Ms Indira

Globalisation at the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity in Rural India
Kirk Johnson
This paper explores the ongoing structural and cultural changes in a number of mountain villages in Western India more than a decade since the liberalising of the economic markets, which opened the subcontinent even further to the globalising forces of consumerism and materialism. In addition to mass communication that includes television, other developments, such as transportation, agricultural systems and education, have all contributed significantly to a fundamental reorientation of village life in the past two decades. The present research suggests three central processes at work in rural India today. First, the ethos of consumerism has reached an all time high. Second, information technology and mass communication are connecting villagers to each other and to the global market of ideas and information. Third, while the impact of certain western notions of life and relationships as well as some aspirations and expectations are beginning to take hold, traditional agrarian society in this region remains resilient in the face of many modernising forces. Villagers appear to distinguish between modernity (improving quality of life) and westernisation (rejecting certain values, ideas and cultural practises).

My first morning back in Panchgani, a small town in the mountains of Western India, proved to be an eye-opener. After my early morning run and hot cup of chai at the roadside stand, I walked through the bazaar greeting old friends. Shahir, the patil (village policeman) of a nearby village called Danawli, approached me with open arms, and we inquired about each other’s families. One of the most supportive during my doctoral fieldwork almost a decade earlier, Shahir works as a farmer in Danawli, travelling every morning to Panchgani to sell his milk. In addition to his work as patil and farmer, Shahir is known in the region for his singing of traditional bhajans and poetry....