That distorted sense of modernity


Modernity is a term that I encountered number of times. Before I was a student of Politics, I understood modernity in the most lay man terms ... modernity signified progress, development, wealth, accumulation and of course a more westernized sense of dressing! I unlearned all of that when I studied Political Science... modernity meant rationality, logical thought, individuality, freedom of expression and liberty coupled with rights ... makes sense na? Modernity was a colonial gift to India ...something that was thrust upon us by Britishers when we were not ready for it. British imparted modernity by way of opening up centers of education in English language, by inculcating western values and by prohibiting more archaic and traditional laws like Sati and child marriages. However, at the dawn of independence, we emerged as a confused nation choosing to follow the model of mixed economy, choosing to be non-alligned during the Cold War and choosing to continue to follow old British laws which had become redundant. So, a transfer of power occurred from the hands of the 'gora saheb' to the 'brown sahebs' resulting in the continuation of this saheb culture till date (so a police wala, a babu, a minister is a 'saheb' for us). A nation of 'sahebs' was born, a nation which accorded supremacy to those in power even as its Constitution promised equality for all. A nation devoid of social and political justice even as its Constitution in bold letters announced that justice of all kinds was its goal. The point is that we never discovered our own version of modernity, it was thrust upon us by the British and we swallowed it acceptably. In a blind race, to follow the west (which we see as the symbol of modernity), we aped everything that we could from them... their way of dressing, eating, living, reading etc. So, modernity has no Indian version of its. It is only western and it is this western modernization which we feel proud to be a part of.

So modernity is about learning and getting educated in the English language, even as you can't speak fluently in your own mother tongue.

Modernity is about being cool! So lets assume if you are boring, geek, intellectual and choose to lead a serious life - your are not modern.

Modernity most importantly is about revealing - especially your own - so if you don't wear skimpy clothes, prefer to cover yourself up decently and don't dance to wild English songs - you are not modern. So, modernity is not simplicity, it is about showing off what you are actually not.

Modernity is pretense. So be yourself and face the wrath of being called archaic.

Modernity is noise and war - peace is lost!

Being modern is being able to show off and glamorize .. so countries claim to be modern when they show off their huge buildings, fly overs, infrastructure even as they don't feed their poor and provide them with shelter and a life of dignity.

Modernity means more money, corruption, scandals, power.

Modernity means lies and deceit - a failure of ethics.

Modernity means embracing alien cultures - even as you abandon your own.

Modernity was meant to liberate us and turn us into more rationale individuals. It was meant to usher in progress and development. The kind of modernity that we are experiencing has worked for some whereas it has miserably failed for the others. Those who live on the peripheral boundaries of society, those who are marginalized and disadvantaged (they may be the Kashmiri Pandits, the Dalits, the poor, the oppressed or even the Khaps), modernity has failed them, precisely because it was never or own version, it was an alien version.

True modernity can usher only if it is our own ...not borrowed!

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