Typing Test


Das was inspired by the education system of post-revolution China. Manual labour and book-learning were the the two legs on which it ran: this tallied with Gandhi’s ideas of basic education. Das was also fascinated by the communes that were the central organising institution of socio-economic life in the new China. The system was founded on the idea of Democratic Centralism, where the central leadership provided ideas, guidance and support, and local communes carried out experiments in communal agricultural production, political education and shared living. Revolutionary land reforms in China had removed the intermediary classes; a model of economic development that put peasants’ communes at the centre made agriculture and a new egalitarian political consciousness the basis of social life. What Das saw in China filled him with hope for a new Asia.It is this movement towards social transformation by creating humane, egalitarian collectives that fascinated Das about kibbutzs too, when he saw them in Israel. Kibbutzs combine ideas of Zionism and socialism, where a group of men and women live and work together, with all resources owned communally and decisions taken democratically. Started in the early years of the 20th century (the first one, ‘Degania’, was established in 1909), kibbutzs soon became central to the project of taming the deserts of Israel, fuelling agricultural and industrial production. During both his Israel stints, Das spent considerable time in the kibbutzs, focusing specifically on its schools. He also engaged with a number of intellectuals, either personally or through their works, and mentions them in his travelogues - among them the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965), whose emphasis on dialogue creates the conceptual scaffolding for building bridges between the warring Jews and Arabs; Danilo Dolci (1924-1997), the ‘Italian Gandhi’ who fought non-violently and democratically against poverty and social exclusion in Italy; Moshe Harif (1933-1982), the Israeli architect and politician who played a crucial role in the movement surrounding kibbutzs. Another thinker Das writes about is Hu Shih (1891-1962), known for his push towards language reforms. He had advocated the use of written vernacular Chinese rather than the classical version of the language The concerns of all these thinkers are reflected in Das’s own works and writings, pivoted as they are on the vernacular and the common man. When Das started learning Urdu as a teenager, he had made a startling discovery - that the word ‘vilayat’ in the original Persian means what the word ‘desh’ means in most Indian languages: ‘home’ or ‘country’. And yet ‘vilayat’ in modern South Asian languages means ‘foreign land’. This strange morphing of meanings perhaps points to a larger existential truth - we can know our own country only through our travels (both imaginary and real) in other lands. In other words, the only way to be an Indian is to become an Asian and then onwards a citizen of the world. In this era of heightened nationalism and individualism, it is instructive to read Das’s travelogues. By taking us back to the almost lost worlds of kibbutzs and communes, he reminds us of an ideal of egalitarianism and human solidarity transcending barriers that seems all the more relevant now, in our fractured times.