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On Learning to Be an Indian - Analysis

On Learning to Be an Indian - Analysis

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Published by Shelemiah
A 10-page analysis entitled "Unveiling the Face of India in Santha Sama Rau's On Learning to Be an Indian." It provides an inspection of Hindu culture and tradition through the perspectives of a traditional Hindu, a modern Hindu and a Westerner.
A 10-page analysis entitled "Unveiling the Face of India in Santha Sama Rau's On Learning to Be an Indian." It provides an inspection of Hindu culture and tradition through the perspectives of a traditional Hindu, a modern Hindu and a Westerner.

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Published by: Shelemiah on Aug 13, 2009
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RAVAL, Stephanie R.August 10, 2009III-30 AB/BSE LiteratureAsian LiteratureUnveiling the Face of India in Santha Rama Rau’sOn Learning to Be an Indian
Endowed with richness of culture, India gained the admiration as wellas the criticism of the world. As its face was adorned with the veil of rigidcustoms and traditions, Westerners see the embroidery of strictness andinflexibility resulting to stagnation and poverty. In Santha Rama Rau’s essayentitled “On Learning to Be an Indian,” this veil was lifted up to show theface of India’s culture – a culture of love, of faith, of respect, of strongdisposition and of innate pureness. The soul of the essay wanders around the antagonistic views of aWestern mind to the culture that is enveloping her. Her grandmother, hermother and the writer herself were pivotal figures in the essay. Hergrandmother, whom she called Asha, is the embodiment of traditional Hindubeliefs. Her mother represents a modern Hindu woman who sees Hindutraditions perfectly, but seeks refinement. The writer, whose eyes werecovered by ignorance, is the representative of Western attitude and ideas. The essay involves a battle of perspectives between these three pairs of 
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eyes as they examine Hindu ideas on social stratification, marriage, rituals,role of women, education, joint family system, economy, and progress.Nurtured by a more liberated culture, the writer had difficulties inconforming to the rigid standards that were placed in front of her. Mistakeswere always at her hand and ignorance in her mouth. She delved into everysituation with I-do-not-understand exclamations. Sometimes, even with I-think-that’s-ridiculous thoughts, especially towards the prayers, rituals andcaste marks. Daily rituals and prayers were performed to ensure the generalwelfare of an individual, a group of people or an entire society and as part of one’s dharma. Caste marks, on the other hand, are of spiritual significanceand they were applied in a manner prescribed in the scriptures. The truemeanings of these were unknown to the writer.Because of the writer’s ignorance, problems rose one by one, startingwith her dealings with the servants. One of the most highly criticizedconventions of India is the 3500-year old caste system. In the essay, it isexemplified that servants, who are low-caste people should be treateddifferently by the high-caste Brahmins. They are not equals. The system hasbeen an aberration of the Indian psyche. Asha, who believe in the power of this system, believes that they are ‘united in diversity.’ The Bhagavad-Gita defines the works of each caste: The works of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras aredifferent, in harmony with the three powers of their born nature.
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 The works of a Brahmin are peace; self-harmony, austerity, andpurity; loving-forgiveness and righteousness; vision and wisdomand faith. These are the works of a Kshatriya: a heroic mind, inner fire,constancy, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity andnoble leadership. Trade, agriculture and the rearing of cattle is the work of aVaishya. And the work of the Shudra is service. The Hymn of Man from the Rig-Veda vividly portrays the differentcastes as different parts working together in a single body:When they divided Purusha, how many portions did theymake?What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call histhighs and feet? The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms were theKshatriya madeHis arms became the Vaishya, from his feet the Sudra wasproduced.Giving a human form to the Indian society, it can be said that thepriests and teachers are its expressive face, its guide for Hindu teachings;the warriors and rulers, its protective arms; traders and farmers, itssupporting thighs; and, servants and laborers, its transporting feet.
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