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Only through Sanskrit, can India make a credible narrative about its Sanskriti

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By Nithin Sridhar

Every country, every nation needs a narrative, a story about its past, its culture and traditions, its battles and victories, and about achievements and failures by its people. The narrative of a country defines its identity and self-hood.The narrative tells people who they are, where they came from, what heritage or what baggage do they carry from their past.

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Need for a National Narrative

A country’s narrative is as much about its present and future as it is about its past. Without knowing who one is, without knowing what the nation stood for, there will be neither any clarity about present activities, nor a vision or direction about the future.Therefore, it is very vital for any nation, any country, in fact any community to have a narrative about its own-self.

If we look at various countries of the world, like China, Japan, UK, or Russia, they all have a well-defined story, a narrative about their own nations which are not only factual but are also narrated from their own world-view. It is only India which is still devoid of any such narratives. The history, politics, religion, art, culture and every other aspect of Indian life is still defined and judged based on narratives which has been created for India by people who are often inimical to India. These narratives have been created from a world-view which is completely alien to Indian concept of life as explained in my article “India is free, but Indians are still colonized.

But, sadly, many Indians don’t realize the necessity of such a narrative and some even show apathy and dislike towards the issue.

Writing about such attitudes among Indians, Rajiv Malhotra writes:

Unfortunately, I find Indians, especially Hindus, confused about this matter, often in denial about its significance, and even outright hostile to the very idea of having such a narrative. Many elites in Delhi have criticized my suggestion for narrative debates and discussions, calling such an activity divisive. They see India through the lens of fragments, with separate and conflicting narratives, and Hinduism as the scourge inflicting our society’s health and viability.”

Therefore, it is very vital to create an “Indian Narrative” if India ever wishes to become an independent and assertive global player. And Sanskrit will play a very central role in creation of any genuine and credible narrative about India.

Sanskrit and India’s National Narrative

Sanskrit is the mother of not only of many Indian languages but also of much of the Indian culture and lifestyle. The Vedas were transmitted by the Rishis (Seers) in Sanskrit. The treatise on dharma (duty and law), artha (wealth and administration), kama (human desires) and moksha (spiritual path) have been written and taught in Sanskrit. Much of Indian drama, dance, music, arts and every other Indian aspect of life had been explored and expressed in Sanskrit.

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Just as a mother nourishes her children, Sanskrit has nourished every human expression, every human action and every aspect of human life.

A language like English can be termed as a “predatory” language, which replaces not only the word-usages in other indigenous languages, but also the ideas, thoughts and values expressed in them.

Unlike predatory languages, Sanskrit has been a “nourishing” language. It has lent its store house of knowledge and wisdom, its arts and sciences as well as its intricacies of language to other Indian languages and yet has allowed those indigenous languages to develop independently and attain zenith.

Further, the ideas of religion and philosophy, ethics and morality, arts and science, or of spirituality that have been expressed in various indigenous languages,can all be traced to the ideas expressed by various rishis and thinkers in Sanskrit.Moreover Sanskrit has influenced the culture and thought process of not only India, but also of whole South Asia and South-East Asia.

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While explaining the central role that Sanskrit plays in Indian life and how India lost its strength and selfhood and became passive because of abandoning Sanskrit, Kapil Kapoor says:

“India has powerful, attested, traditions of texts and thinkers in disciplines ranging from prosody to philosophy and these are enshrined mainly in Sanskrit. By abandoning this donor Sanskrit tradition, we have become passive, uncritical recipients of Western theories and models.

“Had the classical thought enshrined in Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit texts and some of it preserved as adaptation in Old Tamil texts been made a part of the mainstream education, it would have enabled the educated Indian to interact with the west on a level ground. This tradition has attested texts and thinkers in a wide range of disciplines – philosophy, grammar, poetics, prosody, astronomy, architecture, mathematics, medicine, atmospheric sciences, sociology / ethics (dharmasastra), chemistry, physics, agriculture, economics and commerce, music, botany and zoology, weaponry and art of warfare, logic, education, metallurgy. The texts of these disciplines not only make statements about the respective domains of knowledge but also enshrine the empirical wisdom gathered by our society over centuries in these spheres.”

Hence, Sanskrit is deeply connected to Indian life and identity. A revival of Indian life and strength is possible only through a revival of Sanskrit.

Therefore, any credible narrative about India and its identity, must be a narrative of Sanskrit and its expression of Indian way of life. Only through Sanskrit, can India make a credible narrative about its Sanskriti (civilization).

 

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  • Varadraj Bapat

    very good !

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The Plight of India’s Homeless Women Increases As Cities Expand

More than half the shelters are porta-cabins, which are refashioned steel containers with few facilities.

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Homeless women sit amidst their belongings on a pavement in New Delhi, which has among the most homeless people in India
Homeless women sit amidst their belongings on a pavement in New Delhi, which has among the most homeless people in India. VOA

Manjeet Kaur cannot say exactly how old she is or how long she has lived on the pavement of a busy street in New Delhi, her belongings in plastic bags, her washing hanging on the railing.

Kaur was kicked out years ago by her husband’s family in the northern Indian city of Ludhiana after a quarrel over property.

She boarded a bus to New Delhi with her two young sons, going first to a Sikh gurudwara, a place of worship, for free food.

With no money and no one to turn to, Kaur and her sons settled on the pavement outside the gurudwara, marking their space among other families who lived there.

When it rains, they cover themselves with plastic sheets.

Residents are seen at a shelter for homeless women in New Delhi. VOA
Residents are seen at a shelter for homeless women in New Delhi. VOA

They have little protection from the winter’s cold or the summer’s heat, when temperatures routinely soar above 40°C (104°F).

“I had nowhere to go. The house, the land — nothing was in my name,” said Kaur. “Here, the police harass us, and the locals curse us, and I’m sometimes too afraid to sleep. But we cannot afford to pay rent and the shelters are not good, so what option do we have?”

Kaur is one of at least 10,000 homeless women in India’s capital, where thousands of people arrive every day from villages and small towns, looking for better opportunities.

Many end up in slums and other informal settlements. Others settle under bridges, flyovers, on pavements and road dividers.

Women, who are estimated to make up about 10 percent of India’s homeless population, suffer the brunt of a growing crisis brought on by rapid urbanization, soaring property prices, and a critical lack of shelters and affordable housing.

Compounding the difficulty is a lack of reliable data on homeless people, and homeless women in particular.

Delhi, a city of more than 16 million people, has 46,724 homeless people — among the most of any Indian city — according to the 2011 census.

Rights groups say the estimate is conservative, and that the actual figure is three times higher.

They also question the reported decline in India’s homeless population to 1.77 million nationwide in the 2011 census data, from 1.9 million a decade earlier.

Residents sit at a shelter for homeless women in New Delhi
Residents sit at a shelter for homeless women in New Delhi. VOA

In the same period, the urban homeless rose by a fifth, according to the data.

“Our cities are growing at a remarkable rate, and that puts a strain on the government’s capacity to respond to the needs of the people, including the homeless,” said Ashwin Parulkar at the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy and Research.

“Not having an accurate understanding of the extent of homelessness — who they are, where they are, what their needs are — hinders policymaking and compromises the ability to plan and provide for them,” he told Reuters.

Different definitions

Globally, at least 150 million people, or about 2 percent of the population, are estimated to be homeless. More than a fifth of the population lacks adequate housing.

But getting an accurate handle on homelessness is difficult because of different definitions in countries, and governments’ inability to adequately measure the phenomenon, said Joseph Chamie, a former director of the U.N. population agency.

Governments also have a tendency to understate the problem, while the homeless are reluctant to be counted, he said.

Drawings by children are displayed on the wall of a shelter for homeless women in
Drawings by children are displayed on the wall of a shelter for homeless women in. VOA

Yet the causes are the same: poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, family breakdown, civil conflict and environmental disasters, he said.

“There is no quick solution: even developed countries are encountering considerable difficulties. So ending urban homelessness in less developed countries is unlikely,” he said.

With at least 55 percent of the world’s population living in urban centers, homelessness is ever more apparent, from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.

The problem is especially severe in India, which is forecast to overtake China by 2024 as the world’s most populous country, with tens of millions cramming into already crowded cities.

Alongside, evictions are rising: At least six homes are pulled down and 30 people forcibly removed each hour in India to make way for metro stations and highways.

Homeless women bear the brunt, as they face more abuse and violence on the street, but have few claims over property and limited access to shelters, said Shivani Chaudhry at the advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network in Delhi.

Many of these women have left abusive marriages, suffered sexual violence, or have been abandoned by families for mental illness or after the death of a husband, she said.

“Homeless women suffer the worst kinds of violence and insecurity, and are vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking,” said Chaudhry. “Shelters are not a permanent solution.”

Housing for all

India has committed to provide housing for all its citizens by 2022, with an aim to build 20 million urban units.

A portable shelter for homeless people is seen in New Delhi
A portable shelter for homeless people is seen in New Delhi. VOA

But analysts say the program bypasses homeless people who cannot afford the mortgage payments.

The Supreme Court has ordered states to provide at least one 24-hour shelter for every 100,000 residents in major urban centers.

Few states have complied, citing the high cost of land.

“Our top priority is to have enough permanent shelters with facilities and services, including health care, job training and counseling,” said Bipin Rai, a senior official at the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board.

“But the main challenge is lack of land. So we have to make do with temporary shelters,” he said.

Delhi has the most shelters of any Indian city — about 200 to hold more than 16,000 people. There are 20 shelters for women.

More than half the shelters are porta-cabins, which are refashioned steel containers with few facilities.

At some permanent women’s shelters, women get three meals a day, skills training, and help getting identification papers and school admissions for their children.

At one such shelter, colorful drawings by the children are on a wall, including several of a simple house flanked by two trees, the sun smiling from above.

Also Read: Launch of Maternity Scheme Brings Happiness to More Than 11 Lakh Women

“I would like to earn enough so I can live in a house with my family,” said Saima, who had previously lived on the street after coming to Delhi some years ago. “But that may not be possible. This may be our only home.” (VOA)