If there is one article you must read today, let it be this one.
Beautiful, searching, soulful prose by Professor Michel Danino
‘While I had migrated towards Indianness, I saw numerous young Indian moving away from it – not deliberately or consciously so, but as a result of a fast changing India, exposure to global media (‘global’ meaning here, as it so often does,‘American’), peer pressure, and a school system which, strangely, keeps the best of India’s knowledge systems out of sight of the student. A White man teaching young Indians about their own past and heritage is something of an irony, but India, as we know, is the land of paradoxes…
My parents were born Moroccans , and with three· visits to that country· in my early years· , it became a part· of me – a small· but vivid· bit· of ‘Orient’ adding some colour· to a continental drabness . Our family is Jewish , and something of that Jewishness remained with me long· after I had rejected the Biblical foundations of Judaism; the Jewish view· of life· , especially its obsession· with knowledge·and its stubbornly positive· outlook· in the face· of adversity· , always has great· lessons for a ‘secular Jew’ (a useful oxymoron) . I was born and brought up in France , and Frenchness taught me the meaning of culture· , intellectual· lucidity· and a sense of ceaseless· quest . Yet four decades ago , as an immature· but resolute twenty one year old , I decided to come· and live· in India , a country· I knew next· to nothing about , and which many Indians readily compared to hell in contrast with a heavenly West .
I observed what Indianness meant to them: at one end· of the spectrum , very little· , a mere accident· of birth· and a low· level· of self-esteem as Indians , barely relieved by an ebulient sense of patriotism (cricket and Bollywood among its prime· drivers); at the other , a strong· attachment fuelled by some awareness· of India’s intellectual· , artistic· , spiritual· , scientific or technological achievements . The difference· between the two· attitudes has a considerable impact· in actual life: the first· produces individuals who see· themselves as such – islands in time· and space· , with few or no roots; the second· results in a sense of belonging to a stream·of civilization and imparts an identity , self-confidence· and resilience . The latter attitude· is of course· something of my own , provided that the attachment is more than merely sentimental· , and the awareness· grounded in genuine· knowledge· . This , in fact· , is among the first· points I make· in my courses: patriotism , a superficial and passing sentiment , easily leads to excesses , as the most cursory· reading of history· tells us; a wholesome pride· of belonging to a country· , a culture· , a civilization , can only be·founded on dispassionate knowledge· .