Sunday, August 14, 2011

India was once colonised and is, therefore, suspicious of ‘outsiders’ and their motives

The Pioneer :: Home : >> India isnt just about Gandhi AGENDA | pioneer Sunday, August 14, 2011 Windows into the Past Author: Judith M Brown Publisher: Oxford Price: Rs 295
Brown speaks of life stories as a new and more illuminating source of history, though she can be blamed for confining her studies to Gandhi and Nehru alone, says Claude Arpi. The reviewer is French-born author, journalist, historian and Tibetologist who lives in Auroville
Interest in personal lives is important, though one can find fault in Brown restricting the object of her studies to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Why not Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Sri Aurobindo, among others, who participated in the ‘global’ history of the subcontinent, with their capacities, limitations and aspirations.

Inspiring collection Prema Nandakumar deccan herald Sunday 14 August 2011 Foreigners who loved & served India K C Brahmachary Diamond Pocket Books 2011, pp 276 150
Their inextinguishable faith in Swami Vivekananda brought Sara Bull, Sister Christine, J J Goodwin, Josephine Macleod, Captain Sevier and Charlotte Sevier to work for building the Belur Math and the Advaita Ashrama. When in their own country, they  spread the message of Vedanta far and wide. Swami Vivekananda imposed total trust in them and gave them an honest picture of India. Yes, India suffers from poverty, slavery, illiteracy, untouchability, dogma and bigotry. Yet the Swami wanted them to come and work, as he exhorted Sister Nivedita: “Let me tell you frankly that I am now convinced that you have a great future in the work for India. What was wanted was not a man but a woman, a real lioness, to work for the Indians, women, especially.”
Like Swami Vivekananda, Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo was another centre of attraction for foreigners who wanted to serve India. Mirra Richard (The Mother) created the great edifice of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and launched the universal city of Auroville near Chennai. Mahatma Gandhi became the magnet for C F Andrews and Madeleine Slade (Mira Behn).

Immigrants who want to make India home are forever kept at an arm’s length by those who ‘belong’. Notwithstanding the impressive list of ‘foreign’ citizen-leaders, innovators and heroes BY Aimee Ginsburg - EMAIL AUTHOR(S)
There is a demographic group in India not quite recog­nised, mostly seen as an enigma, as a temporary and not terribly significant phenomenon: they are your immi­grants, your neighbours who have chosen to make India their home, temporarily or forever, because they like it better than the places they came from. But many who have moved here consistently report that in India, one re­mains an ‘outsider’ forever. The question arises: can one possibly ever become Indian? There are certain ethnic groups (Parsis come to mind, and the ancient Jewish group ‘Bnei Yisrael’) who have come to be ‘fully Indian’ after many generations, but we speak here of those who have been arriving as individuals—mostly from Western countries—in a constant trickle since Indian Independence.
India is the most difficult country in the world to relo­cate to and in which to assimilate with the local popula­tion,’ according to a recent media report that quoted a study done by HSBC Bank, polling 4,000 expats in 100 countries. Before you roll your eyes and exclaim, ‘Oh no, those foreigners complain too much,’ let me put this forth: although the angst of the immigrant who feels ex­cluded may not be as pressing as our other major social ills, the strength and vibrancy of a society rests, among other measures, on its ability to absorb and assimilate ‘outsiders’. Yes, India was once colonised and is, therefore, suspicious of ‘outsiders’ and their motives, but hey, that’s over now, no? India is not in danger of being re-colonised, at least not by the likes of us, with our FabIndia kurtas, tul­si masala chai and Bollywood dance classes. And if we are bringing with us a host of other ideas, foods, fashions, ways of raising kids, why fear it? Cultural and ethnic di­versity make a culture stronger; surely, it is the secret be­hind the US’s success. […]
Leaving the inanity of such political rhetoric aside, India boasts of an impressive (if rather short) list of immigrants from the West who have become Indian citizen-leaders, innova­tors and heroes: among them, Laurie Baker, Verrier Elwin, Maxine Berntsen, Romulus Whitaker, Annie Besant, The Mother of Pondicherry, Jean Dreze, Justin McCarthy, and Francis Wacziarg. “To me, these Indians are every bit as Indian as any of us, regardless of being born abroad,” says author and journalist Dilip D’Souza, who lived in the US for 10 years. D’Souza feels that the fact that we can even point to and make lists of the few who have been accept­ed as belonging here highlights a problem India has with assimilating immigrants. 

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