All words are pegs to hang ideas on!

Contribution by Sneha Rao, participant at the Re-Imagine Edinburgh Youth Summit held in August.

It’s always those few words which have a more lasting impact than the events themselves!

I have tried to recollect my experiences of Edinburgh with the help of those words that fascinated and inspired me…

 “India in some ways is responsible for creation of UK as a whole”

Story of East India Company and its escapades which led to merging of Scotland and UK was fascinating. It helped us understand how Scottish identity was separate from UK identity and how the collaboration between India and Scotland is older than interactions between India and Britain.

“Power of community is something that I am proud of”

This was a statement which made me introspect a lot. We come to think of unity in diversity a lot…But when it comes to local community –that unity starts fading away. That is probably the primary reason we see clean houses but unclean localities -as that feeling of ownership among locals is just not there. This also leads to poor quality of citizenship and involvement in issues related to local governance.  I think this root cause needs to be looked in a little more depth before I can formulate my mind on specific ways to improve community cohesiveness.

“Power of naivety of youth could be leveraged in bringing out elephants in the room”

I think it was a beautiful way to put forth the power of youth. Before coming to the conference I was sceptical – what do we as youths bring to the table which more  knowledgeable and experienced people can’t bring? It’s the naivety which makes us audacious enough to question the un-ask able questions. And the brilliant motley of crowd which was present did ask some thought provoking questions – which wouldn’t have been asked otherwise.

“How much access is too much? – I would definitely want to make the museum accessible but not the objects huggable”

It poses larger questions about access and individuality of cultures. Trade is different from culture in a way – that it has no soul to it. You could have very open ties in trade and it will always be beneficial for both the economies. But does the culture loose its soul if you make it very accessible? From Edinburgh, I was travelling to London and in London I saw a man playing bagpipers in the busy oxford street – the music couldn’t look more out of place, especially after hearing the local version of it in Scotland. I have to admit it must have made few people inquisitive about Scottish culture after hearing them – but does the music looses it soul in the process of tweaking it to suit the tastes and sensibilities of everyone?

“You could roam in museums all day – but this street is what represents Scottish culture”

One can’t box a culture and put it in a building. Attempts made to do so are probably with the intent of documenting them – so that the knowledge about them is not lost. Yes one can go to museums to see that culture that once was- but you have to really see the streets to understand the culture that is. Hence in context of Indo – UK relationships one must ensure the bottom- up approach where people at grassroots in both countries interact with each other. At the end of the day this is what would create lasting understanding of each other’s cultures.

“Definition of rules between 2 countries differ”

On the subject of student visas we had a very enlightening conversation. We realised while Indian students view student visas as an opportunity to begin working in that country after work. People in UK take the definition of rules very seriously. For them student visa ends when the semester ends. After which if someone stays further it’s breaking of rules. It was amazing to see the live examples of this on my trip to London – I was so surprised to see queues even in escalators in underground and the seriousness with which queues are taken. India on the other hand is built on chaos and it is almost a necessity given that the country accommodates 1.2 billion people- we have to have a flexible perception of rules!

“Cost of living can’t be a benchmark; it’s the cost of dignified living which should be benchmarked”

The context in which this line was said was itself a remarkable conversation. But writing few lines on this subject won’t let me appreciate the depth of this conversation.

“UK is remarkable in how it used Olympics to create a lasting legacy in the field of sports”

India had a similar opportunity during commonwealth games but sadly we couldn’t leverage that to create a lasting impact on the way sports is treated in our country. As against UK which targeted various areas like sports infrastructure, sports culture in young adults etc. Also, the values of inclusion it stood for were reflected where they ensured women representation from every contingent- which makes Olympics stand for much greater things than sports.

“Some histories are sad and affect our current sensibilities – Should we reinvent the history to make it more amenable or should it be presented as it is”

The concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality emerged with the French revolution. Before that the concept of looking down upon women, certain races was not frowned upon. There were colonies whose riches were used to fund the deficits of colonizers. Such history when viewed with current lenses – leads to bitterness towards perpetrators. Logically speaking, retribution for historic events doesn’t make sense. But practically speaking, such animosity is hard to part with. Rewriting history might not be the most ethical thing to do, but perspective building on historic events needs to rational. We must ensure we impart objectivity and rationality to impressionable minds of young kids so that they themselves can see the events of history in a more objective light.

“We can sit and talk about Indo-UK relations all day but would common people be interested in it”

To make common man interested in the future of 2 countries , they can’t be convinced by mere dialogues, it has to be an incentive much more tangible than that. Hence a bottom up approach where we ensure continuous interactions between people of both nations- via sports exchanges, student exchanges at university and school level, teacher exchanges and many other cultural exchanges would always work well to create that spark of interest about the partner nation.

One of the lasting and most inspiring lines with which I would end my reflections of the conference

Yes the “how you say it” is important but it’s the actions I would rather be remembered by”

Which goes on to say – that all of us were greatly influenced by various perceptions and various interpretations of interesting themes that emerged during the conference but now is the time to reflect how we can take it to the next level and contribute at an individual level!

For more posts around the Re-Imagine Edinburgh Youth Summit visit

For more information on Re-Imagine: India-UK Cultural Relations in the 21st Century visit




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