|Photo: (c) M. Görtler|
By Usha Amrit. Now a days, there is a lot of media attention about the growing global presence of India. On television, magazines, and in the group meetings we discuss the acceptance and popularity of “Made in India” tag. It started with the global embrace of the quintessential Indianess-yoga, mehandi, chicken tikka and software engineers etc Prior to the open market economy and its success, we perhaps considered ourselves the underdogs and today’s slowly increasing prosperity has resulted in pride and some times maniacal one at that…
… Why not, after the British left we were in penury, with partitioned land in riots. Our parent’s generation and even our generation grew up reading about the glorious Indian history and its subsequent decline. We read about the struggle for independence and atrocities and discrimination enforced on us by the colonial rulers. Since we are an emotional lot, there is general feeling of being victimized in history; a feeling that our achievements and potential for them has been frittered away by exploitation.
I constantly get forwarded mails about the glorious past of India. Many strongly put forward points about the inherent greatness of our civilization since it had progressed to technology and science when the rest of the world was sunk in dark ages. The Harappa and Mohenjadaro civilization, the developments in astronomy, about India being the birthplace for decimal system, chess and polo are some examples that bolster the arguments in favour of our glorious history etc.
I am a very proud Indian and not to say the least, in some way an ambassador for our culture but some times my fellow patriots take the enthusiasm a tad too far. There is general fervour in our media and students about restoring our country’s glory. Some want to resurrect the ghosts from the past lest the youth forget it. There are so many bunkum theories along with some genuine claims to the advancements in our civilization. As for as the present state of affairs, some blame the invaders from northeast and some blame the East India Company and subsequent colonial occupation for all the woes in our country. We were a great country they say and the ‘outsiders’ destroyed our civilization and decline was a result of their greed. So blame the British for our corruption, our pollution, our governance, and our communal tensions.
There are many aspects we forget when we view our history. For one, every civilization undergoes rise and decline. We have all heard of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or that of Chinese or Egyptian or Babylonian or the Greeks. Therefore we are not the only victims of history. It is but natural for all civilizations to undergo these cycles. Secondly, all the scientific achievements were not restricted to India alone. Egyptians made pyramids, the Chinese made rockets; exquisite silk brocades, compass etc and the Babylonians were known for their achievements in chemistry, medicine, math etc. Thirdly, such past achievement reflects nothing of the present. There is indeed no law that states that inclination for scientific developments is transferred to coming generations and the glory continues. If this were the case, Babylonian civilization wouldn’t end up as it is right now (present day Iraq) or for that matter, take Egypt, China (until a few years ago) and the great Roman civilization, the birth place of democracy wouldn’t gift the world the Mafia. Fourthly, in addition to point one, decline is not always caused by foreign forces. Saddam Hussein, Khomeni, Mao were all home grown catalysts for disasters.
It is for a fact that Sushurata, a surgeon from 6th century BC had conducted plastic surgeries and we were far ahead in science of metallurgy, trade, and mathematics at that time as compared to the west but that doesn’t give us any edge in the present day scientific conferences. I hear often of accusations that the Arabs borrowed our Mathematics and called it their own (algebra) and then transferred the knowledge to the west. Therefore all the advancements made in math later on for example in calculus or other achievements where math played a role therefore indirectly belongs to us (since invention is greater step than an improvement and perfection in it). I think this is as foolish as saying that since chess originated in India; Kasprov owes every penny of earnings from his chess tournament wins to India. Besides, when such arguments are made, we forget Euclid, and other Greek philosophers who laid the foundation stone for modern science and philosophy.
The world has always moved forward by globalization. Chili an ingredient in nearly every Indian dish was actually a Portuguese import. We don’t care about its origin and now it is used more in Indian homes than Portuguese homes I suppose. We don’t see electricity as an American product or classical physics as English science. Place of origin of any product is of no relevance as long as it plays its role for over all growth and good. We mustn’t forget that even if we were the source of many inventions, globalization has taken them a step forward with perfection and improvements in these innovations. That doesn’t take away our credit as the originator of the invention but it amounts to nothing more than that.
Some thing to be proud of genuinely is the achievements of the present day India; the developments in trade and manufacturing since our independence. Not to mention, the progress in science and economy and the success of our industrialists abroad and home. In order to solve our present day problems one doesn’t need to look at the past for reference, inspiration or solutions but we must only look forward since we have so much more to accomplish. We have to work on issues of child mortality and child labour, literary, public health, bureaucracy and governance etc. Whilst we constantly talk of all the glory about the past, aren’t we missing the point here? Of what use is that glory. Will it put India on the world’s best economies or solve the epidemic Aids problems or push away our poverty? There are people who see only the negative side of our country. We don’t have to be like them either. They commit another blunder, dig open the wound and complain. Instead look only to the future and make India the future.