Gandhi – the name has become a synonym for something good isn’t it? Sometime I wonder whether a person with a name as “Manickavinayagam Muthumanicam” stands a chance to attract such a multitude of people as Gandhi. I doubt it. There are conflicting reports on how Nehru’s family attached Gandhi to their surname. It is hard to image, Indira Khan would be as successful as Indira Gandhi. Whoever or however the name change was done, it was one by a political genius.
Recently, I read a book “Wounded Civilization” by Mr. Naipaul. It has everything in it to believe that it is written by an Indian. Back in the days, when I listen to my grandfather, each sentence will have many hidden meaning. How I break it was literally up to me. For some reason, when I read this book I was thinking about him.
Growing up in the 80’s, when the economical prosperity which people see now in India was not there, everyone in India was a communist. Rob the rich give it to the poor. (I have nothing against communism, but it’s my feeling that as long as there are human needs communism will never work.) It was a total chaos, when people started supporting the emergency declared by Indira Gandhi; it shows you the true state of India in those days. On one hand, everyone read stories on how to be a better Hindu; on the other, people saw the high rise buildings and cars through western cinema. An average Indian was stuck between these 2 back in the days.
For me, Mr. Naipaul looks someone similar to our average Indian in the 80's. The entire book was based on Mr. R.K. Narayanan stories. It makes me believe that growing up in Trinidad far away from an enigma named India; Mr. Naipaul grew up fantasying the world portrayed by Mr. Narayanan. But India in the 80’s is nothing like the picture painted by Mr. Narayanan. India was a confused world stuck between Gandhi’s ideology and Nehru’s social fantasy. It was a tough world; it seems Mr. Naipaul set foot on India during this critical junction. I could imagine the shock which Mr. Naipaul felt when he first meets the India of the 80’s. For me, it seems that Mr. Naipaul blames Gandhi’s ideology for this state. Do I want to argue the pros and cons of Gandhi’s effect on India? No. What does Mr. Naipaul book got to do with this topic about names?
Well Gandhi is the principle reason why caste became a taboo in India. Now in the book Mr. Naipaul doesn’t feel confident in judging caste in India. I have to agree, after spending my entire life in India, even I don’t understand, I definitely feel for him. It feels like it is one of the unwritten message which flows through the book. He feels that he wants to say that Gandhi’s effect did not eradicate the caste system in India; instead it ignited it to an unbearable proportion. Now our hero “Manikavinayagam Muthumanikam” would have become “Manikavinayagam reddy or Devar or Iyer what ever it may be”, now it sounds different. I am not a proponent of caste. If name change would work then Mohandas Karamchand should have stopped there; it should have never become Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Caste system would have been eradicated by a better economical condition (I hope Patel envisioned this when he wanted capitalism). I do agree that caste system should be constrained. But caste system was an evolving animal; recently I read an article about quota in IIT in rediff; I feel that he nailed it. He was saying that once he entered into IIT, he belong to a different place. He was no longer a Dalit, he was social elite. I feel that’s what should have been done. People like Nehru should have worked their life so that social and economical statuses of Dalits are uplifted. The system calling them “Children of God”, working on creating a sect of self sufficient villages will never work. Prosperity would have brought in lots of change.
That’s the reason that I feel that India is going in the right path. One day caste system will be abolished not by the politicians who give false promises, but by economical and social prosperity.