[HT: brain pickings]
A compendium of idle musings
One hundred dollar bill ($100)
Ten thousand dollars ($10,000)
One million dollars ($1,000,000)
One hundred million dollars ($100,000,000)
One billion dollars ($1,000,000,000)
One trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000)
That escalated quickly, huh?!
There are 12 coins, one of which is a counterfeit. The false coin differs in weight from the true ones, but you don’t know whether it’s heavier or lighter. Find the counterfeit coin using three weighings in a pan balance.
[From Futility Closet]
The “pulping” of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History by Penguin is yet another blow to the freedom of expression by the religious radicals and fundamentalists who take offence at the drop of a hat. The instances of such attacks — started in 1989 when the Indian government banned Satanic Verses — have increased dramatically in recent years, and the offence-mongers’ purview has expanded from books to movies, artists, and even celebrities. This is not surprising. When a society obliges to a culture of mutual intolerance by capitulating to those who are easily offended, it results into an if-them-then-why-not-us race, with every faction of society vying appeasement for their injured self-esteem.
I read this book back in 2009. Although the size and scope of this epic was prohibitive (with more than 700 pages), I found Doniger’s vantage refreshing and thought-provoking. The book offers an alternative history of the Hindu religion, looking through the prism of scriptures and tales, zooming into the role of women, members of the lower caste, and animals. It’s a story about the alternative people and characters. Her rationale is to provide an auxiliary viewpoint to show that the so-called marginalized groups (women and Pariahs) actually did have substantial contribution to the development of Hindu tradition. The book is a “celebration of diversity and pluralism, not to mention the worldly wisdom and sensuality, of the Hindus “.
By renouncing such scholarly work, the Hindu radicals are not only attacking the liberal values of our society, but (ironically) also weakening the pluralistic nature of Hindu tradition. It doesn’t surprise me that this regressive act is braced by the right-wing Hindus that are often politically motivated. What troubles me more is the passive support from the moderates. “Yes, I believe in freedom of speech as well, but we have to draw the line somewhere”, “We need to be careful about hurting other (religious) people’s sentiments”, “No one gets away with an offensive book about Muslims, then why shouldn’t we protect Hindu sentiments as well?” are some common responses to this controversy by the religious moderates. It’s dismaying to see a rather large section of the Indian society supporting (however passively), and hence fortifying, the spirits of offence-mongers.
A culture with no space for alternative interpretations and ideas is a culture of putrid orthodoxy. We must not succumb to these regressive forces that are destructive to an open society.
Here’s a little turkey-day trivia:
Had the Peruvians called the bird american, the circle would have been complete.
[Source: Wikipedia, HT: @manish_vij]
What if Vallabhbhai Patel, not Nehru, had been India’s first Prime Minister?
Here is a cursory yet plausible answer from historian Ramachandra Guha:
“[T]he Congress would have become more right-wing (and pro-Hindu), with Nehru leaving to start an opposition party which, with his charisma (which far exceeded Patel’s), would have swept to power in the first general elections. So, I fear, this most remarkable and simultaneously most reviled of modern Indians would have become prime minister after all.”
[Pic courtesy: Rediff]