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Culture and its relevance among Youth

Benish: Let’s start with the question, what does culture signify for you, Insha?

Insha: Culture is your identity. What people of a particular place are identified by and known for. It is something that defines you. For example, Pheran identifies with Kashmir and it’s a part of our culture. It represents our beliefs as well.

Qurat: As she rightly said culture is our identity. It packs within itself our past, present and prospects for future as well. Culture is an amalgam of those things which have stayed the test of time and have been carried forward. The defining features of a society comprise culture.

Benish: How important is culture?

Vijdan: It has immense importance. The culture of a place gives it a character. Culture is open to change and acceptance unlike traditions which are simply carried on from one generation to another. To protect your distinct identity, protecting culture is a pre-requisite.

Badr: Culture defines who we are, like I am a Kashmiri. Without culture I am homeless.

Benish: Okay culture is our identity. But why are we losing it then, starting from our language?

Insha: It is sad. The definition of literacy at some places is that you should be able to read and write in your mother tongue. How many of us can do that? I can’t. We are too busy learning English that we are forgetting our mother tongue. Aes chine hekaan amich… aah…ahn.. like we are not able to understand its importance and are not able to value it.

Benish: Proven, you can’t even complete one sentence in Kashmiri.

Vijdan: It is a shame seriously that we know a foreign language more than Kashmiri. I don’t know much of my mother tongue because I have hardly spoken it from my childhood. It begins at school where you are not allowed to talk in Kashmiri. The environment is never conducive for Kashmiri language to prosper.

Badr: True even at home the trend nowadays is that parents ask you to speak in Urdu or English. It’s like we are running anti-Kashmiri campaign in Kashmir itself.

Benish: Qurat, in your age Kashmiri was introduced in schools, did it help?

Qurat: No it was very superficial. Just from fifth to eighth how much Kashmiri could we learn? Also the teachers were not qualified enough and we weren’t taught well. At first Urdu teachers were employed to teach Kashmiri which didn’t help. There is so little scope for Kashmiri. I feel Kashmir is the only place that treats its own language so badly.

Badr: I myself cannot speak well in Kashmiri. That’s how I have been groomed at school and at home. The elders in my family talk in Kashmiri but when it comes to interacting with us the medium changes to Urdu or English.

Benish: All four of you have problem talking in your mother tongue. Sad really. But culture is not only language, it comprises other aspects too like food, clothing etc.

Insha: Yes there is kangri… there is pheran etc. and we are not protecting these things as well. We are replacing these in our lives. We have this herd mentality to follow the West, leaving behind our own distinctiveness.

Vijdan: You are right and we are losing on other things as well. For example, marriages were traditionally held at homes and now we have marriage halls and introduction of buffets. The issue is that our media is not strong enough. There are hardly any print publications in Kashmiri and in broadcast there is just DD Kashir where quality of content is very bad. So what we feel is … jo bahar ka media dikhaye wohi sahi hai and that’s what is trending everywhere. We start aping them in an attempt to become cool.

Badr: Exactly. And while following others we are giving up on our values and identity. Kashmiri culture has hospitality and warmth. Four people eat together in a trami and share a bond. If we cannot preserve it then we are a failed society.

Benish: Talking of aping others. Look at Europe. They have their language, age old architecture and a solid culture in terms of food as well. Why can’t we have it?

Badr: I feel we suffer from an inferiority complex.

Qurat: We don’t imbibe anything good. We are searching for a new identity because we have a crisis with the existing one.

Insha: It all begins at home, in the family where the first word taught is mamma rather than Mouj or mouji. The issue is with us only. Leave Europe, just look at Ladakhis. How culturally intact their society is? Also our generation suffers from a serious disconnect. Our interaction is more online rather than in family or with our culture.

Badr: We take our culture for granted. We have time for English rock songs but not for Rashid Hafiz. We have such strong roots in every aspect but a very weak generation to carry them forward. The disconnect that our generation has with culture is immense and growing each day.

Vijdan: Irony is we know everything but still are not doing anything about it.

Benish: Why is that? Why are we unable to protect our culture?

Vijdan: I feel the reason is everybody thinks, what contribution can I make? For example, if a family decides to make their children talk in Kashmiri, they will think that their children are losing at something, by not learning English as others are.

Badr: Nuclear families are also a reason where one is losing touch with grandparents and traditions and cultures are not being carried forward.

Benish: So what can be the solutions? What can you as youth do?

Badr: We need to balance things. Let’s modernise pheran and kangri and take them forward. We have to take away this stigma that culture holds you back.

Qurat: We can start by talking in Kashmiri among friends. We should use it more in our conversations so that our language gets empowered.

Vijdan: I don’t think that will help. Kitna farak padega. We need leaders to inspire common folks.

Insha: Why not, even one man can change a lot. Changing at individual level can also make a difference.

Vijdan: Media can help a lot by propagating culture.

Badr: Folk art needs to be revived like Bande Peather and dambeal.

Qurat: Schools can help. Keep fancy dress competitions where one has to wear a pheran and use kangri rather than fairy dresses.

Benish: Okay last words from everyone

Insha: Charity begins at home. Get culture into yourself first before preaching.

Qurat: Change today.

Vijdan: Develop pride in your culture.

Badr: I will start speaking in Kashmiri from today.

Benish: That’s a perfect note to end the discussion. Thank you all.

  • Title: Culture and its relevance among Youth
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  • Date: 4:40 PM
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