A Case Of North India Cultural Studies Essay

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Chittaranjan Park or C R Park is located in South Delhi. On any ordinary day one should not be surprised to hear chitchat in Bengali, day beginning with the sounds of the conch shell, maybe a football game going on in Mela (Fair) Ground. You would probably smell the aroma of street food peculiar to Bengal, from eggrolls to mughlai porotas to cutlets, shingaras and chops, people of all age groups getting together in the evenings to carry on with their daily aadda.

The women or the older generation dadus (Grandpas) carrying their shopping bags to bring the daily baajar (grocery shopping) complete the very interesting cultural montage of the locality. Dashakarma stores selling puja and other auspicious occasion's ingredients, sweet shops selling typical Bengali sweets and desserts, rows of shops selling freshwater fishes, makeshift shops selling vegetables typical to Bengali cuisine, flower shops selling flowers not just as gifts but also the pujo flowers, a small temple with bells tingling constitute a typical market in the area. Come Durga Pujo and the entire area lights up with a different flavour altogether. Big Pujo Pandels start getting erected, chaanda is collected, cultural programs get planned and discussed at the usual aaddas and we all see a mini Kolkata coming alive right in front of our eyes.

However, if you step out of the area just a little bit and step in to the adjacent Kalkaji area, the flavour completely transforms into something entirely different, a major Dilli flavour for lack of a better metaphor is very evident here. Everything from attire, houses, markets, merchandise, aromas to the language and the accent changes drastically. These dualities are found across the city, sometimes creating surprising juxtapositions within disconcertingly short distances.

Within Chittaranjan Park, the Bengali population that has been here since partition of India and its independence moves through its lifestyle and motions so typically peculiar to their own culture, like buying mishti by piece, eating ghughni as an evening snack, spending some time at the shiv mandir, sharing hot sweet cha with a cigarette between their lips while sitting down to talk politics. You move out onto the Kalkaji area adjacent to it, and you see a different culture altogether, with the population demographics changing to a more Punjabi origin and culture a little more dilli as we mentioned. On the other side we step into Greater Kailash II and another entire different set of demographics take shape, high end restaurant and hotels and upscale clothing boutiques.

At times it seems to be entirely different worlds standing adjacent to each other and somehow co existing. These areas may initially seem disjointed they represent such varied cultures they could easily belong to two different cities or maybe even two different countries. However, these represent different slices of life in Delhi, all occupying the same city. As each of these vignettes illustrate, migration has diversified Delhi in a big way and made it a lot more complex. Migration provokes new questions about the identity of both the migrants and the city itself. Every movement has its influences and a movement as big as migration has its own effects and influences. Migrants and the city they migrate to, both influence each other in ways more than one.

This study and exploration intends to develop an understanding of the relationship between migrants and the city. The culture of the migrants has a strong bearing on this influence or the effect that the migrants and the city have on each other. In this case we are talking about Bengali culture, a culture that has been rich and open enough to amalgamate not only varied Indian influences but influences even from farther west. Bengal or Bengalis were the first of the Indians to be influenced by the British and were colonised in the most natural way. They, like Indians everywhere, were open to accept all that came their way. All through the reign of the British empire, Bengal proudly absorbed characteristic traits of the new rulers. At the time of Independence, India was partitioned and refugees from East and West Pakistan were settled in different parts of the country. Refugees from East Pakistan were settled in a society in Delhi under the name of East Pakistan Displaced Person's colony. This was a culture uprooted from its natural environment and brought to develop in entirely new surroundings.

The migrants that arrived in this new host city, Delhi were here thrown into initially foreign environments, confronting a new language, economic, social and cultural structure. Additionally they also confront new types of urban space, including new geographies, street layouts, neighbourhood structure, public spaces etc. In such an extreme turmoil, the migrants try to keep a piece of their own culture alive, first and probably in the biggest way by recreating their personal spaces bringing a little bit of their home and homeland into their own homes. Further on, the migrants do not accept the given spaces and its forms as they are; instead they dynamically and imaginatively interact and get involved with the city through their own strategies of using space to live, move, work and socialize.

Within the existing framework, the migrants initiate creative activities in their day to day lives. Based on their own background of experiences and preferences they select places to socialise with their chosen groups, to carry on and communicate certain activities and to frequently visit or avoid altogether. This leads to the migrants creating their own mental maps of the area with images, symbols and representations marking each space and defining others in it. They exhibit new activities and practices they associate with different types of spaces, such as small temples in the market place, aadda in their own earmarked space or create a new social environment that emphasizes the collective presence of a group, such as the Bengali merchandise and vendors so commonly seen in the locality. Social expectations of the space accompany each of these e.g. the placement of non vegetarian merchandise section of the market removed from the vegetarian merchandise section of the market.

The migrants thus create ways to get involved through various activities, in doing so they leave a strong inscription onto the surrounding area through their own manners of fitting in. Furthermore, migrants' approach to the given spaces of any locality is drawn from their own experience with ways of spatial use and their feelings of fitting in, in those spaces. These, in turn arise from and contribute to their personal identities, as these identities find creative means of expression across the given urban environment and encounter reinforcement or contestation. For them here the relationship between identity and the space becomes a bit more complicated. For example, Bengalis gathering together in the evenings for their daily aadda and active participation of the locals in the cultural events organised year round in the block, mostly related to pujo of one kind or other recreates the environment in Bengal.

Ethnic identity at its origins has depended on a rooted idea of a place, such as Bengali identity in Bengal, migrants and their succeeding generations continue familiar practices that reflect variations of these identities in cities, countries and places throughout the world. Hence, a constructed Bengali identity forms among collective groups in Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi as they appropriate and create spaces for their own use. These re-creations of familiar situations create a sense of belonging to those spaces they adopt.

Review of literature

A study on Muslims in European Cities, for example, states, ―The kind of local area an individual lives in affects their social and economic integration; there are damaging effects of living in areas of deprivation that are not accounted for by individual or household characteristics (ibid, 135)

Peggy Levitt explains, Migrants place-making ability, and how they go about it, is shaped by prior cultural intersections in any given place and how they are articulated over time. It is important then, not just to sort out how simultaneity is shaped by different configurations of space, but also to pay attention to how the historical precedents and overlays in a particular place shape migrants' experiences and actions. [Levitt and Jaworsky 2007, 144]

Quality of life depends on modern, pleasing public spaces offering leisure meeting places for urban residents. Inquiries into the lives of migrants cannot be divorced from the locales between which they move. For example, under what conditions do people from different backgrounds align with or against others? Or, how do their political, religious, and social values change? These common questions direct attention towards the transitions between distinct places with place-specific lifestyles. By juxtaposing initially disparate places and people, migration challenges seemingly fundamental assumptions of place and identity.

A growing thread of research has thus incorporated analysis of specific places into the research framework of migration. Caroline Brettell, for example, calls for an approach that uses the specific institutions, structures, politics, history, and cultural ethos of the host city as an analytical tool, rather than merely background or setting, for studying migrants' political, economic, and social incorporation (Bretell 2003). Peggy Levitt and B. Nadya Jaworsky also call for future research on ―the centrality of space in shaping the migrant experience… how the historical precedents and overlays in a particular place shape migrants' experiences and actionsâ€- (Levitt and Jaworsky 2007, 143-144).

The migrants themselves are complicit in restructuring their city; as Glick Schiller and ÇaÄŸlar note, ―migrants have become significant actors in the reconstitution of the daily life, economics, and politics of citiesâ€- (Glick Schiller and ÇaÄŸlar 2011, 2). Migrants both affect and are affected by their immediate environment.

Second generation migrants, including those who I interviewed, echo a common refrain, that they feel a sense of being in-between cultures and places, not quite fully belonging to one or the other. Children of migrants often grow up speaking multiple languages, socializing with multiple groups of people between family and peer networks, and learning multiple sets of cultural and behavioral expectations, all largely contained in the same geographic space. In the daily experience of second generation migrants, they navigate between their multiple roles and identities. Through different social contexts, they both acquire and enact different behaviors corresponding to different identities. Researchers have proposed various theories to explain migrant and second generation incorporation, also called integration or assimilation, and mobility in the host society. Mark Thomson and Maurice Crul define integration through signs of educational qualifications and labor market participation, while also recognizing the importance of more qualitative aspects of identity like culture, ethnicity, religion, and citizenship (Thomson and Crul 2007, 1027).

Repertoires function through specific contexts within which individuals operates at any given moment. These contexts are typically discussed in terms of immediate politics, economics, and culture that shape local community identity (Vertovec 1998). For example, local histories of racism, current population composition, or conditions of employment factor into how a community organizes and what identities strengthen. Human geographers such as Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey, and Doreen Massey have brought attention to the social dynamics that produce, imagine, and appropriate space, so that the meaning and use of material space is never assumed to be fixed. Applying these concepts in practice however, requires simplifying the distinction between space and place.

Tuan, cited in Lofland 1998, 64). What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value… From the security and stability of place we are aware of the openness, freedom, and threat of space, and vice versa.â€- Space is objective and undifferentiated, the geographic container. Place on the other hand is constructed from one's personal background, feelings, and needs. Additionally, it provides a point of security, or what I call belonging, from which to position oneself. Lofland continues by defining place as ―pieces of space that are, individually or collectively, well known or known about. Places are especially meaningful spaces, rich in associations and steeped in sentiment. (1998, 64).

Setha Low offers a similar theory through what she terms the social construction of space, ―the actual transformation of space- through peoples' social exchanges, memories, images, and daily use of the material setting- into scenes and actions that convey meanings. (2000, 128). These definitions emphasize the personal attachments that form, both individually and collectively, to physical, concrete space.

Space thus brings individuals into a physical context for social relations through place-making. Place in turn represents social structures and hierarchies, types of face-to-face interactions, and cultural norms, from the perspective of the place-maker (Gieryn, 2000). Particular places induce corresponding roles and identities required to negotiate between the people, expectations, precedents, and controls held in the space. According to Vertovec:

Each habitat or locality represents a range of identity-conditioning factors: these include histories and stereotypes of local belonging and exclusion, geographies of cultural difference and class/ethnic segregation, racialised socio-economic hierarchies, degree and type of collective mobilisation, access to and nature of resources, and perceptions and regulations surrounding rights and duties. [2001, 578]

By listing of the breadth of factors contained in a particular space, Vertovec demonstrates the multiplicity of space-specific contexts that impact identity. Space becomes place as individuals or groups develop meaning by positioning themselves in these contexts. Place-making thus marks sites of similar or different identification: ―The structures of feeling that enable meaningful relationships with particular locales… necessarily include the marking of 'self' and 'other' through identification with larger collectivities. (Gupta and Ferguson 1992, 17-18).

Need of the study

Gaps in the existing studies show that there is a need to make a fresh attempt to understand the impact of culture and environment on space and its use & design in a Diaspora as number of improvements could be incorporated on account of gaps in the existing literature. The need for the study can be encapsulated in the following points:

Most of the studies reported in the literature have been conducted in the developed countries. Since there is a significant impact of environment, culture, paying capacity, economy, habits etc. on customer behavior, therefore, the concepts and practices pertaining space relationship in diaspora context will have to be different.

Hardly any study has been reported on this topic in India. The need for such a study arises as reality sector now occupy the prime position among the industrial scenario for the country. Reality services are the fastest growing sector of Indian economy and hence the need for focusing on this sector.

Increased competition among the reality sector companies requires them to adopt the customer centric strategy for customer retention. In order to counter competition, reality sector companies have to undertake continuous information gathering, analysis, and dissemination and use it to obtain a cutting edge in the present business scenario.

There are also methodological lacunae, which could be improved. The definition of concepts of 'culture', 'space', 'values', 'identity' and 'generations' need to be defined in social context of Indian scenario. The review of literature implies numbers of concepts and most of what is stated in literature is judgmental.

Hence, the proposed study would be a systematic attempt to analyze diverse dimensions of Culture-Space Relationship in Diaspora in Northern part of India.

Objective of the study

To understand and map the subtle yet definite culture/space relationship

To understand the East and West Pakistan Diaspora in Delhi/NCR.

To present a visual mapping of culture/space relationship in East and West Pakistan Diaspora in Delhi/NCR.

To determine the reasons of the evolving obvious and subtle changes through the successive generations of the Bengali diaspora.

To analyze the level of influence of environment on cultural values of the Bengali diaspora through the generations.

To carry out a comparative study of the East and West Pakistan Diaspora thriving in Delhi/NCR.

Research methodology

This section shall describe the methodological tools adopted in conducting the present research. Properly conducted research reduces the uncertainty level for the top management in making critical decisions. Hence, it is extremely important to describe the research methodology here.

Type of research:

The research will be exploratory in nature. This is so because the space designs activities in India are either in its early adepter stage or are immature and little standardization of technology and protocols has done.

Data collection method:

Both primary and secondary data shall be used in this research. Primary data shall be collected from East & West Pakistan Migrants and the architects and interior designers working in the respective areas through appropriate questionnaires & schedules/interviews.

While secondary data shall be collected from the books, magazines, newspapers, journals, internet and any other relevant source for the background material for various relevant topics.

The selected scales shall be pre-tested in order to reduce the chances of go errors as well as drop errors. The collected data will be statistically analyzed using SPSS/ Minitab package.

Sample size:

It is proposed to collect samples from over 1000 respondents to carry out the proposed research work.

Sampling technique:

Quota sampling technique shall be used in such a manner as would represent East & West Pakistan Diaspora to obtain the responses from the respondents.

Place of study:

The place where the study will be conducted shall include New Delhi and other cities falling in the National Capital Region and other cities around (surround) New Delhi because these locations (places) there are colonies/establishment of migrants from where the data can be easily collected.

Data analysis approach:

The data will be analyzed with the help of SPSS/Minitab software package. Descriptive statistics and variance analysis tools will be used for statistical analysis.

Limitations of the study

Although every effort will be made to undertake a representative study, still the following limitations could occur in the course of the study:

There may be drop error i.e. the respondents who are willing as well as able may not be contacted.

There may be go error i.e. the respondents who are unable or unwilling may included in the sample.

However, the large sample base as well as the pre-testing will further reduce the chances of these errors.

There may be chances of different perceptions on the wording of the questionnaire or scale. Hence, every effort will be made to personally interview. Besides, training will also be imparted to the survey staff so that the wording as well as the presentations could be homogenized.

Tentative chapter plan

It is proposed to present the final report in the following five chapters:


Review of Literature

Objective & Research Methodology

Analysis & Interpretation of Data

Conclusions & Recommendations