Friday, August 15, 2008

Civilizational Contours: Walk the Talk-1

Professor Alok Bhalla is really a motivational figure. I had known him earlier when I got an opportunity to listen to him at various places, including the Sahitya Akademi [The National Academy of Letters, India].

Yesterday, a colleague of mine, Professor Alok Bhalla and I went for coffee. So, it wasn't a talk or any philosophical discussion in the strict sense of the term. But if you keep in touch with enlightened minds, you will always gain something worthwhile.

As we took a cup of coffee, my colleague asked Professor Bhalla what he meant by going back to our philosophical contours. So, he explicated his position. He said that in the Indian civilization, there is a lot of commonality that doesn't always exist in many other cultures of the world. He said, for example, in India, we always take a bit from this culture and give a bit to another, which is why we have this composite nature.

He gave us this example of Intezar Hussain, the noted Urdu writer and to quote Professor Bhalla, "Intezar Hussain said he was an orthodox Shia muslim and to me, religiosity comes with difficulty but we had no problems communicating." Then I referred to 'nohas' and 'mersias' that Indian Shia muslims sing during Muharram and I said that there are many common Indian images there, which have no equivalent to the Arab world. And he agreed. Later, when we were going back to the Dept., he told my colleague, "See, this is what I meant by composite culture, where I had no difficulty understanding the word 'noha' and 'mersia'. This is the composite culture that Gandhi and Nehru spoke about. We don't have the kind of violence that the concept of postcolonial has when it is foregrounded by the Western academia."

He then spoke about Andrews being a great friend of Gandhi and he said, "When Gandhi wrote to Andrews, he wrote 'Dear Charlie' and when Andrews wrote to Gandhi, he wrote 'Dear Bapu', and Andrews was an Englishman. So, isn't this another instance of the composite Indian culture?"

And we couldn't agree more with Professor Alok Bhalla.

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