“Shakespeare or Kalidasa, Who is Greater?” A Slave-mentality Indian Would Chant, “Shakshpeare”!

By: Kalavai Venkat

I had recently mocked Rahul Gandhi (Joe Nehru Jr.) in a recent post where I had sarcastically used the phrase ‘Ode to a female anopheles mosquito.’

An FB friend wrote me, “I am surprised that you’ve mocked the immortal poetry of Keats. Can we please not bring those greats down in our zeal to mock Rahul Gandhi?”

“Who are, in your opinion, the other immortal poets and literary greats besides Keats?” I asked.

He replied, quite enthusiastically, and without realizing I was laying a trap, “It is a long list but at the top of the list would be Yeats, Wordsworth, Milton, Shakespeare, Shelley, and Dickens.”

I replied, “Did you notice that a Kalidasa, Kambar, Valimiki, Andal, Bharati, Tiruvalluvar, Kabir, or Tulsidas didn’t figure in your list of immortals? If I had asked an American or Englishman the same question, they wouldn’t have rushed to list Indian, Japanese, Persian, or Chinese poets and literary masters in the list of all time greats. Instead, their lists would be filled with celebrities from their own cultures. They may only add a few Latin and Greek writers from a bygone era to the list only because the West self-identifies as a descendant of the Hellene culture.

However, the moment you ask an Indian, he or she is too eager to list the white greats! This behavior is not the result of India lacking genuinely great poets and literary masters. It is the result of colonial conditioning where the default landscape has to be whitewashed and held up as the gold standard. Mental slavery is quite powerful. Since Indians were mentally enslaved by the whites during the colonial era, and haven’t yet overcome that conditioning, they go about enthusiastically repeating the western propaganda.”

My FB friend asked, “Interesting! Who do you consider all time greats?”

I replied, “I have a long list. However, a mediocre Shelley or Shakespeare wouldn’t figure in it. There is nothing in English literature which matches the depths of the range of emotions or heights of the aesthetics of expressions which one finds in Malavikagnimitram , Vikramorvasiyam, Silappadikaram, or Manimekhalai. Shakespeare wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to Bhavabhuti. Shelly or Milton are simply no match to a Bharati or even a Kannadasan or Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.”

“Wait, wait,” my FB friend protested: “May I know the objective criteria by which you rank these Indians so high and coolly dismiss the English greats?”

“Well, well,” I replied: “I will provide my criteria as soon as you provide yours for rating those westerners high! You were just lazily repeating the soundbites manufactured by western propagandists. Objective criteria didn’t matter to you then. It only matters when I supplant those individuals with Indian names!”

Under colonial rule and in Nehruvian India, it was fashionable to quote Shakespeare or Shelley from memory. It was supposed to be an advertisement of how refined one was. Guess what? It is time to replace refined and bleached white sugar with homegrown honey!

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