Let’s Fight This Attack on Culture!

By Dr. Shahid Amin

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Cultures have been maintained over the time and it passes from one generation to another. It’s a strong culture that helps people connect with each other and develop rich and peaceful communities, within the same cultural backgrounds. The concept of culture has been defined by experts in a number of ways. It means a certain set of customs, ideas and social behavior of a group of similar people in a society.  It refers to the sum of human beings’ life ways, their behavior, knowledge, language, art, traditions, dress code, morals, beliefs, feelings; it connotes everything that is acquired by them as the vital members of a society. Culture consists of all learned, normative behavior patterns – that is all shared ways or patterns of thinking and feeling as well as doing. Culture is very significant to us because it defines our identity and helps us understand our ancestral values. It’s the culture that gives us the very meaning of life. It is the culture that makes us unique from other parts of the world.

Our Kashmir is a beautiful piece of land on earth. It is popular for its rich culture and a vast treasure of the resources. The people in Kashmir are always known as warm and friendly.  The culture of Kashmir is vast and appealing and it creates a long lasting impression on the visitors to Kashmir. Infact It is the cultural traditions that have shaped an identity for Kashmir.  But there is so much happening around the world and there is an open war against the cultures. Today societies are losing the grip of its rich cultures in the name of modernization and westernization and Kashmir is not an exception to it.

We must revisit the glory and fall of our rich Kashmiri culture. Parents today want their kids to be fluent in English and other languages. The height is that they can take their children to any task if they will talk in their mother tongue (Kashmiri language). Parents today serve rewards to their kids to speak in other languages but feel guilty of their own language. Ah! This is a big damage to our culture first. Let’s speak in Kashmiri with our children and make them feel proud and comfortable. Don’t take panic if children show early signs of weakness in English and other languages. It is natural and while practicing they will eventually develop a good hold over many other skills.  There are some students who start learning other languages at advanced stages in their career and still develop good hold over them. We must use, preserve and be confident of our Kashmiri language.

Our children are the ambassadors and the propagators of our unique culture and identity of our Kashmir. The truth may seem bitter but the future looks dark and bleak. What kind of values and a message our kids are going to preserve with them is a big question? Today our children are caged and imprisoned. We must revisit the golden days when a large number of children in the neighborhood used to play together. They were making lasting friends and relieving their worries when they spent good time together. There was peace, progress and more health in our children. We must revisit the days in Kashmir and find the excitement of the kids when on the occasion of Muharram ‘Doodh Wagrah’ (milky rice) was being served to kids by each family in the neighborhood. Ah! Today our kids are weak and stressed and just confined to a virtual world. It seems our children are living their life in dreams only and not in the reality.

There is more show off and extravagance in our society. There are some rigid families who make others suffer badly in our society.  We must value teachings of our elders that serving to guests is a great deed. But it must not increase our liabilities through our lavish practices. We can please any person with love and care and with the minimum resources in use. We must know that serving best of the things to please any one can’t go well with them when our intentions are wrong. It is sad to see changes in almost every aspect of our culture be it attitude, food habits, dress code, nature, beliefs etc.  We have given a big blow to our day to day life in Kashmir. The ‘Samaavar’ (Kashmiri Kettle to prepare our traditional salt tea and Kehwa) is no more in use and just used as a decorative in our houses. Our rich attire ‘Feran’ (Kashmiri long gown to protect from cold in winter) is now treated as an inferior dress and it has been replaced by jackets and other garments. Our ‘Kangri’ (Traditional Heating pot made of terracotta supported by twigs) has been replaced by the modern heating instruments.  Who is to be blamed for this big loss in our culture is no one other than us?

The belief system in our Kashmir was concrete remarkable. It’s unfortunate to see the alarming and increasing rates of thefts, crimes, killings etc. Moreover the domestic violence cases have been on the rise.  The citizens and the social organizations have a responsibility and need to be active against such acts.  Now we keep our doors of our houses closed and hardly allow our neighbors to visit us.  As we sow so shall we reap is rightly said and we get the same treatment from our neighbors. We were always challenging outside societies for this isolated and individualistic approach. But it is quiet unfortunate that we are also getting trapped into the same practice. We are on the verge of a collapse if some serious measures are not taken to prevent our rich culture in Kashmir.

It is our responsibility to become the brand ambassadors of our Kashmiri culture. I have witnessed some of our lovely Hindu families settled outside and they are the role models and protectors of our culture. My recent visit to a lovely Hindu family in Gwalior caught my attention to see how they are the true brand ambassadors of our Kashmiri culture. They have been living outside for almost three decades now but they have love and care for the language, food habits and dress code of Kashmir etc.  Their Kashmiri attitude is still remarkable. Efforts must be high from our schools, colleges and universities in promoting arts and culture. We should respect and protect our rich monuments in our valley. The need of the time is to set up at least one museum in each district to highlight the rich traditions of our valley. There is a need to promote the cultural industries and focus on its growth and increased employment. A good idea is to promote the cultural heritage tourism and develop the necessary resources to make it flourish.

There is so much to learn from other cultures but it is our moral responsibility to preserve our own. Our rich culture permits us to love and admire people equally from other religions and castes.  It is this Kashmiri culture that unites us towards a common goal of achieving peace and progress. It will serve to link us with our beloved ancestors, which should not be lost. There is a wakeup call to save our culture. Every individual of our society has to contribute to promote it. Our Kashmiris’ who are settled outside have a greater responsibility to win hearts and promote our culture in other parts of the world. There is an open war going on against the cultures in the modern world. We have to be more caring now for our culture before it is late. We have to rise again; work with integrity and revive the glory of our beautiful Kashmir.

Author is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior.He can be reached at: [email protected]

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