Indian scholar, author, and speaker, Vishal Mangalwadi is one of DNA’s Idea Shapers. We are happy to offer here, in two installments, the introduction to his forthcoming book, Why Are We Backward? to be published by Aspire Prakashan, New Delhi.
WARNING: This article is not for family consumption. It is intended for mature readers.
She raced up and down the room nervously, looking at the weird paintings. She was close to the entrance when the bathroom door opened and the professor came out: totally naked! Usha thought she might get raped; so she opened the door and ran out: confused and crying. She hasn’t told her husband: he’s so short tempered. She is hesitant to report or take legal action because the professor is highly respected. In any case, he will say that she is lying because he has been thorough in commenting on her thesis. She wants to kill him, but . . . what will happen to her children? She’s traumatized. It’s because of this intense dilemma that Anna Hazare has caught her imagination.”
“But what would Anna’s Lokpal law do for her or against the professor?”
“That’s what I am asking her. She understands it would be unreasonable to expect such immediate help from a bill in the legislature. That’s making her real mad. She’s frustrated. That’s why she’s glued to the TV. She is calling me six times a day, but I don’t know what to say. I was not supposed to tell you. But now that I have . . . what do you say I tell her?”
“Kamala! Usha’s problem is not a professor but a whole culture that he represents. He has no regard for her personal dignity and no respect for her honest hard work. Merit is irrelevant in the culture of corruption, only appeasement matters. Time is money, but our corrupt culture has no respect for the years that Usha has already put into that thesis.”
“So what do I tell her?”
“She has to steel herself for a battle that is much bigger than a corrupt professor. He is indeed following our great men and the gods that our sages created. They crafted our myths and legends – our folk literature – in their self-interest. Usha may not get a PhD, but her research has equipped her to expose the religio-cultural roots of our corruption far more effectively than Anna Hazare can.”
“What do you mean?”
“I do not know enough about Anna. They say he is also a Brahmachari like Gandhi. The professor, in any case, is certainly following Mahatma Gandhi, who treated his women exactly the way the professor is treating his wife and his devoted students. More than that, the professor is treating Usha as Shiva treated Parvati.
“In order to eradicate corruption, we need a different Messiah: one who would not extract his ‘pound of flesh’ but sacrifice himself for our salvation. We need a Savior who is a shepherd, who would redefine our cultural idea of leadership as servanthood. A professor must serve his students, not exploit their vulnerability.”
“My sister needs straight forward advice, not religious mumbo-jumbo.”
“In that case please bear with my straight words: This campaign against corruption must force us to come to terms with the philosophical question: Are we God or are we sinners? Should we worship and appease our great men, or ask them to humble themselves and seek salvation from their sin? Martin Luther King Jr. followed Mahatma Gandhi’s terrible example of committing adultery. But the Bible taught him to repent of his sin. Mahatma Gandhi, in contrast, persisted in exploiting his women till the end, rationalizing his sin as an experiment to become God. If you want to save your sister from corruption, you have to save her from our gurus trying to become god. Socio-political corruption is a consequence of our inner sinfulness. We are not God; we are sinners. We need a Savior who will save them from our sin.
“One of the greatest British historians of the 19th century, Lord Thomas Babington Macauly, said that the British East India Company in the middle of the 18th century was ‘a gang of public robbers.’ Nominally the British rulers were Christians, but their administration in Bengal was ‘the rule of an evil genie.’ Their rule then was as corrupt as the Congress and non-Congress rule today. Yet, no Gandhi, JP, or Anna opposed British corruption because our forefathers expected all rulers to be corrupt. They accommodated and contributed to the corruption of British officials.
“It was the biblical conscience of British evangelicals that transformed the British rule. Those who followed the Bible demanded that loving your neighbor as yourself meant that the British must give to India as clean a government as they want for themselves. It was Lord Macaulay himself who helped create the Indian “civil” Service – the ICS that became IAS (Indian Administrative Service).
“J P Narayan and now Anna Hazare have done a great service in opposing corruption. They have done so because they know that in 1947, India had inherited a clean government. British evangelicals had demonstrated that corruption can be eradicated even within India. What Anna’s followers do not seem to remember is that the only cultural force that has ever given clean government to India is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Up until the 1960s, to be an ‘educated person’ meant to be a decent, honest person. That was because modern education came to India as an integral aspect of Christian mission – the mission to transform our worldview and character. Now, that education has been delinked with the Bible, education is producing men who are as corrupt as our gurus. Usha has now learned the terrible truth about our religiosity. There is only one book that has ever created a clean and conscientious leadership in India. That book is the Bible. Usha needs to study it. Our cultural elite hate that book because it destroys spiritual elitism – Brahmanism. It condemns our greatest men as sinners and tells them how they can be saved from their sin and become truly holy.
“We can kill a corrupt professor; a Lokpal law can jail a corrupt minister, but the challenge is to change a culture that is making our people so immoral. This corruption will keep your sister backward. She may be diligent, but she’ll lose her seniority. She should not be ashamed of suffering injustice. When the Lord Jesus took up his cross, he ‘endured the shame.’ He called his disciples to take up their cross and follow him in their quest for the kingdom of God. Usha can help transform our culture: replace our false gods with God’s truth.”
– Vishal Mangalwadi