Look­ing to the Fu­ture

India Today - - MAIL -

As a so­ci­ety given to rit­u­als and time­less­ness, In­dia is not naturally in­clined to in­tro­spec­tion. A cer­tain ad ho­cism has de­fined the col­lec­tive men­tal­ity of a peo­ple ac­cus­tomed to let­ting events shape their des­tiny. In­di­ans have read­ily ac­cepted and adapted to change but have shown a cu­ri­ous re­luc­tance to ini­ti­ate it. In­stinc­tively, the coun­try has pre­ferred tra­di­tion and habit to rad­i­cal­ism. It isn’t con­ser­vatism. In­tel­lec­tual lazi­ness would be a bet­ter de­scrip­tion.

So it is af­ter 50 years of the Repub­lic. Speak­ing in the Con­stituent As­sem­bly, S. Rad­hakr­ish­nan spoke of a new or­der that would “break

mould”— an ex­pres­sion that held out the prom­ise of dy­namism and con­stant churn­ing. The op­ti­mism proved re­mark­ably un­founded. A new or­der in place, In­dia set­tled into its new or­tho­dox­ies. The de­tached pa­ter­nal­ism of the Bri­tish Raj was ef­fort­lessly re­placed by an in­tru­sive so­cial­ist raj based on con­trols. “Ba­boo rule”— that fear of colo­nial ro­man­tics like Lord Curzon and Rud­yard Ki­pling— be­came the unap­petis­ing base be­neath the demo­cratic ic­ing. The “Hindu rate of growth” be­came the eu­phemism for in­sti­tu­tion­alised sloth and medi­ocrity. Suc­cess at­tracted 97 per cent taxes and “brain drain” be­came the gen­tle de­scrip­tion for the first refugees from the li­cence-per­mit raj.

Of course, it wasn’t all gloom and doom. Re­mark­ably adept in the art of sur­viv­ing, In­dian in­ge­nu­ity took on the task of beat­ing the sys­tem. The Art­ful Dodger ceased to be some­thing out of Dick­ens; he be­came the ar­che­typal In­dian. by Swa­pan Das­gupta Jan­uary 2000

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