At the end of September 2016, the Indian motion picture social producer’s association. India’s largest organization related to entertainment, announced a ban on all Pakistani artists. In retaliation, Pakistan authorities imposed a complete ban on airing Indian content on all its TV channels, including Bollywood movies.

This cultural war, triggered by the September Uri attacks in Kashmir, is far from new. Indeed it is a sad reminder of last year. When the Indian ultra regionalist Maharashtrian-based party Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt a performance. By celebrity singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai, forcing the concert to cancel.

What are we to make of these episodes that occur now with depressing regularity. Enjoy prime-time popularity on Indian television and then die down. Only to recall when yet another event takes its place?

As with so many things, there is a historical explanation for the appropriation of music and performance. Practices as part of the nationalist project in both India and Pakistan.

As a historian, I have investigated the very complex and contested history. That music in North India had with Partition when India and Pakistan were divide in 1947. The artificial boundaries that nationalism constructed then are being reinforce to this day via these music disputes.

North Indian Music Mixes Complex Social Worlds

Until 1947, music, or more specifically classical music, in North India belonged to a complex social universe. It was written and perform in princely establishments, courts and bourgeois public spheres in cities. It was present in both Hindu Vaishnav temples and Sufi Islamic social circles. That formed around specific teachers and followers. Where music was an integral channel for experiencing mystic ecstasy.

From these cultural and social milieu sprung qawwali, a form of spiritual devotional. Music popular to this day across South Asia.

North Indian music flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries, in virtually all of Mughal North India. Which extended from Gujarat in the west to Jaunpur and Benaras in the east (the current state of Uttar Pradesh), from the Punjab to the Mughal Deccan. It was part of a composite, Indo-Islamic culture, identified then as as ganga jumni tehzib.

The style incorporated acoustic elements from diverse sources and rested on a multi-lingual repertoire, conveying the simplicity of both Hindu bhakti and Islamic sufi poetry.

Devotional Movements Associated Social

This poetry was inspire by popular devotional movements associate with Hinduism and Islam in the 15th century, which emphasize personal devotion and the value of a teacher. It commanded diverse genres that moved reasonably effortlessly between court and kotha, a space most commonly understood as brothel, but which was also part of the popular entertainment scene.

North Indian music also adapted musical instruments from South and Central Asia to produce new instruments such as the sitar and the sarod, and improvise with new conceptions of melody and vocalisation.

This music was carefully nurture by specialist families with access to a vast repertoire and a galaxy of brilliant teachers, finding support in small courts that persisted even after the Great Mutiny of 1857, when the Indian army revolted.

Following the mutiny, musical families were much reduced in power and stature, but found new enthusiasts among a growing middle-class gentry whose rise occurred in a new context of western education and colonial employment.

Music And Modernity Social

The heightened middle-class appreciation of music was mediated through the experience of modernity, which inevitably fed new anxieties about inheritance, culture and heritage that had to be projected in a way that was appropriately modern, chaste and spiritual.

Music, practised by courtesans and Muslim Ustads (teachers and masters), had to be reconciled with the new aspirations of a western-educated, middle-class Hindu society. They needed to repurpose this entertainment to suit a Hindu-accented concept of Indian-ness.

The resolution that unfolded was a series of experiments in the late 19th and early 20th century, including publishing primers on music and setting up music appreciation societies. These were initiated by nationalists and publicists such as Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Vishnu Digamber Paluskar.

The societies that we mention here were early expressions of a growing middle class interest in music and its reformers who ended up assuming responsibility for music’s teaching and transmission. They also brought existing practitioners such as Abdul Karim Khan into a new regime of aesthetic standardisation and institutional support.

Ustads were persuaded to turn over their repertoire to be standard and printed, while courtesans were marginalised in subtle and sometimes violent ways. Women were forced to give up their profession or move into new spaces afforded by the cinema, refashioning themselves in an appropriate manner as Jaddan Bai, the mother of legendary and pioneer Bollywood artist Nargis, did.

Forced To Choose Social Sides

After Partition, these hereditary practitioners were ask for the first time to choose the country they would live in. It was only then that the music of the region began to bear the scars of a violent disruption and division.

What was to happen even to the naming of this practice was it to be Hindustani classical music or ilm e mausiqi Pakistani? This was a question that cut right to the heart of the problem; a question that musicians on both sides of the divide agonize over even as they struggled to maintain claims to lineage and authenticity.

Artists moved across borders, confused by the way events transpired. Some found it easy to settle down and make a niche for themselves, such as singer Noor Jehan, who settled in Pakistan. Others found it difficult to juggle offers in India with stays in Pakistan.

Following Partition, Bade Ghulam Ali (1902-1968), the legendary singer from the Punjab and a doyen of the Patiala musical style. Came back to India and was help to acquire Indian citizenship by Morarji Desai, the chief Minister of Bombay in 1957.

Violence Of Displacement

There was no doubt that the violence of displacement and the zeal of the new states. To prove their fidelity to national identities represented a loss for performers. Listeners too were ultimately losers, even if the politics of representation and consumption numbed. Them to the fractures that music and performance practice had sustained.

The debate is not frame in the same way today, but it was certainly a pressing one. When Pakistan opted for a different set of musical forms and cultural symbols to define its distinct heritage.

To this day, artists from Pakistan who sing classical music find receptive listeners in India and share the general feeling. That politics has very little understanding of a deeper and shared aesthetic experience. Nasiruddin Sami, a Pakistani musician, has very close links to Delhi musical traditions and is very popular in the city.

Nurture New Creative Artists

This is certainly not to argue that both India and Pakistan did not nurture new creative artists. Or experiment fruitfully with genres such as the ghazal in Pakistan’s case. A poetic form that consists of rhyming couplets and that has enjoyed an immense resurgence.

But we need to understand the share nature of the subcontinent’s traditions, music perhaps the most deeply felt. As Bade Ghulam Ali is suppose to have said. If in every home one child was taught Hindustani classical music, this country would never partition.

Today, we live in a world that is saturate with sights and sounds that leak across borders. Despite prohibitions and state posture. In the digital age, bans make even less sense than older versions of censorship.

It appears mindless when governments speak of patriotism as some extreme form of clan loyalty. Before which all sensibilities have to wither away. Equally disquieting is that we, as consumers of infotainment. Almost never seriously interrogate the banal but sinister intentions of government propaganda.

Over the last decade the numbers of those identifying as Spiritual But Not Religious, or SBNR, have continued to increase. In 2017, Pew Research Center found that a quarter of Americans identified as SBNR.

Sociologist Wade Roof Clark argues that the current trend started with the Baby Boomer generation, which began more broadly exploring spiritual options in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Those identifying as spiritual tend to adopt different forms of spirituality while embracing some elements of religion or rejecting religion altogether. Many scholars believe this to be an attempt by individuals to resist religious authority. As individuals explore different spiritual resources, they may blend forms of practices like yoga or meditation while also taking on everyday life experiences as part of a spiritual journey.

In 2020, along with a research colleague, I began looking at everyday practices that might be considered spiritual. Building upon other research projects noting the similarities between sports and religion in society today, we interviewed skaters at skate parks to see how they understood skateboarding.

After conducting our research, we concluded that there are spiritual elements to skateboarding for some within the skateboarding community.

Dealing With A Harsh Urban Environment Spiritual

For our research, we began hanging out at three local skate parks as a way of establishing trust with the skaters. My research colleague is a skater, and she educated me on specific tricks, the skating culture and the slang. Noting those who tended to be regulars, we began to conduct interviews, asking the skaters about style, tricks and, ultimately, what skateboarding means to them.

Because of the pandemic, we pivoted to asking skaters to complete an online, open-ended survey. We were able to garner seven interviews and 24 survey responses. None of our respondents identified with any religious tradition.

The skaters we interviewed often acknowledged that through skateboarding, they were able to give meaning to their local spaces, which tended to lack natural fauna. Accepting one’s environment of concrete sidewalks, stairs and parking lots can lead to a spiritual practice of imagination.

Where many people see the banal aspects of urban geographies, skateboarders can see opportunities for exploration, as we found. One skater explained, I don’t see skateboarding as a sport, but a way to navigate and manipulate an urban environment in ways you see fit.

Failure As Spiritual

Skateboarding can be dangerous and lead to multiple types of physical injuries. A quick scan of skating videos on YouTube will demonstrate how often skaters fail to land tricks or even injure themselves skating.

After we analyzed our interview data, which is being published in a forthcoming journal, we began to understand failing as a spiritual exercise. Whereas many religious objectives include working toward perfection, spiritual practices often embrace the imperfect.

Scholars have argued that religion and spirituality enhance athletic performance by creating mechanisms to cope with performance failure and injury. Yet, other studies indicate some concepts of religious perfectionism actually interfere with athletic performance.

What we learned is that the dangerous elements of skateboarding separate the exercise compared to sports that are deemed safer. Certainly there are risks involved in many team sports, but skateboarders understand those risks differently. In skaters minds, the dangerous elements of skateboarding separate it over and against safer sports. They understand the risks as something crucial and valuable to be accepted.

You don’t always want to land stuff, you know? explained a skater, And that’s how you know you’re alive because you almost died kind of thing. In fact, failing and falling (known as slamming) is integral in skating practices, a spiritual rite of passage. Falling is easily half the battle, if not more. That’s the rite of passage to being a skateboarder. It’s not your friend. It hardly likes you. And it will put you in your place real quick.

Furthermore, the rite of passage of slamming proves a skater’s authenticity into the skating community. You’ve got to be willing to pay for your time in blood, or else you’re just a culture vulture, is how one skater described this rite.

Skateboarding As A Spiritual Cure

The more we spoke with skateboarders, the more we realized that skating is a spiritual exercise, possibly a kind of remedy against boredom in modern life. Past studies have shown that skateboarding provides moments of autonomy and freedom.

Skateboarding was almost like a spiritual tool to re-imagine the monotony of life in urban geographies. Landing a kick flip or grinding down a handrail yields an exuberance and an outlet. One skater explained, Skateboarding gave me independence, confidence and a way to express myself and my artistic traits.

Another skater told us as he sat on his skateboard and the sun set. You have to be willing and dedicated so much for something that actually has no value to anyone except yourself. Falling teaches you that sometimes in life shit’s not easy. There are so many obstacles along the way, but you need to figure them out, learn, adapt and continue to move forward and obtain the goal you’ve been wanting to accomplish.

Skateboarding Is A Meditative Practice

Others described the ways in which skateboarding is a meditative practice. When we asked another skater to simply describe what skateboarding is, he offered Infinity, and it represents openness. It’s a lifestyle for inventor minds. Skateboarding is falling down and getting back up. Inventing.

Playing for the sake of playing. Toying around. That is why I do it and what I feel from my participation is similar to meditation, like a lulled-out, relaxed state the very act of riding the board changes the way you move through life.

Although skateboarding and skateboarders generally are stereotype as vulgar trespassers who damage property, skateboarding itself seems to be a way for some individuals to cope with the conditions of the contemporary world.

We’re not the only researchers to find correlations between skateboarding and religion and spirituality. Sociologist Paul O’Connor discovered religious elements in skateboarding. Like iconography of certain popular skaters and pilgrimage spaces marked as sacred in the skating world. He even describes skating as a DIY religion.

Spiritual practices don’t always mean supernatural. Instead, spirituality is often about examining the everyday and asking how meaningful. Exercises can be develop to cultivate the individual into a better person.

Can religious and spirituality promote ethical behavior in the workplace? It’s a contentious issue, but our research comprising interviews with forty Indian top level executives suggests it might.

We found that virtues embedded within the various traditions of religion and spirituality (Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism) play a role in ethical decision-making in the workplace.

Thirty three executives explained that these traditions promoted virtues such as integrity, flexibility, moral excellence, tolerance and responsibility. An executive in the automobiles sector reflected on the virtue of flexibility.

Our Islamic religion teaches us to not shut the door on others viewpoints. I employ this philosophy or value or whatever you want to call it in my job. I listen to my teammates. We work out our differences of opinion and come to some acceptable middle ground at all times trying to value our core beliefs. Some executives even felt it was better to resign from their position when faced with an ethical dilemma.

They attributed this to the embedded ethical virtues in their religious and spiritual convictions while making this tough decision. An executive from the IT sector mentioned he had left his previous organization because his religious background conflicted with the organization continuous copyright violations. He stuck by his integrity.

Zoroastrian Religious

I could not sleep at night for several nights and approached my Zoroastrian religious advisor who advised me to seek employment elsewhere. I left the firm for the current firm and feel I dodged a bullet.

However, seven executives who did not subscribe to a religious or spiritual group suggested that non-religious based virtues with a focus on humanistic ethics and professional pragmatism should be encouraged.

India is a multi-faith society, so it was suggested that such a view would help workers remain neutral. An executive from the media sector suggested workplaces should encourage non-religious and non-spiritual individuals to rely on their own humanistic belief system.

Ethics have to be practice at a human level. Once we open it up to religious interpretation, there is scope for endless debate and confusion. Ethics to me is a secular topic. You need to be sensitive and weigh the consequences of business actions to set a code of ethical practices. Religion can provide some kind of model, but to me it is a hindrance.

Certain Inspirations Religious

In religious-based spirituality, certain inspirations from one or more religious traditions may be drawn upon as a means to an end.

In non-religious spirituality there is normally an absence of religious belief. Instead, such spirituality is based on secular or humanistic values, such as interconnectedness with others at work or in a society and serving a higher purpose in life without necessarily referring to God or a Creator.

Recent studies have linked religiosity and spirituality to corporate social responsibility, altruistic behavior; and pro-social and ethical behaviors.

Other studies have challenged these conclusions however, with evidence of contradictory findings. Some have argued that religiosity and religious-based spirituality could promote unethical behavior. For example, discriminating against another person who does not share one’s belief system. It might even flow into hiring practices and how one treats another colleague at work.

Nurturing Ethical Decisions

Our paper published in May 2017 isolated the role of religiosity in the development of ethical virtues in India. These virtues included empathy, justice, temperance, transparency, conscientiousness, wisdom and moral fortitude.

The virtues translate into competencies that help foster ethical actions. For example, empathy relates to the variety of ways to connect with employees and foster quality working relationships. Actions include nurturing a particular individual, building friendly relations and not using seniority to get subordinates to do something unethical.

Moreover, temperance focuses on personal integrity and and assists in avoiding contact with someone of dubious character and not wavering from one’s ethical principles

Conscientiousness embodies the ability to behave ethically in the face of temptation. An executive in the engineering sector stated that when his peer advised him to manipulate the price of products to include unreasonable markups, he refused to do so and advised. With my customers I will always try not to cheat them. I will see to it that they will get good quality.

Ethical Dilemmas And Paradoxes

Despite the rich tapestry of religions and spiritualities, unethical behaviors such as corruption, bribery, cronyism and nepotism appear to be rampant in India.

One conclusion might be that certain individuals rationalist their unethical behaviors as a result of external pressure to conform. Such pressure coupled with personal greed arguably override any intention to remain ethical.

Ongoing education in the form of seminars, workshops, training and case studies related to ethical virtues is important. For example, an executive with a consultancy service business explained.

Our company has got workshops which we attend regularly and we read lot of books and journals. We come across a lot of practice related issues and what all things are happening in the world. That’s how we try to update ourselves and try to have a positive mindset towards ethical practices.

These initiatives consequently promote ethical decision making in the workplace when the religious bases for those virtues are removed. Several Indian multinational firms do business in multiple overseas countries and ethical standards and expectations may vary across countries and cultures.

Emotional Intelligence Religious

An executive from the IT sector suggested emotional intelligence could be useful for those faced with an ethical dilemma in a cross-cultural context. That includes being aware, being in tune with others and having the foresight of how one’s actions affect others. Indeed emotional intelligence could provide the clarity needed to discern whether the decision is ethical or not. It is also a skill that is sorely needed for leadership development.

Demonstrable consistency in ethical decision-making and leading by example are necessary to ensure ethics are reinforced. An inconsistent decision-making style with a high regard for ethics by leadership one day and disregard the next only conveys that compromises are acceptable.

Globalization and the movement of labor are rendering workplaces in both developed Australia, Singapore and developing Brazil, Malaysia economies diverse. In such multi-faith workplaces, having an ethical approach that is inclusive and relying on the core virtues embedded in religiosity, spirituality and humanity might provide consistency in ethical decision-making.