(The following is an abridged version of the Preface to the second edition written by Pawanji. Take a look…)
Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, highly revered monk and founding Director (later Vice-Chancellor) of Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies, Sarnath, as well as the first elected Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, makes an important distinction between what he calls an ‘ordinary rational mind’ and the ‘original mind’. While felicitating Dharampalji in an award ceremony jointly organised by the Infinity Foundation and the Centre for Study of Developing Societies in 2004 he said, “Buddha had an original mind. Dharampalji has an original mind.” That is a high tribute but also the best way to describe Dharampalji. To put him in any category will be limiting our understanding of the man. He was not even a graduate having left his studies mid-way in 1942 during the Quit India movement. So, to call him a Historian, a Gandhian, a Philosopher, would not do justice to him and will blinker our understanding.
Jayprakash Narayan recognised his brilliance very early and persuaded him to become the General Secretary of AVARD (Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development) of which JP was the President. It was here, while studying the functioning of the newly introduced Panchayati Raj system of the Government of India that he realised the following: that Indian society functioned according to traditional idioms and beliefs, that ‘outward-looking’ (educated) Indians were completely alienated from the way our ‘ordinary’ people took their decisions and led their lives, that the educated had no understanding of our indigenous social systems and their dynamics, and that the picture of the Indian society that the educated have is all wrong.
Perhaps this and other similar experiences led him to undertake the long, intense and arduous research lasting more than 30 years in various libraries and archives both in England and in India. He wanted to know how the Indian society functioned before the British conquered it. It is difficult to imagine that what Dharampalji discovered in various archives and libraries was not seen by others before him. Gandhiji himself had referred to the existence of such records in 1931 while he was in London for the 2nd Round Table Conference. But it was Dharampalji’s sharp eye and his ability to see and cull out what others often tend to gloss over or remain oblivious to that made all the difference. What impressed him most was the relaxed and easy manner in which we were able (till the 19th century) to organize our collective life – organically and naturally.
“Rediscovering India”, being republished after a gap of almost 20 years is an important book to understand the British mind, their strategies, how India got destroyed, the ramifications of changes brought about by the British knowingly or unknowingly, the shift from societal systems to systems imposed by the State. As the Nobel prize winning author V.S. Naipaul used to say, India is a “wounded civilization.” “Rediscovering India” helps in the diagnosis of this long festering wound and points towards the path to a healthy India.