Much needed detox. Having been fed the narrative of ‘sanskrit is a oppressive language’ used by brahmins to oppress others, it was refreshing to read this book. Not many know that (even I didn’t 5 years ago) that ~80% of all literature in Sanskrit pertains to non-religious topics like science, technology, medicine, arts, social commentary and poetry. Very little is religious. Yet the leftists in India who had monopolized the discourse (still have) in academia and media have demonized anything of indian origin – just as would a conquering power. One key learning for me is the phrase Rajiv uses ‘aestheticization of power’ – a way to make power palatable. its used a powerful construct to demonize sanskrit in the guise of praising it as in ‘such a great language yet it oppressed so many’ that is so prevalent among many modern Indologists – sadly many of them naive Indian students of such Indologists like Sheldon Pollock. I think, rather hope, Rohan Murthy has the right intentions in hiring Sheldon Pollock but wish he had done some due diligence as he would do with any investments on behalf of Infosys. Not sure he is qualified to do that so he should have hired traditional sanskrit scholars to vet the output produced. Hope its not linked to Ford foundation as with his father and if his intention at least is pure, there is a chance he can learn and change – as I and others did.
The postmodernist Western worldview which has been blindly and lazily aped by indian academia and used as a lens to look at Indian history and culture is to blame for the sorry state of affairs that anything Indian has to be fought for – even to get a seat at the table where its being critiqued! Accused guilty without proof and spend all the time defensively to prove innocence.
This blind copying of paradigms is prevalent in other spheres too such as activism as naive and lazy Indian activists just pick what the West thinks as ‘cool and feel ‘global’. LGBT rights is not as important as food, water, shelter and security – as much as I run the risk of being called ‘bigoted’ or ‘insensitive’ for saying it. Such issues can be top priority for Western countries as they have solved these basic problems and have a pretty decent life for all. Sure, go ahead and take up a cause close to your heart but if you were genuinely trying to impact society there are larger issues – thats my point and its become ‘cool’ to take up such ‘global’ issues. Its sad to see Indians bashing their own culture to be certified ‘intellectual’. Indian Indologists and social ‘scientists’ remind me of the story of a black kid who was adopted by a White slave owner family and turned out to be a more brutal slave owner when he grew up.
Lets use this detox from Rajiv and pledge to make sanskrit ‘cool’ as it once was. Suggest you read Michel Danino and Koenraad Elst too. Perhaps being non-Indian they will appeal to our conditioned minds than a Dharampal. Sad but true. its not easy to discard our inferiority complex overnight, I’m happy at least I’m aware I have an affliction and working to fix it.
How deep the ‘brahmin, Hindu, Sanskrit’ bashing ecosystem is has to be experienced to be believed. I recall an anecdote on UVS (UV Swaminatha Iyer, who is fondly called Thamizh Thatha – ‘grandfather of Tamil’) who used to spread Tamil village to village. Appreciating his efforts, it used to be written in tamil literature books ‘though he was a brahmin, he was a good man’ and it never roused anything in me when i read it in school. Such was my conditioning.
Rajiv, grateful for the knowledge. Pranaams.