“New” India within Modernity’s Deathly Embrace

INDIA NOW: NEW VISIONS IN PHOTOGRAPHY (illustrated with 165 Full-page photos, 137 in full colour) Ed. Alain Willaume with Devika Daulet Singh Thames & Hudson, London pp. 189, 2008, ISBN-978-0-500-287125

Written by

MARYAM JAMEELAH

Published on

INDIA NOW: NEW VISIONS IN PHOTOGRAPHY
(illustrated with 165 Full-page photos, 137 in full colour)
Ed. Alain Willaume with Devika Daulet Singh
Thames & Hudson, London
pp. 189, 2008,
ISBN-978-0-500-287125

Reviewed by MARYAM JAMEELAH

Materialism is the greatest export of the Euro-North-American family of nations that shatters all the cultures of the peoples it reaches and that today is reaching them all. All over the world people are envying the light-skinned machine-age nations and busily imitating them. One of the first consequences they receive is cultural devastation.

Not so many decades ago the subcontinent of India (including what is now Pakistan) was renowned world-wide as the most deeply religious country on the globe. Its most outstanding spiritual leader – Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) who struggled successfully for independence from the British Empire, was, first and last, a devout Hindu, beloved by his people for his austerity and simplicity.

Mahatma Gandhi strived all his life for indigenous cultural and spiritual renewal based on agrarian village handicrafts – he himself constantly spinning homemade cloth, sleeping on a thin pallet on the floor, eating barely enough to keep himself alive and wearing noting but a dhoti.

Since Gandhi’s tragic assassination, all his teachings and everything he stood for have long since been forgotten.

The luxuriously-printed book under review with its glorious photography displays a totally transformed India inconceivable to the Mahatma. More than a billion people now living there are no longer satisfied with the basic necessities but aspire to upward mobility – in short, the American standard of living. Rejecting thousands of years of religious belief, they cannot wait for eternal bliss in the hereafter but demand all the luxurious comforts NOW!

All the photos in this book show how India has been overtaken by materialism. The most graphic images display the horrendous ugliness of the new high-rise flats and traffic-jams rapidly disfiguring India’s cities.

This book expresses all positive enthusiasm, despite the present financial crisis, for the economic boom and the fast “progress” in its wake. It is all praise for its promise of becoming (along with China) among the world’s most powerful economies. As India modernises and westernises with unprecedented speed, it is mindlessly determined to repeat all the catastrophic mistakes of the West.

The disastrous impact of this urbanisation and industrialism on the natural environment are completely ignored. No mention here of deforestation, soil degradation, species’ extinction or global warming when the most eminent scientists from East and West warn that unless all of us drastically change our mode of living and thinking and reject five centuries of Western materialistic thought, by the end of this century, no life will be left on this earth! Should industrialised India (and China) ever consume as much fossil-fuel energy as the industrialised West, global warming will make this planet uninhabitable. But the people described in these photos could not care less! The noted Iranian / American philosopher, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (b. 1933) warns the modernising East that the planet Earth cannot sustain Western civilization. The persons depicted in these photos are least worried that it may already be too late!

Although this book is exclusively concerned with India’s Hindus, the urbanised Muslim youth of both India and Pakistan are racing along the same suicidal path as far as their circumstances permit.