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April 03, 2005
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April 03, 05

Page: 36/39

Home > 2005 Issues > April 03, 05

Think it Over
Macaulay and India's rootless generations

By M.S.N. Menon

?I dimly realised,? writes Malcolm Muggeridge, who worked in India as a teacher and journalist for long years, ?that a people can be laid waste culturally, as well as physically?not only in their land but in their inner life?as if it is sown with salt. That is what happened in India; an alien culture, itself exhausted, trivialised and shallow, was imposed on them. When we (British) went, we left behind... a spiritual wasteland. We had drained the country of its life and creativity, making it a place of echoes and mimicry.?

We can still hear the echoes and mimicry from this wasteland?from the ?children of Macaulay?. Tagore used to call them ?shadows?. They are not real people, but zombies programmed by Macaulay to act like the Caliban, the slave.

Macaulay wanted only babus: men, as he said, Indian in colour, but British in the way they thought. But the British masters sat rather heavily on these babus and left a deep imprint of their ugly bottoms on them. So, if you see the babus going about with the ugly imprint of the bottoms of their erstwhile masters, you should not be surprised. The slaves are rather proud of it.

Naturally, the ?children of Macaulay? grew up ashamed of their civilisation, of their ancestors, while they felt overwhelmed by the ?great achievements? of Europe.

Nirad Choudhury's Continent of Circe is perhaps the best known outcry of this sense of shame among westernised Indians. But, then, he was an Anglophile. His pride? That he knew the names of every street in London! Did he know anything about India? No. Not till he was old.

Not much has changed even after the country became independent. Why? Because power passed into the hands of these very babus?the Nirad Choudhurys of India.

So, generations of Indians grew up in this country, fascinated by the achievements of the West, of Britain in particular. Did the ?liberators? of India change Macaulay's educational system? Not at all. Why? Because they knew even less than Nirad Choudhury of their country.

Here is what Dr Subhash Kashyap, former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, has written on the so-called ?founding fathers? of our Constitution: ?It (Constituent Assembly) was an elitist body and not an assembly of representatives of the people. They were western educated, nurtured in British concepts and culture and most fascinated by British institutions. Neither the ethos and genius of India nor the vision and view of Gandhi seem to have inspired them much. The result was: They bodily lifted large chunks of the 1935 Act (enacted by the British Parliament).? In short, they were no ?founding fathers?.

Little did they know that India, a country of the greatest diversity, called for a new type of Constitution, that the Constitutions they copied were meant for homogeneous societies only. If this is what our ?Constitution makers? were, not much need be said of the bureaucracy, which used to carry out the orders of the British.

What has happened to Macaulay's children? Nirad Choudhury is no more. He died a heartbroken man. He became one of the bitterest critics of western civilisation, particularly British. His complaint? That the British did not live up to his expectations. Surely, his life was a tragedy. His life's work was in vain.

After what has happened to Choudhury, few will perhaps dare to put on his mantle?that of Caliban, the slave. At least, few will ramble about India, when they know next to nothing about this country.

Nationalism is taboo to our minorities. We know why. (But on this later.) They would like to change their history. But one must have roots in one's country, for a man without roots is like weeds in a field.

That is why the denigration of nationalism is all wrong. That is why this hankering after other people's way of life is all wrong. Macaulay had his day. And England is no more what it was. The sun has set over the British empire. But the sun of India is rising over the horizon. Let us hope, it will dispel the ?shadows? from our land.

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