Monday, March 29, 2010

India Unbound

 Lord Meghnad Desai wears criticism with style. His latest book The Rediscovery of India has been written off as best read by ‘philistines’, professional historians have declared that he knows no ‘history’, but Desai swallows the outrage with a healthy pinch of salt, and humour. 

“There has been a lot of re-writing of history. It’s always fair to interpret historical facts and form your opinions on nation building,” says Desai, in Kolkata for an event organized by an entrepreneurs’ body. “Only when Bal Thackeray rubs a Shah Rukh Khan the wrong way, that this generation wakes up to contemplating India as a nation. It’s then that the youngsters feel violated and solemnly declare that Mumbai belongs to all Indians. How many know that the issue is probably as old as pre-Independence India?” says Desai. 

The book, published by Penguin, questions among other things the popular tendency to define India as a single entity almost as a retaliatory statement against hostile nations. ‘Indians appear to have lost a unity of identity, except when it concerns an external enemy’, he writes. “Within itself, India has a lot of definitions. Popular history has been mostly divided between the royal court stories of north India which includes the Mughal and Pathan rulers and the Hindutva story which traces the origin of Indians to the Hindus, the Aryans. Where is south India, where is North East in the narrative?” he asks. Something, that Desai feels, is reason enough for a reconsideration of Indian history. And when the Centre and state administrations are being driven up the wall by the demand for separate linguistic territories, Desai declares that there’s no need to feel threatened by linguistic differences.  

Full report here The Indian Express

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