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Published on 19th July 2017

Understanding India

It is interesting. The Chinese are given their heritage in China. The Egyptians in Egypt. The Romans and the Greeks in their spaces. The Mayans and Sumerians. And, the Arabs... all of them are given their place in the world.

But the Indians? The Indians migrated from elsewhere. They are foreigners who left no collective trace of their knowledge from where they came, but who have put it all into a place they migrated to and made it India [ or the narrow strip around a river Indus from where they spread according to theories], which has everything the world can ever dream up except that it is not native to the land but from outside. The natives were all dark-skinned barbarians who were influenced suddenly by the outsiders, to the extent that they came up with an independent language, architecture, music and nautical skills that were different from the invaders but inspired by the wisdom from the strangers who walked into their land...Sounds illogical? It is the accepted versions, disputed at times but unresolved...The easiest explanation would be if the Indians had been aliens. Then they would have found their place in the world easily. But, even that does not answer all the questions very well.

Everything in India is credited to a so called migration from the outside... but the interesting thing is, nowhere in the world other than India, do we find it all existing other than in India. And yet, it is always shown as from outside India, as though, it is impossible to have emerged from here. The Indians themselves cannot believe their own place in the world, defensively claiming its story and place from others, who grudgingly or magnanimously give it its due.

And yet, India has the most complex ancient languages - one dead and one still alive and still spoken in so many places of the world. We have unearthed cities that show city planning that is an urban planner's envy, we have the most complex epics that have every form of narrative ever possible woven into it, we have the deepest philosophy which quantum physics is just connecting the dots on, we have introspection and psychology that is unparalleled, we have astronomy, treatises on medicine, complex architecture with detailing that can only be termed insane (and lasting over centuries) all around us even now, we have music that is extremely nuanced still alive and thriving over centuries, we have complex mathematical concepts woven into our music, we have books that detail sex to architecture, to the arts to even the science of appreciation and what it is to be an audience, we have the longest poems and the shortest ones weaving all concepts that any one can dream of, we have medicine and well being that is a fad across the world (which is extremely integrated) but still beneficial even at its most distorted form, we have super foods that are part of everyday cuisine tossed carelessly in, we have everything here except credentials and acknowledgement on the world's terms... India would have found better acceptance as a dead culture. Unfortunately, it is a living one.

It is too much to comprehend or take in. Even Indians cannot. It is like the entire world has poured itself into India - such a confused mix of past, present and future, all interwoven in a fabric that is impossible and too brilliant to even exist. But, it exists. The only way to stay sane with a concept like India is to negate it or chew it in small portions based on how the world has been taught to chew. Because accepting it in its fused totality is too complex for the human mind. Most things I have described above, are all around one even now... they are part of everyday life, not what one sees in a museum. India is a living museum that has survived with its all. The world has never something like this. Never will. There is no other example to go by.

Ideally, India should have been forgotten as an ancient culture taking its place amidst the old, forgotten places of the world. Or, like a China embraced the new, completely forgoing much of its history. But, India attempts to take it all along. All this, along with the parameters that the world understands and now measures life by. India is a fused living reality of the past, present and future.

That is why we still have to fight for our space in the eyes of the world for our history even in the present. Because no one has answers for a concept called India. Not even the Indians can fully comprehend what runs in their blood and what we carry, with or without awareness. We do not have to search for fall of super powers. We have that too here. We are a super power that has fallen so low, that we have forgotten it all.

The only credentials we have now is the population that we own - as potential markets for the world's greed. And, from that trading point, we are painstakingly laying our claim to our place in the world - as an emerging super power, a dirty developing country or a country that is still to get its due based on the parameters the world now holds important.

Every 100 meters there is an India to learn from. And, as you start pulling at the threads, it brings all of it along ... until the mind boggles. That is why it is the Incredible India. The impossible India. And, yet it exists. And, that is why the Indian mind can think up method in the madness in a way the world can never understand. The madness of being Indian is in our blood. And, no amount of data or mapping can ever do justice to it or make full sense. 

We are a living, breathing entity carrying the collective wisdom and chaos the world can scarce comprehend. It is impossible to explain or encapsulate. It simply is. And, because it exists, the world will one day learn to understand it. And, stop stealing its originality and rebranding it with a western flair or name.

- Srividya Srinivasan 19/7/2017

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