Sunday, 12 February 2017

I'm a can’t Fool me

I got a mail from an 'educated' woman, who wrote: " You can't fool me. I'm a PhD..." As if holding a Doctorate degree is something no one has held before her. This is the attitude which gets my goat. First of all, getting a PhD is no big deal and getting it from any institute or varsity in India is just a cakewalk. The overall academic standards in India are just diabolical to say the least.

 Most of the Indian universities sell doctorate degrees and there's nothing new or novel in the theses submitted like mushrooms and potatoes. But my point's different. What makes people so arrogant just after getting an ordinary PhD degree? I've seen and come across people with a number of Phd and Post Doctorate degrees, yet so humble and unassuming.

My professor of Theology at Oxford, professor Edmund Blunden had 5 Doctorate degrees and he never told anyone about them. I came to know about his bagful of degrees only after leaving Oxford to join Columbia in the US, where the late Edward W Said told me about my Oxford professor. Said himself had 3 Doctorates and 3 Post Doctorates. I got to see the same self-effacing humility in the late French scholar Jacques Derrida, who was teaching at Sorbonne, Paris. Such examples of humility are galore. "Vidya dadati Vinayam" (Knowledge makes you humble). In fact, a little knowledge makes you hubristic, but true knowledge makes you humble.
Those who're truly learned, don't blow their own trumpets.

There's an Arabic saying, " Reg ul ahvir tapish in-h'aam khursheed" (Sand becomes hotter than the sun!!). The sun knows that it's hot. It doesn't have to flaunt its heat. It's an axiomatic truth, a truism. But the sand has to display its ability to cause blisters!! Otherwise, who'll care for it? We're all like the bubbly and frivolous sand: Too much in love with ourselves; narcissistic and megalomaniac. There're so many geniuses in this world, whose down-to earth attitude can teach us so much.
When blind Egyptian scholar Dr Taha Hussain was teaching at Al-Azhar, Cairo, one day he heard a student recite a Quranic verse in Egyptian qeerat (one of the 7 ways of Quranic recitation; Misri or Egyptian being the most sublime). He stopped and asked a passerby, who was that guy? " 
He's an American scholar learning 'qeerat ", the passerby told the great man. " Wish I could speak such mellifluous Arabic," Taha said. That American scholar was Professor Bernard Lewis, the Head of Arabic and Arab studies at Princeton University. This is humbleness of the highest level. " Shuhrat ki balandi bhi ek pal ka tamasha hai / Jis shaakh pe baithe ho, woh toot bhi sakti hai " ( The height of fame is a momentary phenomenon / The branch you're sitting at, may break any time). Remember, the pithy words of Urdu poet Bashir Badra.        

                                                                                                   ----Sumit Paul