Demise of the bilingual intellectual!

One of the exciting things about Diwali, the festival of lights, in my homestate was reading the special issues brought out by variety of publishing houses. These special issues are called “Diwali Anka”. However, oflate we have found that the wirteups seemed to be loosing steam with every Diwali. So much so that last Diwali we did not get the special issues at all!

Same is the story with marathi news papers. In the race to appear as flashy and colorful as possible, most of these papers have lost substance. They pander to the smug middle class sensibility which is typically non confrontational and prefers status quo over almost all important issues. Unfortunately they form the major chunk of the market and running a newspaper is more of economics than promoting debate and intellectual stimulation.

The newspapers in English, on the other hand, have done quite well in terms of having a balanced mix of entertainment and substance. I always wondered why is this so. Fortunately, Ramchandra Guha provides an interesting answer in this very well written article in a recent issue of the Economic and Political weekly.

He very aptly points out the decline of the bilingual intellectual from the Indian social scene and suggests that as a reason for the deterioration of intellectual discourse in the regional languages in India.

I completely agree with his assessment. Let me know what you think!

1 Comment

Filed under social perspectives

One response to “Demise of the bilingual intellectual!

  1. vivek

    Last year Ramachandra Guha published an essay on the demise of the bilingual intellectual in India.
    Guha does not claim to be, properly speaking, bilingual and thus his essay does not purport to reveal why any claim he might have to be an intellectual expired long ago.
    Guha spends some time quoting the always hilarious Mahatma who thought Raja Rajmohan Roy would have been a better intellectual if he hadn’t known English! Guha does not mention that Gandhi was not an intellectual. Guha goes on about Rajaji- again NOT an intellectual- including a book for kids he wrote which his daughter or grand-daughter or somebody translated into Hindi which is important because…urm… well, like Rajaji wrote a book right? And people who write books are intellectuals? Y’know, like Jeffery Archer and … urm P.G Woodhouse and like some other guy was a librarian or something and this other poor bastard had the misfortune to earn his bread as a Prof. of Eng Lit and so, like, he must have been an intellectual right?
    Not so. It aint even belles lettres its just Gresham’s Law publishing.
    The task of the intellectual has very little to do with language- even in hermeneutics. Maths can capture some of what the intellectual is doing- and the reason intellectual activity is now divorced from language is coz technology makes it much easier to number crunch and thus evaluate positive theories rather than invest simply in attitudinizing and pi-jaw.
    Granted people like Guha are still able to make a living by peddling that shit. But they aint intellectuals- just a careerist claque hired for the encouragement of the Balzacian prostitutes strutting the Comic Opera stage of Public life.
    Did India produce actual real life intellectuals? Guys who had original thoughts and who worked them up into a system and sought to validate them empirically so as to give policy prescription a more productive basis than paranoid polemics and careerist claptrap?
    Yes, actually India did, does and will continue to do so. Caste and dialect and which fucking school you went to don’t come into it. Sorry but there it is.
    What is striking in everything Guha writes is how much of it one already knows. The point about doing research is uncovering stuff that aint common knowledge and using that new information to put forward a more thought provoking model. In Mimamsa, apoorvata is a condition for meaning. That’s right, you’ve got to have something new to say to qualify as being capable of using language meaningfully. But that means you need an inquiring mind- to have alternative, competing, models thronging in your mental background so that you can evaluate and assimilate new stuff you turn up when researching a topic.
    There is no fundamental problem in which any district of India has not produced a ‘son of the soil’ with something valuable from which all can learn . Equally, no district of India is devoid of substantial resources to bury all original or meaningful thought under Guha-style meretricious tripe.

Leave a Reply to vivek Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s