Ode To Scholarly Survival Paradigms

Written By

Hampi Chakrabarti

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Scholarship has never been alien to human civilization. Scholars have thrived through the brutality of non-scholars and morons since time immemorial. They have been hanged, plastered inside the walls, banished from the kingdom, undergrounded in asylums and what not, only to be proven right centuries later. I say this at the onset just to clarify my stand. I love scholars for what they have done to take us humans to the next level of being human. I love them for their undying passion for truth and knowledge, even in the face of death. Having said so, today I am petrified at the evolution of my lot. And it goes without saying that all lots do have exceptions.

I can’t place my finger on the exact reason why scholarship would have been invented in the first place or who the first scholar on earth was. Even Google doesn’t know that! Nevertheless, what common sense conjures up (and I am better than Google at common sense) is that the world had questions and some intelligent people took the onus upon themselves to find answers. And when they couldn’t do it alone, the peers decided to get together, talk and discuss things over like civilized adults and come to a conclusion with consensus or majority. These became the models for conferences and seminars.  As simple as that!  Then where did we get lost? What went wrong? How did we manage to complicate this simple an exercise!

Scholarship, as I, an unscholarly insider (Yes, you may cry ‘the grapes are sour’. But, I’ll still continue to rant. ) see it today, is less about finding answers. Heck, we don’t even go seeking genuine questions! It’s more along the lines of a battle of the biceps, where people compete about who can find the most creatively convoluted manifestation of the same question. We talk and talk and talk, employing the most difficult  jargon, allegories and metaphors that our choice of language has to offer; dropping big names to add weightage and Power Point to add glamour. Of course, if your projector or generator crashes at the crucial moment, skip the last point. Shit happens.

Thus meditating upon the changing paradigms, the modern needs of scholarship appear to have gone astray. Gone are the days when scholarship strived to seek answers to the unanswered questions of human existence and the world they inhabit. Today the guiding principles of scholarship come in the garb of ‘Curriculum Vitae’. Those two words are enough to make or break your life with their contents. All those victory selfies (at-Indira-Gandhi-International-Airport-travelling-to-Bangkok-Thailand-London-New York,  with a Google map tagged alongside) will not be possible unless your CV has its own two feet to stand upon. Period.  Next is socializing and business, the eponymous ‘making contacts’. Yes, the only place one doesn’t go with those intentions in mind is a funeral! Maybe. Again I am not sure. Lastly, for the hostel dwellers like me, seminars across the university campus could mean an opportunity to escape the 46 degree heat and grab a back bench for a short air-conditioned siesta. And of course the biggest attraction — good food. Ah! How gladly we skip the mess food on those days.

Guilty as charged. I do not plead mercy. Like everyone, I too have my short-sighted rat-races to win. Yet, somewhere, the human inside me craves to see my country as the land of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual depth again— the land of Nalanda and Taxila — the land of Aryabhata, Panini and Patanjali. This was the land and we were a civilization where no scholar was ever put to trial, murdered or ridiculed. This was the land where the Rishis were revered as great scientists with knowledge of the vast cosmos.

I know there are many like-minded scholars out there. I’ll live in hope and work to see those days of wisdom return.

Till then, there’s always a nice air-conditioned seminar or two (and free food!) to keep my mind off things!




Hampi Chakrabarti, is a Research Scholar trying to identify a pattern in the narrative of Indian Women's Autobiographies while totally clueless about her own life's narrative. Often found clicking pictures of the wonders around her. True blue spiritual seeker and beggar for divine intervention. Life mission to bring human beings closer to their truth and beauty. Allergic to Armchair hyper-intellectualism. Dreams of living in a tree house.

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