Sunday’s newspapers gave wide coverage to the expensive religious fanfare with which the new Union minister, M.M. Pallam Raju, entered office very recently. Not only was absolutely everything rearranged on the advice of ‘vaastu experts’ but everything from the priest to the laddoos was specially flown in from Tirupati, so as to ensure that the Lord Himself would look benignly upon the new incumbent and give him a long and trouble-free tenure in the high profile Ministry for Human Resource Development (which looks after everything educational, from the anganwadi schools to the IITs and IIMs, among other things). Just as a matter of fact, Mr. Raju is a very young man by conventional standards in politics – a mere fifty – and he is both an electronics engineer and holder of a ‘phoren’ MBA to boot.
So far as outlook on life is concerned, if you call this superstition, an engineer cum MBA these days obviously comes from the same cultural level as any coal thief in Ranigunj who quit school after failing class 8 twice on smelling the money. You have got to judge a man by things other than the degrees he has, the office he holds and the car he drives – a point I have underscored again and again. Which of these differentiated Tagore from any lala in Burra Bazaar – or any ‘successful’ pickpocket for that matter?
I can only wonder what kind of educational future India has under the stewardship of men like these. Are we going to produce Satyajit Rays and Subhas Boses and C.V. Ramans by the thousands now, or an endless stream of cybercoolies, shopping mall supervisors, credit card salesmen calling themselves ‘business executives’, factory foremen, low grade journos and hotel receptionists who get very angry whenever they are told that if they consider themselves ‘successful’, they must by the same token admit that that apocryphal coal mafia don is fifty times more so?
It is a pity, too, that there were intellectual giants like Humayun Kabir and Triguna Sen in the same position in the early days of the republic, working under the guidance of no less a mind than Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who was in close intellectual touch with literally the finest minds in the world, from Einstein to Tagore, from Joan Robinson to Vikram Sarabhai (everything from the IITs to the Lalit Kala Akademi was set up in those halcyon years). How far we have ‘progressed’ in the last sixty years, indeed.
Finally, in defence of the likes of Pallam Raju (and his one-time predecessor Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, a physicist who wanted to introduce regular courses on astrology in all leading universities), maybe it is better on the whole to believe in things like God than in Lady Gaga, iPad apps, credit cards, massage parlours and shopping malls, after all! (see my post titled ‘Post modern enlightenment’, alongwith with Suvro Sarkar’s witty comment on it). At least thinking of God tries to lift you up from the muck, while these trappings of contemporary ‘civilization’ only push you down deeper into it…until every moron with a third-rate college degree, a Rs. 30,000-a-month job, endless time to waste and a ‘smart’ phone with an internet connection thinks he can ‘debate’ with people immeasurably his intellectual and moral superiors simply by spouting a few words of abuse, drunken rickshawwallah style!