Atanu Dey On India's Development

Konark and Beyond

“We shall do such things, what they shall be I know not, but they shall be the terror of the earth”. That’s Shakespeare’s King Lear making his new year’s resolutions, I suppose. My more modest goals are to blog more regularly, and avoid matters related to religion and politics. How one can reasonably comment on the economy without reference to R & P is a mystery to me. But I shall strive.

After a few days in Bhubaneswar, I am now in Kolkata for a bit. Kolkata is nicely cold. The temperatures are a decent 12 degrees C minimum. It even rained a fair bit yesterday. This morning’s fog gives a dreamy look to the city.

With each visit, I note that the number of mosques goes up steadily and the loudspeakers they use get a bit louder and their hours of operation gets longer. Within ear-shot, I estimate about a couple of dozen mosques. Around 4 AM, they are loud enough to wake the dead. But it seems that it is not sufficient to wake the people around here because they take the decline in their stride (pardon the mixed metaphors). I regularly receive updates from the IT Ministry of West Bengal about how much investment is flowing into the state in the IT sector. I get the distinct feeling that they are busy congratulating themselves on how pretty the deck chair arrangements look, while below decks the holds are fast taking in water.

Moving on to more pleasant topics, the visit to Konark was excellent. The Konark Sun Temple is worth a visit from anywhere on this planet. Built sometime around the 13th century, it was a statement of defiance and triumph. The temple is built as a chariot for the Sun god who is known as “Arka” and thus “Kon-ark.” The “chariot” is intricately carved out of stone and has huge exquisitely carved wheels. The wheel virtually symbolizes the state of Orissa.

The one-day sight seeing trip around Bhubaneswar included Puri’s Jaggannath Temple as well. Sunday 14th January was Makar Sankrant. That was given as the reason for why the Jaggannath temple complex was so crowded. Though religious devotion is a mystery to me, I still marvel at the devotion of the people. These temples are not easy to visit. The experience is exhausting. (The word “juggernaut” derives from Jaggannath, FYI.)

After the Jaggannath temple crowds, it was great to hang out at a beach in Puri. It was fun to wade into the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal. The road hugs the shoreline and we just stopped at a random place and went to the beach. Walking on the sand, I wondered where all the sand comes from. Did you know that sand is not “made” at the beach but rather somewhere inland and it just gets transported to beaches and deserts?

I had fun visiting places that I had never been to before. Once again, I realized that India is a land which has an incredibly rich heritage. So how does one explain the paradox of poor people who have a rich heritage? Why has India been ruled for so long? The short answer is of course that here were riches waiting to be plundered. Since Indians generally don’t put up a fight, it was like snatching candy from kids.

“While we hold on to India, we are a first-rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third-rate power. This is the value of India.” I came across that candid evaluation by Lord Curzon in a BBC report on UK-India relations. One hundred years have passed since he said that. The British left, have exhausted their power to extract any more out of India. But what was taken was material wealth. What remains is the rich heritage that cannot be taken away. That rich heritage can only be lost through either collective amnesia or suicide.

I choose to end this with the words of an English poet—Alfred, Lord Tennyson—from his poem Ulysses:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

  • http://valluvar.blogspot.com shiv

    They took away more than the minerals and pelts. They even took away your ‘rich heritage’. That is why atanu dey writes in english and quotes tennyson and shiv comments back in english…

    Atanu’s response: Tut, tut, Shiv, you are focusing on the wrong bits. First, I deliberately chose to quote Shakespeare and Tennyson. Englishmen no doubt but the thoughts they expressed is what I am concerned with. I belong to the human family and therefore I have every right to claim kinship to all the greats of every land and of any time. It is the thought that matters to me, and I don’t really care where a person was born, what the color of his skin was, what language he spoke, etc. Language is just the superficial container. The content, and not the container, matters to me.

    We must realize that the deep insights that Indians of the past had are not the sole property of Indians; all humans have a rightful claim to them. In fact, one of the most important thoughts is in the Rig Veda which in effect proclaims “Let noble thoughts come to us from all universe.” Compare that to the narrow minded bigoted viewpoint of the world expressed by some others (also from the same illustrious human family, though) which says that only a chosen few have the “Absolute Truth” (TM) and if you refuse to believe that, they will kill you.

    I write in English merely because it is the language I know best. If I had a different personal history, I no doubt would have written in Bengali (my mother tongue) or whatever. Ultimately it does not matter–as long as I have some command of at least one language in which to express my thoughts and feelings. Someone who cares enough but doesn’t know English, can read me in translation. So also, as long as I have the English translation of any worthwhile thought expressed in any other language, I have access to that thought.

    Since we are on this topic, let me also state why I like English. It uses the Roman script. The Roman script makes a lot more sense to me than the Devanagari script or any other Indian scripts. This is just a pragmatic matter. Just like I believe that the Indian system of representing numbers (decimal system) is superior to the Roman number system. It would be silly for an Italian to insist on using the Roman system and to reject the Indian system on the grounds that the latter was “not invented here.”

  • Guru

    Atanu, would being an atheist make it difficult to comprehend and comment on the economy? I ask this not as a rhetorical question but a genuine one.

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  • http://sloganmurugan.blogspot.com SloganMurugan

    The white sands on coral islands are made in the guts of a certain fish species that eat up coral.

  • http://sloganmurugan.blogspot.com SloganMurugan

    Fickr not, there’s a whole new generation here to make some wealth for ourselves

  • jala

    If Shiv will agree,
    What Atanu simply meant was the Age-old Rigveda thought…..
    Let good-thoughts come to us from all sides.
    Apologies are intended, as I do not know the Sanskrit verse in question.

    Language is Breeze, Thought is the fragrence.
    It’s enought to get the thought.

    Thanks for bearing my poetry.

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