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East is East, West is West and both are declining - The Asian Age

K Natwar Singh ()
17 December 1996

Title : East is East, West is West and both are declining
Author : K Natwar Singh
Publication : The Asian Age
Date : December 17, 1996

On 23rd November, 1996, Mr Nirad C. Chaudhuri entered his 100th year. He is
still writing and is intellectually alert. This is indeed unique. There is no
other instance in the history of literature of all author still creative at
100 - Shaw died in his 95th year, but had not written any thing exceptional
after reaching 85. Bertrand Russell died at 98. but after his autobiography,
the third and final volume of which appeared in 1967, he wrote nothing. W.
Somerset Maugham and E.M. Forster lived to be over 90, but had written little
in their eighties.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri C.B.E. Hon. D.Litt. (Oxon) and Stirling University,
Fellow of the Royal Literary Society, has been living in Oxford for the last
26 years. In this quarter century, India, England and the world have changed,
if not transformed. These changes have not impressed Nirad Babu, who believes
that it is downhill all the way. That is why I have called him the Indian
Spengler. The German Spengler wrote The Decline of the West, Nirad Babu holds
the view that both the Indian and Western civilisations are in rapid decline,
as is more than evident from his essay, A Sterile Intelligentsia, which
appears in The East is East and The West is West (Mitra & Ghosh Publishers
Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta, Rs 150, pp. 223). The volume is compiled and edited by
his eldest son, Dhruva N. Chaudhuri. The first and last articles were
written in 1926 and 1994 for The Statesman. The other 27 have provocative
titles like, "Sex on the Mind Fear in the Heart," "Communism is the Opium of
Failure," "Why Ape the Lechery of the West?" etc.

In his essay, "A Sterile Intelligentsia," written for tile Times of India in
1980, he proclaims his anguish of a world-wide disintegration of civilised
life." He is also "sick of hearing India spoken of as a poor and developing
country, dependent even oil the charity of Oxfam." For India's ills. he
blames the Indian intelligentsia, which, during the freedom movement, was
"both assertive and creative," had become "almost wholly sterile today, and
wholly defeatist." What is worse this defeatism is finding "expression ill
continuous wailing."

Here I am in total agreement with NCC. In 1947, a whole class of Indians
opted out of the political process. leaving tile field open to what it terms
"undesirables." Out intelligentsia cannot have the cake and cat it too.
Either these wellfed. arm chair critics join the fray or they should just
shut up.

The Longest essay in the book is an essay on "The Hindu-Muslim Confrontation
in India." It is d historical. account and makes painful reading. He finds
Jinnah's audacity breathtaking. So do I. Without ever going to jail or
joining a protest march, he carved out a country (not a nation) against all
odds.

Once an admirer of the British, he now finds them a decadent lot and their
country in steep decline. This is the final disillusionment for the man who
dedicated The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian to the British Empire!

The proof-reading in this book is of such inferior quality that the
perfectionist father must have pulled up the son in choice language!



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