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Manageable Chaos

A Hindu devotee shows his painted back with a message stating “GST (Global Service Tax) – A new boon or a lasting burden?” ahead of the rollout of the new tax in India, during the annual Rath Yatra, or chariot procession, in Ahmedabad, India 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave

According to sociologist Ashis Nandy, writing in 1990:

In India the choice could never be between chaos and stability, but between manageable and unmanageable chaos, between humane and inhuman anarchy, and between tolerable and intolerable disorder.

I am currently reading V. S. Naipaul’s book India: A Million Mutinies Now (1991). It is the last of the late author’s three books on India. The others are An Area of Darkness (1964) and India: A Wounded Civilization (1977). Born in Trinidad of Indian ancestry, Vidia Naipaul was a British citizen who kept trying to understand the land of his forebears.

India is a land of multiple languages, multiple religions, multiple political factions, multiple ethnicities. In a word it is a land of multiple multiplicities. And it is becoming ever more centrifugal as time goes on. Hardly a day passes without news of massacres, rapes, terrorism, and murders directed at the other guy.

V S Naipaul (1932-2018)

In trying to understand India, Naipaul has helped all of us see more clearly what is an increasingly shattered society, yet one that manages to soldier on despite everything. I, who am so despairing of the split between the Trumpists and everyone else in the United States, am truly amazed that India is able to manage its own chaos so well. For now, anyway.