By Ananya Malde, Grade 11
Day 2 of the Neev Literature Festival 2023 witnessed an enlightening and engaging event, The A-Z of Culture, conducted by writer and publisher, Akhila Das Blah. She began by posing a fundamental question, “Are we all the same?” This interactive session managed to capture the audience’s attention, leaving both adults and children with powerful takeaways and new perspectives on the world’s diverse cultures.
Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to participate actively through exercises such as having to stand up or sit down based on whether they agreed with various question prompts based on their cultural identity. The activities engaged audiences of all ages, and highlighted that while we are interconnected in many ways, our differences make us unique. This point was beautifully illustrated by offering examples of cultural nuances. From loving idlis to the significance of saying aiyo, from playing lagori, a team sport that is believed to have originated in South India millenia ago, to celebrating mangoes as a favourite fruit, the audience was made aware of the rich tapestry of cultures that surround them.
The session strikingly showcased the connections and divides people form based on generational gaps, demographics, and more. Despite these differences, a common thread of unity in culture emerged. Children present at the session had the opportunity to discover the meaning of their identity and culture, be it rooted in India or Bangalore, even if they hailed from different parts of the world. The event emphasised that, despite our diverse origins and backgrounds, there are shared experiences that bind us together as human beings. In the words of Akhila Das Blah, “Culture is what defines us, makes us different, and at the same time, what makes us the same.”
Culture, it is clear, is the thread that weaves the fabric of humanity together. It defines how we speak, eat, enjoy ourselves, play, and celebrate our festivals. In specific ways, we may differ from those hailing from another cultural world or even from those who grew up within the same cultural ecosystem as us. However, broadly, we are all human beings who share similar experiences and emotions.
The wonderful session encouraged attendees to ask questions and share stories, ultimately revealing what is common and what sets us apart. The A-Z of Culture was an energising and brilliant exploration of the rich mosaic of cultures that surround us, leaving everyone with a fresh perspective on the world and its myriad traditions. This event was a testament to the power of literature and dialogue in fostering a deeper understanding of our shared humanity.