Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Book Launch Event Report

Posted by Jerry on August 18, 2006

I was able to attend the book launch event this evening (Aug. 17th) of Ayn Rand at 100 which debuted in India.

As discussed earlier, the book seeks to explore the relevance of Ayn Rand and her philosophy on a global scale, with particular connections made to Indian philosophy and culture.

Book CoverI have finally been able to get my hands on the book itself; it’s an attractive-looking book with a lovely cover (as seen in the picture). Thus far, I’ve been only able to skim through a few pages at random. Some articles caught my attention–especially, the one where one of the authors compares Rand’s ideas with Hinduism and Buddhism. I despise both religions equally. I’m not sure what connection is being forged between Rand’s Objectivism and these mystical superstitions, but I doubt that its going to be my favorite article in the book.

I managed to read through the Preface by Tibor Machan. It’s unfortunate that only by the second paragraph he dwells upon his falling out with Ayn Rand, for whatever reasons. Nevertheless, he credits Rand for being highly influential in the formation of his career as a professional philosopher and a libertarian.

Interestingly, I noticed that one of the articles contributed to this compilation was by Robert White who has also published the article on the Rebirth of Reason website. I cannot comment more on that right now as I haven’t yet read the article. I will eventually comment and blog about some of these articles as I finish reading them, if indeed I find them worth commenting upon.

Well, the event itself was quite a lovely experience. The pictures from the event are posted on a separate page linked through the header above. They were taken by someone else at the event using my camera. I went along with one of my colleagues at work. He agrees with me that the event was wonderful and aroused in him the interest to learn more about Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

In attendance were the following panel speakers:

Alyque Padamsee is “a legendary theater personality and the top advertising professional of India. He is considered a wizard in the advertising field, his autobiography A double life is an invigorating book about his life. He also played Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the film Gandhi and was in A Force More Powerful. He was married to Sharon Prabhakar.” (Wikipedia: Alyeque Padamsee).

Mrs. Indira Hinduja — Doctor and Gynecologist; pioneer in In-Vitro fertilization in South Asia.

Mr. Barun Mitra — Director of Liberty Institute in New Delhi

Mrs. Shehernaz Nalwalla — Professor of Philosophy at Wilson College. Mrs. Nalwalla is an avid fan and advocate of Ayn Rand’s philosophy in her classes and among her students.

Among the audience member of around 20-25 people, there were young students, young professionals, older business men and women, housewives, the principal of HR College, and others. Oh! And famous Indian actress and celebrity Juhi Chawla also happened to be around during the event!

Each panelist gave a short speech on their encounter with Ayn Rand’s ideas. Mr. Barun Mitra started off with some introductory remarks about this event and his personal experience of Ayn Rand. Interestingly, he read some excerpts from Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical that pertained to Rand’s moral defense of capitalism. Luckily, I thought the excerpt he selected from the book did in fact accurately describe Rand’s defense of capitalism on philosophical, moral, and practical grounds, i.e, her rejection of the mind/body dichotomy, the material/spiritual dichotomy, and the moral/practical dichotomy. In other words, I was glad he stayed away from the more controversial and debated aspects of Sciabarra’s thesis regarding his interpretation of Rand’s ideas and methodology.

Further, Mitra regretted the state of mediocrity and stagnation India suffered through for more than 50 years since its independence due to the misguided policies of Nehruvian socialism.

The other panelist, Alyque Padamsee, performed a strong act of oral interp by reading an excerpt from the sexually charged love scene in The Fountainhead between Howard Roark and Dominique Francon. His point was to emphasize on the Romanticism of Ayn Rand because of which, he contended, she was a remarkably passionate philosopher.

He cited one quote that I thought was the highlight of all that was said this evening; the quote even prompted a spontaneous applause from the audience. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something to the effect of “Ayn Rand was the most courageous man in America.”

Dr. Indira Hinduja, who pioneered In-Vitro fertilization in South Asia and who is a well-respected personality in medical and social circles, spoke about Rand’s heroic characters from the novels and how they had a lasting influence on her own life. She recounted an incident wherein she met a young girl on the train reading The Fountainhead and approached her to converse about the book. Now many years later, Hinduja stated, she and young girl are still the best of friends and not a day passes by when they don’t talk to each other. Hinduja said that Ayn Rand’s book brought a lovely friend into her life, and they share this common interest and fascination with Ayn Rand’s novels.

Professor Shehernaz Nalwalla regretted the current state of the Philosophy curriculum in India and in Mumbai. She said that it was very unfortunate that Ayn Rand is not discussed or even mentioned in any philosophy syllabi that is set by the state government. Initially, Rand used to be included in the literary studies; now, apparently, the government has revoked even that inclusion. The professor called for some action to be taken in this regard; possibly, by writing to the government or Education officials asking the government to modify the philosophy syllabus to include Rand studies.

At the end of the event, I was approached by a young man who described himself as a “post-Randian”–whatever that means. First, he asked me what I identified as. I asked him to clarify. Apparently, he wanted to know if I was a “Randian,” an “Objectivist,” or a “Rand-admirer.” Upon prompting him to further clarify these labels, I decided that I would be considered an “Objectivist” because I enthusiastically embrace Rand’s complete philosophy.

Then he indulged me in the most ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had with anyone. He said that he found Rand’s philosophy inadequate because he didn’t know “what to do once you have met the goal of political individualism;” He asked, “so I achieve political individualism through establishing a free market. Then what do I do? Rand gave no answer to that.” The incomprehensive absurdity of the question and the idea perplexed me. I told him to do whatever he wanted to do; it’s his life. Don’t expect Rand to tell you everything!

Anyway, he didn’t understand a word I said, and neither did I understand him. I attempted to end the conversation with, “well, I don’t know. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Good luck!” Strange.

All in all, the event was quite an interesting experience. I hope more such events are held in Mumbai and throughout India to promote the value, truth, necessity, and profundity of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Certainly, I am grateful to the Liberty Institute and Mr. Barun Mitra for increasing the visibility of Ayn Rand in India. Also, thanks to Faiyaz Hardwarewala for organizing a very smoothly conducted event in Mumbai and attracting well-respected Indian panelists to participate in the book launch.

Now, I’ll get to reading the essays in the book and look for some interesting insights to share or comment about.

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8 Responses to “Book Launch Event Report”

  1. Mark said

    Then he indulged me in the most ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had with anyone. He said that he found Rand’s philosophy inadequate because he didn’t know “what to do once you have met the goal of political individualism;” He asked, “so I achieve political individualism through establishing a free market. Then what do I do? Rand gave no answer to that.” The incomprehensive absurdity of the question and the idea perplexed me. I told him to do whatever he wanted to do; it’s his life. Don’t expect Rand to tell you everything!

    I think my head would have popped after such an exchange! Makes you wonder if he was reading the same works as the rest of us, or maybe just the Cliff Notes.
    ;-)

    Glad you had fun, Ergo.

  2. John Enright said

    “Don’t expect Rand to tell you everything!”

    Yet people do expect this, for reasons unknown, and then get mad at her when she doesn’t live up to their bogus expectation!

  3. D. Eastbrook said

    Why are psuedo (or ersatz) Objectivists like Machan and Sciabarra so popular there? It would be better if Peikoff or the legitimate Objectivist intellectuals were the ones being promoted. Also, Machan’s book sounds like it will be another collection of garbage like Sciabarra’s “Feminist Iterpretations…” But I will be interested to read your review of some of the article.

  4. Ergo said

    Eastbrook, I have no clue how and why they are more popular here in terms of Rand scholarship. I suspect it has to do with their approach of “tolerationism” and “small, innocuous” doses of Objectivism which seems quite palatable to the Indian audience who might find the actual principles and ideas of Objectivism too shrill and overwhelming.

    Though, I believe it may be hard to convince them that the kind of “tolerationist” approach being promoted is actually more akin to appeasement, compromise, and an adulteration of Rand’s original intent and philosophy. It’s something people must have to discover on their own. Like I did for myself… being at first a supporter of the tolerationist approach and having reversed my position now.

  5. Faiyaz said

    Hi,

    Hey man…after reading that report,I said to myself…”why don’t I just hire him as an editor and start a magazine,”…only, I guess I will have to wait to make my million first…:-) Great work and you write intelligently and brilliantly.

    Also, thanks for posting the photos and lending your camera…we were in a fix, as for some reason, the camera I had bought didn’t work.

    BTW, the name of the professor at the event was: Mrs. Shehernaz Nalwalla, Philosohpy Professor at Wilson College, Mumbai.

    Regards

    Faiyaz Hardwarewala

  6. Ergo said

    Faiyaz, thanks for your generous compliments! :)
    Oh, and I have edited the post to include Mrs. Nalwalla’s name. Thanks for that info, too. The report was certainly incomplete without the name of all the panelists.

  7. Philip Coates said

    Ergo, what your report — as well as numerous stories of famous Indian actresses, columns by former economics advisors to Manmohan Singh etc. — seem to suggest, and would be very important, is that Ayn Rand and her ideas don’t have quite or as much of the scorn or stigma or complete lack of elite intellectual respect attached to them in India that they have in the U.S. Perhaps because she is less well-known

    Since you’ve lived in both countries, is this an accurate guess?

    Or how WOULD you contrast the cultural attitudes of the intellectuals and the elites who have at least some knowledge of Rand and Objectivism?

  8. Ergo said

    Hi Philip. I had a very long answer to your questions. So I decided to post it separately. You can read it at this link: http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2006/09/16/why-is-ayn-rand-respected-more-in-india/

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