Kolkata: “We rightly celebrate our Independence day but I always say do not forget the price that was paid for Independence. We were not so violent against the British as we were against each other during The Partition,” said Karan Singh, the nonagenarian philosopher, politician, diplomat, author, thinker and scholar.
Karan Singh participated in a virtual session of Ek Mulakat Visesh organized by Prabha Khaitan Foundation of Kolkata and presented by Shree Cement and engaged in a lively conversation with Lady Mohini Kent Noon, author and founder-chairperson of LILY Against Human Trafficking, which covered a wide range of topics from religion, education, vedic wisdom and quantum mechanics, sufism, Unesco, to the pangs of The Partition and Independence of India. The event was conducted by Swati Agarwal, Ehsaas Women of Mumbai, on behalf of Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
“There were unbelievable brutalities during The Partition and the question is whether we should bring it up and face it or airbrush it. One theory is that bringing it up would revive old hatreds and memories and the other theory is that we have to face up to what had happened. If only we face it we can come to terms with it. You cannot ignore it. You have to let the people know the price paid for Independence of India. Three generations have passed and that trauma is still there,” said Karan Singh whose most treasured childhood memory is lying on his back at the Nishat Garden and looking up at a tall chinar tree.
He further said, “It is very unfortunate that once again the communal clashes are beginning to occur that should not be allowed. We have lived through the horrors of Partition which took place on the basis of religion. We must continue the syncretic tradition of the Vedanta and Upanishads.”
Responding to a question on the role of religion in society, Karan Singh – who is a member of an interfaith organisation called The Temple of Understanding since 1993 – alluded to the importance of interfaith meetings, “I have been involved in the interfaith movement for the past four decades. The problem is that people spend crores of rupees building mosques, temples and gurudwaras but interfaith meetings are nobody’s baby. We are still continuing our efforts to bring people together and spread understanding (among different faiths). The prototypes of religion we have in our minds are very rigid and the only way you can get over those prototypes is by meeting with each other and talking to each other. Interfaith prayers are very important.”
“I wish we could stress Sufism in India so that the other face of Islam which is becoming something of a prototype which makes you think of Taliban and the fanatical side of Islam. This is very unfortunate. The softer and loving part of Islam is forgotten. Sufi shrines are the essence of Islam,” said Singh who has received guru mantra from four different gurus of the Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnava and Sufi order. He also served as the chairman of Aurobindo Foundation for twenty years and has fond memories of Sri Mother – the spiritual force behind Auroville (spiritual town in Puducherry) whose magnificent Matri Mandir she had herself designed. People from over sixty nationalities stay in peace and harmony in Auroville.
Referring to the Vedic wisdom and Upanishads and their relevance in the modern world, Karan Singh said, “It seems to me that Noble laureates and post-Einsteinian and post-Heisenbergian quantum mechanics researchers have begun to reflect some of the insights of Upanishads which have the same sort of descriptions which now define what these people are looking into atoms. This is quite extraordinary.”
Commenting on the broader education system and the need for Vedic wisdom in our curriculum, Karan Singh said, “Macaulay is much maligned in India but a lot of people who have gone through the English education have made their mark in the world and produced Nobel laureates. So we should not scrap the whole system. Our Constitution forbids us from teaching religion but that does not mean you cannot tell the wonderful morally-uplifting stories of the Upanishads and other religious texts. We need to have an injection of wisdom into the education system. A combination of our ancient wisdom and modern pedagogical methods.”
The Ek Mulakat and Ek Mulakat Visesh series of webinars and events are organized by Kolkata-based Prabha Khaitan Foundation, kindling stimulating discussions byconnecting artistes, achievers, cultural aficionados, thinkers and authors with the common people across India and other continents.