Social Scientist. v 17, no. 188-89 (Jan-Feb 1989) p. 72.


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JAVEED ALAM*

Search For An Indian Renaissance

The trouble with India's search for Renaissance is like trying to collect water without a container—you can only hold a handful. And even that threatens to drip. We are baffled. Again and again the search for water is begun. We, the concerned and the committed, naively believe that the next attempt will prove successful. From Ram Mohan to Derogio to Nehru, to name only a few important ones, such, unfortunately, has been the story of our unfinished tragedy. It has been, to draw an analogy from mythology, akin to Sisyphus' labour, at least till now. The cheerful note is that we have not given up, nor should we, for our survival as a people, a nation-state and an aspired civilization is bound up to the successful completion of this historical endeavour, one hundred and fifty years long by now.

Being a Marxist I cannot be a pessimist. I stay and struggle with the people, with confidence and hope. I remain committed to the integrity and well-being of my country because in that I see the only certainty of our (immediate) future. But I continue to be intrigued by my civilisation for in it I find the sources of uncertainty and confusion, at the same time as I feel a profound sense of awe at its tremendous philosophical and artistic achievements.

What I would like to delve into here, very briefly, is the great ambiguity of our civilisational situation as a source of renewal. Renaissance, for our purposes, conceptually reconstructed is not simply an ideational framework nor are achievements around values. It was above everything else a route traversed by a people in the course of this history. What they gathered and bequeathed with finesse and filth, drained conceptually of the filth, is our inheritance of Renaissance. The route entailed an intersection of two powerful streams. One, the search for roots took the European man to the Hellenic world which had accomplished the great feat of separating the domain of philosophy—man-centered critical unending inquiry—from the sphere of religion which was reduced to non-deferential mythology where sat, as he sits today, Zeus with his cohorts.

Man re-entered this domain of philosophy to enfeeble the institutionalised Christ of papacy with its scholasticism and parasitic

* Department of Political Science, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla



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