ingredients for culture

I admire India for how it makes my mind churn into a whirlpool of thoughts and ideas. I know that people who find beauty in its flaws, find a way into themselves.

I travelled through Rajasthan, Jaisalmer - Pokhran - Jodhpur - Pushkar - Jaipur in over a week. I met some wonderful people and learned a lot about my life from theirs. From jewellery craftsmen in Pushkar, pottery artisans and cotton weavers in Pokhran, to an Oud player from Israel, this week has been a gift to me. Thoughts filtered and took shape without me trying very hard. All the reading and random contemplation since months found a direction in this short but memorable solo trip.

I have been reading and reflecting on craftsmanship, storytelling and drifting to arts and sustainability along the way. If India was a subject, it would be hard to give it a label because it teaches life. It is everything excessive, everything lacking, it touches all your sense and I struggle to put it in a sentence. It is art.  

When a place lacks ‘Art’ or the ‘Appreciation for Arts’, it lacks the opportunity for culture. Storytelling and its visual representations along with ritual practices build culture. When you don’t have people to represent a verbal story in a visual form or in ritual, culture will cease at its creation. Culture requires an artistic mindset to express its self. When a place shuts down to artists, its shuts down to expression. Expression is freedom and what is life without it.

People who are not exposed to Art, see very little. These people to their disadvantage have a linear way of thinking. They judge situations easily and stay away from what is different. What is different will often scare them or pose a threat. Whereas people who have seen different are intrigued by the different. They will approach it and try to understand it and maybe eventually accept it.

Indian states like West Bengal and Rajasthan are two places that are extremely rich in arts and crafts. They have a long history of acceptance and explorations with Arts and Crafts, hence their cultural identity is extremely strong. In personal encounters with people from these two states, I have found that them to be very fluid in perception. There is openness in thought because arts are welcomed in the society. And if not acceptance, there is always space for a debate.

Where I come from is Haryana, an agricultural state in India. It has been so busy feeding India post independence that it has not been able to make space for Art. Before Independence, Haryana was the battlefield for many historic battles in Indian history, hence you can hear a dialect here that is more shrewd and harsh in its tone. There has not been much development in the ‘Arts’ front and the existing ‘Crafts’ are slowly dying.

When a place lacks Art, it lacks culture, it lacks fluidity in perception and flexibility in belief systems. Arts and crafts are important in formulating the cultural story of a place. When they die, so does culture and hence the vibrant story of a place and its people.

Storytelling sets the ground work for culture, visual arts, crafts and other forms of expression spread it and finally ritual practices and traditions sustain it.

Civilizations are not remembered by their business people, their bankers or lawyers. They’re remembered by the arts" - Eli Broad