Thinkers Of Modern India And Our Continued Ignorance

Posted on January 26, 2011 in Society

By Ashmita Sengupta:

There is something very innately right about a few people you come across in life. It’s something about the aura they exude which just makes you want to hang on to their every action, their every verb.

On the top of my head, I’d consider Harsha Bhogle, Kishore Biyani, Anand Mahindra and Harinder Baweja as parts of that coveted group. So whenever you get the chance to hear them talk, people simply gravitate towards them.

A few weeks back, I had the privilege to sit through a talk given by Mr. Ramachandra Guha. Mr. Ramachandra Guha’s reputation as a historian and writer precedes him.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the turn up for his talk occupied barely half of the auditorium capacity. And it remained that way till Ramachandra Guha strode in a casual blazer.

The man with the salt and pepper hair, took no time in absolutely charming the crowd.

He wasted no time in speaking about his latest book, Makers of Modern India. He spoke about Mahatma Gandhi, he spoke of Nehru. He spoke of the pre and post Independence thinkers of India, the true blue ‘makers of modern India’.

I was in complete awe of Mr. Guha’s sheer knowledge, his intellectual honesty, and his fluency with the words he used. Fluency to the extent that any line picked out from today’s talk could’ve been easily quoted and printed at the back of some book.

To pick out an instance, he spoke about how it’s come to a stage where “India is governed by people with power but no authority, along with people with authority but no power”.

During his interactive session, he read an excerpt of his latest book, which included a quote by B.R Ambedkar.

In India, ‘Bhakti’ or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship plays a part in politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other of the world. ‘Bhakti’ in religion may be a road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, ‘Bhakti’ or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

Just this one quote gives us an idea about the clarity and quality of thinkers in India up until 30 years back.

With this one quote, not only did he establish what would later be a fundamental reality in current day politics, but he also very cleverly managed to answer the question before the question was even stated. But sadly enough, most people in this country don’t even know this statement of his. Let alone, remember it. Forget understanding the brilliance in the subtlety of it all.

I can’t really speak for my parent’s generation. Neither have I lived through the Naxal movement, nor have I faced the Indira Gandhi tenure at the parliament. They might have some valid reasons, but what is our reason for not being aware? What is our justification for not trying to be aware? For not caring? For not pushing the envelope a bit further?

For the past few years, a feeling of misplaced superiority has settled amongst us. There is no passion, no need to grow intellectually and holistically. We elect youth icons, and forget about them in 2 months. We bad mouth the system, and then we forget to do our bit in the selfish pursuit of a career.

It’s stupid to live in the hope of a person to come and transform a democratic nation. But it’s not that stupid to live in the hope of a generation who just might transform a democratic nation a bit by bit, by transforming itself at the basic level, by creating and taking that middle path.

Mark Lilla once wrote that, “In our politics, history doesn’t happen when a leader makes an argument, or even strikes a pose. It happens when he strikes a chord.”

Luckily, we have people who are doing, and acting. What we need now, are some thinkers to keep us inspired, to keep us acting, to strike a chord. Where are the current thinkers of Modern India, you say?

They are being recruited by Facebook for an inhuman pay package.

Photo by Esparta.