Looking to the Future
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