En­dur­ing In­dia

An Ital­ian diplo­mat praises a na­tion built on Hin­duism

India Today - - LEISURE - By Dhi­raj Nay­yar

Aus­ter­ity is a four- let­ter word in Europe. Fed up with be­ing told to tighten their belts, thou­sands across the con­ti­nent have taken to the streets in protest. From Euro­pean eyes, the stoic calm of hun­dreds of mil­lions of In­di­ans who have lived in a state worse than aus­ter­ity– poverty— for more than six decades, must seem ex­tra­or­di­nary. An­to­nio Armellini, a dis­tin­guished Ital­ian diplo­mat and a for­mer am­bas­sador to In­dia, be­lieves that he has found the ex­pla­na­tion for In­dia’s pa­tience, tol­er­ance and in­deed unity in shared val­ues of Hin­duism.

There are sev­eral pit­falls in writ­ing a for­eigner’s per­spec­tive on In­dia. If the Elephant Flies suf­fers from some. To be fair, it is a book orig­i­nally writ­ten in Ital­ian for an Ital­ian au­di­ence, so some of the ob­ser­va­tions of the writer, which may seem ob­vi­ous and oftre­peated to an In­dian reader, may be orig­i­nal for an Ital­ian au­di­ence. There are, how­ever, ad­van­tages. For ex­am­ple, Armellini will sur­vive not be­ing la­belled a rav­ing Hindu na­tion­al­ist when he writes about the con­tri­bu­tion of Hin­duism ( as dis­tinct from po­lit­i­cal Hin­dutva) in build­ing the strength of the In­dian na­tion state.

For a coun­try so of­ten dis­mis­sive of for­eign views about it— per­haps a legacy of anti- colo­nial­ism— it can be quite use­ful to read an ob­jec­tive cri­tique. This book is re­fresh­ing in parts be­cause it is writ­ten from a per­spec­tive of a non- English speak­ing small Euro­pean na­tion state, not the more com­mon An­glo- Saxon per­spec­tive. The book has in­ter­est­ing por­tions on Italy’s con­tri­bu­tion to In­dia’s na­tion- build­ing— re­mem­ber the Premier Pad­mini? It is op­ti­mistic about In­dia’s fu­ture. Elephants can run at a brisk pace, even if they never fly.

IF THE ELEPHANT FLIES: IN­DIA CON­FRONTS THE TWENTY- FIRST CEN­TURY

by AN­TO­NIO ARMELLINI Har Anand Price: RS 995 Pages: 432

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