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HVK Archives: Ram Mohun Roy's cretinour legatees; and a response

Ram Mohun Roy's cretinour legatees; and a response - The Indian Express

Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr ()
20 November 1996

Title : Ram Mohun Roy's cretinous legatees
Author : Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : November 20, 1996

The Chinese take all they want from Europe and America,
and then simply show them the door in more than the
metaphorical sense. And despite every violation of
patent laws and human rights norms, American investors
are literally cooling their heels at Chinese doors. The'
Japanese do it in a more subtle and subversive way. They
treat the Europeans with an unstated cultural disdain
which leaves the Westerners red in the face. In Japanese
universities, foreigners are not given tenured positions.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed sits back and
tells the interviewer from the BBC television channel
that his country would not want to absorb Western cultur-
al values. And that Asian values are much superior to
those of a West in decline. In Tokyo and Seoul, the
jeans-clad youth and the downtown steel-and-glass sky-
scrapers present a deceptive Westernised facade while
maintaining high and impenetrable cultural walls.

The East Asian countries have absorbed state-of-art modes
of modern industrial civilisation but they have kept
their 'ethnic' identity intact. It is a phenomenon which
baffles simple-minded Western cultural historians and

It is a clash of civilisations and cultures, and there is
nothing ominous about it. It leads to fresh insights into
civilisational diversities and creative encounters bet-
ween them. Americans, who are at the moment the most
socially disoriented people struggling to make sense of
gender and family, religion and art, are discovering that
there is something about Asian social institutions which
leads to a balanced life. New age fads are western in
origin and invariably have as their objects eastern
images. No doubt, most of the time gullible Westerners
are chasing oriental chimeras. It is part of the play-
fulness of the whole business of civilisational encount-

Somehow, Indians seem to take the Europeans and the
Americans a little too seriously than the other Asians.
There is something almost undignified about the Indian
awe and admiration for Europe and America. The colonial
experience seems to have left permanent psychic scars in
modern Indians. Modern, including post-colonial, Indians
have become cultural schizophrenics, and tend to take
extremist positions. Either they crawl back into their
fragile cocoons, or bend backwards in a frenzy of silly
enthusiasm to embrace all that is western in an adoles-
cent fashion.

Perhaps, the fault is to be traced back to Raja Ram Mohun
Roy, and not to Thomas Babington Macaulay as is usually
done, in providing a wrong model to modern Indians. By
opting for English education, Roy had given birth, unin-
tentionally, to a self-contempt among Indians, and turned

them into Westernised cretins. He could have stood up for
modern education, even without opting for English, which
many of the Japanese did at the time of the Meiji resto-
ration in the 1860s.

English education has made us less Indians without making
its Westerners in a meaningful sense. Anyhow, English
language is not capable of making its speakers Westerners
in a true sense because there is more to Western civili-
sation than what the island-language can portray despite
Shakespeare and the King James' Bible. Ram Mohun Roy
mistook English language for modernism and the West, and
led succeeding generations into confusion alley.

The English-speaking class in India, however, entertains
the illusion of being modern and Western. Most of [helm
are neither. They are not aware of the many agonising
contradictions which plague the Western soul in the
modern period, and which makes Western civilisation the
living force it is. So, this class looks to the West
which is the mere surface, and in a pathetic manner seeks
Western approval, of its own modernisation attempts.

At the end of the 20th century, modern, English-educated
Indians have to learn to treat Europe and America with a
little less awe and admiration. Aware of their own
failures, many of the Westerners are embarrassed by the
Indian adulation. It also makes for bad business because
we will end up buying outdated technologies and ideas. It
would not be a bad idea to give up English and learn
Mandarin or Japanese to get a different world-picture.

Follwing is the response given by Shri Ashokji Chowgule
on above article.

Ashok V Chowgule
72, Dr G Deshmukh Marg,
Mumbai 400026.

November 20, 1996.


After pointing out how English is not synonymous to
modernism, Shri Parsa Vekateshwar Rao ("Ram Mohun Roy's
cretinous legatees", Nov 20) ends his article with say-
ing, "It would not be a bad idea to give up English and
learn Mandarin or Japanese to get a different world
view." It would seem that Shri Rao himself is one of
these cretinuous legatees, and has gone one step further
in negating that there is anything in our own culture
that we can learn from. Without denying that the Chinese
and Japanese view point has something to teach us, we
should first look at our own tradition. At least Raja
Ram Mohun Roy, even while emphasising the need to learn
English, held our history and knowledge in high esteem.

It is necessary to point out what Shri Arnold Toynbee had
to say about the Indian view point: "Today we are still
living in this transitional chapter of world's history,

but it is already becoming clear that the chapter which
had a western beginning, will have an Indian ending, if
it is not to end in self destruction of the human race.
At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the
only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way -
Emperor Asoka's and Mahatma Gandhi's principle of non-
violence and Sri Ramkrishna's testimony of religions."
While so many are making effort to learn Sanskrit, it is
sad that our alleged intellectuals still like to look
outside for enlightenment. The slavish mentality bred by
English, and reinforced by Marxism, will take a genera-
tion to fade.

Yours sincerely,

(Ashok Chowgule)

The Editor, The Indian Express,
Express Tower, Nariman Point,
Mumbai 400 021.

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