SONGSOPTOK: We would like to start this interview with your opinion on the theme of our current issue. Do you think that cultural heritage has a role to play in modern society? Why?

ANINDA: Modernity is a dichotomy & dialectics of current social environment, heritage enshrined & the past upbringing of a human being.  Both are indispensible.  Conflicts occur / emerge, when both differ in approach.

SONGSOPTOK:  How would you define cultural heritage? In your opinion, is it something tangible or intangible? Or is it a combination of both? If so, in what way?

ANINDA:   Cultural Heritage’s ambit is too big.  The whole factor of rationality & tolerance revolves around it.  To tolerate Mr Gajendra Chouhan or not, to allow a TMC candidate as  VC in JU  , to tolerate a Rajakar to survive or  to hang him &  finally,  the beef  / tolerance debate  of India &  Bangladesh  all  emanate from  our  faiths, beliefs &  cultural heritage infused.  In film NH10,  the murderers  in the name of Goth believed  it their sacred duty to uphold  societal & cultural values n  heritage  to slaughter  lover couples from so called  same goth & this is going on in India .  Mukhtar mai of Pakistan is also a live example & we have already discussed Afgan, Irani & Saudi issues, where hibernation n subjugation of women is a heritage asset.  For ages, lower castes remain untouchable; this is also a cultural heritage. Renaissance could not end Satidaho in Rajasthan, nor Sahamaran / Jaharbrata completely. Maybe, religious & ritual angles dominate heredity of culture n cultural heritage. Even dowry deaths are common but  people feel proud  of  giving n taking dowry as a heritage and  Borkha / Purdah / gunghat  traditional  rituals  of  torturing ladies  dominate  and  minor  girls & even boys are married off   incl  Balvivaha  showcased as prize heritage. So, for me, the manifestation of all these is cultural heritage , too tangible.

SONGSOPTOK:  In the country and the society you live in, do you think culture and cultural heritage are important? In what way?

ANINDA:  Even in Europe & US, blacks are subjugated & Hispanics.  Why?  There are traditional heritage tags. Christianity is more equal as a religion than others, in written / unwritten laws & customs of lands. In Ireland, no abortion is allowed & in likewise countries no divorce is allowed too. 3 Talaqs & 3 marriages as per Shariat fetch too much turmoil n trauma for ladies.  In my society, simply going by attire a woman is judged as unethnic / post-modern & even immoral tag is attached.  Females participate in such subjugation process of women more than males. I reside in an industrial (steel) township in Karnataka & I had lived in Jamshedpur n Durgapur.  Industrial & academic progress does not necessarily denote cultural emancipation. Hatred & criticism & mudslinging remain part of cultural heritage & right of heritage keepers of society.  But , yes, freedom of speech is more in my society, as fear  of loss of life/ property/ relations / fame is  a bit lesser  in my  immediate society  compared  to my permanent society in Kolkata

SONGSOPTOK:  What, if any, are the outward manifestations of this heritage in the day to day life of the society you live in?

ANINDA:   The way  we believe, a child  is  brought up, a  person is taught up to think &  conceive &  a  young / adolescent person’s  perception of good, bad n ugly  are  framed by the family, the teacher, the elders, the friends &  the  society as a whole.

SONGSOPTOK:  Is culture, in its different components, taught or learnt? Should it, for example, be taught to children? Or is there a different way of transmission of cultural values to future generations?

ANINDA:  As on date, culture is mostly transmitted thru educational / academic or some other (in kind) modes of Imposition.  Being impatient / intolerant, the current genre does not have time to imbibe anything thru strenuous research n practice. From PM to man / lady on street, Man ki baat is a package to show off / sell n market ideas. Gandhigiri in Anna Hazare days became a fad n fashion. May be return of awards was also, over & above political factors, a trend / a practice just taught / imitated.  Hindu / Muslim fundamentalism is also growing thru such teachings in the name of Heritage.

SONGSOPTOK:  In your opinion, can culture be equated to tradition? Or do you believe culture is actually a living thing that tends to evolve over time?

ANINDA:  Culture should not be equated to tradition.  Not that whatever is traditional is not bad, but everything is not too good as well. Unfortunately, it becomes culture to wear suit & tie in an office / party / social club & it becomes culture for a politician to wear a kurta & dhoti / payjama.  Hardly any politician lady would be seen in western attire. Is it culture or is it tradition? Tradition takes form of culture & any lady of middle class drinking in a party is considered bad / outcast.   In fact, by tradition no drinks are generally served in a social party / gathering to any lady, because it is assumed that they won’t take hard drinks. Some tableaus & totems get enshrined in our culture in the name of tradition.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you think that the increasing importance of technology and mechanization of modern society play a significant role as far as cultural heritage is concerned? Does the word ‘heritage’ have any relevance to the society you live in? Can you please give us some examples to illustrate your answer?

ANINDA: Progress is breaking joint families into nuclear ones. And it is  true that  modern men n women are breaking shackles more today than in the past  , when marriages are not working.  Protests are happening more today against atrocities in the name of culture / tradition.  But in US, New Jersey & others, you would find Begalee youth/ children / adolescents of this genre learning Bengali excellence much more than their counterparts in India outside Bengal.  The Durgapujas of today’s Bengal are much more ethnic, traditional & heritage-linked than 20-30 years back, when we grew up.  So, technology has made us more impatient n less tolerant, but heritage is very much there. Even rock n blues culture or pop n disco culture is not devoid of heritage values. Well, if you  feel, these  new age  lifestyles  are  not heritage linked, then , well, tradition n heritage are fading  in places where even western cultures  are post modern and even sex change, gay / lesbianism/ live together  are  untraditional  creation of new heritage values for coming centuries.

SONGSOPTOK:  What, if any, are the impacts of your own cultural heritage in your very personal sphere? If you live in a multicultural society, how would you analyze the interaction between different cultures?

ANINDA:  In my society, I  , as a rationalist,  do not value heritage & tradition above everything, but yes,  people of  all  faiths , lingua & castes  live  in  this township of Karnataka , and  social mixing , parties, picnics , fests are also  language based .  Cultural integrity & hatred / superiority/ isolation are very much there.  It is hard to break them. But, again, we all mix; children are more matured & are half Bengalee, not knowing Bengali reading n writing; they are more cosmopolitan.  In Andhra, in a Rayalseema small town, I had to learn Telegu; we shifted as Telegu was 2nd language in school & this is a practice in Andhra & Tamilnadu & even Kerala.  In my current society since 2008, I am not obliged to learn Kannada. But our off springs learn all South Indian languages naturally. In songs, dances etc, there is more admixture of classical & hip hop, vernacular n Hindi n English.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you believe that you have to stop being traditional – that is, give up some of your beliefs and practices in order to be ‘modern’? Or do you think that there is no incompatibility between the two? What is your personal experience?

ANINDA:  Modernity is not in dress code & cosmetic.  I feel, scientific reason analysis should be the basis.  To me, Pramod Dasgupta / Saroj Dutta/ Anile Devi were much more modern than us. Commune live together aspect was practiced by Azizur & Manideepa. They were too progressive.  Not that  I have to  leave sacred  thread or  stop worship / namaj  just like that , or  a lady should  go without her  vermillion / sankha / pola etc.  But I must be able to justify my action.  I asked my wife, whether she believed in wearing these as proofs of marriage & she said, no.  I asked her never to put on these unless she believes & she has not done so.  I have asked my daughter to marry any guy she likes, from any lingua / religion / no religion. Even, I asked her to marry a girl if she likes it better.  Question is what I can rightfully justify as correct & not what my dad/mom taught me.  NOTA were not practiced in elections earlier, but nowadays many practice it. Are they all Maoists? Certainly not. Whatever traditional must be reasoned by us & if justified, must continue.  My wife wears saris & westerns alike irrespective of social / family gatherings.  One should not fear, who shall censor what.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you believe in ‘cultural imperialism’? What is your personal experience? In this context, do you believe that the world is increasingly becoming mono cultural based on the principles of the modern society?

ANINDA:  World is not mono cultural, or at least I could not understand the query. Cultural imperialism may be tried by Hindu radicals & Muslim radicals. But, like Hippi culture did not embrace the world, neither a typically 100% western culture could convert the whole of Indian youth. All faiths, art, cinema, drama, songs, music, dance & all forms shall flourish.  History has to inculcate Hindu thoughts but cannot be rewritten by a BJP govt. That shall not succeed / work. Cultural Revolution of China has not been a resounding success, follies are out. Churches are back in Russia, but no imposition on rational thinking must happen. Plurality shall definitely persist and flourish.

Aninda ghosh: is an aca, brought up in a ghoti family, where father’s side tree is too little known but his mother’s side is from Sushovan Sarkar heredity. He leaned to leftism in youth & after so many years of corporate life, still remains a staunch believer in rationalism. To him, pujas are social functions in heritage & temples, architectural wonders. His wife; a famous poet of Bengal, according to him- is more spiritual & less religious than him  &  too modern but  lover of heritage art , culture & the traditional values.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.

Aparajita Sen


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