Aping the West creates more problems than it solves

Issue Date: August 16 to 31, 2006, Posted On: 8/23/2006

By Bal Ram Singh

As I listened intently on June 23 and 24 to different scholars coming from archeology, history, linguistics, anthropology, astronomy, and genetics on the issue of Aryan vs. Non-Aryan origin of Indian civilization, it seemed quite obvious from most scientific evidence, especially coming from archeology and population genetics, that Indian civilization and its Vedic culture are old and indigenous.

Even the Harvard philologist Michael Witzel seems to have come around to this indigenous idea in the face of mounting evidence against his original idea of Aryan invasion theory (AIT), despite some linguistic commonality in Sanskrit and many European languages, including ancient Latin and Greek.

There is a preponderance of evidence, for much of the elements – be it people’s lifestyle, language, or philosophy – of the millennia-old continuous Indian civilization are overwhelmingly indigenous.

Part of the reason non-indigenous origin of Indian civilization appears in history books is the mischief of British colonialists in superimposing India’s current border and culture with ancient times several thousand years ago. Another reason is the insistence of colonial scholars like Witzel to prove Indians guilty of outside cultural impregnation unless found innocent on his terms.

That is the old proverb of the wolf setting terms for the goat. The difficulty with such tactics is that there are enough Indians who by now have lived in Western countries long enough that they can easily recognize the jackal in wolf’s skin.

Surprisingly, there is one line of thinking that has not been considered by the opponents of indigenous origin of Indian civilization (IOIC). And that is the unique Indian craze for copying, or imitation.

From India’s movie industry to its political system, Indians have shown their great zest for copying wholesale. Remember the 1968 Hindi movie “Do Kaliyan?”

It was an exact copy of “Parent Trap,” with a storyline completely out of line with Indian society, at least at that time. And the latest movie “Krrish,” is a brazen imitation of “Spiderman” in Matrix regalia!

When I came to this country in 1983, the “break dance” was the signature of Michael Jackson. Within a few years, there were thousands of extras in Indian movies performing break dance which would have put Michael Jackson to shame.

And while Madonna was a sensation for her bikini-bra dance in the 80s and 90s, Indian actresses and movie extras picked up (and are continuing to date) that sensation and are playing it to death so much that Madonna switched to the sari by 1998.

There is nothing wrong in learning from exposure to other ideas, being open, and incorporating influences even in art and culture, but “xeroxing” ideas in bulk to present in another language or on another body is an insult to a culture that has produced  epics like the “Shakuntalum,” a series of classical dances, and a sophisticated system of music, not to speak of unparalleled systems of philosophy, medicine, and epics.

A thousand years later, I am sure Indians can easily take advantage of the lack of time resolution of less than 50 years in archeology and population genetics, to claim that break dance and/or hip gyrating in bikinis originated in India.

If the Witzels of the world started using that kind of arguments today based on the well documented passion for non-originality in Indians’ cultural behavior, it could easily be proven that the preponderance of the evidence of Vedas originating in India may have in fact resulted from our penchant for aping others.

Tongue and cheek remarks aside, modern Indian intellectual servitude has created a great danger to the only surviving ancient civilization, not only from global terrorism and brazen political corruption, but from social upheaval that is being imposed upon the people in the name of rules and laws.

Not counting the caste-based division of society for political purposes, not even paying attention to the minority appeasement to allow archaic family practices or dark age concepts of salvation, the government and politicians of all castes and creeds are blindly following western concepts to introduce laws after laws to fix problems which do not exist or at least do not solve problems even in the western world.

The Indian parliament recently passed laws to require marriage certificates on one hand, and parental care on the other. Although innocuous on the face value, these steps lead to a very slippery road. These two aspects of life have remained hallmarks of the Indian civilization, and transcend region, religion, and language boundaries.

The Indian concept of marriage being the union of two souls will instead be reinforced by a piece of paper.  Can you imagine spouses waving certificates in each other’s face to claim spousal rights?

Then, there is the law now for children to take care of their parents. We have lost all social and moral shame to now expect our parents to run to courts and police to force us to take care of them.

Why is all this happening for no apparent problem in existence? Is it to get police and politicians more chances to milk more money from people? Or is this a deliberate attempt to create discord in the family life of Indians so that we can also become like the rest of the world?

Practicing social and family life by laws has not succeeded anywhere. Laws are only meant to be broken, and are established so that it is easier for the rulers to control people’s lives.

Bal Ram Singh is the director of the Center for Indic Studies at UMass. Dartmouth. He can be reached at bsingh@umassd.edu.