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Indian Culture-general Discussions - II
What makes the average Hindu fear the spilling of blood?

Why do we Hindus fear war?

Why do we rather tolerant violence rather than face the impending conflict?

I believe that for our Hindu civilization to regenerate again, there must be a fundamental shift in our outlook. Non violence is all fine, but yet when there is a war against us, we must not fear to spill their blood into rivers and make mountains of their corpses. For that to happen, the Hindu must follow the golden advice of the vedas i.e to give up one's attachment to worldly attachments (the prime attachment would be one's family) and become warriors in both the spiritual and physical sense.

Wars are not won on compassion, but bloodbaths and that is what we must be ready to face and inflict unflenchingly upon our enemies.

Why we must await the world's approval of our actions? We are too big to be destroyed. We must deal with our enemies i.e Pakistan ruthlessly even if it means destroying every city of theirs, bombing every hamlet and strafing every man upon open ground. We must acquire technology hook or crook and build with it magnificant war machines to crush our enemies. We Hindus must dispel our stupid complusions about war and learn to purse relentless destruction of our enemies. War is a fundamental factor of human existence and we should once again become the fearless warriors who stopped Alexander. No nation has acquired power, peace or wealth without conquest and that should be our goal. Our soldiers should be hailed as heros and the society should provide dignified sustainance for those who spilt their own blood and those of our enemies for our sake.

If there is a world war, let it be so. War should be considered as yagna, the sacrificial fire of destiny, the cycle of destruction before creation. That war should destroy Islam once for all.

<b>For this nation to be awakened, it must be dragged through fire and only that fire would mould her into steel. </b>

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Why do we Hindus fear war?

Lack of Brahmacharya.

Also once you know you are immortal you loose all fear.
The Indian Spice Kitchen (Paperback)
by Monisha Bharadwaj

`The Indian Spice Kitchen' by Monisha Bharadwaj is an earnest, ethnic, informative coverage of Indian spice ingredients, mixes, herbs, fruits and vegetables, nuts, dals and pulses, cereals and flours, and miscellaneous ingredients. While the advocates of most cuisines, especially the Italian, French, Chinese, and Japanese rhapsodize about how important food is to their respective cultures, the Indian culture outdoes all of the others with the depth to which religion and culture affects the food mores of the Indian subcontinent. In fact, if I am to believe this author, food choices are even more important to the Hindu than it is to followers of Jewish holiday and kosher traditions. The best known and deepest strictures are those which encourage vegetarianism, based on the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation, where it is believed that animals contain souls of past or future humans. In addition to this doctrine, there are associations of particular foods with various Hindu deities, such as the devotion of Lord Krishna with milk, butter, and yogurt. These traditions are not unlike the associations of the ancient Greeks who, for example, linked Athena with olives. On top of the religious connections, there is the Ayurvedic system of nutrition that has the weight of both religion and `science'.

I have reviewed many books on Asian ingredients covering Japan, China, and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Burma, but virtually none of them include specifically India. Even Bruce Cost's classic `Asian Ingredients' stops at the border between Thailand and Bangla Desh. Therefore, this book is a great addition to a culinary library that aims to cover the world.

While the book is not quite as detailed as Cost's book on linguistic and scientific matters, this volume does include the very important scientific names of plants which yield the herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and other products featured in the book. This may not seem like much to the casual reader until they try to match up European and Indian ingredients. The very first item, dill, it turns out, has both a European and an Asian species. Fortunately, unlike basil, the differences between European and Indian dill are small, so one can easily be substituted for the other. The scientific name is essential when comparing items in this book to similar books on Western produce.

Each section devoted to a particular plant has the following items:

How it Grows: geographical distribution, size, harvesting, and whether it is an annual, biennial or perennial
Appearance and Taste: Weight, aroma, and important components
Buying and Storing: How and what to select and how to store in the pantry.
Medicinal and Other Uses: Folk remedies and non-culinary uses. It is probably worth warning the reader at this point that the virtues attributed to many of these herbs are probably as much due to a placebo effect as to any genuine pharmacological efficacy. I suggest you do not take these suggestions at face value and only rely on suggestions that are corroborated from a more scientifically oriented source.
Culinary Uses: What kinds of recipes use these ingredients.

Each section also offers one or more recipes in which the highlighted ingredient is used. Each recipe is introduced with a brief headnote on the recipe's source region. Each section also has at least one or more good photographs of the product.

By far the most useful chapter of this book is the second that deals with the famous Indian spice mixes. There are many more named combinations than the simple `curry powder' rubric. There is garam masala from Northern India, Sambhar powder from Tamil Nadu, Goda Masala from Bombay, tandoori masala from the Punjab, panch phoron from Bengal and Kholombo powder from the southwestern coast. Aside from its regional specialities, each mixture has a speciality. Few of these mixtures are `hot' in the way chili powder is hot from dried capsicum.

The first item which gave me the sense that this was a useful and accurate source of information was when I saw the treatment of cinnamon and cassia as two different spices, in spite of the fact that practically everything labeled cinnamon in the United States is actually ground cassia.

Next to the spice mixes, the most interesting chapter is the last, dealing with miscellaneous products. While I know little in detail about Indian cuisine, I was surprised at the number of items I found where of which I had never heard. Among these are the little crackers named appadams, sago, a starch similar to tapioca made from tree sap and subja seeds from a plant in the basil family. I was also surprised to find edible silver foil. This was a surprise not because I had not heard of it before, but because there was no section on edible gold foil, as gold has an enormous role in Indian culture.

Possibly my only disappointment from this book is that unlike the spice mixes, there was no chapter dedicated to chutney recipes. There are several in the book, but they are distributed across sections for various different ingredients.

As this is the very first book on Indian cuisine I have reviewed, I recommend it with the caveat that while I am sure this is better than many, there may be others that are as good or better. But, this is an attractive, high quality trade paperback that is worth the money if you are really interested in Indian ingredients.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Kerala observing Ramayana month</b>
By S. Chandrasekhar

Due to the pressures and pulls of modern life and breaking up of the joint family, this practise to observe the Ramayana month was on the verge of becoming extinct. But due to the efforts of RSS, VHP, Balagokulam etc., after the Ayodhya movement, this Ramayana month observation is becoming prevalent in every nook and corner of Kerala and also in Gulf countries where Keralities live in lakhs.
As per Malayalam calendar, mid July to mid August is the month of Karkidakom. With rains arriving in Kerala by June, Karkidakom month is a lean month. With harvesting over by May and fresh cultivation possible only around Onam in August-September, the months of June and July are for taking rest, rejuvenation and spiritual attainment in earlier days. Hence for several centuries, the month of Karkidakom is used for ayurvedic rejuvenation and for recitation of Ramayana. In every house in the evenings, the traditional oil lamps are lit in front of the house and eldest person (referred as Karanavar) read the Ramayana and all the members of the family listen to it. Later aarati is performed and prasad distributed. It is widely believed that this practise was initiated by Thunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, the doyen who translated Ramayana into Malayalam, known as Adyatma Ramayanam.

Due to the pressures and pulls of modern life and breaking up of the joint family, this practise to observe the Ramayana month was on the verge of becoming extinct. But due to the efforts of RSS, VHP, Balagokulam etc., after the Ayodhya movement, this Ramayana month observation is becoming prevalent in every nook and corner of Kerala and also in Gulf countries where Keralities live in lakhs.

Now Kerala is reverberating with the chanting of Ramayana this Karkidakom also. Another unique feature of Karkidakom is the ayurvedica rejuvenation treatment for over 1500 domesticated elephants owned by various temples including Guruvayur and private individuals. During this month elephants take rest and are given ayurvedic medicines, tonics and ayurvedic baths. An elephant’s weight goes up by 200-300 kgs after the month long rest and rejuvenation. Let us hope that the Ramayana month will give the Hindus of Kerala the spiritual strength to face the multifarious threats faced by it. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Writer is not well-acquainted with desi-culture it seems (refers to IIT Ahmedbad <!--emo&:o--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/ohmy.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='ohmy.gif' /><!--endemo--> ) but an interesting article on americanization of yoga.
Video - One of very common street show even now practice in Punjab

These people are called Marasi. They visit every home and do these stunt/jokes with curse or blessing depends on house and diksha (money). Person holding this bat is made of wood, sometimes they use tyre. It is very entertaining show. Some come with very good Punjab costumes.
Typical banta santa discussion.
Please click on the link below to view the rakshaabandhan (tying of the protective rakhi).

<img src='http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/1909/761/1600/2.6.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
Dharma is that which results in abhyudayam (pursuit of happiness,
general welfare), nihs'reyas (union of the divine aatman with the
supreme divinity).

This is nihs'reyas seen in the divine eyes of the brother who got the rakhi.

This is hindustan, the dharma bhumi. This is our mahaavratam.

jaati des'a kaala samaya
anavicchinnah saarvabhaumah
tad mahaavratam (Patanjali: Yoga sutra 2.31). (Trans. The great
universal vow, not limited by humanity, nation, time, moment.)

<!--QuoteBegin-Mudy+Aug 17 2006, 05:31 AM-->QUOTE(Mudy @ Aug 17 2006, 05:31 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Please click on the link below to view the rakshaabandhan (tying of the protective rakhi).

http://vivekajyoti.blogspot.com/2006/08/in...rch-of-god.html[right][snapback]55743[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Finally something good to read and look at. Thanks, Mudy.

Buddhism in The Matrix

[22] When asked by a fan if Buddhist ideas influenced them in the production of the movie, the Wachowski brothers offered an unqualified "Yes."32 Indeed, Buddhist ideas pervade the film and appear in close proximity with the equally strong Christian imagery. Almost immediately after Neo is identified as "my own personal Jesus Christ," this appellation is given a distinctively Buddhist twist. The same hacker says: "This never happened. You don’t exist." From the stupa-like33 pods which encase humans in the horrific mechanistic fields to Cypher’s selfish desire for the sensations and pleasures of the matrix, Buddhist teachings form a foundation for much of the film’s plot and imagery.34

[23] The Problem of Samsara. Even the title of the film evokes the Buddhist worldview. The matrix is described by Morpheus as "a prison for your mind." It is a dependent "construct" made up of the interlocking digital projections of billions of human beings who are unaware of the illusory nature of the reality in which they live and are completely dependent on the hardware attached to their real bodies and the elaborate software programs created by A.I. This "construct" resembles the Buddhist idea of samsara, which teaches that the world in which we live our daily lives is constructed only from the sensory projections formulated from our own desires. When Morpheus takes Neo into the "construct" to teach him about the matrix, Neo learns that the way in which he had perceived himself in the matrix was nothing more than "the mental projection of your digital self." The "real" world, which we associate with what we feel, smell, taste, and see, "is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain." The world, Morpheus explains, exists "now only as part of a neural interactive simulation that we call the matrix." In Buddhist terms, we could say that "because it is empty of self or of what belongs to self, it is therefore said: ‘The world is empty.’ And what is empty of self and what belongs to self? The eye, material shapes, visual consciousness, impression on the eye -- all these are empty of self and of what belongs to self."35 According to Buddhism and according to The Matrix, the conviction of reality based upon sensory experience, ignorance, and desire keeps humans locked in illusion until they are able to recognize the false nature of reality and relinquish their mistaken sense of identity.


India Martial art - Kalaripayattu Part-01
India Martial art - Kalaripayattu Part-02
India Martial art - Kalaripayattu Part-03
India Martial art - Kalaripayattu Part-04 END
Folks, I am trying to find some information on the term that I have heard in my house hold - Kathakaleshipam. It is about the telling of stories. I am unable to find info on the net. Must be my spelling. I am just looking for general info on the subject. Thanks.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Folks, I am trying to find some information on the term that I have heard in my house hold - Kathakaleshipam. It is about the telling of stories. I am unable to find info on the net. Must be my spelling. I am just looking for general info on the subject. Thanks. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
In Telugu it is "Kathakalakshepam" literally meaning story and time pass, I do not exactly know what you are looking for but type in that spelling in google because it does show up a bunch of links about this, if you are looking for the origin of the term, its from Sanskrit.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Reasons for selection 

Kathakalakshepam is a popular traditional form of South India.

Area where performed 

In the state of Tamil Nadu in the Southeastern coastal region of India, also prevalent in other adjoining states.

Essential elements of the performing art 

Music, Dance, Theatre

Detailed explanation 

Kathakalakshepam literally means narrating the stories of ancient text in a comprehensive manner to the common people. It is a form of discourse combining music and dramatic elements. The performer narrates, enacts and comments on episodes and themes from the mythological lore of India in a lucid manner. It demands theological and literary competence of the performer. Acquaintance with the epics, ancient texts, resourcefulness are imperative as also the ability to project the subject through the medium of music, spoken words and enactment.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Kathakalakshepam literally means narrating the stories of ancient text in a comprehensive manner to the common people. It is a form of discourse combining music and dramatic elements. The performer narrates, enacts and comments on episodes and themes from the mythological lore of India in a lucid manner. It demands theological and literary competence of the performer. Acquaintance with the epics, ancient texts, resourcefulness are imperative as also the ability to project the subject through the medium of music, spoken words and enactment.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->When I was in India last, I watched a few such performances on TV and also attended live versions (parts of Mahabharatam). The one on TV had a lady narrating the Kumarasambhavam in Tamil and Samskritam and then singing bits in Tamil and Samskritam. Magnificent. Will never forget.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->if you are looking for the origin of the term, its from Sanskrit.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->There are a great many Tamil words that are from Samskritam - even after that terrorist bishop Caldwell desecrated Tamil by purging it of some of its Samskritam-derived words.
Both the Tamil-Tamil words and the surviving Tamil-Samskrit words allow me to occassionally understand little bits of Telugu and Kannada. I understand some few words or statements of stories narrated in Samskritam - again, only because of Tamil. But I'm not as good in this as Telugu- and Kannada-speaking people are.

That's reminded me of something. When I was very little and I could hardly understand any language, my father used to tell me stories in Samskritam and Kannada and Tamil (since it didn't matter what language he chose anyway). I remember trying hard to understand him; they sounded very exciting. But I never knew what they were about at the time. Years afterwards, it turned out they were taken from the Puranas or were from the background history of local temples; and sometimes he had made up his own stories about animals and magical creatures. When I was older, it was usually only Tamil or he would translate any stories he told in Samskritam or Kannada back into Tamil.
My mother read stories out to us. And both of them (as well as other relatives) would sing to us - it was the only way to get children to go to sleep, after all. Very nice memories. <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->
Bharat and Husky, thanks.
As I suspected I had messed up spelling. Talking about sleeping, I remember my father tuning his transistor radio for his mother so that she can listen to carnatic music during her bed time. Being a small house, we all were able to listen to the music.
<b>MPs unite to slam patenting of yoga by US </b><!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->New Delhi, May 15: Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday slammed the <b>US patenting authority for granting yoga-related copyrights to American companies, saying yoga is a part of Indian heritage.</b>

Terming the whole exercise as preposterous, the MPs said yoga had originated in India.

Till date, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks.

<b>In response, the Indian government has set up a task force to create a database of yoga techniques in order to stop others from patenting the centuries-old knowledge. </b>

“Patanjali’s Yog shastra was written more than 5,000 years ago. All the asanas (poses) practised today have been described in that. So that means, Yoga is an Indian product. Therefore the government should take immediate action against the US patenting yoga," said Vijay Kumar Malhotra, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Old Sanskrit and Tamil texts, including ayurvedic remedies and hundreds of yogic poses, are in the process of being translated and stored digitally. The government is also cataloguing ayurvedic medicines.

This information will be made available in five languages so that patent offices around the world can access it and know that they originated in India.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Guruvayur temple in fresh row  </b>
Pioneer News Service | Thrissur
The famous Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayur has still not got out of controversy as the dust raised by the issue of Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran's letter requesting entry for Christian playback singer KJ Yesudas is yet to settle. The new controversy is related to Saturday's performance of 'punyaham' (purification rites) on the instruction of temple Tanthri Chennas Namboothiri after Ravikrishna, son of Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, visited the temple, on the grounds that the minister's son was a non-Hindu.

Cultural leaders have voiced their strong protest against the Tanthri's decision, but temple authorities said that it was the usual practice in the temple - where non-Hindus were not allowed - whenever a non-Hindu was known to have entered the temple. Punyaham was performed seven years ago when Ravikrishna had visited the temple after his marriage.

<b>Ravi, his son and daughter-in-law Nisha had visited the temple on Friday for the ritual of the first meal (choroonu) for the Minister's grandchild. After performing the choroonu, they worshipped at the temple making offerings including Thulabharam.The punyaham was performed on the instructions of the Tanthri even after the Minister and his family were accompanied by personalities like Guruvayur Devaswom committee chairman Thottathil Raveendran and administrator V Satheesan during their darshan. </b>

<b>Ravikrishna is considered a non-Hindu by the temple authorities, as his mother Mercy Ravi is a Christian. </b>

Writer-Critic Sukumar Azheecode said in Perinthalmanna that the punyaham performance after the visit by Ravi and his family was a humiliating act.

<b>Describing it as "not correct, Minister Ravi said in Kochi on Sunday that he was not for a confrontation on the issue. Ravi told at a function in Kochi, "Who has the right to ban the entry of my generation to the temple?" Asked whether he would take up the issue, Ravi said, "No, I have not decided to take up the issue. Let my son take the decision. I am not going for a confrontation."</b>

To a question whether he preferred a public debate on the issue, Ravi said, "That is not for me to say. People will have to say." Devaswom committee chairman Thottathil Raveendran confirmed that the punyaham performance was performed on Tanthri's instructions. The authority for decisions on such matters at the temple was with the Tanthri, Raveendran added. Raveendran said that there should be a public debate on such matters in the context of the controversy. There should be amendments in temple laws in accordance with the changing times, he said in Perinthalmanna.

<b>The Guruvayr temple has strict rules regarding the religion of the devotee who enters the temple for worship. If any born non-Hindu has to visit the temple, he or she has to produce a certificate from the Arya Samaj in Kozhikode showing conversion into Hindu religion. </b>

A letter written by Devaswom Minister Sudhakaran to Thottathil Raveendran asking him to take appropriate steps to grant Yesudas, an ardent devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan, an opportunity to worship at the temple, had created controversy after community organisations NSS and SNDP Yogam registering their opposition to the proposal.
Jaganath Rath Yatra - Pic
Report of Teej Festival in Telengana from Deccan Chronicle, Aug.,13, 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Sow a seed and wish for a good soulmate
By K. Rajaram
<b>Warangal: For unmarried tribal girls of the Telangana region, the Teej festival is an occasion for hope and trepidation.</b>

They dutifully perform the rituals and pujas associated with the colourful festival for nine days so that Goddess Teej would bless them with a good husband. <b>This fertility festival is also associated with the beginning of the sowing season, which is no coincidence. For many tribal cultures, the fertility of the earth is intimately connected with that of women. "For us, it is basically a festival of girls. It is similar to Batukamma, the festival of flowers celebrated by women in Telangana region," said Lakhavath Dhanwanti,</b> who organised grand celebrations at her native Devaruppula village.

<b>"Teej is also a colourful celebration." The nine-day festival begins with the unmarried girls putting wheat seeds in a wooden basket and performing a puja. "They would water the seeds every day and tend them until the shoots come out," said a tribal leader. "The proper growth of the seeds symbolises the well-being of the village It also indicates that they will get good husbands."</b>

<b>Tribal expert Prof Azmera Sitaram Naik said that Teej was linked with the transformation of aboriginal culture to an agrarian society. Unmarried girls are the focus and they are meant to adhere strictly to traditions during the festival.</b>


Isnt Teej quite an urbanized festival in North India especially in Rajputana? I saw somw TV serials on Zee depicting this festival. There is a special sweet made during this festival.
If language is mirror of culture, we are going to lose it real fast as English is fast emerging as lingua franca. MMS is speaking it in Parliament along w/ many other MPs:

More Indians speak English than any other language, with the sole exception of Hindi. What's more, English speakers in India outnumber those in all of western Europe, not counting the United Kingdom. And Indian English-speakers are more than twice the UK's population.

On Becoming Indian


OPED | Friday, March 26, 2010

Pavan K Varma in conversation with Kanchan Gupta

‘English cannot be given primacy over the language of our culture’

My first encounter with Pavan K Varma, or rather his writing, was when I reviewed his book Krishna: The Playful Divine many years ago. Before reading the book, I had this image of him in my mind which later proved to be entirely wrong. I had thought of Pavan as a stuffed shirt, a self-obsessed and utterly boring member of the exalted, twice-born Indian Foreign Service. Half way through Krishna, I had begun to doubt whether I had the right impression of the author; by the time I finished reading the book, I knew I was wrong. No stuffed shirt would have written a book like that. When I finally met Pavan, which was some years later, I realised he was a cut above his colleagues in the IFS, a class apart from those who represent India abroad. At an open air Hindustani classical music concert where Kishori Amonkar was in full flow and all of us had lost track of the hour of the night, Pavan taught me, with great élan, how to appreciate the finer nuances of Raga Nand Kalyan which I would have missed otherwise.

One of our finest diplomats, Pavan K Varma remains rooted in all things Hindustani — from culture to clothes to language. And that is evident in the series of books he has written exploring the mindset and worldview of the Indian middle classes. A gifted writer — he makes his point without belabouring it repeatedly — he is what may be called a ‘thinking bureaucrat’, which could be mistaken as an oxymoron by those acquainted with our bureaucracy and babus. The Great Indian Middle Class and Being Indian fetched Pavan, and deservedly so, critical acclaim as a commentator with profound thoughts on the past, the present and the future. His new book, Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity, proves that praise for his earlier work was not misplaced. It’s a brilliant, incisive exposition of how colonialism has moulded the way we look at ourselves, our culture, and the world. “Those who have never been colonised can never really know what it does to the psyche of a people. Those who have been are often not fully aware of — or are unwilling to accept — the degree to which they have been compromised,” he writes in this book. That, in a sense, is the theme of Becoming Indian.

I met Pavan for a long adda on a lazy late spring afternoon in New Delhi during which we discussed his new book. What he had to say, as always, was scintillating. Below are excerpts from that unstructured discussion:

Kanchan Gupta: So tell us, what prompted you to write this book? To take the middle class series nearer to a conclusion or something else...

Pavan K Varma: Essentially, after 60 years of independence, I thought the time had come for a cultural audit. This audit entails two things. One is a rigorous analysis of colonialism because, as I write, colonialism is not about the physical subjugation of a people but the colonisation of their mind. And while a political audit takes place after the Union Jack comes down and an economic audit takes place to take stock of what is lost and what is gained, a cultural audit is something that does not take place ... this is something which is common to all colonised countries... to, in a sense, recolonise the mind. So, it is both a rigorous analysis of colonialism and a meditation on the state of culture today in our country.

I must confess I profess a fair degree of anguish at our low threshold of satisfaction and self-congratulation. Because we are not only a nation, we are a civilisation. We have 5,000 years of history, antiquity, peaks of refinement, assimilation, diversity ... but underlying that diversity, what is not visible to a superficial observer, is great unity. We are not a parvenu civilisation, we were not born 200 years ago, and therefore it is legitimate for us to see where we are in terms of our culture today in contrast to the journey we have made and where we have come.

And I believe in the reappropriation of our cultural space without chauvinism or xenophobia. This is all the more important because we are simultaneously in an aggressive phase of globalisation where the subtext in the field of culture is often co-option, where the victim is the last to know. And, when the educated are relatively rootless, that co-option becomes all the more easier. So that, essentially, is the paradigm of the book.

KG: Nothing offers a better platform than a book for a study and discourse of this nature... By the way, some people feel you have been needlessly uncharitable towards English and Western culture...

PKV: There is hardly any space left for cerebral discourse. There has been an oversimplification of what I have to say in my book. One is that I am against English. I am not. I am not for the imposition of Hindi. I am just saying that there must be respect given to our languages and while English is an indispensable language of communication, specially to help us interface with a globalising world, it cannot be given primacy over the language of our culture.

There is a language of communication and there is a language of culture. The language of culture is a window to your history, mythology, folklore, proverbs, idioms, to your creativity ... and it’s the language in which we cry and laugh. There is no contradiction between the two. Recent research shows that all those who are well-grounded first in their mother tongue pick up a foreign language that much faster.

KG: Do you believe English is still a foreign language in India?

PKV: I genuinely believe that while it is a language of communication which has been indigenised in India, it can never take the place of our natural languages. And, badly spoken English cannot become the lingua franca of a country which is so rich in its linguistic heritage.

KG: Your book opens with an intense personal experience centred around your father — his attempt to learn English and thus qualify for the ICS, in which he was successful. Did that influence your career choices? After all, the IFS, in fact the civil services, are part of the colonial governance construct, it has a hierarchical structure put in place by our colonial rulers.

PKV: Without a doubt I am a product of the milieu that, in a sense, I was condemned to inherit. That is why I went to St Columba’s, St Xavier’s and St Stephen’s. And I am not against these schools and colleges. But I have mentioned in my book that my mother withdrew me from Modern School and put me in St Columba’s because she said the standard of Hindi in Modern School was too high!

People place priorities because they are products of a milieu. English was the language which was inherited by us, it was the language of social status and, by that virtue, it was a language of exclusion. If you did not speak English with the right accent and fluency, however shallow you might be in other respects, or accomplished for that matter, you could never be part of the charmed circle which ruled India.

So I am a product of that milieu but I am able, at some level I think, and I don’t take any special credit, to see that no nation can sit on the high table of the world as we aspire without giving respect and pride to their own culture and languages. So when we try to be like them at the cost of being who we are, that forces India to become a caricature. I have served all across the world and I have seen this happen.

The whole point is that you have to be an authentic spokesman of your own milieu. Today, I believe that as far as our general cultural scene goes, Kanchan, mediocrity, mimicry, rootlessness and tokenism have become features which we need to introspect about. I don’t say this with anger, I say it calmly.

Look at the state of our humanities departments, not an original work! This is the country of Nalanda? Doctoral theses are being written with footnotes by foreign scholars. Look at the state of our literature, the man who won the Bharatiya Gnanpeeth told me his books sell less than a thousand copies. Look at the state, pardon my saying so, of even our book reviews. If you are in the UK, the country that colonised us, on the weekend any broadsheet will have 30 to 40 pages only on book reviews. Here we have leading newspapers who have dispensed with book reviews!

KG: Look at the state of our classical arts... music, dance...

PKV: Exactly! Look at the state of classical dance… I mean I have been a cultural administrator also. Top exponents of a parampara which goes back 3,000 years have to telephone friends for days before a performance to fill a hall when the entrance is free. Look at the state of classical music, the raga represents a 4,000-year-old parampara and it is a very delicate structure... the elaboration of the mood the gradual vistaar and the drut... Today we have eminent musicians performing like adolescent pop stars, catering to the lowest common denominator of an audience.

Now, I am not against pop culture. In Hyde Park — I have lived in London — when you have a pop music performance thousands go for it. But on the same day I have seen people queuing up from 11 in the morning at 20 pounds a pop to attend a performance of Western classical music. Mature civilisations nurture both. We cannot be reduced to a sterile simplicity that it is either popular culture or nothing else at all. So these are things we need to think about.

Look at the state of our monuments. Of our museums. Of our libraries. The MGMA gets 30,000 visitors a year. The Louvre gets 2.5 millions at 12 euros an entrance. The Tate gets four million visitors a year at 1.20 pounds an entrance. These statistics are there in my book. A country like China, in spite of the setback of the cultural revolution, is investing in 100 new museums, 83 are already built. Beijing alone has 150 art galleries. There’s a full gallery district. Here you have a gallery but no curators, no cataloguing worth the name! So what has happened that our threshold of satisfaction has become so low?

KG: Maybe it’s the sarkari thing, perhaps we should get the state out of it?

PKV: Hundred per cent. But the state will be out of it when there is a cultural vibrancy in the people. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The performer will be bad if the audience is unresponsive. Whether at the level of the state or at the level of the common man or at the level of the artiste and our creative people, there needs to be something that jolts us out of our complacency. Because, as I said, we are not a parvenu civilisation. We were the benchmark of civilisational excellence, Kanchan. I was amazed when I read it, 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Bharata wrote the Natyashastra, 6,000 Sanskrit shlokas not on any particular art ... a meditation on aesthetics, what constitutes rasa.

Even in popular culture, Bollywood, which we hold as a brand ambassador now of India abroad, I have nothing against it, some very good films have been made, but 70 per cent of Bollywood is a lift of Hollywood! What has happened to India’s originality? Music and story? So, there is reason for us to introspect...

KG: We get carried away by foreign awards...

PKV: Yes, any foreign accolade! I give the example, I have nothing against Slumdog Millionaire although on merit I believe it was mediocre, but when it got the Bafta award, it had not been released in India, people had not seen it. Yet, without application of mind there was only only euphoria, it made headlines and breaking news everywhere. Similarly with the Booker. I have read 12 reviews of Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger in the British Press, substantive reviews, some good, some damning, some panning it. In India, when the award was announced, there was hardly a review. In this great flexible civilisation with its own refinement touchstone, the only news is that it got the Booker! There has to be santulan, there has to be equilibrium, which is a sign of maturity…

KG: We are constantly looking at foreign awards…Somebody gets the Sahitya Akademi award or Gnanpeeth does not even find mention in the media…

PKV: I will give an example, I will name the person. Sitakant Mahapatra, a very sensitive Odiya poet, he gets the Bharatiya Gnanpeeth award, and his book sells 843 copies! Even till this day in Russia, when a new edition of Pushkin is published, a million copies sell. And they were selling even during the stage of transition during and after Yeltsin when people had not got salaries for three months. So you have to think...

KG: You also talk of the mimic men!

PKV: You see mimicry is a natural consequence of rootlessness. People mimic when they are not secure in their own anchorage and my worry is that for a great deal of the educated in India today there is that rootlessness and therefore that mimicry.

KG: But Nirad C Chaudhuri, about whom you are critical in your appraisal, was equally comfortable with his Indian identity while living in Britain...

PKV: Without a doubt. But Nirad C Chaudhuri, and this is my own feeling, went out to prove that if you have to be the brown sahib, you should be the most educated, most accomplished, most knowledgeable, beyond tokenism brown sahib. And he did it in many respects. His taste of wine, his knowledge of Western culture, his reading his writing… I personally believe that it was one of those complex consequences of colonialism which produces a man of his towering intellectual stature who judges himself only in terms of his ability to be the most accomplished Indian in terms of the Western touchstone of refinements. At another level he remained Bengali at home… But to be harmonious schizophrenics is also a sign of colonial legacy.

KG: You are also harsh with Rammohun Roy…

PKV: I have used Rammohun Roy as an example to show how the well-intentioned leader in the colonial phase needed to caricature his own civilisation in order to win the approbation of the ruler. First of all, his movement against ills within his own society and religion, especially sati, was a well-intentioned crusade. But if you read his letter to the Viceroy, he first devalues his language, the learning of philosophy and metaphysics, and without a doubt they struck the right chord. And, as you know, when he went to London he actually argued in the House of Commons for the permanent residency in India of the British and a mixed community through inter-marriage between both. So Rammohun Roy, as I say in my final paragraph, shows that people are products of their times. Colonialism was a hugely, hugely impacting influence on the lives of our well-intentioned leaders…

KG: But it did help bring about reforms…

PKV: I give him credit for his crusade against obvious evils, but I analyse how when you are part of the colonial syndrome, to do that you need to caricature aspects of your civilisation — which is totally unnecessary — to win the approbation of the ruling power. It’s only an example.

KG: Today we have crossover sahibs who subscribe to the idea of being global citizens, world citizens. For them, the Indian identity becomes baggage. {DIE: Deracinated Indian Elite-BRF speak. WMI : Wellof Modern Indian in Naipaul lingo}

PKV: I would say I honestly believe in today’s time, the authentic global citizen is one who has the tools to interface with a globalising world is one who is rooted in his own milieu, his own civilisation. Because it is only that person who is rooted in his own milieu who can be a confident interlocutor with the world. Otherwise, we are producing clones. One of the great myths spawned by globalisation is that having been reduced to a global image we have all become mirror images of each other. But I believe that differences are real, that diversity needs to be respected and people who are the legatees of such a civilisation must preserve that identity because only then will they get respect.

-- Pavan K Varma’s book, Becoming Indian — The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity has just been published by Penguin.

-- Follow the writer on: http://twitter.com/KanchanGupta. Blog on this and other issues at http://kanchangupta.blogspot.com. Write to him at kanchangupta@rocketmail.com

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