CAT 1998 Question Paper


The narrator of Midnight's Children describes it as a kind of collective fantasy. I suppose what he, or I, through him was trying to say, was that there never had been a political entity called India until 1947. The thing that became independent had never previously existed, except that there had been an area, a zone called India. So it struck me that what was coming into being, this idea of a nation-state, was an invention. It was an invention of the nationalist movement. And a very successful invention.

One could argue that nation-states are a kind of collective fantasies. Very similar things happened with the unification of Italy, and also with the unification of Germany. The history of India is a history of independent nation-states. It is a history of Oudh or Bengal or Maratha kingdoms. All those independent histories agreed to collectivise themselves into the idea of the nation of India. In the case of Pakistan, it was less successful. Pakistan was under-imagined. It did not survive as a nation-state.

If you ask people in general, they would have absolutely no problem with the idea of India at all. I think, in a way the strength of the nationalist idea is shown by its ability to survive the extraordinary stresses that it was placed under. I think the stresses of things — communalism, the high degree of public corruption, of regional rivalries, of the tension between the centre and the state, the external pressures of bad relations with Pakistan — these are colossal pressures which any state could be forgiven for being damaged by. I think the thing to say about the success of the idea is that it remains an idea though people might not find it very easy to give a simple definition of it. But that it does exist and that it is something to which people feel they belong, I think is now the case. That it survives these stresses is an indication of its strength.

I'm not interested in an idealised, romantic vision of India, I know it is the great pitfall of the exile. So you know for me, always, the issue of writing about India has been not to write as an outsider. On the other hand, evidently something has changed in the last 10 years, which is that as a result of various circumstances, I've not been able to return. All I can say is that I have felt it as the most profound loss and I still do. There have been many losses in the last decade but the loss of the easy return to India has been for me an absolute anguish, an inescapable anguish. I feel as if I've lost a limb. I am very anxious to bring that period to an end.

I do not think that one of the most interesting phenomena for India as a country is the phenomenon of the Indian Diaspora. I often think Indian — Indian Indians — find that very hard to understand. In England, when people call themselves British Indian, they mean both halves of that. And yet, what it means to be a British Indian is very alien to an Indian Indian. The same is true in the Caribbean, in Africa, in Canada, in the United States, and so on. The thing that has interested me is that there are now many, many ways of being something which you can legitimately call Indian. Being an Indian in India is just one of those ways.

The forces of disintegration are always there. I think in every society there is the tension between the forces that bring it together and the forces that pull it apart. I'm worried, above all, of the communal issue because half a century is no time at all in the eye of history, and half a century ago something of colossally horrible proportion took place. The fact that it hasn't happened for 50 years on quite the same scale means nothing. It could still happen tomorrow. One of the things that I remember very vividly, being there 10 years ago at about the time of the killings that took place in Assam, is discussing this with good friends and fellow writers. And I remember somebody said to me, until we understand that we are capable of these things, we can't begin to move beyond them. Because it's a very easy response to atrocities, to say: oh those terrible people did that, and we are not like that. I think the difficult response is to accept we are also capable of that, the thing that happened there could also, in certain circumstances, be something that we were able to perpetrate. The civilising influence is what prevents most of us from giving vent to those terrible urges. Those urges are part of humanity as well as the more civilized urges.

Of course, I fear in India the recurrence of communal or regionalist inter-community violence. I fear the long-term damage to a democracy that can be done by mass corruption. I think corruption is in a way a subversion of democracy and the commonplace view in India is that corruption is everywhere. In a sense, you could say that is not a democratic society. If money, favour and privilege is what makes the place work, then that's not a democracy. At least it runs the danger of being no longer able to call itself a democracy.

What was happening, I thought, was that people were trying to seize control of that rhetoric. That is to say, special interest groups. You could say Hindus are a very large special interest group. If any group inside such a complex and many faceted country tries to define the nation exclusively in its own terms, then it begins to create terrible stresses. I do think that the kind of attempt to define India in Hindu terms is worrying for that reason. It creates backlashes, it creates polarisation, and it creates the risk of more upheaval. Partly, I am saying this as a kind of objective observer, but nobody is an objective observer.

I come from an Indian minority, I no doubt have a minority perspective. I can't ignore that and nor would I wish to. Partly, also I am speaking temperamentally. That is to say, the kind of religious language in politics is something I find temperamentally unpleasant. I don't like people who do that, whether they be sectarians in Northern Ireland or India. I believe in, if possible, separating one's personal spiritual needs and aspirations from the way in which a country is run. I think in those countries where that separation has not taken place, one can see all kinds of distortions of social and ordinary life which are unpleasant. Iran is an obvious example. The country in which that kind of separation has completely fragmented it.

Where Naipaul is right, although I don't share his conclusions about it, but I think where he is right, is in saying that this is a great historical moment. One reason why the 50th anniversary is interesting is that it does seem to represent the end of the first age and the beginning of second age. And to that extent that is true now, if someone was born today, they would be born into a very different set of cultural assumptions and hopes than somebody born 50 years ago. We were entirely sold on the Nehru-Gandhi kind of plan. We grew up and that was the portrait of the nation we had hung on our wall, and to the extent that you never entirely lose those formative ideas, that's still the picture of the country I've got on my wall. But it's clear that for somebody being born now, they are being born into a very different country.

I also think of taking the Naipaul point on what would happen if the BJP were to form a government. Well, what I would like to think is that in order for the BJP or anybody of that persuasion to form a government, they would have to change. There is even some kind of suggestion that it may even be happening a little bit because they are intelligent people. They understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Clearly, for a Hinduist party to form the government of the country is not at all unlikely. So I think one does have to engage with that in the same way as many people in the country who, like myself, were not remotely in tune with the Thatcherite revolution but have to engage with it because it was in fact happening, and kept winning elections, and the world was not going to go back. So, of course, both people inside the Hindu political enterprise and people outside it will have to shift. I am optimistic about India's ability to force those changes that are necessary because I do believe it is not fundamentally an intolerant country and will not fundamentally accept intolerant politics.

On the other hand, there has to be reckoning with the fact that these are ideas, which are gaining in popularity. I'll tell you where I would draw the line myself. I think there was a great historical mistake made in Europe about the Nazi Party. People attempted to see whether they could live with it and discovered very rapidly that was a mistake, that appeasement was a great historical mistake. So, it seems to me, the question is: What do we make of this political enterprise? Is it fundamentally democratic or fundamentally anti-democratic? If democratic, then we must all learn to make the best of it. If anti-democratic, then we must fight it very hard.

What happened in India happened before the book (Satanic Verses) had actually entered. It happened because of an article in India Today, which, I must say, I thought was an irresponsibly written article, because it was written by somebody, who, as a friend, asked me for an early copy of the book, and then presented that book in the most inflammatory sort of way.

This was one of the things that disappointed me, that after a lifetime of having written from a certain sensibility, and a certain point of view, I would have expected people in India to know about it since it was all entirely about India. It was written from a deep sense of connection and affection for India. I would have expected that I had some money in the bank. That is to say, if Salman Rushdie wrote any book, then we know who he is. He is not some idiot who just arrived from nowhere shouting abuse. This is somebody whose work, whose opinions, whose lectures and whose stories we know. I would have hoped that my work would have been judged in the context of what people already knew about me. Instead, it seemed as if everything I had been in my life up to that point suddenly vanished out of the window and this other Rushdie was invented who was this complete bastard who had done this terrible thing. There did not seem to be any attempt to correct that or to combat that. I was surprised and disappointed it did not. It didn't happen here either. It didn't happen anywhere in the world. It was as if the force of history, the force of a historical event was so huge that it erases all that goes before it.

The negative response to the Satanic Verses, let us remember that there was also a positive response, was such that it erased my personality and put in its place some other guy who they didn't recognize at all. Anybody who knows anything about these countries, and I do know something about these countries, knows that every cheap politician can put a demonstration in the street in five minutes. That doesn't represent in any sense the people's will. It represents a certain kind of political structure, political organization. It doesn't represent truth. But I always believed and I still believe that India would come back. I never believe that the loss of India is forever. Because India is not Iran, it’s not even Pakistan, and I thought good sense will prevail in India because that's my life experience of Indian people and of the place.

Question 141

What according to the passage prevents us from giving in to violent, terrible urges?

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Question 142

According to the writer, what disqualifies India from being called a democracy?

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Question 143

The writer contradicts his assertion of being an 'objective observer' on the basis that

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Question 144

In the first paragraph of the passage, the writer questions

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Question 145

According to the writer, the difference between India and Pakistan was that

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Question 146

According to the passage, the secret of India's survival lies in

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If Western civilization is in a state of permanent crisis, it is not far-fetched to suggest that there may be something wrong with its education. No civilization, I am sure, has ever devoted more energy and resources to organised education, and if we believe in nothing else, we certainly believe that education is, or should be, the key to everything. In fact, the belief in education is so strong that we treat it as the residual legatee of all our problems. If the nuclear age brings new danger; if the advance of genetics engineering opens the doors of new abuses; if commercialism brings new temptations, the answer must be more and better education. The modern way of life is becoming more complex: this means that everybody must become more highly educated.

“By 1984,” it was said recently, “it will be desirable that the most ordinary of men is not embarrassed by the use of a logarithm table, the elementary concepts of the calculus, and by the definitions and uses of such words as electron, coulomb, and volt. He should further have become able not only to handle a pen, and ruler but also a magnetic tape, valve, and transistor.

The improvement of communications between individuals and groups depends on it.” Most of all, it appears, the international situation calls for prodigious educational efforts. The classical statement on this point was delivered by Sir Charles (now Lord Snow in his Rede Lecture some years ago:

To say that we must educate ourselves or perish, is a little more melodramatic than the facts warrant. To say we have to educate ourselves or watch a steep decline in our lifetime, is about right. According to Lord Snow, the Russians are apparently doing much better than anyone else and will 'have a clear edge', unless and until the Americans and we educate ourselves both sensibly and imaginatively'. Lord Snow, it will be recalled, talked about 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution' and expressed his concern that 'the intellectuals life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups . . . At one pole we have the literary intellectuals . . . at the other the scientists'. He deplores the 'gulf of mutual incomprehension' between these two groups and wants it bridged. It is quite clear how he thinks this 'bridging' operation is to be done; the aims of his educational policy would be, first, to get as many 'alpha-plus scientists as the country can throw up'; second, to train 'a much larger stratum of alpha professionals' to do the supporting research, high class design and development; third, to train 'thousands upon thousands' of other scientists and engineers; and finally, to train 'politicians, administrators, and entire community, who know enough science to have a sense of what the scientists are talking about'. If this fourth and last group can at least be educated enough to 'have sense' of what the real people, the scientists and engineers, are talking about, so Lord Snow seems to suggest, the gulf of mutual incomprehension between the 'Two Cultures' may be bridged.

These ideas on education, which are by no means unrepresentative of our times, leave one with the uncomfortable feeling that ordinary people, including politicians, administrators, and so forth, are really not much use, they have failed to make the grade: but, at least, they should be educated enough to have a sense of what is going on, and to know what the scientists mean when they talk to quote Lord Snow's example about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It is an uncomfortable feeling, because the scientists never tire of telling us that the fruits of their labours are 'neutral': whether they enrich humanity or destroy it depends on how they are used.

And who is to decide how they are used? There is nothing in the training of scientists and engineers to enable them to take such decision, or else, what becomes of the neutrality of science? If so much reliance is today being placed in the power of education to enable ordinary people to cope with the problems thrown up by scientific and technological progress, then there must be something more to education than Lord Snow suggests. Can education help us to turn the potentiality into a reality to the benefit of man? To do so, the task of education would be, first and foremost the transmission of ideas of value, of what to do with our lives. There is no doubt also the need to transmit know-how but this must take second place, for it is obviously somewhat foolhardy to put great powers into the hands of people without making sure that they have a reasonable idea of what to do with them. At present, there can be little doubt that the whole of mankind is in mortal danger, not because we are short of scientific and technological know-how, but because we tend to use it destructively, without wisdom. More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom.

The essence of education, I suggested, is the transmission of values, but values do not help us to pick our way through life unless they have become our own, a part, so to say, of our mental make-up. This means that they are more than mere formulae or dogmatic assertions: that we think and feel with them, that they are the very instruments through which we like and interpret, and experience the world. When we think, we do not just think: we think with ideas. Our mind is not a blank, a tabula rasa. When we begin to think we can do so only because our mind is already filled with all sorts of ideas with which to think. All through our youth and adolescence, before the conscious and critical mind begins to act as a sort of censor and guardian at the threshold, ideas seep into our mind, multitudes of them. These years are, one might say, our Dark Ages during which we are nothing but inheritors; it is only in later years that we can gradually learn to sort out our inheritance. First of all, there is language. Each word is an idea. If the language which seeps into us during our Dark Ages is English, our mind is thereby furnished by a set of ideas which is significantly different from the set represented by Chinese, Russian, German, or even American. Apart from words there are the rules of putting them together: grammar, another bundle of ideas, the study of which has fascinated some modern philosophers to such an extent that they thought they could reduce the whole of philosophy to a study of grammar. All philosophers and others have always paid a great deal of attention to ideas seen as the result of thought and observation; but in modern times all too little attention has been paid to the study of the ideas which form the very instruments by which thought and observation proceed. On the basis of experience and conscious thought small ideas may easily be dislodged, but when it comes to bigger, more universal, or more subtle ideas, it may not be so easy to change them. Indeed, it is often difficult to become aware of them, as they are the instruments and not the result of our thinking just as you can see what is outside you, but cannot easily see that with which you see, the eye itself.

And even when one has become aware of them it is often impossible to judge them on the basis of ordinary experience. We often notice the existence of more or less fixed ideas in other people's minds — ideas with which they think without being aware of doing so. We then call them prejudices, which is logically quite correct because they have merely seeped into the mind and are in no way the result of judgement. But the word prejudice is generally applied to ideas that are patently erroneous and recognisable as such by anyone except the prejudiced man. Most of the ideas with which we think are not of that kind at all. To some of them, like those incorporated in words and grammar, the notions of truth or error cannot even be applied, others are quite definitely not prejudices but the result of a judgement; others again are tacit assumptions or presuppositions which may be very difficult to recognise. I say, therefore, that we think with or through ideas and that what we call thinking is generally the application of pre-existing ideas to a given situation or set of facts. When we think about, say the political situation.

we apply to that situation our political ideas, more or less systematically, and attempt to make that situation' ‘intelligible' to ourselves by means of these ideas. Similarly, everywhere else we evaluate the situation in the light of our value-ideas. The way in which we experience and interpret the world obviously depends very much indeed on the kind of ideas that fill our minds. If they are mainly small, weak, superficial, and incoherent, life will appear insipid, uninteresting, petty and chaotic. It is difficult to bear the resultant feeling of emptiness, and the vacuum of our minds may only too easily be filled by some big, fantastic notion-political or otherwise — which suddenly seem to illumine everything and to give meaning and purpose to our existence. We feel that education will help solve each new problem or complexity that arises. It needs no emphasis that herein lies one of the great dangers of our times. When people ask for education they normally mean something more than mere training, something more than mere knowledge of facts, and something more than a mere diversion.

Maybe they cannot themselves formulate precisely what they are looking for; but I think what they are really looking for is ideas that could make the world, and their own lives, intelligible to them. When a thing is intelligible you have a sense of participation; when a thing is unintelligible you have a sense of estrangement. 'Well, I don't know', you hear people say, as an impotent protest against the unintelligibility of the world as they meet it. If the mind cannot bring to the world a set — or, shall we say, a tool box — of powerful ideas, the world must appear to it as a chaos, a mass of unrelated phenomena, of meaningless events. Such a man is like a person in a strange world and without any signs of civilization, without maps or signposts or indicators of any kind. Nothing has any meaning to him; nothing can hold his vital interest; he has no means of making anything intelligible to himself.

Question 147

The writer's contention in the passage is that the crisis in Western civilization can be explained by

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Question 148

According to the writer, Lord Snow sees the intellectual life of Western society as split between

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Question 149

The writer seems to criticise the belief that

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Question 150

What, according to the author, would be the definition of 'prejudice'?

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