But he also caught my attention because Ajit Pai is a Konkani Gaud Saraswat Brahmin—and I am, too. In late 2016, I retired an oral history project on Konkani-speaking Brahmins because I mostly recorded versions of the same fabulous origin story, more legend than history—that we were “pure” light-skinned Brahmins of the north, who traveled to southwestern India after the Saraswati River “went underground.”
I had a GSB friend but that’s beside the point. What I have noticed is that there is an almost compulsive need in Indians to name drop their caste, especially if it is a high one.
There was no need for this author to mention her K-GSB origins but then that wouldn’t allow her to flaunt it.
My last post for the weekend (I promise- there is a ton of work pending). I was reading about a Irishman’s observation of the opening ceremony of the Lotus Temple and stumbled on this Tennyson’s poem:
‘That stone by stone I rear’d a sacred fane,
A temple, neither Pagod, Mosque, nor Church,
But loftier, simpler, always open-door’d
To every breath from heaven, and Truth and Peace
And Love and Justice came and dwelt therein;
(and then despairingly)
I watch’d my son,
And those that follow’d, loosen, stone from stone,
All my fair work; and from the ruin arose
The shriek and curse of trampled millions, even
As in the time before; but while I groan’d,
From out the sunset pour’d an alien race,
Who fitted stone to stone again, and Truth,
Peace, Love and Justice came and dwelt therein…
Since those are among my favourite topics and the fact that I’m slightly scared of Razib’s ahem “firm” moderating style I thought I would troll Brown Pundits with my own thoughts after the jump. Continue reading “Elitist Shi’ites”
I had earlier posted a link to a Guardian Article about Singapore and how it was a model for colonial & post-colonial development.
To my knowledge Singapore & Hong Kong are colonial creations and therefore their success are more anomalous than not.
I would hazard a few drawbacks of colonial rule in South Asia:
(1.) English language as the High Culture: this is a serious problem since the Urdu-Hindi divide only represents the lack of a unified elite standard. If the Brits/Europeans had never established themselves a native literary lingua franca would have eventually emerged as a South Asian unifier. Urdu for instance is the indigenous supplanter, by Hindu courtiers, of the courtly Persian spoken at Mughal courts. Not to mire this thread into another language controversy but my point being is that if South Asia had followed a normal course of development we would be writing Brown Pundits in a desi, not foreign, tongue.
(2) Time Value of Money: South Asia may have been routinely plundered (the Persians invaded a few times in the last few centuries) but most of India’s wealth stayed home. Depraved and decadent the Mughals may have been but their monuments rest on Indian Soil. The wealth of India, through unfair trade & conquest, ultimately flowed back to the Mother Country; powering England’s economic advancement. The British Empire may have been an uneconomic enterprise towards the very end (however it still helped Britain turn the tide in 2 World Wars) but the previous centuries had been enough to solidify Europe/England’s lead.
(3) Racial Inferiority: South Asia is the land of colour, caste & creed but scientific racism wasn’t endemic to it (there is some evidence caste had been dying out prior to the Brits coming but I can’t possible comment). The Brahmins and Muslim elites may not have intermarried with anyone else (though I find that hard to believe) but the racial seclusion that the Brits maintained, especially after Mutiny & in the Victorian Era, embedded a racial inferiority complex into the desi cultural stream that’s never truly been shaken off. Currying favour with the Englishman has always taken precedence over regional solidarity. The reason as to why Native Royals were forbidden from marrying white women was the genuine fear that the royal families of India would become white in a few generations (that’s already happened to a few of South Asia’s political dynasties mind you).
(4) Communal conflict: there may have been a history of uneasy tension between Muslim & Hindu in historic India but divide & rule exacerbated it towards eventual Partition.
(5) Winston Churchill: WC has a demi-god status in Britain but was shameful in his treatment and views of desis. When a man so racist is so revered there isn’t much more to say. Famine in India & Ireland under the British Empire was arguable more of a political rather than agricultural construct.
This isn’t to say that South Asians shouldn’t take agency and own their faults (how else were they conquered but for their own lack of unity) but colonialism (even more so than the Muslim conquests though that is arguably a close second) was an absolute disaster for the Subcontinent. Shashi Tharoor is entirely right; English, railroads and a few universities are no offsets. Just because the British Empire wasn’t as evil as some others (the Belgians in Congo etc) doesn’t mean that it was a just enterprise, not now not ever..
Wow, the new year began with the ruler of the world’s sole superpower castigating only one of 190+ nations in the world. What is it about Pakistan that makes Trump see so much red? And when Trump gets mad at the Pakistanis, why do so many policymakers in India do a high five?
Trump is mad at the merchants of Rawalpindi because they won’t let him extricate himself out of Afghanistan in one piece. But they didn’t put him in Afghanistan in the first place. You could argue 9/11 did, but someone amongst America’s best and brightest should have realized that her country should not get dragged into Afghanistan.
But America then was not being ruled by its best and brightest. And the same ruler, Bush Jr., for reasons of his own, decided to take his eye off the ball in Afghanistan and focus it on Iraq. Empires that have previously entered Afghanistan have remained completely focused on it, but have barely made it out alive. Actually, only the Brits did. The Soviets left it with rigor mortis.
It is now a rich country in which most of the population lives in municipal housing while their children attend excellent state schools. There is a further crucial difference from the colonial past; Singapore now holds elections to choose its leaders. This was not the case until near the end of British rule, when the colony was allowed a measure of self-government.
But the Singapore story also shows us the price societies pay when their rulers make use of the tools colonial authorities left behind. Under British rule, detention without trial was used to stifle the threat of communism while a licensing system kept the press contained. As many Singaporean dissidents have argued, Singapore has embraced this illiberal colonial tradition to create a tightly controlled modern state.
The consequences are a country that, while wealthy, has a chilling climate for free speech and no independent trade unions. While Singapore does hold elections, there is little space for opposition politics – human rights groups say defamation laws have frequently been used to silence opposition voices.