Cultural Conservatism?

Outlook this week has decided to focus on the rapidly industrializing Southern States. Typical of such stories, there are half a dozen boring articles on cultural conservatism of the typical ‘Madrasi’, arguing both cases. Among this usual nonsense, I found this interesting quote by Chandralekha, every time she is asked on the cultural conservatism of the South:

“Consider this case. A popular actor/chief minister dies. His wife and concubine contest his legacy and fight the election. The people vote his concubine as his heir. By what yardstick do you call this cultural conservatism?” [Link]

Among the usual retorts, I especially like this one.

16 Comments so far

  1. ramesh (unregistered) on July 9th, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

    In relation to your remark Vatsan about the articles being boring you may feel that way but look as who wrote the article a South Indian.
    As he put it “Much of the contemporary South is being overtaken by rampant consumerism and the marauding culture of the Punjabi diaspora in dress, food and TV serials.” I think he has hit the nail on the head with this even though the Southern states are progressing we are selling of our souls to get here. The youth of India generally is not at all concerned about being Indian they more want to be Western or a mix of Punjabi/Western. Look at Chennai where the official language is ridiculed and alien languages are more accepted here. Why are we seeing Punjabi culture being shown in Tamil movies this is not our culture so why show it? I don’t see Punjabis trying to be Tamilian yet many of us think behaving like a Punjabi is cool.

    Punjabis are ridiculed in the west like Tamilians are in India people make fun of them at every chance they get and we want to be like them???? The south has sold it self out to MNC’s and will continue to do so unless people wake up and see the cultural loss that is occuring in India.


  2. tsk tsk (unregistered) on July 9th, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

    @Ramesh

    Dont get ridiculous. Its not that no one doesnt respect their traditions. No south indian has pledged his soul to the north indian just cause he goes to ECR Dhaba and likes Simran on screen. You guys still speak tamil at work, eat your sambar rice for lunch, watch rajni movies, vote for the dravidar parties. So dont tell us your selling your soul and whatever.

    We live in one country and there are bound to be influences from each and evry culture that exist. Dont necesarily call it punjabi. Alotta non punjabis, not just tamilians also eat butter chicken and wear the salwar kameez. Its now a distinctly Indian thing. As a corollary – TN’s greatest cultural exports are idli sambar, kollywood cinema and the kanjeevaram saree. Are you saying people in the north should boycott these? Beacuse they would sell their souls in order to adopt it? No, right?

    Mypoic regionalist mindsets do not have a place in metropolitan cities… no great city in the world isnt cosmopolitan. So Chennai has its own distinct identity as compared to rest of tamil nadu, and as it is a metro city, there is going to be an intermingling of cultures. No great shake for me is someone wants to eat lebaneese over tamirind rice.

    Again, its more globalisation as compared to westernisation. Wearing a shirt and trouser to work and speaking tamil along with english/hindi is not just about earning your money in a IT company, but it is also part of being a universally compatible citizen of the world. The ability to work and make a living anywhere outside of TN.


  3. Navneeth (unregistered) on July 9th, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

    The latest issue of Outlook just arrived, and guess what, it’s a ‘Southern Special’! Dakshin Rising are the words on the cover. :D


  4. Navneeth (unregistered) on July 9th, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

    Ah, delete my last post. I didn’t realise I was talking about the same issue.


  5. Govar (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 12:03 am

    @Ramesh: Wow. I would really love to hear what you mean by all this –

    1) “even though the Southern states are progressing we are selling of our souls to get here.”

    Whatever that means!

    2) “Look at Chennai where the official language is ridiculed and alien languages are more accepted here”

    Who have you been talking with buddy lately? This simply ain’t true. You have uber-cool dudes in every part of the world who think speaking the native language isn’t cool. You seem them in Bombay, Chennai, and probably more so in Bangalore. ;-)

    3) “Why are we seeing Punjabi culture being shown in Tamil movies this is not our culture so why show it”

    You saw a Bhangra tune somewhere? Trust me, 75% of people down south wouldn’t differentiate between a Bombay culture, a Kolkata one and the Punjabi one. For them, its all North Indian – sth they don’t know.

    4) “The south has sold it self out to MNC’s and will continue to do so unless people wake up and see the cultural loss that is occuring in India.”

    Arghh. Wwwhhat?


  6. sachin (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 12:51 am

    @ramesh

    1. I don’t see Punjabis trying to be Tamilian yet many of us think behaving like a Punjabi is cool.

    I dunno what it is to be like a punjabi. does it involve doing balle balle all day? Dude, chill.. You dunno anything abt being punjabi. Dont make categorical statements like that. Second, what does it mean to behave like a tamilian??? now thats an even tougher one!!

    2) Punjabis are ridiculed in the west like Tamilians are in India people make fun of them at every chance they get and we want to be like them????

    Speak for yourself. I would think your being stupid to make such a statement. Punjabis are a respectful community, they have sacrificied alot for our country during our wars, and also epitomise the zestfulness, that i think alot of us lack.
    Nobody makes fun of tamilians, if anything at all, the only only complaint north indians have is that we impose complitability barriers on language and entertainment.. but they still respect tamilians, and feel that tamilians stand for development, savings, hard work and higher education.

    3.The south has sold it self out to MNC’s and will continue to do so unless people wake up and see the cultural loss that is occuring in India

    Govar, even i think its futile to respond to this.


  7. ramesh (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 9:37 am

    In response to your arguments Tsk Tsk, Govar and Sachin. I have no problem with Chennai being a cosmopolitan, however with the issues you are mentioning about Tamilians being respected. That may be the case in India yet once you leave India any Non Tamilian throws insults at Tamilians left, right and centre no matter how nice you are to them. About Chennai maintaining its indentity well you are saying there is going to be people who will label languages fair enought but it seems this is the case with the majority of youth here they seem to ridicule there own language. Look at the music scene in Chennai the majority of people participating are elderly persons there is small percentage of youth can you explain why this is the case? I guess people are more interested in becoming western than anything. Another point why is it Chennai is the only place where the youth speak funny Tamil which no one can understand.

    I have lived in cities which are more diverse than Chennai yet peoples cultural practises do not change with multi-culturalism. So why the case in Chennai is it because you can’t face the facts or is it people here are to blind to see things it might be the toxic stench of the cooum that has blocked peoples thinking perhaps.
    Look at Paris for example French culture is well maintained yet having influences from Africa and the Middle East there is not a strong influence despite the large number of people from this region on French culture they have not contributed anything towards it.

    Let me ask you this if Tamilians are so accepted in India why is it that you are begging other states for water and not getting it even from our so called Southern brothers, when you move to other states you are not welcome. The last I checked Tamil culture was still being ridiculed in Bollywood. If you have a proper answer for these then please reply. NRI’s are better able to maintain there culture than a Tamilian in Chennai.


  8. tsk tsk (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 11:22 am

    @Ramesh

    Some northy guy at your work place is really tearing you or maybe some friends apart, no?

    1. For Classical Music:

    You are right in some respects. There are no youngsters getting into classical music as a profession. But whether that is because youngsters are not interested, or whether the profession is not lucaritive anymore is a topic that requires debate.

    Quite frankly, i think classical music itself needs to repackage itself to thrive in todays times. While purist may not agree, i think Classical music has steadily changed over the decades and centuries, so one cannot argue that it never went through a metamorphosis in the past at all and hence should not absorb more change.

    2. For respect of tamilians and water:

    Where is the correlation? Are you suggesting if a Rajasthani said let us share the thar desert, you will go and take half because you admire them? Water is a scarce commidity my friend. No one is gonna part with it, because each state has its own internal politics and bruised pride to worry about. Dont you think that the locals in karnataka would vote against their government for sharing water? Btw. the same position would be adopted if the state down stream where AP or MH instead of TN.

    3. Bollywood making fun of southerners:

    I cant remember the last time a movie came up with the objective of making fun of southerners. Lot of bollywood actors hold tamil cinema, technically at par with their cinema. They hold rajni kamal revathi rahman and maniratnam in good respect. Even then, you could take some ‘being made fun of’ as grown up adults, cant you? Bolly wood also makes fun of surds, sindhis, UP’ites.. but hey thats part of life. We make fun of Hindi speakers too, right.. remember the part in Sivaji.. “Kaun Hai?? , Boss da Kennai!”

    4. Paris and Chennai?!??!

    Dont compare Paris with Chennai, it doesnt make any sense. Paris is a world city, its a economic hub of the EU & There is an entire francophone world outthere. Besides, i think north africa inherited more frenchness than france inherited ‘africaness’. But surely, even france is accepting english as the language of business. Tamil’s world city is Singapore and not chennai by any stretch of the imagination.


  9. Grouch (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

    ” I don’t see Punjabis trying to be Tamilian yet many of us think behaving like a Punjabi is cool…Punjabis are ridiculed in the west like Tamilians are in India people make fun of them at every chance they get and we want to be like them…”

    I do not know where to start. That statement is disturbing on so many levels. It is unfortunate if you truly believe in what you have written. Every one is entitled to an opinion and the least I can do is to respect yours.

    Also, don’t care too much about what other people think of you – and of you as a people- especially the West. Respect is key. Command it.


  10. Govar (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

    @Ramesh: A lot of things you say is pretty much opposite to what I generally hear from people. You are probably the first one to say Chennai is losing to identity to Western/North-Indian lifestyles. If at all Chennai can be accused, it can only be accused for being so unimaginably insulated – which is something people who haven’t been in the place would find really hard to understand.

    About the Non-Tamil people with whom you’ve conversed outside India, I’m sorry my friend – You’ve conversed with all the wrong people. Really matured people never make fun of other cultures. That takes a real lot of maturity and a very open-mind. I don’t know about you, but I comfortably numb to people griping about cultures – every culture has evolved in a certain way, and there are positives and negatives. Making fun of culture is sheer immaturity, if anything.

    Take it easy pal!


  11. Madras Lungi (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 2:33 am

    IMHO TN is the worst state in India. People don’t have guts to question anyone. They can adjust. They give up their language, culture, curd rice !

    AH – Politicians , movies ( 60 year old heroes dancing with 20 year olds). No water to wash the a**es, noone to complain.


  12. Madras Lungi (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 2:34 am

    IMHO TN is the worst state in India. People don’t have guts to question anyone. They can adjust to anything. They give up their language, culture, curd rice !

    AH – Politicians , movies ( 60 year old heroes dancing with 20 year olds). No water to wash the a**es, noone to complain.

    Go to the slums all around India – It will be a majority tamils. Why is it?


  13. ramesh (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

    Thankyou to all for your feedback however why is it that in media reports and radio shows and programs not in India always show that Tamil is a dieing a slow death? Why are they saying the youth of TN prefer to speak English? Can anybody explain that because these reports the person making these comments is from TN themselved they reside there these comments are not made by NRI’s.


  14. tsk tsk (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

    @ Ramesh

    These are reports/comments based on the rhetoric of politicans, and have little or no factual data to back them


  15. Govar (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

    Raise hand. I give up.


  16. arjun (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

    What an inordinate waste of time!Devoted to an arguement that can’t hold itself together.

    It would be slightly ridiculous to hold on to a particular tradition ( and i don’t mean a particular ‘culture’) if it doesn’t find consonance with the very people who are supposed to be its custidians. These are things that are constantly evolving and changing.Admittedly not to everyone’s liking. We should all take ourselves less seriously.



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