English, the Mother Goddess

History, Politics

A rather vivid account of Lord Macauley’s 206th birthday celebration in the Indian Express. The event was organized by Dalit leader Chandrabhan Prasad, which included the unveiling of a portrait of English, the Mother Goddess:

Dalit poet Parak sang a couplet to the portrait - a refashioned Statue of Liberty, wearing a hippie hat, holding a massive pink pen, standing on a computer, with a blazing map of India in the background - Oh, Devi Ma/ Please Let us Learn English/ Even the dogs understand English, to cheers and laughter, even as Lord Macaulay’s portrait, looking the perfect English buccaneer, gazed below.

Alas, I haven’t been able to find an image of the portrait. Prasad’s reveres Macauley because:

Macaulay…his insistence to teach the natives” English broke the stranglehold of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic teaching, a privilege of only the elite castes and, he argued,for the European kind of modern education, with focus on modern sciences. Imagine, if we had only followed indigenous study,’’ said Bhan, we would be like Afghanistan or Nepal today.’’……“Today, English-speaking Dalits and Adivasis are less disrespected, therefore, empowered by Goddess English, Dalits can take their place in the new globalised world.’’

An interesting contrast to the view of Hindu Nationalists, for whom Macaulay’s Children” is a favored insult for members of the English speaking Indian intelligentsia:

They are not real people, but zombies programmed by Macaulay to act like the Caliban, the slave.

Much as I enjoy the irony of using Shakespeare to advance the Hindutva agenda, I am much more inclined to sympathize with Ashis Nandy who seems to have had a jolly time at the party:

I certainly do not agree with some of Bhan’s thesis,’’ said an aghast Nandy, but I certainly support every oppressed community or individual’s right to pick up any weapon, be it political, academic or intellectual incorrectness, to fight the establishment. It’s the sheer audacity of it that makes it so forceful.’’