A time for celebration. And a time for introspection
On an occasion like this, it is often easy to be nice and say the usual flattering things about ourselves. But in a more serious, purposeful sense it is rather imperative, a moral duty as well, to be more retrospective, more committed to see far and wide, back and forth and see what is in store for us, the present and the coming generations in India.
In many respects India’s birth in 1947 wasn’t unique. Many nations that were born during the same time, like for instance Israel, had similar experiences. If India was born in partition, then Israel was born in the face of flight of the Palestinian refugees who have later come back to form the new State of Palestine under Arafat. India was born, not out of anyone’s bidding or by a party. Again, as Israel was born not owing to Ben Gurion or the Zionists. Though we can also now see the role of Gandhi and the Congress for the birth of India in a similar vein. It all depends what we want to know or learn about these 50 years of freedom. Much more important, it seems to us, that now we are in the midst of an India where two generations have been born and lived. And for these two generations Gandhi and the Congress are names in history.
The new generation we are witnessing today are more comfortable as consumers than as citizens! That explains what mental transformation has come about in the Indian society, politics and the economy, no less in the field of education as well in these 50 years.
What the urban elites and thier chief source of inspiration, the Western press and the television media, say about India is too familiar and too folksy a philosophy of much gloom and much backhanded compliment. Our democracy is okay but you are just too many poor. This is what the Western press seems to be drilling into our ears and eyes these days and clouding our visions for the present and the future of us.
But this ‘knowledge’ about India is not enough as it is not true. It is too shallow and too much of it would hinder our existence as an independent people. Yes, our sense of nation now needs much introspection, deep thought and much education campaigns.
Just recently, soon after the collapse of Communism we saw in Yugoslavia, how a nation very much like India with diversities of languages and ethnic groups, had fallen into pieces. Speaking the same language, the Croats, Serbs and Bosnians formed three separate nations.
So, is India going to be a single nation? Or, would the postures by our second and third rate politicians, many of whom don’t have anything but their own bloated egos to speak for, drive the country into separate and divisive regional and caste blocks?
The question might hurt the feeble-minded. Politic, at best times and at the worst of times, is always and the only barometer of the cultural and even intellectual ethos of the people. And a country survives or breaks up by the strength or otherwise of our core beliefs. It is here education’s role needs much introspection and reflection. By the intellectual classes, no less by the political classes.
Ideas, good or bad, right or wrong when accepted or embraced by the people have powerful impacts, as Marx said they become “material forces”.
It is here we have to restart a new renaissance of ideas and philosophies and beliefs. As a starting point, we have to look at some of the new knowledge that is pouring in. Two new books on Gandhi have brought new light. In them, with new archival material, from declassified documents, we see Gandhi as a human being, along with some of his comtemporaries, doing the same things any other politicians or leaders would have done, as in earlier periods Gokhale and Tilak did or even now others in our day are doing.
Even going back still to our earlier eras we have to reassess our understanding of our past to suit our current demands and concerns. Edward Said is said to have demolished the corpus of 60,000 odd Orientalist books produced in the west between 1800 and 1950 to establish the thesis for his own view of the true Orientalism which was instrumental for much of the claims made for Western heritage.
What have we got in intellectual achievements so far, in the Independent India, by way of discovery of our past? Do we have the core beliefs to live as a single and viable nation with all our diversities? How can we over come the raging casteism and regionalism and the complete breakdown of all public morality and in what Aleksander Solzhentisyn calls the march of the hypocrites. We need much introspection indeed, if we are to establish our credentials as self-respecting people. It is time for thinking. Or smile quietly and cross the road!