Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Two topics of long abiding interest relating to India, which I may explore in greater depth in 2008:

1) Why does there not seem to be a counter-culture in India? Or, specifically, why isn't there a purely cultural counter-culture, a sex/drugs/rock 'n roll/art/fashion counter-culture, whose purpose it is to strike a pose of rebellion? This may seem like a ridiculous statement, but in my limited but not irrelevant experience with India, this seems to be true. There are deeply politicized "counter-culture" movements, steeped in issues as varied as sexuality and gender, to poverty and anti-globalization activism, to regional heritage. But, unlike Latin America, or Eastern Europe, or China, or Japan, or even to some extend, West Africa, in India, there hasn't been an abiding embrace of the global counter-culture (most keenly felt in art, music, and movies) that has maintained a long and evolving monopoly on "cool" (and, therefore, deeply influenced the shape of both mainstream cultural and consumer trends) since the end of WWII.

2) The emergence of a new, influential class of people in the world has been surprising well documented in the media in the U.S. This class of people is the young, independent, technologically-adept, status-savvy young Indian professionals who are in the ascendant in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and on and on. Much richer than their parents ever were, aware (through cousins, travel, and television) of Western style, luxury, and mores, independent and increasingly feeling entitled, the notion that this class will be influential in the next 50 years, and that their influence will be felt globally, has been asserted. What they care about (beyond professional success and status) and how they will exercise their influence is much less certain -- and again, in my experience, the political and social agendas (beyond, simply, success) of these, my counterparts in India, has been underdeveloped. For a middle class that ranks 250 million strong, their values, politics, and engagement will be crucial in positively or negatively influencing issues like poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and public health, both within India, and, since India accounts for a billion people, globally.

I raise both of these issues partly to set the table for further investigation on my part, and partly because, until recently, I have found very few avenues for sounding out these issues. But a new website, www.blogbharti.com, holds the promise of being a locus for opinions from young Indians and non-resident Indians (NRIs), and warrants a few looks...

Who would've imagined, twenty years ago, that a thing called "the Indian blogosphere" would exist? Who knows, twenty years from now, what the relevance of that set of people might be ~ on global politics, on consumer trends, on innovation... that's where I'm going with this!


rone said...

Naturally, i know little about India, but it seems to me a country held together with spit and baling wire, because of the dozens of cultures and languages therein. Other places are far more culturally monolithic, so it's easier to find something to rebel against. How could you tell something's counter-culture in India?

Ritik Dholakia said...

Interesting, but I don't really think that the language, regional, ethnic, religious, and cultural (in a traditional sense) really are what I'm talking about... although when you make me type a list that long, it really is cause for pause.

There is an established mainstream culture that, like much of the rest of the world, values wealth, status, work, family, etc. Not bad things to value, but the things that define the sort of "culture" that the "counter-culture" is counter to... as in lots of other countries, where this sort of counter-culture does exist, in variations, without being specifically responsive to the Frenchness, or the Japaneseness, or the Mexican-ness of the traditional culture.

Admittedly half-baked, but it is an idea that interests me... particularly, as globalization of media and culture has started to see a reverse flow of "cool" things (like movies, music, fine art) from places like Mexico, Argentina, China, Korea, etc., into the American/European mindset, but not the same things from India. India still has its mystic appeal, and an emerging Bollywood appeal, but neither of those things are values for their being "cool."

More on this in a later post, I imagine.

Anonymous said...

My first visit to our blog.

Interesting thought but I agree with Rone. There may be more reasons of course.

Other than pointing to a few good blogs I find blogbharti a very boring site.

Anonymous said...

oops- it should have read 'your blog' and not 'our'. Sorry for the typo :)