Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do



India is more than just a country. It is vast and diverse, poor and rich continent.

The ethnologists which came back from field trips to India would give accounts as to how religious categories play a role in shaping society. They would distinguish different forms of whorships and subsequent rituals. Gabriel Rosenstock describes this as a population explosion being matched by a God explosion.

If religion accounts for the continual existence of the outcasts, then the system which calls them as the 'untouchables' compared to the 'touchables' has not found a way to come together. It survives through a kind of invisible seperation.

India is described very often as a society on the move but very different when compared with the kind of mobility Americans have in mind when driving down route 66.

Historically speaking, there was the movement by Ghandi and Tagore's response in his criticism of Nationalism.

The present Indian society is filled with struggles of all kinds.

It is most telling that no outsider can really distinguish a real from a fake beggar.

Organizations of all kinds penetrate deeply into society.

Elias Canetti gave a vivid account of the sultan who wanted to enjoy beauty from the roof of his villa all alone; it meant driving out everyone from the village, even if he had to resort to methods of terrorism by having one man dragged by horses up and down the central dirt road till the rest were so frightened that they voluntarily fled their homes.

'Angst' - fear is often described as an irrational phenomenon especially if it comes from within (Herrman Broch) but India seems to be covered by many more thin veiled fears with the unifying one as to what could happen if to be found without religion, without the means of whorship.

Understanding of life clings to the body as women wear the sahari. In so doing they show the waist and part of the stomach as much a part of the shoulder. There are unique colours involved. While the rosa blends in with a touch of blue, the eyes are also dazzled by the golden jewellery worn demonstratively when walking through the streets of not only Delhi but also London.

The facit of India is its democracy. It exists in an encompassing way and is said to be the largest democracy in the world. Its people cast many votes without their voices ever being heard. That is more than mere dilemma, it is a contradiction to the point of wishing to understand more what is the real ruling power?

In the process India has become a nuclear power, a striving economy (for some) while electricity break downs highlight a scandal has been developing with the small coal mining companies. Like everywhere else break downs can have a natural reason or they are intended to redirect the trains running after that on a different track.

Listening to the voices, it seems that there is an overall composition according to which all tune in with the political system. It makes a difference on how this tuning in is achieved. For instance, in any concert one key instrument links up with the audience, in order to let the other instruments tune in.

In the absence of any clear philosophy or political school of thought, it seems as well that mediation becomes meditation and translation a kind of stammering. It allows a gentle pushing on of thoughts while gaining distance at the same time from a hectic, overcrowded life in the streets.

The notion of resistance is like the dirty water flowing down stream even though still considered to be holy and hence 'the' element to be used when entering a ritual in order to cleanse the soul.

Can it be that the inclusion of the cow in this ritualized perception of life means a still further reinforcement of the way forward: a slow almost timeless movement which does outdistance in the end the patience of the other? Hegel called it 'List der Vernunft': the cleverness of reason.

The restless, impatient, nervous West loses always out when emphasizing speed as sign of efficiency and getting things while hardly able to comprehend the time taken by an Indian man to move forward. That allows for blind spots. They prevent from seeing that many move also very fast. It shows itself in how economic tasks are tackled.

Naturally the recent unrests in Bagladesh reveal another aspect of a sad story filled with violence. At first it was said that one labour union leader called Mr. Islam ended up missing and only much later the police revealed that his dead body had been found. The incidence means first of all a lot of labour abuse prevails when allowing brand products being produced by cheap labour. Like the miners in South Africa, there is a question of social and economic injustice which the East West relationship has effectively installed as a system in post colonial times. It leaves only doors open for those who wish to take advantage of the discrepancies between East and West when it comes to use and to pay cheap labour. But time is running out. This highly exploitative system will not last for long.

One person who does describe this post colonial system in great detail, and gives at the same time a vivid account of how the partition between India and Pakistan came about, is Waqas Khwaja. His penetrating analysis begins with him wondering about a man just drawing circles on paper. This man becomes emblemic for the lost people found in a world which has made too many homeless and thus without any real identity. The article by Waqas Khwaja does show at the same time how poets can become 'the voice of history'. Interestingly enough the article carries the title 'voices of the marketplace'. Indeed, what can be picked up when mingling amongst the thousands of people filing past all sorts of stands, knowing very well that whole of India is in uproar because the government wants to give permission for big international supermarket chains to operate in India. The multiple small traders fear for their lifelihood once especially the new and rich middle class will flock to the supermarkets rather than to the markets. The change of pace is at times more than what life can cope with.

Of course, any traveler to India can be blinded by many things and not realize what is going on. It seems that many of its intellectuals, artists, writers, and poets cannot focus anymore on this land. They have a strange feeling of being in-between. They wish to get away from local restrictions but they are also not entirely happy or convinced about the global world.

In India there exist many sacred places and also worldly distractions like the Taj Mahal.

One traveler, the Polish journalist Kapuscinski described upon arriving in a hotel in Delhi how he had to learn that for everything there is a special servant: the one carrying the luggage does not interfer with the one in charge of opening the room while there is another one for making the bed and still another one for bringing food and tea. It marks the limits of understanding of the traveler since it cannot grasp really what is the purpose of having so many for very special and finite tasks?

Kapuscinski arrived for the first time in India without speaking a word of English. He startet to learn the English language by reading advertisement signs, newspaper articles etc. if only to realize as he made progress to learn this language, that he was learning the language of the colonizer or even oppressor.

Still until today English has remained an unifying force in a country full of surprises and a diversity of languages, religions and customs. That makes it as well so difficult to gauge any life range from childhood to elderly within such a rich composition. Or said differently, it is no longer possible to image a unity without hurting or offending someone for feeling excluded or not recognized.

Gunnar Myrdal has attempted to approach the problems of this continent / country in Asian Drama: a most comprehensive economic analysis which includes an examination of social, political and economic structures. His book was discussed around 1966-69, that is before India became a growing economy in its own rights.

So getting to know this country / continent through its writers, foremostly poets, is a start of a new dialogue to be continued whenever there is given the chance to learn more. Still the vastness of such an undertaking has to be realized since it will be impossible to be completed within a life time.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 10.9.2012 (revised 10.1.2013)

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