Sunday, 17 April 2016

Gurugram!

Gurugram! Yet again, another day, another point for controversy. This most recent event has again attracted comments, thankfully muted; while one side sees it as justified, the other side sees it as excessive, or needless, or incorrect. Good point is that the response is muted – though it could be that the event is also small in scale. But you can notice the comments and observations by the nay-sayers, who for once I don’t agree with.



Indeed, some see a Hindutva agenda in this; while others find the downmarket, some others worry about Business. How can a name create dissonance is what I would like to know, for starters. Arent we seeing too much when we say this? How can a name of a city impact business its prospects? One article even carried a comment from a Westerner that this name will defeat them! Do we do business with city names, or on business fundamentals? Some people stated “Gurgaon had acquired a global and high-end cache despite being a "vernacular" name and that Gurugram will simply not have that brand sheen”:


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On the Hindutva agenda, I can appreciate the concerns; but let us not get paranoid now. What possible impact can such a step have – even if it is part of a so-called Hindutva agenda, which I doubt? As it is we see far too many names on the Nehru-Gandhi Family, and clich├ęd names; I for one am all for name changes that better reflect the diversity of the Indian Cultural Scenario.  And, given that we have an established and long history, there is a crying need for the right names that are better reflective of our history; this will help in building pride.



These reactions are only to be expected, and you can expect more of the same. This arises out of a complex situation curdled by our addled understanding of history as well as our penchant for fawning over Western symbols and The English Lanuage. Add to this our rising desire to establish a local pride and a unique identity for ourselves.  So long as that identity is multicultural, we will be fine. The comments clearly identify the Western penchant and the Hindutva Bugbear. Here, through the analogy of books, I look at the Western Penchant of ours.



India went through absolute hell {far, far more than our history books tell}; right till 1947 – something which has created a complex situation which is going to take time to resolve. Be it the Religious issues, or the issue of Language over English & Hindi, or be it the habit of sneering at our traditions and ancient history that some anglicized people have – our past experiences have created an identity crisis in us. It would have destroyed a lesser nation; it didnt us. That is one.  



Second, the West does have a disturbing tendency of in-your-face arrogance of a very high order indeed. That is two.   Quite a few city names have their origins in the Colonial rape, and have no connect with either history or reality. There is absolutely nothing wrong in getting it right, or changing names. That is three.  



Why do we fawn over westerners? Let us study this through an analogy : I just came back from a mall, and I did not find even one single Indian business book in a bookstore measuring well over 1000 sq ft! And tonnes of business books by westerners. This is, well, just not acceptable. This isnt ethnocentricism. I found Shakespeare - the full collection, a rack full of western classics - but very, very few Indian classics. We do tend to, most of us, fawn needlessly over western stuff which just isnt upto the mark, to be brutally honest. That is four.  



To be blunt : I find more meaningful literature and books on roadside thhelaas than in swank AC bookstores, which are full of meaningless stuff. Not one of my past, oh - 136 book reviews is from bookstores - thhelaas, online, small tiny bookstores, etc. That is a fact, Look up my blog for the book reviews. Not even one; and they still arent found. Saddest part is that the non-fiction titles are containing solid irrefutable official evidence from across three continents; but we still lap up biased Western stuff.  



That is the reality of India, sir. We ape and fawn over the west, one hell of a lot; sample the comments above.   In this environment, some dose of national pride and sentiment are vital. It fuels national pride, when used in the right doses. That is  why I make no comment on Gurugram; to me it is fine. Gurgaon was also fine; this is in some ways, better, it has a nice feel to it. But that is an individual matter.



It is frankly of no material importance whether we are or arent ethnocentric per se; it becomes vital when we just refuse to recognise, as a people, genuine Indian Achievements and Indian contributions. It becomes an issue when you actually sneer at the past, and callously dismiss it as Myth, or counter-factual, or unimportant; holding onto imported views of our culture and our history.



Look at the books reviewed on my blog. One book - India, Uninc - contains precise economic data-  authentic data, and is a class analysis of the Indian Economy. I have not found it anywhere in any bookstore, save one in Thane. Ditto my latest read : Wisdom of The Ants, a seminal invesigation on Economics and its history, dealing in Keynesian and NeoClassical schools and their current influence; I havent seen it in any book store anywhere, Ditto Upanishad, or Ved, Dramas, Kabir, Tulsidas... while every store carries western books.



I am using books just to drive home the point; ethnocentricity, if in control - is actually better than the current state of fawning over western symbolism. Just how does Gurgaon sound right, and Gurugram doesn’t; why does Gurgaon sound right despite having a Vernacular name? Thus, Vernacular is unacceptable, and the Anglicized Gurgaon isn’t?



Sad part is – the comment is spot-on accurate – it does seem to have that sheen. That is the worst part of it, and is a mirror on us; I  learnt a lot and was eventually able to correct my deep-seated mis-impression, thanks to this insightful comment. This argument isnt about Gurugram, or Cricket alone - it is a backlash; a strong and hard backlash against Westernism in every sphere of life.



In the same article, you can spot comments in support, for very ethnic reasons that immediately click, like this one by Prof Abraham Koshy : ” Gurugram will take a long time to take hold as a new name in the minds of people. But, interestingly, he also said the new name can become a plus: "It is the village of teachers. With its credentials, it's like saying we are the teachers to the world. If carefully utilised, it can be a big plus."



This is ably supported by other pointers and events from India : The data in The Indian Media Business 3rd / 4th edi shows increasing sales and penetration of the vernacular language Media and Books; The Kellogg's case teaches us to craft Indian responses to Business Strategies, not just replicate Western models; rising popularity of local music {Katyaar Kalzaat Ghusli, Mangalashta Once More in Marathi for example} and the rising usage of ethnic streams in music + rise in classical music teaches us to give a heed to Indian trends;



The problem is and remains a deep-seated complex, a western fawning. This isnt phobia, and there is nothing wrong with taking the good from alien cultures, as a cursory glance at the 136 books I have reviewed will prove. Why should it be so - when there is quality literature in Indian writing? Why the overt presence western classics, and the complete absence of Indian classics ,as an example? That proves the western fawning; this  is the fault of the Indian People, which proves the analogy I was using..   Thus, it is vital that some ethnocentricism comes into play, to reinforce a pride in our culture.



Books are just an analogy; I can use other terms of reference, plenty around us - be it movies where we place needless emphasis on Oscars, or a refusal to engage with our ancient culture and traditions, or regarding our ancient developments as not important, or our penchant with English, or be it any other example. This is ubiquitous, and is to be seen in any number of examples; the good part is that it is slowly receding.



Almost everywhere you look - the Indian is rejecting  the Western Symbols {not saying Gurugram, please} emphatically; and is in a hunt for the true comfort and identity. Yes – there are other complicating factors; there are others considerations. But the Anglicized fawning looked at above is undeniable. This hunt will continue till the question of identity is resolved, as superbly taken up Pavan Verma in his book  "Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity". We have no choice but to adjust; the Indian masses seem to have woken up from their stupor. None too soon! 


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