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Opinion Sashti Balasundaram: Indian Traditions Mix With 21st Century Ideals


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sashti Balasundaram: Indian traditions mix with 21st century ideals

Sashti Balasundaram: Indian traditions mix with 21st century ideals : My View : The Buffalo News

A vibrancy flows on the streets of India, with rickshaw drivers yelling for passengers, lorries trumpeting their presence with untamed horns and vehicles unmethodically shifting lanes with modest hand gestures to avoid oncoming traffic, pedestrians and farm animals. An abnormal term describes this dazzling scene common throughout Indian society: uniform chaos.

The phrase adequately recognizes the shifting nature of this nation, where the movement of people occurs on the rooftops of moving vehicles, and where a mere 60-mile bus journey never takes one hour but maybe three, if you’re lucky. Nonetheless, emerging from the maddening congestion is a magical feeling that, regardless of obstacles, the nation seems to be making progress.

A palpable sense of acceptance and resiliency is common. This energy is explained in India’s storied history. Through thousands of years of civilization, a vibrant country has surfaced with values of tolerance and honor. These themes seemingly resonate into the highest political offices, where recently the president was a Muslim, the prime minister a Sikh and the congress party leader a Christian — all democratically elected within a majority Hindu country.

Certain social factors also exist that do not often transcend national boundaries. Deviations include the existence of child labor and the transgression of women. Acknowledgment of these controversial issues does not make them acceptable, but offers an understanding that the world often works in shades of gray.

As the nation rapidly develops, a signal of its incomplete progress is evident in the form of power shortages, which become frequent throughout the summer months.

While modern change steadily occurs, most people still live in rural areas and celebrate traditions and festivals deeply steeped within the natural world. These agrarian mind-sets strongly embody a loving sense of nature while inculcating a deeper sensitivity for the environment.

As tradition mingles with 21st century ideals, one sees farm animals raised in the city, where chickens do in fact cross the road along with cattle and other livestock. These observations are common since zoning laws are not adequately established or appropriately followed. It certainly seems odd to have Main Street in gridlock due to a roaming herd of buffaloes, but it is common here.

After recent economic reforms, more people have begun to enter urban areas: migrant workers, day-laborers and families. They have brought forth a resourcefulness and an ingenuity that has led to the creation of underground markets, where it is easier to imitate products than create them anew.

This imitation stems from India’s relatively low patent record, due to weak intellectual property enforcement, but it allows for unbelievably creative merchandise. My favorite is the dual etching of both Adidas and Nike logos onto individual baseball caps sold across the nation.

Experiencing this culture has led to a new appreciation of the opportunities and liberties available back home. My observations here have provided me an avenue for engagement. As our society moves forward entrenched with diversity, I believe an openness in how we view the world may help forge understanding in ways to further strengthen this nation.

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Shabad Vichaar by SPN'ers

By the 5th Guru Arjan Dev, the shabad is on Ang 616 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, translation by Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa.

ਸੋਰਠਿ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
Soraṯẖ mėhlā 5.
Sorat'h, Fifth Mehl...

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