Tuesday, 16 June 2015

2 ways of reading Niradh Chaudhri.

How should we read this purple passage from Niradh Chaudhri?
The emic Indglish way
Since Niradh Chaudhri read the same books  I did as an adolescent (I inherited them from my Grandmother who was self-educated in English) I can easily 'deconstruct' the 'dhvani' allusions in the above.
1) The dictionary of Quotations, Indian students used to memorize so as to variegate their answer-sheets and secure jobs in the Civil Service, had, under Immanuel Kant, this- '"Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me."
 For a Tamil Sama Vedic Brahmin, like me, it was usual to pair this quotation with one from the Chandogya. Thus mention of oneself as a child gazing at the Night Sky had as dhvani, not the Pleiades suckling Murugan with star-light, but devotion to Murugan-as-Subhramanyam such that materialistic, that is ritualistic- for nothing mental is otherwise material merely- Purva Mimamsaka heteronomy is overcome.

Niradh, however, was a Sakta Kayastha with Brahmo leanings for whom, since Vaishnavism was declasse in Bengal, the occluded planet referred to was that Vaikunta where his Mom wasn't mentally ill and for which he remained home-sick.

2) Unlike me, Niradh was a scholar and naturally identified with prodigies like Bhratrhari. Furthermore, it was his education which increasingly took him away from his mother. Though not 'the axe that laid waste the forest of his mother's youth'- in the sense that she didn't have to work long hours to support his studies- nevertheless mental illness in Indian women at that time was linked to their feeling of loss of control because their children, from an early age, were under pressure to do well in a wholly alien educational system.

The scholar's lament that all his achievements are unreal, the world is unreal, because Mom isn't here to witness my success, translates well into the Bengali Sakta tradition- perhaps it is because theirs is a nation of scholars that feeling for the Mother is so highly developed in them- but, in Ramprasad Sen, that tradition, fueled by Nabadwipa's Navya-Nyaya anticipations of modern set theory, had achieved, not what Godel sought in Bernay's Reflection Principle- but the Grothendieckian scandal by which, seeing Mother kick God in the chest, showing stony heartedness to the concreteness of the linga,  Faith stumbles over the Threshold of Dream into Incarnate Being-in-the-World.

Except that couldn't happen for Niradh coz he was a bit Brahmo- i.e. a Unitittyarian (nipples are many, titty is one)- shite at Maths and had seen Tagore, his Parmahans Swann, not frozen in a Mallarmean lake, but captivated and vulgarized and finally and very respectably outlived by that worthless Odette we call Shantiniketan.

Thus all that was left to him was
3) Chapter 5 of Browne's Urn Burial- a set-text for Matric back when that exam would have been impossible to pass for many a modern day Professor of English.

Niradh aspired to be a historian, but in the meretricious mold of Hipplolyte Taine, and thus race, milieu, et moment- which, when doubled in every Mother tongue's Aagamani Mirror are Hermeneutics' six feet of ground- cashed him out as a gibbering Bangla gibbon berating Ghotis for ignoring their own imaginary 'moles of Adrianus'.

Of course, by an Indglish convention then current, mention of a 'Niti' text, like that of Browne, more especially because of its euphuistic 'Riti' texture, must immediately be followed by the striking of a Cyrenaic note- Nehru does this quite elegantly- before, of course, the obligatory 'mujhse pehle se mohabat, mahboob, na maang' stern Socialistic disavowal of availability for any tryst save with that Destiny which Marx, in Heaven, has already thoroughly debauched.

In the passage quoted above, Niradh, sadly, couldn't make that final and conventionally required presentment of Indglishry. Why? Well, he swotted too hard, as opposed to crammed simply, and so hadn't passed his M.A and gone on to Cambridge and the LSE and so on. Instead he had become a clerk in the Military Accounts Dept and had he stayed there, his hobby of military history- he corresponded with Capt. Liddel Hart- and love of French would have attracted attention. Moonje would have tried to recruit him. Bose, the younger, would have employed him as something more than a secretary. Some 'big gun' Maharaja would have sought him as a tutor for his son or lecturer for his putative Staff College.

But Niradh didn't stay the course in the Bureaucracy. True, he was picked up by All India Radio and, during the war, was paid to say things like- 'Pardon me, the correct pronunciation of 'Wipers' is 'Ypres' not 'that stinky French shithole'. What's more the Duke of Marlborough, the ancestor of our new Prime Minister, won a battle against General Faux pas Bidet at that very spot a couple of hundred years ago.' Well, that's not what he actually said- but Niradh was Bengali and, more inexcusably, he knew French so that's what listeners would have heard no matter what he actually said. Provided, that is, Hippolyte Taine's hermeneutic theory is correct and Niradh's own project not ludicrous ab ovo.

What was Niradh's 'dark abyss'? For Indglish readers, it was obviously the Secular consequence of a Satanic non serviam. Niradh wrote his auto-biography to refute the charge that he was a slacker and a wastrel who gave up a good job in Military Accounts to become a soi disant Gypsy Scholar. Again and again he insists that he ended up financially better off, or at least not greatly disadvantaged, by his refusal to don the blinkers of 'Service' and trudge an accustomed groove.


What about non-Indglish readers? Would they find something different in this extract from Niradh? If so, would it be funny? After all, if Indglish Punditry, like mine, e'en aleatorily, attains virtuosity in being shite, it is only because English Punditry has always confused Virtue with possessing shite for brains.

Globalised Academia's etic way
This was written by a pukka English Prof.





Mindlessly repeating the cliche 'that puts itself in the abyss', is of course, as Hilary Putnam pointed out, what meat-headed post-grads thought doing Derrida meant. Niradh wasn't an academic, thus he'd been forced to write well. His Taineism was stupid but not opportunistic, unlike Spivak's Derridacoity.

Why the fuck would Niradh buy into so obviously false a notion as 'the ineluctable materiality of signs'? Linga means sign. Kali kicks it not because it is material and she is stony hearted but because it isn't and she is not. Ramprasad Sen sings about it and his song was on the lips of every Mother, every Aunt, every Ayah, every baul. Niradh wasn't 'caught between 2 language games'. He wrote 'Riti' Indglish same as wot I do. Okay he knew from Spelling and Sanskrit and Shit but then he hadn't the advantage of attending a Russel Group Uni.
Yet, at the end of the day, at least in Academia, it is this young Professor's reading which will prevail.Why? Because the same paragraph, only slightly rewritten, could cover any Third World writer of the previous century. This has obvious utility. Education isn't paideia, it is repeating the same shite regardless of alteration of circumstances. A Credentialized Higher Education system feeds an increasingly deracinated and transnational Bureaucracy which, so as to be ineffective in posing a check upon rootless oligarchs gaming the system, is both boundlessly stupid and utterly predictable.

Indglish, like sabak-e-hindi, or Riti, only flourished when bureaucracies were National in character and recruited, at the lower ranks, from the local bildungsburgertum.

Now that everybody and her cat has a PhD from Amrika, Indglish is doomed.
What for you getting so happy, I say?
Henceforth I will write only Urdu verse.
Mind it kindly.
Aiyayo.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

At least the fellow has read the original text. Most of our Professors don't even bother to do that.

G.S Suri said...

You need to highlight the Professor's paper properly so that people can make up their own minds.
The abstract says- ' The article examines four ways of reading the work of a twentieth-century Anglophone Indian intellectual, by employing postcolo-nial, Foucauldian, Zizekan ⁄ Lacanian, and ultimately deconstructive approaches to produce, in each case, a very different thinker:
1) a willing imperialist tool. HOW? EMPIRE ENDED BEFORE NIRAD STARTED GETTING PUBLISHED! HOW YOU CAN BE A 'WILLING TOOL' OF SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT EXIST?
2) a sly subverter of colonial hegemony WHY SLYLY SUBVERT SOMETHING WHICH WAS DEFEATED AND RAN AWAY?
3) a postcolonial subject fraught with internal libidinal tensions in its relationship to the paternal power, AUTHOR SUGGESTS NIRAD HAD HOMOEROTIC INTEREST IN A HANDSOME ENGLISH GENT HE SAW IN LONDON. SO WHAT? HOMOS ARE INTERESTED IN HANDSOME GENTS OF ALL RACES. TO PROVE HIS CASE, AUTHOR MUST SHOW NIRAD MENTIONING A PATERNAL TYPE OF ENGLISHMAN AND DISPLAYING AROUSAL IN HIS PRESENCE.
4) and, finally, an intellectual obsessed with historically emptying and rendering finite every cultural phenomena he encounters. HOW CAN ANYONE NOWADAYS READ NIRAD AS AN 'INTELLECTUAL' AS OPPOSED TO AN OPINIONATED OLD WINDBAG?

Still, as previous commentator said, at least this foreigner took trouble to actually read the original texts. Our fellows like Bhaba and Gayatri won't even do that.

windwheel said...

1) Nirad thought the Americans would team up with the Brits and other Europeans to come back to India and re-establish their rule. In that case, he would get a top job and have the last laugh on his former bosses. Thus, it was perfectly possible for him to be a 'willing Imperialist tool' for the new overlords he was expecting.
2) If he was stupid enough to believe the White man to report why shouldn't he slyly subvert their hegemony? After all, a genuine traitor betrays everybody without distinction.
3) Traitors are father fuckers just as much as they are mo' fo's. Anyway, Niradji was very limber. His one man show 'O Calcutta!' garnered great praise for nudity and erotic suggestiveness.
4) All Bengali windbags are considered intellectuals. How is he any worse than Amartya Sen or Spivak or any other 'Public intellectual'?