Netaji 125 years old and Never Died

Netaji is a man who never died, not even as we celebrate his 125th birthday because if we suspend our reason for a while then in the heart of every Indian, there is hope that he would return to take charge of the country someday. For many years, Indians have lived with the anticipation that Netaji would come back, suddenly appear as the messiah to deliver us from the mess we find ourselves in every now and then.

Netaji led two instinctively parallel lives for which his biographers and commentators say that like Swami Vivekananda, he was forever caught between the horns of dilemma. For Vivekananda, it was a tough choice between an atheist rationalism and an advaita bhakti, while for Netaji it was the passionate armed revolution of Bengal revolutionaries and later the group led by Bagha Jatin and the structured and institutionalized platform of the Indian National Congress and hence, he was constantly torn, as all geniuses are between their own talents and capabilities and restrains of moderation that institutions demand.

Subhas’s separation with the Congress was partly this decoupling of his restless passions and energetic action with the staidness which the party was increasingly falling into. Both Subhas and the Congress seem to have geared towards Independence and while the Congress was busy setting the house in order so that a tidy nation with its institutions and structures would be in place when the British leaves, Subhas was becoming impatient for Independence to drop in asap. The Congress felt that it was like a parent who was decorating for a party and Subhas wanted to bite into the cake then and there. But that was not the real meaning of Subhas’s hurry. He was a focused and goal driven person and for him, the task that needed to be completed was India’s Independence.  Like Arjun in Mahabharta, Freedom was the eye of the wooden bird.

But the state of the Congress’s mind did not seem to be quite focused singularly on Freedom; instead, as he thought that the Congress was wavering much into the planning for post-Independence in terms of linguistic organization of states, getting the princely states into the Indian dominion, the structure of the Parliament and of course, the Constitution and were more engrossed in doing the paraphernalia of Free India, when India was not yet promised Freedom. To Bose, it seemed like the proverbial jackfruit, as the Bengali saying goes which is yet unripe and one is oiling one’s moustache to be ready to bite into the juicy ripe pods.

The fundamental point which Subhas asked, when will India be free? Time and date. To this, the Congress had no explicit answer because as a party it had grown to such maturity and commanded such a monopoly and aggregation of the Indians’ surge for Freedom, that within the minds of its leading men, India was already free and Patel and Sitaramiah, Nehru and Jinnah, among themselves working out the disbursements of the spoils of war; a war, that according to Subhas may not even happen and the question of winning it may be as yet a distant dream. Hence, he started to walk alone, the spirit of Ekla Cholo Re would be more suited for him than Gandhi, though Tagore wrote it for the latter.

As a sole plotter of India’s Freedom, Subhas started to correspond with the Axis Powers so that he could use their support to threaten the British, the part of the Allied Powers. Gandhi, averse to war and alert to the danger that the Axis Powers could present to civilization, in his eagerness to dissuade Subhas from falling into bad company, and in a moment both desperate and yet hilarious started to write letters to Hitler, imagining that if Hitler be thus restrained, Bose could be reined in too. This was one of the noblest moments of Gandhi. And yet Gandhi, on grudgingly congratulating Subhas after his victory in the Tripuri session as the party President, wished that the minorities would feel safe with him. He was colouring Subhas in the same brush as Hitler, a mental virus that still braces the Netaji baiters even today. He tried to say that Subhas was a majoritarian and a persecutor of minorities. This was the most reprehensible moment of Gandhi perhaps ever in his career.

History showed that the end of Gandhian politics resulted in the holocaust of the Partition; India was as Partitioned as it was free. Even after Freedom, Indians did not emerge to their nobler and more ideal selves as they continued to slyly practice everything that they pledged by the Constitution not to do. The idealists among us started to represent what today most call as the sickularists and the libbus, meaning the secular liberals, a hopeless minority looked upon as the remnants of castaway colonials. The end of Subhas’s career on the other hand was remarkable; at the height of the communal frenzy, his INA swore by one India. Syed Mujtaba Ali writes in his essay, Netaji, given the communal frenzy raging back home could unite the Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh under a single flag and to a common purpose. He coined the slogan Jai Hind, at a time when Muslims in India balked at Hindi and the Hindus resented Urdu, when the south Indians would shirk everything in the North Indian and North India grudge any form of South Indian dominance. Yet, young boys fled homes from Andhra and Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, smuggled in the luggage holes of ships to land in Singapore to join the INA. Indian rubber barons donated liberally to the INA knowing that they were seeking the alliance of the Japanese. Such magic only Subhas could pull through.

Gandhi made much of Subhas taking the help of the Axis Powers, but Gandhi who, being much read in Gita should have understood the words of Krishna, that anything is fair in war and that friends and enemies during a war are not made around ideals but for strategies. Subhas used the knife for surgery, Hitler used it to murder; it was the instrument that mattered to Bose, he was not worried about the uses the owner of the instrument put it to. He wanted the weapons for his own use to Free India, and the price he traded it with was to hand over the enemy’s enemy, the British in this case. In the sense of the Gita, Subhas was the more genuine Arjuna.

Subhas often spoke of dictatorship rather than democracy; were he to have his way in the Tripuri Congress of 1939 and were he to become the Prime Minister of India or were he to have genuinely invited Japan to invade India and drive the British out of it, what could have been the consequences? Perhaps disastrous, perhaps the Japanese would have meted the same cruelty towards India as they did in China and southeast Asia and for which both Togo and Tojo were tried and hanged by the International Court. And if by chance the British would be defeated, then India may have become a Japanese colony with unprecedented persecution of its people. Or the British could have left India sooner and India become independent right in the middle of the war. But one thing is clear, and which is that India’s Freedom would not have the slur of the subtitle of the Partition.

Bose’s vitality, his charisma, his passions would have become the point towards which the mob energies could have been directed, the singular goal of Freedom without the Congress’s Kalnemi like planning for the aftermath would have appealed to the gut of the people eager to repose their ideals on to something concrete. Freedom would then look like a fight, and not a series of negotiations. Freedom would be then everyone’s flesh and blood and not something they were led onto by priests of sovereignty. That would seem more like having an agency, a direct participation, a more complete exhaustion of energies, those which could then drive away the mind’s narrowness of communal competition and strife. And if India was to fall to war, then at least for the nation, the Hindus and Muslims would have fought together, shoulder to shoulder and would have a history that was neither that of the Hindus nor of the Muslims, but something they could have claimed together. Therefore, when there is a Hindu Muslim conflict, people want to believe that Subhas will come back.

Subhas Bose’s immortality must be seen in the light of his energy; a force that is likely to sweep the narrowness of language, culture, religion, and caste into the creation of one large army of devoted and dedicated soldiers for the attainment of goals, no matter how impossible and fantastical it looked. It defied the pragmatism of the Congress in making India work as a free country, it scorned Congress’s paternalism in making everyday life so smooth for the ordinary person that there was hardly a feeling of a rites de passage from colonialism to Freedom. Therefore, whenever humans want to rise above their own narrowness, aroused in a sense of heroic martyrdom, to become conscious of having broken away from something and resurrected into something new, Bose is remembered. If Indians nurture their desire that there was a great war that could have been fought by everyone on the same plane so that they could have memories to share and stories to tell, Subhas will not die for them. For this spirit of his have always created nations, the passions he stirred rather than ideals have made people overcome divisions among themselves, and hence Netaji make us seek salvation in our unity and not partitioned land in the name of our autonomy. If Indians would want to be all brothers and sisters, if Indians would look to have a tryst with destiny, if India would desire the magic of the Purna Swaraj, Indians will desire Bose to be alive. Hence, as Gandhi said, when he asked his family not to perform the death rites, that Subhas was not dead. Reason? According to none other than Gandhi, Subhas could not die.

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Resistance to Being Taught Parenting

One of my post retirement creative flings is a course for parents to raise topper kids. The purpose of this short training in two modules, the second one of which I don’t intend to start off in a hurry, is to make parents aware that they can, through some minor acts of attention, create a huge difference in the performances in the lives of their children as students. Interestingly, the idea was opposed with hostility among parents, student counsellors and the schoolteachers themselves.

Parents were angry at the suggestion of “being taught” on how to do the best for their children. The exercise that entailed them reading through the textbooks of their children were making them the angriest. Why should they d something that their children were supposed to do was the commonest refrain. Many asserted that they had nothing to do with their children’s studies and yet these are the very parents who would go a long way in procuring for the child what the rest of the course said, namely a comfortable study desk and a chair and a well-lighted and more importantly, a well-marked out study area. The other thing they balked at was to peg time slots and routines, and especially tasks like putting down on paper the list of tasks the child needed to jot down. The long and short of this is that while parents did not mind fulfilling those tasks against which they could spend money, they hated to engage in tasks that asked from them, their time, and mental engagements. They were not prepared to give their minds; no wonder then the quality of students despite the gargantuan marks they score is declining in India by the day despite an increase in expenses on education. Parents love to buy but not to give their bodies, minds and souls to the development of the child. This must be strange.

The child counsellors are expectedly offended for they feel that my training course gets in the way of their hold over both the child as well as the parent. Counsellors work on a single model, and which is the parent disciplining the child and the pressures thereof the child must bear. Counsellors aim at counselling parents to take off the pressure as if discipline is the only ingredient of parenting. Ask the orphan please, what she feels when there are no parents around, the overwhelming emotion is that of feeling all alone, abandoned, isolated. Parents are needed to make the child feel chaperoned for the world of study is a rather lonely space. While counselling the child, one often forgets one’s own childhood. Why is my child unruly? Why don’t you try and recall those times when you would be unruly? What made you behave that way when you did? The child who must negotiate through new stuff each day wading through arithmetic, biology and geography faces a harrowing time in these. Studying unfamiliar stuff makes you feel lonely; the children who do well seem to be privileged with some “company” in their studies. A significant percentage of children who fear science subjects usually have parents who never studied science; a child who fears the social studies may not have a parent from the subject or may have poor reading and writing habits and less command over language. The parent must chaperon the child into the weird woods of lessons; a child whose parents know how to speak the language of studies and who are more familiar with the subjects taught in school are likely to do better because they are less lonely since they feel that their parents can accompany them into the world of lessons. This simple fact of life and of growing up would never hit the counsellor because the counselling theories are constructed with a single reality in mind; the parents are trying to trouble the child; the counsellor comforts the child into fleeing from her reality. Its just fine if you don’t get 90 percent in class, so tells the counsellor to comfort the child. But does a poor percentage help the child get into college? I think not. It would be wonderful if the reality was more friendly to the less studious child but unfortunately it is most exacting and punishing. And since we don’t have our alternative modes of lives, we better adapt for, as all educators would know, the definition of intelligence is adaptation.

The third of the triad is the schoolteacher. She is the worst offender here for she tells in no uncertain terms that she hates single minded toppers and would rather have well developed and well-rounded personalities. Schools don’t maintain longitudinal data because were they to do so they would have discovered that one does nothing well unless one is single minded. There is indeed something to the toppers, they can attend tasks, complete these, work consistently at a task and most importantly can postpone instant gratifications. There is nothing more central to a student herself than her acceptance in the class and while this can happen for girls with exceptional talents, for those who are good in studies, such acceptance is easy. Toppers have a better time in class, are less bullied, less scolded, less scapegoated.

As the world demands more and more performance from students, where students with 97 percent may not even get admitted to college, schools have started to rather discourage high performances. This is more so in better off schools, in the sense in schools with richer kids. Here, education like every other thing that is paid for, and indeed higher the fees paid, more so this applies, that education is also to be consumed. Hence, schools should be made into a zone of enjoyment for the wholesome development of the personality. This is a very noble idea, and every society must follow this path but to imagine that the wholesome personality and academic performance are mutually exclusive is to pamper oneself with naivety. Mine is a U-shaped career curve, with a steep success in my early school days, followed by a trough in middle school and eventually a steep rise in the University. I distinctly noticed that those days I was comfortable in my skin about my studies, I also turned out to be a well-rounded personality.

Ever since consumerism has become our culture, education is struggling to be part of that consumerism. Frills like uniform, bags, tiffin boxes seem to take a greater meaning than books, pencils, sharpeners, erasers and so on. This is so even in the government run schools and while these are important, but they are now increasingly taking a turn towards becoming the center of focus. Those who manage education in these levels do not have the adequate brain width to manage both, the education, and its accessories, and because the set of accessories involves larger number of stimuli in the sense of higher tangibility of such stuff. Education, unfortunately which is intangible gets left out. The trouble with a consumerist culture and value for money culture is that education, which is the most intangible of all gets sharved off to the margins as schools offer a variety of activities such as dance, music, arts and so on. These are very important trainings to undergo and that their impact on personality of children cannot be understated; yet these alone are not sufficient to get a child through in life, unless they are exceptionally talented, and which makes the probability of success extremely rare. Schools are meant to study, and any development of the child can only be laid on the firm ground of studies. As said before, it is far easier to become a well-rounded personality if the child is well grounded in her studies.

Unfortunately, no school will ever sell these days if it says that it will promise fine grades to the child. In fact, getting good grades seems to be an anathema for schools as insisting on studies is looked upon as being backward, single minded non holistic narrow personalities. The focus on grades seems to have shifted to coaching classes and online tutorials because schools don’t think that grades matter. So not the best performing child in school but the best grader in the coaching classes get to colleges which don’t seem to be too inclined on wholesome personalities and holistic developments; instead focusses on grades, where only the 100 pointers seem to be assured of their admissions.

Schools bask on their abilities to provide the child a postponement into the world of adulthood and prolong the innocence of childhood. This is fantastic as an idea but not too helpful in a world where grades are the passport to the life out there and such few are issued at that too. Then the schools are riding an anomaly in the sense of promoting education which has few takers and forsaking such tasks of studies to coaching centres, the shameful entities that seeks performance out of students.

The trouble is that the consumerist templates of schools set the template for all schools and hence village schools or municipality schools also attempt pursuing extracurricular activities or else they lose enrolment to private schools and soon after, their posts of teachers. That is how, so many teaching jobs have been lost in villages and corporation or government aided schools.

While coaching institutes are mushrooming in every corner, schools those would teach the extracurricular activities are disappearing. It is not unusual to see the music, dance and art schools collapsing and even their online avatars are not picking up well. That their functions are now taken over by the schools themselves just as the education roles of the schools are now entrusted to the coaching classes is creating institutional reorganization in education with celebrities now adding value to schools in extracurricular activities, but the lesser mortals of coaching tutors are taking over education.

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Cafes Up My Street

There are two cafes up my street: one Barista and the other CCD. I used both for my meetings. If I had to sit quietly in a corner and record something in my voice recorder, I would choose the CCD because tucked away in a corner of a shopping patio, I would complete my tasks and order for a cappuccino to celebrate my hard work. Often there would be a garlic toast. But the Barista which had a wall of glass overlooking the street with trees that have grown old with the street and its houses, casting a canopy of shade in the summer forenoons would usually be the venue for meetings or to take a break from the household chores and answer those long calls of just chatting friends up. The Barista remains there still, having withstood the Covid shutdown, but the CCD is gone, given way to yet another upstart eating place where food prepared without grace costs nearly as much as three-fold the CCD prices. Surely, the place is mostly unoccupied. This is what development of cities do to us and the businesses all around.

As cities develop, rentals go up, shops those which sell cheap and in high volumes give way to shops with highly priced goods, lower footfalls and hence less staff. The worst hit are the medicine shops in our locality for they have disappeared giving way to designer bags and purses; these will scoot in a while too, giving way to even bigger brands with higher prices and even less footfalls. High rents increase the cost of holding stocks; hence stocks of essentials are replaced by stocks of those goods where the margins are higher, even if customers are less. Most medicine shops I visit these days, irrespective of whether it is Delhi or Calcutta, stocks seem to be always wanting. The margins and the customers must attain a magic number with the rent paid for the shop. Marketeers in pharmacy companies price their products in this way. Therefore, in the newly developed areas in terms of housing projects which are off the limits of the city, shops do better, and it is common to find franchisees or branches of the famous city shops doing brisk business in the peripheral townships. Not only the medicine shops but even stores that were more traditional like the Suruchi café, Dasa Prakash and others. It is common to see shops those were at the heart of the city move towards the newly developed suburbs pulled violently within the city limits.

Development in cities often suffocate the erstwhile localities and shift the focus outwards into what would for so long constitute the outskirts. The development of the Calcutta in the 1930’s saw the shift of influence from the heart of Bagh Bazaar and Bow Bazaar towards Ballygunje. The hub of influence from Bowbazaar which housed Raja Rammohan Roy, P.C Ray, Jagadish Bose, Satyen Bose and Michael Madhusudan Dutta and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay moved to Subhas Bose in Elgin Road, Naren Deb in Hindustan Park, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay near Deshapriya Park, Jatin Das in Southern Avenue. Satyajit Ray’s shift from Garpaar to central Kolkata and to Rajani Sen Road in his imagination is a sign how the development of cities bring about shifts in centres of influence and indeed of culture. The Bengali cultures of the northern hub of the city and those of Ballygunje are almost as different as chalk and cheese. The culture shifts also changed fortunes of the theatre, nature of goods circulating in shops, with a distinct fall in the standards of medical treatment and the scientific talents of the people. The scientific culture which includes a high level of political consciousness settled into a somewhat apolitical artistry, from the culture of producing economies and institutions to cultures which consumed what emerged out of the above mentioned.

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Bengal’s Vegetarianism

It seems from a piece published in the literary supplement of Ananda Bazar Patrika on the 3rd of October 2021 by Debashis Bhowmick that Bengal has traditionally and historically been a land of vegetarian food and it was not before the conquest of Bengal by Akbar in the 16th century that Bengalis started to eat fish. Bengalis started to eat meat only after the British were more entrenched in the 18th century. Why this was so is interesting because the land has known substantial migration from the rest of the country, namely Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka and even Tamil Nadu where non vegetarian food was common, so common that vegetarianism was a matter of caste, as in the Brahmins were vegetarians to mark themselves out as a distinct entity. Bengal’s vegetarianism may have been possible due to the abundance of vegetables, mainly the leafy ones as palong, beto, or betuya, kumro, lau, lal shaak and others amounting to fourteen in number were found in abundance, no wonder then 14 shaaks are part of the celebrations of the autumnal waning moondays. Ghee was the principal medium of cooking and a variety of rice filled in the plates of the Bong gourmet. Daals were plenty as well and potol, kumro and kachu were cooked enthusiastically. It appears that the Bengali chefs were much involved with the plentiful of ghee and vegetables to even miss non vegetarian food. Besides, cooking seems to be tied to religious rituals as well, where fish or meat are taboos. Special items on the menu especially those prepared as wedding feasts would be payesh and Sandesh. With the preponderance of ghee and milk, it seems that Aryanization had more to do with lactose than with animal protein.

But after the era of Sri Chaitanya, fish and mustard oil come in with a vengeance. While the spices were mainly jeerey and dhoney and ginger, now onions and garlics get aggressive as the major ingredients of non-vegetarian cooking. Ginger takes a backseat and turmeric moves in to fill in the space. Though we associate the onion and garlic with the Muslims, this may need a rethink because the Muslims had started to conquer Bengal since the 12th century, yet it was not until the invasion of Akbar that cuisine changed really. Three factors may have been responsible for Bengal’s change towards fish eating. These are as follows:

  1. The role of Nityananda, himself a meat eater and who expanded the Bengali culture towards the tribals trying to bring them into the fold of the mainstream. Fish may have emerged from them, though it is important to learn of their cooking medium.
  2. The advent of soldiers from Punjab and western UP with Akbar’s army who were fish eaters and cooked in mustard oil.
  3. The Portuguese who widened the Bengali palate with the introduction of the green pepper, potato and musurir daal, at last we know why it was called as non-vegetarian because it tasted best when cooked with mustard oil, the medium of cooking fish.

Muslims in Bengal also ate vegetarian food and later relished turtle eggs fried in ghee and not oil. It was only with the British that meat eating, especially in the form of the curry became popular.

Therefore, the quintessential cuisine of the Bengalis namely turmeric, mustard oil and fish were imports from lands outside of Bengal for historically Bengalis were ghee eating and milk drinking vegetarians. The crux of the influence of “non-Bengali” outsiders are thus most entrenched in what consists of essential Bengaliness.

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The Three Impressionists

I love the threesome, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet. I don’t think that they were a trio, but nonetheless I always thought of them together. They were born around the middle of the 19th century and lived into the early 20th. Van Gogh was Dutch while the others were French. Not that this matters to me for I am not too familiar with European sociology to be able to discern the influence of nationalities upon the individual talents. Yet, pure aesthetics has helped me understand something of these works. The neural impressions I get of these painters are that Monet has a way of capturing time, Cezanne captures space while Van Gogh captures human energies. These attributes brace their styles and not their content. Art uses content for the play of its style. The style is the real business of art just as the soul is the real business of salvation. Art moves close to religion on the one hand and politics on the other because of the transcendence of the concrete by means of the style, known in sociology as structuration, or the emergence into Being.

It is interesting that India where the salvation of the soul is important and perhaps India is also the inventor of such an ontology, yet the Indian painting is a mere abstraction of the concrete. It represents of objects and representations of those objects, juxtaposed with one another to produce newer meanings, generalized, stylized, and presented linguistically. Structuralism, as methodology is useful in studying these representations of objects. But where the impressionists of Europe are concerned, structuralism might not yield us good conclusions for these forms are not about the concrete realities but the transcendence of those, not about identities of artists based in specific political and social milieu but moving beyond them. While such desires of impressionistic artists to move beyond what is merely material and manifest might appear Hegelian, yet we may assign a Kantian intent to these painters. This is because the will to power in the styles of these painters are evident in their resignation into the world of the abstract, so great an abstraction that it may even be a nullity. In terms of Indian philosophy, we mean nirvana. In Nietzsche’s words, this is nihilism; for Zarathustra it would be final revelation of the Light.

Monet seems to have discovered Time, Cezanne discovered Space while Van Gogh gels into his brush, strangely the human energy. Monet’s painting is overwhelmingly Nature, its foliage, its verdant woods, the still waters, the lilies afloat in a pond, aimless and peaceful. The works are almost like life in Paradise, by their equanimity, by the eyes and the minds of the beholders of the work desiring to and intending to stay on here forever.

Cezanne encloses space; his sterling works are of still life. For the hasty mind, still life might mean as time standing still, but rather than that, still life may be looked upon as moments of time captured in the stillness of the canvas. Still life paintings attempt to capture space; only those paintings capture time where they present the flavour of timelessness. Only when the mind is in perfect harmony of colours, thoroughly satiated that it no longer has the desire to move anywhere else, can we say that Time has stood still, its journey into the Universe has now come to an end. Cezanne thus captures space; amazingly and gallantly.

Van Gogh is the most intriguing of the three for he concentrates human energies. There is something about his style that copies the field force of nervous stimulation. Renoir does just the opposite; he dissolves the neural tensions through his strokes.

Madhubani Painting
Kalighat Paintings
Photograph
Van Gogh of the Above Cafe
Paul Cezanne
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The White Winged Horse Called Pegasus

Memories of Pegasus returned to me after so many years with the snooping activities of the government. The present Pegasus is however a software that can tap into mobile phone conversations. The BJP government has been using this software to tap into the conversations of its rivals in politics though with what effect we are yet to decide. There has been mayhem in Parliament because of this indiscriminate phone tapping, a blatant breach of privacy being an offence as in mature democracies this offence by the government would have constituted a misuse of office and worthily qualified for dismissal. However, nothing of that sort is likely to happen because the ruling party has enough seats in the Parliament to veto the motion. Besides the eavesdropping will not affect the voters because the moralities are different of the BJP voters and those of the protesting liberals.

Morals uphold the conduct of the society as a collectivity, to go by the simplest Durkheimian premise of social solidarity. Hence, despite the intrusion of privacy is a serious matter with the liberal minded people who uphold the value of the individual, it has no moral connotation for the BJP voter who represents a crowd. Canetti and Le Bon have both insisted that crowds lose values and ethics, and its morality is only the power of the crowd to curb the individual. In this case, the Pegasus, by curbing the freedom of the individual through espionage on privacy is an act of bravado and not shame. The Pegasus is an expression not only of power to control the movements of individuals but also to cower them down, worry them, unsettle them, and make them apprehend an intrusion into their selfdom at any moment, more so scary because it can be at any time, without warning. Hence not only is there an infringement of freedom but also a huge oppression by creating the fear of that infringement. The BJP supporter would clap gleefully at this huge achievement by the government. Hence Modi is likely to make more gains than incur losses of his popularity in the Pegasus scam. It will be another fantasy of the effete liberals to imagine that anything will be otherwise.

Like sex, there are two other things, hugely operative in the Indian society which are regularly pushed under the carpet and those are discussions of social class and communal sentiments. By pushing these out as the untouchables from intellectual discourse, we have forced every perversion into sentiments of the people. No wonder then one repeated phrase that the BJP followers use, “sentiments of the people.” Now what could these sentiments be? It is here that we will observe how fascism is nothing but a more advanced form of democracy itself and not its contradiction. The popular cinema, of all regions and Bollywood (though I think that the term is a perversion) have fought valiantly against this intellectual untouchability only to be brow beaten, hated, leered at by fashionable academia and scholars and as Susan Sontag rightly observes, interpretation has been used as a weapon in the hands of the scholar to attack art. Anyway, the consequence of untouchability is the elimination of chunks of possible talents among those who we push aside, just as unexplored swathes of land buried under sands and soil could yield precious metals and minerals if exploited; no wonder foolish people practice untouchability.

In cinema (though not in our novels), narratives are founded upon class struggle, not between the rich and the poor, nor between the rulers and the ruled but between the entrenched and the aspiring elites. The star is an aspiring person, an aspirant of the position that the entrenched occupies. S/he directs his angst against the incumbent by sometimes agonizing that the person s/he loves have been denied to him/her, or s/he has been abandoned and hence divested of justified legacy and so on. The protagonist weeps, jeers, quarrels, and even fights the incumbents to dislodge from positions which s/he will eventually occupy. Social movements notwithstanding, this has been the formula of our democratic politics as well and perhaps so for every democracy that has been on earth.

The BJP must be seen as the angst of the aspirants against the incumbent and there is nothing new about this except that this time, the aspirants have become the “crowd” who revel at morals of the society being broken as the breaking of the shackles of the bosses on the juniors, not trade unionism exactly but a noisy office meeting. The BJP is not a party; it is an ism, a faith and an ideology that is religion and its supporters are its followers. In such movements, the crowd pulls down the individuals, iconoclasm and idol breaking are part of its grammar. Therefore, any act of abrogating the liberal values can only be greeted with immense glee in its camp.

Otherwise, I associate Pegasus with the Russian fairy tales which the elders would buy for us, lovely coloured illustrations and engrossing tales of poor boy or poor girl being rescued by the white winged horse. It seems that the Pegasus is a mythical figure across central Asia, China, Siberia and even in some lands beyond the Urals. We are not too much into the horse except the Ashwmedha but remembering the stories we heard from our household helps hailing from the villages in Bengal, reading stories from Saradindu Bandopadhyay and a visitation of origin stories of tribes in Chhotanagpur plateau, that a white winged horse is associated with an invader from a distant land, a dark horse is feared as a Turki conqueror and a black horse, is an omen of disaster to come. It is believed that when Durga comes riding a horse, she leaves behind pillage and famines, and if she leaves the earth on a horse, then rebellions threaten the royal throne. The horse is thus intimidating in this part of the country, showing that associating invaders from Central Asia, Aryans, Sakas, Kushans, Huns, Parthians, Pathans, Turks and Mughals is deeply entrenched in our psyche. It is thus the eerie similarity that the BJP uses that of a conqueror into India that the Pegasus becomes its apt mount.  

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Nusrat Jahan

The case of Nusrat Jahan has upset mainly the young, idealist, zesty and nationalist minded Bengalis much concerned with the pride and dignity of their culture, little realizing that it is the Renaissance and not the Sati that defines Bengal. Unfortunately, unknown to themselves they are sounding more like Radhakanta Deb than Rammohan Roy. This is sad because only a few days ago, in their opposition to the Hindu right wing politics, they swore that they would not support Ram (Ramayana and the icon of the right wingers) that sent his wife to the pyre but the Ram (Rammohan) who saved women from burning. The conservatism and the misplaced idealism that the young are showing in the reactive statements in the Facebook. The young and idealists say that Bengali women’s role models should be Dr Kadambini Ganguly (the first woman practicing physician of Bengal and presently the subject of a television serial), Arundhati Bhattacharya (retired head of State Bank of India) and even Mamata Banerjee (Chief Minister of Bengal) rather than the wanton and willful Nusrat Jahan, who for this generation seems to be an embarrassment for what they read as loose sexual integrity. Nusrat’s case may produce landmarks judgements around the question of ownership of rights over children and change the nature of marriage significantly, which may have an enormous impact on the future of women. This is because, for more women to become Dr Kadambini or Arundhati and even perhaps Mamata, Nusrat Jahan is the preliminary step!!

Nusrat Jahan is a Bengali film star known for playing roles with striking silences and for respectable banners. She is moneyed, propertied, famous, and beautiful; in short all that makes for a heavenly maiden. With such endowments, she strategically converted her cultural capital into a political capital by joining the ruling Trinamool Congress, married a Marwari Hindu businessman, had an exotic wedding in Turkey and threw a reception for the political galaxy in Kolkata. She dressed as the copybook Marwari bride, won a Lok Sabha seat, and penned down her status as being married. A couple of years down the line, once confirmed of her pregnancy she suddenly did the unthinkable, namely refused to accept the paternity of her husband for her child. Men usually do this, the Hindi film from down the line is full of tearful girls saying, Main tumhare Bacche ki ma bannewali hoon …which the cruel man denies making the woman into a hapless unwed mother and so on. In the classics, Dushyanta threw a pregnant Shakuntala out and in the Uttar Ramayan, Ram banishes Sita knowing fully well that she was pregnant. Denial of paternity is a man’s prerogative. Interestingly, Nusrat has done it this time. She has shown the behaviour of Ganga who denies Shantanu of children born to them, sets them afloat in the river and then finally when he claims Bhisma, Ganga herself disappears. Nusrat has followed this motif, namely denied paternity to the child in her womb to her partner in marriage and to reinforce her decision, denied marriage. The facts must be seen in their correct order. Nusrat does not deny marriage and hence paternity of her husband for the child, she denies marriage to deny paternity to her husband.

Nusrat’s legal stand is since she married in Turkey under the Islamic laws of that land and never registered her marriage in India, her marital status under the Indian law stands null and void. She remains married alright under the Turkish law, where her husband has no rights over her because she has spent her own money all along, namely wedding and honeymoon expenses, residence after marriage and other paraphernalia. Since the husband has no monetary obligations towards her, the dissolution of the marriage under Turkish law is a mere expression of her will and Indian legal system has no scope for intervention.

Men and women have different kinds of burdens in their lives; men are encumbered with the worry of having to earn a living and endure enormous pains in pursuing boring and uninteresting subjects that may help them get jobs. Women are torn between independence of careers and its loss in marriage. Both are unemancipated beings but the nature of their unfreedoms is different. A man must go on without ever stopping for a breath, women are forever pulled in two mutually opposing directions, marriage, and work. The low participation of women in the workforce in India, which is among the lowest in the world is also due to the demands of the Indian marriage and family on the woman. Many Kadambinis, Arundhatis and Mamatas lurk unfulfilled in public life because of their incarceration in housekeeping. Feminist literature is never tired of placing woman’s biology that manifests in the sociology of marriage as being contrarian to the organization of work and which is why it is construed that marriage pronounces the end of careers for women and deprives the society of her talents and contributions.

Marriage as in having a sexual partner and the childbearing responsibilities may not be the reasons. Marriage becomes contrarian to a woman’s achievements because it is patrilocal and patrilineal, which means that a woman moves into another household, lives off her in laws and hence produces children which belongs to the man’s family. Marriage is thus a change not merely of location but of identity where one becomes the member of another family and alien to her own. We may say that women are still so especially important for parents even after marriage, but these are laxities in the sociological rules and not their essences. In essence, the sociological rule of marriage means that a woman is transferred in body, mind and will to another family, which has control over her earnings, property, and children. The patrilocal laws ensure that the property of a married woman on her death will first go to her in laws while patriliny ensures that the child belongs to the father bearing his name. When banks and schools ask for mother’s name, we know that this is charity in accommodating a simple recognition and not really a transfer of rights to the mother. The pull of the marriage away from the career is the pull neither of sex nor of childbearing but of patrilocality and patriliny. Nusrat’s decisions have thrown out patrilocality and patriliny from her biological process of childbearing and the sociological commitment of handing over the child to a man who in plain sight is her husband. In simple words, once the woman is free from having to go over to another family, become a part of that and hand over her child to them, and instead continue to live in her own family with the child, who bears her name, she becomes free of marriage just as a man is. That freedom for a woman would make the man free of his yoke too in having to pull the household along, provide for three generations and make savings for the next. Freedom of one would lead to the freedom of another.

Nusrat is thus speaking of freedom from patrilocality and patriliny which helps a woman reconcile her biology and sociology to her individuality. Since the irreconcilability of marriage and career has made women stay indoors most of the times, the reconciliation of the two for her might help us see more women liberally participating in the workforce with creative energy and productive force. Hence, to be a Kadambini or Arundhati or Mamata, better not to rely on good husbands and liberal families, but to have the rules changed for you. This makes Nusrat as the preliminary step towards these role models.

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In a way, A Warning to the Muslims


A smart alec Muslim young girl, perhaps to be in the fashion fray of fiery women from Bengal in the likes of Mohua, Mimi and Nusrat and the hanger on Ms Hakim, decided to also write an open letter to Mamata Banerjee. In what she was supposedly vindicating my arguments against the Hindu fascists of their discursive position around Muslim appeasement by the present CM, she has, noticeably due to a lack of command over her language, kicked the ball into her own goalpost. She writes in a tone of accusation that while Ms Banerjee, the Hon’be CM has so-called appeased Muslims by granting them access to cemeteries and doles to Maulvis, she has done nothing to look after the fact that the Muslims are barely represented in higher education and in jobs commensurate to their proportion in the population. This, the writer construes that the CM, in a manner of a Hindu upper caste Bengali and true to her innate bias against the Muslims, is hatching the grand conspiracy of keeping the Muslims as Muslims and not helping them emerge as full citizens of the country. Not only is this post ungrateful and daft, this is mindless and suicidal for the Muslims in the state.

No one would have been as happy as me perhaps if the Muslims had really improved their representation in higher education and employment and lessened their representations in the prisons and police lock ups. For, in that case, West Bengal would have been a rare instance of a government that would have really been successful in structurally altering the redistribution of income and wealth towards greater equality. Some of this has really happened as well because Mamata’s policies were directed at the land, improvements in farming and what is more important, in integrating much of the Bengal village to the rest of India. Such integration may also have been the route through which the BJP much like the forces of Ikhtiyar Bin Bakhtiya Khiljee came and overran Bengal. But all said and done, it is Mamata who raised Bengal as a probable venue for investors, traders, transporters, shippers and even people who thought of settling down in Bengal for good. A modern historian of Bengal’s Partition, Rakesh Batabyal tells me that it is a dream for every Bihari to settle down in a small flat in Kolkata. I have witnessed hostile cab drivers fuming violence against the Bengali farmers who resist the Biharis buying up agricultural land. It is a well-known fact that the community of Gujaratis had a lot to do in stoking riots in East Bengal for they made a killing buying and selling abandoned properties of the Hindus. Such Hindus settled down in Bijoygarh, Jadavpur and Santoshpur if they had money, or else they were relegated into shacks of Garia, Belgachia and Kadapara. Biharis have a similar eye towards the newly constructed flats in Kolkata. Also, as more and more goods are exported out of Bengal farms and mines there is also an interest in controlling the transport business; a reason why Singur voted against the TMC is because it is a transport hub. The transport advances are controlled by people outside Bengal, usually the Marwaris. In short, the rising fortunes of Bengal, like fascism anywhere else, has made it vulnerable to the vicious deliveries of the BJP. The rising prosperity of Bengal brought many immigrants into the state and it is interesting that in an atmosphere of falling employment, Bengal was perhaps the only place where the jobs were being created. Because it is Bengal, both Hindus and Muslims benefitted as can be seen in the number of rising Biharis and especially Burkha clad Bihari Muslims. Bengalis usually don’t don the abeya as much as the Hindi Deobandis do.

As Hindus and Muslims, Bengalis and non-Bengalis all did well and perhaps as well as the other, social hierarchy, in an unprecedented manner was challenged in the state. No wonder then every segment of the society imagines that Mamata has appeased the other. What a backhanded compliment, really!

The Muslim girl, our letter writer writes that Mamata needs to assure them jobs in order to really áppease’ them. Really?? For what? This is another way of saying that Muslims want reservations. Dalits get reservations as a compensation of bad behaviour of the caste Hindus towards them. But Muslims have exercised a choice in opting out of the Hindu fold and Hindus have no onus towards them to make their lives happy. However, in a liberal democracy like ours, all that we can guarantee for all actually is safety of life and property and by assuring that Muslim public properties by way of mosques and cemeteries, madrashas and other assets of public life are protected, Mamata has done all that is there to be done towards minorities. She has given them the confidence by which today Muslims can write such foolish and self-harming letters as the low IQ smarty two shoes has written.
Jobs are no longer won through reservations because the share of the public sector in creating jobs is going down alarmingly. The private sector, which works for money have their own preferences of people who can deliver. If Bengalis cannot deliver, Muslims cannot deliver, so let it be the Biharis if they do better. Instead of hoping for reservations in jobs, Muslim children should focus more on their studies, get better marks and then apply for jobs. There are no reasons why Muslim children will be discriminated against if they repeatedly get good marks.

Identity politics and affirmative action is a victim syndrome raising both contempt and resistance. The problem is that such politics offer no transactional angle. Does this smarty Muslim girl ask, how as a Muslim can she contribute towards the society? Does she ask that if she wants to be a citizen and not a Muslim and has a problem with Mamata keeping her back as a Muslim, then how can she raise herself to a comparable level of citizenry? Her position is like that of the BJP’s which says that the Congress has appeased the Muslims and if Muslims are still not doing well then, the Congress has kept them back as Muslims. A self-falsifying paradox which now must be explained by yet another level of conjectured theory of ulterior motives whereby Mamata is the Maulavi. This is going nowhere.

The point is that politically Muslims can only negotiate protection of life and property; they cannot demand anything more for they qualify for nothing more. This all Muslims should understand; we can only ensure them protection of physical survival and once that is assured it is entirely up to the community to make the best for themselves. Muslims must realise that their religion is a matter of choice for them and all that they can vie for is the freedom of religion and nothing else. The rest is entirely up to them to make the best of their lives on earth. 

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Kotal Kahini by Biswanath Lahiri

Biswanath Lahiri. Kotaal Kahini. Dey’s Publishing. Calcutta. 1971.

When I was growing up in the early 1970’s, I often heard Madhuri mashi, whose death anniversary is today talk of Kotaal Kahini as though it were a novel. Only last week I accessed the book from our local library, a collection that Mashi had exhausted in her lifetime.

I was surprised to find that the book is not a novel. Far from it, the book is a hardnosed memoir of Biswanath Lahiri, the first Inspector General of Police of the Central Provinces, who retired soon after Independence. Published in 1971 from Dey’s Publishing, the book reads like a veritable work of literature as the author has an amazing way of writing about his work life where the personal opinions and emotions are completely removed to make this book into an empirical survey of a non-participant observer. Through a description of crime as objectively as possible, the author creates a gripping account of the social life of the Central Provinces which emulates the feel of Middle March or the Old Curiosity Shop.

While we know only of the Kakori Train dacoity by the Hindustan Republic Army, it seems that such train robberies were common under the banner of the HRA. The passengers on the train would recount the terror they struck as they extorted money, ornaments and other valuables at gun point while raising slogans in the name of Gandhiji and Netaji Subhas! These robberies used to keep the police the busiest.  Many would evade arrests and slip away into the princely states where the renegades were handsomely rewarded with pensions and land grants. The shelter and the cover offered by the princely states would often leave the police relieved because most of them as Indians never quite liked the job of gunning down the Freedom Fighters. The author writes objectively and yet creates a gripping interest in barely the few paragraphs that he devotes to the killing of Chandrashekhar Azad. He recounts that Azad was a valiant fighter and it took a few batteries of armed men to hem him in. Azad was killed in a forest and his blood smeared on the barks of some trees; the locals tied strings around those trees, lit lamps and incense and started worshipping them as icons of the martyr.

Once the railway police arrested a large company of men and women on their way back from a Congress meeting when they refused to pay the fare for their train ride. The railways handed them over to the police and the author had to arrest them. When the police vans arrived on the spot, local men and women attacked the police and refused to let the Congress workers be arrested. The author set the elderly men and women free and detained the juveniles for a few hours in the police campus. But soon a telegram reached from the Congress headquarters asking the workers to pay up the fares to the railways.

The author speaks of how an Italian prisoner of war escaped the Imperial Army and took shelter in the home of the police head, the author in this case. He also speaks of the many suicides that were reported in his jurisdiction in the aftermath of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He particularly mentions a suicide of a family in the most bizarre way. The family consisted of a married couple and their five children, who went into a depression after the death of Gandhiji and after their infant daughter died of cholera. It seems that they bought new clothes, dressed themselves up ceremoniously, took a boat into an island in the Ganges, made a shiva linga of sand, did their ablutions and distributed prasad among themselves containing lethal poison. Since the man was a practicing Ayurvedist and a merchant of herbal products, he did not find it difficult to procure a large portion of poison.

There are stories of remarkable forensic feats for instance in the tracking down of a serial robber and a killer. There were about six murders across the province those which followed similar patterns. In each case the matriarch of the house would be slain after she was robbed of the entire stock of ornaments arranged as dowry for a daughter’s marriage. Each of the families reported that a man had arrived to help around the house as a servant and since during weddings one always needs hands to do the extra work, he was readily employed. He would then plan the robbery carefully and after the act, disappear completely but always left behind his pair of shoes. He would also stab the woman and wipe his blood drenched hands on the outer walls of the house. He was arrested, tried, and hanged for murder and six of his aides were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. This was a typical city crime but thefts that often turned violent seemed to be a matter of villages. The city and the suburbs were often the site of gang wars; Lucknow seems to be the Bombay of its times in its versions of dreaded gangsters.

For the common person engaged in the business of everyday life, the police were looked upon with respect if not reverence, accessed as assurance of help and not as a fearful incumbent of an office. The acceptance of the police was widespread and universal irrespective of whether they were freedom fighters or rioters, city people or rural folks. This is even though the fires of freedom were raging through the province, the police were not construed as colonial handmaids.

Interestingly, the number of Muslims in organized employment in the city seemed to be much larger than those of the Hindus. They served as orderlies with the police and military, as cooks and waiters in the posh colonial clubs, were numerous in the police both as officers and as part of the force and were very well represented, if not overrepresented in the medical and legal professions. Despite this, there was no animosity between the Hindus and the Muslims of this professional class. Communal disharmony prevailed among the lower classes and erupted predictably over festivals that required the use of the public space. Hindus would blare bhajans in front of mosques and Muslims would climb atop their homes and look down with rageful eyes. The Muslims took to the streets pelting stones on a Hindu ramnavami procession because they were playing the same music as in Muharram; Muharram music is for grieving and yet Hindus were celebrating with it and even dancing with abandon.

I must put in a personal experience here when one of my mamas innocently hired a tasa party for the bisarjan of Ma Durga in my mother’s ancestral village. Both Hindus and Muslims were furious at a funeral band seeing off Durga to her husband’s home! The Muharram and the bisarjan have remained contentious since a long time.

Riots do not figure in the annals of the author who by now is already promoted as the DIG. The war, its supplies, and management of crowds at railway stations when Gandhiji would pass by and the control of tempers of the demonstrators of the Quit India Movement seems to be greater harassments. The communal riots are confined to Deoband where Muslim clerics seem to object to everything that Hindus would do as celebrations of festivals on the public roads. Hindus attacked mostly in defense, provoked in defiance but also raided Muslim settlements where they insisted on putting up installations for Janmaashtami. But interestingly, there does not seem to be much interest in Jinnah’s call for Direct Action as much as there was to Gandhi’s call for Quit India Movement.  Among the middle class, old aristocracy and princely states, the spirit of Freedom flowered and there was absolutely no evidence of communal intolerance. Communal frenzy seemed to be a lower class and rural affair here among people with surplus energy and deficient gainful employment.

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Raja Rammohan Roy 250 years and not out…

When I recently, which is just about a year, started to study Raja Rammohan Roy both as a scholar and philosopher I realized that our history books had mistakenly written about him as being the first Indian to be fully influenced by the western education, an influence which he processed and then transmitted through to his fellow beings via the social reforms on Sati. Nothing can be a greater misunderstanding of the man and his mind than the above. Rammohan was not influenced by the West, he was the Western influence. He was not one to be modernized, he was the modernizer. He was not a spirit of an Indian Renaissance; he was the very spirit of the Western Renaissance. Jeremy Bentham and James Stuart Mill were fascinated by his intellect, so were the intellectuals of France and Spain, Rammohan’s contributions to Western philosophy itself and especially to what a 100 years later would emerge into Claude Levi Strauss’s structuralism was evident within the first tract he published in 1804 called Tuhfat-ul-Muwahiddin.

Rammohan stands together in the line of David Hume and Descartes, of Mill and Locke if his slim volume of about 40 pages which literally translated means A Gift To Monotheists is analyzed deeply. We were given to believe in our school texts that this monograph was an invitation to the commonality among all religions through the worship of One God. Far from it, the monograph was an attack on religion itself, more so those religions which worshipped Prophets, specifically Islam and Christianity. Yet, in this tract, he resolves the most vexing question of Western philosophy and which is the debate between science and religion, especially climaxed around the question, Who Created the Universe. Despite theories of self-evolving matter and self-revolving planets, from Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motions to Descartes’s expanding substance that holds the Universe to the breakthrough of Newton in his Laws of Motion coming out of inertia, the rational philosophy could not crack the metaphysical question, then Who is it who has created the inertia, the substance of the Universe, the innate laws of planetary motions and so on. In other words, the issue of the Creator and His Creation remains unresolved through secular science, leaving the conflict between science and religion unresolved and secularism as insecure.  Religious fundamentalism often tended to erupt in this unresolved gap. Despite the claims of modernity that it could and would relegate religion to the backdrop, Rammohan realized that unless the question of Creation was answered the matter would not rest.

Rammohan’s seminal idea in the tract is his question which the Western philosophy had not yet asked and would not do so in the next hundred years that followed and which is that religion being universal to human societies must be an innate property of the human mind and its consciousness. The root of religion lies, not in the human need to have a sacred as perhaps anthropologists like Henry Maine or Emile Durkheim suggested, but in the species nature of the human mind to classify and categorize objects in the external world. The idea of the sacred emerges from this classification. Classifications are done in opposites, where eventually the opposites are classified as one being better than the other of the pair, for instance, white and black, tall, and short, strong, and weak, where white is better than black, tall better than short, strong is better than weak. The sacred is the preferred term in the pair, and the sacred emerges from a set of dualities, sacred and profane.

The principle of classification itself creates the notion of the sacred. Anything which is higher than the human being, exhaustive of its powers of comprehension can thus be classified as being sacred. Hence, as more and more things that start to make sense in the human mind and which happens through education, these get increasingly classified and hence profane. The sacred then is the way humans think about things which are not in their realm of understanding. Suppose, some men, seeking powers were to use this innate tendency of the sacred to emerge as the source of knowledge, then they are likely to have great many followers. This is where Prophets and the Holy Men come. The holy men manipulate the minds of lay persons by claiming that they have answers to questions; Prophets with their stories of origin are part of a huge human conspiracy to control human minds.

Those who seek power by manipulating the idea of the sacred of human minds take to miracles; obviously, miracles play with natural forces only those which are known only to the miracle maker and not to others. The magician does this too, but his art is to entertain and not to overwhelm and hence he inhabits the realm of the profane. When one is educated one understands more things and many more laws of the Universe and the wonderment of the miracles dissolve into the entertainment of the magic. The amazement of miracles is easily transferred to the person of the miracle maker and this is what Rammohan calls as Idolatory. We were made to understand that the worship of idols by the Hindus was what he called as Idolatory and Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, in his mode of fast thinking thought that as well. But in Tuhfat, Idols mean Prophets, Idolatory means those who worship Prophets, the pamphlet is about the deep lies of Islam and Christianity.

Education is then the only thing to fight religion. As people know more, the ignorance which leads to the attraction for Prophets and holy men decline. Yet, when the Hindu College decided that no religion should form a part of its curriculum, Rammohun objected. He said that religion must be studied. Why this contradiction? This is exactly where he moves into the core of Western philosophy and settles the conflict between science and religion.

In more precise terms, he identifies that the desire for certainty of the human mind as the culprit. Religion seeks certainty and therefore it so rapidly concocts fiction where facts are beyond its reach while science in providing the facts undermines its fiction. But then religion turns around and says, well we know about the inertia and laws of motion but who is the force behind it all? Rammohan says that such a thought is Idolatory because the mind seeks “Someone” or an “Agent” who is behind the causation. The search for “Someone” is Idolatory.

Instead, if we accept that the Universe is driven by inanimate laws and worship those laws and we surrender to the fact that there is a Universe we know nothing of and submit to this world of the unknown and the uncertain in all our humility, then it is possible for us to worship the principle of Uncertainty as the Divine, to imagine that such Uncertainty is the Wonderment of Divine Forces. We will then worship in Heavens our own search for knowledge knowing that its horizons can manifest every moment into newer experience. Then religion and science would both be doubts, and doubt will be our cherishment, it will keep us shy and reconciled to worlds those which are larger than us, Forces which are yet beyond our cognition but with surrender and submission may reveal Themselves to us. Therefore Rammohan, who never read the Vedas till much later in life started to regard the RgVeda for such a consciousness that those which are Unknown may be worshipped, not because of certainty but because of their tentativeness that more about Them will be eventually known by us. Religion must be studied because it is instinctive to humans; but its intolerance for doubt must be fought with the awareness that there is more to know in heaven and earth.

Rammohan’s education was mainly in Persian and Arabic and some Bengali because he went to the royal schools. He learnt no Sanskrit because he did not attend the village school where Sanskrit and not Bengali was taught. When he finished his kindergarten, he was sent off to Patna to study the Koran and other Arabic texts. Here he read what the people of the European Renaissance did a few centuries before him, namely texts written by Arab scholars defending science and attacking religion and vice versa. Among them was Ghazali’s tome on faith called Tahfat-al-Falasafa or call to skeptics; Falasafa resembling both falsification and philosophy. Ghazali suggests rather conclusively that the domains of science based on logic and doubt can produce mental anxiety for want of certainty and thus it would be a better idea to give up such endeavours and sink into faith alone and that too in the Prophet. Rammohan’s starting point has been this text, the name of his own tract remarkably like that of Ghazali’s.

The poet Sunirmal Basu says that the Muslims were the most attacked by Rammohan and yet appreciated him and gave him the laudatory title of Zabardaast Maulavi in Patna. The Christians were upset with him and the missionaries at Sreerampore broke ties with him. The Buddhist monks in Tibet planned to murder him and the Hindus attempted assassination. Perhaps the Muslims still being the ruling class during Rammohan were tolerant due to their unchallenged social position. Rammohan’s battles were not the defense of Hinduism against Christianity, nor of an Indian identity against the British; his intent was very clear and crisp and which is to rid the desire of religion to define everything assertively and finally and to raise the spirit of science itself to the sacred so that the two warring parties are reconciled. Through Heisenberg and Einstein and every other relativist in science, through the post structuralists and post modernists questioning the fixedness of arrangements of institutions in the society, we are only seeking what Rammohan sought and found, a way to elevate to the sacred, the greatest wonder of the Universe, namely the human mind’s ability to doubt and know.

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