Abi calls Guha’s bluff by calling his piece fluff


Now, go read Ram Guha’s latest fluff on IISc.

* * *

Guha’s thesis — that IISc should “establish and make active a proper centre of humanistic studies” — is eminently worth supporting; and it certainly has my support.

Here’s my problem with Guha’s piece. Among the many arguments to support his thesis, he has chosen one that betrays a certain disrespect to the existing scholarship. From B.V. Subbarayappa’s history of IISc, one can learn quite a bit about the real efforts (summarized here) to get humanities included in the Institute’s mandate. Many of these efforts were led by Burjorji Padshah — the one person who put his very soul into seeing the IISc project through.

Does Guha acknowledge any these efforts? No.

What he does instead is to go on and on about virtual efforts by Patrick Geddes, who wrote five letters to Sister Nivedita about the kinds of things that IISc should do. In doing so, he connects these two figures — Geddes and the good Sister — to IISc in a way that is not quite justifiable. They were, at best, peripheral players in IISc’s prehistory. As Guha himself admits, “One does not know whether Geddes’s [letters to Sister Nivedita] reached” Jamsetji Tata, so he’s not even sure if Geddes’s ideas had legs.

If Guha wants to bring them centrestage, that’s fine; but he needs a lot more than “hey, look what I found in the National Library of Scotland.”

Can Guha now rise up to the challenge and pen a proper history of IISc (say, in five pieces) for the Hindu?


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