Culture is one of the most misunderstood terms.  Even within India, there are so many cultures and sub-cultures.  Each and every State has its own culture.  And within each State there are customs, norms of behavior, language dialect, etc., which are very unique.

Unique, such cultures should always be.  It is rather dangerous to attempt to change any culture.  In fact, it should always be appreciated that the uniqueness of each culture is important and should be preserved.

There can never be an excuse to change any culture.  Let the culture always be unique, in terms of whatever it is, at the moment.  Only if the people themselves want to change their culture, any attempt to change their culture should be made.

Uniqueness in everything

Let us understand what we mean by uniqueness.  For instance, there are definite ways in which people dress, live and interact with each other.  This is very unique.

For example, in Kerala, the Indian State with the highest percentage of literate people, the ladies always apply a good amount of coconut oil to their hair.  Not only this, each and every family in Kerala believes in natural care for minor ailments, and coconut oil is even used for cooking.  The people are very neat and this can be seen in the way the men wear their dhoti ( a traditional dress of Kerala), or women wear their saris. A sari is a very elaborate dress, and is common to most parts of India.  Yet, the way people in Kerala wear them is very unique.  For example, most of them wear the white color sari. Men often prefer to wear only dhotis.  In fact, only when they go to the formal organizations or are highly educated, men like to wear formal dress, and get dressed up the way others in other big cities would.

Food is largely non-vegetarian, as most of Kerala people like to feast on such food.  In fact, except for a few areas in every city, where it is common to find pure vegetarian restaurants, it is not at possible to find a single restaurant where both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is served in the same place.

Except for big cities like Kochi, Trivandrum and Kozhikode, the apartment culture is yet to catch on.  People prefer to live in only very big houses.  Only those in the lower middle class or poor classes live in smaller houses.  The service sector is a huge contributor to the economy, and tourism related service sector is even more pronounced.  Huge industries in Kerala find it very difficult to handle militant trade unionism, and hence do not find a place in Kerala.

In the neighboring State of Tamil Nadu, people believe in the power of the Almighty more than anyone else in India.  Even in the capital city of Chennai, which is India's fourth largest city, there are any number of temples, and each temple has its own unique festival at some time of the year, when the religious offerings to God will go on for even three full days.  In fact, there is a tremendous amount of harmony between people of all castes and communities, during this period.

Of late, people of all castes and communities have started to study very well,  and those in the IT industry do not hesitate to go abroad, and acquire very good qualifications, particularly from the United States of America.  In fact, Tamil Nadu is one State with the largest pool of highly qualified and experienced people in most professions.  This is the reason why many multinationals prefer to come to the State to set up their own industries.

Cut to the North of India.  The people here are more risk taking, they borrow heavily from banks, and businesses are very wide spread.  For example the people from Punjab have set up many industries and are highly enterprising in terms of their attitudes and risk taking ability.

Unity in diversity 

In India, there is always unity in diversity.  This is the way it should always be.  However, if people of a particular culture want to assimilate some cultural aspects of another culture, those belonging to the particular caste or community should not stand in the way.  

The best example of this is to note the Tamil community in New Delhi.  Irrespective of caste or community, those from Tamil Nadu, who have stayed in the Capital of India for over ten years, behave like the Punjabis, dress like them, and speak Hindi, in exactly the same way the Punjabis would.  

For example, the ladies do not hesitate to wear the sleeveless blouses with saris, in exactly the same way the local ladies would.  They prepare the same kind of vegetarian dishes at home, and are fully assimilated into the local culture, even in terms of observing the local festivals.

However, there are still some families who prefer to stay aloof.  They are not so much bothered about assimilating themselves.  This is as it should be, as no attempt should ever be made to impose any culture on any one.

Only when people appreciate the uniqueness of different cultures, there can be unity.  This even applies to festivals, ways of praying to God and the like.  

In fact, there are some books in various languages that speak about the uniqueness of different cultures.  These books should be made to get circulated in a big way, and translated into different languages, including English.

Culture is the only binding force in India.  Let us learn to appreciate the differing aspects of every culture and let the same culture prevail for any length of time. 

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