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Home > Business > Pravasi Bharatiya Divas


Shed the idea of being a victim, Sir Vidia tells Indians

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | January 10, 2003 18:11 IST

Nobel laureate Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad NaipaulNobel laureate Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul said Indians 'must shed the idea of being a victim and turn the barb on ourselves to find out why have we failed historically.'

Addressing the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, he stated the first ever gathering of the Diaspora had 'an element of a trade fair.'

He said the 'commercial success' of recent Indian migrants to the United States 'may be the driving force of this gathering,' but admitted that it was necessary for this to happen.

He said it is important for the Indian Diaspora to understand that 'degradation within the country' was the reason why thousands were taken to colonial farms around the world by the British, French and Dutch colonizers.

The 'country did not give any protection' when they were being taken away, the Nobel laureate said.

He said it was 'very good' that the Pravasi meet was being celebrated on the same day as Mahatma Gandhi's day of return to India from South Africa.

"He was a failure in South Africa," Naipaul said of the Mahatma.

From his failure in South Africa and the racial discrimination he witnessed there 'rose the Indian independence movement.' In South Africa, Gandhi 'saw difficulties very clearly.' Had he not left India, the Mahatma would not have got that opportunity, Naipaul said.

He pointed that India was one of the cultural basins of the world till about 1400 AD or so, but it had declined since then.

To underscore what was wrong with India, Naipaul narrated the story of art historian Ananda K Coomaraswamy, whose father was a Sri Lankan and mother was Irish. Coomaraswamy, who wrote on Indian art, had a career that matched Mahatma Gandhi's, he said.

In the 1890s, Coomaraswamy, then in his 20s and immensely rich, decided to study the art of Ceylon, India and Indonesia. He used his fortune to come to India and travel and find details about paintings of Rajput courts from 'secondhand book stores and palaces.'

He put together some 900 paintings of the Rajput courts. "We must not think of other people only victimising India," Naipaul argued, narrating Coomaraswamy's contributions to India.

The art historian wanted to establish a museum in India and was initially told that the Nizam would be interested, but nothing happened for long. Then he approached the Benaras Hindu University. He 'offered' his collection of paintings to India, 'India told him to go away,' Sir Vidia said.

Coomaraswamy finally set up his art museum in Boston.

Sir Vidia reiterated that Indians should not blame the colonial powers for all their ills. He wound up his short speech, saying: "Stop blaming the British for everything."

He said he 'just wanted to drop the little stone of thought' and hoped 'it will ripple a little in this pool of thought.'



Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

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