By KAUSTAV BHATTACHARYYA

“The House of Savoy which led the Unification movement of Italy became the ruling dynasty of Italy and ended up being the prime kingdom from 1861 until 1946. In 1946 the Monarchy was abolished in Italy. The affiliation with the House of Savoy bestowed upon the Piedmontese ‘Nobility’ a special prestige and legitimacy when compared to the rest of the Italian Nobility. The rest of the numerous Italian small monarchical states were perceived as residual vestiges of foreign conquests rather than products of pristine Italian history with continuity from ancient past.

In conversations with Professor Isvarmurti he often lamented the ignorance of educated Indians about the Continental high culture and society, our textbooks and pedagogy heavily concentrated on the British nobility or elites and took a complete detour with regards to the Continental Europeans.

In this specific article I explore the Italian Nobility and specifically the Piedmontese Nobility and their role and status in Italian society.

Why Piedmontese nobility?? The Piedmontese nobility enjoyed a special status amongst all the principal Kingdoms of Italy being part of the House of Savoy which led the Unification movement of Italy or ‘Risorgimento’ in late 19th century. Piedmont is a North-Western region of Italy located on the foothills of the Alps with borders with France and Switzerland. Prior to the Unification Piedmont was one the numerous Principalities of Italy and was affiliated to the Savoy Kingdom. Piedmontese nobility or the Lords were members of the House of Savoy centered in Turin.

The Piedmontese nobility which after the Unification or ‘Risorgomento’ in 1861 lost a lot of the privileges endowed through legal and official statutes created a nice enclave outside the political sphere for their elite status amongst the upper classes which included the newly emergent elites of industrialists, bankers, propertied rich including landed elites and professionals, based upon their aristocratic ‘heredity’.

They relied upon social and cultural institutions to exercise their cultural hegemony by shaping them according to their own noble values, morals and manners. The 3 institutions which Piedmontese Nobility exercised influence and shaped predominantly were private schools, army and Gentlemen’s Clubs.

In this article we will consider particularly the case of the Gentlemen’s Clubs which were the enclave of this Piedmontese Nobility in Turin; Società del Whist and the Accademia Filarmonica.

Although many of these private clubs were porous in terms of their membership and did allow a certain percentage of nouveau wealthy bourgeoisie elites it was the old Noble pedigreed ‘family’ elites who emerged as mediators of conduct, manners and values.

What’s so interesting about the Piedmontese Nobility?? Personally I find it fascinating how this particular nobility exercised influence and power in the cultural and social sphere operating independently of the political sphere. This fact appeals to me as a lesson at a point in time when politics and politicians dominate our imagination to the exclusion of all other refined pursuits.

DESCRIPTION OF THE 2 GENTLEMENS CLUBS:
There were 2 posh Gentlemen’s private exclusive clubs based in Torino towards the end of the 19th century; the Società del Whist and the Accademia Filarmonica. These clubs were inspired by the model of Gentleman’s Clubs in London and Paris.

Both these clubs were merged shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1947and were renamed post-merger as the Società del Whist Accademia Filarmonica.

The merged club is housed in the magnificent edifice of Palazzo dell’Accademia located on Piazza San Carlo in Torino: the same premises as that of the erstwhile Accademia Filarmonica. The physical structure of Palazzo dell’Accademia was built between 1644 and 1656 and designed under the aegis of Benedetto Alfieri, one of the illustrious architectural proponents of the “classicism-baroque” style. The aristocratic or noble touch is glaringly evident from the architecture of the edifice employing the finest mind of the time.

The Philharmonic Academy:

Was formed in October 1814 as an informal coalescence of 50 amateur musicians along with the appointment of its first President, the Count Luigi Mocchia of San Michele, to celebrate and cherish Classical music.

The school was financially supported by the Patrician Carlo Alberto during his lifetime and physically located at the palace of Marquis Solaro del Borgo. Philharmonic Academy was engaged primarily in musical performances, conducting study of music and dancing involving professionals, academics and amateurs.

As things stand today, the Philharmonic Academy is endowed with a valuable musical library which remains as an artefact of the musical teaching tradition including well-preserved original handwritten scores from the 6th and 7th century.

These handwritten scores were donated by the Marquis Alessandro dAngrogna who was a member of the Philharmonic Academy and descendant of Count Luigi Cotti of Brusasco. Interestingly it was the intervention of Marquis Alessandro dAngrogna saved the archives from destruction by Napoleonic forces. A special music hall or room was built by the architect Talucchi in 1840 titled ‘Odeo’ with higher quality acoustics for concerts and exercises.

Società del Whist:

Or ‘Whist Society’ was founded sometime in March 1841 as a personal dream ‘project’ of the Count of Cavour, Camillo Benso and was located in the chic and elegant CaffeFirio of Turino.

Initially it was conceived as a warm cozy location for meeting to play Whist (being a trick-taking card game), Chess and have conversations with ‘politely educated’ people. There were 40 founding members who were friends of the Count Cavour, which included both aristocrats and upper bourgeouisie, amongst whom 10 were affiliated to the exclusive aristocratic club of the city, Patriottica Nobile Societa del Casino which restricted membership to the highest strata of the nobility primarily those who were titled prior to 1722. The key aristocratic personalities who were part of the founding team apart from Count Cavour were Cavalier Pietro Santa Rosa and Count Vittorio Filippi di Baldissero.

This notion of being ‘politely educated’ traces its origins to the Renaissance ideal of a cultivated, cultured person who is blessed with a generalist education which clearly betrays the aristocratic ideal of education.

‘Polite’ education implied acquiring knowledge and learning much beyond the confines of professional learning with clear practical defined goals and objectives; a kind of ‘Knowledge for Knowledge’s sake’ ideal.

Admission criteria of being ‘politely educated people’ is another manifestation of the aristocratic temper and tone of the Club.

Another aristocratic influence on the Club was the fact that gambling was strictly prohibited within the precincts of the Society.

There existed a library existed with a good collection of books along with the games. Clearly this Club was influenced by the aristocratic ideal of cultivation of mind, body and spirit laced with haute cuisine and fine wine.

Piedmontese Nobility was closely connected to the military this manifested in terms of the members contributing to the war efforts earning battlefield glory; there were 19 gold medals awarded to Whist Society members. This battlefield track-record stretched from the First War of Independence until the Great War (First World War) and the Resistance.

The Whist society insisted on being totally apolitical and despite having members who were political heavyweights: the nobility types, diplomats and serving ministers. There was maintained a calibrated detachment from the humdrum world of politicking.

Rather the philosophical abstract world of political ideas were acceptable and welcomed. As a matter of fact quite recently, about 20 years back, one of the senior members had to step down due to his close affiliation with the ruling political dispensation of the day.

In the summary one can appreciate and understand the way Piedmontese nobility went about creating a special niche for themselves in the sphere of socializing and aesthetics independently of political elites. This demonstrates that there are multiple ways in which fading elite can retain its prestige and exude glory without craving and conniving for political power.”

Date : 15.06.2020

Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank
Hon’ble Minister of HRD
302-C, Shastri Bhawan,
New Delhi- 110001
Phones:+91-11-23782698/23782387
+91-11-23382365 (FAX)
E-mail: minister.hrd@gov.in

Sub: To draw up well-thought out higher education policy – reg:

Dear Hon’ble Minister,

Namaskar,

I had not long ago written a letter to your good self regarding the activation of library system in the States where in most of the States have not attended the activation of libraries.

Also lately I had written one more letter addressed to the Prime Minister on the need for education reforms which unfortunately had not taken off in the last six years of the BJP rule, in spite of several attempts to draw up an education policy.

I have been interested in this field for a long time.

Today I read in the Financial Times of London about how the recent Indo-China issue had led to many heart-rending scenes as circulated in the China media, the Chinese Global Times and also in the social media how the Indian soldiers are treated badly. I am sure the Government of India must be aware of these humiliations.

However, what prompted me to write this letter to your good self directly is the urgency, yes I would say so, to draw up a sound education policy that would, I am sure, meet the strategic need. To draw up a higher education policy that would add strength and also reverse the current trend towards lakhs of Indian students who migrate every year to pursue higher education in Western countries, UK and USA and also other countries like Canada, Australia.

By one latest count, again published in the FT, some around 3 lakh Indian students travelled in the year 2019 alone. You must be surely aware that it costs each Indian student nearly one crore for a first degree. While the home students, UK and USA, pay only one third of the same.

Are we not wasting so much of our foreign exchange? Simply because of our poor higher education policy in our country. Our higher education strategy doesn’t contribute to strengthen our country’s intellectual base, not contribute to the self-confidence and creativity and also in sciences and technology. We don’t match with the progress made in the new technologies, in particular in the IT and software fields, as per the latest data on, say start ups and other related tech fields.

When we write to the PMO our letters are filed under some head or other, it never gets the PM”s attention.

You have to engage the best minds of the country to draw up a well-thought out higher education policy and the comparable Indian university system. How long we are going to follow the Western education priorities?

Higher education has already become mass education and the private players have already commercialised the field that no longer contributes higher research and solving problems our country badly needs.

I am sure you are seized with the issues faced by the sector and in my opinion, the humbling truth is that bureaucrats can’t draw up a courageous and independent minded approach to the issues.

I had studied at Santiniketan and Oxford and I can say with confidence that if you don’t intervene the Indian education system won’t change for another one century and more!

Let us start right now and also we have to compete with the world higher education system.

Hope this letter triggers your thoughts and cause some action!

With warm regards,

V.Isvarmurti

Timely bold economic stimulus no doubt
But when will the lockdown be lifted and what happens next?
The Rs.20 lakh crore package timely
But how to implement? What happens next?
Economic recovery calls for robust common sense approach!

How to implement the big Schemes and revive the economy?
No easy answers and no clear vision!

The two month long economic lockdown ran out its course and the economy is now open. It is only right to call this opening as hopefully opening!

One can’t say at this point whether this hope is fulfilled or other obstacles come in.
No people or country can live without hope and a confidence in the future. So, we can say with some confidence that India would pass through this Covid 19. Challenges and new medicines would come along, given the latest information that at least about one hundred company’s are engaged in finding out the new cure for this deadly disease that had taken a heavy toll on people from all the countries.

This is not the time to talk anything else except that the whole world looks for resourceful countries to invest in discovering new cures.

At least one current change in the Indian authorities’ mindset is that the Indian arm of the medical rise which otherwise has been criticised by the reputed medical journal Lancet of the UK. Now, of course. The WHO has called for a pause. As the drug is not proven by the WHO. But the US President is reportedly taking the drug and hence the outside world must confuse. However, the UK government’s handling of the. Covid 19 is far from satisfactory.

Indian TV channels, one channel prominently has shown how the elderly care in the UK is very poor.

This is the first time. We see such sobbing and even crying scenes are shown to the outside world. Anyway, we have to wait for some new vaccine.

And that seems some time away.

It has been the Indian mindset so far that whatever Indians do must get some foreign approval, specially the UK or the US official approval.

Thanks to the current leadership there in the USA Mr.Donald Trump, in the UK, that of the British establishment to wait for such approvals.

Now, thanks to events and personality. Both the leaders had lost. Such of their credibility by not acting out their roles due to their countries’ power and reputation.

One of the sad developments. There in those two great countries are their own leadership roles. As well as their own countries’ media.

For all these days of very high costs in human lives lost there. Their own media both print and TV media didn’t share with the peoples of the world what is happening inside their countries.

It comes as a great shock and surprise that for days together the British media, specially the otherwise much admired BBC TV channels, there was almost total black out of the COIVD 19 causalities. What sort of media freedom, open society and presenting last data and information on this deadly virus?

So much human lives lost and yet we, inside India least, were so anxious to know their own countrymen and families, with so much high causality happening there was no way to know the exact loss of lives.

So, at least this time, after so many years of Indians’ own misconceptions about the strengths and weaknesses their health. Service, social security issues.

Why we write so much on the British failings at this point of time is that at least from now onwards there must be a new awareness about living in Britain and the USA.

One other major awareness even inside India, in our opinion is that, that till now, until the exodus of the vast scale of inside Indian. Rural and agricultural labour population that almost set out as a new wave of human explosion.

Are there so much vast scale of rural unemployment in the Indian states, more so in the north Indian states like Bihar and UP?

This is a highly emotional and economic issue that from now on at least our planners and policy makers must think in terms of new rural development strategy.

Now, the Finance Minister, Nirmala. Seetharaman has announced the government’s new economic stimulus package ,the dimensions of which might unfold in the coming days and months.

Economics, for those who had not studied it from highly reputed academies, in the UK and USA, must look like one more degree earning and job hunting exercise. May be that is one more reason why most of our highly competent economists are all employed abroad in the US university departments.

Sitting in such remote rooms and also travelling occasionally to India and giving some lectures. Or still easier, participating in some TV quiz like questions and answers, you can’t give solid advice how to spend the economic package announced. One aspect is how to help small and marginal farmers, or how to revive the agricultural economy.

Since our area is agriculture here are some points. One experts say: put the money in the hands of farmers, without any security and interest. Is this politics or economics?

Only those who are familiar with living in the rural areas know well that. The average landholding being what is less than one hectare. And also agriculture being unviable at that scale, the money put into the hands of this section would go directly in consumption!
So, please, we ask the government, the FM in particular to think of some institutional reforms like panchayat raj and ask rural co-operatives, wherever they are funding well, strengthening them and make in one word activity of group functioning.

There are so many complex issues that must be discussed before putting the raw cash in the hands of the farmers.

We are of the firm view that any farmer in India is a debtor or a litigants. So much complex is rural land ownership issues.

Agriculture and panchayat raj, rural co-ops and of course the usual agenda of corruption and electoral reforms and a transparent and efficient administration only can revive the economy in the genuine sense.

The PMO responds to the letters of the PMO’s grievances Cell!
Also the PMO is active and sensitive to the citizens’ petitions!
Even now the dilemma of Panchayat Raj vs. District Collector’s Raj!

Yet creating rural employment is not so easy. Rural India is a complex web.
The Indian migrants problem is very intricate indeed.

We appeal to the PMO and also the NITI AYOG to consider our views very carefully. Rural India is full of contradictions. There is high political and administrative corruption. Nothing moves without corrupt practices. The party apparatus is the first hurdle.

Party functionaries, from village to the district and why even the upper levels are known to indulge in dubious activities. The government schemes function in a partisan way.
The administrative structure, with petty party cadre seem to be active in interfering with the police to other levels of administration.

There are other traditional socio-economic and cultural hurdles. Now democrat had changed its features. Everyone is a political functionary these days. Our years in the rural media had taught us what the professional economists and experts haven’t taught us.
That is: Every marginal farmer is either debtor and also a litigant.

Even petty piece of land ownership leads the farmer, the marginal and small farmers, and the darlings of urban chatteratti.

‘The enormiity of the Indian migrant problems is going to remain with us for a long time.
Better we create a conducive environment after sometime so that the returned migrants might themselves go for old jobs with high payments.

We did’nt realise how vast is the Indian rural migration population.
Even the Supreme Court didn’t take up their case for the first 50 odd days.

Only when the migrants actually came out in the open and also, tragically left out for themselves India woke up to the Enormity of the problem is likely to persist so long we don’t r really wake up to the rural issues.

Our media kit focused at the rural Indian r realities and we have to shed our urban-biased mindset.

In many States of India hardly any decentralisation of power has taken root.
In the initial years after Independence and also when the voices of such leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were still resonant we all talked of swaraj and gram Swarj and lastly Panchayat Raj.

Though years rolled on we have forgotten many ideas and values of our freedom struggle and we increasingly fallen for the more material pursuits.

By the year 1967. The Congress party itself, under the Indira Gandhi years things in fact went more wrong paths and we saw many consolidation of power around individual leaders and also the rise of other minor parties and their known ideological proclivities.
The rise of splinter parties, more chauvinistic politics led to minor heroes like the DMK, later AIADMK in TN, the rise of ShivSena in Maharashtra and many other caste and communal parties brought about a new mindset.

There is no point in coming to the present scenario, the Congress party itself went its own way, there is now a family-centric dynastic politics and this has also contributed to the weakening of values.

So, to cut the story short, today inspire of Rajiv Gandhi two important Constitutional Amendments, one on Panchayat Raj decentralisation, not much had changed on the ground level.

Only in Karnataka, one in Kerala under the Communist regime Karnataka under the Ramakrishna Hegde government. A genuine radical change was sought to be implemented.

The recent trends in other states like Tamil Nadu we see a total bureaucratic control and centralisation and concentration of power.

In TN, the state knows better it is the district Collector’s Raj!
So, what sort of rural r realities we see today?
The panchayat bodies are almost dead and gone.

So. We need a whole new way of thinking and imagination. First, we must understand fully the rural realties.

We need a vision, if you so desire a new political and economic ideology.

Politically, we have to reform the.democratic decentralisation. The words might be changed but the understanding must be clear and also open-minded.

You have to understand the changed and changing rural India. The rural youth, we saw in hundreds walking back to their villages, in the migrant trail, all seem to be educated enough to know what the rural realities are there. They we say after sometime would surely go back to their old jobs which are very attractive than what they would get back in their villages.

So, please reform the panchayat raj institutions. Make at least a number of these migrant youth and others back in their villages empowered. Make them panchayat pradhans. Give them the hope of progress with liberalised opportunities, with credit and cash. Make for a liberalised rural society.

Encourage them with moral strength to seize the opportunities for a prosperous rural India. Give them political power and also economic opportunities. Small and medium industries can come up only when their own political and cultural rights are recognised. Caste is a very sensitive issue.

Unless you commit for a clear commitment to a progressive ideology, none would believe. The present day pretensions of a highly unequal society and also an inequitable social order. That is one reason why the traditional parties like the Congress stand discredited.

Anyone listening?

Lifeline for India’s economic prosperity. Times seem to have changed. Forever? It looks at this point of time it is forever!

The Covid-19 Pandemic could not have come at the worst time. Among the more serious tragedies and human misery about the sights and sounds of the thousands of ads the rural migrant desperately seeking to return to their own natives homes distributed in almost all the northern states from Assam to the other neighboring states from Bengal to Jharkhand and Bihar and UP from where lakhs of rural migrants who had migrated every year till now. Seeking better life, higher wages and assurance jobs at times of scarcity. This is an annual ritual till. This time.

Only now after the Covid 19 broke out even the authorities never seem to have realized the dimension of the scale of the problems.

Even after the Covid 19 Pandemic broke out, after some more than 60 days we see the thousands of migrants hanging over in the cities, in Mumbai and Delhi. In Delhi after ignoring the human issues and many tragedies, many retiring migrants have died on the was, still more poignant stories, the Apex Court had decided to hear the plight of the migrants stranded in the cities.

As for the government it is of great credit for the government that India has done extremely well; it earns a very good name among the more advanced countries. This we have to keep in mind and stand united behind the government in this hour of peril.

The whole world is puzzled; USA and UK were once held as role models; no more, we are sorry to note.

If this is what these countries have achieved in healthcare, then it is too much to expect from lesser endowed in resources like India.

What India must be doing now and after is a matter for discussion.

What we have to do at the moment is to lessen the hardships of the people, the returning migrants.

The humbling truth is that the government, specially the critical railways authorities have failed the suffering people by letting them to hang on for such long days.

The other agency. That are engaged in humanitarian series like catering and care for the suffering people on the railway tracks and roads where they seem to have halted for the nights and they also walked all through these thousands of miles and we, as compassionate society failed.

No leaders of any stature seem to have come out and spoken and asked for help from the concerned authorities.

This is one side of the problem, even as we write at the beginning of June thousands are left out. On the day the Supreme Court was hearing the cases, thousands are seen gathered and ,by one account 2.5 lakh people in Delhi alone and there are 262 trains required to ferry them.

In this new human crisis everyone concerned seems to have failed. Whatever be the outcomes of the SC hearing, there is no immediate end to this seemingly unending tragedy.

This is one side of the Pandemic crisis, apart from the pandemic crisis itself which is taking an unbearable heavy human toll. This is not the place to discuss further about how the issues would be sorted out. We are sure it would be sorted out, we hope in some days. The other more serious issues are lying to be tackled and this might not be very easy by any standard.

That is how to envisage the economic challenges. One is creating employment on sustainable scale. It is not easy at all. How this estimated 5 and odd crore returnee migrants to be retained or helping them to their own haunts.

There is no way to deviate from ground level realities. After a few days, not even months, the returned migrants would be the realities at their home states, given the manner in which ground level realities are played out there is no other way than to allow the people to go wherever they want, wherever there are productive jobs.

Punjab and Haryana would beckon them back. No doubts about it. So, let us at least now learn to. send them back with some dignity and order. Then, of course there are other larger issues, the larger picture and also some wisdom on the part of politicians and leaders to learn to. Speak some truth, not bravo and empty rhetoric.

We have written long and much. About rural India, rural realities. We need power decentralisation, establishing genuine panchayat Raj institutions and creating more urban-type jobs another new world technology based jobs.

Now having met whole Pandemic 19 virus attack, here would be new technologies. More online based productive jobs outside, away from the concentrated office jobs.

Online there can be any number of new innovations.

We at Vadamalai are also changing with the times. There are now new features online and discussion groups online and video-conferencing activities in the days to come. Thank you.