Change and continuity is the mark of our civilization. While continuity with the past help us to have a strong foundation for our identity as Indians, change opens new avenue to integrate new ideals as part of our civilization. As we often hear that ‘change’ is the only thing remain ‘unchanging’, every new ideas and ideals, however challenge our identity, instead of losing our own past we use their service to express ourselves in new ways. That is why all the new researches and writing however force us to rethink several of our (past) views; they never could uproot our Indian identity in any way.
Take for example ‘caste’ one of the bench marks of our civilization. In spite of new views, interpretations, challenges and even the question of its need and relevance anymore for our social identity in the present trend of internationalism, yet its grip and purpose (both good and bad) remain strong; now serve as a main plot form for the political mobility of so many (caste) groups. Come what may, in spite of all the challenges, this one identity of our civilization will continue to exercise its authority in the coming several centuries. How we will evolve as a distinct civilization is a huge question. But our touch with the past will help us to keep a firm footing to serve (as usual) to the need of not only Indians here in India and outside but also to the entire humanity—to have a meaningful life as human beings for every one under the sun, recognizing some of their legitimate (birth) identity in the new scenario of postmodernity—where difference accepted and pluralism celebrated. On the importance of both past and present Dr. Sen says:
The interpretation of India’s past cannot but be sensitive to the concerns of today. Our identities cannot be defined independently of our traditions and past, but this does not indicate a linear sequence whereby we interpret our past first, and then arrive at our identity, equipped to face contemporary issues. On the contrary, our reading of the past and understanding of the present are interdependent, and the selectional criteria that are central to interpreting the past have to take note of the relevance of the different concerns in the contemporary world. While we cannot live without our past, we need not live within it either.— Amartya Sen, On Interpreting India’s Past. Calcutta, The Asiatic Society, 1996. p.38
October 17, 2012