The curious case of Indian Scholars: Few Notes and Observations

[Italics are the notes taken from some other sources.] Not for generalization!!

Sex, Scotch and Scholarship’  written by Khushwant Singh, named (or advertised) in this order, perhaps to indicate that first two will seriously damage the last one. His claims of scholarship however was not undermined by Sex (which probably happened only in His mind, as the case with the most of the Indian Scholars, whether they like to argue otherwise) or Scotch (which He’d take as two ‘chota’ peg a day) but by another ‘S’, the lumpen despot, Sanjay Gandhi. Well a lot has been said in this regards. [See, Anthropologist among the Marxist and other essays, By Ramachandra Guha.”]

Perhaps, the partisanship is the most serious challenge which is faced by Indian Scholarship. More serious than ‘Sex’ and ‘Scotch’ taken together. It is well known that after ‘Hindutva’ (the most maligned version of Hinduism ever) forces took office in 1999 in New Delhi, there first attempt to rewrite the history books[1, 2, 3]. NCERT books were rewritten, so hurriedly that even a newspaper like Hindustan Times could see the anomaly. As argued in ‘Ideology and Social Science’ by Andre Beteille, Indian scholars did not confront government in a way they should have. In the same time, there was a major reshuffling and new appointments in Archeological Survey of India (ASI) which then busied itself to disseminate and justify the idea of ‘Hindutva’. They even tried to prove that Indus Civilization was indeed a Vedic Civilisation, though facts say otherwise.

But the idea of Hindutva, no matter how narrow, touch a deep chord in Hindu Intellectuals (as they like call themselves). Perhaps people who were ruled over by foreigners for so long despite of their sheer numbers, like to take solace in these ideas. It makes them more comfortable to blame others for our undoings.

Indeed, the bankruptcy of our own achievements is so profound in our mind that We all take too much pride in anything popular which is Indian, even if remotely (e.g. Sunita Williams). Amazingly and surprisingly, at the same time, being ignorant to our own scholars/achievers.

But when It comes to past, our pride in our achievement blind us so much that even the myth and fantasies were believed – as the the rule of thumb – blindly. The believes that We gave this world too much of Mathematics is flawed[1][4]. There is nothing concrete/rigorous mathematics in Vedas or Sanskrit-literature (with some exceptional works of Aryabhatta, I know what I am speaking. I spend a whole semester learning about “Indian Astronomy” in HSS dept IITB as a regular course work). The idea of ‘zero’ is indeed revolutionary but again after inventing it, We keep adding it to the world. The world, which knows anything about Vedic mathematics is due to Arabic Scholars who gave references to Indian sources, almost generously. A quality which is raped in our educational institutes every day! Perhaps we are too soft on corruption. Chalta Hai. And some of us hate those Muslim scholars and believe that all of the ‘badness’ in Hindu ways of life is brought about by foreign powers..  

There are indeed some nice results by Aryabhatta (who is believed to be first to figure out that earth rotates around the sun though it is still left unproved) and others. But they fell short of anything which could be called rigorous mathematics for they did not give the proofs. 

Why would they not give the proofs? Why make knowledge obscure? What does it speaks about Indian Scholars? Were they envious that others might learn? Whatever are the answers, The doings were perverse.

Indeed, We developed the most profound grammar of all time. I am proud of it. ‘Astadhyayi’ as the most scientific studies of language ever. Panini grammar is great. He made Sanskrit so refined and perfect that it came close to being Sanskrit (the perfect). Sanskrit was not standardized that time, one was used for ritual and one was for general talking. There were other dialects too. [4]

Why would Panini write this grammar at that time? Was he afraid that some more changes might come? Although the most refined Sanskrit was not spoken in His area (It was spoken in the areas now in Punjab and Haryana [4]), he shaped his own dialect.  

The amazing fact about it is that the language of Indian Scholarship had never been the language of masses. First It was Sanskrit, spoken by a few learned,  now it is English, spoken by few (about 3%, including broken English). Why there was/is not effort to fill this gap?  Don’t(Didn’t) We like to fill this gap? Best way is by translating. Why Indian Scholars do/did not do that? How many scientific journals do you know which translates their work in Indian Language! Why should 97% of Indians not have access to current affairs in Knowledge.

Power is for power, to rule. Knowledge is nothing less than a power if others are ignorant. In Vedic time it was the source of Brahmin power for He was the only who could interpret Vedas for the masses. They translated a lot of works but they changed the translation for masses to maintain their authority. The ‘puranas’ are the classic examples of corruption. Even in Mahabharta, it is believed that ‘Geeta’ was added later, some ideas are so suitable for powerful that over time they have been used to justify some of the worst actions. In Mahabharta, it was used to justify why you should wage a war and ‘fare forward’ (‘fare well’ is not necessary). Then would invoked it to justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wonder why Obama did not use it in his Nobel acceptance speech? Fare Forward guys and kill. Every bomb-lover should buy one copy of ‘Gita’, Surely, (s)he would find solace in it.

But now, again, why would powerful like to teach others that in fact, there is no evidence that ‘Ram Sethu’ exists or Rama was born at the same place at that particular time, when they know than they can rise to power by not doing so? Partisanship is in blood of India. The way they are aligning themselves with powerful nations might ashamed Nehru out of his soul.

Shockingly people who blame Indian government for Bhopal disaster (even if on anniversaries) and being soft on US company do not show that much of frustration when  ISRO launches Israel’s satellites and India buy arms from them while they keep on killing more and more. They do not even care, why We sell arms to Myanmar while their is a military dictatorship. Perhaps We exchange notes on how to kill people and not let media know it. We are doing in our tribal heartland, making ‘Avatar’ the movie everyday. They indeed are powerful. US is mighty, Myanmar is a power market. If you have done something very wrong, take a dip in Ganga and all the ‘sins’ will be ‘zero’ then you can start afresh. That is also an invention by our Scholars.

Amartya Sen found it way too hard to explain people in China about tuitions in India at primary classes. Some of my colleagues here in my organisation tell about some professors who gives private tuitions  to engineering students. Would you believe it? (You would if you are from India). Our Schools are concentration camps. Barack Obama likes it. In fact it is indeed very interesting how Indian Education is seen in America. They must be at the brink of Disaster. As Amartya Sen puts it, We have lot of ‘first boy’ – topper in school – to make other believe that Indian Educational System is great. In India concern with the not-in-merit is very low. Children commit suicide here even after scoring 97%. And the sheer number of our toppers are enough to make a mark in world’s Bazaars. Our number are our strength and weakness.

In [1], Sen argues about that Indians are of very argumentative. This book is worth reading, there is not a single false claim or fact. But I still have to meet an Indian who love to argue without getting personal. In fact, I have not met a single Indian who can sustain his/her argument for 5 minutes, leave alone arguing. This is remarkable since Indians are known for their capabilities to speak. We have a world record in speaking at an UN assembly. But that might be that I have not met one. Comment is indeed a thing Indian do but they are mostly either dead plus or dead minus. Check any Indian newspaper, either one is supporting or opposing. A lot of data is there but few informations.

In old days Scholarships were patronised by a lot of Indian Kings. Best examples are Karnatka and Kerala. Hindi heartland never held education in high regards, at best it is the a ladder to climb to the success. If you want to hire someone who is good at routine work and would never complain, hire Indians. They do not speak when things are shameful, they only talk when they are proud of something.

Indian scholarships has not found a patron, other than government (with a pleasing exception of Tatas for soem time). Although we have a lot of billionaire, none of them ever tries to maintain a university on the lines of Clay Mathematical Institutes, John Hopkins etc. Infosys Awards are a small steps in this direction. I like Narayan Murthy. Amazingly his books is not as famous as of Nilekani. Why? Perhaps the way He has criticized market and capitalism does not sound well? But he can not be termed some -ist, He made an empire out of these philosophies. People who are suffering with TINA (There Is No Alternative) would not like it.[6] But they are hell bent to argue that Fees should go up in university and public money are not to be wasted. ha! What a good way to waste money! They also insist that university should be more industries oriented. But the success of these industries with that kind of human resources has been too much to agree with them. Universities should be cheep and non-partisan. Cheep so people do not have to work anything for money to repay what they have spent and can spend their time the way they like. Higher fees suits industries, not scholarship. I do not see how  any pass-out from IIM after spending that much would like to work for rural development. (S)He could have, had the fees been low enough.   

But again as I always like to say, India is a funny place, some times so funny that it becomes exasperating.

will be constantly updated. 

[1] The argumentative Indians, Sen Amartya.
[2] Chronicles of our time, Andre Beteille
[3] India after Gandhi, R Guha.
[4] Penguin History of India, part 1, Raomila Thapar
[6] They face you were afraid to see, Amit Bhaduri   


Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s