Understanding Contemporary India in the Light of Sri Aurobindo
Date: July 16, 2022
Venue: Aura Bookstore-reading room, Beach Road, Pondicherry
On the evening of July 16, 2022, Dr. Beloo Mehra, author of ‘Understanding Contemporary India in the Light of Sri Aurobindo’, a book recently published by Auropublications, publications wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, read a few selections and facilitated a discussion based on the key themes from her book.
This event was co-organised by Renaissance-AuroBharati under its series – ‘Reawakening the Bharata Shakti: Toward an Indian Renaissance’ and Auropublications. After a brief silence invoking the Divine Presence, Ms. Gayatri Majumdar from Auropublications, who also edited the book, welcomed the gathering and introduced Dr. Mehra, the author of the book.
After thanking the Divine Mother without whose grace no work is ever taken up and completed, Dr. Mehra began with her session. She gave a brief overview of her book, spoke about her inspiration and guiding motivation behind the book, how the book came about and how it is situated in the existing literature on Sri Aurobindo Studies, especially the works done on contemporary Indian society and culture.
Reading and elaborating upon a letter of Sri Aurobindo from 1920 and a comment made by Shri Kireet Joshi during an interview in 2002, Dr. Mehra spoke of the critical need to think independently, deeply and widely. She said that the book reminds the readers that we must not become passive consumers of information, mindlessly accepting or rejecting what others have said about India, just because they have been given the label of ‘thinkers’ or ‘experts’ or ‘intellectuals.’
There is a need to critically examine, evaluate and think through all the observations, opinions, analyses, reflections that come from various sources – academics, journalists, opinion-makers, think tanks, policy experts, celebrities, everyone. Dr. Mehra shared how she was led to explore what constitutes an intellectual and a true thinker in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s thought. This theme has been explored in two essays in the book, she told the audience.
Dr. Beloo Mehra highlighted that the idea of decolonising of the mind with Sri Aurobindo as a social philosopher and cultural exponent and critic became her guiding intellectual framework as she did her research and analysis for the book. She also shared some of the examples from real life observations and experiences that led her to write some of the essays included in the book.
Based on some questions from the audience present at the session, she elaborated upon some of the themes related to the essay on Indian education in her book. She also read a few passages from couple of different chapters in response to the audience query. She also spoke briefly on some of the themes she hopes to further work on for her next project.
The session concluded with tea and cookies that all enjoyed at the hall in Sri Aurobindo Society campus.