The Governor of the Indian state of Rajasthan has a new issue. He thinks the Indian national anthem is somewhat not right, as it praises the then English king, George the Vth. He has a specific, poetic suggestion to make - he wants to replace the word Adhinayak (meaning Leader, though he thinks it stands for Ruler) with Mangal (Good) in the lyric (see the latest here).
Governorship is political retirement, but some people refuses to fade away. The governor in question, Kalyan Singh, presided over the demolition of Babri Masjid, the coming-out party of political Hiduvta which now triumphant in India, when he was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. That was the crowning contribution in his career, one that he would be long remembered. He seems to be trying best it now, by dismembering the National Anthem - and by implication, its writer, Rabindranath Tagore, a bête noire for nationalists for good reason.
Though the poetic suggestion is a new thing, the accusation is not. The song was written for the occasion of Calcutta Convention of Indian National Congress, then a loyalist organisation, and was first sung in December 1911, coinciding with the coronation of George the Vth as the emperor of India. Besides, Tagore was long accused of being somewhat aloof and disconnected from Indian Nationalist movement, despite his close association with nationalist leaders, such as Gandhi and Nehru. He was active in the agitation against the division of Bengal in 1905, but then decided to withdraw from political life, citing his unsuitability in institutional politics. While he remained a deeply influential and internationally visible figure (he is the only Indian Nobel Laureate in Literature), he was never comfortable with nationalism and his lectures to that effect attracted scornful criticism in Japan, China and United States in the heady days of pre-war nationalism. That he was not a nationalist was rather clear and self-proclaimed, and therefore, his work, Indian National Anthem, was always a suspect with extremist nationalists like Mr Singh (and strangely, with the Communists too, who accused him of loyalty to the British, though they themselves supported the Colonial administration even in the dying days of the empire).
I have written about this song and its lyrics before (see here). Any reader familiar with literature (as distinct from propaganda, that is) would be able to recognise the subtlety of Tagore's art, as he sought to use the occasion of the Imperial coronation to talk about the God of India. Though he was no nationalist, in this song, he invokes a very nationalist theme - Dormission of nationalism, or the sleeping nation - and portrays India as one in deep slumber, which will be awaken by this unifying Leader and will be led to its destiny. Mr Singh is indeed in that zone of confusion between the literal and the metaphor, where so much literature gets slaughtered by plain minds. Tagore indeed stands accused - only of being a poet!
To illustrate this point further, good literature may mean more than what is apparent. Put aside for a moment the infantile nationalism, of European heritage as I must add, and one could almost read the song as a prophecy, for the coming of Gandhi (who would unify the nation), or Nehru (who would lead to its destiny) or even Mr Modi (who claims to awake and protect), justifying its position as a national anthem - a deeply religious vision of a religious nation! In a rather virtuoso performance, it is a God which no one could really object to - an unnamed, abstract God, quite unlike the ones the animistic Hindus worship to, quite like the absolute God of Christians and Muslims - and a God of India is one that even the most ardent nationalists, the ones criticising the anthem, want to build temples for. In a way, this is an anthem which combines Indias past, present and future, ties together its many varieties, puts its misery in context and its hopeful vision.
One last observation. Marx observed history repeated itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce. Tagore wrote the national anthems of two nations, India and Bangladesh, and wrote the lyrics for a third - Sri Lanka (an unique feat which highlights his influence on South Asian nationalism). Tagore drafted the music and lyrics of what would become the national anthem of Sri Lanka in 1938, which, his student, Ananda Samarakoon (who spent a short time in Tagore's school), would eventually translate. This song was officially adapted as the National Anthem of the newly formed nation of Sri Lanka in 1951. But then, its words were found to be inappropriate by the Sri Lankan nationalists and the words - Namo Namo Matha were changed to Sri Lanka Matha - without his consent. Samarakoon could never come to terms with the changing of his lyrics and committed suicide in 1962, allegedly for this dismemberment of his most famous song. That was the tragedy. Now, it is time for a farce.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.