Archive for June, 2008

Canadian varsity to launch programme on Indian culture

June 30, 2008

A Canadian University will launch a one-year certificate programme to familiarise non-Indians and Indian diaspora of the country with India’s culture and history.
The 30 credit one-year certificate programme will be launched this September by the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) in British Columbia through its Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies.

The programme includes courses in history, geography, religious studies, anthropology and the Punjabi language.

The students will also tour India, which will allow them to engage in a cross-cultural study of social, institutional and family networks.

“We designed the programme so as to make it attractive for all students – those of Indian heritage and those who are non-Indian,” Satwinder Bains, Director of the centre and a UFV professor of Social Work and Human Services said.

The new certificate is another addition to the many activities UFV is working on to nurture its connections with India.

“Students with a familiarity with Indian culture, history, economics, Indian languages, are enjoying a competitive advantage once they hit the workforce. These courses expose them to knowledge and ideas about a cultural community that has a great impact on our daily work and lives here in the Fraser Valley,” Bains said.

The Indo-Canadian community has flourished in the Fraser Valley for over 100 years. It seems only fitting that one of the first regions to welcome Indian immigrants to Canada should also be the first to offer a uniquely designed programme of study about it, Bains added.

(Source: PTI)

In the world of his own – Jibanananda Das

June 29, 2008

The pre-eminent and best loved Bengali poet after Tagore was an elusive, deeply private writer, reluctant to make himself better known, reluctant, in some crucial instances, to publish his own work… Jibanananda Das.

‘Jibanananda’ is a Tagorean name; its meaning, ‘the joy of life’, recalls, for me, the lines from a famous song in the Gitanjali, in which Tagore’s defiant Nietzschean mood is contained, as it almost always is, by decorum and serenity: ‘Jagate ananda jagne/ Amaar nimantrana’ — ‘I have been invited/ to the world’s festival of joy.’ Of course, Tagore had to earn those lines’ triumphal affirmation, and also their irony; by the time he wrote them, his wife was dead, as were two children, a son and his favourite daughter, Rani.

Das found himself invited to the ‘festival of joy’ in 1899; from the evidence of his poems and fiction, it doesn’t appear that he thought life — ‘jiban’ — an unqualified benediction. There is, not infrequently, a note of bewilderment in the way Das’s poems speak of earthly existence, the bewilderment of a person who wakes to find himself in a place of transit from which he must soon move on. The nameless speaker in the poem ‘Banalata Sen’ begins wearily:

For thousands of years I roamed the paths of this earth,
From waters round Ceylon in dead of night to Malayan seas.
Much have I wandered. I was there in the gray world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidharbha.
I am a weary heart surrounded by life’s frothy ocean.
To me she gave me a moment’s peace — Banalata Sen from Natore.

The translation is Clinton B Seely’s, of the Department of South Asian Languages at Chicago, from his superb literary biography of Das, A Poet Apart. From the beginning, Das, an elusive, deeply private writer, reluctant to make himself better known, reluctant, in some crucial instances, to publish his own work, has had his champions, who attempted to bring his work to the attention of the Bengali, and now the Anglophone, reader. The most important of these was the poet and critic, Buddhadeva Bose, Das’s contemporary, probably the most influential Bengali writer of that bristly, fascinating post-Tagorean generation, whose generosity in supporting a fellow poet was, and still is, as unusual in the republic of Indian letters as was his critical shrewdness and acumen. The poems are now part of the Bengali consciousness, on both sides of the border dividing India from what was Pakistan and is now Bangladesh; it’s safe to claim that Das is the pre-eminent and best loved Bengali poet after Tagore. Those who know his work first-hand are convinced that he is among the twentieth century’s great writers, and so the process of recuperation continues, now in English. Like some of those writers — one thinks of Pessoa and Kafka — Das felt, for some reason, compelled either to suppress some of his most important writings, or to locate them in a secret life. Seely’s excellent work, as translator and biographer, represents a sustained effort that’s been ongoing for a few decades now, a project, however, dogged by the sort of inexplicable delays and impediments (his translations have still to find a publisher), the sort of nebulous cloud, that occasionally seemed to keep Das’s contemporaries (despite the enthusiasm of Bose and some younger writers, and Tagore’s qualified but genuine admiration) from seeing the true value of his work.

Now the English poet Joe Winter’s translations, collected in two slim but not insubstantial volumes, Naked Lonely Hand, a selection of some of the most well-known poems, and Bengal the Beautiful, which contains the sonnets that were published posthumously and made him a household name in Bengal, give the process of dissemination, and the cause of Das, a fresh impetus — a small but significant contribution which will not be, hopefully, scuppered by Saturn.

(Source: Outlook)

Bi-lingual literary magazine

June 28, 2008

“Pratilipi” launches its second issue

Pratilipi is an online, bilingual (Hindi/English), literary magazine – possibly India’s first. It is, for the time being, a completely non-commercial venture running on the editors’ investments and on the works of like-minded contributors. It aims to provide space for conversation and debate between diverse sorts of writing and writers.

Contributors to the second issue, released this month, include, Uday Prakash, Ann Jäderlund, Staffan Söderblom, Wagish Shukla, Badri Narayan, Rustam (Singh), Malayaj, Krishna Baldev Vaid, Sampurna Chattarji, Teji Grover, Sara Rai, Sangeeta Gundecha, Udayan Vajpeyi, Chandrahas Choudhury, Purushottam Agrawal, Mangalesh Dabral, K.V.K. Murthy, Sheen Kaaf Nizam, H.S. Shiva Prakash, Sameer Rawal, Vivek Narayanan, Annie Zaidi, Madan Meena.

The magazine can be accessed at http://www.pratilipi.in/

Editors: Giriraj Kiradoo and Rahul Soni
Art Editor: Shiv Kumar Gandhi

In a class of his own – Gulzar

June 27, 2008

Throughout his career nobody has accused Gulzar of profligacy. However, four books have been published by the master poet-lyricist in a little over four months. Par for course in a world of relentless overstatements, one would say. But more than a pleasant oddity for Gulzar, a man who weaves words with as much skill and patience as a weaver strings together a piece of cloth. Remember, he is the one who penned Girahein or “Weaver”! “A book a month. That is not how I had planned it,” Gulzar says as he talks of Selected Poems, his work translated by Pavan K. Varma and published by Penguin recently.

Stranger things have seldom happened in Bollywood: Amitabh Bachchan has played second fiddle to Navin Nishchol, for instance. “I don’t know how I happened to get so many books through. You cannot do it with effort or planning,” insists Gulzar, self-effacing in his modesty.

Hallmark humility

It is the same humility that has stood him in good stead in the film industry where he is the link between the generations of Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi to the present Prasoon Joshis and Piyush Mishras. “My poetry is a part of my sensibility. You cannot plan or compartmentalise life. It is instinctive. Just be yourself. That is the easiest way but also the most difficult. There are so many pressures, demands, lehaz karna padhta hai. But if one is honest to oneself, there is always a way out. If you are yourself, nobody can say you are wrong.”

He continues, “I don’t know so much of life that I can advise. Many times you have to think inside you, you feel comfortable.” It was a feeling he had when he said yes to Bimal Roy’s proposal to him for writing lyrics. “I felt like saying yes, when I said yes. Similarly I wanted to be in literature.”

He is into literature all right. He has not made a film for long: his last foray, “Hu Tu Tu” was a disaster at the box office due to a combination of factors that rankled the sensitive Gulzar. And then, of course, he had to take time out for his own writing too.

“The failure of Hu Tu Tu did not stop me from writing what I wanted. And how would I give you all these books if I were to make films all the time? The reason I have been away from films is I like to write, particularly for children. I have done a few musical ballets, like ‘Agar Magar’, ‘The Man Who Says No’. If I were to make films when will I do all this? The days still consists only of 24 hours. Poetry remains my shelter. I can hide inside it. It remains my own expression. And when I had a guy like Pavan Varma who has translated my latest book, it thrilled me because he has caught the fibre correctly. He narrated my own poems to me. He has that spontaneity. We did not plan to sit down and discuss every poem. He worked out on his own. At times, he even improved my poems.” (This is a great lesson not only for budding translators, but for the experienced ones too!)

Talk of Selected Poems and Gulzar feels better. “Pavan has done a really fine job with poems ‘Fuel’, ‘’Jab Hum Chhote Thhe’. He has seen that life, lived that life, the kind of things I talk of…the soil of the land, the chulha, the koela, the raakh, the dhuaan. He has projected it so well. Also in ‘Dastak’, he has done everything naturally. All the poems carry the fragrance of our culture.”

But don’t things come easy at a time of life when accolades and awards find a lasting place on a man’s shelf? After all, Gulzar has won awards even for “Beedi jalai le”.

Beedi jalani padh gai. But even there, I was able to communicate to people and revive the usage of some words the youngsters had forgotten or never heard of. Words like lihaf, ghilaaf. Then I wrote lyrics like “aanchal dhoop ko pakde”. I know this medium and never do anything for the sake of doing it. However, it is the imagery I worked out in “No Smoking” that cannot be easily done by anybody. It was an abstract kind of film. There are some expressions I use which people don’t understand any more. But I still use them. Words like raan, (thigh) find space in my works.”

Isn’t he in danger of becoming a relic in a changing world?

Reflecting the times

“No, I have learnt to adapt. Change is always for the better. Our poetry has to depict the reality of our times. No poet uses words like radio, car or telephone today. But poetry has to reflect the changing life. Unfortunately, we still long for gav-takia. Our attitude to poetry is limited. There is a bit of two-facedness when it comes to Urdu poetry today. You can accept changes in English but not in Urdu poetry. I wonder why Urdu poets still use expressions like Phansi ka takht and shamsheer se sar qalam when these things are long dead in real life?”

So, how does it feel when every journalist or even compere introduces him as the man from Delhi’s Sabzi Mandi area, a guy called Sampooran Singh who worked as a car mechanic and became a celebrated poet as Gulzar?

“Now, you don’t bring up the Sampooran Singh bit. You know Majrooh as just Majrooh. Let me be. When I called myself Gulzar, my fellow poets said it seemed adhura, incomplete without a surname. Now, after all these years, it is complete. Just Gulzar. I always wanted to be just Gulzar.” Indeed.

(Source: The Hindu)

Importance of local language

June 26, 2008

Translation has certainly come out of confines of university curriculum and literary activities. Local language has become too vital for communications in all the spheres of life. Let us have a look at one such scenario.

Fishermen across India’s 8,000 km coastline are faced with an unusual problem. The draft notification on the Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) 2008 which has been put on the website of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, invites objections and suggestions from ‘any interested persons’ within 60 days from May 1. But there is a catch here. The draft notification is in English and there are few fishermen who understand the language.

Unhappy that the government had made little attempt to enforce the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification of 1991, the fishermen are now demanding that the latest CMZ notification be translated into Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and other national languages so that the message could be disseminated among all members of their fraternity who neither have access to a computer nor understand English.

P Kandasamy, convenor of the Singaravelar fishermen’s movement for livelihood rights based in Tranquebar in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, is worried. “We were told that the new draft notification restricts fishing only to the territorial waters (12 nautical miles from the coast). Our village alone has about 4,000 fisherfolk families. The restriction is bound to affect almost the entire community of about 25 lakh fishermen in the state.” Kandasamy claimed to have accessed the details of the CMZ draft notification from the office of the Cuddalore Fishermen’s Association. It was translated to him by an activist.

“We will collect signatures from the fishermen along the state’s coast against the draft and hand them over to the chief minister,” said Kandasamy. Fishermen across the country are staging protests against the government’s attempt “to sell out our coasts to commercial plunderers, condoning all violations that have taken place since 1991.” and demand that the draft notification be translated into local languages so that they would be able to read and understand it.

“This (a draft notification in English inviting objections on the website) is a cruel joke on these fishermen, already facing adversities like declining fish catch and industrial pollution along the coast. The notification makes no attempt to allay their apprehensions about the opening up of the coast to various industrial and tourist constructions,” said Harekrishna Debnath, chairperson of the national fish workers’ forum.

Sudarshan Rodriguez, a researcher with the Bangalore-based NGO ATREE, said the 2008 draft notification ushered in new players on the coast and in light of the newly proposed Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act and the new Land Acquisition Act, this would have disastrous consequences for fishermen, many of whom do not possess any land records.

He said in the preamble to the draft notification that the environment ministry allows greenfield airports and the expansion and modernisation of existing airports in coastal areas.

(Source: The Times of India)

Mozilla Firefox, now in Gujarati and Punjabi

June 25, 2008

Firefox 3 was released in 46 languages. However, Hindi was unable to make the cut, Gujarati and Punjabi have become India’s representative languages on the internet. At least, that’s what one can conclude after the release of Mozilla’s latest upgrade of its popular browser.

Firefox 3, an open-source browser, is a competitor to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari. It was released on Tuesday in 46 languages.
However, the absence of Hindi as one of the languages is most surprising considering that Gujarati and Punjabi have made the cut.

The release in different languages is the latest weapon used by Mozilla in its fight against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, by far the most popular browser. However, if Firefox 3’s downloads is anything to go by, Microsoft can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Within four days of its release, a staggering 14 million downloads of Firefox 3 were registered.

There have been a phenomenal 6000 add-ons (tools for customising the browser) and 2000 more add-ons on the cards.

Speaking about the absence of Hindi, and more surprisingly the presence of Gujarati and Punjabi versions, Chris Hofmann, a Mozilla spokesperson said that there were no selection criteria for the languages for Firefox. “All of our localisation efforts are purely volunteer-driven. Volunteers translate the software into their native languages,” Hoffman said.

It’s not that Mozilla hasn’t given Hindi a chance. In fact, if you visit the addons.mozilla.org website, you will find language packs for Hindi and Tamil. However, these packs need to be developed by ‘motivated’ individuals into the respective Firefox languages.

“They (Gujarati and Punjabi) were not given any preference. As a free software project, anyone can access our source code and localize it in the language they choose. We have active community members working on Hindi and Tamil. They are not officially shipped as a version of Firefox yet, but these volunteers are working hard to get their translations ready for distribution.”

(Source: D.N.A., Mumbai)

Marathi libraries fade away

June 24, 2008

While politicians are vying with one another to hog the limelight as the “protector of Marathi interests”, libraries in the city meant for readers of Marathi books are closing down.

Out of 29 Marathi libraries run by the Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalaya (MMGS), 11 have closed down in the past two years. In the past two months, the libraries at Dadar and Abhyudaya Nagar, Parel, have shut down because of insufficient number of members and lack of infrastructure. Similarly, eight more libraries are expected to pull their shutters down soon.

Former editor of a newspaper and well-known Marathi writer Arun Tikekar was of the opinion that the Marathi libraries are not keeping the kind of books that can draw the younger generation. “Most of the Marathi literature is religious, spiritual, or relating to cookery and technology. The young are hardly interested in such literature. Also, the Marathi literature available in the libraries is not good enough to hold the attention of young readers. There are nearly 2,000 types of Marathi books coming in the market every year, but hardly any of them are of general interest.”

“In English, people get a variety of books. Marathi literature needs to catch up to attract readers. Moreover, the government does not have a specific policy over library and book printing. There should be integrated approach. Also, the government should increase its grant to improve the infrastructure and the variety of books in libraries. Old book shops are closing down,” he said.

(Source: Mumbai Mirror)

Secret of popularity: Simplicity – Chetan Bhagat

June 23, 2008

Simple language - Chetan Bhagat

Story telling for him is like spiking his tales with “green chillies, onions, lemon juice to intensify human emotions”. Chetan Bhagat has been called a “people’s writer”, one who writes with a style akin to Bollywood masala films. Of course two of his books are being made into movies. More than anything else, Five Point Someone, his first book, marked the start of a new movement in the publishing world.

Chetan Bhagat came to be known as a “publishing phenomenon”, to which he reacts, “I really don’t know how a rejected writer became a phenomenon. I write fun books and people liked to read them. I am still doing the same thing I used to when I started to write.”

The title, Three Mistakes of My Life, grabs attention because all of us are human and we all make mistakes. Set against the backdrop of communal strife and violence in Gujarat, the story picks up pace towards the second half of the book. His stories apparently fall under the genre of urban dark fiction; social critiquing is elemental and incidental since “my books carry my personality. I carry a fun exterior and a dark interior. People say when they read my books for the first time, they find an unputdownable story. The second time, they find the humour and the third time they find a lot of sadness. That’s me I guess. I do like to have a message in my books but entertainment always comes first.” Story telling come to Chetan naturally, “It is a natural gift. Frankly, I don’t have to work too hard to come up with stories.” No wonder then he says he’s like Microsoft’s open source programming.

Constant debate

Chetan’s books have fortified the constant debate between literary fiction and popular fiction — there is a feeling of one upmanship. “I don’t write for one-upmanship; I don’t have to. My readers are reason enough. For some fake people, books are an elitist product and they find happiness in putting down readers who like simple books. I stay away from such people, as deep down they are quite insecure.” Many readers from the Hindi-speaking belt have read Chetan’s books, which “feels great. I want to reach as many Indians as possible in my lifetime. We have some translations under way. The Marathi and Gujarati versions are out, while the Hindi one is in progress. It depends on having a good translator/publisher relationship working out.”

Young voice

Chetan speaks of “democratisation of literature” where “even a moderately educated person has the right to enjoy a book, and all associated activities around it — whether it is a book launch, discussions, movie adaptations. Books are for everyone, not just high-society snobs.” For all his populist appeal, his language has proved to be a double-edged sword. He has also been called the voice of young India. “The whole ‘voice of young India’ is a bit over the top. My language is simple, and that is the biggest appeal of my books. However, experts who claim to know better than me tell me that is not the way to write.”

(Source: The Hindu)

Indian writing hits prolific peak

June 22, 2008

Translation takes a back seat when it comes to original writing. Let us see what is the status of Writing in India.

186 entries, shortlisted for the Vodaphone Crossword Book Award (VCBA), will be announced on July 3. The three categories – English fiction, English non-fiction and Indian language – have collectively attracted a record number of 186 entries this year, proving in turn that the award had gained prominence, as also that Indian literature is seemingly hitting some sort of a prolific peak.

Rimi Chatterjee, whose second novel The City of Love is one of the five shortlisted works in the fiction category, says:”It’s a great idea. The VCBA is our own literary award for which Indians can compete. Indians, however, seem to only be aware of the Booker, which just recognizes the books that are published in Britain. I would like to see people in India get more excited about the VCBA.” In the decade that followed its inception in 1998, the award has gone to the likes of Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie and, most recently, Vikram Chandra.

Even though these big names may be formidable, many believe it’s the recognition which relatively smaller artists get that makes the VCBA heart-warmingly novel.

Debut novelist Anjum Hasan is gladdened by the fact that there is finally a literary award that is “indigenous to India and one that sets our own standard to judge English literature.” Set in Shillong, Hasan’s Lunatic in my Head sees the hitherto known poet dabble in fiction for the first time. She says: “The fact that this award has been sponsored by a bookstore can do much for the marketing of a book.”

So friends, a Bookstore is doing something other than just selling the books! I understand such step and more such steps will bring in a lot of encouragement and motivation for budding writers, regardless of their age. Keep looking out and grab it.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

Promote the Indian model of education

June 21, 2008

Education, external part of Learning, plays a vital role in manifestation of personality, which encompasses various factors like one’s attitude towards life and its different hues and shades, culture, society and Languages.

Education, besides self-learning is vital. Today, lets see how it is perceived by one of the policy makers:

“I am not an educationist. Indeed, I welcome ideals and suggestions from the teachers and administrators of institutions like yours on what kind of educational reforms we should implement. Here I only wish to present a few broad thoughts on the subject.

Gurukul Kangri Vishwa-vidyalaya is situated in the holy town of Haridwar, on the banks of Maa Ganga. That itself is a source of uniqueness and pride. Equally proud is its association with Swami Shraddhananda, a great freedom fighter and social reformer in the pre-1947 era, and one who was inspired by Swami Dayananda Saraswati to promote the ideals of Swabhasha, Swadharma and Swadesh. Before he took sanyas, he was known as Mahatma Munshiram, about whom Gandhiji himself said, “If anybody called me Mahatma, I would think that it is a case of mistaken identity. The true Mahatma is Munshiramji.”

Indeed, there is no other university in India that received such strong blessings and regular personal attention from Gandhiji as the Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya. Recently, Prof. Swatantra Kumar sent me two books about your university. One of them, which is quite bulky, is devoted solely to Mahatma Gandhi’s association with your Gurukul.

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Gurukul Kangri
The second book, titled Deekshalok, is a collection of the convocation addresses by eminent personalities who visited the Gurukul since its inception more than a hundred years ago. For amongst the eminent personalities who came here was Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who delivered the convocation address in 1943. He was the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. I started my political life as an activist of this party, which merged into the Janata Party in 1977 in the aftermath of the successful struggle against the Emergency Rule and was reborn, after the fall of the Janata Government, as the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.

Dr. Mookerjee, who was known as the “Lion of Bengal”, was an outstanding leader. A great freedom fighter, an able minister in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first government after Independence, a widely respected opposition leader after he resigned from the government, and by far the best parliamentarian of his time, he was all this and more. He was also one of the greatest educationists and vice chancellors of his time. Son of Ashutosh Mookerjee, himself a highly revered educationist in Bengal, he became the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious Calcutta University when he was only 33 years old.

Let me quote a few lines from Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s convocation address at your university. “We are not unhappy with the fact that (during the British rule) the doors of western education were opened for Indians. What distresses us is the fact that this education is being imparted to us by suppressing India’s rich heritage of culture and knowledge…We should cultivate in the hearts of young Indians such strong pride and such deep awareness about our national heritage that makes them rise above the barriers of caste and community.” Dr. Mookerjee complimented the Gurukul “for demonstrating that in our country it is possible to create a proper balance between the fundamental aspects of the Indian civilization and the needs of the scientific and technological era.”

Dr. Mookerjee’s words show that our great leaders were never against modernity and scientific and technological progress. However, what they stressed as an ideal was modernity with an Indian personality, and not imported and supplanted from outside.

Need to protect and promote Sanskrit, Hindi and Indian languages
Gurukul Kangri Vishwa-vidyalaya is one of the few universities in India that was not only founded to promote education through Hindi and Sanskrit, but has kept that tradition alive even today. I am not against English, and I do not think that any Indian should oppose English for the sake of it. After all, it is the repository of immense knowledge from the modern era. Over the years, it has become as much a language of Indians as it is a language of Britishers or Americans. Nevertheless, I believe that Angrezi and Angreziat are two different things. Angreziat connotes a sense of superiority complex, which, unfortunately, has survived in India long after the British rule ended in our country.

In this context, let me give an example from my own life, which I have mentioned in my recently published autobiography. I knew very little Hindi during the first twenty years of my life (1927-47) I spent in Sindh. But I studied it diligently after I migrated to this part of India after Partition. I came from Rajasthan to Delhi in 1957 to assist Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Parliamentary Wing of my party. Those days, whenever the telephone rang at my residence and I happened to pick it up, my first expression was (it still is), “Haan ji.” To which, many times, the response from the other side used to be: “Sahab ghar mein hain?” (Is sahib at home?). And I would tell them, “Aap ko Advani se baat karani hai, to main bol raha hoon.” (If you wish to speak to Advani, you are talking to the right person.)

When we talk of India’s national heritage, we must remember that our linguistic diversity is a very rich part of this heritage. Each of the Indian languages has a precious treasure of knowledge, cultural and artistic wealth, folk memory and spiritual enlightenment. Unfortunately, one of the ill-effects of globalisation has been the neglect of Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages. This is especially true about university and college education, but is now rapidly spreading in secondary and primary education, too. This neglect must be arrested and reversed.

I strongly believe that education is an important field where our nation’s ability to face present and future challenges is going to be tested.

The question that naturally arises is: What kind of educational development will enable India to successfully face the challenges of today and tomorrow? I believe that it has to be an Indian model, rooted strongly in the Indian soil, based on Indian’s needs, and guided by India’s integral view of life.

I am not an educationist. Indeed, I welcome ideals and suggestions from the teachers and administrators of institutions like yours on what kind of educational reforms we should implement. Here I only wish to present a few broad thoughts on the subject.

The first and most important feature of this model is to develop a strong sense of patriotism among students of all backgrounds. Our students should have sufficient knowledge of such basic aspects of our national history, society, culture, way of life, our national heroes, our achievements in the past and present, and future goals as will make them proud to be Indians. National pride and awareness of national unity alone can help our people transcend the various diversities, which otherwise can become sources of divisiveness.

The Indian model of education should help students develop an all-round human personality. There is a need to provide high-quality education for all in diverse streams of academic knowledge and skills, combined with values, morals and sanskaras. Academic knowledge can help a person earn a livelihood. But it is the inner development of personality that alone can help him learn how to live life. That is what forms the basis of Indian education, and particularly the traditional Gurukul system.

We cannot perhaps revive and recreate the external aspects of the Gurukul system in today’s times, but its core is equally relevant even today. We should enhance the prestige and social status of a teacher to that of a “Guru”, because a teacher cannot merely be a purveyor of information or book-based knowledge. He or she should be in a position to impart wisdom, teaching students how to live life, inculcating in them a sense of right and wrong, and stimulating in them varied interests in the wonders of the world. It goes without saying that teachers’ own continuous training and retraining has to receive priority attention.

Far too often, we rely on alien methods of education in India. It is necessary to revive Indian systems of learning and teaching. As we know, many great minds have worked on this subject in ancient as well as modern times. For example, Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram has identified five principal components of education and also evolved appropriate ways of developing them among students: (1) Development of the power of concentration and the capacity of attention; (2) Development of the capacities of expansion, widening, complexity and richness; (3) Organisation of one’s ideas around a central idea, or a higher ideal that will serve as a guide in life; (4) Thought-control, rejection of undesirable thoughts, and the ability to think only what one wants and when one wants; (5) Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.
It will be seen from this that Indian educationists have delved into the deeper potential of the human mind and how to actualise it through education. The present education system is aimed at developing a very small part of the mental potential of students. This is because of the one-sided emphasis on the fulfillment of the material needs of human beings. If this imbalance is removed, and more and more people are empowered through proper education to develop the hidden powers of their minds and hearts, we can indeed hope to see a qualitatively superior kind of social progress in the future. And this is what our seers like Swami Dayananda, Swami Shraddhananda, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Maharshi Aurobindo and others had attempted.

The Gurukul Kangri University was born out of this Indian vision of education—to support the all-round development of the nation as well as the individual. Students who have graduated this year, and who received their degree certificates today, should be proud that they studied in such a great institution. They must try to attain excellence in their future studies and professional life, for that is what will bring recognition, success and satisfaction to you. However, they should also strive to live by the ideals and sanskaras that they imbibed while learning and living in the Gurukul.”

– L. K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha

(Excerpts from the speech at Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya Convocation in Haridwar on June 7, 2008.)