Total Pageviews

Follow by Email

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maharani's durbar and a blinkered view of history

By Swapan Dasgupta


Apart from newspapers that commemorated the event and an agreeable party on the lawns of Ambassador Hotel where the cultural elite drank to the occasion, the centenary of the transfer of the Capital and the foundation of New Delhi was largely unobserved. ‘Official’ India which otherwise loves to organise tacky commemorations by producing unappealing postage stamps gave this event a wide berth. And, while no one was forthcoming about the reason, the rationale was inescapable: the 1911 Durbar was a ‘colonial’ event and, therefore, only worthy of sneer.

The Hindu sense of history has at the best of times been rather feeble. However, when it comes to the 190 years of British rule, the disdain for a recorded past is coupled with a spurious political correctness and hypocrisy. Even after six decades of Independence and flamboyant assertions of national sovereignty, India has yet to develop the necessary self-confidence to view history as history. Instead, the past has been sought to be tailor-made to view the prevailing political fashions of the present.

It is not that the ignominy of being ruled by a ‘foreigner’ has weighed heavily on the national consciousness. In the past thousand years or so, predators from the west have repeatedly overwhelmed indigenous kingdoms, particularly in northern and eastern India, and combined ruthless vandalism with innovations. Turks, Mongols, Persians and Afghans made India their happy hunting ground, and ruled with a mixture of raw coercion and cultural co-option. The conquerors always took care to maintain a discreet distance from the conquered peoples without creating a closed system based on ethnicity and religion. Of course, post-Akbar many of these barriers broke down but never sufficiently for the hapless Dara Shukoh to become a trendsetter. Not enough of the conquerors went ‘native’ although enough of the conquered peoples appropriated facets of the Persian and Turkish ways of life.

Many of these changes stemming from conquest and subordination were also dutifully played out in the two centuries of colonial rule. The British steadfastly maintained their social distance from the ‘natives’, particularly after the uprising of 1857 and the influx of the memsahibs into the Civil Lines and cantonments. The Indians were socially wary of the British but there were enough ‘collaborators’ (as in Moghul times) who sought to bridge the cultural and emotional gulf between the West and the East.

More to the point, there were enough Indians that genuinely believed (particularly after the demise of the East India Company in 1858) that British rule constituted a significant advance on anything the country had hitherto experienced. At one level the 1911 Durbar was a spectacular show of imperial might—as evident from the grovelling genuflection of the Indian princes (barring Baroda and Udaipur) to the King-Emperor. But it would be imprudent to forget that until Mahatma Gandhi captivated the nation with his simple message of swaraj, the common Indian was genuinely enamoured of the “Queen’s peace”. The choreography of the 1911 Durbar was thrown out of gear when the Indian crowds broke the cordon to kiss the ground on which the King and Queen had walked. Were they victims of ‘false consciousness’?

“Maharani” Victoria wasn’t Indian and nor did she ever visit India. Yet, this diminutive frump became as much a part of India as any distant Moghul. In 1911, when the New Delhi project was inaugurated by George V on December 15, the British Empire was the most world’s most decisive power; by 1931, when New Delhi was finally ready to function as the seat of government, the imperial sunset was approaching.  

This is not revisionist history. It is the history that was itself cynically revised as part of the nation-building project of India’s post-imperial rulers. But history isn’t rewritten by removing the George V statue from its canopied pedestal opposite India Gate or by renaming Connaught Place as Rajiv Chowk. Unless India is overcome by perversity, there will be a Lutyens’ Delhi distinct from a DDA Delhi, a Kingsway called Rajpath, the North and South Blocks and a Parliament House built for an India where democracy was conceived of as the future.

The British Raj wasn’t quite the dark ages the sloganeers make it out to be.


Sunday Times of India, December 18, 2011 

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

" The British Raj wasn’t quite the dark ages the sloganeers make it out to be ".

Indeed YES !!!

Not being sent to school, my paternal grandparents were spared indoctrination & this overdose of sophistry of "Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi winning freedom & swaraj with his vandeymatharam & swadeshi slogans".

Ground realities were so different then necessitating Britain's entry. My grandmother's mother was endearingly called " Victoria Maharani" within the huge joint family circle for the efficiency with which she managed the entire disparate members of the family. Who incidentally got married when she was three years old.

My grandmother after marriage moved to a village called Varagur from Chennai all within Tamil Nadu. Yet the inlaws' family presided over by the elder brother called Suri Swaminathan & his devilish wife always addressed her as " the decadent immoral sophisticated cow from the city".

My grandfather who was her husband had absolutely no say. Once she spent a couple of days extra at her mother's house in Chennai. On returning the brother in law COERCED my grandfather into beating her hundred times with his chappal as "disciplining". Only then she could enter the house.

She said my grandfather "obeyed" as Suri Swaminathan & his wife were ready with their chappals to beat her up two hundred times each respectively if he "disobeyed".

Many such incidents made my grandfather retort with rage:-

" Varudhaey Moothiram " on hearing jingoistic "vandeymatharmas".

Anonymous said...

Another myth that needs to be corrected as Abdul Kalam also is fond of repeating it sending jingoistic self congratulatory Indians into a state of further hubris.

India did not invade any of the neighbouring countries. Why ?

Because they were so busy engrossed in fighting among themselves.But we mislead all by repeating we are all peace loving people.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if British would be kind enough to put up statues of Hitler and Mussolini in London to set an example for us uncivilized unwashed masses to emulate so we could continue to idolize our invaders.

Anonymous said...

Anon @11:PM uses the wrong word "invaders" & maliciously choosing Hitler & Mussolini among many for idol worshipping.

The following words of Varsha Bhosle are meant for such jingoistic Indians:-


" So who decides when the sabotage of one's government is justified? The Opposition parties? The historians of the conquering countries? The "ordinary people" who pour into the streets to kick at fallen statues and celebrate by looting museums? Or the people who become "the rabble" during communal strife...? Oh puh-lease, spare me the lecture on patriotism: You wouldn't know it if it bit off your nose".

One man's food is another person's poison. We Indians who are so fond of karma theory should have no problem in accepting so called "invasions" as collective karma of India as a nation.

Anonymous said...

Anon @11:PM uses the wrong word "invaders" & maliciously choosing Hitler & Mussolini among many for idol worshipping.

The following words of Varsha Bhosle are meant for such jingoistic Indians:-


" So who decides when the sabotage of one's government is justified? The Opposition parties? The historians of the conquering countries? The "ordinary people" who pour into the streets to kick at fallen statues and celebrate by looting museums? Or the people who become "the rabble" during communal strife...? Oh puh-lease, spare me the lecture on patriotism: You wouldn't know it if it bit off your nose".

One man's food is another person's poison. We Indians who are so fond of karma theory should have no problem in accepting so called "invasions" as collective karma of India as a nation.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the detractors carp , I truly ADMIRE for Sri.Anna Hazare for various reasons.

His fasting is not a weapon at all. That is my only complaint. That apart I like him for his political incorrectness. Kiran Bedi & Anna Hazare have always had good INTENTIONS at heart. The cacaphonous useless Indian media is one BIG problem facing the very few good people among us.

Tavleen Singhs & Atanu Deys (deeshaa.org) often prescribe "horsewhipping , slapping in the public" for our political leaders.
How could they presume we the people would be impressed with such writings ? And they are supposed to be very experienced long time watchers of India.

The hindus threw mud on Anna Hazare citing his religion. Come on , in India people pointing out the faults of Sonia Gandhi & her dynasty to live in dread. I am glad Anna Hazare never called himself a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.Who was just another person with human frailties a "manufactured Mahathma".

Often many on hearing my opinions on Gandhi would at once cite his visits to Ramanashramam.

Bhagavan Ramana's certain very close devotees during this freedom movement left this Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi expressing their disgust,anger & disenchantment with him privately to Bhagavan.

And Ramana Bhagavan NEVER censured them how dare you or called this M.K.Gandhi a "mahathma".

Kiran Bedi also was unnecessarily subjected to a lot of harassment by Aap ki Adalat Rajat Sharma & many more.

It only proves Indians overwhelmingly are corrupt in various degrees.Indians have been extremely comfortable with corruption , squalor , deceit & duplicity. And will always remain so. Indians will NEVER get good government. As they do not deserve it.

Once one Lyngdoh ( not sure about the spelling) in BBC spoke the truth bluntly telling Indian politicians are the mightiest curse & threat.

At once I recall RSS Gurumurthy became very defensive & wrote some lengthy boring columns. Why are we besotted with saving this merabharatmahaan image of India when there has never been one such India shining visage. Spare me talks on Vedic Era.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the detractors carp , I truly ADMIRE Sri.Anna Hazare for various reasons.

His fasting is not a weapon at all. That is my only complaint. That apart I like him for his political incorrectness. Kiran Bedi & Anna Hazare have always had good INTENTIONS at heart. The cacaphonous useless Indian media is one BIG problem facing the very few good people among us.

Tavleen Singhs & Atanu Deys (deeshaa.org) often prescribe "horsewhipping , slapping in the public" for our political leaders.
How could they presume we the people would be impressed with such writings ? And they are supposed to be very experienced long time watchers of India.

The hindus threw mud on Anna Hazare citing his religion. Come on , in India people pointing out the faults of Sonia Gandhi & her dynasty have live in dread. I am glad Anna Hazare never called himself a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.Who was just another person with human frailties a "manufactured Mahathma".

Often many on hearing my opinions on Gandhi would at once cite his visits to Ramanashramam.

Bhagavan Ramana's certain very close devotees during freedom movement left this Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi expressing their disgust,anger & disenchantment with him privately to Bhagavan.

And Ramana Bhagavan NEVER censured them how dare you or called this M.K.Gandhi a "mahathma".

Kiran Bedi also was unnecessarily subjected to a lot of harassment by Aap ki Adalat Rajat Sharma & many more.

It only proves Indians overwhelmingly are corrupt in various degrees.Indians have been extremely comfortable with corruption , squalor , deceit & duplicity. And will always remain so. Indians will NEVER get good government. As they do not deserve it.

Once one Lyngdoh ( not sure about the spelling) in BBC spoke the truth bluntly telling Indian politicians are the mightiest curse & threat.

At once I recall RSS Gurumurthy became very defensive & wrote some lengthy boring columns. Why are we besotted with saving this merabharatmahaan image of India when there has never been one such India shining visage. Spare me talks on Vedic Era.

Anonymous said...

India as a nation , collectively (conceited brahmin hindus included) has long forfeited its exclusive claim on Bhagavad Geetha , Ramayanam, Upanishads etc.Leave alone its unwarranted self righteous indignation against Russia & their alleged proscribing of Bhagavad Geetha.

Very important Bhagavad Geetha is one such abstruse Spiritual Text many Sages have warned (including Bhagavan Ramana) Lord Krishna's Teachings are to be properly understood ONLY by an appropriate Guru. And for that,a Guru alone after subjecting the disciple to his self styled assessment of eligibility decides to teach or not.

Yamunaacharya The King ( who later relinquished the Throne), was a very young boy.But as exhorted by His Guru defended the then reigning King who was challenged by some erudite scholar. The Queen was so overwhelmed by the young boy's wisdom she spontaneously embraced him calling Him "Aalavandhaar".

Those days the quality & credentials of people were ENTIRELY different. Hence the saying came " It takes a genius to spot a genius".

Soon He was crowned The King & ruled very efficiently justly. Little did He know that The Lord had a different destiny for Him in store.

It is an extremely significant story.How The Lord (Sreerangam Ranganatha Perumal call Him Rama/Krishna/Siva/Kali/Lakshmi/Saraswathi all same same)comes in the guise of any other person supplying a particular variety of leafy green herb ( called Thoothuvalai Keerai in Tamil)to the Royal Kitchen insisting it be served to The King along with regular fare. The King takes an instant liking to it.The Lord purposely & abruptly stops the supply after a week.Nobody notices it or finds anything odd.

But it is The King who makes SOS enquiries seeking The Herb Supplier very urgently & earnestly.What happens further I am not writing here.

Anonymous said...

India as a nation , collectively (conceited brahmin hindus included) has long forfeited its exclusive claim on Bhagavad Geetha , Ramayanam, Upanishads etc.Leave alone its unwarranted self righteous indignation against Russia & their alleged proscribing of Bhagavad Geetha.

Very important Bhagavad Geetha is one such abstruse Spiritual Text many Sages have warned (including Bhagavan Ramana) Lord Krishna's Teachings are to be properly understood ONLY by an appropriate Guru. And for that,a Guru alone after subjecting the disciple to his self styled assessment of eligibility decides to teach or not.

Yamunaacharya The King ( who later relinquished the Throne), was a very young boy.But as exhorted by His Guru defended the then reigning King who was challenged by some erudite scholar. The Queen was so overwhelmed by the young boy's wisdom she spontaneously embraced him calling Him "Aalavandhaar".

Those days the quality & credentials of people were ENTIRELY different. Hence the saying came " It takes a genius to spot a genius".

Soon He was crowned The King & ruled very efficiently justly. Little did He know that The Lord had a different destiny for Him in store.

It is an extremely significant story.How The Lord (Sreerangam Ranganatha Perumal call Him Rama/Krishna/Siva/Kali/Lakshmi/Saraswathi all same same)comes in the guise of any other person supplying a particular variety of leafy green herb ( called Thoothuvalai Keerai in Tamil)to the Royal Kitchen insisting it be served to The King along with regular fare. The King takes an instant liking to it.The Lord purposely & abruptly stops the supply after a week.Nobody notices it or finds anything odd.

But it is The King who makes SOS enquiries seeking The Herb Supplier very urgently & earnestly.What happens further I am not writing here.

Anonymous said...

Continuing:-

What happens further I am not writing here.

My point being, I read this useless arrogant Congress party Singhvi (all of them are uber arrogant) referring to Arun Jaitley a (sic)Narada Muni like trouble maker.

ROTFL.

Naradha Muni even a child if taught properly our Spiritual Texts knows is THE POTENT TROUBLE SHOOTER. CERtainly not a trouble maker.

There you have the dubious credentials of Indians as a whole. Like Ram Temple at Ayodhya (which pompous Sushma Swaraj unwittingly confessed is an "encashed cheque" this Bhagavad Geetha and Russia is also being made an issue for enrtirely political reasons.

I have personally seen & spoken to many Russians also coming to Thiruvannamalai Ramanashramam.

One such Russian woman as these non Indians generally are , happened to draw my attention & further conversation because of the right questions she asked. Which were answered in the silliest way by an Indian pundit with a bifurcated dhoti there.

Commonsense & sincerity are so important.And any Teacher is also always a student.

Both these seemingly oxymoronic qualities Humility & Authority are always present only in a GURU. Including very much Kaanchi Seer & Ramana Bhagavan. Lord Krishna we all know how unhesitatingly removed Draupadi's sandals hugging them to His Chest etc etc.

Indians are so fond of referring to The British as (sic)" arrogant" etc. That insolence was busted by none other than Swami Vivekananda.

Anonymous said...

Continuing:-

What happens further I am not writing here.

My point being, I read this useless arrogant Congress party Singhvi (all of them are uber arrogant) referring to Arun Jaitley a (sic)Narada Muni like trouble maker.

ROTFL.

Naradha Muni even a child if taught properly our Spiritual Texts knows is THE POTENT TROUBLE SHOOTER. CERtainly not a trouble maker.

There you have the dubious credentials of Indians as a whole. Like Ram Temple at Ayodhya (which pompous Sushma Swaraj unwittingly confessed is an "encashed cheque" this Bhagavad Geetha and Russia is also being made an issue for entirely political reasons.

I have personally seen & spoken to many Russians also coming to Thiruvannamalai Ramanashramam.

One such Russian woman as these non Indians generally are , happened to draw my attention & further conversation because of the right questions she asked. Which were answered in the silliest way by an Indian pundit with a bifurcated dhoti there.

Commonsense & sincerity are so important.And any Teacher is also always a student.

Both these seemingly oxymoronic qualities Humility & Authority are always present only in a GURU. Including very much Kaanchi Seer & Ramana Bhagavan. Lord Krishna we all know how unhesitatingly removed Draupadi's sandals hugging them to His Chest etc etc.

Indians are so fond of referring to The British as (sic)" arrogant" etc. That insolence was busted by none other than Swami Vivekananda.

Anonymous said...

Continuing:-

What happens further I am not writing here.

My point being, I read this useless arrogant Congress party Singhvi (all of them are uber arrogant) referring to Arun Jaitley a (sic)Narada Muni like trouble maker.

ROTFL.

Naradha Muni even a child if taught properly our Spiritual Texts knows is THE POTENT TROUBLE SHOOTER. CERtainly not a trouble maker.

There you have the dubious credentials of Indians as a whole. Like Ram Temple at Ayodhya (which pompous Sushma Swaraj unwittingly confessed is an "encashed cheque" this Bhagavad Geetha and Russia is also being made an issue for entirely political reasons.

I have personally seen & spoken to many Russians also coming to Thiruvannamalai Ramanashramam.

One such Russian woman as these non Indians generally are , happened to draw my attention & further conversation because of the right questions she asked. Which were answered in the silliest way by an Indian pundit with a bifurcated dhoti there.

Commonsense & sincerity are so important.And any Teacher is also always a student.

Both these seemingly oxymoronic qualities Humility & Authority are always present only in a GURU. Including very much Kaanchi Seer & Ramana Bhagavan. Lord Krishna we all know how unhesitatingly removed Draupadi's sandals hugging them to His Chest etc etc.

Indians are so fond of referring to The British as (sic)" arrogant" etc. That insolence was busted by none other than Swami Vivekananda.

Anonymous said...

Recall what happens to Raju , the Protagonist in R.K.Narayan's 'Guide'.

Not the shoddy film that rightly upset R.K.Narayan with Dev Anand giving the appallingly silliest reply to the Author. ( " Waheeda Rehman is being paid a heroine's salary.So she better come till the end though your novel is about Raju & not Rosie the dancer")

The idiots called people twist his words thrusting fasting & death on him.

That is exactly what is happening with Anna Hazare.

Ramana Bhagavan attempted THRICE to escape from the curious crowd coming to have a "darshan just like that seeking wish fulfilment". And drawing him into silly arguments. Only very few were Earnest He Knew & they got what they sought.

Anna Hazare captured my thoughts when he expressed disappointment at decrepit Sharad Pawar receiving only one mild slap. But many among the people found his remark offensive. Such is our penchant for worshipping wrong despicable scum.

Much earlier when Australian Cricket Team with Ricky Pointing as their Captain just asked this idiot Sharad Pawar to move Indian media at once hyperbolised "racist Australians pushed Pawar to the ground ". Pawar falling down was a given , like that infamous jalebi glutton President Shankar Dayal Sharma falling down several times.

I winced audibly on reading Vajpayee another jalebi glutton is still alive & that BJP did elaborate pujas for his longevity.Am equally tired of hearing "Advani targetted in Coimbatore blahblah".

Why should these people not die in bomb blasts & accidents ?? We have been programmed into mourning for them against our natural instincts.

Rest of the countries in the world are different. India should never preen itself to such an extent as to compare itself with America , Britain, Japan , China , Saudi Arabia , UAE, Kuwait etc.

Anonymous said...

For all their harpings on "horsewhipping and/or slapping in public of the corrupt errant Indian politicians" how come that Singh whose hand allegedly "by a circumlocutory movement" came into contact with Sharad Pawar's chubby cheek is imprisoned ?? And has charges of mental insanity slapped against???

This is utterly shocking. Writing articles or fasting is not going to ensure that hero Singh is released with adequate compensations given.

Even people like Cho Ramaswamy find fault with this mild slap.Tehelka team that has such an appeal to many younsters also is not fair at all. They find Anna Hazare's right prescription "too strong & impractical". Which makes me strongly suspect they are agenda bearers like defending congress at any cost.

Indians I have noticed band together only for cricket.They can never manifest solidarity in more crucial areas. Even when they make a strenuous effort to do so it turns into excruciating torture with too many office bearers each clasping the mike with:-

" I know you are all eager to hear the next person speak...I will say a few words .Will not take much of your time....".

In an organization famous for hosting many debates & seminars all related to spirituality , religion in Chennai , one of them invited suggestions for improvement as they were enthused by good turnout of audience. Am not making it up.It really happened.

One person approached him & said matter of factly:-

" When the programme ends you have been distributing only sweet pongal & vadai. Which has become kind of boring.Include varieties of spicy sundal also. You will always attract many people".

Anonymous said...

For all their harpings on "horsewhipping and/or slapping in public of the corrupt errant Indian politicians" how come that Singh whose hand allegedly "by a circumlocutory movement" came into contact with Sharad Pawar's chubby cheek is imprisoned ?? And has charges of mental insanity slapped against???

This is utterly shocking. Writing articles or fasting is not going to ensure that hero Singh is released with adequate compensations given.

Even people like Cho Ramaswamy find fault with this mild slap.Tehelka team that has such an appeal to many younsters also is not fair at all. They find Anna Hazare's right prescription "too strong & impractical". Which makes me strongly suspect they are agenda bearers like defending congress at any cost.

Indians I have noticed band together only for cricket.They can never manifest solidarity in more crucial areas. Even when they make a strenuous effort to do so it turns into excruciating torture with too many office bearers each clasping the mike with:-

" I know you are all eager to hear the next person speak...I will say a few words .Will not take much of your time....".

In an organization famous for hosting many debates & seminars all related to spirituality , religion in Chennai , one of them invited suggestions for improvement as they were enthused by good turnout of audience. Am not making it up.It really happened.

One person approached him & said matter of factly:-

" When the programme ends you have been distributing only sweet pongal & vadai. Which has become kind of boring.Include varieties of spicy sundal also. You will always attract many people".

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to Sri.Swapan Dasgupta for being truly politically incorrect !!!

This is no mean achievement , considering he lives within India not protected by black cat commandos.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to Sri.Swapan Dasgupta for being truly politically incorrect!!!

This is no mean achievement , considering he lives within India not protected by black cat commandos.

Water Engineer said...

" The British Raj wasn’t quite the dark ages '

Oh no. I am a brahmin, the despised brahmin. My grandfather, Ram Kishan, returned from school and found a moneylender abusing his father for 50?= loan for RK. So RK put his school bag on the doorsteps and ranaway and enlisted in the British Indian Army.

RK saw action during WW-I and later was part of 4th Ind Div that was encircled by the German in N. Africa. Finally, he retired as Subedar Major.

Sub Maj RK was driven by poverty, abject poverty, like millions others.

And you say it was not dark ages?