Indians want to go to US and England : VS Naipaul

Indo-Asian News Service, Brussels, November 8, 2006
Nobel laureate VS Naipaul believes that India is heading for a cultural clash between the city-dwellers and the village population.

People in cities are turning their backs to Indian civilisation. They want green cards. They want to migrate. They want to go to England. They want to go to the US, Naipaul told media persons at the Centre For Fine Arts, Bozar, here.

“There is a fracture at this moment of great hope for India. A fracture in the country itself. It is possibly quite dangerous at the moment,” and added that the consequences “could be a very radical kind of revolution – village against city”.

However, at the same time, Naipaul said that India “is a very dynamic, moving culture.”

Naipaul aired similar views during the reading and interview session for the general public as part of the ongoing India Festival at the Bozar Saturday evening.

During the press meeting, Naipaul held forth on various issues, reports INEP agency.

“There is no tradition of reading in India. There is no tradition of contemporary literature,” he claimed. It was only in Bengal that there was a kind of renaissance and a literary culture, he said and added: “But in the rest of India until quite recently people had no idea what books were for.”

Reading in India, he claimed, was limited to books on wise sayings.

According to him,

“Indians have no regard for museums”

He recalled that Rabindranath Tagore’s house and university has been pillaged.

“They stole even his Nobel medal”, he said.

“The idea of a museum is a Western idea. It’s not an Indian idea. The idea is that these things are old, they are finished.”

Naipaul asserted that at the end the British rule in India was “very good.”

“They gave a lot back to India. All the institutions that now work in India were given by the British. So the British period was not that bad.”

He dismissed Mahatma Gandhi’s book “Indian home rule” published in 1909 as an “absurdity.” He said:

“Its an absurdity. He knows nothing. He said he wrote it in two weeks. He is against everything that is modern in 1909.”

Denouncing multiculturalism as a bad, destructive idea, he said: “Multiculturalism is a very much left-wing idea that gained currency about 20 years ago. It’s very destructive about the people it is meant to defend.”

He cited the example of Britain where he said there was a large immigrant population, “many of them bending the laws to be able to stay in England.”

“They wish to do that but at the same time they don’t wish to enter the culture. I think that is parasitic and awful.”

He defended the caste system in India, arguing that “caste is a great internal series of friendly societies and in bad times it kept the country going. But people don’t understand this. It has to be rethought and a new way of looking at it.

“In India it is having trouble at the moment because it rules politics. Foolish people think that the upper castes are oppressing the lower caste. It is the other way,” he said noting that lower castes have reserved seats in education and employment.

Asked if he felt like a European, he replied: “No, not at all. One doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. One can be many things at the same time.”

Could he live in India?

Naipaul paused for a moment, but his wife Nadira replied:

“Yes, quite happily, if we didn’t have a cat. Our cat is an English cat. It is hard for it to live in India, but we can.”

Naipaul added: “If you would have asked me this question fifty years ago, I had to say ‘out of the question’ It would have been impossible. So things are moving and changing all the time.”

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