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?  

KOLPITA: Yes. Cultural heritage has a role to play because that keeps your identity intact when everything falls apart.   

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? 

KOLPITA: Culture heritage is tangible and intangible at the same time. Our food habits, history, literature, art & architecture and science shape us and the society we live in. These things are highly tangible. But the way we perceive them individually is intangible. Both co-exist.   

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

KOLPITA: India is a land of rich cultural heritage and traditions. It is a land of 33 million gods and goddesses. It is a land of multiple faiths and  traditions. So each person or a community practices his/her faith and maintains the tradition as per the community he or she belongs to. Likewise, India has see an influx of rulers from all parts of the world. This has given rise to multiple cultures and has ornamented the country with a rich heritage. This has over the time defined the cultural heritage of India.   

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

KOLPITA: Of late, we are getting to see of a dominant culture pervading Indian society. I am talking of the Hindutva culture that essentially has its roots in RSS, the cultural organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. This culture believes in  vegetarianism and maintaining some regressive traditions. This is most unfortunate since India is a land of multiple cultural heritage and faiths. Our constitution allows all religions and cultures to co-exist peacefully. It's not that the people of our country openly accepted other faiths and cultures. But no other ruling party so openly endorsed a  tradition in the name of culture.  This is most unfortunate.   

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you believe that culture, in its different components, is 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?  

KOLPITA: There are two ways of teaching children. One is through assimilation and the other is through forced methods. The first one is a more successful approach as it slowly influences a child who learns while watching his/her environment. The other is through coercion where a child is forced to learn. S/he grows up learning things and assimilating culture in a tough way, thinking this to be a natural way of life. This is predominant in militant cultures.   

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?  

KOLPITA: Culture keeps evolving with time. This evolution keeps it vivid. Culture is a manifestation of a human being's intellect. Tradition tends to be regressive.   

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you think that the increasing importance of technology and mechanization of the 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? 

KOLPITA: Heritage always plays a key role in any society. Mechanisation and scientific evolution of society and the modern man and woman have given  a new vent to culture.  For instance, cinema in the late 19th and the beginning of the 20th century gave a new meaning to culture. It created a new form of art. Internet has created a new culture of social media interaction which is also giving vent to new thoughts and ideas. All these are cultural manifestations.   

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?  

KOLPITA: In a multi-cultural society such as ours, we have always mingled and intermingled. We have taken and  imbibed things that  have shaped our culture and society. The way we dress today, our eating habits, our languages are a big example of how we have imbibed other cultures. For instance, Bengal --- the state I belong to, has seen the amalgamation of several cultures and languages. The modern Bengali language is laced with Portuguese words.

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?  

KOLPITA: I have said that tradition is regressive while culture is a manifestation of the intellect. What you are calling tradition is also a manifestation of culture. I essentially practice what I believe in. That is my culture. And I believe in peaceful co-existence of all.   

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?  

KOLPITA: No I don't believe in cultural imperialism. There can never be a dominant culture. Every time some one tries to dominate, it will lead to unrest and revolution.   

KOLPITA believes in freedom and freedom of expression. She believes that every culture is unique, special and important. Culture, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.

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



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