Thursday, January 17, 2013

A recurring theme in the CCA: Tradition and Modernity

Many of you have heard me share with you stories of my grandmother, Nana. An amazingly strong woman, nana was a healer, a knower of secrets that worked wonders on my health and my spirits.

She was an amazing source of knowledge, one who believed in the principles of Marxist socialism and also believed in the incredible powers of the spirit.

She was an avid reader, one who read more than eight hours a day.

The daughter of a medical doctor and the niece of the scientist Sir J C Ghosh, the architect of India's now-fabled IITs, she was a student of science.

Married to a family of engineers, she voraciously read books for herself, her husband, her children and her grandchildren.

Nana taught me to love the world of books.

For her, the spirit of science was embodied in asking questions, in not taking things for granted, and in drawing upon systematic observations to arrive at conclusions.

Perhaps it is this very spirit of science that worked in her everyday resources of healing.

The neem leaf, the turmeric paste, and the coriander leaves were all part of her healing repertoire. These were the incredible traditions that she inherited and the wealth of these traditions she carried with her. And these traditions worked well with how she understood the project of modern science, always interspersed with each other, intertwined and closely related.

It is from nana that I learned that traditions are not outside of modernity, but are integral to the project of modernity, in the syncretism of many different ways of knowing.

This posting is an homage to that strand of modern postcolonial thought that thrives in the anachronisms of the past and the present, of then and now, of what was and what is and what can be. This posting is an homage to the memory of nana. 

1 comment:

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