15 August, 2019
Prakruthi Chari, from Sri Kumarans Children's Home, Bangalore
Language is made up of a set of alphabets and rules, but there is no end to the millions of words and sentences and stories that it creates. The rules do not restrict the language; without them, the language would not exist, would not make sense.
In much the same way, I believe being rooted in heritage and respecting traditions doesn’t stop me from being the person I want to be: it just makes sense of the mass of possibilities the world offers.
It is strange how quick we are to dismiss traditions and ancient wisdom as being equivalent to outdated, when in reality, they are as relevant today as they were millennia ago. When I hear the stories from the Ramayana, for example – the grief of Dasharatha, the sly deception of Manthara, the playfulness and loyalty and devotion of Hanuman, the fierce love and protectiveness of Rama for Sita, the brotherly affection between the four princes – are they not emotions that we all feel and witness? The questions raised, of our purpose, our duty in society, our dharma; of morals we must adhere to and painful choices we must make-are they not questions we ask ourselves every day? I find a relief, a release, in knowing that I am not alone in these thoughts, and that I can seek refuge in answers that have stood the test of time.
Being rooted but free is like the rhythm underlying music-any music, whether the strum of a guitar or the strains of a flute. The rhythm, the tala, is always there; you can dance around it, slip in between the beats, half notes, quarter notes, be a split second late or early, but you always return to the basic beat.
When I go for a Konnakkol class, and play the guitar and keyboard the same day; when I can chant beautiful verses of the Vishnu Sahasranamam in the morning and listen to the Moonlight Sonata at night; when I can feel the blood and hear the battle cries of our history, and hear with awe the tales of the ancient rishis and devas, with as much interest as I would a fresh novel: that is when I feel how deep my roots go, even as the branches creep out.
I may love to light lamps at Deepavali, and draw kolams on the ground outside my grandparents’ house, but that does not make me any less modern. I love neuroscience and mathematics, and that is perfectly compatible with the fact that I am an Indian and a Hindu and a girl, because that is the beauty of our culture.
I want to be a person who can flaunt a sari as well as a suit as well as a t-shirt and jeans. I want to be a person who can switch between her native tongues and English and other languages, and who speaks every one of them with equal fluency, and more than anything, with pride.
Being proud of who you are is something we keep talking about, but when it comes to the crunch, people believe that it goes against the ‘globalist’ view to be proud of our traditions.
When I was born into this great Indian tradition, I was not born with chains; I was born with a gift, the gift to, like a kite, fly wherever the winds take me, but, like a kite, be kept safe from being torn apart in the gale by the string rooting me to the ground.
Being traditional is not being backward or narrow-minded or any of the other negative connotations associated with it. I feel like the current view on what is “cool” is a new kind of peer pressure, with Indians somehow believing that they must conform to the standards and culture of their Western peers to be accepted. That to be cool is to be Western, that to be educated is to be able to speak in English, is a lie society feeds us, but I don’t buy it.
I do want to learn from the rest of the world, to take the best from every corner of human history and to paint my canvas with rainbow colours from a thousand cultures. But I will never deny that, to me, the most beautiful colour will always be the one that I can claim as my own, the one that truly belongs to me.
Being rooted but free means, to me, that I can travel the world, and sail many seas, but what makes me the happiest is to know I have a harbour to come home to, and an anchor to keep me from being blown away. To know that I will be held safe by a grounding rod, even as I shine with a billion volts of electricity.