CFD_My Compelled Drum_Readings_Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Geetha Hariharan
Director: Dina Boswank
Duration: 01:34:41; Volume: 0.112; Words per Minute: 47.015
with Sumandro Chattapadhyay and Geetha Hariharan, Director and Researcher at CIS - Center for Internet and Society, in New Delhi, India, on 28th of January 2016
- What might be also interesting to know is that he also stopped manufacturing. In 1948 he really stopped. Like... He destroyed out of protest. He started publishing those letters, beginning conversations about technology and modernity and so on, and, stopped manufacturing. And focused only on education. That was his only thing then, what he kept continuing.
So, this "construction for destruction" also changed its meaning over time. So it became interested for students, because they were allowed to dismantle all this machinery, which was not very common in the colleges at this time; to even touch all this big things. So, it has meany meanings to it...
So, as you ask so much intot this, I may....I amy give you this. These are three letters; one person, who is really criticizing Naidu, then his repliy and another person, also cirticizing Naidu.
You wanna start?
- Do you want me to read out loud?
- Okay, all of it?
Number 6, Geniuses
- Yes, you can start here. With this name.
- This is I think V. Nagamanickam. He is a merchant and managing agent at General Agencies Salem and General Oil Industries Ltd. And he adressed it to Naidu on the third of March 1949. And he says:
Dear Mr. Naidu, Perhaps you might have received my letter on the 24th, thought he same may be a little harsh, but I wrote the same only on the admiration for you and the love you show to the young. I quietly finished your compelled drum at a stretch. It is very interesting. It seems still you are suffering with worries. Well, now. It can not be stopped. You ought to have nipped the same in the bud itself, but you failed. To amend it you have taken an ox knife to kill a cock.
[laughing form both sides]
Still there may be ways to improve the situation.
- Being a genius and proposing to leave everything to happen on its own record and even thinking of destruction. How can you be regarded as either having such or as being without that. These kind of impediments are common with us. We are all cranks. We are all mostly illiterate and simple and prone towards vanity and quickly to be influenced for our own gratification. Because of this...
- ...have that as quote on the wall?
- Yes, I know.
- Which one exactly?
- The first sentence.
- This: "We are all cranks and we are all mostly illiterate and simple and prone towards vanity and quickly to be influenced for our own gratification." Print it out. Stick it somewhere!
- Because of this inherent influence we have in unsavory connotation. No doubt everybody will appreciate a genius, but understanding a genius is different. unless a man is a genius himself he cannot understand a genius. So how can you find justice in your own way of doing? As such the only course is to follow the common man.
- That's interesting, that...
- Yes, it' s also the basis of the Aam admi party in Delhi
- Mh, Ts!
- How, in what way?
- So, "Aaam admi" literally translates to "common man" from hindi into english.
- Okay, but they argue like this? About the genius?
- They say, that.. I don't think they say to find justice in your own way of doing. But I think the party was founded with the ideology of giving voice to the common man, in a manner of speaking.
- No, not, not at all. I've come back to that particular comment about..."But understanding a genius is different. Unless a man is a genus himself he can not understand a genius." I think, that's rather mistaken, no? Because...it...
I don't see, where that person is coming from and it sounds rather hideous to me; that particular statement. That you have to be a genius to get a genius? Understanding another person is not kind of a necessary trait of a genius, right. A genius migth be goodin doing something not ncessarily in understanding someone else. So, that seemed like a very strange sentence to me, but maybe the next sentence will reveal what the perosn is trying to argue.
- But also he assumes, that geniuses are common, ...
- Yes, It's also very enlightement kind of a sense, no? That there is some kind of universality to the enlightend genius man, of course.
- Maybe they were in this time...yes, I am really loving especially this letter. I also often had this reaction, that at this time they were really searching also for geniuses. Like in the new India, being a genius was something special and was considered as something, that was needed to be this... to have the same economy or the same science as the west has. So it was kind of an important...
- Quite possible, quite possible, yes!
- ... imported; important and imported idea of being successful.
- Yes, clearly what is meant by genius here and as is, also I guess, revealed by the juxtaposition between the genius and the common man is, that the genius is not necessarily just a very skilled person, but is a completely different class of being, is an uncommon being alltogether. So, ...
- Uncommon? True.
- Which is what we are seeing [...] Genius is best someone, who is, in a way who is enlightend. I mean, who belongs to the western universality and not to the ...<nr>
- Not in the buddhist sense...
- Yes, perhaps yes.
- I have a little bit of expereinec with this red-tapism. These officials are mostly uninterested and mischievous. They are all only our creations. We can destroy them, if we want. Then why should we destruct ourselves. There is no sense in our destruction. If at all we do like that, there is now difference between insane and genius.
I ... have said, that your drum series are flippant. Well, for a young person like me indulging in this kind of narration may be irritating, bt in a way your accounts make my view on this officialdom still sterner.
- As a disgusted man you seem to think of retiring and to be in recluse. Well, you have not done anything solid. As a genius you improved, well, what yuse when you have not made any way in putting your in ventions and ideas for the masses. You have not done anything on this line. If at all I were to be invested with full powers of the state I will certainly force and order you to work for our poor masses in the construction line.
- Yes, that's [...], because there are so many things coming together. One is: so, there is a knd of difference of perspective across generations. So, clearly the person, who is writing is much younger. So there is kind of a, almost a clean, that the older genius should be more responsible about what they are doing, so that the younger geniuses can also...
- yes, flourish. Can take the genius-ness forward; the collective geniusness forward. So, there is that part.
- There is of yourse the, how to say, the anxiety about,.... On one hand getting the British out of India, but on the other hand keeping the British bureaucracy in India. And so there is a significant anxiety regarding how to deal with this Indians, who have become now the state.
And on the third hand, clearly...and, so, on one hand, there is a critique of the state we inherited and then again there is a sense of the national responsibility, right? Which is about...if "I had the power to be the state
- I would have asked you to toil for the masses and what not...". So, yes, very fascinating.
- This is interesting. And there is so much... especially the next. There is so much...I think [...], youth outrage.
- In 1949, right, so...
If you had taken a little bit care at the beginning stages you may have surmounted. If the Mahatma had taken care of himself with sufficient protections w e may not have lost him at all at such a time. As such, if you go on like this with your drum series there will not be any end for it. On the other end, if you stick to the wise advices certainly there is and end for our worries. So I urge you and insist upon you to drop anything amicably and start your life with a fresh heart to regenerate the younger folks for the attainment of superiour industrial power among the nations. Only people like you can imbibe the spirit of understanding among the younger ones on industrialization. For your information I am specially preparing a brochure on the prospects of our Salem Magnetic iron ores. As soon as the same is ready I will dispatch it to you. Please kindly go through it and offer your saner advices. thanking you and wishing you good health to serve the vigorous youth. With kind regards, very truely yours, V. Nagamanickam.
- That's good stuff.
- Then there is, I think that is Naidu's response to this Nagamanickam person.
- Dear friend,
I received your letter dated 24th February 1949 and kept it till now in order to reply leisurely. Then I received your subsequent two letters. I welcome your criticism to any extent, which can not produce any bad effect anywhere, because I have learnt such things form numerous instances. Unless there is a want or unless there is a dictatorship, in my opinion, nothing can be achieved. For this numerous examples we are seeing in everyday life in every country and in every government. No doubt in some cases the dictatorship or the necessity may lead to the other side of extreme also, tillits self destruction. But either yourself or myself or such other friends are not taking such destructive ways.
- Each one of us are trying our best to get something for ourselves and then for our country. There we are failing by inefficient ways or by other brutal force. These are natural in the world these days. Hence yourself or any other friends cannot blame me for any dictatorship or adament or perseverance or whatever you call adotped by me to reach the aim. It is impossible to do anything without such quality. As usual like any other people in the hot country I, too, retired as I have found out a better way to satisfy my aim and have begun to compile pamphlets or ACFR books.
I appreciate your enthusiasm in connection with the industries of your town. I advice you give this enthusiasm to the youngsters in addition to the extreme efforts. But should you not commit the same...But you should not commit the same mistake as you have commited in the agricultural scheme.
What was the agricultural scheme?
- Not [...]
- You can...
You don't want me to read this, right?
- No, you can [...]
- Leave it?br>
- Yes, I mean, not read it, yes.
- You can ask me what are you doing, while you are advising me. While you have experienced in one or two or three or in many circumstances as I had. I have experienced in numerous instances, perhaps more than one hundred times, with big mountains across the road and I have found out finally a way as to how to achieve the aim by us or by our next generation. That is the work I am doing now by way of training young brains in this direction in addition to helping the publication such as ACFR and other pamphlets, which may perhaps look as flippant to you as to some others. Unless one sees all the circumstances it is not possible to understand this portion of my work. In the last one year's experience I am satisfied, that this is way more usefull and more effective than one head hitting against the wall. I am saying this after several years of experience.
- Still, if you go deep into all the facts, you will understand more and more and you will write a different letter. You have written, that I ought to have nipped in the bud. It is true. If I had slipped away from my principle even by 1/1000th of an inch
- I could have easily got over by very little expense
- You know a man can not come up with slippery shoes or with a slippery nature.
[Both are laughing]
- Even in the circumstance. If I had nipped form the bud the same way by slipping from my principle, there would not have been any compelled drum or construction for destruction series or any other thought of publicity. There is no other equal means to wake up brains from the sleep caused by others in purr part of the country. Of course the nipping of the bud might have given relieve to me and might have been even a gain to me and I, too, would have drowned in the sleep as others have done.
- Why it is impossible to discuss even in a few hours. Till now several geniuses have found out, that there is no use of geniuses in our country unless they find a way to use the geniuses. But noone even told this openly. If I had known this in my young age, even I get crores and crores I would not have taken this invention work or industrical work. I would have taken the only work of organizing youngsters, which I have started now. I am not blaming anybody and nothing worries me at present. Now, you have mentioned, that you have written to some leaders. Do you think, that any of our leaders or their leaders can do anything for us? No!
[with great emotional emphasis!]
Only our young leaders can do something. You can see the prediciton will come true in the nearer future.
I hope you don't misunderstand or misconceive this letter as I have written this with an open mind. Sincerely, GD Naidu.
- Then, there is another letter...
- Wait, wait!
Yes, so... again, so this 49, right?
This is 1949, March, less than two years after independence.
- Yes, and Gandhi has been killed.
- So, those are two kind of major events, that are of course refered to.
- But the other kind of big context I think is the debate regarding the idea of the indian state and its relationship with industrialization.
- ... and whether Indians should be embracing some kind of western model of industrialization, should go for other forms of in dustries, which was Gandhi's argument. Kind of local industries and so on. And so that being played out on one hand....
on the other hand the big indian bourgeoisie, the big indian capitalist groups have kind of got, [...], completly grabbed the attention of the national leaders.
- Which makes the kind of aspiration for, see, people like Naidu, from what I understand from these letters, who is not a very big industrialist, but has a significant kind of an influence in the neighbouring region at least. So, their role in the making of the nation has become rather precarious. Because they are not big enough to catch attention of national leaders. At the same time they have some success in the region, that gives them some attention in the region and hence this kind of thing.... So anyhow that's also, that's kind of the larger national context, that I can think of.
- and of course the other term...Or, I think there are two terms or two kind of moments, which are particularly of interest. One is the term "to become an educationalist",
- Which, again, is not very, mhhh, how to put it, not very rare among people such as Naidu. People, who are either kind of moving from becoming kind of a social leader or social reformer to becoming an educationalist. Being a public figure, then being unhappy with the nationalist politics and then turning into becoming...
- social reformer or educationalist
- ...So, there are various figures exactly. So, social reformers, public figures, even political figures becoming unhappy with the way national politics is shaping up. There are several examples of people taking recurse into becoming educationalist.
And that's how we can think of [...]. If you can not control, no not control, if you can not kind of educate the mass of the present, let's educate the mass of the future. And that's the way my [...] would live in this country kind of a thing.
- And the other of course is this indian fascination with the dictator.
- Which I think in many ways even persist even today.
- Absolutely. Absolutely, I quite agree.
... and of course 49, it's end of the second world war; so the german connection is also quite disturbing and present it seems.
- ... since he has been in Germany, just [...] and so on. So that's also quite fascinating. Because many political and especially kind of technologist figures; the kind of the, how to put it, the kind of industialization success of the Nazi regime has always been kind of a thing of fascination. That you can organize the country in that way. And as, yes I am seeing and I am sure she will tell more about it, is that the fascination is very much present in today's India as well.
- Is this Modi for example?
- Sort of; but I think this is a recurring theme in ...
- I agree, yes.
- ... in indian politics. In the late 1940s or coming on the backs of the second world war your closest example would have been post-war Germany. But I have had this motive recurring in personal conversations on politics with a variety of people. And China, for us, is the closest example. And I think to me it got more intersting in Law School and after Law School as an [...], because then you are trained in a way to look at the Rights discourse, the liberty and the rights liberty discourse a lot more closely than you might have otherwise. And especially in 2014 General Elections this was a running theme with people wanting to vote for the idea of Modi as a strong leader that would do XYZ for India. Would lead India towards development, would lead India out of poverty...
- ...someone, who is decisive, someone, who can...
- ...take strong decisions
- Yes, quick and stong decisions.
- Quick and strong decisions and you know, wasn't wavering, which was the problem that a lot of people had with the previous government. Where they thought we had sort of figurehead of a prime minister in Dr. Singh.
- But, which is also a fascination, that comes out and I think people in some way either hadn't thought throgh the rights implications completely or were willing to make that trade-off. That we are okay with moving towards a more economic and social right-of-center or right-wing society as long as you take care of XYZ problems. You bring inflation under control. You create jobs and you...
- ... there is an order in society as long as...
- ... better the economy and there is a general order in society and there is no chaos and that's fine.
- Yes, and I think that's a similar recurring theme throughout indian politics and even this theme, this sort of a; I don't know, dismay, and this almost contempt for the bureaucracy in a way. They are absolutely useful and nothing will ever get done. 67, 69 years later we are about the same place I think....
This a conversation I have with everybody the minute I have to deal with, even single government official, right. Nothing is going to get...
- Including the government officials!
- Including the government officials!?
If they want ot get something done?
- They would complain about bureaucracy...
- ... about other officials?
- Yes, about other departments as well as their own department.
- Yes, that's the reaction also I usually get, like, this ciriticism...
- But, didn't it, I mean, like... in one sentence he says dictatorship or my peseverance, like he makes different words for this.
- So he actually means it for his own enterprise, right, if you have to,...
- So you mean...
- ... for his own manufacturing unit, that you have to be strong and strict and you have to...
- ... control everything. Like in the private sector you can, also can be dictatorship-like. You don't have to be a democracy in your own factory.
- Absolutely, yes, so exactly, this idea of discipline and the idea that we are not good workers, we are mnot disciplined workers and so on. And that's something you need, this strictness, this order, this discipline in the private sector and this should be taken into the, into the house... The nation is being build right now is where this...
- ... relationship exists and continues is kind of a; same kind of...
- Is it for, just like, because you are into the start-up and e-governemnt, for example, if I want to do my income tax declaration...
- Can I do it online?
- You can.
- You can.
- Many things have become a lot easier now, f.i. banking is not a problem. You don't have to go and stand in banks and most of your applications will get done online. You [...] subsidies have now been rolled out related with your bank accounts. All tax returns are filed online. And this was a huge thing. So this was the sneaky thing the government also tried to do. They introduced that... they are rolling out the digital India program in a really really big way. The Modi government.
- And trying to link a lot of your services, existing services as well as a provision of new services to your unique identification number, which is your Aaadhar card.
- Which a lot of people are not in favour of...
- Because it links too much information?
- ...links too much information, privacy concerns, security concerns about the data-base and things like that.
- ... and general constitutional challenges whether the government can do something like this under the constitution. But, yeah, they've been trying to do a lot of things, right, from creating digital lockers online and so making sure, that you link your aadhaar number with a whole bunch of benefits without which...; so registration, probably registration in Delhi can not happen without an Aadhaar card.
- ... marriage license will not be issued unless you have an Aadhaar card
- And is there only the possibility to link these different datas or is it really being done? Does it really happen?
- So, ehm...
- It's the theory.
- Let me come to it later.
- But more fundamentally the question you're aksing, I am glad you bring this up, is, yes the idea fo e-governance is not only of things that are happening now, but the idea generally is, that, mmmh, at least how it is been talked about in India is that you reduce the presence of the human-being in the bureaucratic process. As much of it can be automated, can be done by machines. Machines that are also, and that takes to the question you asked later, is that, as lomg as you; - and especially machines that are interconnected. So that even, ehm. You reduce human decision-making. You reduce human judgement. When the government is trying to, even when a person is trying to speak to the state or asks for state's help, you remove the human bureaucrat, so state's response is very objective and timely and efficient and so on, right?
- And, yes taking this argument forward, the idea, which is what ... was talking about. The idea was, say, if I ask for a subsidy, then I have to give, say, evidence that I earn less than a certain amount, to get the subsidy, to begin with. So increasingly the idea is, if my income tax recounts can be connected to the agency, that is given subsidy, then I don't have to give a separate evidence for my, the amount of income I have. The subsidy giving agency can directly know how much income tax I am putting in and take a decision. Efficient and objective and rational. A quick decision...
- That's the dream, right? And the aadhaar scheme, the number ... was talking about. The idea is, that this would be the number to find the same person across government databases, so that there is gonna be a kind of unique number, which you can use to find one person across the data being kept by different organisations.
- This is the link basically.
- The number is the link.
That's interesting, because, coming back to - it might be easy for you to get things done, but you also might not get in contact with so much officals, or with so much policies. Right, when I am going to the Income Tax Office, for example, I literally go there. I sit there. I might be bored for two hours, so I read the policies lieing out there. [laughing] It's a very stupid...just, I get more in contact with also what is being done there.
- Or I talk to people.
- I may also bribe them or try, okay, it's there. But still, I mean...
- ...that's one of the...
- ...I mean it's not so bad. I still feels more like a contact.
- Contact, right?
- The other, I think, the other feeling of loss, when you have machines doing work of human beings is that, what happens, when things go wrong? For example: when you have any machine to give you some money and the machine gives you less, because there is some glitch in the machine, how do you deal with that situation? Because you can reason with a human-being. It's very difficult to reason with a machine.
- Oh yeah, I remember this case; these smart cars, that can drive for themselves. If they make an accident, who will, who can be charged?
- You say that, right, who can be prosecuted.
- Yes, prosecuted.
- The car must be destroyed.
- The car must be destroyed!
- By Naidu
- Exactly, yeah, yeah.
- Okay, no, that's interesting.
- Maybe we read the letter?
- You want it? Or maybe you...
- I'll just finish. Okay this is from E.R. Govindan, who is the Managing Agent of Free India and he writes this earlier, in Jan 1949, on the 28th. And he says:
Dear Mr. Naidu, I couldn't contact you all yesterday and today [...] at the Connamara, that you have left this morning. I am sorry, I missed the opportunity of meeting you in the city. Allow me to thank you for your kindness and hospitality during my last weekend. My stay coincided with the