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Editors posted on 8th August

By Kriti Gupta

We are a nation of forgetters.

I read that somewhere in a book one time. I inhaled the sentence and allowed it to sit quietly in a forgotten corner of my brain without quite understanding what it meant.

Let me tell you what happened…I slammed full force in to Western culture. Moved to The States. Lived in New York. Went to University and learned about curious creatures like fall and snow and spring break. Things that sounded deliciously alien to me. I partook in all the traditions that were not mine.

From a spoiled rich girl who never lifted a finger in her life, I went to cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and {strangely enough} taking pride in my ability to manage my life with no external help. I uncovered the delights of walking freely outside my house, in the dark, in any attire of my choice and using clean loos in public.

Over drinks with newly-made friends, I learned about pop culture and sports. About Casablanca and the genius of Hitchcock. Listened to Christmas music – from Doris Day to Mariah Carey – and saw the pride that Americans took in their history. From intense discussions about the top 100 {American} movies of all time, to heated arguments over the books that made the most impact on 21st century literature, to the importance of Andy Warhol and much much more. The act of discussion, the act of revisiting and rewatching – it was all about who they were and where they came from. The act of remembering.

The deeper I went down the rabbit hole, the more I couldn’t help but compare my limited experience in a curious world to a lifetime in Delhi. Where were our fallen heroes – Like Jim Morisson? Where was my knowledge of Indian black and white movies – with the exception of Mughal-E-Azam? Who was our famous writer that impacted present day writing – Premchand? Tagore? Or Manto? And why had I read them in a language that was mine, even as it would never belong to me?

Why do I write this in English?

We are a nation of forgetters.

We started off pretty well. Oral traditions intact.  A grandmother over the crown of a child’s head, narrating what happened to Holika in the fire. Fathers quizzing us – Bolo kitne teetar? Or singing Anda Chai Garam instead of Vande Mataram. Watching Mahabharata every Sunday morning – a family ritual.

Somewhere along the line, with baggy jeans and jhola-chappals, we learned how everything of importance never happened in India. How the things that mattered were never to be orchestrated by people like us. We forgot Manto and Mirza. We traded Chandrakanta for LOTR, Byomkesh Bakshi for Sherlock Holmes. After all, we tried and tried and tried to be fairer. We tried to sing “We will raack you” to get the accent just right. We stopped watching monkey shows on the street or listening to hawkers trying to sell kulfi or gubbare right outside our houses.

We forgot about qawwali and kabaddi. Forgot why doodh was wonderful. And mera, tumhara sur will no longer milo. We talked like that. Like Jab We Met. In Hinglish. And we were cool to do it. Oh my god! We were so cool.

And slowly, we called our own tragedy India’s 9/11. It needed that comparison; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been tragic enough.

We are a nation of forgetters.

I now know what that means. I realize the potency of hegemony. Even though we have been a free people for over six decades, our minds are still held captive. We look down on ourselves and therefore, allow others to look down on us.

We believe that the best movies, music and books are all created outside India. Movies, books and music that represent people who are “not us”, living in worlds that are “not ours”. By reveling in that belief we hold ourselves inferior. Hatred of Self most often leads to love of the Other.

History is nothing more than the act of remembrance. And by ignoring, negating and belittling our own culture, we erase our history as we live it – one day at a time.

Indeed. We are a nation of forgetters.

About the Author | Kriti Gupta describes herself as a thinker of things. When she was 3 years old, she wrote an ode to her imaginary friends who left her as reality began peeping its way in, and since then she has loved writing. Now she likes to sit with a glass of wine on her fire escape to opine on life and create fictional worlds when she isn't slaving away at being a grown up in the real world.

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