NAIPAUL'S PIO STATUS BELITTLING INDIA
NAIPAUL’S PIO STATUS: BELITTLING INDIA
Naipaul is once again in the news – this time for wrong reasons of his own; he wants PIO card from Indian government without any proof of being person of Indian origin. The government has asked the High Commission in UK for a status report after it was discovered that the author was refused a PIO card for lack of documentation to prove his Indian origin. It seemed that the government wanted to oblige Naipaul and might issue the required status paper after paving a short cut to acquire it.
In order to bring persons of Indian origin closer to their home land – the mother land – of their forefathers and reinforce their emotional bonds, the scheme of providing PIO card was launched by the government of India in 2002. It was expected that persons given the origin-status would create better social, cultural and economic ties with rest of their brethren living in India. It was an act of mutual respect to be shown towards each other. So for, Naipaul had not indicated any inclination or even a remote trait which might enhance India’s prestige within or outside the country. On the contrary, he vituperated against Indian ethos and worked constantly belittling the land and its people. We had never appreciated if an artless and wounding vilification of our culture and icons were made without any sense or justification. In that respect Naipaul had tried to erode India’s cultural grace and glory. Naipaul is a colonially groomed writer freely paid for schooling and drilling at Cambridge, paying debt by portraying acrimoniously against the long lineage of his forefathers. He is neither a profound thinker nor a writer with deep sense of research and academic justice.
Indian government must have rules equally applicable to all. Once they are flouted, there will be no end to it. If you relax for Naipaul, you have to do the same for thousands others. A curious question arises here. Why does Naipaul want such a status? He was neither born nor brought up in India. He is a Caribbean by birth. He had his schooling in Trinidad, higher education at Cambridge and ultimately settled in UK. Why does he express so much fraternity to show himself being ‘Indian’ and wishes to obtain a certificate of his origin? In a globalised world of today, who cares about the country to which you originally belong? Naipaul is neither original British nor Trinidadian. He can not be technically called Indian. By his name and fame, he may belong to the whole world, but none of its region or country originally belongs to him. It is difficult to ascertain Naipaul’s country of origin. He has also indicated that his forefathers migrated from Nepal. If it is true how can he be given the status of a PIO?
Naipaul’s predicament is that he has lost his very basis – the ground which sustains an individual socially, culturally and provides a sense of pride which he may call the land of origin - not the land of his father or grand father, but of his preceding generations belonging to millenniums. A true Indian may boastfully pronounce that he belongs originally to the land of Buddha and Mahaveer; Ram and Krishna culturally and may also add recent metaphors like the land of Gandhi, Nehru and Vinoba or Tilak and Tagore. One may mention thousands other icons too. But Naipaul has none to quote. He originally belongs to the land of his father or grand father – Trinidad – a recognised fact – that’s all. It is here one feels a vacuum and tries to remember the ‘mother land” – the land of his origin – the land of his forefathers. One may not know his great grand father but knows Ashoka and Buddha well. He is proud of his ancient lineage. He originally belongs to their land or the land originally belongs to him. This is called the land of origin.
When a man loses his identity and basic ground – the land of origin, he loses every thing – name, fame and intrinsic self. He has to re-build it. No amount of power, prestige, awards or prizes can compensate the emptiness of soul that pines for the land of his forefathers. One may be living in London or Paris, but when he sleeps, he dreams of the fields and pastures of his native land, the meandering paths of villages of Gorakhpur, Ballia or Motihari and Madhepura. He desperately tries to find out the land of his origin in his dreams – is it UP or Bihar? Naipaul can claim nothing of the sort, not even in his dreams. Like an empty vessel he drifts to Trinidad, UK, Africa and India – such a great man with such emptiness! The people of India have a grudge against Naipaul. The basic point is that all men are equal before the law and no extra favour should be given to him. The other fact is much deeper – rather ticklish and difficult to express, but any how, the message must reach him. He never identifies himself with India or Indians. His heart never beats for his native land - Gorakhpur. A slave in shackles may dream of his mother land, but Naipaul who brutally disregards the country of his origin and its people can not express the feeling of love towards the land to which he originally belongs. Does he really deserve a PIO status?
When some time back, Naipaul’s book ‘The Writer’s people’ was to appear, “India Today”- a prestigious weekly of India had an exclusive preview of the same. The book was regarded ‘good, bad and ugly’. Why? As usual, by nature and habit, Naipaul degraded our icons specially Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba. ‘India Today’ issued a cover story and the book was accepted with mixed feelings. Naipaul termed Gandhi as ‘mentally denuded’ and Vinoba as a ‘fool’ (see India today, Sept. 10, 2007). The editor of the weekly, recalled when he was a student in London, that he was enraged at Naipaul for having exposed Indians so brutally to the world through his book which had appeared at that time, entitled ‘An Area of Darkness’ (1964). Naipaul’s memorable observation was “Indians defecate every where… on beaches; defecate on the hills; they defecate on river banks; they defecate on the streets; they never look for cover.” Naipaul has special memory cells always glowing and active to describe how Indians defecate. In his book ‘A Writer’s People’ too, he has charged his memory to describe “Indians defecating, farting and belching “(page 177). He describes Vinoba as a foolish man’ (page 172) and ‘holy fool’ (page 175). His memory cells elaborate ‘the innocence of fart’ (page 174) and finds Vinoba’s men “badly” ‘farting’ and ‘belching’ (page 175). May I ask: does Naipaul produce ‘symphony’ when he farts? So high and great yet farting! Naipaul forgets every thing in the wake of his damaging remarks against his own people – the Caribbeans, the Indians, the Africans and the British. He came into great controversy over his book – ‘A Writer’s People’ (2007). He is desperate to find out his roots and try to link himself to the persons like Derek Walcott, Henery Swanzy and Samuel Selvon to Gandhi, Huxley and Nirad Chaudhary. But he spares none; he kills them joyfully like a monkey smashing the hood of a cobra. One can imagine how frustration grasps the person who tries to find out his lost identity and gets more and more engulfed into the labyrinth of nomadic human mode and social contact. How Vidyadhar Suraj Prasad Nai…and his ancestors belonging to the rural hinterland of Eastern U.P. of Gorakhpur due to abject poverty, swim over to the far reaching land of West Indies, and start losing every thing including name, occupation and fame is no surprise to any body, but such situations do increase the mental capabilities of migrants to understand the home truth better than the native. How a Nai… becomes Naipaul or Vidyadhar assumes the shape of Vidia is a form of common understanding, but how a migrant treats his home icons and historical figures (like Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave) as ‘culturally denuded’ and ‘foolish’ or ‘holy fools’ is open to question and India as a Nation demands an answer, an enquiry and an explanation from Naipual and so do I. Naipaul seems to be intentionally bad and far away from portraying truthful account of Gandhi and Vinoba. With the passage of time Naipaul’s concepts of home truths might have blurred or sharpened (?), but who knows in future people might term him to be an achiever of Nobel but remained culturally eroded, ethnically clueless and all time idiot because of his continued damaging remarks on Indian culture, icons and the nation without any research to support him. He tries to cut off the very base of the branch of the tree on which he is sitting like a new NRK (non-resident Kalidas).
What does Naipaul know about Vinoba? It ill behoves a Nobel laureate to call Vinoba a ‘fool’. Does he find himself the wisest man on the earth? Naipaul is incapable of understanding Vinoba. To understand him is to understand the true culture and tradition of India. Vinoba joins both the ends together – Buddha’s past and Gandhi’s present – the Himalaya’s serenity and the massive power of non-violence – to change India. Naipaul is miles away from our traditional spiritualism, our long past and vision of society, economy, science and culture. We are not static people. We had produced Tagore much earlier than Naipaul was born. Even during colonial rule we had the capability of producing Raman and Nehru at one end and Gandhi and Subhash at the other. They are our icons who guide us. Naipaul has shown extremely poor interpretation of India’s historical facts and relationship. If Gandhi (according to Naipaul) has no knowledge of geography, Naipaul’s own approach to history seems to be imperfect. There is no link of Gandhi’s Dandi March to Vinoba’s Bhoodan Movement. Both differ in respect to their approach, content, purpose, planning and impact. All ‘Pad Yatras’ are not the same and should not be confused. Even Buddha marched till late his life spreading his message around the area now known as Bihar (traveller’s land) and part of Eastern U.P. to which Sir V.S. Naipaul’s ancestors so proudly belong. Naipaul has a lineage of such a great culture: such a great nation. Why does he feel ashamed of Indians who do not have sophisticated toilet habits? Is it every thing in life? Why does he harp on the same? There are reasons behind such maladies. Our culture developed in a different way than the West. We have yet not created urban culture of which the soft master- bed- room- toilet system is a part. There are other compelling factors which check such sophistication. We belong to the Tropics where every thing goes open; it is geographical compulsion; we have open houses, courtyards, open work places, fields and pastures, open theatre and far off open toilets - more of air, water and sun and a lot of flora to cover ourselves. Then there are other factors: our proverbial poverty, growing population and illiteracy which do not allow us to become so soft and urbanized. I have seen Vinoba using open toilet and heard of Gandhi doing the same in his early years of Ashram life. It will take centuries to change our poverty-stricken habits and create an altogether urbanized culture. We are a settled people, not a nomadic. We developed our culture not by fits and starts or in a jumping way. We had experienced a long settled system creating a culture of its own over a period of time. We had always lived a culturally creative aspect of life. We have lived, experienced and changed ourselves from a well settled ‘Forest Culture’ (Ararnya Samskriti) into an agrarian culture (slowly developed from forest to forest-cum-agrarian) spending several millenniums . Past cultural habits don’t die spontaneously. We have lived agrarian culture for long and still continuing the same way, but slightly changing according to the pace of industrialization. We are in agro-industrial stage of cultural set up in spite of our boasting of globalization. We have not copied others in cultural advancement or backwardness. Actually, culture can never be fully copied or imported. It flows slowly and silently. One can pick up some threads of other culture. But the settled people like Indians have always preferred to generate their own culture. The westerners have changed themselves in a jumping style, not experiencing the cultural aspect of any epoch in a stable manner. Nomadic don’t create their culture: they jump from one stage of development to another without generating a culture of their own. It is because it takes millenniums to create a culture and the west had not lived so long a particular stage of development as to create a culture of its own. We have still a sense of ‘Buddha’ in our lives and it is for this reason that we could create a Gandhi or a Vinoba out of our own. Indian culture is an integrated whole and has not developed through piece meal ways or in fractions. The people of the west can not boast of even a single ‘Junior Christ’ or a Christ like messiah again – the living embodiment of love and sacrifice within its long history of about two millenniums. It is because we have not jumped from one stage to another without experiencing a settled position which generates the culture of its own. Naipaul in this respect is an imitator, not a culturally grown man. We had a fully grown cultural life during our ‘Ararnya Samskrit’ and even lived with lions and monkeys as friends and a family creating ecologically balanced system of our green Planet. It is the western culture which has robbed of the whole Earth. Even we lived a long epoch of an agrarian development and created a specific culture. In spite of our poverty and hunger we don’t kill our cows for food because we love them culturally. This ‘understanding’ of culture is missing in the west. Once a Polish girl asked me crudely, “why people in India do not eat cows when they are so hungry (poor)”? I asked her retaliating: “Why don’t you eat your horses”? She had no answer to it because she had never ‘experienced’ the cultural aspect of her horses. Naipaul is culturally illiterate in this sense. He questions our so many culturally imbibed habits – good or bad. Since these habits are with us over a long period of time, the bad ones will take their own time to change. From Buddha to Gandhi, all have used open toilets (covered with a lot of flora) and the future environmental scientists would say that it was environmentally friendly habit. Vinoba used to have a small garden trowel (Khurpi) while defecating and covering excreta in a pit instantly. Only an environmentalist can appreciate, not a kind of person as Nailpaul is. The modern sewage system is putting a lot of problems and pressure on environmentalists because ‘whole of it’ can not be recycled. It is damaging rivers and polluting the oceans tremendously all over the world. Has Naipaul any answer to it? It is the problem of the whole world. Has Naipaul any idea of the work being done by Bindeshwar Pathak? Surprisingly, he too belongs to Vinoba’s camp.
Vinoba’s Bhoodan Movement had no political mission while Gandhi’s Salt march had political intent – a call against the government. The pity was while portraying Vinoba, Naipaul exhibited only superficial understanding of the Saint’s life and his works. Naipaul did wrong reporting by mentioning that the movement of Vinoba was not backed by legal process (page 174). All the state governments where the saint marched had passed Bhoodan Act and the donation of land used to be finalized through legal documentation by filling up a pledge form - land donation deed (Dan Patra) - duly signed by the donor along with the witnesses (see the specimen of land donation deed in appendix to the writer’s book ‘Bhoodan Movement in India’, S. Chand & CO, New Delhi 1972). The other fact which Naipaul distorted was Vinoba’s taking one-year leave from the Ashram to study Sanskrit and Philosophy under Narayan Shastri Marathe of Pradnya Pathashala at Wai (not at Banaras). Naipaul put it in a manner to create an impression that Vinoba due to hard work got ill at the Ashram and Gandhi had asked him to leave and regain health first (page 17 2). It was not correct. The facts were distorted by Naipaul so as to paint a person to project his wrong image, providing nothing but hollowness of the author himself in treating his ‘People’ or the subject material. Why did Naipaul choose such a subject of which he had no clear idea or understanding? Vinoba was active with his mission when Naipaul visited India for the first time. If this subject was so fascinating to him, he should have tried to gather more knowledge, understanding about the non-violent content of Bhoodan and should have personally contacted Vinoba. Naipaul has miserably failed in creating an in-depth study of his chosen characters or the ‘people’ (with many of them he had not even remotest link) in his book - ‘A Writer’s People’ specially Gandhi and Vinoba.
Vinoba lived the life the way he explained human existence in his ‘Talks on the Gita’. Life is a force, a journey and it is not ‘what it is’ , but what it ought to be; how do you take it; what do you make out of it? It is to be shaped through your efforts – Karma – a difficult concept to be understood by Naipaul. At the fag end of his life, there is little time left for him to understand the nuances of Indian Philosophical approach to life and instead of acquiring a piece of paper relating to his origin, Naipaul should have engaged himself deeply in true efforts to understand life, going through Vinoba’s ‘Talks on the Gita’ keeping aloof, unmindful of his origin, status, and history. If he pursues the path truthfully, he would be labelled as a true Indian, born and brought up in Trinidad, lived in SW of London, but his heart had a sense of smell of the land of Gorakhpur – Eastern U.P. – India – the land of his forefathers – the land of Buddha and Mahaveer – the land of his own origin. Naipaul must know that Vinoba means by spiritualism, an orderly control, a brake on one’s body and mind. Every vehicle has a brake to keep the speed in order. Naipaul is recklessly driving his pen, damaging India, its icons – killing his own people. Would he put restraint on himself? If this does not move him, he should retire to his study; take out the old volume of his schooldays companion, the book - a terse Victorian anthology - which he keeps but desists ‘Palgrave’s The Golden Treasury’ and there is much for him to revise, but just concentrate on a line of the verse by T. Gray for instance: “The paths of glory lead to the grave”. Nothing else can sound him better. Had Vinoba been alive today, he would not have taken ill of what Naipaul opined about him. He was above all such mundane considerations. He would have rather blessed Naipaul for his good life and brighter future and asked him to work for love, truth and compassion and propagate world peace. One may find the reflection of the same Indian spirit and culture among the disciples of Gandhi and Vinoba when he visits Rajghat (New Delhi). Unmindful of Naipaul’s attack on their Masters, they still keep Naipaul’s books along with Gandhian literature at their bookshop near the Samadhi in New Delhi with equal reverence. This can happen only in India. As it is difficult for Naipaul to understand Vinoba, so is for others to know clearly the inner self of Naipaul without going through the history of human migration, the colonial rule and mass exodus to the far reaching lands, the geography of human settlement and psycho-analytical study of the migrants and their character influencing society, getting recognition, gaining popularity and achieving success or failure. He should also have well grounding in human sociology, individual and community culture, ups and downs of human aspirations, formation and breaking up of families and societies and rise and fall of human groups and sentiments. Naipaul as an individual represents a force relating to human civilization that has lived its past and projects a vision of future through his hooded eyes. Naipaul knows very little about himself and his origin as he lives and acts on instincts and impulses and is the product of fragmented ideologies and borrowed nationalism. It is a riddle to ascertain him: who is he? Is he a Trinidadian? No. Is he an English man? No. Is he an Indian? No. He is a living embodiment of self esteem personified in his own works of fiction and non-fiction. He is a reservoir of intellectual force ready to open the flood-gates of knowledge to generate power through churning ways of his worded turbines. His writings produce electric shocks as he himself does so. It is like curing a wounded and paralyzed civilization through power-shocks. And he is shockingly truthful.
Tags: Naipaul , Vinoba , Gandhi , PIO Status , A Writer'S People , An Area Of Darkness India , Afiction Non Fiction Writ
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