A letter to the President of India

India as a liberal and open society?

Recognize the transforming power of the individuals, institutions and the new technologies!

India as it is, a liberal and open society? Not yet? Not fully yet.

Our Constitution is a great document, it exceeds in its intrinsic qualities, its vision and wisdom that it has stood the test of the times. We have also mature state institutions, our Parliament, our Judiciary and Executive and a free press, now made more free and independent by the growing power of the visual media, the TV networks and the  rapid spread of the internet users, give Indians and the Indian ethos a rare power and sensitivity.

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Which Indian language will have the distinction?

Kannada or Bengali, Malayalam? Tamil has no chance! So too Hindi & others!

As I finished writing on Tagore and Yeats my thoughts turned to contemporary Indian literature.

The Indian language literature. One of my recent preoccupations has been to promote Tamil, my mother tongue, its current literature to   reach an all Indian audience, if not an international audience.

The Tamils are very proud people, proud about their 2,000 odd years of ancient literature, Tamil being a classical language on par with Sanskrit and other languages.

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Governor,West Bengal

An old acquaintance!

Gopal Krishna Gandhi

I just read the recent  convocation address of  Mr.Gopal Krishna Gandhi,the Governor of West Bengal at the University of Burdwan. It makes interesting reading and also it kindled my meories of the days past when I got to know the  current Governor  in his young age,perhaps in his teens near Geneva!

Before that anecdote,I want to share how much I enjoyed his convocation speech.He starts with the few anecdotes himself, friends and admirers calling him as a direct successor to Willam Bentinck and Lord Curzon! “One person got mixed up with the phrase”Excellency”and some notions of family distinction  as to say to me,”Sir,I am honoured to meet someone from so extinguished  a family!

“Such  humour apart,Gandhi says one historian wrote him to say that the Bengal Governor now is in a position now,that was once occupied by Nawab Sirajuddaowla! The word, nawab,we are told,is a name for a deputy,the deputy of the Emperor in “Dillee”as it was originally known.And then the Governor goes to the fateful date in Indian history:23rd June 1757,on that day the battle of Plassey(Palashee) was fought and lost! India became once more a slave country! Gandhi is a sensitive person and he traces our historic shame in some detail and tells us how much the British learnt to tell lies, lies about Black Hole of Calcutta and other lies.This is a lie,tells the Governor,for he points out to the fact that the cell into which was stuffed one hundred and forty-four persons measured eighteen feet by four feet and they  all died the next day after  Nawab Sira juddowlah’s  troops took control of Calcutta in June 1757.This story,the Governor tells his audience, had not been fully investigated, not many historians believe this story,no monument for the tragedy exists and only one historian stuck to the version and yet the Black Hole story dominates the imaginations of the British as well as the Indian public. Read More →

By David Crystal, Cambridge, pp 200,2003

A timely book for India,  for educators as well as  the general readers. English today is spoken by some 15 crore people world wide. English is a mother tongue in USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and in South Africa and several Carribean countries. Spanish is spoken in some twenty countries in Latin America. French lost its status,in Algeria French was replaced by English in schools. English is an official language in several countries notably in India. Yet, English language as a global language faces resistance in several countries by language riots, hunger strikes. Language deaths, again India is an example.

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By O.P. Kejriwal, pages 293, 1999, OUP

O.P. Kejriwal

This  is a rare book. A history of the history books on India. A band of Englishmen who came to India as servants of the Empire, went on to make their names immortals, as discovers of the Sanskrit language, translators of Sakuntala, Bhagavad Gita, Rig Veda and other classics that wee till then lying in palm manucripts or in the possessions of brahmins who didn’t show them to any outsiders.

I want Indians to remember this; there was also already in existence in Caclutta itself for half a century the Asiatic Society of Bengal (founded on January 15, 1784). Under the leadership of Sir William Jones (1746 – 1794) had made the first discoveries of India’s past and established a scientific chronology of Indian rulers and their dynastie. Jones who assembled around him, in his lifetime (he died a premature death in his 48th year) and after him a succession of Englishmen all turned into remakable individuals and great scholars who mastered Sanskrit, skills in deciphering Asokan edicts and other obscure inscriptions that all turned out to be landmarks in Indian history and scholarship. Each name is worth writing about in details. Such was the pioneering work that later proved to a historic step and a revolution in knowing India’s past. This story of the half a century of a legacy of establishing and provding India as a world  civilization makes Macaulay now a pigmy.

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