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Immortal Illustrated Stories

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
July 2011
Immortal Illustrated Stories

Dear PMG:

While I was bemoaning the passing away of Anant Pai, the creator of Amar Chitra Katha, my daughter said some unkind things about the comic book stories that I adored as a child growing up in Rajasthan. I learned more about India’s history and mythology from ACK than anything or anyone else (with the exception of my Dadiji who consistently and pervasively was my India—past and present). I suppose the Ramayana series on television came in a close third.  Actual schoolbooks were never in the race.

Anyway, my daughter explained that her professor of Indian history said these comics were historically incorrect, racist, and casteist. It was almost as if the professor had said that my sweet Dadiji, who literally would not hurt a fly, was historically incorrect, racist, and casteist.

When I protested that Gandhiji would not have objected to Amar Chitra Katha, my daughter blurted out, “Well, he, too, was probably historically incorrect, racist, and casteist.”

That was too much. I told her to stop taking these nonsensical courses and listening to these biased professors. Indeed, I insisted that if my daughter didn’t focus on a more meaningful education like commerce or engineering, I would stop paying for her overpriced college tuition. With all your focus on fancy terms like postmodern, can you please explain this decline in decency?

Dear Friend,

“The aim of university education should be to turn out true servants of the people who will live and die for the country’s freedom.”
“Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.”—M. K. Gandhi.

I can only imagine your daughter’s response to your well-meaning threat to stop funding her tuition payments:  “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Of course, this flip remark would be patently unfair, for your sense of education may be different from hers.

There are many underlying objectives to knowledge acquisition. Climbing up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one can appreciate that a parent who has seen hardship believes that a degree in business or computer science would ensure a secure life, while a child of privilege might argue that self-actualization can only come from studying philosophy or history. Within their worldviews, both would be correct.

Similarly, when we move from a family to a nation, there can be multiple motives associated with educating society’s youth. As suggested by the two quotes from Gandhiji, some would plead for education that enables the “country’s freedom,” and others might argue for “persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness.” While the former school of thought (to which Anant Pai belonged) may seem more patriotic, the latter (to which your daughter seemingly belongs) can also be thought of as a kind of loyal opposition.

Of course, discourse need not resort to name-calling.  Gandhiji, Anant Pai, and, most likely, your Dadiji all wanted to do something for their country. To call them racists because they lived in an era different from ours is not helpful.  It’s a bit like calling Abraham Lincoln a racist because he was known to use the “N” word.

 [Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]

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