Introduction Even a doctorate degree holder in Kerala would not be able to tell any details about the most important festival of Orissa. The same thing applies to his or her counterpart in Orissa. At best, they would know some detail about the city of Trivandrum, as it happens to be the capital. For millions of Indians, it is only Google that gives them some information. While this is fine, nothing can equal a first-hand experience. Seeing is believing and there is no substitute for this at any point in time. We need to understand that it becomes very difficult to always refer to the internet for everything. Promoting greater appreciation and understanding of different cultures is very important and it is high time that every State does everything to promote these at the national level.
Hence, it is pertinent to a) Promote inter-state cultural festival exchange experiences b) Encourage learning of the new language through simple techniques c) Conduct cultural festivals in other States in a grand manner
d) Provide incentives for entrepreneurs to improve tourism and e) Encourage student exchange programs.
Promote inter-state cultural festival exchange experiences As an extension of the aforesaid example of Orissa and Kerala, how about an entire train of passengers who would board the train at Bhubaneshwar, with the Chief Minister of Orissa also traveling by train, and travel right up to Trivandrum, being received by the Chief Minister of Kerala, and then taken care for one full week, by visiting all places and then also witnessing the famous boat race at Allepy, as the grand finale? Obviously, there needs to be tremendous coordination of all details, and the food should have the Kerala specials and the Orissa special dishes as well. Private organizations in Kerala could also sponsor food and other arrangements including free homestay accommodation in places like Trichur so that they can see the surrounding places.
This can become a national sensation and will promote similar exchanges between other States as well and will also promote a greater understanding of cultures. At the moment, north of the city of Vijayawada, there is hardly any understanding of the Southern States and their cultures. Only such big bang approaches will be reported in the national press and will also be shown on electronic media. Only television has the power to promote tourism and millions will start traveling to these places. The same experience has to be offered by the Chief Minister of Orissa and his people for the people of Kerala and this will also promote the greatest understanding of new cultures and new experiences.
Encourage learning of new languages through simple techniques Imagine a situation where after the aforesaid grand exchange takes place, a number of teachers who know English and the Oriya language very well, offer to take free online lessons for the people of Kerala. These teachers can be given some incentives by the Government of Orissa. And Malayalam can also be taught by teachers from Kerala. The initiative has to be a continuous process and not a one-shot experience. When this happens, the results are likely to be far more permanent in nature.
Conduct cultural festivals in other States A delegation from say, Tamil Nadu, can visit a State like say, Assam and celebrate the festival of Pongal in a grand manner. The local people of Assam will obviously understand the nuances of this festival when they start seeing it. Furthermore, when the people of Tamil Nadu showcase all their skills and help the people of Assam experience, understand, and appreciate the cultural importance of Pongal, it will be taken to all corners of Assam and even the Chief Minister of Assam can be invited to be part of it. Such an exchange, where a particular festival of one State is celebrated in a grand manner, in another State far away, would surrely promote tourism and also a much greater understanding of local cultures. This will enable the appreciation of cultural diversity as well.
This is quite different from the manner in which Onam, the great festival of Kerala, is celebrated in Chennai. Since the State is very near, and since the languages of Tamil and Malayalam are somewhat similar in some aspects, as also the reason that a huge number of people keep traveling to the two States, for business and for pleasure, the appreciation of Onam is relatively easy. However, the big difference will only happen if Pongal is taken to the North East or other distant States, and, similarly, other festivals as well.
Provide incentives for entrepreneurs to improve tourism An established and well-known travel agency in Kerala, with many branches in the State, can be given incentives by the Government of Orissa, in the form of lesser taxes or free land or rent and so on, to set up a base in Bhubaneshwar. This agency can then promote many package tours at nominal prices. This will surely promote the cause of tourism and also give a fillip to the economy of both States. Similar strategies can be adopted by other States as well.
Encourage student exchange programs School and college students should be made to take special trains, and the Railways should come up with plans to offer them special concessions. Imagine some local traders at different places, sponsoring the cost of food, so that the students do not bother about the food costs. A few schools and colleges with good hostels can accommodate students from the other State and provide them with all support, including possible food at highly subsidized rates, or for free. The college buses can be used for travel to different places. This will open up avenues for the biggest understanding between people of different States.
Conclusion We need innovative approaches to make things work. The rich cultural diversity of India has to be compulsorily understood. We need several initiatives and a few of them have been discussed in the aforesaid paragraphs.