Pierre Loti and Mark Twain on Benares

Mark Twain came to Varanasi in the second half of the nineteenth century. He looked at the city and remarked:

Benares was not a disappointment. It justified its reputation as a curiosity…. Tall, slim minarets and beflagged ptelem-spires rise out of it and give it picturesqueness…. It is unspeakably sacred in Hindoo eyes, and is as unsanitary as it is sacred, and smells like the rind of the dorian… (Twain 479)

Twain’s account is full of irony and his oft quoted admiration is just a two sentences long prelude to his pages long criticism of the city.

He writes about the city: “It is the headquarters of the Brahmin faith, and one-eighth of the population are priests of that church. But it is not an overstock, for they have all India as a prey. All India flocks thither on pilgrimage, and pours its savings into the pockets of the priests in a generous stream, which never fails” (Twain, 480).

 

Loti, who had come to Benares in the first quarter of the twentieth century writes mystically and approvingly of the city: “Here religious feeling reigns supreme, and no sensual thought ever seems to assail these beauteous mingled forms. They come into unconscious contact with each other, but only heed the river, the sun, and the splendour of the morning in a dream of ecstasy” (Loti 259).

On page 257 in his book, Loti writes:

The sun has just risen from the plain through which old Ganges wanders, a plain of mud and vegetation still overshadowed by the mists of night; and waiting there for the first red rays of dawn lie the granite temples of Benares, the rosy pyramids, the golden shafts, and all the sacred city, extended in terraces, as if to catch the first light and deck itself in the glory of the morning.

This is the hour which, since the Brahmin faith began, has been sacred to prayer and to religious

ecstasy, and it is now that Benares pours forth all its people, all its flowers, all its garlands, all its birds, and all its living things on to the banks of the Ganges. Awakened by the kiss of the sun, all that have received souls from Brahma rush joyously down the granite steps. (257)

 

References:

Loti, Pierre (1913). India. London: T. Werner Laurie.

Twain, Mark. Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World. New York: Hartford, 1897.

 

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Raat Akeli Hai Remix

Jewel Thief (1967), Ragini MMS (2011) and Raghav Sachar-Sophie Choudry’s recent hit remix have one element in common: the song “Raat Akeli Hai”. The original had S. D. Burman, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Asha Bhosle behind it, while on screen the tantalizing Tanujaji allured the suave Dev Saab. The character she plays may not have succeeded in her designs the film, but the song became a hit, and lives even today, nearly half a century later, when most of the people associated with the song have already passed away. Ragini MMS plays the same soundtrack, albeit with some sounds added to make the song a fit prelude to the eerie atmosphere essential for the film.

Raghav and Sophie (or, shall I say Sophie and Raghav?) have re-created their very own “Raat Akeli Hai”, by changing both the music and the way the song is sung, and, of course, the voice of of the lead singer, and with the addition of the parts in which Raghav sings/raps. The original song has become a classic of sorts in the genre of “siren songs” in Hindi films. Asha Bhosle’s voice was the one most suited for the song, as she was nearly the second name of that genre in the sixties and, specially, seventies. Her elder sister got to lend her voice to the heroine, and Ashaji became the voice of the other girl. No, it’s not the full blown Helen type cabaret song, not with S D in charge. This song and the Pancham-Asha-Helen siren songs, although similar in some ways, are essentially different.

I am a big fan of R. D. Burman, but I am a bigger fan of his father (not because of Pyasaa, but more about that in some other post). Between the two sisters, and the two all time great female singers of Hindi film industry, I have always been biased in favour of Lataji, and still am. Still, even I must admit that with the mood and demand of this song Ashaji’s voice is a one hundred per cent match. The lyrics, music, voice and on-screen presentation are flawless. How can that be improved upon?

I like very few songs of Raghav, the music composer, viz. “Gulaabi Aankhein”, “Ye Ladka Hai Allah”, “Raat Akeli Hai” etc. Many of Sophie’s songs in the past have been more about the visual than vocal, so there is no question of judging the corpus of her songs on the parameters of music. It’s the second or third time for Raghav and the very first time for Sophie that their song has struck a chord somewhere deep. Raghav, who plays thirty-three musical instruments at present according to his website raghavsachar.com (the number is not up to date even then, as he keeps on adding instruments to the list as time goes by), is a magician. He tries it every time, but his magic does not always work, e.g. his “Dekhne Mein Bhola Hai”.

Like his “Gulabi Aankhein”, the music of the newer song too has his touches: touches Panchamda would be proud of. So, Raghav’s a la “Chura Liya” ceramic/glass clinking replacing the metallic touches of the senior Burman, or his jazz replacing other instruments before “Tum Aaj Mere Liye” stanza begins, or his merging his own voice with the track in the background all work as magic. The song is shorter than the four and half minutes original, much shorter. Sophie’s voice has a texture that goes a long way in establishing the song independently from the original one sung by a younger and mellifluous Ashaji [I have this liking for the voice of the younger Hemantada, Rafi Saab, Kishoreda, Lataji, and, Ashaji]. It’s not better. It’s simply different, and good in its own manner. But the one factor that makes it possible for this song to stand beside its predecessor is Raghav’s support.

The same support, with the same techniques applied on another hit song of another Burman, yielded Raghav-Neeti Mohan’s “Yeh Ladka Hai Allah”. Neeti Mohan has a beautiful voice and there’s no doubt in that. Raghav’s voice is not bad either. What went wrong than? Why did the new “Yeh Ladka” not click? Rafi Saab, wikipedia informs, had got his only National Film Award for “Kya Hua Tera Waada” of the same film (Hum Kisise Kum Naheen ) in 1977. He had song for a short stretch in the original. Raghav replaced him, just as Neeti had replaced Ashaji. He gave the right touches at right places too but the new version lacks the X factor, unlike the other newer song.

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Shree Santosh Kapuria

Haughtily would I proclaim to an audience of two: “I am the chronicler of my times”. They were neither a ready nor a good audience, but they were my only audience, and I’d return to them with the same theme every alternate month. They were my friends too, so they had no other choice. They bore it with a grin and swam happily away on to the foreground.

It’s after a long time that the chronicler in me has raised his head. I have a story to tell: the story of a legend, as far as I am concerned. It’s the story of a hero. I have heard its parts and pieces from two independent sources, both the hero’s contemporaries, separately. I’ll try to work upon the pieces to complete the picture (ironically though, I have no picture of the gentleman to offer with his story).

In both the versions I had heard about Mr. Kapooria, it was emphasised that he had lifted that cycle rikshaw of nearly a hundred kilograms (90-95 kg) and thrown it upon the gang that had attacked him on his last day, before succumbing to the fatal injuries later. Why the emphasis? And why that tone? Well, how many of us have met someone who could lift 100 kg outside the gym? And how many of them in a lifetime have we met? That’s not all. I gathered from my sources that he had represented our country at world level in Judo (the tournament was in Japan to be precise). He was a student leader and a very well known person in his University. His courage and freedom from baseness made him a legend after his death, the same qualities had brought about his death in the first place.

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Caste, Freedom of Speech and Some other Issues

Blame it on Mr. Shubhendu Bhattachrya, Ms. Meena Kandasamy, the much talked about Professor Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, Voltaire, or Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I just did what I have never done on this blog: copying wholesale from another blog (see https://rajnishmishravns.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/indian-caste-system-a-reappraisal-by-sudershan-rao-yellapragada-posted-on-tuesday-september-25-2007/). I also did what I have not been doing for over six months now: posting something without the tags “kashi/varanasi/banaras”. Why would I do so? To defend the Professor’s freedom of speech, or to fix my target before it was removed from the original blog, neither, or,maybe both.

I am not the type who gets drawn into the larger spheres of action and thought. I am easily and fully satisfied, sans any kind of intellectual adventure or warfare, with my Banaras. Still, when I saw my friend Shubhendu’s facebook post : “Share meenas sentiments”, and was led from thence to Ms. Kandasamy’s view:  “Prevention of Atrocities act must be extended in scope to throw such luminaries who praise/justify caste into jail. #Mywishfortheday“; I naturally read the Times of India article “Ancient caste system worked well, ICHR head says”.

The article mentions:

                           The newly-appointed chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) Yellapragada Sudershan Rao appears to be a votary of the caste system (bold mine). In a blog written in 2007, Rao had said that the “positive aspects of Indian culture are so deep that the merits of ancient systems would be rejuvenated.”
                          In the blog-article titled, ‘Indian Caste System: A Reappraisal’, he wrote: “The (caste) system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it (bold mine). It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status of certain vested interests of the ruling class”

                           He added, “Indian Caste system, which has evolved to answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with the Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and dharmasastras.”

On that fateful day of September 2007, the day on which Halo 3 was released that year, in the year 1639 the first printing press in America had started working and in 1956 the first trans-Atlantic cable went into service, Prof. Rao had committed his virtual suicide, unknown to himself. If the hard deterministic stance is granted space, it was his upbringing, his samskaras, that made him post his unforgivable thoughts on his blog. Had he known it then that he would become the Chairman of ICHR one day and then, his past deeds would be sniffed, dug out, scrutinised and put on public display, he would have remained totally quiet on the blogosphere. Well, he did not. So, he did what he should never have done: he made his views public and that, when his article is full of fallacies. But that does not give his critics any right to commit fallacies of their own. At least I would never join a group opposing the professor, when I know that the same group has people weak in logic and intellect. How else can one explain the claim made in the very opening statement? The writer declares his intent in the very first sentence, but he fails to adequately deliver what he promises. Thus he makes  argumentum ad hominem.

Rao makes absolutist claims with the repetition of the key word “any”. His claim is either pseudo history, or arrogance generated out of the surety that ignorance of all that has been said and done in the department of anti-caste complaints in the past engenders. Who would not see through Rao’s intellectual (?) and uncritical leanings and the designs of his school of history in his school bookish equation: “Indian religion, which is popularly known as Hinduism”, i.e. Hindu = Indian, and vice versa? And who would not find the Professor’s self-contradictions comic when he declares: “The Caste system as such is based on social classification which is a common feature of all organized civil societies round the world but not unique to India alone”? Following the statement with a couple of others to finally prefix “Indian” to “caste system”  and then declaring: “Indian Caste system, which has evolved to answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with the Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and Dharmasastras.”

The topping to his cake of fallacy comes as: “The Varna classification and Caste system are not one and the same. They differ in respect of aims and functions in many ways. The caste system classifies the community while the Varna classifies the functions of an individual”. This, while his case depended on the equation of caste with varna and then showing varna positive, ergo, caste positive too.

C=V; V=P; C=P

Elementary, my dear friend.

The Times of India article on Rao has:

                The ICHR chief’s views have triggered a debate among historians. Historian D N Jha said, “Rao’s article is reflective of his primitive mentality. It is gross revivalism (bold mine). If ancient caste system is justified in modern context, why not have a brahmin PM instead of Narendra Modi. Rao has been appointed by an OBC PM.”

As far as the primitivism of Rao’s mentality is concerned, it may be a matter of debate, but when revivalism is called primitive, I must interrupt. Revivalism, the key element of the modus operandi of Fascism can never be called primitive. It’s a sophisticated and very lethal weapon. Jha’s sentence that follows does show the rogh logic of primitive kind, Rao is suave and convincing thoughout.

The article criticising Rao also mentions:

                 Rao also argued that questionable social customs in India pointed out by the English educated Indian intellectuals did not exist from ancient times (bold mine) but “could be traced to this period of Muslim rule in north India spanning over seven centuries.” He said,

               “Misunderstandings of the system may be ascribed to misreading of the texts of Dharmasastras and the impact of the modern ‘democratic’ and electoral politics. Ancient system of caste organization has been turned into casteism, which negates the very purpose of the system.”

Rao’s post has some sense in it too, especially when it mentions: “According to the Dharmasastras all individuals are born as Shudra and they acquire the Varna through Samskaaras or training or tapas”. It’s the simple division of labour argument, wearing the Sanskritised garb. Rao is in company of the likes of Adam Smith and Durkheim when he legitimizes the division of labour. The problem arises when he claims, oh so ironically that the “The modern and Western intellectuals have not properly understood and [have] misinterpreted the Varna and the Caste as one and the same”, when he himself first praises the varna, then superimposes caste upon it in order to legitimize it.

Historiographically and rhetorically speaking, the Professor does not present a convincing case. An article, even if it’s on someone’s blog, ought to maintain at least the acceptable minimum level of coherence and unity. Moreover, when it comes from someone in the academia, it ought to maintain its level, the level that separates the scholarly papers from non-scholarly ones. The kind of writing whose samples litter Prof. Rao’s blog, bad prose and weak history, in no way appear to be written by a person suitable to hold the position of the Chairperson of ICHR. In comparison to Prof. Rao, the person who wrote the piece on him has definitely made lesser and less dangerous mistakes. After looking at the arguments made on both the sides, it can be said that fallacy is the fundamental state of the process of human argumentation. Left to his own, man will invent fallacies to suit his taste and cause and be happy in his blissful state of ignorance.

References:

http://ysudershanrao.blogspot.in/2007/09/indian-caste-system.html

http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Ancient-caste-system-worked-well-ICHR-head-says/articleshow/38401312.cms

 

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INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM: A REAPPRAISAL by SUDERSHAN RAO, YELLAPRAGADA posted on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2007

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2007

 

Indian Caste system

INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM: A REAPPRAISAL

SUDERSHAN RAO, YELLAPRAGADA

(About the author:

Sudershan Rao, Yellapragada is a senior professor of history in the Department of History & Tourism Management, Kakatiya University, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, India. He has been serving for over three decades in the University system holding various administrative and academic positions like, Head, Dean of Social Sciences, Chairman of Board of Studies. Currently, he is the Chairman of University Forum for Social Studies. He was awarded National fellowship by the University Grants Commission, Govt. of India, during 1993-95 for his project on ‘Understanding Indian History – Search for an alternative’ and currently nominated to the Indian Council of Historical Research, Ministry of HRD, and Govt of India. Now, he is on a visit to U.K. and U.S. He can be contacted through ysudershanrao@yahoo.com)

Caste system as all other social and economic systems has come under fire in the modern times. With the changes in the political structure from at least medieval times, Indian religion, which is popularly known as Hinduism, was threatened of its very existence during the Muslim invasions at the wake of the second millennium. However, Islam could not make a heavy impact on the demographical texture of India, because after three hundred years of Muslim rule, the rulers pursuing alien religion had to strike a compromise with the Hindu subjects. Hindus at large exhibited preparedness to lay even their lives or pay heavy penalties for pursuing their Dharma as it is said in the Bhagawad Gita that even death might be preferred for being steadfast in one’s own dharma. Most of the questionable social customs in the Indian society as pointed out by the English educated Indian intellectuals and the Western scholars could be traced to this period of Muslim rule in north India spanning over seven centuries. During this period, to save the honor of their women and dharma at large, medieval Pundits rewrote sastras with some stringent conditions, which attracted the condemnation and criticism of the present intellectuals who could not see through the historical reasons for such interpolations,

The ancient Rishis have given us the law codes to suit to the prevailing conditions of those respective periods of time. But these Smrithis were not the legal codes enforceable by law of the land. They were supposed to guide the people in matters of the personal, family and societal conduct of an individual like the present day Directive Principles of the State Policy of Indian Republic.

The questions and condemnations of the modern scholars on Indian Caste System can be classified under the following heads:

a) Caste being inherited by birth in the family where the individual has

no choice preventing upward mobility of the communities in the

social system.

b) Caste compels one to continue to take up the occupation of his

c) Restrictions connected with dining and arranging marriages with in

the caste.

d) Inequalities perpetuated for generations in respect of social and

economic status.

e) ‘Inhuman’ social customs like untouchability.

f) Restrictions in respect of access to ‘education’ and the Holy

Scriptures or the religions practiced by the elite sections of the

The Caste system as such is based on social classification which is a common feature of all organized civil societies round the world but not unique to India alone. The feature could be found in all ancient civilizations of the World since about 4th cen B.C as we find in the proto-historical civilizations of, Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India. Of all these known civilized societies, only Indian and Chinese civilizations are surviving to date. Of the two, Indian civilization is much older as evident from its world’s oldest literature, which was preserved and handed down to generations in oral tradition. The ‘continuity and change’ is the underlying principle of Indian culture, which has contributed to the survival of its various social systems along with its civilization, and culture. Indian tradition is the outcome of the selfless service of the ancient Rishis. The uniqueness of Indian situation lies in the fact that Indian civilization has developed on a strong cultural base, generally known as Sanathana Dharma. (Sanathana means a system which is ‘eternal but ever fresh’ and Dharma the ‘appropriateness of action’ which has to satisfy certain parameters like, right attitude, correct perspective, unity of purpose and proper timing of action).

As all man-made institutions and systems, Indian Caste system also came into existence in the evolutionary process of the civilization to answer certain requirements of complicated living of the people based on material compulsions. The system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it. It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status of certain vested interests of the ruling class applying the Marxist jargon which has no respect for the ancient systems and philosophy whether Indian or the other. Some institutions in course of time become redundant when they outlive their need. Indian Caste system, which has evolved to answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with the Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and Dharmasastras.

The Varna System classifies functions and attitudes of a human being addressing entire humanity. The basic qualities and attitudes of an individual are governed by the composition of his mental framework with different proportions of sattvarajas and tamas, the trigunas (We do not have equivalents to these Indian terms in other languages.Sattva may indicate an attitude of peaceful disposition, rajas, an attitude of dynamism and tamas, a state of ignorance. Since these are the basic characteristics of every human being, there cannot be any change at any point of time in human nature. The institutions built on the economic or political philosophies will not last long as the political power and wealth (representing in the divine personification as Goddess Lakshmi) are unstable and migratory in nature. So they cannot build stable and lasting systems. But Indian Varna system as it is based on the general characteristics of humanity does not change according to the time and clime. However, Indian caste system, which is more connected to the social and material life of people, will undergo change on the peripherals while retaining the basic framework based on the Varna system.

The Varna classification and Caste system are not one and the same. They differ in respect of aims and functions in many ways. The caste system classifies the community while the Varna classifies the functions of an individual. Varna leads one to Moksha (the liberation of the soul) while Caste system is meant for the material and human resource management of a civilized society. There is flexibility in the interchange of Varna as we have several examples in the ancient literature of individuals born in Shudra castes acquiring Brahma Jnana (the Ultimate Knowledge). The Caste system is rigid in the sense that one does not lose his caste even after changing his profession or occupation owing to family tie-ups. Caste system retains and preserves the family culture through the generations. Caste system is further strengthened with religious bond as each family belongs to respective religious customs or traditions within the larger Hindu fold. Therefore one is born in a family belonging to a caste while Varna is acquired by the individual through his effort. Change of occupation does not entitle one to a higher Varna. No one is barred from acquiring Brahma Jnana, no matter to what cast he might belong. We have several examples from Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Vidura though a Brahma Jnani, is considered Shudra while Drona being a Brahmin was in royal service. Drona is considered a fallen Brahmin for accepting joining the service of a king but he was not considered a Kshatriya. Karna being Anga Raja was not welcome into Kshatriya fold though he was born to an unmarried Kshatriya girl, because of his antecedents and questionable birth. According to the Dharmasastras all individuals are born as Shudra and they acquire the Varna through Samskaaras or training or tapas. The modern and Western intellectuals have not properly understood and misinterpreted the Varna and the Caste as one and the same. The caste system finds no sanctity from the ancient scriptures. Indian philosophical schools only addressed the individual and through him the society. The Varna addresses the individual while caste addresses the community. Therefore, one’s caste is not lost with the change in occupation or economic status. However, one is free to choose his occupation irrespective of his caste. The foreign ruling tribes, which came to stay here for historical and political reasons, managed to acquire Kshatriya status by using force and through nominal Samskaaras. Otherwise, one has to join the Shudra fold and move upward.

The misunderstandings of the system may be ascribed to misreading of the Texts of Dharmasastras and the impact of the modern ‘democratic’ and electoral politics. Ancient system of caste organization has been turned into casteism, which negates the very purpose of the system. The matters relating to marriage, common dining and personal occupation are mainly family preferences in a Hindu society, which every member of the family is expected to honor the commitment. Individual’s disagreement is only exceptional. Indian culture aims at molding an individual psyche to surrender and sacrifice his personal preferences to uphold family traditions, customs and commitments. As far as dining is concerned, except Brahmins and Vysyas (merchant community), the rest have no difficulty to have mixed common dining since the Brahmins and Vysyas prefer vegetarian food. Demand for cleanliness and choice of food, choice of company to dine together cannot be curtailed in a civilized society. Though there are no specific injunctions preventing common dining among the members of the same caste, individual’s social and economic status and personal choices would not allow all of them to mix freely, Similarly, marriage is considered vital to maintain and continue the family as a basic unit of the society. A disciplined family honoring the unity of leadership of the eldest of the family and to secure the protection and general interests of each member of the family is a prerequisite for a disciplined society and the well being of every citizen. Even within the caste, a father wants to get satisfied on many counts and family considerations outweigh personal choices in fixing a match. That is only in the larger interests of his family. Indian marriage is not an affair of likes and dislikes of two individuals irrespective of their gender whether they are homosexual or heterosexual (since we see in the modern times legalizing marriages between the same sex as the pinnacle of individual freedom). In Indian system one is not just married to another but one is married into another family. It is not matching of two individuals but in a marriage two families with their respective bandwagons of relatives and friendly families are matched. But in the ancient times, there were eight kinds of marriages and inter-caste marriages, known as anuloma and viloma(low caste groom marrying the higher caste bride and vice versa) were not uncommon. If such marriages were not permitted, how could there be more than 300 castes (or sub-castes) during the Kautilya’s period.(4th cen B.C).Mahabharatha tells us that there were no injunctions prohibiting inter caste marriages. Even a great Kshatriya like Bhima had married a tribal woman Hidimbi and got a son through her who had also fought in the Great War with all the honors of a great warrior. We come across only post-puberty marriages in ancient Indian literature. Even selection of groom by a girl of marriageable age, known asSwayamwara was in vogue. Sati (self immolation of widow) prevalent only among the Kshatriya ruling families was also optional. but not compulsory. Madri, second wife of Pandu Raja committed Sati more out of guilt for causing her husband’s death than out of compulsion while Kunti, the first wife of Pandu, opted out to live. A careful study of scriptures and the ancient literature of Itihasaas and Puraanaas would help understand the nuances of Indian culture. Most of the present day social evils in the Indian society are not deep rooted but their origin can be traced only from the historical period, more from the historical developments of the last millennium when Indian culture received rude shocks under the unsympathetic alien rule.

With the radical changes in the production sector resulting in dominating commercialism and growing consumerism, the world is seemingly transforming into a single and uniform mode of cultural pattern. Indian society is also rapidly changing outwardly to suit to the times, which would help the society to lose what was thrust on it in the recent past. The social evils connected to Indian society as ascribed to it by modern intellectuals are fast fading. But the roots of positive aspects of Indian culture are so deep that the merits of ancient systems would be rejuvenated. This would not only benefit Indian society but also help the world community to live a meaningful and purposeful life, which is, of course, not a distant future.

POSTED BY SUDERSHAN RAO YELLAPRAGADA AT 8:50 PM

Source: http://ysudershanrao.blogspot.in/2007/09/indian-caste-system.html

1965 to 1967 in Banaras

I heard Mahommedali Currim Chagla‘s name for the first time nearly three decades after he had passed away. The context was Banaras Hindu University, and the person taking his name wore a frown of distaste while pronouncing the words M C Chagla. It was clear that he did not like the person who had served as the Education Minister of India from 1963 to 1966. Chagla had had the honour of calling Quaid-e-Azam and Babasaheb his colleagues. He was secular, so secular, that despite being a Muslim, he was cremated and not buried (wikipedia). Sundaram mentions in his article that Chagla had wished once that “it was his mission to educate a generation of Indians who would not be surprised when they saw a Hindu as vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University while his counterpart at Banaras Hindu University was a Muslim”.

m c chagla

Justice M. C. Chagla

(Source: http://asherxai.blogspot.in/2012/08/trivial-pursuit-150.html)

BHU Amendment Bill of 1965 proposed the removal of the word “Hindu” from the name of the university (Baran 377). The Union Minister of Edcation M C Chagla had “indicated in the parliament” (Baran 378) that in a secular country like ours, there’s no place for sectarian words in the names of the universities like Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Banaras Hindu University) BHU. So, the idea, at least in theory, was to drop the words Muslim and Hindu and from their name change the names of two of the largest universities of India. BHU was chosen for the first onimectomy (cutting of the name, a neologism). Well, it backfired.

The Hindus did not like the removal of the word they associate their identity with, from the name of the only university in the world that had it. Students, as usual, were the quickest to react. the RSS, ABVP, Jan Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha etc. went along, or, as some allege, vice versa. There were protests, strikes, and the life in the university and in the city went off track for a fortnight. The old timers, remembering those days and the years of their student life, do recall many interesting anecdotes. Out of the many names taken during one conversation with an old alumnus of the university I heard the names of those leading the student protests. Out of many that I’d heard, my mind has retained the name of comrade Debu Majumdar. I had read his name on banners and walls of Varanasi some two decades ago. I had also read his name in Kashinath Singh’s Kashi ka Assi. This was the first time someone was telling me his name. Google leads us no further. Few more personal interviews may yield some more information about comrade. That will come later.

Back to the university then. The middle name of the great Banarasi university remained in its place, just as the university remained in its right place in the city that rests on Shiva’s trident, but Chagla had made the biggest mistake of his short political career. He did not remain in his place for long. The very next year came the general elections and he was not given his old department back in the new cabinet. 1967 was his last year in the cabinet and in politics.

He said that it was his mission to educate a generation of Indians who would not be surprised when they saw a Hindu as vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University while his counterpart at Banaras Hindu University was a Muslim. – See more at: http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=915#sthash.MCHwyCKa.dpuf
He said that it was his mission to educate a generation of Indians who would not be surprised when they saw a Hindu as vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University while his counterpart at Banaras Hindu University was a Muslim. – See more at: http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=915#sthash.MCHwyCKa.dpuf
He said that it was his mission to educate a generation of Indians who would not be surprised when they saw a Hindu as vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University while his counterpart at Banaras Hindu University was a Muslim. – See more at: http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=915#sthash.MCHwyCKa.dpuf

1967 was important for Banaras – a city with three universities and a large number of students in hostels and the city. Along with the city’s history of rebellious proclivities, that made a volatile combination. The year 1967 was very important for Hindi, Banaras and for one full generation of students born just as the country was born. That year saw the movement by the students of the Hindi speaking belt of India for their demand that English be replaced by Hindi for all practical purposes. The unrest was widespread; so was the administrative crack down upon it. The state stood against the students in a manner proleptically pointing towards May 1968. Both Kashinath Singh’s Apna Morcha (Our Front) and Shivprasad Singh’s Gali Age Mudti Hai (The Lane Turns Ahead) cover the movement in detail and mention Ratnakar (Jubilee) Park incident very graphically, as it was from there that everything had begun.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._C._Chagla

Ray, Anil Baran. “Secularism and Political Protest: The Case of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Students’ Agitation of 1965”. Pressure Groups and Politics of Influence. Ed. Verinder Grover. New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1997. Print.

Sundaram, V. “MC Chagla: A Titan Among the Nationalists “. <<http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=915>&gt;

 

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The Unreal City

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There are traces of Banaras everywhere I go. A certain street has the feel of the Market at Dalmandi. A certain fruits and vegetables market looks like Chandua Sattti. The aroma of the vapour rising from the thirsty stones is the exact replica of the early evening reaction of the water of Gangaji with the sandstone of ghats. Banaras has its own way of rising from the depths of the sub and unconscious minds to the front of conscious one.

In an extreme form of topophilia that is generally seen in exiles (the literature of Sindhis and Bengalis, exiles from Pakistan is full of the yearning for their “home”) the subject lives a dual kind of life: one in the real-physical world and the other in the “unreal” world that only exists in his mind. It’s his mental life and world that are real for him, and his physical existence is more like an intrusion, an unwelcome squatter on the time called his life.

Mostof them compromise. They compromise for various “practical” reasons. Their explanations range from simply structured plain excuses to full fledged, philosophically sound and rhetorically appealing theorem-like solutions that look and sound like a chain of self-evident truths linked with one another in a cause and effect relationship. Q.E.D. To each his own explanation then. What’s the resultant? An alienated being in an alien setting, with a thought in his mind: “What if I had returned?”

In the case of the Sindhi/Bengali (Hindu) diaspora, there never had been any possibility of return. Their home was snatched away. It’s loss was imposed upon them by powers beyond their reach or control. They were cursed to live a painful life in exile. That’s not the case of a Banarsi-in-exile. He could have returned, and can do so too, any time. Why then, does he continue his painful existence away from home? Why indeed?

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