The Twentieth Century

Here in India, we love the West. And by West, I mean the Western culture — or what we think we know about it. As technology crossed the seas and landed the television in an otherwise untelevised society, we became adept at making Friends our weeknight companions. We went from staring at stars in the sky to staring at stars on the screen.

While we indulged in “Seinfeld” and “The 70s Show,” and laughed at Homer’s jokes, the British came over telling us to “Mind Your Language.”

And we thought that was funny. Every time a funny episode aired, we’d huddle around and gape at white women sporting little black dresses and short shiny skirts. And as time went by, it didn’t feel awkward anymore. The white men in the sitcoms didn’t think it weird, so perhaps it isn’t.

Our women tried fancy clothes and our men tried perfumed sprays. Oiled hair became gelled hair, and the once turmeric-clad skin now looked “up to ten years younger.”
Thirteen-year-old girls went to school instead of their mother-in-law’s house. They learned to do their homework rather than their home work.

India — or a part — of it, saw a whole new world blooming under the influence of the West. There was a time when we got goosebumps as the hero and heroine made eye contact, but now, not even public display of affection (or PDA!) makes us flinch.

And we have fewer 19-year-old mothers cradling 2-year-old children. The system of the woman in the kitchen and the man on the porch reading a newspaper made less sense to a breed of youngsters born in a new era.

We’re now in a world of promise and freedom of thought. From being a suppressed generation of youth, we’ve embraced the wisdom that came with booze and books. We learned, and we craved for more. We adopted new ways and gave way to newfangled emotions.

We fell in love with the modernity that the West showed us. And we shunned the peculiarity that home instilled in us.

From being a society that had its eyes cast down, we began looking up at others. We started talking to the others, dating, falling in love, and did everything else we hadn’t heard of before. Arranged marriages are no longer the norm. We’ve dabbled in life and experienced things we’ve seen only in sitcoms before, like nuclear families, sex before marriage, pregnancy before you’re ready, miscarriage, abortion, divorce, and — distortion of reality.

We thought we had become forward. We thought we had it all figured out. We thought we’d become trendy folks, that we’re revolutionary, that we’d gained the right to free speech and opinionated blog posts.

We love the West because we think it changed our thinking.

It didn’t. The West changed our thinking about thinking. We think we’re more open-minded and free . We live in fallacy. Because, every day, at least one person undergoes harassment and abuse because of our “modern thinking.”

It’s not the fancy skirt, and it’s not the drinking. It’s the thinking.

We’ve adopted many important practices from the West, but we missed the vital ones. Sex is fine but talking about it isn’t. We don’t have sex education in school but encourage aborting unwanted pregnancies. We say love is universal but *gulp* men holding hands? We talk about the wage gap in careers and ignore the chore gap at home. We think like the West, and we stop at thinking. Thinking is no good unless we do something.

It’s the twenty-first century. But for most of India, it’s still the twentieth. We’ve moved on from vintage to montage, but most people live under taboos and traditions. We’re nowhere close to the West of twenty years ago. We are not modern. We just live in a fake version of reality that we created to feel good about ourselves.

Even though we haven’t moved on since Friends, the world has. Sure, technology will bring us closer to the West, but we need more than ideal ideas and tall talks.

Otherwise, we’re just a powerful society clueless about the power they hold.



    1. Thank you, Linda.
      I hope my narrative hasn’t been off-putting. India is a beautiful country to visit and you’ll have a great time here. Please write about it, too. I’d love to read what you think of India.



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