2 Apr 2012

This is most insulting—New Lives for the Indians

Under the caption “Historian tries to buy peace, offers trade-off” the reporter Debjani Dutta of Express News Service, writes in Express Buzz, dated 2 Apr 2012, something very strange, if not shocking, belittling.

She reports, after facing possible expulsion from the country Mr Peter Heehs, the author of the controversial biography, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo published by the Columbia University in 2008, is “prepared for a revised Indian version of his book to be published by Penguin India.”

It is further clarified that, Mr Heehs and the publishers are prepared to strike out any “questionable” passages present in it.

The author admits that there are passages in the biography which have given rise to controversy and he regrets that having happened.

The suggestion is, he would recompose those passages in yet another publication “for use of devotees”. Although this might mean financial loss, it is considered as the best trade-off. The formality of getting necessary clearance will obviously be his concern.

On the very face of such a proposal it looks ridiculous that there should be a specially designed biography for the Indian devotees, for the Indian audience, in contrast to the western readership. It looks ridiculous on many counts, for instance, in deepening the East-West rift. It also looks ridiculous that the Express reporter should have accepted such a line of argument and kind of enthusiastically reported this without any reservation or comment in the newspaper.

It is necessary to examine the implications of such a proposal in a more detailed manner than is possible immediately, but happen it should in the course of time.

Nonetheless what is immediately objectionable is, belittling the Indian thinking and feeling and the will to stand for broader and universal values in various aspects of life. In this belittling the share of the reporter is not small.


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