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Are we Indians doing proper & enough postmortem of our past imperfect?!

April 7, 2015

NAMES

I don’t recall much from school days reading about INC (Indian National Congress), i.e, not more than what was considered relevant, and therefore there arises no question of learning anything vital on Muslim League naturally. Of the league and Jinnah, there was this cursory mention/glance, nothing more. RSS/Hindu Mahasabha never featured in our text books either (given the marathon innings of congress govt for over half a century since independence)  but the name Madan Mohan Malavya rings a bell. I think Malavya was mentioned in the same breath or perhaps even less like kind of statistic the way Abul Kalam Azad, Jinnah etc were mentioned in ‘passing reference.’ Someone in the ‘boards’ must have thought the names had to figure in the official roster to prove a point on Indian secular democracy model. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose could not be kept out of our books because of his joining the Axis forces fighting the British with his INA (Indian National Army). He was too much of a front-liner to be side-lined but he remained ‘out-of-favours’ in the sense, he does not come across as a hero.  You reckon he is weird, out of the league of pacifists like Nehru and Gandhi.

There have been otherwise life sketches of Sardar Patel, Lala Lajpat Rai, Lokamanya Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Gopala Krishna Gokhale, Rabindranath Tagore, V O Chidambaram Pillai and Subramanya Bharathi, the last two hailing from Tamil Nadu. Ofcourse you learn about Gandhi and Nehru right from standard 1. They are the No.1 & 2 in ranking when it comes to India’s freedom movement.

NOTABLE NOBEL:

The surprise entre’ in our history texts were those like C.V.Raman and Srinivasa Ramanujam, Nobel physicist and mathematician from good old Madras respectively of whom Raman was also knighted by the Queen.  One more name is Jagdish Chandra Bose, the plant physiologist. The independence chapters did not omit mentioning other great Indians who lived around the same time who made the nation proud in whatever manner they could. I liked the parallels as much as I loved history. I recall these distinguished men mostly from Indian history over from any other ground/basis/source. They are a fabulous part of our history given that we were going through turbulent times then.

There is not a day I don’t regret having not studied literature or history. Back then in school, it was unthinkable. Mathematics was my favourite subject and opting for commerce/arts was ruled out. But when I see so many,many young journos quoting from various English authors who wrote during the industrial revolution etc, I curse my lack of knowledge. I know I have missed something super. I find I just cannot quote anything from anyone – for the simple reason I do not know who said what, so sad!

Same thing about history and economics. Although I majored in econometrics, it was more like a mathematical and statistical representation of economics. It was like quantifying or measuring economics with stats, graphs and theorems. A research paper. Good one if you follow it up further. So with maths background, I remained a kind of novice for the entire 2 year period in my PG days. Even accepting or assuming economic models without absolute proofs was difficult for me. By the time I could come to grasp economics, I had finished with the course. Economics for maths graduates is a disaster.

So I really miss economics, history and even political science knowledge presently. I think I would be a lot more convinced about economic models and presumptions today than I did over a quarter century back. Back in my university days, we used to look down upon political science or history graduates. Now I reckon how important it is to study at length and even carry out research in these papers.

My aunt taught history to class 10 (board batch). She used to talk about ‘Indhiyaavin pazham perumai’ (in tamil) (the glorious past of India). She would put me down in proper place if I tried to go overboard about anything. ‘Stop Indhiyaavin pazham perumai!’ she would rebuke, meaning ‘stop living in glorified imaginations of the past and return to today’s reality.’ So this is how we see Indian history sadly. What is India today. Where have the golden days gone.

WHO HOLDS FOR RANSOM THE RIGHT TO SCRIPT HISTORY? THE WHITE MAN?

History as we know is what the victor tells you. The truth is what the vanquished never get to tell the world.

Indian history is history untold mostly. Today there are Krishna and Ram’s historic sites excavated but they do not find mention in any of our official texts. Carbon dating is still going on. Authentication is taking time. Research nevertheless is on for over 20-30 years that has resulted in unearthing the entire Ramayan sites in Sri Lanka from Ravana’s palace to Sita’s ‘Ashok Vatika.’ Similarly the discovery of Krishna’s Dwarka in Gujarat coast estimated to be miniumum 5000 years old negates many British and Moghul deductions and calculations. Tremendous feat.

Only those who are born Hindu, raised Hindu can understand how we believe none of our Gods are myths. For instance, Valmiki lived over 3000 years minimum but the places he mentions in the Ramayan are each existing by the same name until today – even as far as in Tamil Nadu! None can weave such a perfect story with places and characters with one hundred percent accuracy and everything tallying – and this could not have been humanely possible especially some 3000-4000 years back. India must have been a dense jungle in those ages and it must have been another world.

Not denying there are myths interlaced with actual facts, fables woven into the rich tapestry called our ancient history but these must be viewed as nothing over something like ‘poetic licence’ or creative exaggeration. We have to give credence to archaeological finds that seem to add up to whatever our ancestors recorded in Sanskrit by way of ‘itihaas’ or epic. An ‘itihaas’ is history written as epic.

As more archaeological excavations and evidences surface, I hope one day ancient Hindu history will be scientifically proved and written in the concrete, nullifying the British concoctions. It is the responsibility of our union government to see to that the researches do not stop. No one is asking for half-baked theories. Prove. Substantiate. Claim. Every civilization has a right to set right records misconstrued and deliberately misinterpreted by foreign aggressors. Native history can never be a fallacy.

If everything Hindu should be a myth can you explain

1. How immaculate conception was possible?

2. How a man who was crucified can come alive 3 days after he dies?

3. How a man can walk on water?

4. Angels: what angels? Gabriel to Peter, they are angels and how. Angels with wings?

Mixing myths with facts is the established world order and practice. When you can pedal the white man’s white lies as authentic, who has the ethics or moral rights to judge my belief system. Its amazing how the entire christian faith based on one single big sham is still sustaining/surviving in modern world without a question or analysis or criticisms.

Our children have a right to know Hindu history the way it happened. Why should only the British and our Muslims hold to ransom the right to script Indian history to their convenience and comfort levels? Qutb Minar stands on Hindu temple pillars. Why should not young Indians be told the truth. It is there right in front of your eyes for the entire world to see. 

Meenakshi temple in Madurai is my heritage, not the Taj Mahal built by Afghans. Moghuls to me are as much alien as the British. Today we have monuments of the British Raj in every city in India. Taj  Mahal to me is similarly one such Moghul edifice,nothing more.

Taj was glorified by the British who openly pampered the muslims. The british did the same mischief in Malaysia and Sri Lanka and wherever they occupied and ruled. In Malaysia, they gave the reining ropes to the Malays who never sweated for building their nation. Moreover even the Malays were/are only the earliest immigrants. The true natives of Malaysia are an aboriginal tribe : the Orang Aslis. Malaysia is today very much the making of the Chinese and Indian immigrants brought in shiploads by the british to work their rubber and palm plantations and tin mines. Similarly in Sri Lanka, after over 150 years of residence and hard-built foundation running the tea estates, the Tamils found that they had been discredited by the British when they left the island nation for good. Tamils were not even awarded the voting rights as per the constitution or perhaps a charter on grant of independence drawn up by the british. The tamils were neither Indian citizens. Some of us keep referring to this as the British ‘check point.’ Or the British-check (as in a game of chess).

Wherever the British went, they made sure they left behind smouldering embers which would re-ignite passions and  in the short run erupt and blow into bigtime trouble. This happened with India right with the partition. Kashmir is our Achilles’ heel. With Pakistan again it happened in 1971. In Sri Lanka, there has never been a respite. In Malaysia, a light storm is brewing. After all, wasn’t ‘divide and rule’ a chief british weapon when it came to administering their colonies.

When history narrates the exploits of the British, I always wonder whether these aftermaths of the British empire must be taken into cognizance. Worthy of doing a research paper if you ask me. Why none has picked it up is a surprise. Could make a best seller.

History obviously does not stop with 1947 for instance as in India’s case. History keeps rolling as time ticks. History is happening right now. Indian history will be recording with pride even our IT revolution and Mars mission in post-independence chapters. From the islamic invasions to british occupation to independence struggle, modern Indian history has taken a curious turn with freedom at midnight. What is unfolding now is history like never before. History is thus multi-dimensional. Multiples things and events happen in many fronts which all fuse together to go down into history as a particular age of evolution. So given that, India is a young nation in a way too. The hallmark of our current history will be the evolution of the world’s largest democracy and its maturity with time.

Right at this point of time, we are part of history. We are making history.

So I have always felt, no part of history should be deemed insignificant or unworthy of recording, if proofs can substantiate claims. History may not always be what we want to hear. History shows no mercy – its like our mirror image.

Sometimes it is imperative, truth is laid bare so the populace may derive their own inferences. I think with over 70% literacy levels in India as of present, with male literacy crossing 75% average, time is ripe to introduce Indian population to acid truth test. We are ready I guess. Finally. Anyone who reads history gets to know of it first in schools. So when someone is in highschool to learn of our pained history, he/she must be in a state to absorb and assimilate facts and figures to draw up his/her own conclusions. There is no more need to ‘protect’ data. Why should there be in this age of RTI?

India is a secular democracy but our minorities are not foreign. They are converts and they have a right to know what and how they came to be. Who says they are all anti- Hindu. Many of my friends following other faiths are proud of their Hindu ancestry.

Among other things there are certain issues we have to come clean about. I am relating one or two cases here.

India needs to document how Aurangzeb killed his own blood brothers to ascend the moghul throne. India needs to record officially what happened to Guru Teg Bahadur. How can this become saffronization. In a nation that allows the likes of Zakir Naik to roam free and deliver lectures, how can narrating the historical truth in our text books be deemed inappropriate. Unpleasant or even if provoking as alleged in some quarters, it is still the duty of the state to report history the way it unraveled with solid evidence that cannot be repudiated. In a nation where evangelists funded by foreign christian missionaries dare to stop public in their tracks to bribe and coerce and convert, who has the right to criticize the RSS. What will become of us if there is not to be a watchdog like RSS. 

I am not claiming the Babri mosque for Ram Mandir, but I want it recorded that the masjid (or perhaps the mausoleum) was raised over the ruins of a desecrated Ram temple, the holy birth place of our Ram. It has to go down in history through all eternity. I want no more than that. I want a certification. I want the truth to be framed in the hall of history.

I recommend a thorough overhaul of Indian history – and I do not agree this is the RSS or BJP version. 

There are so many, many omissions and unexplained gaps in Indian history – and underplaying of the Hindu empires against the overplaying of the Moghuls which is very unhealthy. The glorious Maurya and Vijayanagar empires are accorded least significance over that of our invaders which is a biased approach to history.

Tansen for all we know was a convert to islam. Where does our history books mention it. When such omissions occur and become our national history narrative, our children could be getting a wrong picture of our ancestry and heritage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tansen

When you study this single ‘navratna’ in Akbar’s court in detail, you may even get a proper idea of how conversion to islam happened over centuries. It gives a great insight into the changing social structure of India in the moghul period. (Today A R Rahman who grew up as Dilip Kumar is another kind of Tansen). May be we will be better citizens of India when we can accept Tansen with impartiality and neutrality.

As much as I want Aurangzeb to be exposed in our academics, I would want Tansen to be taught as well. One balances the other.

We had to wait for Google to present us with information of this kind that was denied to us in our schools and colleges.

THE SPIRITUAL TRACK

Its good, Indian history books atleast make a cursory round-up of various Hindu ideologies.

Before the moghul era, we read detailed accounts of Shaivism, Jainism, Buddhism etc. Of this, Adi Shankara of Sringeri greatly influenced my thoughts. This is also part of Indian history – because Shankaracharya established ‘mutts’ through out India – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.  Yes, I have been to Kaladi, his birth place in Kerala. In-depth study is the need of the hour.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adi_Shankara

Here I have to mention about Ramanuja, a revolutionary vaishnavite. Sriperumbudur was his hometown. Yes, the same Sriperumbudur near Chennai where Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Today my son attends college here.

From Shankara to Ramunuja, history was in making too. Correctly, our texts have recorded these saints as part of our civilization story.

Kalidas to Kabir there are some interesting lessons to learn though.

But who captured my imagination were Swami Vivekananda and his Guru Shri Ramakrishna Parahamsa. There are RK mutts, missionary schools and hospitals spread across entire India today rendering humanitarian service to the needy and the poor.  There is this RK Mutt Road in Mylapore, there are girls & boys schools in T Nagar, men’s college again in Mylapore, then the RK Mutt with its free dispensary. My maternal grandfather donated handsome to the Ramakrishna Mission’s Boys Orphanage in Mylapore. Close family connection with the mutt until he was around. RK Mutt public library was the first free library I read books from.

Shri Aurobindo of the famous global village Auroville in Pondicherry (presently Puducherry) is another mentor who draws disciples/followers from around the world.

I don’t know whether the Brahma Samaj and Arya Samaj belong under the spiritual head but Raja Rammohan Roy had that rare courage to fight out and banish the heinous practice of ‘sati’ among Hindu women.

FORGOTTEN HEROES FROM PRE-INDEPENDENCE ERA

The British came after the Moghuls. No less brutal were the English in that, they cleverly manipulated and exploited our weaknesses to their advantages.

Our freedom struggle from the British is full of heroic tales. I want to return to pre-independence heroes who are slowly vanishing from public memory.

One such inspiring story was that of Vanchinathan. Also from Tamil Nad, like Bhagat Singh, he assassinated Ash, a British collector. Later he committed suicide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanchinathan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._O._Chidambaram_Pillai

V O Chidambaram Pillai ran a swadeshi shipping service between Madras and Tuticorin against the British. He was imprisoned, the shipping company closed and sealed and Pillai had to grind manually the oil seeds (yoked to the oil press) like a pair of bullock.

As a young school girl, these were the freedom fighters who moved me the most. Alongwith Subramanya Bharathi, the poet and rebel printer-publisher. As a woman, as an Indian, as a Tamil none has inspired me the way Bharathi has.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subramania_Bharati

I have to make a mention here that Bharathi, VOC, Subramanyam Siva were contemporaries and best friends. Rebellious freedom fighters. Bharati even composed a poem on VOC’s pulling the oil press during the Independence movement:

‘Thanneer vitto valarthom Sarvesa…  – Oh Lord, did we water to raise

Ippayirai                                                     – this plant?

Kanneeraal kappom…………………          – we shall save it with our tears…

Bharathi who had to sneak to Pondicherry under the French govt to escape the British was nabbed by the latter when he set his foot again in Indian territory. His poetry is timeless – and considering Bharathi died very young and over a decade earlier to our independence, it amazes me what all he foresaw:

‘Singala theevinukkoru paalam amaippom – let us make a bridge to the island of the Singhalese

Sethuvai melniruthi veedhi samaippom – lets make roads/bridges on the sea

Vangathil odivarum neerin migayal – from the excess water (from Brahmaputra & Ganges) in Bengal

Maiyathu naadugalil payir seiguvom – lets farm in the hinterlands

Bharathi talks of radio in a time when it was not invented, about telephone when there wasn’t the slightest clue that such a machine would be there around someday. Such a wizard – not a mere poet and freedom fighter, he published newspapers both in English and Tamil, very progressive and advanced for that age.

Wonder how many of our children can now relate to either VOC or Bharathi or even Tagore. Are they even our heroes they are purported to be. From very early age, I have been reading and re-reading a few lines from Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’ that won him Nobel Prize for literature:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Its not a surprise India’s national anthem was composed by Tagore. What impresses me most about our national anthem is, like Bharathi did with his Tamil songs, Tagore even composed the tune for the anthem (which Independent India later adopted). Even if the anthem is originally in Bengali, it is sanskritized to such an extent that all of us Indians from all states/parts of the country can relate to it, connect with it. One single word ‘Dravida’ covers for instance the entire south. I always thought our national anthem merits one more international award precisely for this reason.

Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan founded by Shri Rabindranath Tagore is another feat that I adore him for.

In pre-independence India, it is inconceivable that we had a man whose brainchild is an international university standing to this date, there was a patriot down south who ran a swadeshi shipping corporation, and another who wrote/published/printed rebel literature etc., etc.

So my set of inspiring leaders has been totally different. Never were they Gandhi and Nehru. Instead the local heroes came first.

Apparently every state in India had a role to play in our independence struggle in its own little, special ways.

THE INSULATED SOUTH

History hardly records proper the contributions of a zillion simpleton Indians like these. If you take Tamil history, the list of freedom fighters in their own way is endless. In erstwhile Madras state, revolution was of a different kind. Even by those days’ standards, the south was better literate. So that had an impact on the way our forefathers looked at things.

Many times I had asked my granny how Aug 15, 1947 dawned. She would talk about the famous Nehru midnight speech in the radios placed at strategic points in the city – like in crossroad junctions etc. Masses gathered around the sets. On the 15th morning, national flag was hoisted in every school, street etc. Sweets distributed. It was a national holiday, my granny said. Next day everyone went back to work. Not a whisper in Tamil Nadu/Madras city.

Life returned to normal. But then Madras was never the hotspot of emotions or headlines or controversies. Our folks were happy to follow the national lead initiated by Gandhi and Nehru.

I have asked my MIL about the partition many times. She is born 1937. She was 10 and was still attending school when India attained her independence. South came to know of partition trauma only through (censored) news clippings in the print media and regulated radio services. Radio was a mouthpiece of the ruling govt. It is only from around the turn of the century, we down south come to know of exactly what transpired in our border states during partition with wider access to information through the web. India’s partition that split some of our states into 2 parts, hardly created ripple in the former Madras state.

It has to be mentioned here that the Moghuls never came upto Tamil Nadu/south. May be this is the reason I can never accept anything to do with Moghuls as Indian.

MAKING OF THE MAHATMA

Even in days when communication channels were practically non-existent, Gandhi seems to have made an impression in the locals. One of my distant grannies based in Kanchipuram used to tell me, she saw him once in flesh and blood when Gandhi walked through their road.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in:8080/jspui/bitstream/10603/683/10/10_chapter4.pdf

I found this link to my surprise which tallies with Gandhi’s visit to Arni in the early ’20s. Exact dates may not match but we have records in Arni to prove his visit.

I am totally impressed by what I could learn. It changes so many things for me. First of all I never imagined Gandhi to be a dynamic leader. May be he was never one, he was never aggressive. But his approach was well-meaning and systematic and planned. I though don’t completely agree with ‘Satyagraha’ at the drop of hat.

To begin with, I have never been an admirer of Gandhi. What I have been learning about him in last couple of months justifies to me, why Gandhi is a name to reckon with in world arena today. Without a doubt, he was a ‘maha purush’ or ‘mahatma.’ I never thought I would ever be able to admit to that someday 🙂

A FREELOADER CALLED JINNAH 

a boardroom executive’s tryst with a nation’s destiny

Tell me exactly what did Jinnah do, besides not getting his collars and cuffs stained with sweat and his shirt and trouser not losing their ironed crease… Waxed eloquent on a separate muslim nation for ‘persecuted minorities’ no doubt!

For over a 1000 years Hindus were persecuted in their own homelands. When those who think they ‘own’ the Taj (by proxy or default ofcourse) cannot come to accept the precious inlaid stones in the monument were in fact removed from an ancient (Shiva) temple that the Taj could have been earlier (Tejo Mahalaya), there is no way you can hope to ‘reform’ anyone. Denial will be their perpetual state of existence. What was Afghanistan good and fit for? This is where the Moghuls descended from. From their times to this day, Af-Pak is No.1 in poppy cultivation which drives their economy. The nerve to claim the Kohinoor. Whose grandfather’s estate did all the gems and jewels come from. Any diamond/gold mine you know of in Af-Pak?!

Whether the moghuls ever worked for a living. Akbar to Aurangzeb they took a 1000 concubines within their harems – all hindu women.

The community that lived off the blood and sweat and hardwork of Hindus suddenly woke up to the fact that a civilized world order that was becoming the norm would place them in a highly disadvantageous position. Physical machismo was outdated. Smartness became the winner. Handouts from the British raj after patronage from the ruling moghuls dried up overnight. 1947 equaled the prince with the pauper.

Independent India was born with the abolishing of princely states and feudal system, something that would never have gone down well with Pakistani landlords.

May be I am not a qualified academic/intellectual to state this. But I always felt, India or rather Hindus of India won independence from the British on merit. For Pakistan idealists, it was more about a separate nation, a selfish goal. Or perhaps an excuse to save themselves from an alert and rejuvenated Hindu population with who they realized they stood no chance on equal or fair footing without pampering privileges or patronage that they took for granted through centuries.

Whereas the leaders of the rest of India seem to have exhibited a more rational and broadminded approach during the freedom struggle. The persecuted majority being feared by the violent minority is the biggest nonsense I have heard of in my life (which is proved by the emergence of Pakistani into No.1 terror state in the entire world in last 67 years). Jinnah could have been a great individual but he does not win my respect as a balanced or neutral or unselfish freedom fighter. Rather to me Jinnah was a freeloader who piggybacked on others’ sweat and accomplishments. Did Jinnah ever see the insides of a jail? 

Where in history do the Pakistani ideologists fight against the British. Makes one wonder who were the aggressors. Independence from whom, the British or Hindus. 300 years the British had a free run in India. But the Pakistan ideologists headed by Jinnah reduced India’s independence struggle to a mere Hindu-Muslim dichotomy.

From Non-cooperation to Civil disobedience and boycotting of English goods in support of Swadeshi movement to ‘Quit India’, every single effort of resistance was a congress/Hindu initiative.

I think the same quality of leaders India saw before independence is now ingested in future generations. May be with time values have gotten eroded, but it is the same spirit of our national leaders from various states in their various capacities that has culminated into what we have as modern Indian democracy today. Dilution of standards is universal. Our current brood is no good, still fare far better than the Pakistanis. From 1947 until this date, Pakistanis have had none but bloody scoundrels at the helm of their affairs. Jinnah and Bhutto are celebrated for lack of any other competent heroes.

The self-centered motives of Jinnah & co put paid exactly the way it was deemed to be, in Pakistan.

India today is weathering storms and standing because, this is what we have been fighting for over a 1,200 years now. Hindus today are survivors. The succumbed are the Pakistanis.

Independence and partition atleast salvaged a portion of ancient India for the keeps.

I am not a research scholar or a historian, and I don’t even read much over fictions, but this is what I have always felt about our independence. My strong conviction is that, Pakistan from the beginning lacked merit, its leaders being undependable and not solid. Nations cannot be built on such a weak foundation. May be Pakistan will survive but as an ‘also ran’ case.

I want to revise and reiterate my opinion on Gandhi here:

I am thinking of the times when we had no tv. Even radio was a fairly new concept in the late ’40s. So its remarkable Gandhi as a single man united entire India. Recently I watched a video titled -Waiting for the Mahatma (Gandhi & India in 1915) – a speech delivered by an ardent Gandhian. That really opened my eyes to why Gandhi means peace to the world.  It gave a rare and clear insight into Gandhi’s slow and steady and persistent spadework all around India in unison with the working class peasants. The approach is very systematic and thorough. I wonder why my teachers missed this point in school. I think Gandhi should have been studied in greater depth now.

Gandhi’s Indian independence mission was his second innings after the first and impressive one in South Africa. I have watched the Gandhi picture of Richard Attenborough in my school days. In edited school version of his autobiography ‘My experiments with truth’ I learned about his wife sharing a cell with him in South African prison. But somehow I still missed piercing together the bits and pieces from his life history to create an (f)actual canvas in my mind of the Mahatma he truly was.

In my school, our teachers (like its always in India) encouraged healthy alternate opinions and debates. My history teacher was the same one for class 8, 9 and 10. She was a fierce Gandhi hater and she impressed many of us girls with her anti-Gandhi view. She always made look Jinnah flawless but Nehru as scheming and ambitious. (The teacher came from a very conservative traditional south Indian Hindu family). She hated the partition and held Gandhi and Nehru responsible for it.

I remember the history miss’s very first class (in standard VIIIth). She opened the hour with one pointed question: ‘Why does the sun never set in the British empire?’

I could make a mental guess though it was the first time I heard of the adage very popular with our occupiers. But the class maintained a stoic silence. Ever since we became our history teacher’s ardent fans. She encouraged arguments and anti-ideas very much and that appealed to some of us to a vast extent! I now see her in our alumni meets every year and even today we girls tease her with her first-ever Rajnikanth type punch dialogue-question: ‘why does…’ and she bursts out laughing…

But can you imagine such a scene ever in Pakistan. Where in schools and universities teachers and students may criticize Jinnah and hail Gandhi and Nehru. It happens in India and that probably is the reason we are what we are today. My teacher always said, if Nehru had given up his aspirations and ego, India would have been a united giant today.

I think I am repeating things here: Years later when my son was in highschool I once thumbed across his history text book. Asked him about Gandhi, Jinnah and partition. ‘Good was it not?’ said he, ‘Jinnah is the hero of partition!’

‘Did you not have debates on that in your class?’ I asked him and he said, ‘What is there to discuss. My teacher said, partition is a blessing in disguise and we all agreed to that. Can’t ever imagine them with us!’ And with that the topic was closed. When I tried to broach the subject again, my son said, ‘Ma don’t waste your time talking about losers.’

Pakistan was a passionate subject for us school girls of the ’80s. In 2000s, Pakistan became ‘useless’ for my son’s generation. The boys and girls don’t even dwell on it for a minute. The umbilical cord connection is almost severed I guess – may be there are very minor and insignificant shreds still held on to steadfastly by the border state populations… Down south, Pakistan does not exist, never did.

Pakistan & Bangladesh do not figure in our history textbooks at all. Both do not merit more than a single reference each about the time of partition/independence (1947) and the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 & ’71. The way we treat the two is a testimony to the fact how much and what they mean to India’s GenNext. India has moved on… it makes me sad as well as relieved at the same time…

That India does not gloat over her war victories shows a maturity that comes with age, wisdom and versatility. 

I stopped studying history as a subject with class 10. Nobody does in standard 11 & 12 (equivalent to pre-university) unless your board scores in class 10 is pathetic.

GEOGRAPHY, CIVICS & ECONOMICS OVER HISTORY… why living in the present matters…

History hardly arouses anyone’s interest in India. History is actually taught as History & Civics and when my son was in class 10, he read History & Civics & Economics – never history alone. Civics and economics account for 50% of history score/paper I guess. Not sure. So history is basically confined to a very small compartment in our curriculum. More stress is laid on parliamentary system, reforms, landmark bills & acts, democratic process and local body governance in civics. Economics is very basic so as to give an idea to highschool children, what it is like to think of everything at macro levels.  Not many opt for commerce or arts streams in Chennai. I understand, commerce draws a fair number of aspirants in Mumbai and Delhi. However we Tamils are fixated on science and maths – nothing else is good for us.

In civics, I like the part explaining the Panchayat system and the offices of local administration like those of Tahsildhars, Collectors etc. Parliament functioning and the State assemblies are explained well. My regret is the no. of MP seats in the parliament (Lok Sabha) remains the same to this day as it did in my school days. India’s population has since increased by many hundred millions. We are in dire need of more (and efficient) elected representatives.

The 5-year plans constitute another good chapter. This is from modern Indian history alongside the Green Revolution and White Revolution both of which raised the living standards in India in the ’60s. There must have been one on industrial revolution but we missed the bus on the occasion. There is a gist on basic industries like iron & steel and coal and railways and textiles including dams & reservoirs that gives an idea about how the foundations for a modern nation were laid and how they worked.

These are the pages where our history and geography overlap. Interesting 🙂

But there stops the education.

I don’t think anyone thinks much in detail on political parties or their evolution in India that way seriously. More focus is on the present. And future. I have blogged about campus activities once and it holds true to this day. Politically our college campuses are in a slumber. Young Indians are materialistic and ambitious so political parties are not active in our universities except perhaps in arts and law colleges.

I remember the VHP from my school days.

VHP used to hold ‘Bhagvad Gita’ recitation competition in my schools – both primary, and high & higher-secondary. I think there must even be a certificate with me issued by them – memorized many chapters in school days but no more retain anything. VHP was never given communal colours so far as I remember, we expected the contests almost every year and to this day, the organization continues to hold the competitions through the length and breadth of India, in all schools other than catholic institutions.

Until a decade or two back, most of us including me weren’t even aware that BJP is the political wing of RSS/VHP etc.

For that matter, even Congress history hadn’t been sketchy either. Except for founders and some key members, others remained mostly in the background.

ETCETERA 

Names like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) (first governor-general of independent India), Dr.Radhakrishnan (the first president of India) are dispersed here and there – Dr.Radhakrishnan’s birthday on september 5th is celebrated as ‘Teachers’ Day’ which is the reason we remember him.

BR Ambedkar is another important national figure who was instrumental in drafting the modern Indian constitution. He was downplayed by Nehru for selfish motives.

In my first 20 years of life, I hadn’t even heard a politician or political party badmouthed in my home or neighbourhood or school or college. People only spoke about good things, bad things were forgotten. I learned about the emergency period very late in life – like during my PG days. I was too young when it was in force to learn from papers. Or may be it was mentioned about but never in a serious context. I think emergency was a ‘taboo’ word that everyone wanted to forget.

DRAVIDA NADU

The truth is, I am not very keen on even state politics. I am making an attempt on the same for the first time with my limited understanding and knowledge. Most of the following is hearsay. I am giving the state perspective because this happened in recent past, say from since the time around my own birth date. Makes more sense to me somehow. There is a lot I have to censor again – because Tamil Nadu politics entered a sensitive stage in late ’70s/early ’80s with the arrival of LTTE in our shores. Matters got complicated for a while. Our local style is, we forget and never speak of bad tidings ever.

I would rather wish to make a record of some good stories that I have heard:

Kamaraj was the first and one of longest serving chief ministers of Tamil Nad, from the ruling congress party. He was from a very poor family, and he died a poor man.

http://blogs.rediff.com/reachout/2008/07/15/kamaraj-the-poor-mans-cm/

http://tamilnadu.com/politics/kamarajar.html

Kamaraj was indeed the kingmaker who backed Indira Gandhi for her primeministership. But Gandhi ditched him the moment the work got done.

He was also the only illiterate CM of Tamil Nad which is why he opened hundreds of primary schools in rural TN to provide free primary education to the most needy and backward.

I recall this told to me by my granny and about which I have read in Tamil magazines. Once Nehru was visiting congress CM Kamaraj at his home. The ruling party chief minister was put to great unease as there was no chair in his house for the PM to sit. Nehru got the severest shock of his life. Such was the simplicity of the last congress CM of Tamil Nadu that his entire life he is believed to have lived in utter penury.

Soon it was time for the Dravidian parties to rise. Anna Durai became the first dravidian leader and CM of Tamil Nad in 1967, bringing an end to congress rule in the state. However he died within 2 years on election as CM. He is famous for his statement ‘naan paduthukonde jaipen'(i shall win lying in the bed). He was cancer-stricken yet managed to win the first assembly elections for his newly formed party DMK in TN. Hundreds died electrocuted travelling atop trains on their journey to attend his funeral. He held the world record for drawing record crowd with his untimely death until Bal Thackeray very recently must have displaced him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._N._Annadurai

Once I chanced upon speaking to an Anna family legal heir and was shocked to learn, except for his book rights (he was a great playwright who scripted art films and dramas of his time including some for Tamil cinema) (that fetched a measly income) he left nothing by way of assets  or a single rupee to his adopted children/family. Oh what a contrast to our ex-CM Karunanidhi’s family!!!

I remained neither a fan of Anna but what I learned of him very many years after he passed away made me revise my opinion on him.

Anna was one more CM for TN who was not corrupt but he did not live long for us to assess him. Today we have Anna University, Anna Salai (Road), Anna Zoological Park so many other public institutions named after him in the state.

By 1970 TN fell into the hands of DMK (who have achieved the Anna dream for their family; (by ‘kudumbam’ Anna meant the state and not your kith and kin, Karunandhi!)

RSS & BJP : A SCAVENGER’S JOB IS NEITHER PLEASANT NOR EASY

At the center I have heard about Lal Bahadur Shastri. Almost all national leaders were clean in those days except for the Nehru family and their cronies. Corruption made way into Indian politics and society in a brazen manner with the 1970s. At state level, it reached mammoth proportions and continues to reign so until this date.

We know a lot about recent State and Indian history – like from 1970s probably because we share one timeline.

Personally I think its the evolution of BJP that is most impressive. It emerged into a proper political party with a decent clout in 1999 general elections. But BJP continues ‘to grow’ in the sense, I see how they are struggling to handle the cunning moves and provocations of an experienced and manipulative Congress party. One small example is the conversion issue. How much conversion to christianity is taking place in last 20-30 years in India on massive scale is something we the public are aware of. The media is aware of but conversion of Hindus is not sensational the way ‘gharwapsi’ is. Sonia alone allegedly sanctioned some 36 christian missionaries during congress regime in last 10 years to freely operate and sponsor the faith and mass-convert that is no big secret. Everyone knows of ‘Love Jihad’ by muslim youth who are bent on marrying only Hindu girls. I have friends in Kerala and Karnataka coast who can vouch for it. And to think of the hatred spread by those like Zakir Naik and Owaisi brothers… hawala money pumped into this country to be used for terror activities… How come the heat is on only with RSS or BJP. To me and secular Indians, ‘gharwapsi’ is perfectly justified. But BJP is still  raw and inexperienced. Too brash and not cunning enough. Intention is good, ways and means crude. Which is why they are always in one controversy or another.

BJP govt can order an audit of all churches with conversion figures in last 10 years to begin with. Can ask for monthly reports. Same goes for madarasas and mosques. Bring them under one civil code, open them up for inspection and audit, probe their funding, raid the missionary homes and offices, crackdown on their foreign connections and PROVE, prove with facts and figures, prove beyond doubt. These measures could predictably put BJP into deepwater. Congress wouldn’t do it, but somebody has to bell the cat. 

BJP is still struggling to settle down, coming to terms with its sudden huge success and popularity. What they are essentially trying to do is set right things gone wrong badly in this country for over 60 years. This scavengers’ job cannot be pleasant. Cleaning up the mess will disturb some sections. But then why should not India stop the foreign missionaries from funding conversions.

India’s economic progress is important but India’s demographic profile is no less important either. 

A changing equation in Indian demography might be a harbinger of things to come: whether we turn into another Af-Pak or Philippines/Latin America. Being Hindu in soul and character will be our good Karma.

I think it is also time for BJP to groom successive political heirs. For congress party, the Nehru-Gandhi offspring will be in perennial supply to draw from during election times. Whereas BJP is not a dynasty party. So it is imperative to identify talents and potential successors to their high offices and throne and keep them in the wings.

I think I could go on, but I have to stop somewhere.

Now totally lost my way and purpose. What is all this about?!

Guess I wanted to put forth what are the avenues open for us to explore further with Indian history, what needs to be studied in depth, and what needs to be presently done in India.

We do not follow or use the same engineering techniques or medical practices for decades. We revise schemes, we improvise, update and move on.. We grow, we evolve, we mature.

Which is why Indian history needs a periodical post-mortem. Are we doing enough?

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From → Dilli Durbar

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