Monday, October 17, 2005

Cultural Bhel-Puri

"Cultures aren't better or worse, they are just different". I remember hearing this oft-used quote by our advisor from international students services at Texas A&M. I have often thought about it. They may not be better or worse, but they are certainly layered one above the other for each individual. For example. An third-generation Italian based in New York is a New Yorker first, an American second, and Italian a distant third. A second-generation Indian kid is perhaps layered like a Cassata ice-cream (now, that's a comparison :-)) You have the Indianness sandwiched in parallel between Americanization and early adulthood. I am post-Emergency era Indian who wears his Indianness on his sleeve even as he tries the American life with kid gloves. What's your layering like? Think about it.

Speaking of multi-cultural influences, there were two polarly opposite experiences over the weekend that impressed me. One is watching Chinese and Americans playing dandia. The Gujarati community (especially on the east coast) has assimilated into the American mainstream (not just the upper middle class) like none other (yes, including Punjabis and South Indians, of all kinds), so it is nice to see the compliment being returned. I have super-impressed with the American dude even doing the complex garba moves. Way to go! On the flip-side, they ended the dandiya session with bhangda. Now, I like Punju beats (Daler Mehndi et. al) and I think that no other form of Indian music has yet seen that kind of proliferation into foreign music streams. Yet. Garba-Dandiya followed by Bhangda? Not a great mix. Come to think of it, even the garbas reflect less of the essence of Gujarati culture. Garbas are time-tested celebrations of poetry and music. But it is the dandiya that is more popular, what with Falguni Pathak's rendition of songs such as 'Pare hat soniye sadi rail gaddi aayi'. Oh no, another Punjabi song :-)

Yesterday, I had a completely contrasting music experience. The event was a concert of choral music played by the Esoterics. It was titled Iman (or Faith) and was inspired by Islam and Islamic culture. This was one in a series of such works that the group has rendered. There was one on Hinduism in the past. Choral music was an altogether new experience for me and it turned out to be a rewarding one. The basic foundations of western classical music are so different from Indian classical music. The basis of Western music is harmonization on the arrangement of notes in different octaves. Indian classical music deals with ragas, where we expand notes based on one musical pattern. Choral music as an art form is pretty powerful because given a group of singers and good instrumentation of the composition and voices, the effect produced can be very powerful and moving. The performance by the Esoterics was really good. The accompaying brochure had the lyrics in Arabic and their corresponding translation in English, which made the concert enjoyable. I look forward to hearing more of their work in the future.

Random thought to end the post. I just came back from a car wash. Wonder if someone will come up with a similar solution for humans someday. Even the laziest guys (and in lesser quantities, girls) would have no excuse to escape shower. That should make some spouses happy.

9 comments:

TTG said...

Heh. Globalisation at work. I don't even want to dwell on my Cassatta-ness...way too complicated for me!

ragini said...

Great post !

Niranjan said...

Have witnessed the same dandiya - garba - bhangra sequence, here in SB. No l'il coincidence, that. And bhangra manages to get more ppl on the floor than either garba or dandiya, mebe coz the latter have strict styles while a lot of (my) awkward dance steps can pass off as bhangra (i think, and refuse to believe otherwise). Also it lacks the ever-impending threat of cracking your knuckles against an inept pair of dandiya sticks :-)

RS said...

Hmm...Cultural layering - I think I would have had lesser layers if I had not come to the US. This also makes some of my layers stronger than they would have been had I stayed back - I put in an effort and pay more attention to things...Indian in short. Not sure if I made any sense here :)

sd said...

The culturing layering thing is really interesting. I think, one more fun bit is that there are connections and restrictions between these layers. And BTW, did you patent your human-wash idea:-)

RS said...

You've been tagged here!

RS said...

In response to your comment on my blog (and that makes it the third comment from me for this post!) - just follow the link on my previous comment for the tag!

Geetanjali said...

LOL at the random thought that ended the post - I've had similar thoughts about some ppl who are lazy about personal hygiene - long to send them to a car-wash for a rigorous round of cleaning up, or to the pets-care center...where I'm sure they'd be willing to clean a slightly different species, from the regular canine breeds, for some extra bucks ;-)

OMG said...

A global village and all that. And for the reason why people enjoy raas and bhangra: colorful clothes to the raas and un-inhibited dancing to the bhangra rap, at least thats what my non-Indian friends vouch for. Throw in the butter chicken and its a match made in heaven!