For too long, popular culture has dictated the meaning and relevance of religious and cultural festivities of Malaysians (especially with the onset of cable tv and smartphone technologies).
For too long; we have given agency to film stars, television personalities, social media influencers, musicians etc. to shape our cultural and social identities; allowing them to appropriate the rightful roles of our ancestors and parents.
We watch these personalities celebrate religious/cultural festivals and convince ourselves that the frivolity and falseness of what we had just seen represent the true essence of our festive occasions.
We brainwash ourselves into believing that they are the very embodiment of our cultural and religious identities.
We try to dress like them. We eat like them. We make our children look like their children. We treat our elders as they say we should.
We base our moral values on what we believe to be theirs. We build our cultural selves based on the ones they portray.
In short, we live our cultural lives in their ‘cultural’ shadows.
Today is Tamil New Year. With the exception of some locally-produced rigmarole put up by local tv personalities trying too hard to act and look culturally-enhanced, there are almost no festivity-centred shows from India shown over television today.
And that makes me one very happy woman. For once, the Tamils here will have the opportunity to be real.
For once, we will not be engaging in ‘ape-Kollywood’ activities.
For once, Tamil New Year will be celebrated as it should rightfully be – to reflect, rediscover, renew and rejoice who we truly inwardly are; instead of merely primping our lives outwardly to live up to someone else’s cultural fantasies.
By Dr Indrani Ramachandran