Building Institutions is the best way to celebrate the legacy of V. S. Naipaul

Building Institutions is the best way to celebrate the legacy of V. S. Naipaul
Photo: V.S. Naipaul

While most would argue that the best way to celebrate the legacy of Vidia Naipaul is to read his writings, I wish to recommend that there is the need to build institutions and law and order.  His writings were mainly about the ‘madness’ of the people in a post-colonial world who were not busy building anything but engaging in fantasies and displaying of their idiosyncrasies. In his many characters, from Ganesh in Mystic Masseur (1957), to Ralph Singh in Mimic Men (1967)and Willie Chandran in Half a Life (2001) and Magic Seeds(2004), he highlighted the failure to put down one’s head and work quietly.

In 1988, Vidia Naipaul revisited India for the third time. In his earlier visits he wrote two books: An Area of Darkness: A Discovery of India (1964) following the China-India Border War; India: A Wounded Civilization (1976) after the Emergency.

A Million Mutinies Now  (1988)was an attempt to highlight the jostling of the varied social groups for their space in the society. Naipaul chatted with people from all social and caste backgrounds and discovered that India was on the move. Even the underworld dons were demanding their rightful place in society!

In T&T today, there are signs of a “million mutinies”. Recently, a group of Indo -Trinidadian had the pleasure of initiating ICDN.TODAY, an online paper, to highlight news, community events, opinions and features on aspects of life within the community. Much earlier the SDMS launched Radio Jagriti and later TV Jagriti. SWAHA has also ventured into media with its acquisition of IETV.

The National Lotus Theatre (LTD) was recently launched. It was the brain child of Sita Persad, a renowned actress and playwright.

Soon to come on stream is the Hindu Parivaar Credit Union (HPCU). This financial institution was launched in Barrackpore a few months ago. A genuine effort should be made to make this financial institution a successful and viable enterprise.

Special praise must be extended to Swami Prakashananda and the Executive of the Chinmaya Mission for embarking on a programme of education not only in secular education but also Sanskrit and Vedanta. In the past three decades we have had many series of lectures on Vedanta by both locals and visiting Swamis but their messages failed to inspire action. It was an intellectual churning that brought forth no gold, diamond or Mother Lakshmi… more a bit of hala hal poison in the form of the ego and arrogance.

A Bend in the River (1979) is an insightful novel on the failure of the post-colonial world to build on the legacy of the British. The British, while they exploited our resources, also left us a legacy of institutions to govern ourselves. Unfortunately, we have allowed our institutions to be smothered by paramountcy of the party as is the case of Guyana. Minorities don’t seem to have any place in this political arrangement. It is winner takes all and any resistance to these hegemonic practices are met with scenes of women being disrobed to the applause of the Prime Minister and his ministers and their bigoted supporters; all being done in fun. Migration is the only option as Salim on the boat floating down the river, escaped the chaos and mayhem.

Naipaul did not poke fun at us but reflected our ‘madness’ in his writings. For example, a combination of money, a degree and some fame has had a disastrous effect on so many of our people. Many of our talented sons in sports have fallen on the way side; some have moved to the nether world much earlier by the abuse of alcohol and their recklessness behind the steering of a Japanese made car. We are like the character Cecil in Mimic Men who failed to build on the business he inherited from his father. Instead of working long hours, Cecil engaged in boasting and wild spending, losing his respect for others as though money was everything.

Naipaul lamented the so-called revolutionaries in the third world who had no aim and directions. In Guerrillas (1975), he highlighted “revolutionaries” who built communes, engaging in homosexual activities and going nowhere. In Magic Seeds Willie Chandran migrated from UK to eastern India to join the Naxalite movement that is waging a war against the landlords and the Indian government. Taking their inspiration from Chairman Mao, Naipaul viewed them as idlers and failures who have failed to develop proper careers. Also, most of the leaders of these movements remained within the four walls of a university. However, the victims of these Naxalites are the poor peasants who are accused of being police informers and killed. The Naxalites became the very enemies of the people whose welfare they claimed to fight for.

In conclusion, the best way to honour Naipaul is to build at least your family as an institution. Lay down rules and let there by a hierarchy of leaders, not everyone being his/her own boss. If we can abide by such simple disciplines then we have all right to say: “I HAVE READ V.S. NAIPAUL.”