In India revisited Ramin Jahanbegloo converses with twenty-seven leading Indian personalities social scientists journalists' activists artists and sportspersons to gain an understanding of contemporary Indian society.
Jahanbegloo, an Iranian-Canadian philosopher and Gandhi scholar raises interesting questions about the seeming contradictions of life in India: the long history of religious fundmentalism democracy being challenged by a persistent castes system the Indian ethos of quality contested by the low status of woman affluent urban areas that contrast with the impoverished rural tracts, Among other issues. The responses to these questions provide in the conversations in this book present a unique and hopeful view of India sixty years after independence.
Breaking new ground in the East-East dialogue this book reveals that something more than economic wealth political power and technological ambition is needed to combat corruption poverty and inequality in India. This for all of Jahanbegloo 's interviewees is in line with the social philosophy of great thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranth Tagore and the strength of the pluralistic Indian religious and cultural framework.
India Revisited gives a one-of-a-kind view of contemporary India, seen through the eyes of those who have engaged with county, her people and culture through their work and lives. Presented in an informal conversational style, this book will be of interest to scholars and informed lay readers as will as those who want to know more about contemporary India.
Ramin Jahanbegloo is an Iranian philosopher who has been Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto, Director of the Department for Contemporary thought cultural Research Bureau Tehran and Rajni Kothari chair in Democracy at the centre for the Study of Developing Societies New Delhi Currently he is Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Conversations with Isaiah Berlin (1992) Gandhi: Aux Sources de la Nonviolence (1988) lran: Between Tradition and Modernity (2004) and the Clash of intolerances
This book tries to make sense of independent India and its evolution over the past six decades. It traces the remarkable transformation of the country from a tradition society to one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It encompasses a full range of subject -from politics to science and arts-and offers a penetrating analysis of Indian society last but not the least the aim of this book is to make sense of India through the eyes of Indians. It is a compilation of interviews conducted with twenty-seven Indian about their perceptions of their motherland. Having conversations with Indians can evoke a way of understanding the Indian society. However India is too complex to be understood in a narrow frame of one or two conversations. Even what Indians say about Indian is not enough to help us make sense of the country. There is something about India, which goes beyond its people. We can call it the idea the sense or simply the spirit of India. This book is a humble attempt to make sense of the country and to captures its spirit. It certainly is not the first and it will not be the last attempt. For thousand of years, Indians have been living in this part of the world with their own way of looking at and interpreting the world. Today possibly they are the last remaining metaphysical people in earth who are at ease with both their traditions and the laws of the modern world.
The spirit of India and the very reason for its survival for so long is that it has not been based on any contradiction between the spiritual and the modern. For a nation like India politically Subjugated for centuries by alien conquest and socially unsettled by invasions the ideas of becoming a modern society is no ordinary thought. But even now the country's national opinion is not uniform on how to become a modern society. What is the lesson for India in our changing world? To pursuer the Indian dream without losing foot in the globalized world. Assuredly Indian has enough spirit in herself to gain her own measure of spiritual morality political judgement and social justice. Indians built India on their own gradually imperceptibly and in spite of global challenges during the past sixty years. The new India has given every Indian in any part of the world the ability to look back and to say proudly: I belong to the Indian civilization. Nations are allowed to occasionally go through self-congratulatory phases especially when they seek to command respect in the eyes if other nations.
Winston Churchill had once said that India was 'a geographical expression a land that no other country than the Equator. It is true that no other country in the world embraces so many contradictions. Unlike what many in the West and the East think India is not limited to one religion language caste creed or sect. India is the only democratic country in the world with such a large and diverse mixture if tradition and cultures. Yet at the heart if this nation diversity lies a great paradox. We have to acknowledge that this is a land of twenty-two different languages. It is also a country where more than 70 percent of the population still subsists on agriculture. Is this the Mughal emperor Akbar's paradise of bliss in which 51 percent of the population is still illiterate? Yet Indian is one of the leading producers of computer software in the world. It is the birthplace if four major religious and has a longstanding multi-party federal parliamentary democracy where corruption exits at all levels. So how can one talk about keeping in mind all these contradictions?
Jawaharlal Nehru spoke about Indian that is held together by a common dream and vision. However, Nehru also knew that there is no such thing as a monolithic Indian. If Indian had any singularity, it is because it is plural. There are as many Indian as they are many ways of being Indian. India is the land of diversity and it is impossible to have one fixed idea of it. There is no one answers to the question, 'who is an Indian?
In the twenty-first century when every sixth human being will be an Indian this question will arise more often. Yet even than when India will potentially be a major economic and political power poised to emerge as the second largest consumer market in the world there will be misconceptions about India. This might have to do with the fact that people around the world still have no idea who Indians are. Actually India will survive as an old civilization and flourish as a great political power in the new millennium precisely because of who Indian are and not because of what they might aspire to or what others might like them to be. This reminds me of a scene from the famous movie, The party where Peter Sellers playing and Indian actor working in Hollywood solemnly declares, in India we don't think who we are we know who don't think who we are? Well maybe all Indian do not think daily about their situation but many certainty think about the hard conditions of their lives. Most evidently the harder there lives the more difficult are the ways of escaping illiteracy poverty and underdevelopment. Poverty exits at the grassroots level in India and income disparities are increasing.
This is no more a cliché, but the bitter backstage of the globalization process in India. It is now clear that globalization and economic reforms have primarily benefit the rich and the middle classes in India. Inequality has been soaring through the globalization period- within and across India. At a time when there are more billionaires driving around Mumbai in their expensive cars ordinary urban Indian sleep in their Ambassadors after using them as taxis. Chronic hunger is rising in rural India reversing trends of the 1970s and 1980s. Recent date shows that this already alarming situation is getting worse and the number of Indians facing food insecurity is higher than the proportion defined as existing below the official poverty line. Around 320 million Indians go hungry every night. The remedy may well be what Mahatma Gandhi had suggested as far back as November 1928: everybody should be able to get sufficient work to enable them to make the two ends meet. But the question is: what is left of Gandhi in India today?
The answer is simple: India seems to be distancing itself from Gandhi's Principles. Economics reforms have turned the country into a consumer society a notion that was challenged by Gandhi during his lifetime. Also the passage of time has led to ignorance and misunderstanding about what Gandhi Stood for. Recent Indian Governments have neglected his vision and to make matters worse Gandhians of the past sixty years have not been at the moral and creative level of their leader. They have been Gandhian in words rather than in acts. However, Gandhi wrote and taught about nonviolence economic justice and humility are still relevant in today's world. It took India sixty years before Indian realize that it should have followed the Gandhian path. From cars to computers Indian consumers oriented to the personalization of goods and services have embraced the allure of a modern society that is uninterested in tradition. To this dichotomy we may add a second: the gap between the glittering upper-class lifestyle of the cities and grinding rural poverty. It is true that one can see computers and CDs on store shelves pizzas and hamburgers in restaurants, cola and cornflakes in kitchen shelves and neon signs and discos in places like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore but it is also true that rural India is dogged by a number of social evils such as child labour dowry and prostitution. Indian has moved too far along the road to consumerism to be able to turn back now or even stand still. It seems consumerism has led the Indian middle class to become almost a carbon copy or caricature of the Western elite. But this encounter with modernity has also allowed Indians to make serious intellectual and political choices about their destiny. While some Indians say that the modernity that emerged in the West in the wake of the Enlightenment is irredeemably flawed and that India should turn her back on it and continue with her spiritual traditions there are also those who belive that modernization has helped the Indian economy which is growing even faster than the Chinese economy. Certainty modernization is not a train that one boards and gets off as one pleases. However there is no creativity in being a mindless imitator of the West some Indians now proudly say that India will no longer kowtow to the West and that with the country going nuclear the world will now respect it as a powerful nation.
Mahatma Gandhi would certainty not have approved of the use of bombs capable of vapourizing thousand of people as a way of being respected as a powerful nation. In Hind Swaraj one of the earliest critiques of modernity Gandhi said that the mark of a civilization is the ethical performance of one's duty and the attainment of mastery over passion. He also argued that progress is useless if it is not allied to an internal quest. Gandhi's resistance to western civilization was actually a resistance to its indiscriminate and thoughtless imitation. But faced with the rise of techno-scientific globalization, Gandhi's vision of India as a moral civilization has largely failed to materialize. Yet this does not diminish India's spiritual legacy, which encompasses cross-cultural dialogue conducted through centuries of war and peace. The dharmic element has been the main characteristic of the Indian civilization through history. This spiritual orientation can be found today in the cultures of all the regions of India, pervading the folk art of all regions as well as the minds of many Indians. It is this dharmic element that continues to sustain Indian civilization. The spirit of India imposes on her the responsibility of following her own dharma even if it is difficult and goes against modernity. Gandhi's discussion of India as a dharmic civilization presents us with an idealized version of Indian culture that is completely contrapuntal to western modernity. Nonetheless his three-fold foundation (self-respect, self-realization and self-reliance) for a dharmic civilization appears as moral basis to the structure of Indian society. For Gandhi civilization was a mode of conduct, which pointed out to man the path of duty. Therefore Gandhi reversed the modern theory of rights as beings legitimated by duties.
In other words for Gandhi right had to be in the interest not only of the individual but also of society as a whole and by society Gandhi meant not the state but the collective entity of individual. This is one of the most remarkable and yet ignored reinterpretations of the theory of right -a philosophy intended to persuade Gandhi's readers that the unity of humankind as a to philosophical principle is ontologically prior to diversity. Inspired by this philosophical principal is ontologically prior to diversity. Inspired by this philosophy many Indians have dedicated their lives to social and constructive work in Indian. Popular movements in Indians using Gandhian philosophy as inspiration. During the past sixty years Gandhian ideals have found popularity among social groups and movements in india that seek a more harmonious relationship between human activities and nature and another world that draws away from the centralization of political power an economic production. The Gandhian legacy of volunteerism spawned a plethora of voluntary agencies working for development in india particularly after the 1970s. Many city-based professionals have been working in rural areas helping people with education health rural development water sanitation etc through country agencies.
The Indian government mostly irritated by the presence of these social movements has raised the question of the legitimacy of civil society activists have worked toward the promotion of policies institutions and capacities that have strengthened the voice and participation of the poor and the marginalized by improving their socio-economic status through democratic governance. Indian civil society also has the role of ensuring the accountability of the Indian state in different spheres. Its purpose is to build the framework if a real form of governance in which both the Indian state and citizens are accountable to each other.
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