There are sure phrases and phrases that I’ve grow to be allergic to. The checklist grows every month however listed here are three of my present bugbears: narrative, paradigm shift and the thought of India. All of them are actually used as shorthand for conveying meanings which have grow to be so clichéd and loaded that they typically blur their true connotation. Some, such because the idea of a story, have been imported from American educational writing and are loosely used right here and not using a correct context. Others, corresponding to the thought of India, are catchwords borrowed from writers who have been writing at a unique time and in one other vein. Divorced from their authentic sources, when these phrases and phrases are utilized in our day by day conversations by semi-literate and irresponsible audio system, they debase not simply the which means of the phrase or time period, however distort the fact they embody.
Let us take the favored phrase ‘The idea of India’, borrowed from the title of a first-rate e-book written by the well-respected historian Sunil Khilnani. The e-book, written to have fun and assess 50 years of our Independence, was hailed as an necessary step in understanding the political historical past of our nation and the function of Nehru particularly in fashioning a contemporary nation. Its vast sweep even included a chapter on Chandigarh however provided that it was written in 1997, one may see how central Nehru was to this historic evaluation. As we head in the direction of celebrating 75 years of Independence two years therefore, the political and cultural scene has modified so radically that any historian who will write the same e-book to have fun this landmark must grapple with how the thought of India Khilnani offered so passionately has become one that’s heading in one other route. I’ll chorus from asking whether or not it is a path we should always take or not, however even essentially the most devoted admirers of Nehru could must ask whether or not Khilnani’s concept of India nonetheless grips the frequent creativeness.
This thought struck me as I watched the heated debates over the ‘bhoomi pujan’ ceremony on August 5 in Ayodhya and the brouhaha over the Prime Minister’s participation. There have been offended tirades in opposition to this betrayal of the thought of India that made us a secular nation. The time period was tossed round till I used to be now not positive of what it stood for. To get my bearings, I went again to a e-book that I contemplate affords essentially the most profound and eclectic view of India/Bharat — Diana Eck’s ‘India: A Sacred Geography’, printed in 2012. I had learn her ‘Banaras: City of Light’ when it got here out in 1982 and was obsessed with her scholarship. Many years later, I heard her on the Jaipur LitFest, when she had include a bunch of her college students from Harvard after attending the Kumbh in Prayag to check the phenomenon of an ‘instant city’. Her discuss was mesmerising and opened one’s eyes to how deep and sophisticated the thought of this land is and the way silly it’s to scale back it to the nation-state that we now contemplate India.
Eck exhibits us how the contours of an concept of India (or Bharat, its historic title) are finest seen within the footsteps of its pilgrims and the placement of its pilgrim centres. These tirthas, which span each faith that got here into or grew out of this subcontinent, have a posh inter-connectedness and are in that sense the locators of the area we contemplate ours. Interestingly, all the good civilisations that equally grew and flourished the world over — Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greek, Roman, Inca, even the good Chinese cultural world such because it was as soon as — have vanished. Their cultures and temples are actually preserved as lifeless artefacts in museums however it is just India that also practises the faith it has held on to for millennia. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, we nonetheless worship the numerous manifestations of Shakti in temples which might be devoted to her varied avatars. Similarly, the Shaivite and Vaishnavite branches of Hindus have temples that meld the traditional with the up to date. Our epics are nonetheless dwelling and are celebrated in a number of methods and variations of the unique tales of the kings and princes they inform us about.
India could have been born a brand new nation in 1947 however its soul is historic and goes again to legendary instances. To attempt to impose a contemporary historic or political interpretation on it’s to erect a multi-storeyed construction of metal and concrete on air and water. Both realities co-exist and we always collide with the ages they embody in our on a regular basis life. Whether we’ve seen all its nice rivers and mountains or not, whether or not a few of them, corresponding to Saraswati and Meru, even exist now, they’re nonetheless included within the prayers we recite to today. Such mnemonic gadgets as sutras, shlokas and aartis are nonetheless sung whether or not we’re acquainted with Sanskrit or not.
Sadly to say, all this carries the hazard of your being dubbed a bhakt, but when we return to the unique which means of the phrase and never its pejorative up to date utilization, it’s a time period of honour, not an insult to at least one’s intelligence. This is why I’m excising sure phrases from my vocabulary.