Pitcher imperfect

Dinesh Sharma was only following his leaders while listing ancient India's feats in science. Why then was he rebuked for speaking out of turn?

  • Published 3.06.18

India boasts leaders whose views are unfailingly educative and entertaining. They offer a mesmerizing peep-show into their idea of ancient India. Dinesh Sharma, the highly educated deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh - his profile says he is master of commerce and doctor of philosophy - has recently experienced a spurt of inspiring wisdom over two days. He has informed the world, first, that West has just invented Google but Indians had their Google a long time ago: the sage, Narada, could go anywhere and transmit a message far and wide from the spot by just naming Narayana - password? - three times. With this came the reminder that journalism, too, was ancient India's property: since Sanjaya could relate everything about the Kurukshetra war to Dhritarashtra he was the journalist, and he could do this only if the events were being telecast. Mr Sharma's tenuous logic was compensated for by his passionate faith, but he was not being particularly original in either claim. The Tripura chief minister, Biplab Kumar Deb, had recently claimed that India had internet and satellites in the time of the Kurukshetra, using Sanjaya's example - he did not mention Google, alas - while a Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament from Assam quickly added television to the list in the same context.

The BJP seems to breed these wise gentlemen. And they take their cue from their highest leader, the prime minister, Narendra Modi. In a foreword to one of Dinanath Batra's text books, Mr Modi had said that the idea of television goes back to the yogic divyadrishti of sages. Such a foreword identifies the quality of education Mr Batra's books impart. Mr Modi had also given the less original Mr Sharma the foundation for his next idea. While scientists froth helplessly at the mouth at Mr Sharma's statement that there must have been a test-tube baby project going on in Rama's time since Janaka found Sita in a pitcher - did he? - it can be recalled that the prime minister had said in 2014 that since Karna was not born from his mother's womb, genetic science must have been present at the time. He had also said that Ganesha's head testified to plastic surgery, but that is neither here nor there.

Other claims by BJP ministers are too numerous to list. But this time, what is truly entertaining is the fact that poor Mr Sharma, merely treading in the footsteps of greater men, has been told to shut up. Apparently, this is part of the new programme not to allow BJP leaders to speak 'out of turn' and leave the talking to authorized party spokespersons. Is the newfound sensitiveness to derision a mark of a slight dip in confidence, or are people beginning to ask questions about the funds being poured into yoga and ayurved institutions, vedic sciences, cow and panchgavya research and searches for the Saraswati river and the mythical source of the Ganga?