The Lockdown – Day-Fifty-Six

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This is all about the persons who claim to be ‘Intellectuals’. The writer recalls his conversation with a Professor at University of Malaya who had remarked ‘In Asia, everyone can assume any title.’ The Professor had also warned him ‘Beware, some of them become very dangerous if they are too ambitious.’

Zaffar Junejo

Nowadays, in Sindh, most of us claim to be intellectuals. I remember, one day I went to see Dr. Azharuddin Muhammad Dali, my supervisor at University of Malaya, but he was engaged with another Ph.D. scholar, so I went to see Dr. Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja. At that time, he was Head of History Department, University of Malaya. We were discussing casually. Our topic was about the role of writers, teachers, and intellectuals in society. We both were unanimous on the roles of teachers and writers, but were not clear about the qualifications or essential attributions of intellectuals, and we had different views about their role in society. However, we were on the same wavelength about the opinions of Gramsci, Edward Said, and other scholars who had written about the subject matter. Dr. Raja asked me, ‘How do you see the intellectuals’ role in Pakistan?’ I responded, ‘I do not know about Pakistan. However in Sindh, most of the writers, columnists, NGOist, Professionals and Professors call themselves as intellectuals.’ Professor giggled, and said, ‘In Asia, everyone can assume any title.’ Suddenly, he stopped, and said ‘Beware, no one of them is serious.’ He again asked a question, ‘Are they? I said, ‘I do not know.’ He told me that every person has some bookish or experiential knowledge, and most of them have excellent conversational art. But it does not assure that they have sound intellectual foundations, and from where they could view the world.’ He warned, ‘Beware, some of them became very dangerous if they are too ambitious.’ How? I asked. ‘Exactly, I do not know, but they operate selectively, and people remain confused about them – either they are with the power or against the power.’

Suddenly, the Malaysian rain became heavy. I pardoned to leave, but he advised me that I should stay for a while till the rain stops and Dr. Dali’s class ends. I obliged and stayed.

He suddenly left his chair and took one book from his huge bookshelf. He handed it to me and quickly went to his seat. I saw its title. It read ‘The Intellectual’s Checklist.’ While I was looking at the contents of the book, Professor told me that it is merely a list, which would help the readers, and other fellows to gauge their knowledge. The book work for them as a standard that whether they genuinely understand the arts and sciences, which are needed to be essential. He also added ‘it has become a requirement that intellectuals should know the history of Europe and its development and European and American man and woman’s contribution to art, literature, and science.’

I looked out from the window to see if rain has stopped. I took leave. He asked me to take this book, and read it, and even check that do you qualify to be an intellectual or not?  I took Bus-D and reached to my flat. The first activity after cooking meals was to go through the test. Should I tell you what result I got? I prepared two result sheets. One was, where I was assured about the correct answers, and the second was with correct answers and assumptions. There were no deduction marks.

I think before sharing it with you. I should introduce you the topics of the book. There are six chapters with the titles of Art and Architecture, Literature, Music, History & Philosophy, Political Science, Science, Technology, and Mathematics.

Now onward, I would introduce you to the chapters, and from each chapter, I would write five questions, and I would request you to try to answer them. Do not worry. These are only thirty questions, although the book contains three hundred and fifty-seven questions. Now read – the Art and Architecture chapter talks about architecture, graphic arts, motion pictures, Greeks, and their contributions to art. Now, I have bracketed five questions, and each question carries one mark. These are questions: 1) Have you seen the work of Jackson Pollock?; 2) The oldest undisputed example of prehistoric art is how many years old?; 3) Is it true that Egyptian artists developed a highly convenient way of depicting human figures, with the figure’s head and legs in profile and the torso facing forward?; 4) Who was director of academy award-winning film ‘How Green Was My Valley’?; and 5) Could you name one of architecturally important Barcelona’s church? (Add your points).

Now the second chapter is about the literature. It talks about authors and their works. It tells about Faulkner to Homer and other modern authors. These are questions: 1) Is it true that ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ poems were meant for stage performances?; 2) Is it true that Dante’s Inferno talks about seven Circle of Hell?; 3) What was the name of the disease that in 1592 forced to close all theaters in London?; 4) Do you have any deluxe or leather-bound edition of any classical book in the home?; 5) Is it true that Free Verse was not the domain of Whitman? (Add your points).

Now let us go to chapter three. It is about Music. It talks about operas, orchestras, and musicians. These are questions: 1) Have you heard Frederic Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor in performance?; 2) How would you define classical music form ‘Minuet’?; 3) Have you seen a great ballet ‘Don Quixote’?; 4) Do you know about these dance companies – ‘Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Mark Morris Dance Group, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Twyla Tharp Dance?’; 5) Is it true that ‘Sonatas and Interludes’ was work of John Cage? (Add you points).

Let us talk about the History and Philosophy chapter. Perhaps you could gain maximum marks. It talks mainly about philosophers and the greatest wars. It also discusses Socrates and other philosophers. These are questions: 1) which of the important European historical sites you have visited? 2) How do you relate the Renaissance with ‘Gunpowder,’ ‘Block-Printing’ and The Compass? ; 3) What was the contribution of Protagoras?; 4) Who wrote ‘Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory’?; and 5) Have you seen any site of World War I and World War II? (Add your points).

Now we must talk about Political Science. This chapter gives a broader perspective on politics as a subject. These are questions: 1) Who wrote ‘Leviathan’?; 2) Do you agree that ‘an important failing in political science’s inability is to predict events’?; 3) Some of the politically oriented magazines are – The American Spectator, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Harper’s, The New Republic The Atlantic and The Economist – which one you read regularly and why?; 4) Have you read any one book – The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Main Currents of Marxism, Anarchy, State and Utopia, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought and The Gulag Archipelago?; and 5) Who wrote ‘Spheres of Justice’ and what it argues? (Add your marks)

Now we are in the final chapter on Sciences, Technology, and Mathematics. It covers the natural and physical world and allied disciplines. These are questions: 1) ‘Continental Drift was work of Alfred Wegener?; 2) Is it true that Egyptians had symbols for numbers up to one million?; 3) Why the HMS Beagle is remembered?; 4) Do you know about – Plantae, Animalia, Fungi, Protista, Archaea, and Bacteri – these are scientific classification systems, and also called kingdoms?; and 5) What is the contribution of English mathematician Alan Turing?

Now add total score. If it is less then fifteen points or marks then it is an indication that you must read more systematically. Now, you must be interested to know my result. I also got below passing marks. But remember there were three hundred and fifty-seven questions.

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Zaffar Junejo is Ph.D. Scholar at Department of History, University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur – The areas of interest: Peasants’ Studies, Social History, Cultural History, Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods.
For author’s previous blog click on Sindh Courier

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