Dear INDOLOGY colleagues,
I've just written a cross letter to the National Archives in Delhi. A real David and Goliath situation. Their library holds a manuscript that I wish to read: it might be historically interesting, but I cannot be sure without examining it. Their prices mean I can't possibly afford a copy of it. I wrote and asked to purchase copies of the first ten and last ten folia. After a gap of many weeks, the NI wrote back saying that I should send them a bank draft. My bank says a) the draft will be very expensive (more than the cost of the MS copies), and b) they strongly advise against using bank drafts and money orders because they are inherently insecure. Indeed, I had the experience a few years back of sending a bank order to the University of Madras, and it got lost in the university publication office.
I have remonstrated with the National Archives, and suggested several modern alternatives. But it's hopeless. They write letters like an inhuman machine that can't actually have a conversation or serve the needs of their users.
As part of my correspondence I said I would share my experience with my peers. I believe in "naming and shaming" institutions like the NI. Hence this message to INDOLOGY.
The message below is the third or fourth in the exchange, and repeats many of the points I had made earlier in the correspondence.
offer me the "convenience" of paying by bank order or draft, but as I
explained in my last communication, this is not convenient at all. The
bank draft will cost more than copies of the manuscripts I need to
read. And bank drafts are an inherently insecure form of money
transfer, as my bank has informed me. Further, the page-charges for
manuscript copies are also prohibitively expensive. As I mentioned in
my first communication, your charges are so high that I cannot even
afford to read a copy of one whole manuscript. Your policy in this
matter is shamefully imitative of many other avaricious institutions in
India and internationally. Many fine institutions have moved into the
modern age and shared their resources with scholars in rational ways
that promote international cooperation and the growth of knowledge. For
example, the Wellcome Trust, the University of Pennsylvania, the Gujarat
Ayurvedic University, and the Koba Tirth (the largest manuscript
library in the world), to name just some sample institutions on the
regret that as a National Archive and an internationally visible
representative Indian institution you are not able to provide a service
that meets your customers' needs. I am not willing to pay in the
expensive and dangerous manner that you insist upon. You have many
excellent alternative options available to you, and I wonder at your
institutional policy of remaining inflexible in this matter.
policy you have adopted is damaging to scholarship on the history and
culture of India. I have to inform you that I shall be sharing this
information with the international body of professional university
scholars dedicated to India.
I invite you to write to me again when your office procedures have been modernized.
Prof. Dominik Wujastyk
Dr Dominik Wujastyk
Department of South Asia, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies,
University of Vienna,
Spitalgasse 2-4, Courtyard 2, Entrance 2.1
1090 Vienna, Austria
Division of Health and Humanities,
St. John's Research Institute, Bangalore, India.