October 26, 2005

Cultural Diversity

That there is tremendous cultural diversity in the University of Warwick is not in doubt. It was in full display last evening at the IDLHR party that had probably the most amazing variety of food that could be cooked up by about 30 people. The ones that I can name first: rajma chaval, puri bhaaji, prawn curry, houmus and pitta bread, haleem, chinese fried rice, fried chicken wings among others. i cant name the other food, tho am quite certain that I did try to learn them then!

There is just so much to learn from so many different perspectives and so many different view points that it is just a fascinating journey. I wish I had more time to engage with the stories that are carried by people. The diversity of their experiences outside of the formal structures and the busy routines within a classroom!!

But, its also such a challenge to move outside your comfort zones. To actually engage (or at least engage) with people different from yourself. With not just different nationalities and cultures but often with little or no understanding of your own. Its often quite a challenge to explain things to people who know a little bit about your culture in a broad sense. Often, what is portrayed by the media.

Sometimes, identities fashioned by the work of just over fifty years including the idea of India. That a nation with such a plurality of systems, customs, traditions, languages etc can actually exist as one administrative unit (as is the case for the last fifty odd years).

However, that brings me to the ´popisation´ of culture and the idea of culture that is identified by certain symbols. Is that really a culture? Or is it just a construct that is developed for various reasons including as a pressure against the forces of globalisation. The idea of the Indian for example itself is a recent invention… not more than one hundred years (if you look at the freedom struggle as the first time a pan-Indian identity was charted out). Within that identity lie many different layers and differences that gradually get subsumed by the pan-Indianness and also re-emerge in various other forms. Getting to grips with it is probably the most difficult part of being an Indian! Add to it the assault of globalisation and you have a complete ´avial´ of cultures that are created.

Watch this space!


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