The more one travels in India, what hits you smack on the face is the desperate need for renewal and reinvention of an extraordinary legacy that is misunderstood and, therefore, stands bruised and neglected, nearly destroyed. It may well be that the State administrations are unable to deal with that which remains ‘unknown’ to them because of a profound lack of education about life and living, about the world and its diverse cultures that continue to live and grow, as well as about traditions — ranging from skills enhancement to water management — that could be put to use effectively.
Instead of being proud of our many legacies, the India of the post-colonial period appears to have lost confidence in the familiar, reaching out to all that is alien and untenable beyond a point. Real growth and change that are built on a strong foundation have their strengths embedded in plural layers. They are far more likely to modernize those fundamentals that are intrinsic to the DNA. Our founding fathers tried to rebuild what was diluted through the colonial period by superimposing State-operated institutions mandated to carry forward and reinvent a mutilated tradition. This, unfortunately, resulted in the suppression of the vast human resources that were a repository of inherent creativity by boxing them in further and forcing them to operate within a set of restrictive regulations.
The babu took on the mantle of the creative conductor of a complex symphony for which he had no training. It led to the debacle that is visible in such institutions today. All creative breakthroughs happen outside the institutional framework. Therefore, step one should be to disband these institutions because they have gradually become shelters for the incompetent and the infirm whom the governments want to compensate for one thing or the other. There should be a State Culture Fund in every Indian state comprising top professionals, stake-holders and an ex-officio member representing the said government. Partnerships for projects should be endorsed and funded by this body, based on comprehensive, time-bound proposals. No further interference should be permitted. We have had enough of archaic and rigid rules that babus hammer down the throats of creative individuals and institutions. It would make far more sense if governments rang in the change by establishing or upgrading an existing State library, museum or archive in every capital. This would help the huge pool of creative industries to breathe freely and to adjust to a new age. The babu cannot lead this exercise.
Equally, travel and tourism do not need a ministry breathing down their necks. Quality and good practise come with competition. Governments need to streamline procedures to fit into a new age and time, to become internationally friendly, and to retreat, allowing inspirational men and women to create, develop, add value and grow. In India, enterprise is stunted because of government procedures and strictures that drive ordinary people mad. Disband the bureaucracy that cages travel and tourism. Compile a set of ‘Ten Commandments’ that are sacrosanct. Make the babu accountable for any deviation. Till now, the babu has taken bribes and gotten away with it. The citizen is punished for the same. This discrimination must be addressed.
It is time to ensure that ordinary Indians are respected. The cultural realm as well as tourism and trade that generate latent skills and create employment must be given their due. Only then would fame, revenue, employment, the regeneration of skills and legacies, profound pride and more, take centre stage. This upsurge could be an answer to many of the woes afflicting India.