There has been a period till very recently when India’s political and administrative class was dismissive, even contemptuous of India’s civilizational heritage and cultural roots. Official meetings were confined to corridors of power and cuisines were limited to the standard menus of elite hotel kitchens.
India had closed its doors on itself. In a country as diverse in language, cuisine, traditions, attire and religions as India, the common civilizational threads were thrown aside in a bid to seem modern and politically correct.
A discourse steeped in self-deprecation and apology about its own identity clouded the true face of India. A puzzling scenario of cultural masochism, where a large majority was supposed to accept humiliation at many levels, had become the norm; to think otherwise was labelled as ‘communal’.
This cultural confusion pervaded among the elite, blissfully disconnected from what India stood for. There was a time when flaunting one’s position of power and wealth publicly was frowned upon because it would not sit well with painstakingly created image of being Messaiah of the Poor, but privately the best of every imaginable luxury could be enjoyed.
This double-faced approach naturally led to policies which, while showcasing India’s cultural heritage, did precious little to strengthen the roots and the stakeholders. Confusion about what was India, its history and sacred geography, the deeper philosophical roots of the longest living vibrant civilization, were becoming opaque.
Deriding the ‘other’ became fashionable. Slowly but surely, the false and fake ideas got planted in the collective psyche which then baulked at the cultural traditions and concepts that had shaped India aka Bharatvarsh.
It is this notion of false values which led to exclusion of India that has been completely altered by Narendra Modi’s calm but firm expression of his cultural identity. A leader has emerged from the heart of India who is open about his cultural roots and wears it on his sleeve. He is as comfortable in a Veshti from Tamil Nadu or with headgear from the Northeast as he is with official Bandhgala which had typified our politicians and diplomats for long.
Modi has time and again demonstrated his support for India’s diverse culture, vibrant in its various hues of dance, music, handicraft, attire and food habits by being its best ambassador. One is reminded of how he presented India’s linguistic richness and diversity by expressing himself in multiple languages at the Howdy, Modi! event in the US.
This has translated into India not feeling inferior about its diverse cultures today. The International Day of Yoga is testimony to creativity in projecting India’s soft but strong power to the world.
Taking leaders out of confines of New Delhi to show them places like Ahmedabad, Varanasi and Mamallapuram, Modi has shown how new India is at ease with both the old and the new, powered by its civilizational values and beliefs. Meditating in a cave in Ketarnath or quoting freely from Indic scriptures, Modi symbolises the awakening of a civilizational identity that had been forced into slumber.
His reference to the great debate between Adi Shankaracharya and Mandan Mishra as an example of dialogue and debate emerges from perfect understanding of a civilization that reveres knowledge, believes in winning over adversary through conviction. Yet, Modi knows value of subtlety; his expressions of love for his own culture are never abrasive or supremacist. It is just natural expression of love, not show of strength.
Modi’s presence at helm of affairs is resulting in awakening of real India that had somehow got lost in the corridors of power and interplay of perceived political correctness. As the world sits up to take notice of initiatives taken by Modi to reclaim the Vishwaguru status for India, one wonders why this simple yet profound aspect of our civilization was ignored by powers that be for so long.
Perhaps the time has come to recognize and celebrate the movement when Modi is reclaiming the unparalleled heritage and values of India.