12 May, 2021

Scholar, Sui Generis

The mercurial devourer of knowledge—and giver of care and affection—in youth has crafted his own, unique path. Ram Guha is a category- defying scholar who takes on bhakts and mullahs.

Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
Scholar, Sui Generis

Ramachandra Guha used to say that, as a chronicler of the past, it would be appropriate for him to stay off contemporary events beca­use he can’t bring analytical distance to the task of interpreting a reality that’s still unfolding. But the times have been such that the historian is driven to intervene in current affairs, writing in a way as to set the terms of debate, not afraid of leaving himself vulnerable to critique. Today, even as he turns 60, he has set off an intense polemical storm by comparing the burqa with the trishul, with the ensuing debate touching on all core aspects of everyday politics in India. Besides being a pioneering writer on environment and a socio­logist of cricket, Guha has also fulfilled his role as public intellectual in another, behind-the-scenes, generative way: as a knowledge impresario who funds serious scholarship with the New India Foundation.... All the while staying true to his primary calling: that of writing serious history that everyone can read, in prose that’s light, supple but never frivolous. Outlook...

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