Scientists, writers or leaders?
India is a land of Gandhi. It is a matter of great pride to Indians that at least this year, the Nobel Foundations felt constrained to publicly confess it was a mistake on the Nobel Committee not to have given the Peace Nobel to Gandhi.
Why? This question is not asked by everyone concerned. Neither by the Nobel Committee nor by the Western intellectuals. Nor by the Indians themselves.
The real obstacle to Gandhi getting the Prize was the power of British colonial power. Churchill and Rudyard Kipling, the two most undeserving names got the Prize for, of all reasons, literature! This should be the supreme irony. But no one asked and even today fails to ask.
While luckily at least Tagore was spotted by British artists and thus he won the Prize.
Even now, in post-Independent India, no one dares to ask why Indian language literatures don’t get the Nobel Prize. Or for that matter, the several others, more rare and precious languages, even the very small minority languages have good literature. The Eastern European nations have produced much literature, poetry and novels that testify to the triumph of human spirit.
Why only English language is given so much attention? Why you search for people who are past their prime to award this prize?
Even literature Nobel Prizes must come to the Indian language literatures.
This year, at least one Indian had the honour of being mentioned as head of an Inter-Government Panel on Climate change that won the Peace Nobel. Thank god, one heaved a sigh of relief!
Why then no Indian scientist, that is born and brought up and works in India, had won a Nobel Prize after Sir C.V.Raman had the honour in 1930? Yes, the other Indian names, Khurana and S.Chandrasekhar won the Nobel Prizes, but they worked for long enough, almost after they became virtually American citizens, as like other foreign-born, America-domiciled names, before they were honoured with a Nobel. Even Amartya Sen would not have won the prize if he had remained within India, nay, even if he had continued to live the UK! Yes, such is the power and pull of the American universities and also American material and political and global power.
This year’s Peace Nobel deservedly went to AL Gore, the US Vice-President who narrowly lost the Presidency and as commentators have endorsed that Gore won the popular vote but the Republican-dominated Supreme Court handed over the White House to his rival George Bush! Now, in a sort of rebuff, the Nobel Foundation had recognised that Gore is the man to save the world, unlike his rival Bush is seen widely as the greatest disaster that had happened to the US in recent years.
Anyway, such is the play of fate that what you deserve you get it ultimately and what Gore had done is so remarkable and what the Nobel Committee had done is still more remarkable, it went in search of a man and a cause that are both universally important and one hopes that Gore’s work for reversing and retreating the adverse impact of climate change does bring much good to the mankind.
Now, as for the Indian scientists not winning the Nobel Prize, it looks almost for the next one hundred years after Sir C.V.Raman, the Indian sciences education and science research had at least raised some concern in some quarters.
Recently, there was a discussion on the topic in Bangalore, now home to world’s top Information Technology firms, Microsoft and IBM and Intel have some high-end research labs, the problem, as pointed out by S.Sadagopan, director and founder, Indian Institute of Information Technology is that there is a severe shortage of PhDs. He says:” We all feel embarrassed that the last Nobel Prize for sciences in India was so long ago”. In fact, we should be saying more like this:” At least under the colonial rule our men won the Nobel Prizes in literature and sciences. Now after Independence, after 60 years, we should feel ashamed that our education system failed us, our education ministers failed us and our Prime Minister with so much academic reputation is not even hinting to have any remorse for such Himalayan failings”! Why this state of affairs continues? There must be some adequate reasons.
The problems are complex, one there is not enough youngster of enough talent to stick to research seriously as a career. Given the attractions of high pay in the IT sector, there is really no way other than to wait and watch the situation.
Guruduth Banavar, associate director of Indian Research Lab for IBM in Bangalore says: There is a major shortage of PhDs in India and it is almost a national crisis”.
Education system of a country is more complex than most of us realise.
In the UK, this is a national debate, almost on every conceivable occasion. In the USA, it is again a national debate. The great universities there, be it the Oxbridge in UK or the Ivy League in the USA, continue to make news often for the wrong reasons! But the point is there are controversies on higher education issues. It could be sacking of high profile Vice Chancellor or it could be the high profile views of a high profile international issue like terrorism.
You might not care for much of what the Americans say! Yes, they could sometimes be so arrogant or ignorant or both! But you can’t dismiss the fact they, the economists, or the scientists or even the peace-wagers like Gore or Jimmy Carter continue to win the high profile Nobel Prizes. That is the vibrancy of the American society and economy and politics.
The one redeeming thing about the Nobel Prizes is that when it comes to great thoughts and themes, as in literature you confront, the Prize often eludes the Americans. This year, it went to the 80-plust Doris Lessing. It is a distraction. To award a highly sensitive prize to a person who is past her glory years, and that too to go for the English language literature year after year, in this era of globalisation and much of the emotional uprisings and that is what they rise of terrorism and all that denotes, we need to search for the new and unnoticed languages and literatures, in Asia and Africa or even in Europe, preferably in Eastern Europe.
A high-power national dialogue
A high-power national dialogue we need to analyse the ridigities of the Indian society, the growing vice-like grip of the bureaucratic Indian mindset that impedes a create process of the Indian mind. Indian gene is not a free gene. It is caught in a bureaucratic maze. We obey and conform to routine. We don’t know freedom, we don’t enjoy freedom. Freedom comes only when mind struggles and fights! A sense of relaxed atmosphere that is vital for freedom of thinking and speculation. A set of fostering values for pursuing genuine truth and discoveries and a reward and recognition culture in the larger society.
Ideally, the HRD and science ministries and even NGOs can take the initiative.
Literature and peace are all themes that stir man’s emotions everywhere. So, we need the Swedish Academy to do its homework more seriously and do some real search for new voices, the voices of the suppressed minorities and the tribes of people who are all touched by the globalised world’s many positive and negative impacts. We believe the impact is on the whole very positive, voiceless people have got voice and power thanks to the new technologies, the Internet and the telecom revolution and the material prosperity and the transportation revolution have brought people of diverse ethnic fabric into a panoramic beautiful thread and the weave of immense rich human heritage that is our proud possession in this of this exciting happening.
So, the Nobel Prizes, as the embodiment of all that is best in human endeavours and human aspirations must reach out to the unnoticed imaginations in new language literatures.
One hopes this message reverberates wherever it matters, more so in the Swedish Academy and the various decision-making bodies there.
Even the Indian language literatures are vibrating with new niches that could enrich mankind.