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Time to Connect back to our Roots

I was speaking to one of my college friends. He had gone with his wife, teenage son and daughter to be with his parents in the village. He mentioned his children, who have grown up in a city, weren't able to cope up with their grandparents. We went into a long discussion of how we are losing touch with our own tradition, culture and its values.

After the phone call, I went down memory lane of what cultural values I had 30 years ago when I grew up. And also, what difference it's making to me.

Growing up, I went through the same things that everyone in my generation grew up with. An education of 14 years. Memorising heavy books and competing to rank first in class ate up our whole

childhood. I wanted to learn Bharatnatyam, which was laughed at. I wanted to learn Carnatic music, which was looked upon as a waste of time, something I would never use in my life. Becoming an engineer or doctor was the only thing fed into our minds. Why? Because 25 years ago, these were the professions which earned the most money. Commerce and economy was what our entire system of education was based around.

During the pandemic, some basic guidance was advocated by doctors and healthcare authorities. Scientists found that Covid 19 could not survive for more than 4 hours on copper surfaces. In our culture, whenever somebody comes back home, they wash their hands, feet and face using water kept in copper or brass vessels. Rings a bell?

Scientists suggest covering our faces with masks and recommend social distancing. Our culture always suggested you cover your mouth when you talk to elders in close quarters. And doing namaskar with folded hands always kept that distance too.

Similarly, smart foods like turmeric. Although it is not recognised as a direct cure for corona virus, we always knew its significance as an antiseptic, anti-inflamatory substance. Isn't that why USA tried to patent it in 1995!

For thousands of years, turmeric has been used in the traditional siddha & ayurvedic systems. Women always used it during bath. Elaborate songs in movies were about the beauty of a turmeric bath. Turmeric was part of any dish we cooked and ingesting it naturally gave us the necessary immunity to overcome bacterial or viral attacks.

In pursuit of wealth and material wellbeing, and looking up to a western way of living - here is where we are. We unconsciously left behind our values and moved far away from our roots. And I

realised that is what my friend was going through now with his children. The next generation has started questioning our culture and tradition. They have started branding it as superstition, because we ourselves could not explain the reasons behind many of our customs. This used to be an inherent element in our lives. It is so subtle that it has been overlooked and slowly we lost it without knowing what we lost.

So what can we do, and what should we be doing to stregthen this culture? And before that, let us understand what this word culture means. We keep hearing different usages of the word “culture." In music, there is jazz culture. In society, there is pop culture etc. Similarly in every area of life- food, fashion, work.

I looked up the dictionary meaning of culture. “The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.” Hmmm... that is interesting. There have been and still are many societies all around the world! So doesn't that imply there are thousands of cultures associated with them.

But who and what defines a culture? Who sets the standards for any culture?

These few decades of change in culture does not seem to be by individual choices.

I come from Kanyakumari district, where Hinduism is a minority. This had never occurred to me earlier, as many of my relatives follow Christianity. Also let me make it clear here: I am not against any religion. According to me religious faith is a private matter for the individual. Just that, I had been away from home for more than 15 years. When I moved back to Kanyakumari district, the changes that had happened hit me real hard. Many of the villagers had converted into Christianity. As a result, many of the cultural practices had been dropped because they were branded as being Hindu. I will not go into the religious conversions now, but only examine the impact of our culture as a result of this whole mass conversion process.

Why do we stand for one particular culture? Is the western culture superior to ours? Should we all work towards progression and development as all the advertisements teach? What is the signifiance of our culture and why should it be revived?

While my friend is struggling in his village to explain to his teenage kids why it is important to touch elder’s feet or light a lamp, let us take some time to educate ourselves about such small yet very significant aspects of our culture. It is time we remind ourselves of our roots and bring it back into our day to day lives. We want to inspire people to drop the distorted idea that we are inferior and uncultured people who need to become civilised like the west. Yes, both cultures have their pros and cons. This venture is to bridge the gap and take the best of both.

"Know your culture" series will bring back to you the long lost culture and traditional values and the science and reasoning behind them. This is about enhancing your lives to become better human beings and live at your efficient best.

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