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The face-off between tradition and modernity in India


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Indian culture has incorporated a colorful variety of traditions and customs for hundreds of years. Even now, the values and norms of Indian culture play a significant role in Indian society. Especially for women there are more stringent rules, because they symbolize the honor of their families.

I was born and raised in Germany, but the values and norms of Indian culture and Hinduism were always important to my parents. I went to school here and attended the University of Bonn. For me, both cultures are a part of my identity and I am glad to have grown up with two cultures, because both cultures enrich my life a lot.

When it comes to my personal values and standards, then I tend more to my Indian side. To me the values are more important, because otherwise I have the feeling I would deny my origin.

Every second year I spend the summer holidays with my family in Chennai. To my parents it has always been very important that we visit our family in India, because they do not want my brothers and me to forget our roots. I think that has also contributed a lot to my own values.

Although I have traditional values, people in India still treat me like a tourist. If I have a conversation with young people they are usually shocked by my traditional views. They think I only go to parties, drink a lot of alcohol, smoke cigarettes and have many relationships.

This is the image which people from India have in their minds if you say that you were born and raised abroad. It is a typical stereotype that is anchored in people’s heads. If I explain to them that I am not like what they think I am, they say, they thought I would be as modern as all Europeans.

But what exactly is modern? Is it modern, if one leads a life without values and norms? I think the term is often not defined properly. I understand by the term modern to be part of a civilized society and to be open-minded.

My friends in India told me that it has become normal in big cities for people to be in relationships and live out their love lives in public. The youngsters want to enjoy their lives and want to get rid of the strict rules of society. It is not that the Indian traditions do not mean anything to them, but they find the western way of life more attractive, because they do not want to miss out on anything. Of course there are also plenty of young adults who follow strictly the rules of Indian culture. But I find it interesting that in a country, where so many established taboos exist, young people are starting to break the rules.

Generally speaking every person must find the right path for them and I realize that there is no use of values and norms if you do not believe in that and society imposes them. But the most important thing is that you believe in what you do and have a clear conscience.

Author: Shanjanaa Soundharajan

Editor: Grahame Lucas

Shanjanaa Soundharajan is a 21-year-old student, who studies Asian Studies with a focus on South Asia in Bonn. As the daughter of South Indian immigrants who came to Germany 30 years ago, she has a foot in both German and Indian culture.


20.10.2014 | 13:06