India – Timeless and Timed, Eternal and Venal
Posted by Barry Pittard on December 20, 2009
India is, often well-nigh invisibly, ‘bound’ to timelessness. The West, all too often and too visibly, ‘shackled’ to time. Both vistas can be gifts – a sense of timelessness because it helps us to raise our eyes above the deceptive fascinations of the material. A sense of time, because pragmatism is not all bad.
Sathya Sai Baba, now ravaged by time, as we all must soon enough be, and in a decrepitude easily visible from his photos, and in a series of cranky actions that he would never formerly have made the mistake of committing at least publicly, has had more than enough time to keep his promise that he would first “clean up (his) own backyard, India. See: Huge Sai Baba Gaffes and: Sai Baba To Be Seen In Moon? But Where Was Moon? and: ‘World Avatar’ Sathya Sai Baba’s Troubled Trail
Some Sathya Sai Baba apologists assert that the wide social cross-section, including ‘the elites’, that follows him is yet another proof of his divinity. It is a version of the old, badly flawed argument from numbers, humorously used in the old Broadway song: ‘Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong’:
In Viva la France
They’re full of romance
You’ll find policemen with embroidery on their pants.
And when they start to sing the Marseillaise
They sing it forty different ways
Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong
Though there are timeless strains within Indian culture which aim to transcend the boundaries of caste and parochialism, it is hard for many of her citizens to be exempt. In very different ways, they face the same bugbear we know too well in the West – in our case, rooted in an expected safety but false comfort, but, nonetheless, in both cases, the absence of critical faculties – especially self-critical faculties.
Images of those Indian historical figures who have urged their fellows to transcend limitations of race, caste and creed sit upon millions of altars. Pictures of them are ubiquitous in India, on the streets and in the homes. The exaltation of certain human beings into demigods is rife, and virtually as much accorded to political and sporting figures (especially cricketers) as it is to religious figures. I have seen a few very frightening examples of Indian crowds, whether in the name of sport, politics or religion, made up of people whom I knew well to be decent and kindly, turn into a stampeding, frenzied mob.
In an 2008 article – International Cricket And The Secret Swami – I referred to but a small few of many dangerous symptoms revealed within the Indian body politic:
… this effigy-burning aspect of India relates to that part of India that is so ridden by anarchy, political manipulation of mobs, poverty, crime, corruption, nepotism, and casteism, and so often pretendedly democratic. It is the India which long ago Sai Baba promised to bring to ways of peace (shanti) and non-violence (ahimsa), before he left for other countries around the world, saying that he would first “clean up (his) own backyard”. Yet as recently February 16, 2007, in a so-called ‘divine discourse’, Sai Baba said, “I intend to undertake a world tour, shortly.” See, Wealthy Americans Prepare Mansions For “God’s” Visit
How well, for example, in December 1997, I remember the scene where the milling crowds at Puttaparthi gave the Indian cricketers the sort of adulation that one might have thought would have been reserved for Sathya Sai Baba. Many women shrieked no less than men. They clawed at the air towards the cricketers’ busses as though they might rend the veil that separates earth and heaven. But we all shortly watched a very good cricket match – how civilized …. (Mind you, Sathya Sai Baba and his officials falsely billed it as an “international” cricket match. It was nothing of the sort. Sunil Gavaskar, India’s former Test captain, supported by Sai Baba’s ‘lite’ version of Dr Joseph Goebbels, Dr G. Venkataraman, falsely stated “So, the Unity Cup was played with players from all over the world including Pakistan”. See my article: Sai Baba Cricket Match International? Claim Was False and Sai Baba Vs Kerry Packer.
As India edges towards superpower status, and becoming ever more widely visible to the world, this formidable weakness, if not seriously addressed at many educational, political and other levels, will lend to a situation stated by Shakespeare’s Lord Hamlet (though he was speaking of his blighted country’s characteristic drunkenness):
This heavy-headed revel, east and west,
Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations
There is a Spanish version available: