Chaturvedi Badrinath, The Choreography of a Meaningful Conversation

(A Summary by Michael Haerdter)
The philosopher and writer Chaturvedi Badrinath gave a brilliant little lecture on the oriental art of conversation. Declaring with the obvious pride of being part of an ancient culture and with a grain of vanity not to be a modern man at all, Badrinath sketched out in a lucid discourse rich in colourful metaphors the rules of age-old interpersonal communication.
Four preconditions, he explained, are indispensable in order to allow a meaningful conversation to take place, in order to create a social atmosphere conducive to what is not a matter-of-fact interaction, rather an unbiased encounter and complex exchange between real persons: the right time – the right space – the willingness to listen and to be listened – pleasant food and drinks. An eulogy on the ritual that wants to be rediscovered.
The only right time for a meaningful conversation is the night, asserts Badrinath, when the words have another meaning, different of the day. And the right space shall provide a certain comfort where another time, which is also the inner time of the persons involved, is able to unfold.
To unfold, to open up, to reveal oneself, is the positive and essential attitude conditioning Badrinath's meaningful conversation. Playing on words, he confronts this term with its negative counterpart: to enfold, meaning to encompass with aggressive, oppressive or possessive energy in the philosopher's interpretation.
This view of the world is naturally, inevitably determined by the deep material and psychological injuries inflicted upon his people by colonialism and its politics of disappearance, as Vandana Shiva explains, instead of politics of debate and dialogue.
The enfolding intrusion by the industrial capitalist power from Europe menaced and finally destroyed an ancient culture where humans lived in harmony with nature, with their gods and spirits, and with each other. Which is, of course, the idyllic legend of a by-gone Arcadia. And it is an elitist dream: Badrinath's protagonists are kings and scholars, and the right places for their meaningful conversations are palaces or river-banks. The philosopher's traditional images carry his inherent criticism of our modern or western modes of communication.
But, don't we need this dream of another, an intact, a meaningful world, not least we Europeans and Americans? Don't we need to remember our own lost tradition of the kairós, the approriate moment for doing things in the right way, and of the sympósion, the ancient form of a choreographed social interaction with food and drinks? The utopian quality of Badrinath's choreography may invite us to be better aware of what we lost, of the misdevelopments of our present times and modes, and to reinvent the rules and charms of a meaningful conversation.

Personal Data:

Chaturvedi Badrinath has written and lectured intensely on Indian Philosophy as a universal foundation of human relationships. He was a Homi Bhabha Fellow in 1971-73. He was invited by a Swiss Foundation in 1985 to spend a year in Europe to work on his enquiry into the Indien and European sensibilities. He has lectured in several cities of Europe. In December, 1997, he gave three lectures in London on Dharma as freedom from fear. His book, "Dharma, India and the World Order" was published in Edinborough in 1993.