We are a forgetful people.
Thankfully, Biplab Kumar Deb, the chatty Chief Minister of Tripura, never forgets.
Just the other day he reminded us that we had Internet during the time of the Mahabharata. Without Jio-Mahabharata, how was Sanjaya live-streaming the great battle to the blind Dhritarashtra? It was an epic battle. Data must have been cheap in those good old days, as cheap as the 1 billion, 660 million, and 20,000 lives lost in that war.
It’s not just the Internet. As other notables from the Prime Minister to the former Commissioner of Mumbai Police have reminded us, the ancients must have known plastic surgery too. Otherwise how did Ganesha get an elephant’s head? And thanks to our expertise in genetic science and stem cell research, Karna was born outside his mother’s womb.
Narada was the real Google who had “information of the whole world” and “collecting information was his dharma for the betterment of humankind”, which sounds curiously like Google’s once-upon-a-time corporate motto of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ which morphed into ‘Do The Right Thing’.
In 2 BC, the sage Kanad, the original Missile Man, conducted the first nuclear test. Ram’s arrows were the prototypes of ISRO’s missiles. Isaac Newton might have needed an apple to fall on his head to be enlightened, but Brahmagupta got there long before him without any rotten apples. IIT students should learn about the Pushpak Vimana from the Ramayanabecause the ancients were flying around much before the Wright Brothers glided for a few measly seconds. The AnashvaRath was obviously a Vedic Ambassador.
Anti-national sceptics need to wake up, see the light, and take a leap of faith. Deb says narrow-minded people find it tough to believe all this because they want to “belittle their own nation and think highly of other countries.”
If narrow-minded people still require foreign affirmation, they could watch that old British comedy series Goodness Gracious Me, which explained a long time ago why everybody was ultimately Indian.
Jesus Christ? Obviously Indian. He worked for his father, his parents had a child without having sex, and he fed 5,000 people with two loaves and five fishes — in other words, an Indian picnic! Leonardo da Vinci? A good desi man. Who else would paint a last supper with a dozen or so men sitting around a dining table? Where were the women? In the kitchen, no doubt.
Superman must have been Indian because where else can a man outrun a train? And Clark Kent with his bhadralokhaircut and thick-rimmed glasses is a textbook version of a Bengali civil servant.
The problem is that brain-washed types can’t grasp the simple truth that Tripura governor Tathagata Roy gets. He explains that it is “virtually impossible” to conceive of Divya-drishti and Pushpaka Ratha without some kind of prototype. We just need to find the prototype again.
That leads us to a mystery that Deb has not yet explained. How did we lose all the prototypes? How did we become a civilisation of absent-minded Mr. Twiddles who managed to forget every bit of invaluable ancient gyan — from the Internet to stem cell research.
While Noah went through the Great Flood, we seem to have gone through the Great Amnesia, our collective hard disk reformatted and wiped clean. What gives? This communal Ctrl-Alt-Del we hit doesn’t seem that smart of us. We clearly invented everything but forgot the backup disk!
The age of 4G
Deb is right in one sense. It’s a rich and glorious civilisation and we need to take pride in what we have, instead of pining for the West. Kalidasa wrote exquisite works centuries before William Shakespeare dreamed up a sonnet. Just because we don’t know the names of those who painted the Ajanta caves does not mean they have to play second fiddle to the Sistine Chapel. Colonised civilisations have always had their past denigrated and dismissed as worthless. That’s how the colonial enterprise works.
But in the rush to dig up 4G sites in Kurukshetra, in their insistence on ancient prototypes, in their desperation to find the science in Amar Chitra Katha, the likes of Deb forget something more awe-inspiring — the power of the imagination.
We come from a people who dreamt up the Pushpak Ratha without knowing about airplanes. We visualised an elephant’s head on a human body without knowing about transplant surgery. We dared to imagine. The world is just catching up.
But who cares about imagination any more? When did imagination get you a good ranking in an IIT examination?
The writer is the author of Don’t Let Him Know, and like many Bengalis likes to let everyone know about his opinions whether asked or not.