Tuesday, August 02, 2005

George Orwell Was Born Here

George Orwell Eric Blair was born in Motihari, Bihar.

He lived there for a year (from ZERO to the ripe old age of ONE.) There have been no known crayon scribblings of "1984" or "All animals are equal" etc on the walls of this house. He never wrote one of his superbly crafted essays about this garibkhana, nor did he ever return to Motihari.

Motihari is not really associated with writers and writing, much less English authors, and a trip to Bihar is not exactly on the map for bibiliophiles.

So why is this organization called "The Heritage Foundation" dipping into its stash and writing that generous check of $70,000 to build a museum and an "indoor stadium" to commemorate this great writer?

A museum, I can understand (though I don't think it's the right way to remember the man.) But an indoor stadium to honor George Orwell?

The chairman of the Foundation, Mr. L.M. Singhvi is confident that "...by the end of 2006, it will become an [attraction] for foreign tourists.."

I can easily see how Motihari, a poor, dusty little town with its top-notch "kidnapping industry", and now an indoor stadium, will attract foreign tourists.

Does anyone know if this "Heritage Foundation" has a website? I tried googling for it, and found a gazillion links, none of them directly linking to this Foundation.

I did find this website of something called "IIC Delhi" but the site appears to be down since morning. There were a couple of press-release type columns there.
Here's an excerpt from that page (google for the text below and read it in the cache):
"Motihari is the janmabhoomi (birthplace) of Orwell and karmabhoomi (workplace) of Gandhi."

Yowza! it rhymes, it mentions Gandhiji, ergo, it deserves funding.

I don't question the need to preserve Orwell's home. But why a museum? Why not just convert it into a primary school?

Wouldn't Orwell be pleased knowing that 50 or 60 or 100 loud, boisterous children are growing up tall and proud in the very place where he was born, rapidly shedding their society's old ways, not to mention years of disinformation and neglect by the state?

Wouldn't he be happier knowing that an additional 100 citizens of a poor state are being armed with information and knowledge, the ultimate bullshit detectors, which these people so badly need?

Wouldn't he be happier if someone funded a Hindi translation of "Animal Farm" and gave it away free to the citizens of Champaran?

But no, Motihari needs a tourist attraction and an indoor museum. The "foreign tourists", you see. Indian tourists really have no incentive to visit Motihari.

A curious coincidence that Gandhiji launched his non-cooperation movement in Champaran.

The first of these conflicts was between peasants and indigo planters in Champaran in Bihar. Gandhi went to Champaran in 1917 to investigate the peasant's grievances. Shortly after his arrival, he was ordered to leave the district, "as his presence was considered a danger to public peace." [4, 157] Naturally, Gandhi refused to leave. The magistrate, realizing that official interference with Gandhi's inquiry would only excite public anger, allowed Gandhi to stay. Gandhi's inquiry into the peasants' plight caused the Indian Government to form its own Commission of Inquiry, of which Gandhi was to be a member.
(excerpt taken from here)

And here's the irony that kicks you on your face (also excerpted from the above link):

While conducting his inquiry, Gandhi discovered that ignorance made the peasantry susceptible to oppression.

Ignorance & oppression. Orwell knew and wrote about those 2 ideas frighteningly well. So how about we honor this great man by establishing a free public school or a free public library in Motihari? I say screw the tourists, focus on the locals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it! »