Friday, April 25, 2014

De-Macaulayization - 5

Some lines from Aatish Taseer caught my eye - they point to the urgent need for de-Macaulayization.
But read the whole thing.

So much of {Sarojini} Naidu’s attitude—her easy contempt for cultural things, her foolish disregard of Coomaraswamy, her inability to grasp the relationship between culture and politics—is still prevalent among English-speaking Indians today. For India, even after decades of political independence, never really got around to culture. And what a heavy price she has paid! India is not an authority on her own past; Indians do not write the great works of Indology; modern India’s cultural life is stunted and slavish. Her young people live in a state I would describe almost as a kind of linguistic apartheid, in which they are routinely made to feel small for not knowing English, the power of which they see around them all the time. Worst of all: through their education system, they are systematically denied contact with India’s classical past, which would nourish their interior life and bring forth their genius.

A few days ago, in my conversation with students at Benares Hindu University, I encountered some of the agony this experience can cause. At first glance the university—set up in 1916—seems to be the exact expression of a vital relationship between a modern culture and its classical past. It is a vast and beautiful university, its streets scalloped with the heavy shade of north India’s great trees. Its impressive buildings of mixed accents, all yellow and red, seem to strive for a synthesis between the traditional and the modern. There are, in its Sanskrit faculty, departments of m-ım-a .ms-a—Indian hermeneutics! But BHU, though it contains the spirit of a time when India really was in the midst of a cultural awakening, seems, like India itself, not to have been able to come through on the promise of that time.

And that wasted promise will produce anger. It was easily audible in the voice of a young PhD student of Hindu Law—Priyankar Aggarwal—when he spoke of his education, which far from being nourishing, had been a trauma. “You might not believe me,” he told me, one windless afternoon, a few days ago, “I studied until the 12th in an English medium school. But, at the end of it, I could neither speak English nor understand it. That is the effect of this modern education system.” The word he used again and again, and with great effect, to describe the stultifying effect of his education was stereotyped.
“In Sanskrit, I saw a vast horizon. That is why I chose it. But in the other subjects, it was so stereotyped. Just mug up what’s in the textbook, give the exams, get your marks, and bhool jao: bhaadh me jaaye!” It was nirasa, he said. And this word, when it came from his mouth, this man who truly knew what rasa was, seemed to contain all rasas’ meanings: not just sap or juice or flavour, but essence. This was what he felt his education had lacked. I knew very well what he meant. My own education, though it had included a far more profound engagement with the West, had left me with a similar feeling of lack. It was what had brought me to Sanskrit too, and the language had given me more than I could ever have imagined. What is it Wilde says of Christ in De Profundis? ‘…like a work of art: he does not teach anything, but by being brought into his presence one becomes something.’