Sunday, September 09, 2012

The loss of inheritance


The approach of another festival season raises the old question of the place of myth and classical culture in our contemporary lives. This is not an idle question—it forces one to confront the difficult problem of what it means to be fully and richly human. For millions of young Indians who have risen in recent years and are now part of the confused, upwardly mobile, post-reform internet generation, the question has a new urgency. With a degree of prosperity has come the luxury of being able to face up to one’s inheritance, even though the answer might be frightening.

Akhilesh Yadav, the young chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, is typical of this generation. Unlike his father, Akhilesh finds no votes in the old bashing of English and “angrezi hatao andolans” especially when English medium schools are flourishing in the poorest Muslim mohallas of U.P. Yes, young Indians are more relaxed about the place of English in their lives, and gone is the earlier anxiety over “Indian-ness” or the belief that one has to read and write in one’s mother bhasha to be authentically Indian. Moreover, no one could have imagined the intellectual ferment that would come with the flowering of Indian writing in English. Yet, despite the new cosmopolitanism, Akhilesh and his generation cannot conceive of exchanging it for a riotous celebration of Dusehra, Diwali, and Ramzan, even though the significance of the festivals has receded from their consciousness.
   
What will shock Akhilesh Yadav and his friends in the political class is the sobering truth that an Indian who seriously wants to study the classics of Sanskrit or ancient regional languages will have to go abroad. “If Indian education and scholarship continue along their current trajectory,” writes Sheldon Pollock, the brilliant professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University, “the number of citizens capable of reading and understanding the texts and documents of the classical era will very soon approach a statistical zero. India is about to become the only major world culture whose literary patrimony, and indeed history, are in the hands of scholars outside the country.”

This is extraordinary in a country with dozens of Sanskrit departments in all major Indian universities, along with network of maths, pathshalas, and vidyapeeths. The ugly truth is that the quality of teaching in these institutions is so poor that not a single graduate is able to think seriously about the past and critically examine ancient texts. They are parrots who can only repeat words without converting them into true knowledge. Politically motivated appointments have also ruined the few centres of excellence that once existed at Pune University, Deccan College, and the Banaras Hindu University. Fifty years ago, India had great scholars like P.V. Kane, V.S. Sukhthankar, S.N. Dasgupta, S. Radhakrishnan and many more. The tradition of pandit learning is also disappearing. Where is India’s soft power when there are fewer and fewer Indians capable of interrogating the texts of Kalidasa or the edicts of Ashoka?

The gift of economic growth is that for the first time parents are beginning to be freed from earlier middle class insecurities and their children are beginning to take risks in the pursuit of unusual careers. One of these is driven by a natural curiosity about one’s past. The proud discipline of making sense of ancient texts is called philology which is practically dead in India. But as academic salaries have improved in recent years, it is increasingly possible once again to make a scholarly career. No one, however, will be able to study in India unless our institutions improve. Akhilesh Yadav and leaders in other states have in their power to stop the rot and reform our third rate institutions so that young Indians can one day help to recover our historical memory. 

To be worthy of being Indian does not mean to stop speaking in English. It means to be able to have an organic connection with our many rich linguistic pasts. To be truly ‘whole’ is to realize that mythical themes are universal and portray eternal truths of mankind, and can help us to cope with life at different stages. What separates man from beast is memory and if we lose historical memory then we surrender it to those who those who will abuse it.

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Shruti said...

India is now in need of a true leader who can help India to progress in the right direction. It is very much true that the Youths of India are more into materialistic world. The feeling of Nationalism has been lost. You are right that to be an Indian you need not stop speaking English rather one should be connected with the rich culture, literature and traditions of India.

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Anonymous said...

The filthiest people on earth have started multiplying themselves at a startling pace. The rest of us should move to other planets before it is too late.

These barely-humans wallow in dirt, swallow dirt, eat dirt, piss dirt and incessantly talk on the cell phone. Some Americanized-apes among them keep driving through a cacophony of cows, birds, Mazdas, donkeys, dogs, dog-like humans, sewer-water-rivers, etc. and keep telling each other to 'be proud of being Indian'. The human history has never witnessed such colossal collective filth and such colossal collective ignorance, assembled with such haughty collective arrogance.

Beggars continue begging endlessly on endless streets but the apes roll car windows, pretend India has become another USA, and drive on.

A dumbo who does not even know when not to smile is their 'prime' minister. Another dumbo whose only asset is her female-ness calls herself 'president' . Another comedian incessantly talks of ‘growth rate’ while remaining totally blind to zillions starving in full public view.

India is the biggest hallucinating experience on earth. What you thought existed only in tales about hell is actually real here.



Congratulations folks, you have achieved what even God assigned zero probability to.


SOLUTION: Nuke the entire country thrice over. Then wait a couple of thousand years to allow the stench to evaporate. Then, slowly allow settlers to come back in, but be very careful this around and keep the dwarfs out. Thanks in advance for doing so!

Sampaio said...

Dear Sir: I do believe that when it comes to put the good thoughts into the words that has far reaching audience, I can only think of you. You are aware of the current unstability that the world is witnessing over the anti-islam movie. I would like to share my thoughts with you on this issue and request you to write a good article on this issue. i am sure your article will make way for peace to many people. My thoughts are shared below. 20th century is witnessing an incredible hostility due to the action of half-learned people. We are still surviving due to the existence of illitereate population (constitute the majority in Asia and they are very humble because of their village living, at times they are also exploited by the hal-learned people coming from cities/political-parties/religious-seminaries) and a few fully learned people who are the great leaders of the 20th century, they can be seen in all walk of life, not merely restricted to the political wing. We need good leaders, more people with good knowledge. Makers of anti islam films are incredibly bad people. They really represent the dark ages. They create dangerous hostility in the world by their wrong deeds and this is becoming reality due to the absence of good leaders. Those who create mindless violence as responce to the action of makers of anti islam film are mostly half learned and those who indulge in violence are very few in numbers, believe me they would constitute probably 1% of the whole muslim population and majority of this 1% can also be controlled and can be persuaded to be on the path of peace by the leaders through their reponsible speeches and much needed guidence. At this point. the leaders have the excellent opportunity to prove to the world that how badly the makers of anti islam movie are wrong through their able leadership. At this time why no leader is appealing to all the muslims from all over the world to help the families of the 300 people who died in pakistan due to the fire in a garment factory. The record help, I am sure that will be generated, will certainly be appreciated all over the world.

Hitesh Chandel said...

Time has come when the history will repeat itself and the collective human consciousness will move to Satyug. I own to do this paradigm shift and will make Bharat a "Sone Ki Chidiya" and "Vishwaguru" again. Those who want to join me in this endeavour can read my following article and join me on any of the co-ordinates mentioned on "Join the mission" link.

http://hiteshchandel.blogspot.com/2012/08/making-of-chiefmentor-welcome-to.html

Neel N said...

We are already in a state of change; dynastic rule will going to crumble; if India will become a Sone Ki Chidya is debatable.This needs a complete change of attitude by the entire population of India; move away from the Slave Mentality Mind Set.

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