In a world drowning in materialism, ripped jeans and (ugh) the Kardashians, we find the rich desi culture taking its last, dragged, staccato heartbeats. While the essence of the topic may be wasted among the Millennials, the desi culture is slowly withering because of the media’s freedom, society’s disregard and the evolved thinking of an individual. Furthermore, this notion continues to be a drag as compared to the fast pace of society but is constantly underestimated in terms of its importance.
The desi culture can be defined as the rich and spicy culture of South-east Asian countries – particularly India and Pakistan – with a juxtapose of dark and bright colors making it stand out over the timeline of the world’s history. In countries dwelling in Western and European cultures, this delighted culture continues to be a foreign delight which captures the attention of many, however, when matters target the parent societies of the desi culture, it can be noted that it is not only disregarded but also slowly diminishing.
Any culture, tradition or heritage in any part of the world falls under a canopy of clouds of the media prevailing over the globe as a whole. The desi culture in India or (specifically) Pakistan is no exclusion, either. Compared to the culture shown on broadcast, social or even print media about twenty years ago, desi culture is depicted radically different now – least of which refers to male or female clothing in dramas and morning shows. When the true culture of Pakistan defines close kinship, familial values and issues regarding partition or social Islamic problems as seen in masterpieces like Dhoop Kenare, Alpha Bravo Charlie and Ankahi, the modern, more ‘refined’ culture in the society finds shows portraying the breakup of traditional families, disregard of women and love triangles which is adapted from Western television.
Moreover, the media’s freedom is another contributor to the slowly diminishing desi culture with its array of applications ranging from Facebook to Snapchat. Arguably, the World Wide Web or the Internet as a whole has blasted information, knowledge and a sense of living among the Pakistani society but this can also be taken as a negative connotation because the youth, and in some cases the adults, pick up bits and pieces of what is socially acceptable in the West and bring it to their own lifestyle.
Take in case the example of Snapchat and Instagram, chasms of social acceptance and life goals, where the trend of contouring, striped shirts and dino braids took the world by force. Of course, Pakistan did not lag behind. Hence, the current ‘desi’ culture of Pakistan now includes the existence of three layers of wedding makeup, Egyptian cat eyes and African braids on an average bases. One can argue that the society is being accepting of diverse cultures when, in truth, it is ignoring its own.
Conclusively, the media is one of the culprits because of its encouraging nature and unnecessary showtime to warrant ratings. With its favored ratings of Western cuisines rather than the true desi dhabas and the ‘trendy’ settings of the Wests and Europeans rather than the etiquette and poise extrapolated in the original Pakistani culture, it urges the youth to adapt what is more acceptable globally rather than what is proper.
However, the media – no matter how big of a menace it can be viewed – cannot be blamed entirely for the readiness of society to adapt socialization or foreign culture. Society has the well-known yet ignored trait of adapting that which is new, shiny and adored. This affinity is directed in the Pakistani society the most. Drawing a comparison to the desi vibes Pakistan readily accepted a couple of years ago to the shame it feels in even admitting to like it is a hint to where it is headed.
The disregard of the society in question can be widely associated with its shift in clothing, architecture, traditions, norms and even language. While the desi culture shares a richness of bright colors, extravagance and ostentatious articles that are still seen in some parts of Pakistan, it continues it be overshadowed by the likings of the favor of the West and Europe.
Clothing, which has become a controversy in Pakistan, has changed considerably in the nation. Gone are the desi clothes which referred to loose clothing, open stitches and long dupattas and here are the trousers replacing shalwars, short scarves replacing dupattas, scantily clad shalwar kameez and the overall dress shortening and tightening to an alien extent. Desi is now only restricted to wedding dresses, if that.
Weddings, now that the topic has arose, are part of the depression and decline of desi. The occasions of matrimony are a whole different story. While desi is deep-rooted and bursting in Pakistan weddings, it has revolutionized with a Western touch. Dresses are no longer dreamt of being heavy or gaudy and are aimed to be shorter and more revealing. Moreover, the traditions followed in weddings have diminished, labeled as ‘cheap’ and ‘old-fashioned.’ While weddings had the charm of holding traditions like shoe hiding, rice throwing and whatnot, they now hold more dancing and presentations as seen in Christian weddings.
While dances are up for discussion, it must be noted that dancing is generalized to more hip-hop with English music and dance floors than pure Mehndi moves on carpeted floors with flamboyant dresses. This is coupled by the fact that cuisine now includes the index of Chinese food as well as Italian and various cultures rather than the classic abundance of meat and cliché dessert.
Furthermore, weddings now have their own marquees with specialized dancefloors, entrées, budgets and entryways, eradicating the joy holding the desi function at large homes, hotels and parks. They even come with their own wedding planner, as seen in classic American weddings, making sure that Westernism remains a theme.
It is now all about measuring up to how much money either of the families have invested in modernizing the marital affair than enjoying the company of others and presence of the bride and the groom. Joy is sought out in the adapted tradition of bridal shower and themed parties. No one can deny this fact as every Pakistani man or woman is victim of this.
These weddings and dresses are all results, however, of an act that is considered a daily occurrence in Pakistani lives rather than the issue it should be labeled as; language. The Pakistan system has slowly and gradually accepted English as the main language exemplifying desi culture rather than its natural Urdu tongue. Conversing in fluent Urdu is now considered a mark of illiteracy and backwardness rather a pinnacle of prestige and elite education as it used to be.
The importance of language can be stressed in the Japanese culture where the preservation of tongue and culture has kept it alive and as one of the giants dominating the world. However, in Pakistan, language remains to be a symbol of depravity and social retardedness. The education system and medium of exchange that is perceived as likeable in Pakistan is in English and is, hitherto, passed on from generation to generation.
This is exemplified by the existence of the Cambridge International Examinations system. While this system is acceptable all over the world and is considered one of the best, it has ground its way into the Pakistani culture and eradicated the Matric system. However, the more alarming fact remains that this system has set the social acceptability of English and English clothing rather than the desi attire and tongue.
Society, however, can be further broken down into the individual perception of desi and other cultures. An individual in the Pakistani society will set his personality from adolescence, which is the raw age of adaption. An average Pakistani person in his youth will be more adamant to be an American than a Pakistani, simply because of their overexposure to Western culture.
To a Pakistani individual, Induvidualism and becoming a separate entity sets the way of life, which causes rifts in the desi culture of kinship and close families. While desi families will nurse an individual well into their forties, a ‘modern’ family will seek out socializing and separation in order to gain personality. Friends are now given more importance than family.
The way about bringing up an individual has shifted considerably as well because desi culture does not solely imply highly emphasized weddings or gaudy clothes but also refers to a standard and method of living. Youngsters now demand more freedom and an average family person requires a helping hand to perform their tasks for them – namely maids and servants. The desi culture calls for individuality in a different form where the same family person is required to carry out their own tasks. The modern Pakistani culture is made of ‘freeing’ a young mind with Western references. This has lead to a high rise in the use of drug addiction among the youth among insolence.
As stated before, the media has taken the world by a storm. The Pakistani media, though, has gained immense freedom, influencing a Pakistani individual greatly. With news channels like Geo and Dunya or online blogging taking place at an abundant rate, individuals learn to differentiate each other with respect to beauty, money and power – none of these which are emphasized in the desi culture.
The solutions to this crises lie in the society itself which should start by understanding the importance of desi culture and what it represents. Instead of adapting the good aspects of the Western societies, Pakistan adapts the negativity or twists some concepts. Take, for example, the introduction of tuition centres. While they are considered a place of shame for any student abroad, tuition centres or academies are a sense of pride in Pakistan. The more expensive the better.
Furthermore, Pakistan needs to work to revive its desi culture. Instead of holding rave nights and theme parties, it should invest in showing its culture through festivals set seasonally. This can also be achieved by reinvesting the desi in fashion at fashion shows, particularly cotoures. The society will not take back its former desi touch unless designers or a referent power identifies it as the next best thing.
Another form of preservation for the desi culture – and perhaps the most important – should be in Urdu language of Pakistan. The trend of English should not be condemned due to its international recognition, but Urdu should be given equal if not more importance. It should not be linked to the pure Pakistani education system and has to nest its home in the adapted Cambridge system so the youth can understand its importance and beauty.
Moreover, cuisines are also a topic that should be attacked. While it is pleasant and welcoming to have cuisines from all over the world present within the society, Pakistan should work to promote its own desi cuisine in places other than Lahore. The essence and lavishness of it should be recognized and placed again at weddings. Talking about weddings again brings the important issue of sticking to tradition at weddings instead of evoking Chinese or European dances and rituals.
Conclusively, it can be said that a cacophony of voiced reasons is slowly tearing the desi culture apart. From its once lavish and breathtaking weddings to its famous dressing. While the rest of the world continued to adapt it, as seen in the trend of henna and hair jewelry, Pakistan tries to rid itself of it because of the media, society itself and an individual’s choice. This matter, though considered out of place and retro, should be acknowledged and worked upon by people other than historians and elders.