Diplomat urges Indians to reclaim culture
Flipping through his father’s papers, diplomat and author Pavan K. Varma chanced upon a report that his father had written as a young district officer of the Indian Civil Services.mumbai Updated: Feb 24, 2010 00:58 IST
Flipping through his father’s papers, diplomat and author Pavan K. Varma chanced upon a report that his father had written as a young district officer of the Indian Civil Services.
His father’s British superior had made notations in the margin, correcting language and grammar.
The superior’s action, notes Varma in his latest book, Becoming Indian, would have surely left his father, a gold medallist from the Allahabad University, feeling “inferior”.
“This sense of inferiority was an inherent part of the colonial structure,” said Varma, 56, settling into a comfy sofa at hotel in Bandra-Kurla Complex hours before the launch of his book on Tuesday.
The current Indian ambassador to Bhutan rued that over six decades after Independence, English remains the most powerful language
in India and has become a means of social and economic exclusion.
In his “most important book so far”, the History graduate from St Stephen’s college draws on modern history, contemporary events and personal experience, to stress the need for India to re-appropriate its past and culture.
Exploring the impact of British rule on Indian psyche, Varma writes that the link – between devaluing one’s own past and embracing what the ruler seeks to impose — is a recurring theme of colonialism.
“India cannot expect to sit at the high table of world affairs as a photocopy,” he said sipping his brewed coffee.
“India cannot become a derivative civilization or a caricature. Badly spoken English cannot be our lingua franca.”
The comment may seem incongruous coming from one who has written several books including Ghalib: The Man, The Times; The Great Indian Middle Class and Being Indian__all in English.
“I am condemned to write in English,” he laughed adding that his education was entirely in English.
But he differentiates between the language of communication (“ English is essential to interface with the globalised world”) and the language of culture (“one that we sing and abuse in”).
Deprecating the education system, he added, “One has to be rooted in his mother tongue Teaching Baa Baa Black
Sheep to children can only lead to a nation of linguistic half-castes.”