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Kipling Got it Wrong! Or Eastern and Western Culture - Reflections

What Is Culture?
I’m opening this blog post with a question. What is that elusive concept which is commonly known as ‘culture? Culture is way of life. How we live. What our values are.  Our customs, attitudes and perceptions. And also, I suppose, how we express ourselves in art through, such as music, dance, theatre and cinema.  It’s quite a comprehensive area and not too easy to define, really.



The Journey
I was born in what is commonly known as ‘the west’. I lived in Ireland for the first thirty years of my life. When I was thirty, I married my husband and came out to India to live here with him. That was the beginning of an interesting journey, which is still evolving. I must have had some east/west comparison stereotypes in my head. But in India, I found that the people I met had huge stereotypes in their heads about what they called ‘western culture’ and ‘western way of life’. Not long after I arrived in India, I was struck by the number of people who said things to me like ‘in the …
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Peace

What is 'Peace’?
Peace. Pax. Shalom. Salaam. Shanti. It’s a popular word in so many languages. And a popular concept too. But is it really as popular as we think it is? I remember reading once that there are about 100 given wars going on anywhere in the world on any given day. Apart, of course,  from the obvious great wars of the last century. Cold wars. Hot wars. Proxy wars. Everyone says they want peace, yet wars persist. Why is this?


Why is peace difficult to obtain?
Because for reasons best known to certain countries and individuals, peace is not acceptable at any price. Yes, everyone wants peace. But they want it on their own terms. Our terms may not be acceptable to others. That is the crux of the problem. Are our terms acceptable to others? If not, why? And are others’ terms acceptable to us? Maybe not. How do we get everyone on the same page, wanting the same things? It’s not at all easy. Ask any negotiator.
Striking a balance
As societies grow, change and evolve, conflict eme…

Five Ways Social Media Has Changed Our Lives

Has social media changed the way we live? You bet it has! I’ve been in India for 22 years and have visited home in Ireland maybe half-a-dozen times. The biggest challenge about this, for me, has always been coping with the difficulty of making contact with old friends and family. However, that’s all over now, thanks to Facebook. I check my phone every morning and read that uncle Ned in Dublin is furious over the biased referee in the boxing match or that my cousin Paula in Dublin went to see Take That in concert (or whoever!). I speak to my cousin Veronica in Scotland every few days thanks to WhatsApp. We haven’t spoken this frequently since we wrote to each other as kids. Social media has definitely changed our lives forever. I can think of at least five ways that social in which it has affected life as we know it.


Social media makes the world more accessible to us. This is a fact. The world is at your fingertips. Find out which of your friends and family are on Facebook and once you …

Consumerism

There has been more than one culture clash in my life recently. Attitudes to money would be the main reason for that, in my humble opinion.

My husband grew up in an era when one rupee (that's the Indian currency) had some value. Money was hard-earned and didn't come easily. When money had to be spent on items other than food, it was spent on items that were expected to last. That was the era of the lifetime guarantee. It would have been similar in some ways for me, although things had begun to change in the western world by the time I was growing up.


Life has totally changed. I remember when I bought my first mobile phone ten years ago. It was a solid little phone, no bigger than a bar of chocolate. It could make phone calls and had a little calendar in it. I loved it. But one day, when I'd had the phone about three years, it broke down. I brought it to a repair shop to get an estimate for the repair. The repair cost was the price of the phone itself. I knew it was time to g…

Impatience

Many years ago, when I lived in Dublin, I met someone nice and started dating. I wasn't serious, I just thought we could have nice interesting discussions about India, which I found absolutely fascinating, as I was working in the Embassy of India back then. I had no intention of getting attached with a foreigner, with all the attendant cultural problems. I was happy living in Ireland and the idea of marriage couldn't have been further from my mind.

We both thought we could just keep things in control. One day, after a lot of emotional turmoil and denial, it hit us both that we were in love. Truly. Madly. Irrevocably. To the point where we couldn't live without each other. I'd known about the Indian system of arranged marriages and when it occurred to me that he would probably be married off by his family as soon as he returned to India, I felt physically ill at the thought. We are both tenacious and patient people. We realised that bringing our two worlds together would…

The Supernatural

The supernatural...
Do I believe in the supernatural? Yes, I do. My husband and I were both raised in homes where faith and religion were given the utmost importance. Although the religions were different, certain basic beliefs were the same. We both learned, in childhood, that this natural world is in a certain dimension, but there are other dimensions which cannot be easily seen or sensed in this one. We believe we have come to this life for a certain purpose and that there is a higher power, known as God, to whom we must answer when the time comes for us to cross over into the next dimension after our death in this world.
Common knowledge and belief
What's so unusual about that? Millions believe the same thing, in some form or another. Even the most primitive humancommunities live in constant awareness of the supernatural dimension. In fact, they're even more aware of it, living, as many of them do, at the mercy of nature. 
My native Ireland is full of supernatural stories. Sto…