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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Division or Celebration?

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One advantage of living in college is that there is never a dearth of topic to debate on. At IIMA, student community is permanently connected through a forum platform called Dbabble, which has various sub-forums on topics as formal as academic announcement to as informal as mess food and jokes. Not surprisingly, with over 600 students connected, there is some topic or other which keeps the spirit of campus alive.

At the beginning of each year, when new students join, seniors usually give them welcome treats which are organized informally to increase interaction. Since common identity is important in mingling, treats are structured as dorm treat, IIT Madras treat, Rajasthani treat, Infosian treat and so on. Recently, someone commented that regional treats are divisive in nature and should be discouraged, or should include people of other cultures too. While I admit that letting others experience one’s culture is inclusive and admirable, I am of opinion that sometimes it is necessary to create a home-like cultural ambience to relive nostalgia and pure regional treats, which exclude non-regional members, are good way to do so as long as they don’t create regional politics and divisiveness in the students.

Inclusion of non-ethnic member in a regional treat places many constraints on creating original cultural experience. Biggest factor is language. It is impolite to speak in a language a member of group cannot understand and culture is inextricably linked with language. Another is food preference. External member may find food unappealing and typically requires assistance in understanding menu items. I believe that a person is member of many groups simultaneously and is entitled to that identify since idea of India as "unity in diversity" while places unity first and foremost, doesn’t leave diversity far behind.