Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Ignorance Is A Bliss

Updated: July 25, 2015 4:20 am

India That Is Bharat

IS IT really required of every eminent Nobel Prize-winner winning it for his knowledge of his subject to be equally eminently ignorant of a subject outside his area of study? Satiricus does not know, because he has not (yet) won a Nobel Prize. But he notices that such a trend is developing. Take Steven Weinberg, the American Nobel Prize-winner in Physics. Does he know as much Sanskrit as he knows Science? Never mind that he does not. Never mind that he has not read – and understood – the Veda, written 5000 to 10,000 years ago and yet contains Physics and Metaphysics,as also cosmology, chronology and decimal mathematics. That did not affect his confidence in his ignorance when he dismissed the claim of science in ancient India as “nonsense”.

And if an American Nobel Prize-winner can show off his ignorance so spectacularly, why an Indian Nobel Prize-winner can’t do the same, asks Satiricus patriotically. He can, and he does, – our own Nobel Prize-winner Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel for Economics. He is now automatically qualified to show off his prize-winning ignorance in other subjects – such as Sanskrit literature. So it was very much in the fitness of things that when, in a press interview the other day, he was asked to “talk a bit about your love for Sanskrit literature” he replied, “My favourite Kalidasa play was Mrichhakatika.”

See? This was news for Satiricus. In fact it would have been news to Kalidas himself. Mrichhakatikam, “The Little Clay Cart”, is a very entertaining play, and did not fail to entertain the audience when staged in New York in the 20th century in 1924 – but unfortunately poor Kalidasa had missed writing it. It was Shudraka who wrote it. According to Sanskritists who have not won the Nobel Prize either in Economics or in Physics, Kalidasa lived during the second century BC in the royal court of the Shunga dynasty, while Shudraka, probably a king himself, lived in the 5th century AD, that is, 700 years after Kalidasa.

See? Nobel Prize-winner Sen says he loves Sanskrit literature and his favourite play is Mrichhakatika, but he does not know who wrote it. How on earth is that possible? It is possible because, in keeping with the fashion among Nobel Prize-winners, Sen’s knowledge of one subject must be matched by his ignorance in another.

Unfortunately for Satiricus, this scholarly requirement of matching the two nullifies his chances of a Nobel. He is a journalist, so his ignorance is matchless – as matchless as that of the reporter who interviewed Sen but did not question his statement that Kalidasa wrote Mrichhakatika.

Oh, well, we ignoramuses must stick together – for the sake of “journalism of courage”, no ?

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