Triumph of the Gujarati

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Election 2019 reflects a victory of the Gujarat model. But not the model you are thinking of. Not even that other, more sinister model. It is something very fundamental, rooted deeply in economic ecologies.

Human beings are shaped fundamentally by the networks they find themselves embedded in. In India, these networks overwhelmingly take the shape of caste groups marked by an occupational role, social status and marital rules.

For the North Indian peasant, with an economy driven by land and service to an imperial power, caste identity emphasizes kinship and honor. Biradari literally means brotherhood, and membership is conditioned on izzat.

For the Gujarati merchant, in a dry region of relatively unproductive land, caste identity emphasizes pooled resources, adherence to fiscal norms and shared interests. Even for the peasant Patels, caste is today fundamentally an economic union, channelized into farming and dairy cooperatives.

2019 might well be the year that the North Indian peasant realizes the futility of imbibing a kinship and honor based caste identity. On the one hand, these networks simply do not provide the resources to grow and thrive in a post-agrarian world. And even if optimally politicized, the sheer number of caste groups makes the gains from achieving political power limited and concentrated.

The North Indian does realize the need for new kinds of networks. And Modi’s opening up of North India to the world, via a liberal visa policy, river transport from the Bay of Bengal all the way upto Noida and big ticket global engagement platforms like the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shinkansen would not have escaped the eye of the sharp Yadav and Jat, who realize that they will have to reach out to the world to grow.

After all, previous engagements with foreigners in the recent past have given Indians globally important automobile and IT industries.

India today is more open to the world than ever before. Everybody from Peru to Russia to Ghana to Indonesia can come in after submitting a simple electronic form. Less than 7 million people visited India in 2013, by 2016 that number more than doubled to 15 million. Modi’s Gujarati mind grasps the decisive role of networks in the growth of individual, and he might have well coaxed the North Indian to look beyond his caste tunnel.

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The Yamnaya Go Hollywood

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They pulled into the Mann’s Chinese Theater on horseback wearing designer pelts. Some tourists got their skulls bashed in, but they were good sports about it. Valet parking for the horses was adequate.

OK, it was actually a PBS documentary, but it’s all the same to our friends from overseas:

You can see the full episode here:

https://www.wliw.org/programs/nova/first-horse-warriors-nm9uzf/

The episode was really about the domestication of the horse, proposed as a game changer in human civilization. The present day Kazakhstan Steppe tribe that accomplished this, the Botai (descended from the Ancient North Eurasian) later died out. Their horses then returned to the wild in Mongolia.

But who cares about any of that right? The latter part of the episode is all about our glorious Steppe barbarian ancestors, the Yamnaya who stole/appropriated this horse domestication technology and combined it with the wagon to ravage the Eurasian steppe, eventually propagating their Proto-Indo-European language all the way up to England and down to India.

One German fellow believes there’s no evidence for a handful of guys on horsey riding down and massacring most everyone, but all the other scientists interviewed seem to disagree. The key point is that the genetics don’t lie, with today’s Europeans having 50% and South Asians having 30% ancestry going back to the Steppe.

Overall, it’s a very good documentary. One of the best, maybe. Although I could be biased because I’m R1A. I especially like the Scandinavian scientists and their accents.

As a side note I find it very interesting also the notion that language is connected with wealth and power and people will drop their own language and adopt another one to suit these ends. In India, the Tamils and Bengalis are most anxious about the status of their language even though they have the least to worry about. In Bihar, our languages of Maithili, Magahi, and Bhojpuri (which descend from the language of ancients, Gautam Buddha and the Emporer Ashok) have in 2 generations largely been replaced by Hindi (which  contrary to those maps out there, was not ever vastly the language of the average man on the street in North/Central India, but really the dialect of small region around New Delhi):

 

But because it’s associated language Urdu had status in the Mughal empire, there were people in positions of power or influence everywhere who knew Hindi/Urdu. Supposedly Bihar was the first state to adopt Hindi as its official language in post-independence India, even though at the time it wasn’t the language of 99% of the people in the state.

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