Link — Dr Ramchandra Guha’s article in Caravan magazine : Where Are India’s Conservative Intellectuals ?
Unfortunately, Prof Jakob’s rebuttal piece leaves unsaid a most summary aspect of the Indian way : it is loathe to regard idea spewing men as being of much value to both the community and oneself.
“सोचै सोचि न होवई,” says Guru Nanak who is amongst the first of towering “conservative” intellectuals of India along with Sant Tulsidas, Kabir, Abdurrahim and several others. They were all rebels of their time who carefully reiterated the classic ideals of freedom, love, beauty, and this truth driving our very lives from within and without. Their aim, formed in intent or not, was to raise that pillar of awareness to which men in the community could anchor and transform themselves and the society into being kind, humane, loving and virtuous. Freedom was not the question in their quest; it was a given until its consequences begin to turnout unkind and inhumane behaviour.
The Indian intellect did not and will never aspire to merely ideating theories and hypotheses, of whatever kind. Life is too wholesome, and every one its aspects are too seamlessly interconnected with all others, for us to tame it by one or more from a set of abstract enlightenment values. No one can cast the whole in the light of its part, however shining.
On other hand, it is both logical and easy to see the parts in the light of the whole, however nebulous. That is the core of the Indian cultured continuum : from the whole to the parts. It has hence avoided the invariable fate of being trapped in one or other part, which their protoganists may raise to absolution and which then inevitably assumes gigantic primacy in that West inspired intelectual tradition obsessed with liberal and libertarian values. Having lost sight of the overall unifying fact of existence — in the way we miss the forest for the trees — we can only end up propagating out of an interior empty of love and the whole truth.
The saint of Dakhineshwar, in later half of nineteenth century British India, did not give any political call against the colonialists or western ways. He only suggested that we must first realise our truth — or God, a term common folks were intimate with — before getting involved in worldly pursuits. He advised people to regularly take time out for spending in relative, if not complete, solitude. Even the Swami, who expounded the Saint’s wholesome way, never gives a formal expression to rebel against slavery, brutality and injustice normal during British regime in India. He just spoke of the overarching truth in our Vedic scriptures and in the insightful practical philosophies such as Yog and Vedanta.
And yet, look at how wonderfully were the parts cast in the light of the whole : Sri Aurobindo, Nowrojee, Besant, Gandhi, Tilak, Bose, Tagore, Premchand, Raman, Ramanujam … thousands and thousands of their like … all of whom were inspired by the same unifying sense : the one whole truth of being good and doing good; of God in man and hence of service to mankind. They all walked left, right and centre but towards one purpose : serving India, its classic culture and heritage, and its people.
By its nature, of holding on to the core, India’s intellectuals have had little drive towards raising an idea industry common in the West. Even Sri Aurobindo’s prolific writings are more for practise and contemplation than for ideating more ideas.
Much of Indian texts exposing a way of life and its wholesome perspective are reduced to sutras or pithy verses, aphorisms. The expansion of its parts is left to the individual. This preference for brevity, of remaining embedded deeper and deeper into the core, the whole, also underscores another : not many speakers are necessary, not more or new is to be said; just the old is to be resurrected or reiterated in clear contemporary terms.
Krishna, the Seer of Bhagwad Gita, is still a towering Guru — conservative intellectual — in our midst. We hardly feel the need of anything more than what is already narrated in Mahabharata, Ramayana and Upanishads, retold by the few contemporary seers we have always been fortunate to have.
Guha’s fright — it seems more like a long moan of satisfaction — at the lack of conservative intellectual in India is a double phantom : first, the absent roots of Western values; then, an absentee to argue for his own brand of inspired theory regarding the absent Western values.
Both the Western values perspective and intellectuals, for or against it, are not there in the Indian mainstream, and will never be because they are alien to a way that is complete and already taken up with the unifying whole. It has no need to acknowledge these study of parts, by so-called specialists, as anything apart from itself, the whole thing.
That is what Guha, and West inspired intellectuals, aspire for : acknowledgement. And, what better way to seek it than by opposing with cries and howls the mainstream stalwarts of India’s cultured thought : the RSS.
Western values system and its intellectual tradition has no independent future in India’s cultured ground. That can be galling, very, to those who have spent a lifetime on cues and prompts from Western shores. With no payback to garland his vanity, the seasoned and much pampered acolyte succeeds in hiding his panic but not his desperation.
Guha, the non-historian, personifies the desperation of the man staring at oblivion within the emptiness at his own loud lifetime.