It’s a small gesture, but a strong assertion of identity. India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performed Shastra Puja right before taking ownership of Rafale fighter jet.
Some years ago, when BJP was still in the opposition, there was a firestorm over purported comments from Rajnath Singh about how much damage the English language had done to the nation. The media of the day, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the government of the day, joined in the mockery: is it not regressive to turn our backs on English, the global language of science and commerce?
Except, the media had (deliberately?) missed the nuance in what Rajnath Singh had said. He had not blamed English (Angrezi) itself; rather he had blamed “Angreziyat” which could probably be translated as something like “Englishness.” He was referring to a worldview, one that demeans anything and everything Indian and imports everything from accents to superstitions from abroad.
An American friend who took a deep interest in India once asked me, my Indian news anchors, speaking in English, tend to mispronounce Indian names. This was around 2008.
As a result of this “Angreziyat”, the vast majority of Indians were cut out from the mainstream and all positions of power and privilege came to be occupied by a tiny elite. In doing so, we ended up wasting perhaps 99% of our human capital.
You will see much of the same attitudes play out over the Rafale induction ceremony from yesterday. Hundreds of millions of Indians will feel happy to see the several thousand years old Om symbol on the side of the ultra-modern Rafale. A few thousand people, perhaps even a few hundred people, will pooh pooh this, make all sorts of jokes about it and cry that India is going ‘backwards.’ The same people, however, would not grudge watching British royalty in their funny hats, carrying out all sorts of their arcane traditions.
Actually, without the rising tide of Hindu assertion, India will go nowhere. Because self-hatred has never been a successful way to develop a nation.
Imagine how amused the Germans would be if they found out that Indian elites are lamenting that our kids might not be learning enough German in schools. Lamenting that they might end up learning Sanskrit instead. Without German, how will Indian kids compete in the modern world? Who knows, maybe the way the French do just fine without knowing German, even though they live next door to Germany!
This pathetic self-hatred of our elites would be funny, except for all the real damage it has done.
The Chinese tried the cultural revolution. They wanted to get rid of everything in ancient Chinese culture and replace it with stuff that was “modern.” It ended in genocide and ruin. Then, they had a change of heart. Today, China upholds its ancient culture with pride. As China’s global power increases, they are able to export their culture and get the whole world to regard it with the respect and admiration it deserves.
The same goes for Israel. After the Second World War, the Jewish people finally had their own state. Their ancient Hebrew language was nearly dead by then. Most Jewish people coming into Israel from all over the world had lost the language generations ago. But Israel began a national project for reviving their lost tongue and today the language thrives in their country. At the same time, Israel has established itself as the only democracy in the Middle East and as a global technological power. All of it against seemingly impossible odds.
The British don’t get into bouts of self loathing about their kings and queens and funny-sounding hats and crowns and titles. They thrive on it. They see it as a treasured marker of British identity. People come from all over the world to see the wonder and the pageantry.
And there’s, of course, the French, from whom we purchased the Rafale itself. The French are unrelenting and unapologetic in the ideals of their revolution. The French insist on the complete removal of religion from the public sphere. That’s why the face veil is banned in France. No apologies. When in France, be like the French. Remember that France is the most visited country in the world. The world appreciates those who are authentic and true to their identity.
The world rarely appreciates rootless elites who have nothing to offer from their own culture but get by on pale imitations of those of others. Except when it needs them as useful idiots.
The election of 2014 brought about a deep churn in Indian society. The classes left out from “Angreziyat” came to the fore and took control of their own destiny.
And you may have noticed that Indian news anchors no longer mispronounce Indian names.
I don’t know about you, but I’m actually looking forward to Indian elites making fools of themselves hating on the Om symbol on the side of the Rafale.