Two contrasting articles on TOI print today and they are both immensely hyped out. One of them is a pro-India bashing and the other is an anti-India bashing. To be a little less lopsided I expect stuff to be mixed-bashing. I don’t know if I can achieve such fit. But sometimes I try to tell my story. I guess it might strike a chord. Also it squarely takes into consideration my own fallibility and limitations. I can only see things a certain way.
Before setting my foot let me unset my memory a little. Who am I? I am a globe-trotter, it simply means I have seen various places of the world and lived at places enough to make some ramblings. Lest that I can still have my opinions but my vocal chords wouldn’t be flattened out.
Several years ago, about 5 to be precise, I was hurriedly taken to a movie theater. I didn’t think I could make much changes to my ways and I was of the wrong impression that if you are right the world will just suck to it. In-fact the world always gives more and more problems to those who are right. Its educative at the least and suitable and useful in the meanwhile. Now when I say I was taken to a movie theater I don’t mean its an asylum or a hospital. Its perhaps a sick person’s way of looking at his misery. If I am sick to entertainment let me go do a medicare. So I arrived in this movie-theater and grabbed a pop-corn. I usually take the best things. So a large popcorn and a large coke. I walked like a hero into the 20-size rooms and chose my usual place. The back. I do that because if I don’t like the movie in the middle I might stare at people.
I also ddo not plan a lot. I looked at the banners and chose mine without any pre-online review. I hate planners. It takes away certain charm. Whats better? wild sex or a planned honeymoon? So I am in the theater and its showing this movie where some white fella has decided to or happens to trick himself to take a destination to India. Holy color. He takes a train. It was awesome. I fell in love with India.
I fell in love with India grossly a little less than a decade after I fell in love with two other beauties. US and Japan. But this time my situations helped me. Just like that fella in the train came to India and had a wonderful experience I thought I could. And in the sublime of my own helplessness I arrived in India sooner.
Have I enjoyed India since I came in 2008? Yes. Immensely. Its a colorful enjoyable country as long as you are in the move. It has modernized itself much in the way the westerner has wanted. Bring your pace, aggression and emotion. Forget your actual positions. That helps not even when you are already modern or prosperous. As Dalai Lama puts it brashly: we need to look for inner solace and we are born with a purpose to help others. But we have also created for ourselves paradigms where we exploit others and fool ourselves. I have had certain such brash experiences from life in the last few years in India. EAch of these metropolities in India that I often brim with praise has had their pitfalls right onto me. From cheating me on bus tickets to trying to swindle me one way or other. When that was not the case and you are happy happy praising it all again comes a rash stranger who tells you how much you must keep your eyes shut when someone is swindling you right up-front thinking you are inebriated. And lo-and-behold its like paying 200 INR for something thats barely 90 INR but the stranger wants you to pay 500 INR because he wants to show you that he is far richer and its his right to tell you how much you must tip. So in a way our brazen arrogance has been propelled in the mindless name of our helplessness. Do we really want that sort of modernity? I have purchased shoes worth INR 3000 [~60$] which was broken into two after 4 days of use and I had to walk in airport in some restroom chapals. I have had INR 3000 shoes which I don’t want to wear again, they were broken although not as bad, from the time you just had them, slightly after you checked them at the store but not seriously.
I have had a plenty of woe and sorrows to bake when it comes to how I lived my life in the last 5 years. But it was always so. It was also so in US and it was also so in Japan. And how we live our social life is a great cursor towards what we can achieve for ourselves and for others in matters of our scientific and academic goals as well. You can’t expect Stephen Hawking to give you the experience of Richard Feynman. You can’t expect George Bernard Shaw to come alive from his graveyard and attend to your silly philosophical moorings. We need to produce newer heroes. And I am not saying worship the heroes. I am saying we need to be constantly guided through our depressions. Its a social job, not a scientific or academic one, but then academics also must have this in mind.
So in that sense despite of how much immensely I have enjoyed my academic preoccupations in the last 4 years, from teaching for two semesters to traveling and visiting labs for my research tasks, from writing and maintaining my webjournals to interacting with individuals without a face, all online, I have had social woes. And I would not like to mix up the social failures of India with its academic failures although they are each capable of influencing the other unimaginably. eg right now I am writing this article when the power is off for couple hours already. We are sometimes running our Honda Genset after my 3 years of complaining that I am having big problems with power failures. We need fuel for that. Where do we get all the money? The Government does not pay me a single buck. I am unemployed mostly in the last 4-5 years only in the sense of a salary, not in terms of works. I produce a big amount of knowledge and I know that. But I can’t demand give me a salary. They will want me to work for INR 10,000, if I work like that for 3 years will have any chance for making it to INR 30,000. The more I divulge info about myself the lesser my chances are for a good salary. This day I have to attend a call from the bank and the other day I have to attend a call for some help. Where do I go? Definitely not to the lap of Dalai Lama or Munibar Harishchandra. What will I achieve if I get a position somewhere? Some money, some more appreciation, some more responsibility and some more ways to understand my situation.
It all does not take away my judgement to look at things in the right way. Howsoever I have been proud of it and howsoever I have tried to keep myself happy thinking at least I am trying.
Here is what these two articles are propounding and surprisingly enough on opposite foots rather than as I said at the beginning of this essay, on a mixed foot. Which is when perhaps it will only draw some flaks or accolades but not money.
The article by Subodh Varma writes: A nation rooted in excellence; Philosophy, Maths, Astronomy, the arts: Ancient India was cutting edge.
First of all what will we do with this. I think its an excellent article. It is written in good literature. Its clear. But is it based on any verifiable research, that too into language, culture, good history, evidenced sources for everything that has been said? Partly. Its true that there was a robust civilization long ago. Its not evidenced properly, how old. Its basically a mythical construct, give them 5000 years, ok no, give them 3000, give them 4000, well some have propounded 7000 years age of such a civilization. All because elsewhere there is talk about how ancient this or that culture is. We have to match. Or we lose the race. But where are the sources of research? Nobody needs such. You see we even blast off valid and precise scientific methods for dating astronomical and planetary objects. But we believe myth. Budha must have existed as a person. In that sense we do not have a purpose other than self-gratification.
If India was an international destination which it was then where is the credit to the other participants? Where is the facts that even much of our knowledge and system and methods also comes from other participant members of those times. You see thats not our goal. Our goal is to produce something nationalistic because thats the way we make our earning. Our goal is not be valid with what actually was existing. In that sense we are utterly disrespectful of our true ancestors because our true ancestors might also be the Huns and the Mongols and the Mughals and the Chinese and the Japanese and the Thais, and the Indonesians. And us? Do I have to repeat that we are mixed from all these? And that defines us better than saying we came from a hypothetical behemoth. But then its never argued in those terms.
It says our best known achievement was the Vedas. But pardon me how can our other well known achievement such as “brahmi, pali and prakrit, and numerous creations of actual evidence and documents” are to be found? But Vedas are not to be found? Vedas do not have any written forms. Then how come they are the best. Aren’t they a figment of our imagination, a brain work howsoever real they are? It certainly has values, but not in a court of law, where all you can have is a piece of document that can ravage you? What have we done in that regard. Sorry, since we talk a lot about it we shall also do something in that direction, lest valid concerns are also brushed aside by malicious forces. SO I guess this must be a national concern too. My numerous research/analysis points to such facts as being likely. But not in a way they are produced by half learned men. Its not for nationalistic pride although such is also the case with every major nation of the world today. They all bang their drum. Internationalism was throttled a little before economic depression.
I am not going to go so much into Sanscrit here, as a plenty is said about science which do not make much sense. Most prolific characteristic of the purported language are not studied even casually let alone through institutions. I mean they are studied not, they are spoken. Just like Sanscrit. Where is the actual research? It will be far more valuable to have a formal Sanscrit system few 1000s years after it was envisaged. We just can’t take a picture of someone and say thats the man. Ofcourse one can humiliate the person through that picture and thats all human beings are great at. Its not defined as a crime, and who will protect you? Activists make their bucks precisely though this. There is not enough checkmates to their excesses. Also you can show someone’s picture and that can give you some money only if the bankers believes its you. But beyond that, that picture does not represent even that person. Logically it does, but what percentage of logic is an everyday commodity?
It says Vidyottama humiliated Kalidasa and Kalidasa learned Sanscrit. May be it was the other way around. Vidyottama humiliated Kalidasa because he was always studying Sanscrit.
Then rest of it just sounds like what my sister told me when I was a kid. We were a closely knit family. Now we are all scattered. But still make it up every now and then. My sister was taking us all on an orientation, more than 25 years ago, all of us others, telling how our grand parents owned a car. 15 years later I learned even we are not going to have a car for ourselves for another 10 years. And my grand parents owned bullock-carts for sure.
Then comes the other article. Its a little easy to lose patience to analyze more than this. I have already made myself laughed hard at my own humor, 3 times.
Home truths on research, Indian marvel only over seas and not in India. This is grossly incorrect. First of all many professors in India are so well settled that they have become rich men and all they have to do is make appearances in celebrations of killing of academics and science and education in India. [sounds like Id-niwa, engrossed in Id, arrogance 意-には] like “science congress of India” where all who show up are political-heads. I wonder when tinseltown-stars will.
There is a great deal of hype about Indian research yes. But this is primarily because India is now too nationalistic. WHich country is not? The problem as I would be told, it reverberates in my mind as many time as it has been told, in the last 8-10 years, yes but India doesn’t have this or that. Thats precisely the problem. India does not have this facility lets say. And I have said this many times in the last few years, what stops the international community from having it installed in India? India says the arrogance of west. West says the arrogance of India. West says well you don’t have this, why you care about arrogance? And the west in India says “so you want us to be subservient to you because we don’t have something? then its just a quick way to show your ego again because you have something, we will go our way and see what we can do for ourselves”. West says “Indian is a great civilization, lest praise them some, at least we need their market potential”. That sleazes India a bit and then they go and spend some million dollars for something that actually propagates such myth and the myth generation was accomplished by the machinery of say TOI and NYT. In other words India and West agreed to run their machineries to generate huge deals of myth, a great deal of commerce was generated which went both ways, the problems of India still remain, because there is only myth, no reality, no actual commerce, no actual employment. No infrastructure, no power, no safeguard for modern industrialization and so on. A few people benefit and most don’t.
So the second article says “there is funding in US for every ideal thing you want to do”. And Steven Weinberg is laughing hard in his bath room. Then he says ” there is no hierarchy in American academics which is why Amartya Sen is successful”. And Dalai Lama can’t pee, he is so humored. Then Srijan says “one does not say Sir in US … and younger academicians question senior scientists”. He fails to understand even a postdoc from India or China has to sleaze to the whim of a secretary if the secretary is a native. You think it does not happen that way in US academics? Actually spontaneously it does, unless some educated and truth vigilant folks drop in and save the grace of the system. But spontaneously look at the prejudice towards the international TA because he/she can’t speak it right. And you have all international professors in their 60-70s who can’t speak right, the accent, but they have their job. I did my accent really well, so well that I became a hipster, not an academician, so much. In academics you need to take the shit. Then they will show you in some hi-definition light. Or they will take your pictures off the wall. Even when you innovate and actually create new knowledge. Stop thinking that the world is a fool and it does not know the inside trade of the American academics. You will sound too naive. Perhaps you just took your first trip to US in a Lufthansa and you did not yet read any “Chronicles of higher edufashion”. Things don’t happen that way, of course you will get your pay-check from NYT and TOI for toeing a palatable line. My father has always warned me, when I was young, to be palatable. I was like “damn ya”. Why shall men and women be any palatable. Oh its so enjoyable when they are not. Its like sports and there is injuries. And ma ladies love me.
Then Srijan says “you are expected to be continually productive”. And then what? “I am not responsible for your expectations, I have a tenure”. Stop being palatable like a gourmet dealer. Academics is screwed up everywhere. Accept the truth and share them.