Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Truth About India

India has been a lot more than a country of slums, snake charmers, street magicians doing rope tricks, men with turbans, women with pots on their head and hungry children-no matter how hard the world tries to project or stereotype it to make it fit into the limitations of their taste and mental capacity. India has always been and will be a land filled with wonders and surprises: The founding father of surgery may be traced to Sushruta-a man who taught and practiced surgery on the banks of the river Ganga, who also authored the Sushruta Samhita which had volumes consisting of procedures to perform complicated surgeries 2600 years ago;  our contribution to the field of math is mentionable too-from giving zero its value to calculating the value of pi and by introducing the concepts of trigonometry, algebra and calculus, place value, the decimal system and quadratic equations, we have counted ourselves in; Spices, herbs, ayurveda and yoga have helped in the prevention and curing of illnesses at its root cause for centuries in India; even most of the religious customs followed in India are science-backed; like sitting cross-legged with a straight back that helps in digestion or the early morning ritual of drawing kolams (geometrical designs) at the entrance of the house that helps aid hand-eye coordination; every character that has ever been portrayed and will be in audio, visual or print, are said to be traced to fit into a character that appears in the two great Indian epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata. India was home to the Indus valley civilization, a group of settlers over 5000 years ago when most of the rest of the world were still nomads. The world’s first university flourished in Takshila in India in 600 B.C with over 10, 500 students learning over 68 subjects that included Vedas, languages, philosophy, politics, astronomy and medicine besides other interesting ones as well. The first residential university in the world with over 10, 000 students, 200 teachers and 300 lecture halls is the Nalanda University which was started in the fifth century in India. With its strong value and belief system established on non-violence, India has never attempted to invade any country so far and further provides safety to refugees escaping religious and political prosecution from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. From Aryabhatta’s revelations about astronomy to Chanakya’s revelations about state administration-from Vatsayana’s Kamasutra to Tagore’s Gitanjali-from ideas of Dharm, Gnaya and Neethi to the concept of Ahimsa and Nirvana (ideas that will lose its meaning and essence if attempted to be translated)-from dance to drama-from methods of agriculture to methods of irrigation-from logic to reasoning-from emphasis on the rationale to the emphasis on the emotional-from management to administration-from ethics to values-from philosophy to astronomy-from medicine to games and sports-from music to martial arts-from art and literature to culinary taste-India has a bounty of information hidden within the safe threshold of its vernacular limitation. It is a land rich in diversity and a true Union of States with every State having the capacity to serve its array of intelligence, knowledge and wisdom in its own unique way.

Despite all these, India still struggles to break free from the shadows of colonialism. Even the first and world-renowned Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur was set up in the Hijli Detention Camp where many patriots were imprisoned during the British rule in India-which may be an ample metaphor for the context. Indian’s obsession with cricket, a game left over by the colonial masters, happens over the repudiation of its own games such as kabaddi and hockey-which is analogous to the way western educational models have been taken up, upheld and glorified while renouncing their own system of education. If only and only if India like Finland chose to alter its course and set right its path and return to the basics and took pride in its own design that would hold its uniqueness and identity that may find contextual value and relevance and decides not to submit to universal confirmation to authority...

Said Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosopher and President-whose birthday on September 5th is celebrated as Teacher’s Day, ‘Nations, like individuals, are made, not only by what they acquire but by what they resign.’

If only India realizes…

(Excerpts from A paper I am working on to be presented at an International Conference in Korea this month.)