Tadition and Modernity Essay

21061 Words Nov 28th, 2013 85 Pages
Tradition And Modernity

In the instinctive mode of western scholars, I had once thought of Tradition and Modernity as individual chapters, each of them thinking about its topic as an entity to be understood in its respective essence and unity. But I have come to understand in perhaps an equally perennial move by western students of Indian culture that these two terms do not in themselves exist. But they do function, dialogically. They work in relation with each other. Modernity functions as an economic and social tool to achieve some wealth, flexibility, and innovation for individuals and groups; Tradition functions, partly and at times largely, as a mythological state which produces the sensation of larger connectedness and stability
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Even as one considers those abstract systems, one must choose to emphasize either their institutions or their logical or cognitive structures. Putting by for a bit the second, we'll think first about Village, Joint Family, and Caste, the latter being the point at which the distinction fully collapses between "Institution" and "cognitive structure."

"Village India" is both the title of a popular coffee table book and the national shibboleth of self-identity. Why the Village, why so obsessive a return to its troubled texture, to crises for its acharya (teacher), to conflict for its young, to disaster for its women? I think the Village is never real, even for those who work the hardest to evoke what they remember very specifically from their early experiences there. There are, of course, many quite real villages, their populations struggling to resist the false promises of urban prosperity and the deadly lures of cinema life and high tech commodities, struggling for fuel, water, harvests, health, and reprieve from developers and environmental exploiters; down infinite unpaved roads are built structures, small corners of which are glowing in the night with lanterns and candles, its people gathered here, walking there, frozen only when a stranger drives by and mutual stares log away snapshots of scarcely imaginable difference.

But in the mytho-cultural life of the nation, Village is always already a sign for the

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