Stolen Heirloom or poppycock


Reading a recent news suddenly my mind raced back across to a time when as an inquisitive child of twelve I used to read all available printed stuff in Assamese or Bengali.I recall a debate in Bengali magazine PROBASI between an irate eminent scientist Meghnad Saha and an elderly Hindu scholar who argued that ancient shastras had anticipated all the revolutionary ideas of modern science right from Newton to Einstein.I barely understood all the details but I did gather that the irritated Saha had gone to great lengths to nail what he thought was a stupid lie or error.For instance,Newton’s precise mathematical formulation and deduction of theoretical consequences were conspicuously absent in the vague ambiguous Sanskrit couplets quoted by his opponent.Besides he showed some other claims were anticipated earlier by Greek savants like Anaximander of Sparta.Then I forgot it for more than seventy years as it had no interest for me.Now it was rushing back because of an in your face challenge by the current head of India’s space mission.

The gentleman has claimed that all important discoveries of modern science were there in the Vedas and Western scholar-burglers(Max Muller and Deussen?)had grabbed all of that and run away to gift it to muddling Western scientists.
Let us take him at his word and pursue the lead farther.

OK.So they did.But they had not got away with the only manuscript or palm leaf copy of the Vedas in the world.But what have Indians been doing with the knowledge since then?in the West there had been epoch-making discoveries and inventions rocking the world one after another?Industry has made colossal strides.We Indian were left staring at these incredible innovations with blank awe.Why could we not make use of the stuff with similar inspiration and enterprise?If we thought those things are unnecessary and useless why this envious babble now?

Or is there a darker,more uncomfortable reason?

A widely acknowledged truth is that Western scientific progress has proved it can be used for the benefit of mankind,for making human life more secure,healthy and happy,though it has not been used for that purpose mainly or always.It is by and large in bandage to money for making more money.But on the side it has served useful human purposes.It is not yet completely free.But in India?The alleged presence of modern science in the Vedas has not so far been used to provide any human welfare anywhere in the country,though the Vedas have at times been invoked to promote violence and harm. Poverty,ignorance,rank superstition,squalor stalk the land.

Granted that it never was nor has been harnessed to human welfare thus proving its worth as well as truth,what explains this asceticism or amnesia?

Can we think something more evil,more vicious?Suppose that having touched the very pinnacles of modern science we have kept it a close secret what could be the reason?Have we behaved like some tribal medicine men or exponents of tribal magic?It is known that such tribal experts are chary of sharing such secret lore.But that is the very negation of science which thrives in public consultation in accordance with given rules.In that case Western science has behaved like Prometheus who stole fire for mankind to help make its life easier. And we Indians are behaving like cussed misers who can neither help themselves nor others.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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