The term "Indian Culture" keeps getting thrown around a lot these days. Just like if you tell a few clients to shove their ideas you-know-where you are suddenly branded as "difficult to work with". Pfft.
What is Indian Culture? What actually defines Indian culture?
Well, the truth is, no one really knows. And if anyone tell you they do, well, they are either crazy or they work for Ekta Kapoor. Wait, that's like an oxymoron.
I'm not saying we don't have a culture. Of course. Our civilization is possibly thousands of years old. And in certain parts of South Asia, you can still see people living it up like it's 8 B.C. .
In my not so humble opinion (hey, everyone knows I'm a blowhard; so that is mostly a moot point anyway), culture is not a strict set of rules written in a book and to be followed strictly even five or six thousand years later. Culture changes according to time. And culture means adapting.
Long before Columbus discovered America and they stole our gig of being a "melting pot" of cultures, ancient India (pre-AK Hangal) was supposed to be cultural center of the whole world. (Much like modern day New York. Except the women had less silicon implants and more armpit hair.) Even most of the religons were invented in India, except the three abrahamic religions. And of course Scientology. That was invented when Tom Cruise fell from his motocycle while shooting Top Gun and damaged the last remaining working cells in his brain. Another side effect of Scientology is that it causes people to act like a nutjob whenever they are in the presence of a higher power.
I'm not one of those LSD trips in which I say that we have the richest culture in the world and talk like someone who lives in the alternate universe created by Suraj Bharjatiya's Rajshri productions where everyone respects their elders and the death of Alok Nath's character brings world peace.
Our culture has been a mishmash of various cultures around the world. Our country has been invaded and plundered more times than Maddona. I am not that big a student of history (mainly because I can't even remember what happened last night. Hey, at least I made it home. Give a brother some credit.) but we all know that there were Aryans, Greeks, Mughals, Turks, Persians, Frenchmen, Portugese, Chinese, Britons and a few hundred aliens from the planet blingon who looked like Bappi Lahri.
So our culture is pretty much like a plate of "mix vegetable" available in the choicest of really bad vegetarian restaurants, a mixture of everything that's leftover from the previous day. Hey, don't look at me like that. I would rather die than go to a place which serves vegetarian food. But when you're young, broke and in college, it's a great place to take college professors you want to bribe. By college professors I mean guy who marked the attendance.
So when people say that doing certain things "is against our culture", I find it to be as thin an argument as Kareena Kapoor was in Tashan.
Another thing that pisses me off (and fortunately I am not the only one) is when people style themselves as self-serving protectors of Indian culture. The most ironic thing about such people is that even they have no idea about what they are trying to defend. So these people go about defining Indian culture as not wearing jeans and beat up innocent people for living their lives, they are no different from the dittoheads the world over who have a certain kind of misplaced dedication to false causes like religous fundametalism and Star Trek.
Then there is another large consistency which has taken it upon itself to preserve Indian culture (or their version of it) from attacks from other less moralistic and cruel cultures so that they can stop their children from turning into Zombies who listen to hip-hop and have sex with each other and disappear the next morning. And then don't even call back.
Yes, you guessed it. This peculiar creature is commonly known as the NRI. The unfortunate one who has to leave his poor, frail home which has fifty people sharing a two bedroom apartment with just a single washroom where people have to sing when occupying it because locks are a western concept and go to greener pastures which have luxuries like indoor plumbing and twenty four hour convenience stores. (Okay. Not everybody shares Bobby Jindal's story. But you get the idea.)
A few weeks ago there were some NRI family friends visiting. We were having a discussion and I told her that I know lots of people who prefer to live-in together before getting married. Or choose not to get married at all. She looked at me like I had just shot a litter of kitten and proceeded to roast them over the burning body of their mother.
And then, she said without even blinking, with an air of sincere misplaced superiority, "But that's against our culture".
It was my turn to stare.