhi and attended by eminent artistes and public personages got only a desultory coverage. On Wednesday (July 8) the same newspapers had in their frontpage the international crowd that gathered for Michael Jackson funeral event.
The contrast brings out how we Indians are culturally becoming decadent. By any standard the ustad had far, far imbibed the soul of classical music compared to Jackson’s contraptions and crooning that passed for music. True, the American pop singer made tons of money and his fans are spread all over the world. He died in huge debt in trying to boost his image and the latest reports on his death say that he was all the time living on several different pills, the overdose of which might have been the cause of his untimely death.
The contrasting treatment given to the passing away of the two lead personalities in the sphere of music exposes the cultural decadence that is setting in in this country too. For the last 15 days we have been reading a lot about Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises unnatural sexual mores like homosexuality, lesbianism etc. When the Delhi High Court gave its surprising verdict on this section and dubbed it as unconstitutional, the usual rent-a-crowd liberals proclaimed ‘freedom’. And some newspapers encouraged them claiming a right to practise sex in whatever way two individuals want to do it.
What about its impact on society? The liberal crowd was dismissing that aspect with disdain. As in the case of Michael Jackson it was a 100 per cent aping of the West, more especially America. The liberal crowd was not even prepared to consider the cancer that such misplaced liberalism had wrought to Western society in the form of same sex ‘marriages’, the decline in marriage bonds in heterosexual families, the increasing violence among children whose parents have changed partners at will, the spread of the drug culture and easy resort to violence in social intercourse even by teenagers. Is the right to shoot your classmates just because your mother has changed her male partner many a time and you have no love in your distorted family, freedom?
A society that idolises a person like Michael Jackson can only gladden the heart of drug lords and pharmaceutical companies. Not only Jackson, but also almost every leading pop band like the Beatles in the past has thrown up idols who ended their lives prematurely due to excessive drug and legal pills being consumed under the guise of sustaining a high level of performance. This is revealed in their biographies that have subsequently come out. The excuse for taking drugs is too thin and wears off easily.
In Indian classical music the performers often sit through the whole night and still perform at the peak of their capability without any need to take drugs or pills. The difference is that the Indian classical musician performs from the heart and his music is invariably a part of his devotion to the divine while the pop singer puts on some contortions to inveigle the young and give them the kick of the moment. The classical music, whether Indian or Western, is to be listened to in silence; the pop music lives on high decibel sound.
Our education system has much to answer for this decadence among our young. How many of our students read Kalidasa’s works in either the original or translations? How many of the economics graduates can quote even one line from Kautilya’s Arthashastra? Are our educated familiar with Bharata’s Natyasastra? Pick up any ten higher secondary school students and ask them to name one reputed classical singer or who was Bhatkhande or Ustad Allauddin Khan. Most of them will fail this test. And the moment a conscientious education minister like Murli Manohar Joshi tries to incorporate familiarity with Indian cultural mores and people in the education curricula, the ‘liberal’ crowd gathers on the street to condemn this as ‘saffronising’.
Ages ago Valmiki in his Ramayana portrayed his hero Rama as going through many parts of India whose geography and flora and fauna are mentioned in quite detail in his great epic. Kalidasa in his Meghdoot describes the entire country from south to north over which his cloud messenger passes. If someone so much as suggests that all our school curricula must carry the magnificence of this poetic imagination that truly and almost accurately portrayed the country, the liberal crowd would nail him as a Hindutva demagogue.
The alienation with our own cultural achievements lies behind the pathetic situation wherein our own great men and women have to gain recognition in America before our people begin to hear about this personage. Both Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan had to go through this humiliating experience and the latter even chose to stay in the US permanently. Even our spiritual greats like ISCON founder Bhakti Vedanta Prabhupada and Transcendental Meditation(TM) founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to our own national notice only through America.
There is something wrong with us when we are willing to spend crores on statues for our political leaders and on gold crowns to our deities but would not recognise the greatness of our spiritual leaders and artistes or support them generously when they need it most. Could it be our educational system to blame that ingrains an inferiority to what is Indian unless some foreigner recognises its greatness?
Courstey: Indian Express