By Somali K Chakrabarti
“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combination of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.
There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.
There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.”
― Sun Tzu
India being a large country, the culture and tradition of a part at one end of the country are distinctly different from another part at the other end. The vast multitude of art, music, dance, food and traditions add to the cultural diversity and enliven the country with shades and hues of different colors, but not without presenting their own set of challenges.
We are, often, so oriented to our customs and traditions that most of us tend to judge others solely by the values and standards of our own culture. We don’t desist from complaining about how foreigners perceive us, but then we Indians have our own yardsticks for judging people from other states. Deeply ingrained in our psyche are the cultural prejudices that we have grown up with.
As a Bengali, who has been a vegetarian by choice for the last 2 decades, my nonchalance for non vegetarian food elicits responses such as ‘A vegetarian Bengali is kind of an oxymoron –the words have a self contradictory effect.’ These, certainly are innocuous jibes, and I agree that a Bengali being a vegetarian is more of an exception than the rule, but the point here is that individual preferences, in many cases, override cultural preferences.
Some of the common cultural stereotypes that prevail are:
- For a north Indian, every South Indian is a Madrasi, irrespective of the state they belong to.
- A modern women must wear western clothes.
- Sikhs are in their senses only at 12 O’clock.
- People from North East are more like Chinese or Japanese than like Indians.
- Punjabis are pushy and overbearing.
- A Gujarati or a Marwadi is extremely money minded.
- All Malayalis have a strong affinity to work in the Gulf.
- Biharis are not proficient in English.
The list goes on…
Pitfalls of cultural stereotypes:
While some stereotypes may have some truth in them, many generalizations are entirely baseless. However when we judge a person with our biases, we tend to underplay the individual traits. Sometimes our biases are so strong that they blind us from seeing beyond a person’s cultural identity to know who the individual is and what value he can bring. Taken to the extreme, these stereotypes lead to offensive behavior, brawls and fights resulting in death.
Truly Madly.com has made a good effort to break the cultural stereotypes through these photoshoots.
Isn’t it time that we start appreciating our cultural diversity and break the cultural stereotypes? The sound of our own language appears sweet to us as it should, but let that not prevent us from appreciating other languages or other cultures.
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. – Maya Angelou
At the onset of 2015, let us make a conscious effort to minimize our cultural prejudices. What do you think?
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