Amused to read about the incident of a politician getting her comeuppance after laughing at the Prime Minister’s speech in the Indian Parliament. Derisive laughter is sad, a loser’s gesture, irrespective of whether it stems from insecurity or ignorance. I was reminded of the students’ reading a few months ago in Oxford. We were practicing our pieces at college a few hours before the event, guided by an excellent American tutor. When I read out a line which praised India, one of my classmates from the other cohort – a middle-aged American woman gave an affected snort of laughter and kept at it, unfazed by the dirty look that the tutor gave her. I didn’t even bother to glance in her direction, being completely engrossed in the scene, one that had written itself and is one of the highlights of my novel.
This woman is a mediocre poet whose choice of topics do not venture beyond her tiny personal world and whose work has the scope, depth, and maturity of a high schooler who is beginning to write. I had unfollowed her on Facebook after the feed was deluged with posts about her greatest achievement – having migrated from a small American town to settle in a small British town.
For all her Anglophilic pretensions, earlier that day I had seen her cut right ahead of a queue of about twelve people, along with her friend – a fat German woman who physically pushed the person first in the queue to grab at the lunch plates. (Oh that admirable English trait to form orderly, disciplined queues). Even if this woman had been a writer whom I respected, her laughter wouldn’t have bothered me. A coward’s gesture from the crowd deserves to be ignored. Had she dared to voice her racism in a direct confrontation, I would have reported her at the very least. From what I had read of her work, it appeared that this American woman’s gesture came from a place of ignorance – ignorance of basic knowledge of ancient history, as well as a lack of awareness of the modern world.
After eight hundred years of brutal foreign invasions, within seventy years of freedom India is well on the way to resume her place as a global leader with a moral voice, whose greatness had already been realised by several wise men of the Western world (Voltaire, Mark Twain, Will Durant, Godfrey Higgins among several others), even when the country was languishing under foreign rule. One can only suppose that an average American woman whose knowledge of India is limited to the shallow books and films about the country that are promoted in Western media, is not likely to know any better.
“I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges, – astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc… It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganges to learn geometry…But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmins’ science not been long established in Europe.”