Reimagining India’s Present
most of us have a monolithic psychological barrier against looking earnestly at the hereafter. Many nurture the non unnatural. latent fright that any battle with the hereafter will turn out to be an recognition of their mortality and the transiency of their universe. Different civilizations handle this fright otherwise. In India’s middle-class civilization. efforts to look at the hereafter frequently end up as tame. defensive litanies of moral cliches or as excessively dramatic. Judgment Day ‘propheteering’ . Even those who avoid these extremes normally view the hereafter either as the hereafter of the past or as a additive projection of the present. If one is a determinist. one sees no flight from the yesteryear ; if non. one frequently urgently tries to populate in the instant nowadays. Those who see the hereafter as turning straight out of the present besides frequently narrow their picks.
When optimistic. they try to rectify for the ailments of the present in the hereafter ; when pessimistic. they presume that the hereafter will worsen the ailments. If one views the hereafter from within the model of the yesteryear. one arrives at inquiries like ‘Can we restore the precolonial small town democracies of India as portion of a Gandhian undertaking? ’ or ‘Should we resuscitate Nehruvian nonalinement to better negociate the disruptive Waterss of India’s inter-
national dealingss in the post-cold-war universe? ’ If one views the hereafter from within the model of the present. one asks inquiries like ‘Will the present fresh H2O resources or fossil-fuel stock of the universe outlast the 21st century? ’ Important though some of these inquiries are. they are non the nucleus of future surveies. No conservationist can claim to be a futurist by merely gauging. on the footing of bing informations. the pollution degrees in India in the coming decennaries. Precisely as no economic expert can claim to be a futurist by foretelling the exchange value of the Indian rupee in the twelvemonth 2005. The ground is simple. The future—that is. the hereafter that genuinely intrigues or concerns us—is normally disjunctive with its yesteryear. Defying popular religion. the hereafter is largely that which can non be straight projected from the present. Actually. we should hold learnt this from the relationship between the yesteryear and the present. The nowadays has non grown out of the yesteryear in the manner the technoeconomic or historical fatalists believe. I frequently give the illustration of a study done precisely hundred old ages
ago. at the beginning of the 20th century. It was done chiefly as an exercising in technological prediction during the Paris expounding. The respondents were the best-known scientists of the universe so. In retrospect. the most singular consequence of the study was the entire failure of the scientists to expect scientific finds and changes the universe would see in the 20th century. Thus. for case. the scientists thought the highest come-at-able velocity in human transit during the century was 250 stat mis an hr and among the inventions that they thought would non be feasible or popular were the wireless and telecasting. Indeed. novelist Jules Verne’s phantasies frequently anticipated the hereafter of scientific discipline and engineering more imaginatively and accurately.
For a novelist’s imaginativeness is non cramped by the demands of any subject or the outlooks of professionals. non even by difficult empiricist philosophy. The present excessively is disjunctive with the yesteryear. though we love to believe otherwise. The past presents is available to us in packaged signifiers. chiefly through the formal. professional narrations of the subject of history. We feel that we have a appreciation on it. History monopolises memories and offers us a tamed. digestible yesteryear. reformulated in modern-day footings. It is therefore that 17
History monopolises memories and offers us a tamed. digestible yesteryear. reformulated in modern-day footings.
history fulfils its chief societal and political role—it gives a shared sense of psychological continuity to those populating in a disenchanted universe. You can non make the same with the hereafter. for the hereafter has to be anticipated and it is more hard to turn it into a manageable portfolio. Ultimately. Benedotte Croce’s aphorism—’all history is modern-day history’— can be applied to all echt futuristic endeavors. excessively. All visions of the hereafter are intercessions in and reconceptualisation of the present. My speedy cheep into the hereafter of India. hence. can merely be a remark on India today. I offer it in the spirit in which my work on India’s yesteryears. excessively. has all along been an effort to ‘work through’ or reimagine India’s nowadays. The hereafter of India in my head is intertwined with the hereafter of diverseness and self-reflection. two values that have been cardinal to the Indian worldview. cutting across societal strata. spiritual boundaries and cultural barriers.
I believe that during the last two hundred old ages. there has been a all-out onslaught on both these values. Even when some have upheld these values during the period. they have largely done so instrumentally. Thus. even when they have talked of integrity in diverseness. the accent has been on the former ; the latter has been seen as an artifact or a difficult. slightly unpleasant. world with which we shall hold to larn to populate. A modern nation-state loves order and predictability and its Indian embodiment is no different. Sankaran Krishna’s brilliant survey of Indian intercession in Sri Lanka. Postcolonial Insecurities. shows that. even when the Indian province has gone to war in the name of protecting cultural individualities and minority rights. its silent end has been to progress the hegemonic aspirations 18
of a conventional. centralised. homogenizing nation-state. In response to the demands of such a province. modern Indians excessively have learnt to fear diverseness. That fear cuts across the full ideological spectrum and is of all time increasing. Most Gandhians want an India that would conform to the full to their thought of a good society. for they have begun to fear their marginalization. The late Morarji Desai was a good illustration of such defensive Gandhism. But even some of the more inventive Gandhians. the 1s who can non be accused of being associated with the crazes and idiosyncrasies of Desai. have non been different.
They have absolutised Gandhi the manner merely ideologues can absolutise their political orientations. The new globalisers besides have one solution for the full universe. though they sometimes lazily mouth cants like ‘multiculturalism’ . ‘grassroots’ and ‘alternative development’ . The end of their pluralism is to guarantee the transparence and predictability of other civilizations and strains of dissent. Likewise. I have found to my surprise that attempts to protect spiritual diverseness in diverse ways is non acceptable to most secularists. They want to contend the monocultures of spiritual fundamentalism and religionbased patriotism. but feel aggrieved if others do so in other ways. They suspect the tolerance of those who are trusters and swear the coercive setup of the province. Secularism for
In response to the demands of a centralised. homogenizing nation-state. modern Indians excessively have learnt to fear diverseness.
such secularists serves the same psychological intents that fundamentalism does for the fundamentalists ; it becomes a agency of contending diverseness and giving drama to their unconditioned dictatorship and monoculturalism. Thingss have come to such a base on balls that we can non now stand diverseness even in the affair of names. Bombay has ever been Mumbai. but it has besides been Bombay for a long clip and acquired a new set of associations through its new name. Bombay movies and Bombay ducks can non hold the same ring as Mumbai movies and Mumbai ducks. Nor can Chennai replace Madras in looks like shed blooding Madras and Madras Regiment. Many great metropoliss like London merrily live with more than one name. Indeed. in the Charles De Gaulle Airport at Paris. you may lose a plane to London unless you know that London is besides Londres. Until late. we Calcuttans used to populate merrily with four names of the city— Kolikata. Kolkata. Kalkatta and Calcutta.
Indeed. the first name is ne’er used in conversations. yet you have to cognize it if you are interested in Bengali literature. In recent old ages. the metropolis has been chat uping with a 5th name. thanks to former cricketer and cricket observer Geoffrey Boycott—Calcootta. But the Bengalis have disappointed me. Many of them now are seeking to guarantee that there is merely one name for the metropolis. Kolkata. The talented author Sunil Gangopadhyay has joined them. because he feels that the Bengali linguistic communication is under besieging from deracinated Bengalis. Anglophiles and Bombay—or is it Mumbaiya? —Hindi. I am afraid the alteration will non supply any extra protection to the Bengali linguistic communication. It will merely fuel our national passion for sameness. MANUSHI
It is my belief that the 21st century belongs to those who try to see diverseness as a value in itself. non as an instrument for defying new monocultures of the head or as a via media necessary for keeping communal or cultural harmoniousness. ‘Little cultures’ are in rebellion everyplace and in every domain of life. Traditional mending systems. agricultural and ecological practices—things that we rejected disdainfully as depositories of superstitious notions and degeneration have staged exultant returns among the immature and the intellectually adventuresome and presenting extremist challenges to put ways of thought and life. More than a twelvemonth ago. in the backyard of globalised capitalist economy. the US citizens for the first clip spent more money from their pockets on alternate medical specialty than on conventional health care.
The thought of the diverse is non simply spread outing but geting insurgent potencies. India of the hereafter. I hope. will be cardinal to a universe where the thought of diverseness will itself be diverse and where diverseness will be cherished as an terminal in itself. By its cultural heritage. India—the civilization. non the nation-state—is peculiarly good equipped to play a cardinal function in such a universe. However. the Indian elite and much of the country’s in-between category seem keener to tittup around the universe phase as representatives of a hollow. regional super-power. They want their state to play-act as a hapless man’s America. armed to the dentitions and desperate to reiterate the success narrative of nineteenth-century. European. imperial provinces in the 21st century. India is besides supposed to be a civilization profoundly committed to selfreflection. During colonial times. that No. 123
committedness began to look like a liability. Many critics of Indian civilization and civilization in the 19th century lamented that the Indians were excessively engrossed in their interior life. Others argued that Indian doctrine had marginalised the materialist strain within it and go preponderantly idealistic. Their silent premise was that the Indians were given to excessively much of self-reflection and excessively small to action. ‘We are dreamers. non doers’ came to be a popular. simplified version of the same plaint. Whether the preparation is right or non. it is obvious that we have overcorrected for it. We have now become a state of unthinking actors. Surely in the Indian center categories. any action is considered better than making nil. As a consequence. mindless action constitutes an of import ingredient of the regnant civilization of Indian public life. Even the few knowing. nongovernmental hydrologists who support mega-dams. readily admit that most of the 1. 500 big dikes
built in India are useless and counterproductive. Their chief part has been to displace 1000000s of people in the last 50 old ages. And even these protagonists are non to the full cognizant that the 1000000s displaced by dikes. frequently without any compensation. now constitute an first-class pool for those active in assorted signifiers of societal force and criminalism. Veerappan. boy of a dike victim. is merely the most ill-famed symbol of them. Likewise. even in the Indian ground forces. many senior officers now openly say that Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple was worse than making nil. The monetary value for that gratuitous intercession was a decennary of bloodshed and brutalization of Punjab. For old ages. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been ventured as an alibi for every hypocrite. useless intervention—in nature. society and civilization in India. The last clip I saw this gambit was when our bomb-mamas justified the nuclearisation of India in the name of Gandhi. The Indian center 19
categories have ever been uncomfortable with the male parent of the state and have ever believed him to be romantic. retrogressive. and antimodern. They have besides likely wholly along felt somewhat guilty about that belief. As a reparative gesture they have now begun to state. given half a opportunity. that Gandhi was a great actor ; he did non simply talk or theorise. This compliment serves two intents. It allows one to disregard Gandhi’s uncomfortable. insurgent thought as less relevant— ‘Bapu. you are far greater than your small books’ . Jawaharlal Nehru one time said—and it atones for one’s concealed ill will and disdain towards the unconventional Gandhian vision of India’s hereafter. Occasionally. some like philosopher T. K. Mahadevan have tried to puncture this selfcongratulatory scheme. I remember him one time stating in a missive to the editor of The Times of India that Gandhi
For old ages. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been ventured as an alibi for every hypocrite. useless intervention—in nature. society and civilization in India. went out on the streets merely twice in his life ; the remainder of the clip he was believing. Such intercessions are ever explained away as esoterica vended by bizarre intellectuals and professional image breakers. The dominant inclination in India today is to dismiss all self-reflection. It has turned India’s regnant civilization into an intellectually unfertile summing up of mottos borrowed from European public civilization in the 1930s. Our civilization is now dominated by European thoughts of the nation-state and patriotism. even Europeans thoughts of cultural and 20
spiritual patriotism ( mediated by that ratty Bible of the 1930s. V. D. Savarkar’s Hindutva. modelled on the thoughts of Mazzini and Herder ) . Shadow packaging with them for our benefit and amusement are European thoughts of radicalism and advancement. smelling to high celestial spheres of Edwardian England. In such a universe. it is about impossible to prolong a civilization of diverseness. peculiarly diverseness as an terminal in itself. You learn to pay occasional H omage to diverseness as an instrument that buys spiritual and cultural peace. but that is chiefly to conceal one’s avidity to deploy such thoughts of spiritual. caste and cultural peace to farther homogenise India. I have now learnt to fear the usage of any cultural class in the singular. For old ages. I wrote about ‘Indian civilization. ’ I thought it would be obvious from the contents of my Hagiographas that I saw the civilization as a alliance of civilizations and as an entity that coexisted and overlapped with other civilizations. After all. some
other civilizations. such as the Persian and the European. are now really much portion of the Indian civilization. The Islamic and Buddhist civilizations. excessively. clearly overlap significantly with the Hindu civilization. However. even the construct of civilization. it now seems to me. has been hijacked in India by those committed to unipolarity. unidimensionality and unilinearity. Our functionary policy has been shaped by a vision of India that is pitiably naive. if non ludicrous. It is that of a second-class European nation-state located in South Asia with a spot of Gita. Bharatanatyam. sitar and Mughal cuisine thrown in for merriment or amusement. Those who do non portion that thought of earthly Eden are seen as unsafe romantics.
Our civilization is now dominated by European thoughts of the nation-state and patriotism. even Europeans thoughts of cultural and spiritual nationalism… MANUSHI
continuously endangering India’s national security. No admiration that even many former supporters of India have begun to see it as a nucleararmed. for good enemy-seeking. fort province. Edward Said will ne’er cognize that few Occidentals can be as Orientalist towards India as educated. urban. modern Indians frequently are. In Indian public life. the standard response to such unfavorable judgment is to reconceptualise Indian civilization as some kind of a food market shop and to urge that one should take from it the good and reject the bad. This is absurd and slaps of haughtiness. Indian civilization represents the appraisals and experience of 1000000s. acquired over coevalss. It has its ain organising rules.
My ideal India … is a spot like a wildlife programme that can non afford to protect merely cuddly pandas and colorful Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelams. transparent. because there can non but be a touch of enigma in the universe of civilizations. My ideal India celebrates all signifiers of diverseness. including some that are disreputable. philistine and unstylish. It is a spot like a wildlife programme that can non afford to protect merely cuddly pandas and colorful Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelams. It is an India where even the thought of bulk is confined to political and economic domains and is seen as switching. plural and fuzzy. where each and every civilization. nevertheless modest or low. non merely has a topographic point under the Sun but is besides celebrated as a critical constituent of our corporate life. That may non turn out to be an empty dream. I see all around
me motions and militants shamelessly rooted in the local and the slang. They are less defensive about their cultural roots and are working to authorise non simply local communities. but besides their diverse systems of cognition. doctrines. art and trades. Underliing these attempts is a silent jubilation of mundane life and ordinary citizens. Everything in mundane life and mundaneness is non applaudable and many of these attempts seem to me harebrained. pigheaded or kick silly. But they represent a coevals that is less burdened by nineteenth-century political orientations masquerading as guideposts to a new epoch and at least some of them show the capacity to look at human enduring straight. without the assistance of ornate. freshly imported societal theories. Ashis Nandy is Senior Fellow. Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
Diversity. to measure up as diverseness. must let those who represent the diverseness to be diverse in their ain ways. harmonizing to their ain classs. non ours. It can non be used like an array of trade goods at the clemency of insouciant buyers. Diversity. to measure up as diverseness. must let those who represent the diverseness to be diverse in their ain ways. harmonizing to their ain classs. non ours. We shall hold to larn to populate with the uncomfortableness of seeing people utilizing these classs. even when they are non to the full crystalline to us. For the true tolerance of diverseness is the tolerance of incommensurable multiple universes of civilization and systems of cognition. In this sort of tolerance. there is ever the premise that all the civilizations covered by the thought of plurality are non and need non be wholly No. 123
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