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CAT 2022 Reading Comprehension Solution 10


The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.

Interpretations of the Indian past . . . were inevitably influenced by colonial concerns and interests, and also by prevalent European ideas about history, civilization and the Orient. Orientalist scholars studied the languages and the texts with selected Indian scholars, but made little attempt to understand the world-view of those who were teaching them. The readings therefore are something of a disjuncture from the traditional ways of looking at the Indian past. . . .

Orientalism [which we can understand broadly as Western perceptions of the Orient] fuelled the fantasy and the freedom sought by European Romanticism, particularly in its opposition to the more disciplined Neo-Classicism. The cultures of Asia were seen as bringing a new Romantic paradigm. Another Renaissance was anticipated through an acquaintance with the Orient, and this, it was thought, would be different from the earlier Greek Renaissance. It was believed that this Oriental Renaissance would liberate European thought and literature from the increasing focus on discipline and rationality that had followed from the earlier Enlightenment. . . . [The Romantic English poets, Wordsworth and Coleridge,] were apprehensive of the changes introduced by industrialization and turned to nature and to fantasies of the Orient.

However, this enthusiasm gradually changed, to conform with the emphasis later in the nineteenth century on the innate superiority of European civilization. Oriental civilizations were now seen as having once been great but currently in decline. The various phases of Orientalism tended to mould European understanding of the Indian past into a particular pattern. . . . There was an attempt to formulate Indian culture as uniform, such formulations being derived from texts that were given priority. The so-called 'discovery' of India was largely through selected literature in Sanskrit. This interpretation tended to emphasize non-historical aspects of Indian culture, for example the idea of an unchanging continuity of society and religion over 3,000 years; and it was believed that the Indian pattern of life was so concerned with metaphysics and the subtleties of religious belief that little attention was given to the more tangible aspects.

German Romanticism endorsed this image of India, and it became the mystic land for many Europeans, where even the most ordinary actions were imbued with a complex symbolism. This was the genesis of the idea of the spiritual east, and also, incidentally, the refuge of European intellectuals seeking to distance themselves from the changing patterns of their own societies. A dichotomy in values was maintained, Indian values being described as 'spiritual' and European values as 'materialistic', with little attempt to juxtapose these values with the reality of Indian society. This theme has been even more firmly endorsed by a section of Indian opinion during the last hundred years.

It was a consolation to the Indian intelligentsia for its perceived inability to counter the technical superiority of the west, a superiority viewed as having enabled Europe to colonize Asia and other parts of the world. At the height of anti-colonial nationalism it acted as a salve for having been made a colony of Britain.

Question: 1

It can be inferred from the passage that to gain a more accurate view of a nation's history and culture, scholars should do all of the following EXCEPT:

  1. examine their own beliefs and biases.

  2. develop an oppositional framework to grasp cultural differences.

  3. examine the complex reality of that nation's society.

  4. read widely in the country's literature.

Option: 2
The author says that “the so-called discovery of India (by the British) was largely through selected literature in Sanskrit”. It implies that instead of being very selective, the Oriental scholars should have widened their literary resources. Thus 4 can be inferred. Both 1 and 3 can be inferred from the passage. The passage says in the first paragraph '...made little attempt to understand the world-view of those who were teaching them…’ Option 2 cannot be inferred because an oppositional framework will make you less sympathetic towards a culture and its people. One should try to grasp cultural differences openly and sympathetically, not by developing an oppositional framework. Thus 2 goes out and because it is an except question, it is the right answer.

Question: 2

In the context of the passage, all of the following statements are true EXCEPT:

  1. India's spiritualism served as a salve for European colonisers.

  2. Orientalists' understanding of Indian history was linked to colonial concerns.

  3. Indian texts influenced Orientalist scholars.

  4. Orientalist scholarship influenced Indians.

Option: 1
This question, too, can be answered either by selection or by elimination. That option 1 is incorrect can be seen from the last sentence of the passage. The last sentence says ‘…it acted as a salve for having been made a colony of Britain.’ To what does the pronoun ‘it’ refer? The thing that acted as a salve was not Indian spiritualism, but the opinion that the West was materially/ technically superior to the East. This acted as a salve (a reason to make you less guilty of a wrongdoing) . Option 1 is the right answer. 4 is true as we can see evidence for it in the last sentence of the second last paragraph. Evidence for 3 is there right across the passage. Second paragraph first sentence supports option 2. You might wonder how! What were colonial concerns? Their concerns were to colonize India and show that the West was superior to the East. Orientalists understanding of Indian history was furthering this opinion.

Question: 3

It can be inferred from the passage that the author is not likely to support the view that:

  1. India's culture has evolved over the centuries.

  2. Indian culture acknowledges the material aspects of life.

  3. the Orientalist view of Asia fired the imagination of some Western poets.

  4. India became a colony although it matched the technical knowledge of the West.

Option: 4
The author will support 1 because the author agrees with it. From the last paragraph, we understand that the author would agree with option 2. From the first few sentences of the first para, we understand the author would agree with 3. Option 4 is opposite to what we have in the passage. India was spiritually superior to West, not in the technical sphere.

Question: 4

Which one of the following styles of research is most similar to the Orientalist scholars' method of understanding Indian history and culture?

  1. Reading about the life of early American settlers and later waves of migration to understand the evolution of American culture.

  2. Reading 18th century accounts by travellers to India to see how they viewed Indian life and culture of the time.

  3. Studying artefacts excavated at a palace to understand the lifestyle of those who lived there.

  4. Analysing Hollywood action movies that depict violence and sex to understand contemporary America.

Option: 4
This is question is challenging. We have to look for an evidence that reflects the author’s opinion pertaining to this. The passage says “Orientalist scholars studied the languages and the texts with selected Indian scholars, but made little attempt to understand the world-view of those who were teaching them.” This sentence suggests that the Orientalist scholars did little to understand the world-view of the people. In options 1,2, and 3 there is an attempt to understand the life of early Americans, but in 4 you are using select things to understand America, the way Orientalists read selected Indian literature to understand about India. This makes 4 correct.

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