The bridge stretches from Pune to Potsdam

Raghunath Purushottam Paranjpye was a super-scholar who pioneered cultural bridge building between Indian and Germany. Germany has a long tradition of admiring Brahminic culture, in contrast to the English downplaying of the same (especially the missionaries). This is turn was appreciated by a new generation of scholars in Maharashtra and Bengal (including muslims who came over to Germany during/after the Khilafat movement- for example, Syed Mujataba Ali from Bengal).

Recent scholars have continued to explore this phenomena (termed Indomania- see below) and to even liken to India-Germany bond as akin to that of kindred spirits. Was there possible “anti-semitic undertones” (muslim for Indians, jews for Germans) in this appreciation?  

The teaching of German began in the Indian
sub-continent — in Pune’s New English School — 100 years ago at the
initiative of the mathematician, educationist and social reformer
Wrangler Raghunath Paranjpye. Though he had earned a tripos at
Cambridge, he was in thrall of the excellence of German universities and
reckoned, correctly as it turned out, that Indians pursuing higher
studies in one of them would be doubly blessed.
They would not only
receive fine education in their respective disciplines but also get
exposure to European culture in a country that had no colonial ties with

There could well have been another reason for Paranjpye’s
fascination for Germany. Educated Indians in his time, especially in
Maharashtra and Bengal, were aware of the lively interest that some
leading German thinkers had taken in India`s philosophical and literary
traditions for close to two centuries.
That sort of flattering attention
stood in stark contrast to how many Christian missionaries, encouraged
by British colonial rulers, sought to debunk those traditions.

late in the 18th century, Johann Gottfried Herder, in his critique of
the European Enlightenment, projected India as the cradle of
civilisation. Around the same time (1791), Kalidasa’s play ‘Shakuntalam’
was translated into German to great critical acclaim. One enthusiastic
reaction to it came from Goethe. He hailed the poet as a “representative
of the natural condition of the most refined life-style, the purest
moral endeavour, the most dignified majesty and the most serious worship
of God…”

Early in the 19th century, another distinguished
thinker, Friedrich von Schegel, hailed Sanskrit as the “source of all
languages, all thought, all poetics…”
His brother, August Wilhelm, who
became the first professor of Sanskrit at Bonn University in 1818 and
is regarded as the founder of the discipline of Indology, translated
Bhagvad Gita into Latin. None other than Hegel showered fulsome praise
on it in a lengthy review.

Translations into German of other
Indian philosophical and literary texts sustained the scholarly
engagement with classical India. Its echoes reverberated through the
writings of the Grimm brothers, those of philosopher Schopenhauer and
even in Schubert’s musical compositions. But the one scholar who scaled
the tallest summits of Indology was Friedrich Max Mueller. He studied
Sanskrit at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin, taught at Oxford and
translated the Rig Veda and other ancient texts by the score — without
once visiting India.

What prompted such great minds to extol
Indian classical traditions of learning and creativity is not quite
clear. Some scholars hold that their earlier sources of inspiration —
ancient Greece and Rome — had dried up. So they turned to Indian
civilisation to expand their intellectual horizons and finesse their
aesthetic sensibilities.

Now, a group of Indian experts on German
Indology have begun to question this theory. In early January, Joydeep
a brilliant young scholar, had an altogether different take on
what lay behind German interest in ancient India. He argued, in
substance, that the Protestant heritage of German Indologists prompted
them to interpret Indian texts in ways that were conducive to their own
intellectual interests that often carried anti-Semitic undertones.

[Another excellent reference on Indo-German link and Indomania]

Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India: Kindred Spirits in the 19th and 20th Centuries; Edited by Joanne Miyang Cho, Eric Kurlander, Douglas T McGetchin

Providing a comprehensive survey of cutting edge scholarship in the field of German–Indian and South Asian Studies,
the book looks at the history of German–Indian relations in the
spheres of culture, politics, and intellectual life. Combining
transnational, post-colonial, and comparative approaches, it includes
the entire twentieth century, from the First World War and Weimar
Republic to the Third Reich and Cold War era.

The book first examines the ways in which nineteenth-century
“Indomania” figured in the creation of both German national identity and
modern German scholarship on the Orient, and it illustrates how German
encounters with India in the Imperial era alternately destabilized and
reinforced the orientalist, capitalist, and nationalist underpinnings of
German modernity. Contributors discuss the full range of German
responses to India, and South Asian perceptions of Germany against the
backdrop of war and socio-political revolution, as well as the Third
Reich’s ambivalent perceptions of India in the context of racism,
religion, and occultism. The book concludes by exploring German–Indian
relations in the era of decolonization and the Cold War.



Bend it like a (Bihari) Beckham

Our poverty is demonstrated in many visible ways. One invisible way is this: we need inspired foreigners to inspire us. Why are these girls not being supported by society? At any rate it is nice that they have something to look forward to.

Franz Gastler shot into the limelight last
year when his team of under-14 girls from rural Jharkhand came third at
the Gasteiz Cup in Spain.

Q. Congratulations again on coming third at Gasteiz, but why is it that you decided on taking a team from here all the way there?
A. We
met a few Spanish students from the University of Mondragon at Dharavi,
where we were running a football camp for slum girls. They asked us
whether we had a more regular team — we said yes, back in Jharkhand —
and whether we would like to come to a tournament in Spain? They also
helped arrange the funding to get us there.

Q. You’ve
talked about the difficulties involved in getting there. That the local
panchayat sewak slapped the girls and got them to sweep his office when
they went to ask him for birth certificates (the certificates were
needed to prove they weren’t overage)..
. has that third-place finish
made things easier for these girls?
A. It’s made
some things easier, and it’s made some things more difficult. We’ve lost
the football field we used to practise on — probably due to jealousy.
The person who owned the field dug it up, and then left it like that, so
we couldn’t use it. But I kind of believe in what Gandhi said: “First
they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

Q. You’ve
talked earlier of how these girls have to fight for everything. That
nothing that is meant for them ever reaches them. Are things still the
A. The girls have got better at fighting. They
don’t put up with the patriarchy that that they might have earlier.
Just this time, coming to a football camp in Delhi, there was a man on
the train who got funny with one of the girls. He put his hand in her
front pocket. Women often tend to keep quiet about things like that, but
not her.
She pulled his hand away, then pushed him off, and called the

Q. Can football be expected to do something for these girls lives? Change them in some way?
A. To
some extent, it already has. What we’re hoping for these girls is that
their lives will take one of three tracks. Either they will go on to
government jobs; or they will go on to University which should then lead
to better lives than just looking after the home. (I read recently, in
the Times of India, that people who speak English earn 34% more than
their non-English-speaking counterparts. We’re teaching our girls
English, so that should help too.)

And thirdly, I believe some of
these girls could go on to become elite athletes and get into some of
the top universities in the US. I believe they have that talent. A few
of our girls qualified for a national coaching camp, but they were
miserable there. It was the same thing again. Abusive coaches
mistreating the girls in their care. So we don’t send our girls to
national coaching camps any longer.
I also mentioned that to Sara
Pilot — she’s heading the committee on the development of women’s
football in India — when I was called to advise them about the women’s
game. They were talking about the usual things — sponsorships, marketing
— and I asked them why we can’t have a few good coaches? Non-abusive
ones? They weren’t very happy about that.

Q. You yourself aren’t a
football player. You played ice hockey. Are you a good coach? I imagine
people would be sceptical of a football coach who hasn’t played the game
A. The girls don’t have much choice. In
some ways, we’re the exact opposite of football in the US. There they
have lots of space, lots of equipment and very few people. We have very
little space, very little equipment, and lots of people. So we do
depend a lot on peer-to-peer coaching, where a 16-year-old will teach a
13-year-old, who will then teach a 9-year-old. The same thing happens
in the favelas of Brazil. I did however attend a coaching camp in the US
last year.

Q. Now what? Are you going back to Gasteiz this year?
A. Actually,
we’re going back to my hometown. Minneapolis. To the USA cup, the
largest youth football tournament in the western hemisphere. (The 2014
edition will have over 950 teams and 14,000 players from 16 different
countries taking part.)

Q. You arrived in Jharkhand as a 26-year-old. You wanted to teach in the villages. Exactly what were you thinking?
A. I’d
met Sam Pitroda in Chicago, who fixed up a job for me with the
Confederation of Indian Industries in Delhi. I was 25 then. I did that
for a year and then I had this romantic idea that I wanted to go see the
villages. So I got a job with an NGO in Jharkhand, but they seemed to
do everything out of the office. Nobody ever went out into the field. So
I left and started Yuwa, doing the one thing a student understands —
teaching English. Then, one of the girls asked if I could teach her to
play football, and that’s how it all started.

Q. What happens when you leave?
A. I don’t intend to.



Unconditional Surrender Association (USA)

The global empire is erupting with head-aches on a daily basis. The old villain has resurrected itself and is bent on kidnapping children right and left (or letting bullies roam freely in the school-yard).  The ancient empire has risen from the ashes and threatening the well-fed, lazy, mansabdars. And now even the sustainably trained colonies are getting bent out of shape. In the past a big stick was a gate-pass (on official letterhead) to the Court, behave or else. Alas from today this proud tradition is no more. Now the only thing that will help save India is  the collective will of Indians (and that is how it should be).

Washington will drop a travel ban on Narendra Modi if he becomes the Prime Minister. US assistant secretary of state Nisha Desai Biswal
finally buried the controversy over Modi’s visa as she told a TV
channel that the US would welcome the Gujarat CM if he ascends to the
top job.

“I would just say that the United States has welcomed
every leader of this vibrant democracy, and that a democratically
elected leader of India will be a welcome partner,” Biswal said adding
Washington is ready to do business with him. For nine years, the US has
kept its visa ban on Modi who has won three successive terms in Gujarat.



Arvind Kejriwal flies high

Does he not realize that he is under the microscope? He has two choices: pay his way or disclose his funding sources (that was already happening). The latter path will still leave him open to accusations of bias, but that is the problem of being (and promising to be) Mr Clean.

By taking India Today’s private Beechcraft
flight today (March 7, 2014), you make me feel foolish that I ever
supported you or reposed some faith in you as a politician of a new
India. Your representative on the prime time chat show may have
pathetically tried to defend the indefensible with such pitiable excuses
as 1) the Beechcraft ride was paid for by India Today and not by you,
and 2) that you took the flight in the interest of saving time!  

defender didn’t seem to reflect for a moment that just this morning in
Gujarat you had eloquently fired away several questions at Narendra Modi
on his use of private flights and then within hours you had hopped
aboard one yourself, after all the moralistic stance you had taken all
this while about eschewing the VIP culture, the red lights, the
security, the cavalcade and other perks of office and what have you. 

truth is that your action today tantamounts to spitting on the face of
all those true aam admis who have stood by you and believed in the
values that you pretended to abide by all this time. The truth is today,
you don’t have a shred of a fig-leaf left to hide your abject bareness



Belly Dancing, Clickbait and Censorship on

As many of you probably know by now, Randa Jarrar has an article in Salon about how White women are appropriating belly dancing and how much she hates that.
You can read the whole thing at the above link, but here is her concluding paragraph:
But, here’s the thing. Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips. We are human beings. This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because a white woman doesn’t profit from her performance doesn’t mean she’s not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?
Well qualified people will no doubt take apart her stupid arguments (some already have) or make fun of her or take the opportunity to say “I told you those ragheads are morons”, but my beef is with Salon. When I first saw the piece today (via a tweet from Razib) I posted a short comment on it that went something like this:

“I dont think Randa is actually such a self-righteous moron. She must have a book launch coming up and she knew this piece would become the most “controversial” piece on Salon. Read the signs people!”

A few hours later there were over a thousand comments on the site, but my comment was gone. A lot of the comments (in fact, most of the comments) are negative, but yes, they do take her seriously by trying to answer her arguments instead of questioning her motives. None of them has been deleted.
So I tried again. I posted the comment again. It was deleted in 5 minutes.
Naturally I turned to Brownpundits.
So people, what do you think? do you think she is is completely sincere? or is there an element of cold calculation in this piece (i.e., did she deliberately take a position even she does not really believe in order to generate controversy)?
This is not a rhetorical question. I am really curious. ( btw, I am NOT looking for a discussion on the merits of her argument. I am sure some of our readers find some merit in her arguments, but that discussion is already going on at the Salon site and I suspect any argument with me will flounder because we dont share enough common assumptions).
Personally, I am inclined to think she is serious but the possibility that she did this specifically to cause a controversy (whether for a book launch or just to get noticed) is still there.
And why does Salon think that calling her a fool is OK, but suggesting that she may be an intelligent woman shrewdly exploiting an opportunity is beyond the pale?

(This picture proves that I follow her argument, even if I completely disagree with her)


How does a Sharia state work?

It is instructive to learn from Malaysia. The particular advantage of using Sharia as a sword is that people rising up in protest (against miscarriage of justice) would think twice before giving aid and comfort for supposedly blasphemous/sinful actions.

A Malaysian court convicted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
of sodomy and sentenced him to five years in prison on Friday….the ruling bars Anwar from running for a seat in the
state assembly of Selangor this month, a move that would likely have
paved the way for him to become chief minister of Malaysia’s most
populous state
— a potent platform from which to attack the government
ahead of the next national election.

If Anwar, 66, loses his
federal court appeal, he would face jail and would be barred from
contesting the next national election that must be held by 2018.
(happening) all over again after 15 years,” Anwar, who was sacked as
deputy prime minister and finance minister in 1998 and convicted a year
later, told reporters.



Hanif Kureishi and Comrade Lenin

Are writers special? Is writing a special talent? Can creative writing be taught?

Ian Jack comments (down below in the article) on HK’s comments on the above (in summary they agree: Yes, Yes, and NO, but Jack warns about the downsides of cutting the branch you are sitting upon). 

Hanif Kureishi thinks creative writing courses are a waste
of time, which is a dangerous thing to say given that he makes his
living (not all of it, but probably more of it than he does from his novels) as
a professor of creative writing at Kingston University. Telling a story well took a rare skill, he
told an audience at the Bath literary festival last weekend.
He estimated that perhaps 0.1% of his students had it. Could it be taught?
Kureishi didn’t think so. Would he pay money to take an MA in creative
writing himself? “No … that would be madness.”

We should feel sorry for all
concerned: for a university that may consequently face a sharp drop in fee
income; for Kureishi’s students, who have paid £5,800 each (£12,700 for non-EU
citizens) for their professor’s useless course; and not least for Kureishi
himself, biting the hand that fed him out of a rage (I speculate)
that he has to make money in this despicable way.

….But how do you explain the apparently unstoppable growth of a
vocational course for a vocation that is being remorselessly de-monetised? When
Kureishi started out, the University of
East Anglia had Britain’s only department of creative writing, which may
also have been the only one outside North America. Today no broad-based
university would dream of living without one, despite the fact that writing
(“literary” and otherwise) earns increasingly little money, if any at
all, and we are returning to the time when it was confined as an occupation to
those who had private incomes or the patronage of philanthropists and

What tempts students towards such an
unfeasible career?
A clue lies on
Kingston University’s website: “A Kingston University creative writing
MA graduate has been snapped up in a six-figure deal by one of the world’s
biggest publishers after her self-published books topped the Kindle download
rankings, selling tens of thousands of copies.” In other words, like winning the national lottery, it could happen
to you.

Workshopping is probably the most
hateful feature of writing courses,
easily mistaken for an American idea
because, like Alcoholics Anonymous, it believes in the benefits of group
frankness. In fact, according to a
professor of creative writing I once met in Chicago, the practice originated in
the early years of Soviet Russia, when Leninists wanted bourgeois activities
such as writing to assume the more muscular, proletarian habits of workers’
According to my American professor, Lenin found the results
hard-going when they were shown to him, and announced a preference for an old
favourite, Pushkin. In this, Hanif Kureishi and the Chairman of the Council of
People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union would have been at one.



Chicoms blame internet for terrorism

For all the (imaginary, real) trappings of prosperity China is never going to be able to afford democracy (forget liberal democracy), even to the point of unbanning youtube or facebook. This may be acceptable for most people, others I imagine simply dont care, and the miniscule number of activists do not count (or will be shouted down). But try as they might the manadarins will not be able to inoculate against derision. You dont have to do much, just quote their own statements verbatim. Mockery truly is the best policy.

Example: History and reality have shown that the Communist Party of China is a
loyal representative of the interests of people of all ethnic groups in
Xinjiang. Socialism is a broad road of prosperity for people of all
ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The great homeland is a beautiful home of
happy life for people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

The Xinjiang Room is named after the autonomous region of Xinjiang in
China’s northwest, which occupies one-sixth of the nation’s landmass.
Xinjiang is famous for its melons and flatbread, mosques and natural-gas
reserves. If that doesn’t sound very Chinese it’s because Xinjiang
culturally is much more Central Asian
than East Asian. In fact, Xinjiang’s name means New Frontier, and the
region was only given that appellation in 1884 when China’s Qing dynasty
had conquered its population of ethnic Uighurs and other minorities.

Since then, the region has chafed against rule from Beijing, which is
farther from Xinjiang’s Silk Road oases than Baghdad is. Memories of two
short-lived republics of East Turkestan, as some Uighurs prefer to
think of their homeland, have heightened separatist dreams ever since.

For many of us, this was why we were in the room. On March 1, black-clad assailants had unleashed a terrorism spree
in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, stabbing and slashing
passersby. By the time their rampage had ended, 29 people had been
killed and more than 140 injured. The government has blamed the attack
on “separatists from Xinjiang” who were also terrorists bent on jihad.
We wanted to know more. Who were they and where in Xinjiang were they
from? Should we expect more terrorism to come from disgruntled Uighurs?
Were the Kunming attackers jihadis or were they more motivated by
separatism? Could there be something else too that triggered this
horrific mass murder? What could the government do to win hearts and
minds in a tense, restive region?

But then, a postscript: as Xinjiang’s party secretary Zhang
Chunxian tried to leave the Xinjiang Room, a media scrum descended.
Zhang, a Han Chinese like nearly all of the men who have held the
highest-level post in the Uighur autonomous region, spoke his mind. The
main reason for the terrorism in Xinjiang was, drum roll: the flow of
information via the Internet.
Zhang said that nearly all terrorism in
Xinjiang was aided by terrorists jumping the Great Firewall constructed
by China’s state censors. 



MH370 (Kuala Lumpur to Beijing) is lost at sea

Let us hope against hope that some survivors can be found in time. This may or may not be connected to the ethnic disturbance that took some precious lives in Kunming recently (or given China’s rapacious record any number of discontents ranging from Burma to Kenya). Again let us hope for the best.

A search and rescue operation is underway after Malaysia Airlines said that a plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew on board went missing en route to Beijing.

Radar contact with the aircraft,
flight MH370, was lost in airspace controlled by Vietnam in the early
hours of Saturday morning, China’s
Xinhua news agency said. The aircraft did not enter airspace controlled
by China and did not make contact with Chinese controllers, Xinhua

statement published on Facebook by the airline said : “Malaysia
Airlines confirms that flight MH370 has lost contact with Subang Air
Traffic Control at 2.40am, today (8 March 2014). “Flight MH370,
operated on the B777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on 8
March 2014. MH370 was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same
day. The flight was carrying a total number of 227 passengers (including
2 infants), 12 crew members.



Youtube ban proposed for Turkey

Youtube is already banned in Pakistan (due to the blasphemous movie that Google has been court-ordered to delete) and in China, Iran and Turkmenistan [ref. wiki]. The next stop is likely to be Turkey.

Turkey’s prime minister has threatened drastic steps to censor the Internet, including shutting down Facebook and YouTube,
where audio recordings of his alleged conversations suggesting
corruption have been leaked in the past weeks, dealing him a major blow
ahead of this month’s local elections.

In a late-night interview Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan
told ATV station that his government is determined to stem the leaks he
insists are being instigated by followers of an influential US-based
Muslim cleric. He has accused supporters of Fethullah Gulen of
infiltrating police and the judiciary and of engaging in “espionage,”
saying that the group even listened in on his encrypted telephone lines.
The Gulen movement denies involvement.

“We are determined on
the issue, regardless of what the world may say,” Erdogan said. “We
won’t allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others.
Whatever steps need to be taken we will take them without wavering.”