Miraculous Birth Of The Macaulay Gotra - Printable Version

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Miraculous Birth Of The Macaulay Gotra - Guest - 05-29-2005

<b>Miraculous birth of the Macaulay gotra</b>

<i>Kalavai Venkat</i>

“We can all be proud Macaulay-putras!” declares Jaithirth Rao because Macaulay introduced English education in India. Rao traces our success and even our collective identity to this momentous act of Macaulay.

Needless to say, English education has been one of the main contributing factors to the successes that India and her citizens have experienced. But, is it the only factor? Does Macaulay deserve to be eulogized for that? Macaulay introduced English education not only in India but also in what is today Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. None of these states is a poster-boy of economic progress, democratic ideals, hi-tech revolution or academic excellence. So, what made the difference in India?

One man: Jawahar Lal Nehru. He recognized that India needed schools of higher learning and autonomous research labs. He recognized the need to usher in scientific temperament. He tied up with foreign providers of technology. That vision paid dividends where it matters the most. India established IIT, IIM, AIIMS, DRDO and ISRO, built damns, nuclear reactors, put satellites in the orbit and built the super computers to drive them. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan lacked a visionary like Nehru and so a mere introduction of English education by Macaulay didn’t carry them far.

Nehru had his failures too. Only half the journey is complete when you create autonomous centers of excellence. You need a vibrant capitalist economy that will nourish those institutions and motivate investment and innovation to create wealth. Nehru’s ill fated obsession with socialism ensured that India didn’t capitalize on her initiatives for decades to come. In the 90s, India made her forays into capitalist economy, albeit half-heartedly, and began to capitalize on the investments that Nehru had made in her institutions of learning and research. Even this hesitant flirtation with capitalism ensured that India emerged as the leading software and hi-tech outsourcing hub, leveraging, as Thomas Friedman [<i>The World is Flat</i>] points out, the critical mass of scientific learning which Nehru envisioned and pioneered decades ago.

At the time when Nehru started implementing his visions, he had his share of detractors. Gandhi clearly lacked a scientific temperament. Many leaders clamored for education in mother tongue under the unproven belief that it is offers greater benefits. The emerging consensus in neuroscience is that a child that is exposed to multi-lingual learning early in life becomes equally proficient in all the languages. Most importantly, English language education has ensured that Indians have access to the finest scientific literature and media that are published in English. Education in mother tongue would’ve shut this door on Indians. We owe our thanks to Nehru for this too.

Should we credit Macaulay for what he neither intended nor implemented? Macaulay introduced his English education in the 1830s to train Indians to be able clerks of the English masters, not to usher in scientific temperament. Not surprisingly, India had to wait another 120 years before Nehru could transform a mere accidental introduction of English education into a constructive vision.

Lest I sound like blindly eulogizing Nehru I should also add that his understanding of our cultural heritage was minimal and everything he knew about that was borrowed from European writers because Nehru couldn’t read any Indian script. Thus blinded, he was also instrumental in creating a battery of Leftist Taliban that would subsequently deny teaching and researching of Sanskrit at Leftist bastions like JNU. Ironically, the man that ushered in scientific temperament was also responsible for the destruction of objective learning in humanities, art and culture and for the politicizing of these fields by the self anointed Leftist eminences. In a development that Nehru wouldn’t have anticipated, the Leftist students of JNU might soon stop brushing their teeth!

We shouldn’t lose sight of what Macaulay’s schemes destroyed even if Macaulay might not have intended that. In his brilliant researches, drawing upon authentic British records and surveys, the eminent scholar and Gandhian, Dharampal [<i>Beautiful Tree - Indigenous Indian Education in the 18th century</i>] demonstrates that even till the 1820s India had an excellent infrastructure of schools. There were well over a 1, 00, 000 schools in Bengal alone. We get a similar picture no matter whether we look at Punjab or Tamilnadu. These schools provided vocational training to members of every community including women. They imparted training in a wide range of subjects from traditional medicine to jurisprudence. The infrastructure of traditional institutions which sustained these schools ensured that the students received their education free.

In contrast, the system that Macaulay ushered in was forbiddingly expensive. Most sections of the society couldn’t afford it. For most Indians, it had no vocational relevance. By the 1880s, vast sections of the society had been deprived of education as the traditional schools had been destroyed. As evident from the British records, by then most of the students that enrolled for the system of education that Macaulay introduced were upper caste boys that aspired for British clerical jobs. But, it didn’t come cheap. As evident from the incisive writings of the great revolutionary thinker and freedom fighter Suddhananda Bharati, many families pledged all they had to acquire an English education for their son. Quite often, their dreams of getting a British job didn’t materialize. Many families were ruined and many a youth committed suicide. It is not a coincidence that early revolutionary phase of our freedom struggle attracted such youth.

Macaulay didn’t understand any Indian language. Nor was he connected to the Indian culture. But he expressed nothing but contempt for anything Indian. He was not particularly any more racist than the average Englishman of that time but nevertheless the racism that underlined his worldview is unmistakable. He declared that the ‘lower castes’ were lax in their morals. In case the wife of a ‘lower caste’ man committed adultery, wrote Macaulay, “The husband would gladly have taken a few rupees and walked away.” Nor did conversion to Christianity help much for a converted Indian was merely “as good a convert as a missionary can make in this part of the world.”

His ignorance of Indian philosophy, Sanskrit, Pali, Persian and Tamil literature didn’t prevent him from making sweeping remarks, which in all fairness to Macaulay, he had merely borrowed from a few other European Orientalists: “A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.” India had pioneered many advances in theoretical and applied sciences starting with the invention of Baudhayana’s formulas and Arybhatta’s astronomy to the discovery of inoculation. Some familiarity with the Indian scene would’ve informed Macaulay but in his ignorance he declared that the so called sciences of India will evoke laughter in an English school girl. [<i>George Otto Trevelyan, Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay</i>]

Do we have to trace an imagined lineage to an ignorant man that had contempt for us? E V Ramaswamy Naicker, the British lackey and South Indian strongman, contemptuously called Tamil “The language of the barbarians.” Strangely, the separatist Dravidianist parties that came to rule Tamilnadu hailed him as the father of the Tamil race and he received the appellation “Thanthai Periyar,” meaning “The Great Father.” For some years, the Dalitists have been glorifying Macaulay oblivious to what he thought of them. Today we find Macaulay elevated to a similar status on a pan-Indian scale.

We are witnessing the miraculous birth of the <b>‘Macaulay gotra’</b> !