Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Indian Psyche

The conception that we are here just for a while whereas our real abode lies somewhere else is so prevalent in our psyche that it transforms whatever we touch or experience around us.

Our life is but a sojourn to be lived through.

But the westerner treats this earth as the primary. He/She lives here as if the earth was meant to be lived on by them. As if they own it, as if they can transform it to suit their needs, as if to live and enjoy the earth was their birthright.

We however, are guilty about enjoyment, about luxury and seem to think that life is nought but suffering. Our religions bemoan the earthly existence, considering it a stage to be transcended. We have an attitude of "moral superiority" over the western "decadent" cultures but that superiority rings hollow in our behaviour. We Know in Our Hearts that we are an inferior culture, an inferior race, made to serve the masters.

Even when we are rich, we are loath to spend that money. We save because the master's wrath might be just around the corner, and what will serve us through that winter of need? We are sceptical about a continuing prosperity and happiness, and our faces and hearts are twinged with fear and insecurity. There is no exuberance in us, no celebration of existing on this planet. Our lives are a progression of one event after another, of one duty fulfilled and of another waiting...

This contrast between the Indian psyche and the western psyche becomes poignant outside India. It becomes clear that we resent our existence and the existence of our fellow Indians. We recognize the pestilence that is our collective race, and we turn our eyes away from it. When an Indian tries to shed his/her Indian inferiority, we resent him/her for betraying his/her background; but when he/she continues to be an "Indian" amidst other cultures, we bemoan and resent our heritage.

This idea continues most prominently into the sexual sphere. How we make love to each other is symptomatic of this inner disease. It is an act not to be enjoyed but to be gotten over with. Not "recreation" but "procreation", and that too when a child is needed to be brought into the world (or so the Vedas teach us). In Indian cities, courtship and expressions of intimacy are taboo. People do it nevertheless, but what fear of censure! What tense feelings of love being "opposed to society". We are still in struggle with society. And as such, our individual quests have not even begun. The struggle within hasn't started because our energies are spent in struggling to create a space for ourselves in a voyeueristic jungle.

Unable to cope with a vision of our disintegrating selves and of our excuse of an existence, we turn to spirituality, the balm that tells us that to be low and meek is to be exalted, that to be sinful but repentant is to be forgiven, that the greatest victory is over the feeling of being here on earth.

We are not here on earth, we don't want to be, and our woes and wails are the result of it, not the other way round.

Looking down from the window of a Boeing 747-400 airliner, looking at the remarkable planning of western cities, the clean lines and the graceful curving highways, it is clear that we will never reach that level of evolution. Technically we may be able to do things, but we will always be wayfarers on earth, and so doing and demanding the best here will never be important for us.

Our lives are governed by need, not by enjoyment. Even when we are rich.

And that is the essence of poverty.