India-Two Different Millennia

India is a more fascinating country from a distance.Everytime I travel abroad ,I realise the greatness of the country which sometimes escapes my attention in the din and noise of its daily life.It has grinding poverty but it also has unique grandeur.It has its venal politicians but also a brilliant middle class that is making waves around the world for its prowess in IT,management and engineering.It has its centuries old caste inequalities but also its rich,distinct culinary tradition.Amartya Sen’s “The Argumentative Indian” does a fine job of delving into the splendid tapestry that is India.Alongwith Nehru’s “The Discovery Of India” ,it will remain a fine example of throwing light on the cultural,social and knowledge mosaic that is this 5000 year old civilisation.

But the disconcerting fact remains that the great contributions of India to the world like concept of zero,the decimal system,elements of trigonometry,buddhism,ayurveda or formal rules of grammar all belong to the period till the end of first millennium(till 1000AD).The last thousand years have not seen any great contribution to the world even though there has been some great architecture like the Taj or Konark built.So today inspite of India’s rising status the average Argentine or Dane does not use anything intrinsically associated with India.He probably talks on Finnish phones(Nokia),watches American movies,secures himself with a Chinese lock,drives a Japanese car,plays in a German shoe(Adidas),drives with Saudi oil.The impact of the IT sector is of course high on the corporates in general but not on the common man.Logically the inventions of the last thousand years will always play a more dominant role in life than the inventions and discoveries of the previous millennia . So the relative importance of India in the average life of a human being today in the world is lesser than what it was in the first millennium.

The most probable reason for this seems to be that the world discovered the riches of India in a big way in the second millennium.Combined with better routes and technology, it could travel and attack the country.So the last thousand years seem to have been a time of wars,battles for dominance and bloodshed.The British rule of course typifies this.This meant that the resources and time of the rulers and the people were more focussed on survival rather than on developments on the frontiers of knowledge.This over a period of a thousand years led to the relative decline of the country in the world standings.

One can only hope that the people and politicians understand this and South Asia gets out of its history of bloodshed and rivalry as we enter another new millennium.


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