Elections are just around the corner in Tamil Nadu. Trust me, it takes a great deal of effort to convince lazy engineering asses to exercise the ultimate power given to them by the democracy. Jawaharlal Nehru would have been a proud man, had he seen the light of this day: his non-alignment principle seems to have gained a widespread acceptance. The lazy engineering students of today have totally dissociated themselves with the elections; they seemed to have lost faith in the system and hence have completely non-aligned themselves with the system. The common man’s incompetence at the political level and his impossibility to impose change in political domain is just another myth: after all, the Indian jigsaw will remain incomplete without myths, misinterpretations and a multitude of miscalculations and prevarications.
As a part of my “Vetticisms”, I have been conversing with a lot of foreigners. It’s a mere coincidence that most of the people I talked to haven’t visited India. So when I asked them what they knew about my country, the predominant answer was that India is a country of extreme poverty, irrational and illiterate people with religion as the ultimate priority in life. “Disgusting and unfair”, I thought. After a point, I couldn’t stand the mindless verbal butchering of the world’s most rationalist society armed with a glorious history of intellectually confrontational tradition. The gravity of the issue struck me only after I did further research; only to find out that India’s image is no different in the literate circles of the west, even after 60 years of independence, even after producing intellectuals like Swami Vivekananda and Jawaharlal Nehru, who spent a lifetime trying to improve India’s image in the west. It’s surprising that Katherine Mayo’s “Mother India”, Aravind Adiga’s booker winning “White tiger” and Danny Boyle’s Oscar winning “Slumdog Millionaire” have been more authoritative and instrumental in chiselling India’s image in the west.
The air of exoticism and mysticism that surrounds India is proving to be its biggest undoing. Religion and spirituality being promoted extensively has resulted in a biased projection of the nation in the west. Yes, religion has and will always be our biggest strength. But what the western world fails to understand is that, the picture is much broader here. Religion here is just a way of life, a set of guidelines, a tool used to induce discipline into the society; just like judiciary and governance are tools to enforce a sense of obedience. Religion in India was what religion in the west wasn’t. India, in fact has never had a religion originally. The term “religion” entered the Indian dictionaries only after the process of intellectual give and take started happening, the inflow and outflow of ideas and thoughts with the western world started materialising. The foreigners found the term “Hindu” convenient to refer to the community that resides on either sides of the Indus. Sad that the India is being referred to as a “Hindu” nation today, sad that the term has become India’s identity.
Talking about India’s identity(ies), it has been the lack of the same or in seemingly contradictory terms, the over-abundance of the same. Before the separatist tendencies of religion started corrupting the subcontinent, India was a splendidly colourful garden that housed an unbelievably surprising co-existence of contrasting, contradictory and colourful ideas. Before secularism became an omnipotent political ideology, it was in practice in India. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains happily traversed borders to discuss “religion” devoid of its separatist tendencies. In fact, Hinduism( I’m tempted to replace this term with Indianism or any other word that signifies Indian culture instead of calling it “Hinduism” which seems more reductionist to me) is what it is today purely because of foreign influences. Its tendency to welcome alternate thinking with open arms has been its highlight throughout. I pity the fate of the culture and the situation it finds itself in: the “Hindutva” activists are making mincemeat of it. Vegetarianism, a philosophy that dominates the Puranas and Hindu scriptures today is clearly a derivative from Jainism. Advaita, a mind-blowing ideology propagated by the legendary Adi-Sankara has been tremendously inspired by Buddhism. The Lokayata, Charvaka, Sankhya, Mimasa schools of thought are predominantly agnostic and atheistic. Jainism and Buddhism form the non-conventional sects of the Nastika branch of Hindu thought. Moreover, the influence of Buddha on the Indian society is too magisterial to consider ignorance. After all, the reference here is to a nation that was predominantly Buddhist at one point of time in history! The Ramayana and Mahabharata contain many unorthodox characters which are non-spiritual and obnoxiously materialistic! Christian and Muslim influences on modern India are obvious in our literature, music and architecture. The flexibility of our culture allows us to induct inspiring thought from any part of the world into our own. So in a way, the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Jews, agnostics, atheists etc from all over the world are Hindus. But such a blatant statement could result in the various communities of humanity separated by imaginary borders of religion taking offence to the same. Hence the message can be conveyed more diplomatically by quoting that the whole world is influenced by Indian culture!
In fact, the whole concept of an Indian nation owes its origination to two non-Hindu individuals and a non-Hindu community: Ashoka, Akbar and the British! All the three, through imperialist means have made the country realise the power of unity and have been influential in igniting the best minds of the country, peacefully or otherwise. I hereby infer that blaming external forces for disrupting Indian culture unity is pointless: because, it’s been a unanimous uniformity in Indian history.
Religion also leads to extreme fanaticism. I understand religion as a methodology adopted to direct people towards the path of Dharma. But a misinterpretation of the same pushing people to heights of barbarism is depressing. Salvation of religious pride seems to be the ultimate motive of most religious leaders today who seem to have forgotten the true motives of their religion, which turns out to be abolition of materialism and harmonious co-existence characterised by living in peace with oneself and the surroundings in most cases. Jihad, terrorism for religious reasons, manipulation of truth and history for religious and political reasons and in the name of civilization is one of the many problems plaguing the world today. India, with its spiritual over-abundance and cultural diversity has been thoroughly unsuccessful at escaping siege. I’ll write about one of the greatest farces that have penetrated Indian minds in my next blog. Stay tuned to this space for more!