The Modern India

I recently had a chat with my childhood friend Santosh, who was shaken a bit by recent Indian politics and media. Particularly the threat to Hinduism and the pressing need of its resurrection. I do have my thoughts on it, but I wanted to hear from him what he thought and asked him to email his ideas in installments. I got the first part as below.

Da, Remember the day Sonia Gandhi got elected as the prime minister, which she ‘politely’ declined ‘upholding the principles of renunciation’. (as media hastily put it as if to uphold her Indianness). Whether sonia has become more Indian from that day or not one thing became clear to me, that the media has certainly become less Indian. The fourth estate is now like a fast food parlour. There is no much time for an analytical assessment of events and in that haste to proclaim sonia as Indian in thought and deed, what was lost to us was our own understanding of Indian thought and way of living.

Renunciation, in India has been highest spiritual virtue that stood as a synonym for detachment and adherence to the code of dharma. As Lord Krishna has put it “for the sake of a village forsake a house, for the house of a country forsake a village, … and for the sake of self denounce the entire universe”. This practice of living for a higher ideal denouncing all that is less has been prevalent in India. An India wherein Shankara , Buddha all were born who renounced the princely status to pursue something higher. So were Sita, Gandhari, Damayanti, Anasuya… all who lived the life of renunciation for a cause. Rama abdicated the throne to keep the word of his father.

Now comes the Question, has there been any hero or heroine in Indian epics who abdicated the throne and just kept quiet saying it has been an act of high renunciation? Those of you who have read the charvaka samhita will better understand Krishna’s message to yudhishtira. It is a sin to abdicate the throne, which has come to you by dharma. This is what has happened when the democratically elected prime minister refuses to rule the country. it is whimsical to call it renunciation. And, if her own reasons like “my children fear that what happened to my husband may happen to me” (oops that thought came a little just before the coronation moment… eh?) are considered. More than a concern about renunciation, a genuine concern that arises is the concern about the spine of Indian administration.

What if Vajpayee after having been elected the prime minister had said, “meri maa kahati hai. ki meim PM nahi banoom” and resigned? Could we afford a “dhoodh pine wali PM” for our country? And above all the philosophical question that arises here is “can Indian citizens be taken for a ride?”. When they elect you democratically and you say “meri gharwale log mana kar rahe heim” and decline the post? Hmm, perhaps there was a Vyasa who would call it dharmachyuti, but then the media bhavatita has already declared it renunciation. And this is ‘modern India’. The India is no more, and in”modern India” truly sonia is very much Indian.

Though I disagree that Sonia was “democratically” elected leader, I agree that India is more becoming a country which bends more backwards that remain straight and the media also playing an irresponsible role. In addition to that India now has an added burden of a “secular” government, who have got no direction to head to, other than supposedly carry on ruling “ram bharose”.

To top it, the democracy in India does not make any sense at all. When peoples who dont have a clue about their own rights and what governance is, vote in majority, I dont think democracy works. I have spoken with several people including relatives, some who criticise the government and wont go out to cast their vote. “Sab chor hai”, they say. I somehow have to restrain myself from yelling at them and just has to comment, “phir bhugto”. Democracy sure has a long way to go in India.

12 thoughts on “The Modern India”

  1. Praveen,

    That was really thought-provoking. In whichever way you look at it, India is *not* fit for democracy; it is an alien concept totally unsuitable for the real ethos of this land, which your friend put it as Dharma. I can’t say anything beyond this in a comment box, maybe a blog entry sometime in future. Second, Secularism as conceptualized in Europe has failed in Europe. Look any which way, you find Islamism rising and the only thing secular Europe can do is make some noises, become overtly defensive or worse, pretend that it doesn’t exist. The added animosity towards the US doesn’t help them either.

    Hypothetically, assume a war breaks out between Islam and today’s Europe. What do you think are its chances of winning today as compared to the position they were in at the turn of the 20th century (or early 20th century)?

  2. Just came across your blog by surfing around the links of friends. Firstly nice blog.

    It is very true that majority of the voting population don’t really have any understanding of the rights or the power they can wield. unfortunately those who do, simply couldn’t care less. And, a little introspections shows that we are to blame for the current state of degradation of society, media and politics.

    Secondly Sandeep, Secularism has not failed anywhere. Countries where secularism and other forms of equality prevails not only enjoy better standards of living but also are on the forefront of development. ( Well, Gulf countries – different story). Relegious fundemantalism or any sort of dogmatic ideals ( islam, the church, Hinduvita) curtailing freedom of thought and expression cannot lead us anywhere but to demise of a free thinking soceity.

    probably a comment is too small to carry on this discussion, a seperate blog post someday.

  3. VishnuVyas,

    Thanks for the nice response. Maybe I should’ve rephrased. What I meant was not that secularism in Europe has failed, but it is definitely in a state of decline if you notice the spate of recent incidents: headscarves, the murder of Theo Van Gogh and the rest. What is important is to assess how a secular reacts to these blatant, violent attacks on secularism to get to my point about the decline of secularism.

    >>other forms of equality prevails not only enjoy better standards of living but also are on the forefront of development.
    True. But better standards of living is not synonymous with a better standard of life. There’s a vital difference between the two. If you need to understand the depth of what extreme secularism/individualism does to a society, I can point you to two excellent poems by Eliot: The Wasteland and The Lovesong of Alfred J Prufrock. This was written in the early 20th century and the social decline of the West has only increased ever since.

    >>Relegious fundemantalism or any sort of dogmatic ideals ( islam, the church, Hinduvita)
    Just for the record, Hindutva is not a fundamentalist movement/phenomenon/whatchamacallit.

  4. Pray tell me what is hinduism and how your friend feels it is threatened? By Sonia? With no offence, isn’t it a little rich and perhaps a lack of a wider perspective!

    I too agree that our institutions like Media are now hardly worth a penny for their contribution. To see the decay just try the Times Of India!

    I think you can lose only those that you try to keep. If the Hindu way of life had survived all these years, it may still survive for long. And what we may have to realise is that only those will survive that learn to change with time. And that is exactly the reason for the survival of Hinduism as it was always ready to accept the changes that were required with time. Now by talking about resurrecting (?!) Hinduism seems to me nothing but a journey back to the darker times when Vivekanada had to call Kerala a Mental Asylum!

    And one more thing… Though I haven’t read Charvaka Samhita, the puranas I was told when I was a kid had stories of how Krishna had refused the throne of Yadava Kingdom and returned the Crown to maternal grandfather Ugrasena. Am I wrong?

  5. I have spoken with several people including relatives, some who criticise the government and wont go out to cast their vote. — True, my blood boils when I read Azim Premji screams at the Karnataka CM for poor infrastructure when they share stage.. I dont think Azim ever thought of voting!

  6. Gini,

    True, several of us feel the same way, and its high time people realize their important role in demoracy.


    Thanks. Yes true, democracy fails when people do not exercise their rights.


    I am waiting to see when and if the EU is going to take Turkey as a member. 🙂


    Yes, I agree that media is not doing its job properly. No, I dont think Hinduism is in threat just because of sonia. To understand the threat you will have to look at a bit of history. The radical brand of christian evangelism and islamic fundamentalism is posing a big threat to hindu culture. The darkest side of it is the rise of hindu extremism, which is mostly foreign for hindu culture.

    The Hindu way of life didnt survive by itself, there were kings, warriors like shivaji who fought for it. Hinduism obviously is a evolving religion, but when evangelism is forced upon it, natural reactions will happen. I dont see that how ressurrecting hinduism is going to be dark, rather I believe it is the need of the hour.

    And Yes, Krishna didnt refuse the kingdom because “his children were afraid” 🙂 Ugrasena was the king of Mathura, before Kansa put him behind bars. Krishna just restored him as king as he was the rightful owner of the throne.


    Maybe Azim does vote, but he has a need to scream at the govt as he is running a business and providing employment. 😉

  7. The disclaimer on your front page is pretty interesting. So I guess I can try for a healthy debate without getting us into a fight. 🙂

    >>The radical brand of christian evangelism and islamic fundamentalism is posing a big threat to hindu culture.

    I still do not get how this is a threat to Hindu culture? Do you feel that the Hindus will become minority over say another century or so? Or that our way of life will be more westernised? These are irrational fears to me. I agree with your comment about Hindu extremism, however it is difficult to overlook the disguised hindu national views this post holds.

    Firstly, I believe religion should entirely and only be a personal choice, even in its most necessary form. Even discounting that from the discussion, evangelism and religious conversions happen because of other serious social issues. As long as those issues persist, people will be forced to change religions to get a better way of life. History shows how lower caste keralites were able to convert to Christianity and overnight become equal to the upper castes. Its a pity that our media and right wing thinkers cry foul on the conversions happening in the poorer and suppressed communities of Orissa and Bihar, but do not have the bravery to go out and condemn the social discrimination and suppression these people face. I believe we should first make an effort to bring a change to these people’s lives.

    Now about hindu culture and way of life. I don’t know whether you are still in UK or not. If so, I would guess come May you will be preferring for Tories or UKIP or perhaps BNP as their agenda also speaks of preserving the way of life. I think we can often find our answers to our questions if we put us at the other edge of the table. Fact is that these changes are the biproducts of the globalisation and ready to believe it or not, they need to be continued to bring the humanity together to face the future challenges the humanity will face. Globalisation is often misrepresented just as an economical phenomenon. I believe the real truth is that it is the essential change required on a world where our challenges are going to be different. So in short, we need to learn to live with these changes, in India or abroad.

    Lastly, about Krishna! Boy, that is a lame nuance. 😉 I don’t want to spend words on proving how that is wrong. Anyways, the truth is that it was a double edged sword for Sonia after all. The charge against Sonia (as now she has not taken the PM ship) is more partisan than a serious political or even moral thought! Believe me, if that is the Hindu way of thinking to follow on such issues, I would happily prefer anything other than that.

  8. Jeo,

    Your comments were held in moderation queue by WP spam-karma, and hence the delay in appearing on the site. Indeed I wouldnt mind a healthy debate, after all I also get to learn& think in the process ;-).

    Now you want to see how rising evangelism and islamic fundamentalism poses a threat to hindu way of life? For evangelism, look no further than northeastern states of India and for islamic fundamentalism look no further than bangladesh, or even the changing demographies of assam and west bengal. I am sure you will find several articles pertaining to that on the net. Maybe it will be a good idea to go through “lajja” by taslima nasreen. Historically even the Christianity and Islam has been more damaging than liberal. Look no further than how latin america became christian or the history of islam.

    If you think religious conversions happen because of serious social issues, do think again. We still do have muslim OBC’s SC/ST’s,. Christian OBC’s SC/ST’s, dalit christians and we do have govt. job reservations for them, yes you heard me right. So dont fall for the argument that conversions happen due to social issues. “Convert to christianity and overnight become equals of “uppercaste?”, :-)) even in christianity they remain unequal. So with regards to orrissa and bihar, dont think social circumstances are causing the conversion, but do think why it happens. I am sure you have heard of the term “rice christians”.

    I have no problem with india being more “westernised” or the more appropriate term is “liberal”. And I dont have any disrespect for christian or muslim people. For me they are also human trying to set up their life. But I do dislike people who think only they are right and their god is supreme. I dont think I have time to explain it in detail, but I am sure you get the drift.

    Now about Hindu culture and way of life. If you are thinking that the hidu culture is what bajrang dal says or what praveen togadia says, I have my deepest sympathies for you, and I do have to admit that they also have become a part of it. I wont go into a lecture on hindu culture, but I am sure you get the idea, when I say its this culture which produced vatsyayana (not getting killed for writing about gays and lesbians also), aryabhatta (and not getting burnt at stake for saying sun was the centre of solar system), kalidasa, charvaka, etc etc. And yes, just for your information I do support liberalisation and economic globalisation (again discussions regarding subsidies and other protective measures under globalisation is a topic of another post). Yes, my vote will be for labour party :-), purely on the economic performance aspect, but I do think Britian is heading for doom if they dont to clean up their immigration act.

    And with regards to krishna, not to worry, hindus have several ways of describing the same thing. We will sometimes contradict ourselves. And in that true hindu spirit, I will say a modified bible verse, “scriptures were made for man, not man for the scriptures”. 🙂

  9. Santosh went through the comments, and he sent me this comments.

    Some got it. Some think sonia is the basic point, no da, media was the central issue. Maybe that idea got missed.

    The point is that, how media as well as modern India has failed to get the proper concept of renunciation and other virtues that were held high in India. This is erosion of indian thought which only got highlighted in sonia issue as expressed by media. This warns the deathknell of Indian thought and this is the threat to hinduism.

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