The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 | Moral conversations absent from our education system: Chandan Gowda

Updated - February 16, 2024 08:15 pm IST

Published - January 27, 2024 11:02 pm IST - CHENNAI

Chandan Gowda in conversation with Suresh Seshadri at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao concert hall in Chennai on Saturday.

Chandan Gowda in conversation with Suresh Seshadri at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao concert hall in Chennai on Saturday. | Photo Credit: R. Ravindran

Half of us in India, said Chandan Gowda, have had a modern education — a dry, unevocative, British-induced utilitarian education, the goal of which is to make one employable anywhere in an industrialised society. The other half, the one that hasn’t had this education, has a whole range of other moral conversations and living traditions that the first half has been actively removed from.

Mr. Gowda, author of Another India: Events, Memories, People, was in conversation with Suresh Seshadri, national business editor, The Hindu, at The Hindu’s Lit Fest 2024, on Saturday, January 27.

The shrinking of the moral imagination in present times, said Mr. Seshadri, was a running theme, woven through the vignettes of people and folklore in the book. One illustration of this that Mr. Gowda presented, was making moral arguments in support of democracy or equality: many of these perhaps today, would be drawn from the Constitution, but there are, he said “many other imaginations of equality.” In a country as diverse as India, these could be sect-based, community or religion-based, but most of these moral conversations are absent from our education system. One would be lucky, he pointed out, if one had come across some Sangam literature for instance, in a Tamil class at school, and, he went on to make an argument for a certain training in some philosophy, from a variety of sources, to be part of the education system. This was not to say that one had to accept tradition unquestioningly he later emphasised — tradition, he said, has always questioned itself.

On how we view our past, Mr. Gowda said that modernity distorts our sense of it — it presents a linear picture of society that has progressed from tribal communities, to agricultural and so on to the modern, and since the West has successfully gone through this, it has also become the goal for India, where to date, all of these societies still exist. In this relentless pursuit of modernity, Mr. Gowda said, there was no sense of irony. “Where is this certainty coming from,” he asked. “That this the way we are headed and this is a good way?”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.