Modern Indian Culture
There can be no question about the sophisticated Indian’s Indianism or his desire to preserve this precious heritage at all costs. Nevertheless, some insidious foreign ideas have already wormed their way into his civilization without his realizing what was going on. Thus, dawn finds the unsuspecting patriot garbed in pajamas, a garment of Indian origin; and lying in a bed built on a pattern, which originated in either Persia or Asia Minor (Turkey). He is muffled to the ears in un-Indian materials linen, domesticated in the Near East or Middle East; wool from an animal, native to Asia Minor; or silk whose uses were first discovered by the Chinese. However, cotton is of Indian origin. All these substances have been transformed into cloth by methods invented in South-Western Asia. If the weather is cold enough he may even be sleeping under an eiderdown quilt invented in Scandinavia.
On awakening he glances at the clock, a medieval European invention, uses one potent Latin word in abbreviated form, rises in haste, and goes to the bathroom. Insidious foreign influence pursues him even here. The ancient Egyptians invented Glass, the use of glazed tiles for floors and walls in the Near East or Middle East, porcelain in China, and the art of enameling on metal by Mediterranean artisans of the Bronze Age. Even his bathtub and toilet are but slightly modified copies of Roman originals. If there is a steam radiator, then it is an American contribution.
In this bathroom he cleans his teeth, a subversive European practice. He then shaves, a masochistic rite first developed by the heathen priests of ancient Egypt and Sumer. The process is made less of a penance by the fact that his razor is of steel, an iron-carbon alloy discovered in India. Next the Indian washes with soap invented by the ancient Gauls. Lastly, he dries himself on a Turkish towel. Of course the threads in the towel are made of cotton, first domesticated in India.
Returning to the bedroom, the unconscious victim of un-Indian practices proceeds to dress. He puts on close-fitting tailored garments whose form derives from the skin clothing of the ancient nomads of the Asiatic Steppes and fastens them with buttons whose prototypes appeared in Europe at the close of the Stone Age. This costume is appropriate enough for outdoor exercise in a cold climate, but is quite unsuited to Indian Summers. Nevertheless, foreign ideas and habits hold the unfortunate man in thrall even when common sense tells him that the authentically Indian costume of dhoti or pajama and kurta would be far more comfortable. He sits on a chair, invented in the Near East, and puts on his feet stiff coverings made from hide prepared by a process invented in ancient Egypt and cut to a pattern which can be traced back to ancient Greece, and makes sure they are properly polished, also a Greek idea. Lastly, he ties about his neck a strip of bright-colored cloth, which is a vestigial survival of the shoulder shawls worn by seventeenth-century Croats. He gives himself a final appraisal in the mirror, an old Mediterranean invention, and goes to breakfast. Here a whole new series of foreign things confronts him. His food and drink are placed before him in pottery vessels; the popular name of which-China is sufficient evidence of their origin. His fork is a medieval Italian invention and his spoon a copy of a Roman original. He will usually begin the meal with coffee, an Abyssinian plant first discovered by the Arabs. The Indian is quite likely to need it to dispel the morning-after-effects of over-indulgence in fermented drinks, invented in the Near East; or distilled ones, invented by the alchemists of medieval Europe. Whereas the Arabs took their coffee straight, he will probably sweeten it with sugar, discovered in India; and dilute it with cream (milk), both domestication of cattle and the technique of milking having originated in Asia Minor. If our patriot is old-fashioned enough to adhere to the so-called Indian breakfast, his coffee will be accompanied by roti or idli made from grain domesticated in the Near East. He will add plenty of butter, originally a Near Eastern cosmetic. As a side dish he may have the egg of a bird domesticated in the same region, which has been salted and smoked by a process invented in Northern Europe. Modern breakfast includes an orange or orange juice, domesticated in the Mediterranean region, a cantaloupe domesticated in Iran, or grapes domesticated in Asia Minor (Turkey). Sometimes he may prefer waffles, a Scandinavian invention.
After finishing his breakfast, he places upon his head a molded piece of felt, invented by the nomads of Eastern Asia, and, if it looks like rain, puts on outer shoes of rubber, discovered by the ancient Mexicans, and takes an umbrella, invented in India. He then sprints for his train (if he lives in Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), or Chennai (Madras) — the train, not the sprinting, being an English invention. At the station he pauses for a moment to buy a newspaper, paying for it with coins invented in ancient Lydia. Once on board he settles back to inhale the fumes of a cigarette invented in Mexico, consuming a plant domesticated in Brazil in either a pipe, derived from the Indians of Virginia or a Beedi invented in India. If he is hardy enough, he may even attempt a cigar, transmitted to us from the Antilles by way of way of Spain.
Meanwhile, he reads the news of the day, imprinted in characters invented by the ancient Semites by a process invented in Germany upon a material invented in China. As be scans the latest editorial pointing out the dire results to our institutions of accepting foreign ideas.
Our patriot returns home in the evening. After sunset he switches on the electric light, the bulb of which is an American invention. He listens to the radio, an Italian invention. He may go to the movies, an American invention. When takes a ride on his bicycle or in a taxi cab or when he writes with his fountain pen he will not fail to realize that all these are of foreign origin.
After dinner, for dessert he takes an orange, domesticated in the Mediterranean region, a cantaloupe domesticated in Iran or grapes domesticated in Asia Minor (Turkey) not fail to thank God either in Indo or Indo-European language that he is one hundred per cent (decimal system invented by the Arab Muslims) Indian.
Ralph Linton: One Hundred Percent American, The American Mercury; Vol. XL, I937.
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