Caravan: India Shrugged – The Ayn Rand Cult That Never Took Off
Many Indians have found solace in Rand’s philosophy, despite the fact that India’s political tradition is a far cry from the Objectivist ideal. In fact, Mitra’s collection emerged from a 50-year attempt to create an official Objectivist movement in India. But the movement, like the collection, has been largely abandoned by its followers. Over conversations with Mitra and many others who helped lead the movement, I learnt about this ill-fated endeavour.
The story begins in 1960s Bombay, with two Rand enthusiasts: Govind and Tara Malkani. They met at a bus stop, Mitra told me, when one of them noticed the other reading The Fountainhead, and soon after became a couple. Tara Malkani worked in the offices of Air India, and her employee privileges allowed her one complimentary flight a year; using it, she almost always went to Boston to hear Rand speak at an annual lecture forum. After the couple married in the mid 1960s, Govind, an accountant, would accompany her on these trips, during which they bought books, tapes and videos related to Objectivism, gradually amassing a collection. In the late 1960s, they started a society called the Rand Club of Bombay, which met weekly at their flat in Grant Road, a bustling locality in the south of the city.
Many people curious about Objectivism flocked to the Malkani home. “Anyone who was interested could drop by on a Saturday,” Mitra said. A standard meeting in the 1980s, when he started going, would see about 12 attendees. Like many others, Mitra found the Rand Club when he wrote to the United States-based Ayn Rand Institute, which told him to contact the couple. Mitra said that by the late 1980s, largely inspired by the Malkanis, about a dozen other Objectivist groups had cropped up in India.