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A deep dive into our moral inheritance

What is progress? What is development? Why is it that so many of us are fascinated by dominant, mainstream and Western interpretations and manifestations of these terms when there exists around us such a rich panoply of cultural visions? Another India excavates this rich panoply for us by presenting a fascinating amalgamation of aesthetic, spiritual and moral streams that represent both our cultural ethos as well as our democratic sensibilities. By raising uncomfortable questions about tradition, culture, myth and superstition, the author exhorts us to delve deep into our civilisational moral inheritance and probe the richness of our oral narrative imagination to come out of our current existential predicament.

Divided into eight sections, the book has as many as 74 chapters presented as a playful assemblage of slices of local and trans-local cultures of South India. They are accompanied by glimpses into some of the country’s finest minds. Alongside Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Lohia and JP Narayan, there are also Kuvempu, U R Ananthmurthy, D R Nagaraj, Siddalingaiah, Nissar Ahmed, Sara Aboobacker, O V Vijayan, Prasanna, Ela Bhatt, H G Govinda Gowda and Narayana Reddy, addressing contemporary concerns through creative engagement with different strands of moral thought. Another India is indeed a metaphor for rich cultural diversity. It contains a tapestry of intellectual currents which connect culture, politics, folklore and legend. It is a cultural anthology written in an easy and empathic style. A strong point of the book is the brevity of the chapters. As most of these were written for the popular media with its strict (cruel?) insistence on word length, one can flip through the pages in short sittings and savour their essence. The author states in the Preface that his book offers narrations with minimal interpretive commentaries, with the hope that the message would reveal itself to the reader. However, the most enjoyable portions of the book are when he makes known his prescriptions for another, better India — where concepts like maitri, anubandh, vishwamanava, shudratva and poornadrishti — inspire creativity and aid in cementing our democratic imagination.

The reviewer is Honorary Professor at the Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University, Gadag.

(Published 14 October 2023, 22:56 IST)

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