What do you know about Anandi Gopal Joshi? Asima Chatterjee? Rukhmabai Raut? Cornelia Sorabji? Leave aside knowing anything about them, have you heard about them? Unless for Google Doodle, I would not have.
India has a rich cultural heritage and a glorious past. That is what we talk about, we hear and we would like to believe. Now, ask any child/adult / your own self, to name 5 freedom fighters (except Gandhi, Nehru and Patel), 5 social reformers, 5 scientists, 5 classical singers, 5 poets and see for yourself. Leave aside the answers, there will be questions raised regarding the motive of the exercise.
We, as Indians, take a great amount of pride about our past. In reality, how much do we know about our cultural heritage? Whatever we know, is it good enough? I would want to know more and check whether anything I know is correct? Apart from Wikipedia, is there an avenue for me? No. Wikipedia is also limited to top-line awareness except for the highest individuals in their craft.
Any alternative to Google Doodle?
Every time Google comes up with Doodle of an Indian, Indian media will carry the imagery of the Google Doodle and the customary salutations from the Wikipedia. Can Indian Media (print/TV/digital /any) be expected to pro-actively educate us about our past? At least, not be a me-too but initiate a similar practice in their approach? The best I have come across is a column in Mint Lounge from Manu S Pillai – Medium Rare.
Indian Politicians will garland Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel, Bhagat Singh. Their work ends there. No further application from them to go beyond for either the freedom fighters or the social reformers or the cultural leaders.
Indian Government has umpteen numbers of departments and organizations and officials at their disposal. Ministries will not look beyond their current masters. Can even one of the Government functions be counted upon to do the task of unearthing the Indian treasure?
Indian Corporates – They are busy running their own business, literally. It cannot be expected of them to contribute to society at large, in which they operate, they are a part of.
I studied in a college, a local king donated the infrastructure for the same. Apart from the name that he gave to the institute, the King is lost. A search for him and his legacy leads to nowhere. Same would be the situation for other founders, apart from them being alive and being a part of the current administration. If these educational establishments cannot honour their founders, what else can they do for the others?
In schools, teachers themselves would not know apart from their subjects and their wards will carry forward the torch.
The access and reach of non-governmental organizations / philanthropic organizations are fairly limited. They anyway do not go beyond their stated objectives.
Why an alternative alongside Google Doodle?
Expectations would not be to have as much a reach as Google Doodle from any of the fore-mentioned agencies. A mention on their respective Facebook pages, Twitter handles, local media, small internal celebrations (and not workshops or seminars), a neighbourhood walk, a mention – just that. However for that to happen, somebody does need to know about some of our own. And that is a rarity, these days.
The only expectation from these would be to arouse the curiosity of the future generations about the land that they have taken birth in and the shared inheritance of the finest and the greatest inhabitants who have lived here.
I suppose too much to ask for. We are better off in the pursuit of cricket and bollywood, and the hatred that our leaders and media feed us.
PS: Though, I have limited the discussion to individuals, the same holds true for our heritage in terms of art forms, customs, places, values etc.