ON CREATIVITY AND CONFLUENCES OF CULTURES

                                                                         
Dr. Amarjyoti Choudhury

In geography, a confluence is the meeting of two or more bodies, for example, of water. At Sangam, the confluence in Prayag, the three rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati initially maintain their identity and are distinctly different as they merge. The Yamuna is deep but calm. It is clearly distinguished by a greenish colour. The Ganga is relatively clear. The Saraswati remains hidden. During the monsoon, the rivers can be clearly distinguished at the confluence. It is in this specific localized ambience of confluence that bio diversities thrive. But soon they start flowing with the universal attribute of a coherent river. It is in this merging that creativity and rich diversity of ideas and expressions of life are sustained.

For creativity, I, however, prefer the model of the confluence where the river and the sea meet. In this model, although enjoined, the sea and the river stay as separate identity and the organic growth takes place in the confluence itself generally over a larger space. The lesson is clear- in order that the process of creativity and diversity created are sustained, the matrix of creation must evolve as an organic whole while maintaining separate identity.

We all realise - culture shapes our values, attitudes, and also refines our perspective of self and of others. Our current concern is: Is there a correlation between creativity at cultural confluences?

The confluence between Europe, Asia and Africa is one of the biological wonders of the world. Here biodiversity hotspots from several temperate and tropical climate meet and lead to richer biological expressions. Renaissance that stands out as evolution of great intellectual development began in Florence, Italy, in the 14th century. Various theories are proposed to account for its birth and growth. There is a consensus of opinion that one significant reason for its emergence was the emergence of Florence as a trading centre of many a nations1. This paved the way for   creative ambience through multicultural dialogue on new ideas. Evidences thus abound that co-existence of diversities or multiculturalism is a way for nurturing creativity. Indeed the existence of cultural diversity in appropriate condition for exchange is a highly desirable model for creativity.  The important question is: what are the conditions for its sustenance? What are the stakes involved if these conditions are not met?  

It is clear that it requires thought and effort. By consciously measuring our words and actions, interacting with others, we can provide foundations for creating a multicultural environment. This is certainly the first step. But mere toleration of group differences is not enough. Allowing of group differences, especially by the dominant group or groups are also essential requirements of a multiculturalism to thrive. The idea is to cater to “group differentiated rights”, a term coined by Will Kymlicka2. Indifference to these rights is invitation to social unrest. Hence in the post-colonial era, attempts have been made to develop models of constitutional dialogue where diverse groups stay side by side. A flowering of society with ethnic diversities undoubtedly depends on success of such dialogues.

We all believe the society is obliged to respect the wishes of minority groups to continue their cultural practices. But which one is more important- mere recognition of cultural rights or an attempt at redistribution that fights inequality? We believe both are of vital necessity.

Let us now focus on multiculturism in Assam. The hills, the gurgling streams, the majestic rivers, the valleys of Assam fascinate us through their sheer beauty. Here the nature is replete with biological hotspots too. Its riches in its womb are also no less exotic. The varieties of minerals and petroleum components   provide us with enormous potential wealth. But finally what is eye-catching is the rich density of ethnic varieties and their history of co-existence3. Each of the ethnic communities carries in them the rich world-view and the basket of unique ideas. So meeting points of them are expected to generate more new ideas .This was what nurtured renaissance in Italy. On that count, our State is sitting on enormous opportunities. Instead, what we have observed over the years are a steady disintegration of the society around. What could have been the reason or reasons?

The neglect and isolation of the British rule led to stagnation of many a tribe as against the social-climbing by those that could avail the benefits of education. Education thus unfortunately paved the way for social discrimination and lack of social cohesion. Further, the social boundaries too turned more rigid. And the politics of division devastated the region. It appears - the entire society is now sitting on a volcano.

So what should be the chosen path for the society? Organic growth is definitely   the desired Tao. The tasted paths are the sure bets. So let us be tied to the roots. But let fresh winds of ideas refresh us. Instead of a homogenized culture, let everyone exercise their rights. Let this multicultural ambience provide us the nutrients for growing organically. Let this organic growth be our Tao of the present.

To be specific, what are the cultural elements that we need to strengthen? In the festival of Bihu, we observe a clear multicultural blending of the elements of the Aryans, the Austrics, the Mongoloids and the Alpines.  Clearly it flies the flag of   ethnic harmony and social cohesion. Significantly, it also breaks the barriers of caste, creed and social hierarchy in a graceful form. Thus it has a strain of universal humanism in its inner core. These universal elements need to be further strengthened.

Unfortunately, the festival Bihu which is a torch bearer of unity has now been converted to a platform for division. These trends are to be socially resisted.

We also need to preserve our dying traditions which appeal to our current sensibilities. Digital world now provides ample opportunities for effective ways of preservation. But more importantly, we need an effective platform to study our ways, our culture.

All cultures are essentially paths. Paths carefully chosen through the collective wisdom of our forefathers. These are developed with care and concern for local specifics. So these are tested unique paths on which we can take pride and rely. But what happens when changes occur which incidentally are torrential as of now? Changes must come to our cultures too. But transformation must be on the basis of the fundamentals of our culture. Ambling across to a totally new path tantamount to ignoring the lessons of our heritage.

We are now in a culture of immediate gratification up to the neck. But it lacks the collective wisdom and roots of our culture. Hence adopting it could be synonymous to adopting a rootless and homogenized culture. One might ask: what is wrong with cultural homogenization? In first place, it is an effort at repressing cultural choices of individuals. Secondly, it pushes the soul of culture into a pit of mono-chromaticity. More importantly, it accelerates inequality which lights up the fire of chaos.

We also note that universal characters are also built-in provisions of many a cultures. For example, Borgeets and Jikirs in the land of Assam carry, in plenty, these beliefs of universal brotherhood. Thus, such cultures own universal signatures even while sticking to one’s cultural identity.  The cultures which nurture both these characteristics create, in general, adequate cohesion in society and provide the ideal ambience for creativity. So this is the architecture of culture that we should aim for better expressions of creativity. 
  • H.K. Barpujari. The comprehensive history of Assam,1st edition, Assam Publication Board, 1990
  • Severy Merle, Thomas  Allen, Ross Bennett, Jules B Billard, Russell Bourne, Edward Lanoutte, David F Robinson, Verla Lee Smith (1970). The Renaissance – Maker of Modern Man. National Geographic Society.
  • Will Kymlicka. Multicultural Citizenship, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1995
Editorial note prepared by: Dr. Amarjyoti Choudhury
Former VC of Gauhati University
Former Pro-VC of Tezpur University
Presently, VC of Assam Downtown University


DIMORIANREVIEW, VOL-6, ISSUE-5, SEP-OCT 2019 RELEASED

We honestly acknowledge with a lot of thanks to respected Dr Amarjyoti Choudhury sir for writing from the Editors’ Desk with an invaluable piece of write up titled as “On Creativity and Confluences of Cultures.”

Dr Amarjyoti Choudhury sir is an accomplished educationist, a scientist of international repute, author, former Vice Chancellor of Gauhati University, former Pro-Vice Chanchellor of Tezpur University and currently Vice Chanchellor of Assam Towntown Univeristy, Guwahati.

We sincerely express our gratitude to him for sparing his valuable time with a valuable editorial piece and wish him good health.

We at the same time would like to acknowledge with thanks to all the contributors including research scholars for making this Issue successful.

Editorial Team
DIMORIANREVIEW
Vol-6, Issue-5; September-October 2019


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