Where Pride Has No Place

Written by Malvika Singh | Updated: Jul 27 2002, 05:30am hrs
Connecting Cultures, Building Bridges this was the Silk Road Festival conceived and put together by Rajeev Sethi for the Smithsonian in Washington. This Made in India show has surpassed all attendance records and, in the first week alone, 6,40,000 visitors traversed the National Mall and absorbed an amazing congregation of cultures. Since then, records crowds have flocked to the site. Sethi was lauded by all from Colin Powell to an entire cross-section of the citizenry. But in the last days of his stay in Washington, Sethi was treated like the US treats all Asian suspects. He was picked up by the local cops, gagged and handcuffed, and put into the cooler. Why Because the over zealous and uncultured authorities, ridden with insecurity and fear, thought him to be a terrorist in their fight against terror! Their version of Pota. Hours later after unforgivable humiliation, Senator Moynihan had to intervene to have the great curator of a great show released from the clutches of an unthinking State authority. So much for the US and its first world status.

Alas, the Indian settled in the US has not learned the lessons of protest. What an impact they would have made had they put down their tools of work for 48 hours. They could have shaken their adopted administrators to their knees and made a strong point. Random pickups are a no-no. And, it is for the people to assert this.

The US has always treated people of other worlds in this callous manner. You just have to stand outside their consular divisions anywhere in the world to recognise this character trait. Yet, they are desperate to take over the best and brightest to add value to their economy. A new form of cheap and competent labour! The inherent contradictions in their psyche are now coming to the fore. Their cover has lifted. It is the same high handedness of imposing travel advisories and suchlike. Having initiated the economic damage by those moves, they magnanimously retract the advisories. Small wonder that the world is increasingly becoming anti-American.

Back to Rajeev Sethi. Why is it that the Indian government does not sponsor this show in India What is wrong with us Why are we so utterly disrespectful of our own All this talk of tourism and culture, endless policy briefs and zero action. We are so caught up in restricting ideas and projects, regulating enterprise, that our best is never celebrated in our own country. Indians of all professions are lauded by their international fraternities, never by their country. We are reduced to being second class citizens in our own land. Anyone who does anything new and different is hounded, hounded by some insecure babu.

Where are the corporate sponsors Where are the philanthropists Where is their participation in the larger canvas Why do they not assist in lifting the intellectual and cultural strengths of India onto the international and national plane Where are our Fords and Rockefeller Our institutions are rapidly going to ruin because of a lack of resource. Elsewhere in the world, institutions were built, many restored with corporate funding. Why are the Indian corporates unable to do the same Why are we creatively weak

Culture is not a bad word, it is not boring either. It is the celebration of living and its exposition binds people. It is a great healer in these rather trying times. It generates pride, it forges relationships, it overcomes barriers. Culture encompasses everything politics, society and ideas. We have an unsurpassed man-made culture, unmatched skills, a diverse natural environment but we are possibly the only nation in the world that has consistently destroyed our most valuable possessions.

We have brutally attacked our natural environment, mauled our wonderful edifices that span many centuries and cultures, and we have degenerated our skills by horrendous policies. We have consciously killed our strengths and defaced our treasures. It is for this reason alone that the India of today is stuck in time...it has lost what it could have built on. Its foundations have been so damaged that the new walls are shaky. We need to repair the damage.