Conflict between Tradition & Modernity | A Lecture Review

Ankita Deka Bora writes from the perspective of

Dr. Mukul Sharma

Retired Professor, Department of Education, Dibrugarh University

Painting (c) Jiban Biswas

“What is conflict?”, he enquired rhetorically. And then exemplified humorously with minor issues we undergo in our daily lives, like, what to take in breakfast? Hot or cold? If hot then what? Tea or coffee? What more with it? Sweet or salty? For students, which stream to cover? Science or Arts? If science then what? Medical or engineering? What should? What shouldn’t? Argh! We are like trapped in soliloquies–“To Be or Not to Be”… Even later on we regret about “the road not taken”.

These are minor conflicts in between the things we lose the balance.

“What’s Tradition, and what’s Modernity?” — His next attack. “I take ‘pitha’ and you take pizza, is that the point that demarcates Tradition and Modernity? You use a smartphone, but I don’t; is that the marker of Modernity?” He further acclaimed, modernity lies within the mentality and attitudes of the people; people who are generally generous, liberal and devoid of prejudice. Modernity doesn’t imply to those educated breed who break the traffic rules and create an unwanted snarl. Modernity doesn’t reside into those who misuse their individual liberties and spoil other’s peace. Modernity doesn’t connote to those who allure their lovers but disregard their parents and elders. Modernity means being versatile and skilled.

The speaker was honorable Dr. Mukul Sharma, former professor from Dibrugarh University, Department of Education. It was a wonderful experience indeed to attend his mind-boggling, humorous speech on the occasion of “Biman Barua Memoranda Speech” in Sankardev Seminary School, Jorhat; who hit up the gathering with his enlightened wisdom.

Regarding tradition and modernity he also referred to ‘neophobea’ and ‘neophilie’. The former denotes to extreme reluctance or fear for novelty and the latter is characterized by a strong affinity for novelty; the imbalance of which may lead to a conflict between tradition and modernity, he asserted. Henceforth we must not stick to traditions at all the time and cast away the new adventures that may advance us. And at the same time we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’. In this regard he referred to the eliminated Japanese traditional garment “Kimono” due to the impact of western clothing.

Dr Sharma also mentioned three philosophical theories of discipline in educational practices, namely– Repressionistic, Impressionistic and Emancipationistic. According to the first discipline, a child must be controlled and modified through fear, punishment and rigid laws. The second one emphasizes on the influencing, profound creative personality of the teacher that hinders disruption and maintains class order. And the last one believes in the inherent goodness of a child under a free environment. The modern educational doctrine, he asserts, is based on the Emancipationistic discipline, which liberates children to grow in a free environment. But at the nipper stage, he alerts, a child must be guided by some mature beings as well, so that his undue freedom may not harm anybody.

Dr Sharma’s final attribution with the reference of Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s celebrated metaphorical work “Madhushala” (a pub), amused the gathering and inspired a thousand hearts to go through the pages of “Madhushala”. One of the translations which I prefer to put down here has beautifully captured the so called conflict that prevails in our everyday lives—

“Seeking wine the drunker leaves home for the tavern.

Perplexed, he asks, “which path should I take?”

People show him different ways,

But this is what I have to say,

Pick a path and keep walking.

You will find the tavern.”

The verse reminded me of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost– an undue conflict that a modern man faces as he steps out into new dreams, new hopes. Conflict between tradition and modernity is none a mental enigma that coincides within us, which we can’t help except keeping a balance in between the two.

Ankita Deka Bora is an emerging poet with English Literature as her expertise. Hailing from Jorhat,  Assam, she is very close to nature and writes mostly about the same, however, not limiting herself to one theme.

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