Back in the 50s I grew up in a largely white and mono-cultural Christchurch – prosperous, but bland and somewhat stultifying. Perhaps because of this, the variety offered by other cultures and countries has always attracted me and the lure of difference has always been an influence on my life.
There were not many opportunities to interact with those from other cultures, but those that occurred often had a huge impact simply because they were so rare and intriguing.
One vivid encounter with a lovely Indian woman on a Wellington tram made a great impression on me when I was six. She was wearing a colourful sari and she stood out from her low key, muted surroundings and seemed very alive. I thought she was wonderful and I wanted to know all about her. Slight though it was, this incident made impression an on me and influenced my later interest in India, leading ultimately to a decision to study for a degree in Asian History at university.
I’m still intrigued by the country and happily we have a lovely selection of DVDs to allow easy indulgence of my interests. My favourite is The Story of India by Michael Woods which gives beautiful and very watchable account of Indian history, India which follows Sanjeev Bhaskar (of the Kumars at no. 42 fame) on a trip “home” is well worth a watch and the controversial and touching film Water gives an insight into the ancient practice of widows being excluded from society. Ancient India covers the very early cultures such as the Indus Valley and there are many others . Naturally we also have lots of fiction and non-fiction to read as well.
I wonder what influence such encounters have on the young people of today? Does the promise of the exotic still intrigue? Are we raising a generation that will be truly international, interested in and at home in any continent? Or has daily contact with other cultures simply made them a part of the world that is just taken for granted?