Hope in younger generations

Rachel Abbey

Tension beginning to dissipate in India

Tensions are rising once again between India and Pakistan. The issue at hand?


Historically, tensions between the countries of India and Pakistan have been political and territorial. According to the CIA’s The World Factbook, the territory of Kashmir remains the highest militarized territorial dispute, with claims by China, India and Pakistan. While official progress has yet to be made, recent discussions have begun to alleviate tensions among the countries.

“The younger generations don’t even think of it this way,” said Romil Shah, treasurer for the Indian Students Association.

Shah, an international computer science graduate student from Calcutta, India, said most Indians have let go of past prejudices. Only religious and political fanatics continue to speak hatefully about Pakistan and its people.

The issue currently concerning much of India’s youth, Shah said, is cricket. Cricket, the English sport played with bats, balls and two teams of 11 players each, has grown extremely popular in India. Shah compared the sport to football in the United States. Big matches broadcast in his hometown of Calcutta practically cause a holiday.

“The entire city-state is shut down, watching the match,” Shah said, laughing.

Currently, India and Pakistan are engaged in a cricket tournament, a rivalry mirroring the much more serious tensions of years past.

Another example in the news recently surrounds India’s popular Bollywood cinema. According to an article in The Washington Times, the film Nazar, or Sight, depicts an on-screen kiss between an Indian actor and a Pakistani actress. While the kiss has caused controversy in the traditionally conservative culture, the film industries’ joint production illustrates the more open environment between the countries.

The cultural climate of India has been changing recently from more traditional to more Westernized, Shah said. India’s already diverse culture, with its multitude of languages, religions and industries, has only become more varied by modernization. For example, while the national language is Hindi, English has become a common language for political and commercial communication, according to The World Factbook. Fourteen other official languages also exist.

Many people in India view this westernization as a positive thing, Shah said, because Western culture tends to be more free and open. People do not have to think twice before they do or say something, Shah said. This is one reason Indian students enjoy coming to the United States to study, he said.

However, this openness can take some getting used to. Americans are more sociable, Shah said, and some Indian students have to adjust, coming from the more closely knit and socially conservative Indian society. The Indian Students Association helps new students get used to the culture of the United States by acclimating them to the area, helping them find a place to stay and offering general advice on the differences between cultures as a whole.

One cultural difference comes from eating habits. Shah said American food is often centered around meat, which can cause a problem for vegetarian students. Many followers of Hindu practice vegetarianism, and according to The World Factbook, more than 80 percent of India’s population practices Hinduism.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].