Nirad Chaudhuri (Was Re: Greek and Latin in India)

SStephen jp_stephens at CLASSIC.MSN.COM
Mon Feb 16 13:25:50 UTC 1998


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-----Original Message-----
From: S Krishna <mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM>
Date: February 16, 1998 8:54 PM
Subject: Re: Nirad Chaudhuri (Was Re: Greek and Latin in India)

>Dominik Wujastyk says:
>>On Sun, 15 Feb 1998, S Krishna wrote:
><<I find his [Chaudhuri's] works a more academic version of Katherine
>Mayo's "Mother India" or Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses", people whose
>main incentive for writing seems to be indulging in invective>>
>Sorry, I can't let that one pass.  First, freedom of speech allows you
>toimpute "incentive" to whomever you like, of course.  But if you expect
>to have your claims taken seriously in an academic forum like INDOLOGY,
>you can't just present condemnations of that kind without justification.
>You have to back up your claim with genuine scholarship on the
>topic,especially if your claim is that controversial.
><<At the risk of starting a flame war on a topic rather inappropriate
>This is the only thing, Dominik, on which I agree with you...Since you
>are looking for "genuine scholarship" on the subject, I will being
>up different people/scholars/editors and leave it to you to decide
>what is what....(I assume you want to know about Rushdie and MAyo since
>I've given the name of the text and specific topic on the
>basis of which the comments on Nirad babu were made)
> I had said that Nirad babu's works are a more academic variety of
>Rushdie's works and MAyo's works in that they misrepresent things,
>and are known for their invective.....
>  I will also prove that Rushdie jee is as provincial as Nirad Babu
>(The difference being that Nirad babu thinks that Bengal can speak for
>India, Rushdie thinks that Indian/Urdu writers are the best in the
>whole of the Indian sub-continent)
>  In the case of Rushdie, the first thing that one notices on reading
>his works i.e. Midnight's Children, Shame and Satanic Verses is the
>frequent use of four letter words...some soul once counted the number
>of four letter words that are found all over Satanic Verses and
>found that a four letter word could be expected atleast once in every
>page. I am not sure of what is the literary purpose of all
>prove his expertise/familarity with four letter words? Well, if this
>what he was trying to prove, I suppose that he can take pride in the
>fact that his vocabulary would put the fisherwomen of Billingsgate
>to shame, the difference being that they are not paid millions of pounds
>to swear at and abuse people right, left and center. Trevor-Roper for
>example says that if Rushdie were to be hit in some back street, then
>his "Manners would improve"..this is the result
>of his being so free with invective...
>  The main thread in "Satanic Verses"  is the Al-Gharaniq incident in
>the Quran about the admissibility of the Gods MAnat,
>Al Lat and Al Uzza in ISlam. Even assuming and granting that the
>incident is true( a controversial assumption in itself), Rushdie
>generalizes the whole thing( the actual lines that were abrogated are
>just two and form part of just one ayat in one surah) to suggest that
>the whole of the Quran was revealed by the Devil( it parallels Nirad
>Babu's technique of lifting a single practice from the Vaishnavas of
>Bengal, and then generalizing it to be representative of all the
>Vaishnavas). This is a fine case of mixing fact with fiction to brew a
>strong concoction that primarily serves the  purpose of getting the cash
>registers to ring. As you may be knowing,there exists in London a very
>elite club consisting of journalists, academics and novelists called the
>Page 15 club" whose common feature is that they've never read beyondPage
>15 of any of Rushdie's books. The books they tell us, are "dense",
>"convoluted", "unreadable" and "full of vile abuse".
>(This fact was referred to by the NYer which ran an article on Rushdie (
>Will dig up the exact reference if you want me to))
> As far as his proclivity towards sensationalism is concerned, we have
>Roald Dahl who assures us that Rushdie "deliberately" sensationalized
>"Satanic Verses" in order to make it a best seller. The same holds true
>of Nirad Babu, who makes the claim that the Brahmins tampered with
>things in order to make Sanskrit look  greater and older; as
>inscriptions indicate, it should be Prakrit that came in earlier...
>such stuff will immideatly[sic] increase sales since all DMK wallahs,
>and JNU based historians will make a bee line for purchasing this book
>since it supports their own convoluted brand of thinking...Net result:
>Sales go up and one achieves name and fame the easy way... These are the
>commonalities between the worthy souls of Rushdie and Nirad babu, both
>of whom personify the antiquated concept of the Brown Saheb...
><<that Rushdie's book was anything but a witty,
>flamboyant, funny, and closely-observed piece of well-written fiction,
>very much in the vein of his earlier Midnight's Children.>>
>The difficulty, dear Dominik, is that much of the invective is actually
>in URdu/Hindi..please reread  "Satanic Verses" and count
>the number oftimes he uses the Hindi expression "BehanC****" (
>and also find out the meaning, since I would desist from translating
>such stuff here)...non-Hindi speakers may think of it is as a very cute,
>exotic kind of expression, but I am sure that all Hindi speakers would
>beg to disagree..... As for his *witty*( to quote you)versification, you
>seem to think:
>"Being God's postman is no fun, yaaar!
>Butbutbut!.........(Can't remember what comes here)
>God knows whose postman I've been"
>(I've paraphrased the verse since I don't the book with me right now)
>is an example of splendid versification and rivals Edward Lear's
>Limericks, but I ( and I'm in distinguished company here, Khuswant
>Singh thinks so too) think it the kind of doggerel that would do
>an adolescent is certainly not the kind of stuff that would
>help win an author the Baker Prize or the Noble Prize( he was nominated
>for the Noble Prize 2 or 3 years ago)
>And yes, the whole thing is *fiction*...he wrote some nonsense about
>Indira Gandhi in "Midnights Children" and she responded by suing him
>on "defamation" grounds; Rushdie jee was forced to apologize and accept
>that the fact that he had passed off *fiction* about Indira Gandhi as
>As far as the provincialism thing is concerned, Nirad jee confines
>himself to Bengal..Rushdie declares very confidently that the best
>writing in India is in English and URdu( as announced in  the NYer
>last year, a very interesting coincidence being that these are only two
>languages that he knows)..has this creature read anything, in say,
>Kannada( with 6 Jnanpiths) or Malayalam( with 4 Jnanpiths). Does this
>creatureeven know where these languages are spoken? His knowledge of
>Indian history and geography is terrible...he gets the date of the
>construction of the Babri MAsjid wrong by a whole century!!!!
>(This is in his latest work "The Moor's last sigh!")
><<Katherine Mayo is a very interesting case.  I don't know much about
>herbackground or motives, and I shall certainly take time now to find
>out a bit more.  But I did read her book years ago, and remember coming
>awaywith the sense of someone who had come far closer than most people
>to the disease and poverty in the India of her time, and who found it an
>affront to her sense of common humanity.>>
>Please read C.S.Ranga Iyer's "Father India" which is a good rebuttal
>of "Mother India". As for her finding "disease in India an affront
>to humanity", all that I can say is that Mahatma Gandhi, whose
>humanitarian approach/credentials can hardly be doubted, pronounced the
>following judgement on her book "A Drain Inspectors Report!"
>THe 18th century Punjabi mystic Bulleh Shah tells us time and again "You
>reach outfor what flies in the skies, but overlook what you have at
>home"..verypertinent in the case of Katherine Mayo...the good lady
>journeyed to India to discover slavery, poverty and what have you...what
>a waste of time and money when better examples could have been found
>among the African-Americans in the South. It is said that Winston
>Churchillwas asked( when on a visit to America) as to why the condition
>of the Indians was so bad/ why were they being persecuted ? Pat came his
>reply "Which Indians are you taking about? Indians in
>India or Indians in America?"( refering to native Indians)...The likes
>of Mayo would do themselves a lot of good by reflecting upon this
>  I can hold forth on this topic, my friend, but as said before, this
>is essentially off topic and I wouldn't like to bore you any more than I
>have. But I do hope the people whom I've quoted  to back up my statement
>will convince you that there is some depth and meaning in what I said
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