Home-coming of a New Kind

By Anirban Ganguly, The Pioneer, December 31, 2014

The setting was, ‘balmy Goa' but the agenda on the platter was an intense and fascinating mind brew. In witnessing it, I remembered the civilisational past of India as a knowledge society that evolved frameworks, charted new courses through continuous debate, dialogue.

The afternoon before I left for Goa to attend the India ‘ideas conclave’ organised by the New Delhi based India Foundation with support from the Government of Goa, I spoke to a professor friend of mine who was upbeat that such a grand knowledge and dialogic gathering —sangam — rassemblement, was being organised to explore, imagine and discuss various dimensions that combined or coalesced to evolve, shape and reshape the vision or ‘idea of India.’

As someone, who firmly believes that the ‘idea of India’ has for the last six decades — especially since our political discourse began to be controlled and monochromatised by the dominant Nehruvian establishment with support from its intellectual articulators and upholders of the Marxian mould —  been strictly regimented in order to suit a certain political agenda and worldview, a worldview which sustains and propagates the idea of an ‘imagined’ Indian civilisational flow and has almost always worked to ‘deconstruct’ the vision and reality of a ‘Bharat’ that is India, I rejoiced that so many — distinguished scholars and high achievers — had consented to come together and ensconce themselves for three days to absorb, deliberate and discuss the possibilities of evolving newer ‘ideas of India’ and to explore ways forward towards its réalisation.

Just because the venue happened to be a place that is not usually associated with ‘rightist’ gatherings but more with the articulate, globetrotting and India baiting types styled as the ‘secularati’, did not reduce the seriousness of the purpose or the intensity of the exchange. The setting was ‘balmy Goa’ but the agenda on the platter was an intense and fascinating mind brew. In witnessing it, I remembered the civilisational past of India as a knowledge society that evolved frameworks, charted new courses through continuous debate, dialogue and argumentation.

Moreover, the conclave’s defining theme — integral human development and the welfare of the last woman/man standing — was itself representative of India’s perennial civilisational quest where governance, education, industry and economy have always, inspired and imbued by Dharma — spoken of happiness and fulfillment of the collective as well as the individual.

It was heartening to see how a number of leading global minds in the conclave strove to fit their theories and positions within this quintessentially bharatiya framework of ‘integral human development’, a framework evolved over millennia by our seers and exegetes and which is increasingly becoming sought after now in an era that is beset with utilitarian challenges and fading cultural and spiritual dimensions.

It was a reflection perhaps of the new sense that has begun permeating our national life, a sense that exudes from a leader who strives ceaselessly to focus his energies and policies for the benefit of the last woman/man standing and whose emphasis on empowerment, enablement and on the need to evolve an integral vision of growth and progress has injected a new dynamism and dimension to the way we address our national challenges.

What initially surprised me at the conclave, was the presence of a few personalities who, in the past, had made a career out of demonising or running down what they termed ‘rightist’ groups and sneering at their ‘cultural agenda’. In a true Hindu spirit of acceptance and assimilation — a spirit which has only grown over the years with my association with ‘rightist’ organisations and groups — I accepted their presence and from my quiet perch amidst the audience absorbed their wisdom and packages of panacea for a grand India of the future.

There were many aspects of the conclave that was impressive, but I was impressed most to see the presence of personalities such as these and I realised how wide this exercise of inviting ideas for India was supposed to be. Interestingly, an examination of the underside of any ‘leftist’ gathering invariably reveal how those who espouse a different ideal or worldview are always shut out, silenced, slammed or blocked from gathering such as these types, having been labeled as ‘loonies’, ‘intellectually deficient’ or ‘academically inconsequential.’ On the other hand, the India ‘ideas conclave’ invited and celebrated differences, allowed each one to have his or her say, present their case or even protest. It radiated an adherence to that ancient Indic code which created and allowed space for an extended and multi-dimensional exchange of ideas.

The range of the deliberation itself was daunting and elevating, hearing the young Hindu Congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, describe the centrality of the Bhagvad Gita in her life and of how its eternal message sustained her in the battlefield or later inspired her to positive action in the service of her constituents and propelled her self-journey to a greater subliminal height, was itself refreshing. It left one wondering whether the Gita had not already achieved the status of an international scripture and whether our garrulous ‘secularati’ had not trapped themselves in a bubble or a time warp. Hearing India’s Minister for External Affairs espouse India’s grand global vision was equally inspiring and convinced one of the gradual re-emergence of India as a civilisational state.

Some of the most interesting discussions and views emerged in fields such as education, economics, geopolitics, civilisation and culture. The range covered was truly beyond the capacity of complete absorption of a single individual, but nevertheless hearing David Frawley discuss the role and conception of the Rishi, listening to Amish Tripathi debunk the Aryan invasion theory in his inimitable story-telling style, absorbing the continental perspective on culture and nation narrated by the legendary Dr Lokesh Chandra and assimilating the Dharmic approach to the science of management and ethics by the celebrated MB Athreya, hearing Elizabeth den Boer’s plea to re-discover and preserve our scriptures and manuscripts and Prof HK Chang’s exposition on the India-China civilisational potential I came away convinced of the capacity of such gatherings in creating — what I have termed — an alternate narrative of India. For some, the conclave generated a renewed hope, for others it was a true home-coming. The ideas having been scattered, await now a narrative that shall need to be gradually woven.

(The writer is director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation)

Published at: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/home-coming-of-a-new-kind.html