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Dharampal 95!

Dharampal would have been 95 today.

What bothered him in the last years -

1) the inability of Indian researchers to pay attention to the vast emerging local language histories and narratives. "Listen to Ravindra Sharma", he used to say in wonderment of the amazing narrations that Ravindra Sharmaji made on the tribal life and their world views. While he followed the emergence of the local language narratives, he was also wary of engaging with people who adopted western academic glasses to interpret the local community or re-narrate the local histories.

2) the lack of vision and clarity in engaging with the Indian Ocean rim countries - he believed and held that India had a lot to contribute as well as learn from the countries in the 'Indian Ocean rim', a vast expanse of space that extended from the East African nations to the lands bordering the South China Sea. One of his favourite works of (the then) recent origin was the book, "1421" by Gavin Menzis. While the book spoke of the Chinese discovery of the American land ahead of Columbus, there were several references to India in that book that interested him and which he wanted people to work on. Similarly, he also was interested in the works of Andre Wink and others from the West who ascribed the growth of economic powers in the Indian Ocean to the expansion of Islam. While he didn't formulate or write on it, these works interested him.

In fact, he envisaged and initiated steps to create a research initiative that will bring together scholars from the Indian Ocean countries to work together on the ancient linkages in these parts and look at some of the commonalities that is enjoyed by people in these parts. His primary point used to be, "we don't know our neighbours enough. each area in the world needs to know its own neighbours well". he used to often mention that there were not any known places where someone in Chennai can learn Sinhala or Basha whereas there were enough places where someone can French or German.

3) Of course, like most Gandhians of his generation, he was conerned about the degradation of political leadership standards. having known and worked with several political leaders of great stature, he felt that as a class they have come to represent something other than what the ordinary indians aspired for or felt were important in their lives.

Remembering him on his 95th birthday, his work and words and the work still uncompleted (uninitiated even), hoping that there will be adequate interest and resources that can initiate the work he wanted to organize in the coming years.