In search of a common identity

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By: SATYAKAM BHARTI

Neelma

Perhaps for the first time we are experiencing a cultural invasion in Himachal from within, which seems to be threatening our identity as never before. And it is coming riding the wave of infotainment being bombarded in every possible wavelength of inducement.

Though the problem seems to be universal in nature with the concept of a global village proving itself true with every passing day, there are still many local factors that we Himachalis alone would have to tackle.

Keeping aside the question of identifying ourselves as a nation, which at best has been defined as multiculturism, we have been experiencing another identity crisis, this one of accepting a common minimum sub-culture to meet certain requirements of a certain geographic identity. The upper-lower debate still divides us politically, but cultural integration is something even politics has no control over. Rather, its commerce that’s forging the state, not because each sub-culture in the state has something to offer to other sub-cultures, but because there is demand and supply of popular culture for purely consumerist purposes, for which an entertainment industry has come up in the state, though still in its nascent state.

That could mean a lot for a state where the local dialect changes after every 50 kilometers and where tribal cultures inhabit a sizable number of land area. The forces at work making this integration possible, of course, are operating through various mediums of mass communication, mostly through the cable network and somewhat through print media too. It is almost impossible to avoid the Pahari-Hindi remixes, just the way it is impossible to avoid the reprocessed Hindi popular culture. But what is interesting here is the fading away of boundaries within the sub-cultures in Himachal, as is being depicted in music audios and videos shown on cable networks in the state. However absurd it may look, we cannot overlook the group of Lahauli teenagers dancing to an improvised version of Kangri folk dance or for that matter any such combination being tried out by behind-the-scene producers.

The logic for them seems simple. It would take a lot of time and money to depict it right; instead they opt for the easiest way out to create an allusion of synthesis. And even if that is acceptable, the most appalling thing is the quality of these productions. Are we so impoverished intellectually not to be able to produce some meaningful and ‘actually’ entertaining stuff? We may be new to television but that does not mean we need to start from scratch.

And a Kinnauri folktale would still remain to be a Himachali folktale even without using a Mandiali setup. Let’s preserve the essence of our culture, individually, to save our Himachali identity.