I am not on facebook, twitter or any of the other loquacious forms of social media - in fact, as I refuse to have a mobile phone, I am not on whatsapp either. Recently, however, someone sent me a screenshot of a tweet by Devdutt Pattanaik:
There was apparently quite a guessing game among his fans, followers and critics to guess the answers to his riddle. Many names were suggested for both categories, and apparently my name was one of those suggested for the second category: the "Indian Hindu who did not know Sanskrit". As Pattanaik did not bother, so far as I know, to reveal the solution to his riddle, I did not bother to respond or react in any way to his tweet. In any case, there was no need for me to automatically assume that he meant me; and he couldn't have meant me anyway, since, whether he likes it or not, it is my name which rises first to the mind of anyone (who is aware of the subject) when the question of the OIT comes up: I am the only one who has presented a full-fledged OIT case which no-one dares to challenge directly. So I would not say I "remain unrecognized". In fact, it is clearly caution, wisdom or fear which motivates those in this (AIT-OIT) debate who fail to take my name: as someone is supposed to have said recently, I am the Voldemort in this debate: He Who Must Not Be Named.
But today, someone sent me a screenshot of this tweet, a few hours ago (20/10/2019) where Pattanaik does mention me by name:
Well, I have no intentions of getting into the quagmire of social media in order to reply to anything. But the point that Pattanaik raises, or insinuates, here is one which I have faced many times in my twenty-seven years of writing in this field, whether from AIT-supporting Witzel or OIT-supporting Kazanas. As I have never lied, or seen any need to lie, about anything, let me start out by clarifying this question once and for all:
No I do not speak Sanskrit (although in these twenty-seven years I have studied and learnt a great many things about Sanskrit which people knowing Sanskrit may not know or even be aware of).
In my school, St. Xaviers' High School, Dhobi Talao, Mumbai, my batch of students (the 1974-1975 batch, the last batch of the old 11th standard SSC) was the only one in the history of the school which was not taught either Sanskrit or French. Before our batch, the students had a choice between Sanskrit and French. After our batch, they had a choice between French and Marathi! So I never learnt Sanskrit in school, After I wrote my first book, I was urged by many people to acquire a certificate in Sanskrit so as to be able to shut the mouths of people who would try to corner me by pointing out that I did not know Sanskrit. But I have never seen the need to resort to pretentious labels and fake subterfuges or to be hypocritical on such matters.
Apart from the suggested entertainment value of seeing people talk in Sanskrit, what is the bigger unspoken insinuation behind this question about whether or not I can speak Sanskrit?
Obviously, what is being insinuated is that since I cannot speak Sanskrit I must not speak on the Rigveda or Vedic history, or imagine myself to be able to counter people who do know Sanskrit.
I'm sorry, but this is totally unacceptable. People who want to escape from dealing with the data, facts and evidence presented by me can use this spurious argument as a fig leaf to cover their inability to deal with the Truth. But if they expect me to feel abashed and fade into the background, sorry! Yes, I cannot speak Sanskrit! So what! Does it mean that they have replied to my case? Or that it is not necessary for them to do so since my case is automatically annulled by my lack of a Sanskrit-speaking pedigree? Well, whoever wants to use this excuse to get out of the debate can grab at this straw and escape, but the winner of the debate will still be the OIT case presented by me.
There is really no need to go deeply into these diversions. But some points for these intellectual cowards (I am not yet including Pattanaik in this category because he has still not, to my knowledge, directly claimed that my non-expertise in Sanskrit automatically annuls my case without there being any need to examine that case) to ponder over:
1. If a professor of Mathematics claims 2+2 is not equal to 4, and a child argues against him that it is equal to 4, is the professor automatically right and the child wrong because of their relative status in the academic field of Mathematics? The whole AIT-OIT debate has to be based on discussion of the data, facts and evidence, and not the academic qualifications of the representatives of the two opposing sides.
2. If this criterion is accepted, every Sanskrit-knowing (or Vedic-Sanskrit knowing) person in the world automatically becomes an authority on historical analysis of the Rigveda simply because he can speak Sanskrit.
Further, are all Sanskrit-speaking people automatically speakers of the Vedic-Sanskrit language also? That is, is Pattanaik himself (assuming he knows and speaks Sanskrit) also a speaker of Vedic Sanskrit, which is distinctly different from Classical Sanskrit?
3. I have not relied on my own whimsical interpretations of the Rigveda, as anyone familiar with my work will know. I have everywhere quoted from the studies of three centuries of Indological and Vedic scholarship, from experts in the field. I have only shown how their conclusions contradict their own analyses and the data on which they have based their analysis. I have only cleared the air and brought things into perspective. Is it the claim, of people who are curious to investigate my Sanskrit-speaking skills, that if I had learnt to speak Sanskrit (as literally lakhs and lakhs of people all over India are doing in Sanskrit classes which are springing up in every corner of the country, apart from the Sanskrit taught in schools and colleges), my analysis based on my own learning of Sanskrit would have been more acceptable than my analysis based on the analyses of three centuries of Indological and Vedic scholarship? To the extent that my analysis based on three centuries of Vedic scholars becomes automatically worthless?
4. My analysis of the data is basically that: logical analysis of the data. It is not fanciful literary analysis of the grammatical and poetical nuances of Rigvedic poetry, where I can give any fanciful meanings and interpretations to the verses and words in the Rigveda.
It is based on solid words (such as names of people, rivers, animals, etc.) and even more specifically the exact occurrence of those words in the Rigveda. It does not require a Sanskrit-speaking Pattanaik (or anyone else) or a Sanskrit-non-speaking Talageri to understand the basic facts.
For example, I have shown, from the occurrences of all these words in the Rigveda (the geographical words, and the common Rigvedic-Avestan-Mitanni words) that (I am quoting here from my recent book "Genetics and the Aryan Debate"):
To sum up the chronological data only in the Old Rigveda and the New Rigveda respectively, leaving aside as a distraction the Redacted Hymns (Old hymns edited during the New period), we get an absolutely uni-directional picture:
TOTAL HYMNS AND VERSES:
1. Old Rigveda Books 2,3,4,6,7: 280 Hymns, 2351 verses.
2. New Rigveda Books 1,5,8,9,10: 686 Hymns, 7311 verses.
COMMON RIGVEDIC-AVESTAN-MITANNI NAME TYPES IN COMPOSER NAMES:
1. Old Rigveda Books 2,3,4,6,7: 0 Hymns, 0 verses.
2. New Rigveda Books 1,5,8,9,10: 309 Hymns, 3389 verses.
COMMON RIGVEDIC-AVESTAN-MITANNI NAME TYPES AND WORDS WITHIN THE HYMNS:
1. Old Rigveda Books 2,3,4,6,7: 0 Hymns, 0 verses.
2. New Rigveda Books 1,5,8,9,10: 225 Hymns, 434 verses.
COMMON RIGVEDIC-AVESTAN NEW DIMETRIC METERS:
1. Old Rigveda Books 2,3,4,6,7: 0 Hymns, 0 verses.
2. New Rigveda Books 1,5,8,9,10: 50 Hymns, 255 verses.
To sum up the geographical data in the Rigveda:
1. The names of the eastern places, lake and animals are found abundantly in every single one of the ten books of the Rigveda (Old and New).
But the names of the western places, lake, mountains and animals (and the central place) are found only in the New Rigveda in the non-family books (1,8,9,10), and are completely missing in all the six older books: i.e. in the Old Rigveda (books 6,3,7,4,2) as well as in the New family book 5.
2. The rivers of the Rigveda appear in the text from east-to-west: the following is a graphic presentation of the order of appearance of the river names in the ten books of the Rigveda:
All this does not depend on my being, or not being, a Sanskrit speaker. All these names and words are there in the Rigveda in their respective positions. They do not change depending on whether or not I know Sanskrit. Anyone who wants to challenge the evidence must challenge the evidence - my personal status and position, and my language-speaking skills and academic qualifications, have nothing to do with the debate.
Speaking on Pattanaik himself, I first came to know about Devdutt Pattanaik when my cousin lent me his book "Jaya - An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata", and I was fascinated. The style of writing, the facts narrated, and the superb illustrations (which I was told were done by himself) fascinated me, and this was probably one of the two or three books that I have ever actually ordered and paid for from Amazon.
However, as I came up against his later talks and articles, I became more and more confused. Was this man a leftist or a Hindu obscurantist? Later, reading about his close bonhomie with genuinely Hindu-hating western academicians and writers like Wendy Doniger, I was further confused. Most recently, reading about some of his abusive tweets on twitter, reading his repeated mindless parroting of AIT cliches (while firmly refusing to examine the OIT evidence with honesty) and camouflaged presentations of leftist views on Hindu texts and society, and finally some of his recent videos on youtube which seem to cater to a largely obscurantist Hindu religious audience who are thrilled by his papering over the rough edges in Hindu myths, I am even more confused.
[By this last, I refer to a recent video of his on youtube, entitled "Why Lord Rama had to abandon Mata Sita" which has got ecstatic comments from a huge mass following of Hindu enthusiasts, where he presents things in a way which bears no connections at all - whatever his own claimed expertise in Sanskrit - with the events as narrated in the original Sanskrit Valmiki Ramayana, and where what could be described as doormat-behaviour attributed to Sita in the Valmiki Ramayana is glorified as her strength of character].
Whatever his other activities, if he wishes to question my OIT hypothesis, I would request Pattanaik to first deal with the evidence from my books, at least starting with the crucial evidence of the geographical data and the Rigvedic-Avestan-Mitanni common vocabulary, as summarized above, rather than indulging in personal innuendo.