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Cosmopolitanism October 13, 2005

Posted by Nilesh in Uncategorized.

What is cosmopolitanism?

I have been poring over this question for some time now in an attempt to identify the kind of person I want to be.

By birth, I'm a Maharashtrian. Regarding religion, I'm agnostic with an inclination towards atheism and I believe men can do without religion(This would need a different post though). On the linguistic front, I'm as comfortable with English as with my mother tongue, Marathi, mostly preferring English over Marathi in daily communication. I speak more-than-decent Hindi although I cannot claim any mastery over it.

Let us, for the moment,consider cosmopolitanism on a national rather than on a global level.
What does it take to be a true Indian cosmopolitan person?
What are his traits? Where are his roots?

As we are aware, India is full of diversity. We have, to name a few, Maharashtrian, Punjabi, Tamil, Gujarati, Bengali people in this country. Each culture is as diverse as it is distinct. When such people flock to the melting pot of our country,Mumbai, what characteristics do they take on and give up to come out as a true cosmopolitan people?(Even though I live in Pune and love it,I do believe that Mumbai is the only true cosmopolitan city in India. Bangalore, to an extent is and most other cities do have their own cosmopolitan pockets, but nothing truly as cosmopolitan as Mumbai).

Every culture in our country, obviously with exceptions in each of them, has its own distinctive traits. for eg, on an average, the South Indians are a brainy lot, the Delhiites are smart and also political(it follows, what with Delhi being the capital of the country), the Gujaratis have an acute business sense and are
vivacious, the Bengalis are a passionate lot,in the forefront in literature, music, art of any kind and strikes:-), the Punjabis live life king size, are boisterous and large-hearted people. The Maharashtrians are a very simple people, content with what they have, not very ambitious but at the same time very good-hearted.

I know that the solution is to choose for myself, characteristics from different cultures I deem appropriate and live life accordingly.

Over the past two years, in my attempts at being a cosmopolitan person, I've come to reject most of the typical Maharashtrian characteristics. Reiterating just one more time that there are exceptions, I have observed that on a scale of tastefulness towards life, the Maharashtrians are below average. The best of Maharashtrian food is not very rich in nature. The choice of clothes is mostly simple, going with the nature of the people. Having had first hand experience with my family and relatives, I've seen that the attitude is to spend or invest money or time in anything only when it really is unavoidable and a necessity. I'm noting some of the downsides here only to emphasize the traits I've rejected. However, I was startled when I realised that, in this process, I might end up with none of the typical Maharashtrian attributes within myself.

That is what has got me to ask the question at the top of this post. I am not very comfortable in completely giving up my Maharashtrianness in this process. Frankly, I would not do it. I do not wish to give up my roots for the purpose. But then, will I ever become a true cosmopolitan person with the regionality intact in me?

I'm sure cosmopolitanism does not mean giving up any semblence of your roots. There is fine line between how much of your roots should and must be alive within you and how much of national common culture should you follow.

Given that, it brings me to the question as to what quality of Maharashtrian culture can I leave intact? Most people do find me a nice, good-hearted person(I've not been able to squash that image yet:-)), but,unfortunate as it is, I'm not sure that is a virtue anymore. I'm not sure that wont be harmful to me in the long run. Maharashtrian people are also quite accomplished in art, especially literature, music and theatre. Something I can carry along with me. Also, I would want to continue with a healthy usage of my mother tongue, Marathi. I am trying to identify more such qualities.

I believe in taking informed decisions and I do wish to be a true cosmopolitan person.Hence this exercise.

I think the same thing,on a larger scale, applies on a global level.
In my next step, as a global individual, I would need to keep some percentage of Indianness as an integral part of myself and choose, from other cultures of the world I would come across, qualities that appeal to me and I would like inculcated.

Wishing myself the best in this quest of mine.

Any inputs?:-)