An Italian diplomat praises a nation built on Hinduism
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