July 16, 2006

What a human being is

Talking India is a book in the form of conversation between two contemporary thinkers—renowned Indian clinical psychologist Ashis Nandy and Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo M KUMARAGURU Financial Express: Sunday, July 16, 2006
The book opens with Nandy’s childhood in a Bengali Christian family. His family had a heavy dose of mora- lity with a touch of Puritanism, a combination that made him lose faith in religion and ideology later in life. His voracious reading early on introduced him to various schools of thought. But as a keen intellect, he cultivates the habit of questioning everything, which leads him to reject them one by one.
But certain things cannot be discarded that easily, and Gandhian principles are one such thing for Nandy. This he realises later in life, especially in the context of environmental crisis and the growing threats of global and local violence. His astounding reading encompasses the works of Tagore, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Satre, Bertrand Russel, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekov and de Beauvoir. Finally his interests anchor on what a human being is, what drives him or her, the potentialities and limits of human nature and how they are related to the public sphere.
The untiring reading makes Nandy believe that an intellect should find and support causes that are not supported by the majority, but deserve to be. Here too, he is cautious to be drawn towards any ideology as “ideology makes a certain kind of demand on human personality, and these demands are not always healthy ones. Ideologies can often be a defence against one’s unacceptable emotions or feelings.”

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