In the post-colonial era, as academia has been questioning that concept, has there been any similar move to change perceptions in the wider society? No, there hasn't been and for this I blame particularly the visual media, because they have fostered the notion of there being definitive versions of every single major text in our cultural heritage and they have totally underplayed the fact that there have been variants. But you see, it starts with academia. What is very disturbing in this whole story is that you have an Academic Council in one of the leading universities in this country, which debates the issue for over two hours and the vote is 90 against Ramanujan and 10 for.
And one sits there and thinks, of the 90, how many actually took the trouble to read this essay when they were condemning it. We don't go back to reading texts. We either see them on television or we see them in Amar Chitra Katha. I don't know what the politics of the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University may be or, for that matter, even the politics of the 90 members who voted to remove Ramanujan's essay.
But there is obviously a political element in this. There's a political element that a says this is what my party doesn't object to, and would quite like my supporting it, or b that this is really not my concern, it's a political issue, let the Academic Council take a decision, which is why I gather there were quite a few abstentions as well, or c don't take a positive role in this because tomorrow, you may be in the dock and no one will support you.
Maybe, the Academic Council should be reminded that every scholar is required to question existing knowledge because that is the only way in which knowledge grows. The single expert on the committee who said it would not be appropriate for undergraduate education felt that the teacher would not be able to sufficiently explain the background. So at what point do we draw the line on when it would be appropriate? Well, that's precisely my point. If you go on saying that the teacher can't explain it, why have you appointed that teacher?
And why have you trained that teacher to be somebody who cannot explain a simple thing like the variants of a text? Was it an issue for the Academic Council at all or should it have been left to the History Department alone? It should have been left to the History department, but I guess the Academic Council got cold feet because it had gone to court. It's been pointed out that Ramanujan himself is not a historian, but poet and folklorist. When it was suggested that instead they replace his essay with yours and R.
Sharma's, it was pointed out that both of you are historians and that there was a value to having an interdisciplinary view. This is a really very creative essay.
We've all written on this subject, In a course like that, where you're dealing broadly with culture, you need to have a different perspective every now and again. So as a broader issue, isn't the interdisciplinary approach a good thing? Getting perspectives from those outside the field of History?
There's nothing to stop a Physics professor from reading that essay and asking questions or coming to different conclusions. But in the same way as a History professor would not intervene in the Physics syllabus, one doesn't expect the Physics professor to intervene in the History syllabus The interesting thing about this whole argument about interdisciplinarity is that the social sciences are always attacked.
But the sciences are never attacked because people are scared of making a fool of themselves by saying that this is not something worthy of teaching. So nobody questions the sciences. But with the social sciences, the world and his wife are there to comment, in some cases, without any kind of background knowledge of the subject. There's a feeling that you don't need to be an expert; this is all common sense.
For many Indians, this is not just ancient mythology for an academic discussion, but also their own current religious beliefs. Do you think there needs to be any kind of leeway given because of that? You're quite right that it's not just mythology but also religion, and it was made that. Let me just go back a little bit into history and say that initially, many scholars believe the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were just epic stories about heroes, and that's the way they continued to be for quite a while.
And then they were converted into sacred literature, by making Ram and Krishna avatars of Vishnu. And there's a superb analysis of this by V. Sukthankar in Pune, who talked about the Bhrgu Brahmins converting these epics into Bhagwat literature, that is, converting the heroes into incarnations of Vishnu.
And then it becomes sacred literature. Now today, yes, it's considered sacred literature, but that is really not its roots. Secondly, even if it is sacred literature, it is based substantially on mythology. I mean, this is very different from Buddhism and Jainism, where the stories … there are mythologies, very many mythologies, but at the same time, there is the hard core of the historical evidence of a historical founder, and what that founder is supposed to have taught.
This is a different story altogether. It's again different from Islam or Christianity where you have the people of the Book, who believe that the Book is the truth. Most Hindus don't believe that. No, and one of the crises in the colonial period was when they set up the law courts and they said, according to European law, you swear an oath on the Bible.
So they went running around asking which is the sacred book of the Hindus. And so you got the Bhagvad Gita, you got the Ramayana, you got the Vedas, you got all kinds of answers, because there isn't a single sacred book, there's a multiplicity of sacred books. And there again, the question of variation comes in. Who accepts which book as the primary sacred book? Then her case is complicated when she knew that he was a Nazi and her mother a Jew.
So mother might be sent to concentration camp and killed. The conflicting emotions suppress her terribly and she wants to escape from this ghastly experience by killing him.
First she wants to join him through suicide and finally marrying a man who resembles many qualities of her father. The poem is based on the Electra complex of Freudian psychology, a daughter being in love with her father. She confesses that she had to kill her daddy though she adored him like a god.
He appeared to her as a ghastly statue with a grey toe as big as the seal of San Francisco 3. She says that her father had come to America from Poland , but she does not remember the town from where he had come to the states.
She saw her father in every German and the German language appears bad and ugly to her. She hates Nazi language.
The speaker imagines herself travelling with Jewish prisoners on the train to a concentration camp. Since her mother is a Jew, she thinks that she is also a Jew and she is afraid of her Nazi father.
She knows that the Nazis worship Swastika, an emblem which resembles a cruel face and a cruel heart. She remembers her father had a cleft in his chin. The devil has the cleft in the feet. So her father was a devil himself. She is angry with her father because he cut her innocent heart into two. At that time she was only eight years old when her father died. At twenty she tried to commit suicide in order to join her dead father.
At that time she was doing college education and she took an overdose of sleeping pills. But she was saved at hospital. Finally she got married to a man who resembled some qualities of her father. She stabbed him in his heart and thus she got rid of him. Her father was like a vampire sucking her blood for a long time, but now she has got rid of him. What is the image used by her to bring it out? He laughs at the colour prejudices of the Western people in this poem.
Although people are educated, they still cling on to racial discrimination in all walks of life. The poem is based on the bitter personal experience of the poet who did his higher education in London. The poem is sprinkled with bits of humour, wit and irony which adds to the glory of the poet.
The telephone conversation between the back poet and the white lady is really amusing and thought-provoking.. The speaker of the poem wanted an apartment on rent in London. So he rang up the landlady from far away Nigeria.
She was a white British woman. The rent was fixed and the locality was not bad. The landlady did not stay in the building. The landlady was very happy to welcome the new tenant.
But the African poet knew well that if she knew his skin was black, she would not give him accommodation. Therefore he decided to make a self-confession. He did not want to go to London and meet the landlady before she accepted the reality of the situation. It would save his money and time. Black colour is a crime in the Western society even now. The speaker confessed that he was an African. She was shocked. Still polishing her words, she asked him sympathetically, how dark he was.
But the poor African did not understand what she meant by that. She repeated the question if he was dark or very light. The speaker then humorously asked her if she wanted to know whether he was like plain chocolate or milk chocolate.
He said that his face was brunette, but his palms and soles of his feet were looked light coloured. But his bottom is deep black because of sitting down.
But most of them are highly corrupted and amass wealth and power by any means. But you see, it starts with academia. He appeared to her as a ghastly statue with a grey toe as big as the seal of San Francisco 3.
Do you think there needs to be any kind of leeway given because of that? At that time she was doing college education and she took an overdose of sleeping pills. Many people even wrote such lies that their father had a caesarian birth and died of heart failure in the fruit market.
Which version are they supporting? The devil has the cleft in the feet. Obituary by A. And this in a time when we want to spread, and globalise Indian culture. Similarly a holyman is judged by his outward appearance of ash on his forehead and a begging bowl in his hand. The conflicting emotions suppress her terribly and she wants to escape from this ghastly experience by killing him.
The poet says that pure lies are written on the tombstone and his father is saved from this shame. In a course like that, where you're dealing broadly with culture, you need to have a different perspective every now and again. Who accepts which book as the primary sacred book? You once spoke of that danger regarding Doordarshan's Ramayana serial
Finally she got married to a man who resembled some qualities of her father. When Sylvia was hardly eight years old, her father committed suicide, which cast a shadow over her childhood. It comes partly out of the tradition of giving greater precedence to Sanskrit literature, because it was, in fact, the main cultural tradition over a long period, but it's also partly that this was reinforced by colonial scholarship mentioning these as definitive texts.
The dead man had a very old house which was leaning on a coconut tree. In the opening lines of the poem, the poet gives us a list of the legacy left behind by hid dead father. Getting perspectives from those outside the field of History? You have to emphasise the fact that there were variants, or people tend to assume that there was only one version of the story or that that was the definitive version.
Here the black poet does not see the white landlady and she also cannot see her new tenant. There's a feeling that you don't need to be an expert; this is all common sense.
When she was a child she thought her father a GOD. This is hardly an academic demand.
It's again different from Islam or Christianity where you have the people of the Book, who believe that the Book is the truth.