Rudolphs: First Couple To Get Padma Bhushan
There are many foreigners who come and work in India. But not many make an impact on the Indians. But two Harvardians couple, who obtained their PhDs in the 50’s and who contributed immensely in making the Chicago University a well-known institution for the Indian study, Lloyd Rudolph and his academic wife Sussane are extra ordinary couple who have lived and worked together and have authored a number of books as political scientists. Both Lloyd and Sussane are individually brilliant, but collectively they are genius. The couple Lloyd and Sussane, who are in their eighties now, were rewarded for their contribution to India. They became a rare couple when the President honoured them with Padma Bhushan.
The Rudolphs have great appetite for writing and they have written on variety of subjects—the themes are wide-ranging: caste and democracy, politics of education and curricula, impact of modernity on Indian religions and evolving relationship between religion and politics, interaction between princely and British India, federalism, Indo-US relations, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph’s romance with India began when they were in Harvard in the 50’s. Later, their quest about India brought them to the country which later became their second home, while Chicago was their workplace, where they lived and worked till their retirement in 2002. Jaipur became their second home where they lived and worked and spent time when they were the visiting professor in Rajasthan University. The love for Jaipur is still there and they spend three months in a year at Jaipur.
“We write as insiders and outsiders, insiders because for over five decades, from locations in Chicago and Jaipur, we have studied Indian politics, and outsiders, because we seek to be reflexive political scientists of India,” said Rudolph from Kensington, California, where he is currently living.
The Rudolphs in their book, The Modernity of Tradition (1967) had warned that democracy or modernity would not eliminate traditional social structures like caste, as the standard modernisation theories. Way back in the eighties, the Rudolphs knew India so intimately that they had written caste groups would use democracy to achieve their political and economic goals, as well as fight centuries-old caste prejudices. This idea has become conventional wisdom in recent times, which showed the insight of the couple.
The Rudolphs wrote about the caste mobilisation in its different forms and classified the lower caste and the upper caste and described them in details on how the various castes are treated in different states. The Rudolphs have written on Mahatma Gandhi profusely. ‘“Over the course of the years, I co-authored eight books with Susanne. The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India; Education and Politics in India ; The Regional Imperative: The Administration of US Foreign Policy Towards South Asian States; Gandhi: The Traditional Roots of Charisma; Essays on Rajputana; In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of the Indian State; Reversing the Gaze: The Amar Singh Diary, a Colonial Subject’s Narrative of Imperial India and, most recently, Postmodern Gandhi and Other Essays: Gandhi in the World and at Home,” said the Rudophs.
The Rudolphs, by their own admission, have said that the Mahatma understood courage in politics, related self-control to political potency, developed a theory of asceticism as a tool of political empowerment. Lloyd and Sussane have made India their second home. They first travelled to India in 1956 when they drove all the way from London in most uneasy conditions traversing several continents just after both obtained their PhDs from Harvard University in the US. They jotted down the first part of their travel experience in the Land Rover passing through one country to another on horrible bumpy roads. But the second half was written at greater leisure from notes as they recuperated from the trip in Lahore, New Delhi, and Jaipur. This was the beginning of their romance with India.
They authored several books together by doing extensive research. They spent more than a decade in India, particularly in Rajasthan’s Jaipur to write books and articles. “Even our children have happy memories about Jaipur as they studied here and one of my daughters Amelia was married in true Indian style at Narayan Niwas several years ago,” said the Rudolphs.
The Rudolphs’ time in Jaipur, even now, are spent on research, and writing on a nobleman, the late Thakur Mohan Singh Kanota made their stay in India notable and meaningful. They jointly wrote the book Reversing the Gaze [Oxford University Press] based on the 89 volumes of the Amar Singh’s diary, now exhibited in the Amar Singh Library and Museum in Kanota, Castle, near Jaipur. The Rudolphs lived in Jaipur initially for five of seven research years in India. Then they decided to make Jaipur their second home since 1984. In the couple were visiting professors in University of Rajasthan where they worked closely with Prof Iqbal Narayan and Prof SP Verma.
They worked together and their first book on Rajasthan Essays on Rajputana is about the history, culture and character, and administration of Indian princely states in the 19th and 20th centuries. They bring to bear the perspective and concerns of several social sciences on the princely and feudal orders under paramountcy in the 19th century and on their demise after Independence. The nature of their evidence ranges from the material they gathered as participant observes in the midst of the political struggle over jagir abolition in the 1950s.
Reversing The Gaze: The Amar Singh Diary: A Colonial Subject’s Narrative of Indian State is an amazing book written by the Rudolphs with the diary provided by Thakur Mohan Singh Kanota Amar Singh, a Rajput nobleman and officer in the Indian Army, who kept a diary for 44 years from 1898, when he was twenty, until his death in 1942. In it, he wrote about the Jodhpur court, the Imperial Cadet Corps, and the British Expeditionary Force in China during the Boxer rebellion. With the diary acting as alter ego and best friend, Amar Singh resisted becoming a coolie for the raj, when he found the British to be racist masters as well as friends. He wrote and read extensively.
The authors focus on the first eight years of Amar Singh’s diary (1898-1905), offering a rare and intimate glimpse into British colonialism from the point of view of a colonial subject.The couple’s book The Pursuit of Lakshmi, the fickle goddess of prosperity and good fortune, is a metaphor for the aspirations of the state and people of independent India. The scholar couple in this book focus on this modern-day pursuit by offering a comprehensive analysis of India’s political economy.
“The Pursuit of Lakshmi talks about how India occupies a paradoxical plane among nation states: it is both developed and underdeveloped, rich and poor, strong and weak. These contrasts locate India in the international order. Contrary to what one might expect in a country with great disparities of wealth, no national party, right or left, pursues the politics of class. India faces a ‘third actor’—the state. The dominance of the state makes class politics marginal; the state is itself an element in the creation of the centrist-oriented social pluralism that has characterised Indian politics since Independence,” said the Rudolphs.
In analysing the relationship between India’s politics and its economy, the Rudolphs maintain that India’s economic performance has been only marginally affected by the type of regime in power—authoritarian or democratic. More important, they show that rising levels of social mobilisation and personalistic rule have contributed to declining state capacity and autonomy. At the same time, social mobilisation has led to a more equitable distribution of economic benefits and political power, which has enhanced the state’s legitimacy among its citizens.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur