‘the Lord of Misrule’
Review by Parshotam Mehra
Mao by Jonathan
Spence. Phoenix paperback, London. Pages xviii plus 205. £
his lifetime and since his passing away almost a quarter century
ago Mao, the "great helmsman" as he came to be called,
attracted no end of attention. His achievements were prodigious:
unifying with an iron hand a vast country torn apart by decades
of bankrupt political leadership, foreign imperialism and war.
And a virtually unending civil strife.
In the event,
the birth of the People’s Republic of China which Mao
proclaimed on October 1, 1949, was in itself no mean feat. What
was more remarkable was that China soon emerged as a powerful
state both at home and abroad. The Soviets courted and spurned
him by turn. And yet dared not ignore him.
And after all
the fire and bile it spewed for two decades and more, the mighty
Uncle Sam eventually knocked at his door (1972) to seek a
rapprochement. By then, Mao’s China had already taken its
place as a great power and a permanent member of the UN Security
In the bargain
though, the price Mao exacted from his land and his people had
few equals. The famine and the privations of the Great Leap
Forward (1958-60) were unprecedented; millions more were to
perish in the mighty cataclysm of the Great Proletarian Cultural
Revolution (1968-74). In the process, China’s polity and
economy, and its traditional hierarchies, were turned upside
down. Both in their nature and scope, and the havoc they
wrought, these were titanic upheavals whose impact still
reverberates in China. Nor has the last word been said on what
elemental forces — for good or evil — they represented.
biographical details help to put Mao in perspective. He was born
(1893) in a small farm village, Shaoshan, almost 30 miles south
and slightly west of Changsha, the capital of the province of
Hunan. It was a large peasant household of seven children, of
whom only three survived, all boys and; Mao being the eldest.
Despite his father’s lack of support, he managed some
schooling and graduated to reading not only the traditional
Confucian canon but a wide range of books, especially historical
novels about his country’s past.
By the first
decade of the 20th century, China’s ruling Qing dynasty was
teetering on the edge of collapse. And when the massive military
mutiny at Wuhan (October 10, 1911) toppled it, Mao briefly
enrolled himself in the republican army. This was an aberration,
for presently he joind a normal school, with its free tuition,
cheap room and board. A five-year stint at the school gave Mao
support and focus through his language and social science
teachers he both admired and respected. And helped him to a
clerical job in the Beijing University library. Not that it
lasted. Mao was soon back in Changsha teaching history in a
primary and middle school and was part of the "May Fourth
(1919) Movement", keeping his students and the people up to
date on developments. He campaigned hard too for the ouster of
Hunan’s ruling militarist General Zhang Jingyao, organised a
students’ association and turned into a small businessman,
book-seller and school principal.
By the end of
1920, Mao was part of the Changsha Communist "small
group" which had emerged in four other cities — Beijing,
Wuhan, Jinan (in the province of Shandong) and Canton. And at a
public meeting he violently contested Bertrand Russell’s
formulation that while communism was alright, he was against
"war and bloody revolutions". Mao’s dictum:
"This is all very well in theory; in reality, it can’t be
done". In July, 1921, he was to attend the first Communist
Party congress in Shanghai which laid stress on the overthrow of
the capitalist class and the establishment of a classless
society with all means of production under "social
"united front" between the Communist Party and the
Guomindang did not carry much conviction with Mao and for a
while he withdrew from all party work. By the spring of 1927,
however, Chiang struck back — and hard. And with the help of a
local secret society and criminal organisations, and the
connivance of western powers, he swooped down on Communists and
labour leaders. Thousands were killed in Shanghai alone and the
Communist movement in the city was nearly wiped out.
lesson from this excruciating experience: the importance of
adequate military force to back one’s political goals.
Another, to develop the new base area, the Jiangxi Soviet, on
the Fujian border where he was to spend the next five years
(1930-34). Sadly, it was the subject of repeated assaults by
Chiang who was determined to obliterate this main symbol of
The decision to
abandon it — to which Mao was not a party — was the first
step in what later came to be called the Long March.
itself, hailed as a great achievement in Communist history was
"a nightmare of death and pain" while it was in
progress. The huge column of some 86,000 fleeing Communist
troops was bogged down with equipment, party files and weapons.
And exposed to devastating attacks by the Guomindang artillery
and air force which carried away nearly half their number in
At the end of
it all, a bare 7000-8,000 of the column survived to reach the
village of Wayahao, in Shagnxi just south of the Great Wall
(October, 1935). By the fall of 1936, the Communists had made
their headquarters at Yan’an; Mao’s major preoccupation now
was to preserve what was left of the Communist organisation and
deepen his own hold over the party power.
Japanese onslaught in the wake of the notorious Marco Polo
Bridge incident, near Beijing, persuaded Chiang to suggest a
unified national resistance in which the Communists would also
join. And Mao did, with a modicum of "enthusiasm"
partly because his base area was insulated from the most
desperate zones of fighting — the north China plain, Shanghai,
along the Yangtse river.
Chiang and his
men suffered the most; the "rape of Nanjing" (December
7) was a mortal blow as were the retreat to Wuhan and later
deeper inland to Chongqing.
In a short
breathing spell, Mao began to grapple with the adjustment of
Marxist philosophy to the ground realities of the Chinese
situation even as Lenin had earlier to Russian realities. And
here he had the good fortune to avail of the inestimable
services of a master theoretician, Chen Boda. The long years of
war were indeed a triumph for the Communist Party which emerged
stronger and more numerous with powerfully effective techniques
of mass mobilisation in China’s rural settings. And genuine
skill at the manipulation of belief through well-conceptualised
By 1943, there
was emerging in Yan’an what may best be called a
"cult" of Mao; he was now chairman of the Communist
Central Committee and of the Politburo at the same time. The men
who had opposed him earlier now hailed him as "the helmsman
of the Chinese revolution". An inner core of Mao’s senior
colleagues now began to rewrite Chinese party history so that
the chairman would forever be at the centre.
One by one, the
other rivals of the present and the past were denigrated, their
"incorrect lines" exposed and Mao’s wisdom pushed
ever further back in time. The party constitution now stated
without much ado that it took Mao’s "thought" as the
guide for all its work and opposed all "dogmatic or
empiricist deviations". As Spence puts it, Marxism was now
"signified; the leader was the sage".
The end of the
war and the Japanese surrender gave Mao the chance he had been
long waiting for. From their Yan’an base and guerrilla units
based in Shandong, the Communists moved troops into Manchuria,
much faster than the KMT could. And with active Soviet help made
deep inroads. In September, 1947, Mao issued what came to be
seen as one of his most important pronouncements on military
strategy and announced a nationwide counter-offensive to seize
the initiative by moving from "interior lines" of
warfare to "exterior lines".
was astonishingly successful; by 1948 Communist troops had
totally routed Guomindang armies in Manchuria and were ready to
move south. Before long, their military morale collapsed, dogged
by civilian revulsion with the financial chaos brought about by
rampant corruption. Beijing fell in January, 1949, Nanjing in
April, Shanghai in May and Changsha in August. On October 1,
1949, climbing to a reviewing stand on the Tiananmen Gate, Mao
proclaimed the birth of the PRC.
His visit to
the Soviet Union (December, 1949-January, 1950) was a landmark
of sorts. Spence reveals that Mao’s "most frank"
exchange with Stalin was over Tibet when he confided that
Chinese troops were "currently preparing" for an
assault and asked to continue the loan of Soviet aircraft to
ferry them. Stalin’s response that Tibetans "need to be
subdued" pleased Mao.
"almost inconceivable", Spence argues, that Mao wanted
the Korean war but once it had come, he followed the campaigns
with "meticulous attention" and intervened
"countless times" with his orders and tactical
suggestions. As "instigator and manipulator" of the
war in Korea, Mao slowly began to assume the same total roles in
his "supervision" of the Chinese people. For by late
1953 he was not only chairman of the five million-strong CCP but
of the Military Commission that controlled the armed forces as
well as chairman of the PRC. Presently, the end of the Korean
war and Stalin’s death (1953) left Mao in a virtually
unchallenged position in the world communist pantheon.
The long text
of Mao’s four-hour speech on "Contradictions"
(February, 1957) was the harbinger of the Great Leap Forward
campaign launched towards the end of the year. In the chairman’s
mind, the GLF was to combine the imperatives of large-scale
agriculture with a close utopian vision of the ending of
distinctions between occupations, sexes, ages and levels of
education. The end-result though was catastrophic; the 1960-61
famine alone claimed 20 million lives.
Spence underlines, Mao was now "more and more"
divorced from the ground reality and seemed to care "less
and less" about the consequences that might spring from his
own "erratic" utterances. He had never visited any
foreign land apart from the Soviet Union (1949 and 1957). And at
home, he was increasingly intolerant of all opposition to his
views. Deng was dismissed as editor of the party mouthpiece, the
People’s Daily (June, 1957) and Marshal Peng Dehui consigned
to the doghouse in the wake of the Lushan plenum (summer of
1959). The crisis deepened as the party continued to enforce its
laws on grain procurement from fields "where almost no
crops grew". The Maoist vision had "finally tumbled
into a nightmare".
In the 1960s as
he grew older, Mao had apparently further increased his
isolation from his own people even as he "claimed to speak
in their name". Later while he "did not precisely
orchestrate" the Cultural Revolution, he "created an
environment" that made it possible. The violence of the
revolution was manifested at two levels. From the political
centre controlled by a small group totally loyal to Mao; and
unorchestrated revolutionary violence in a vaguely designated
direction in search of rightists or "feudal remnants",
"snakes and monsters" and "people in authority
taking the rightist road". The number of victims from this
uncoordinated violence was "incalculable". But
"there were many millions", some killed; some
committed suicide; some crippled or scarred emotionally for
his death, the chairman rated his two achievements; battling
Chiang for years and finally chasing him off to that
"little island" of Taiwan. And making the Japanese
return to their ancestral home. As for the cultural revolution
it seemed unfinished, the task must pass to the next generation
— peacefully if possible; in turmoil if necessary.
happen to the next generation if all fails? he asked. There may
be a foul wind and a rain of blood. How will you cope? Heaven
A slim volume
with less than 200 pages of text, it offers an excellent sum-up
of Mao, his "thought" and all that it stood for. Based
on the most up to date research, the objective is to show how
Mao was able to rise so high and sustain his eccentric flight
for so long. Mao’s "terrible accomplishment", it
argues, was to seize "insights" from earlier Chinese
philosophers and combine them with "elements" from
western socialist thought. And to use both in tandem to prolong
a long drawn-out adventure in upheaval.
well-worn European tradition of the Middle Ages about a Lord of
Misrule in great households who presided over the revels that
briefly reversed and parodied the conventional social and
economic hierarchies, Spence underlines that in sharp contrast
to that tradition, Mao was to prolong his misadventure for far
too long. More, this Lord of Misrule could not be
"deflected" by criticisms based on conventional
premises, his own sense of omniscience being too strong.
any overall assessment, Spence furnishes a balanced and reliable
array of facts and makes them speak for themselves. He offers an
illuminating insight into Mao’s development through a close
and careful examination of all that he read and wrote during his
early formative years. One of the toughest and strongest in
China’s long tradition of formidable rulers, Mao possessed
"a relentless energy and a ruthless self-confidence";
his rhetoric and inflexible lead to the mobilisation of millions
of his people.
Jonathan Spence, rated
"one of the greatest historians" of China, has written
extensively and authoritatively, both on the old and new China;
among his better-known works two stand out: ‘’The Gate of
Heavenly Peace" and "The Death of Woman Wang".
Spence teaches Chinese history at Yale University and in 1994
was appointed honorary professor at the University of Nanjing.
sketches of servants
Review by Vikramdeep Johal
of India by R.K.Laxman. Viking Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages
136. Rs 195.
they have their employers at their mercy, when all
involvements and dirt they wanted to eliminate from their
lives passed through their hands? —
From "The Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso".
covetousness, if there is one deadly sin that the Indian
bourgeoisie commits with effortless ease, it is sloth.
Laziness comes naturally to our middle (and upper) class,
especially with regard to doing household chores — cutting
vegetables, preparing food, cleaning rooms, washing dishes and
clothes, etc. Most bourgeois families avoid such
"menial" jobs like the plague, in order to devote
their time to "important" tasks like partying,
gossiping, shopping and watching TV.
is necessary to get these jobs done, so that one’s household
keeps functioning like a well-oiled machine. To ensure this,
the shirking class relies heavily on the working class. Cook,
chauffeur, gardener, manservant, maidservant, retainer —
they are yours for the taking. You can pick specialists or an
all-rounder, depending on your financial status. For a
heavenly household, a good job, a good house and a good spouse
are not enough. You got to have a good servant as well.
It would be
one’s good fortune to have someone like Jeeves, who can
solve any problem his master faces. Or like Rajesh Khanna in
"Bawarchi" who resolves conflicts between the family
members. Unfortunately, one usually gets servants not much
different from those seen in Moliere’s comedies, as well as
in many Hindi masala movies — cocky, unreliable and
eccentric domestics who exasperate their bosses and make
things even more unquiet on the home front.
In the book
under review, Ganesh, a freelance journalist (and a stand-in
for Laxman), gets an idea from his wife Geetha to write a
series called "Servants of India". Drawing on his
personal experience with servants and those of his friends, he
pens colourful character sketches of ten domestics.
Laxman, as we
all know, is one of our leading cartoonist-satirists. His
‘‘Common Man’’ cartoons in the Times of India have
become an integral part of our collective consciousness.
"Servants of India" is certainly not his first
excursion into the world of words. With several short stories,
two humorous novels — "The Hotel Riviera" and
"The Messenger" — and a much-praised
autobiography, "The Tunnel of Time" to his name, he
has already established his credentials as a writer.
In the book
under review, it is the lazy bourgeoise which bear the brunt
of his gentle satire. Employers are able to take their
servants for granted, treat them as mere props, only as long
as the latter keep doing their job in a docile way and
efficiently. But once they start arguing, shirking or
asserting their individuality, it is a whole new ball game.
Then, realising that servants are indispensable, too valuable
to let get away, the employers try hard to cope with their
whims and eccentricities. In most of the stories, it is the
servant who dictates terms the employer, not the other way
catering supervisor, threatens to walk out with his team of
cooks when he overhears jokes about him. As all hell breaks
loose, "Operation Pacification" is launched by the
hosts. "With folded hands they begged him to forgive them
. . . They even offered to pay more than what had been agreed
upon. But he stood like a rock unmoved !" Their desperate
efforts ultimately bear fruit. Narasimha the Terrible
smilingly relents and a disaster is averted.
Then there is
Anthony the chauffeur, who uses the car of Krishnan, his
employer, as a taxi whenever an opportunity comes his way.
Although Krishnan tries to warn him in a tactful way to avoid
the risk of losing his service, he merrily continues his
"extra-vehicular" activities on the sly.
One man tries
to blackmail his servant in order to retain him. ‘‘If you
have any idea of running away from here, forget it. I will
report to the police that some silver vessels are missing. If
the police catch you that will be the end of you!’’ he
says. The ploy doesn’t work. The servant flees, after
hitting the employer with an iron pestle and fracturing his
she joins as a maid, Shanti literally shatters the peace of
the house, as she bangs and drops dishes repeatedly. When
Ganesh shouts at her, his wife exhorts him in a hushed tone:
‘‘If she leaves, it will be your job to find a substitute.
It is all very well for you to sit there under the fan and
write your article. But I will have to bear the burden of
running this household if she leaves. Have some sympathy for
me and show some tolerance." Surely a ghar-ghar ki
predicament is succinctly put : "Both of them know they
could not dismiss a servant, however bad their work might be.
The choice of leaving was always the prerogative of the
employee." However, there is not a single story in which
the employer fires the servant. Seems a bit unrealistic.
employer-servant relationship does not remain constant from
story to story. While Kumar, a cook, gives his master a piece
of his mind while leaving the job, Swami, another cook, not
only leaves in a dignified way, but also makes a point to
visit his former employer again and again. In "Parvati
the Ayah," the domestically inactive mother gladly gives
full responsibility for the child to the nursemaid, and
herself becomes socially active.
"Saga of Ramaswami," an incredible tale with plenty
of mush, the relationship is marked by mutual affection and
love. When Ramaswami, the servant boy, leaves, his employer
thinks: "We were sorry when Ramaswami went away. He was
not a member of our family but he left behind an emptiness as
if he had been one." As the story progresses, the
emotional ties gain in strength.
speaking in modern parlance, is user-friendly. The breezy
prose amply demonstrates Laxman’s storytelling skills. The
illustrations, surprisingly, are not very impressive; they
fail to enrich the text. Ironically, Laxman the writer
overshadows Laxman the cartoonist. Just one image stands out
— Narasimha sitting in a chair like a wrathful god,
surrounded by the worried, helpless hosts.
It goes to Laxman’s credit
that he is able to impart a distinct identity to each domestic
and gives the reader several amusing stories and unforgettable
red fall-out of green revolution
Review by Surinder S. Jodhka
Ethnonationalism and the Political Economy of Punjab by
Shinder Purewal. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages
215. ix + Rs 545.
rise of a powerful secessionist movement in Punjab during the
1980s was an unprecedented development in the
post-independence India. Never before had the Indian state
experienced such a serious crisis of political legitimacy as
encountered while dealing with the Sikh militants. Though a
border-state, Punjab had been quite a well-integrated part of
the country. There had never been any doubts about the
nationalist credentials of the Sikhs. Not only did they
participate in the freedom movement with much enthusiasm, the
people of Punjab, along with those of Bengal, were also the
ones who suffered the most during partition. No other regions
of India had to pay such a price for independence from
also done quite well economically in the post-independence
period. Apart from the prosperity that the success of the
green revolution brought to the people of Punjab, it also
played a very important role in solving the vexing problem of
food scarcity in India. Though occupying merely 1.6 per cent
of the total land area of the country, Punjab contributed
nearly one-fourth of the total foodgrain production of India
and approximately two-thirds of the entire central pool of
foodgrains. In 1980-81, for example, the share of Punjab in
the central pool of wheat was 73 per cent and that of rice 45
offshoot of its success in the agricultural sector, Punjab
also emerged as the most prosperous state of the country with
the highest per capita income. The state has also had the
distinction of having one of the lowest proportions of
population living below poverty line. Punjab indeed was a
success story, a model to be emulated by other states!
surprisingly therefore, the rise of a secessionist movement in
the state was a puzzle. Explaining the "Punjab
crisis" became a challenge for the academia and an
obsession with the press. A large volume of literature was
generated during the early 1980s on the "Punjab
crisis". Events taking place in the state occupied the
front page of virtually every Indian newspaper for more than a
decade. The academia applied all available framework and
perspectives to understand the "crisis".
scholars working on the region pointed to the political
economy of the green revolution as being responsible for the
crisis of the 1980s. Many of them argued that the emerging
economic contradictions between different classes,
particularly between rich farmers and urban traders, and the
nature of the demographic spread of the Sikhs and Hindus in
the state were "behind" the communal mobilisation.
Rich farmers of the Sikh community raised the question of
autonomy and identity for their private economic interests
against the Hindu traders.
Purewal’s recent book on "Sikh Ethnonationalism and the
Political Economy of Punjab", in a sense further advances
this thesis. Purewal argues that those who "explore the
realm of identities and culture without taking into account
the material context in which identities take shape" fail
to answer some obvious questions such as "why certain
aspects of identity become hegemonic at a particular historic
moment"? "Whose interests are served by the politics
of identity"? Or, in other words, "what constitutes
the content of these cultural identities and symbolic politics
and who defines that content?" For example, Sikh
reformers during the late 19th century had advocated a
"non-Hindu Sikh identity", while the agenda
for the "kulak-based Sikh leadership" during the
1980s was to propagate an "anti-Hindu Sikh
Marxists, he insists that it was necessary to look at the
politics of ethnicity and identities from the perspective of
the political economy. "The political economy approach
was better because it studied the phenomenon of identity
formation and ethnonationalism in its material context by
explaining what constitutes power and what gives rise to
conflict in society. It sought to understand the relationship
between economics and politics, and explain how the
relationship between the two worked".
study is perhaps the most comprehensive of all those in the
genre, his central arguments or the "thesis" is not
new. As has been earlier argued by several Marxist scholars,
Purewal too locates the crisis of the 1980s in the
contradictions and new class alignments brought into the
Punjab economy and politics by the success of the green
core thesis in a rather simple and unambiguous language,
Purewal asserts that the crisis was the doing of a "small
but powerful class of capitalist farmers (the kulaks)".
They were the ones who had benefited the most from the green
revolution technology. In their struggle against the
commercial and industrial bourgeoisie for domination, Sikh
kulaks invoked the ideology of Sikhism and their religious
identity to build a common bond with the marginal and landless
Sikh peasantry who had been further marginalised by the green
revolution. In the name of Sikhism the kulaks sought to
strengthen their domination over the home market of Punjab
through getting the Anandpur Sahib Resolution implemented or
through seeking a separate state of Khalistan.
historical survey, Purewal shows that though the question of a
separate Sikh identity was also raised during the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, its socio-economic base had
undergone a significant change during the past 100 years or
so. From the urban petty-bourgeoisie — the urban upper caste
Sikhs — the advocacy of the separate identity had shifted to
the rural dominant caste, the Jats. This shift had taken place
during the 1960s. It was in the 1960s that the Jat Sikhs, who
were earlier closer to the Congress, switched their loyalty to
the Akali Dal and eventually came to dominate the party, and
also the SGPC.
The rise of
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the demand for Khalistan,
according to Purewal, were clearly in accordance with the
logic of the kulak politics. Though Bhindranwale recruited
youth from marginalised peasantry, his political programme of
uniting the Sikhs against the Hindus served the interests of
the kulaks. From the Anandpur Sahib resolution to the
declaration of Khalistan, the political demands of the 1980s
movement were all to serve the interests of the kulaks. Thus,
for Purewal, the Sikh ethnonationalism of the 1980s was,
literally speaking, not a fundamentalist movement in the sense
that it did not ask for a return to the fundamentals of the
Sikh faith, which Purewal contends were in fact pro-poor and
inclusionary in nature.
instrumental logic and complete economic determinism apart,
Purewal seems to also suggest a complete unity of purpose and
ideology between the Akalis ("the kulaks") and the
Khalistani militants/terrorists. Equating the two was not only
empirically contestable, it may also be politically wrong.
Though the Akali leadership today is largely made up of rich
farmers, their regionalism, like the political programmes of
many other regional parties, has not always been communalist
in nature. The Anandpur Sahib resolution, for example, though
primarily articulated the interests of the rich farmers of
Punjab, also talked of the question of decentralisation of
powers and resources, a demand that has often been raised by
other peripheral regions of India as well. Even the leftwing
political formations have raised such a demand.
Purewal avoids reference to the oppressive structures of the
Indian nation-state in his book. In fact he seems to work with
a rather sharp distinction between the Central/Union
Government, on the one hand, and the regional/Sikh elite of
Punjab, on the other. The two are projected as representing
completely contradictory politco-economic interests,
presumably the former being democratic and the latter
sectarian! Though Purewal rightly points to the need to look
at ethnic identities holistically and in relation to the
material processes, his own analysis however seem to leave too
many questions unanswered. For example, questions such as
"what explains the appeal or charisma of Sant
Bhindranwale", do not even get raised, leave aside being
explained satisfactorily! The issue is not of replacing
socio-psychological explanations with a materialist one, but
to deal with the totality of the phenomenon.
At the end of his study there
emerges no alternative theory of looking at ethnic identities.
The only actors he recognises as being relevant in the
political battlefields of Punjab are the classes. Ethnic
identities appear to be mere deceptive masks that the classes
seem to wear to further their own economic interests. Such an
explanation comes very close to the elite manipulation theory.
Such theories fail to provide any analytical tools that can
help us understand ethnic self-images and explain why ethnic
slogans appeal to the common people. The so-called common
masses, in such formulations, tend to appear as bunch of
fools, ready to be manipulated by the cunning elite and wily
salt of life and exploitation
Review by Harbans Singh
Hedge of India by Roy Moxham. Constable Publishers, London and
distributed by Rupa. Pages 232. £ 14.95.
story of "The Great Hedge of India" is not simply a
tale of the improbable hedge created by the British colonial
rulers as a mark of tribute to the thorough, dedicated and
disciplined approach to the job at hand, but to the horror of
the reader, it is more of a chronicle of the ruthless and
inhuman implementation of a tax on something as essential as
salt, and the consequent fatal effect on the health of the
common Indian. Ironically the author has used throughout the
book the symbol of the scales with the Persian word "adel"
meaning "justice" written between the scales.
the end of the book, the extent to which the word has been
perverted is fully evident. The book is not just an
idiosyncratic search of a hedge running 2,300 miles from
Torbela near the Indus in the north of Pakistan to Burhanpur
in the east near the Mahanadi, and manned by 12,000 men, who
were often ill-paid and, therefore, rarely honest, but often
rapacious and insolent, grabbing any chance to extort money.
from their womenfolk and families, they would at times end up
quarrelling with the local people over women. Not
surprisingly, many among them were rendered unfit because of
the venereal diseases that they contacted. These men were led
by young Englishmen with footloose tendencies and an itch for
the gun and, not surprisingly, the most celebrated among them
was Alan Octavian Hume, Commissioner Inland Customs, but
better known as the founder of the Indian National Congress.
He had a fabulous collection of 65,000 birds. But, neither
this nor the search of hedge by the author is the gripping
story narrated in the book.
Written in a
racy and easy style, Roy Maxham traces the greed and rapacity
of the British colonial rules which began during the days of
the East India Company and continued well into the modern
times. Having realised that with such a huge population taxing
salt was an easy way of raising revenue, they pursued it with
single-minded devotion, and neither famine nor pleading of
doctors made them ease their hold on this goldmine, which with
time evolved to be an instrument of tyranny.
It all began
during the times of Robert Clive who devised ways to raise
funds and taxes for the Company and the Crown, and also make a
fortune for himself and his peers. It all started with the
Permanent Settlement of Bengal which with time left the
revenues of the Bengal Presidency stagnant, thus prompting the
control of production, distribution and taxation of salt in
British India. Searching for the elusive hedge, which acted as
a barrier between the Bengal Presidency and the rest of the
country, the author finds from the various reports of the
period the increasingly sordid story of the degradation of the
Indian peasantry. He also discovers the connivance of the
wealthy classes of India whose urgings to the Viceroy to
increase the salt tax rather than raise tax on their
landholdings were found so repugnant that the Viceroy
responded with an instant rap on their knuckles!
depressing is the reading of the willing submission of the
kings of Jaipur and Jodhpur to the demands of the British,
thereby subjecting their own citizens to a tax without gaining
any advantage from the tax since their kingdoms did not fall
under the British domain.
over salt created an incredible situation in which the Indian
peasant had to spend two months of his yearly earnings on
purchasing salt. This happened when the countryside suffered
repeated failure of monsoon and a resultant shortage of food,
often because of the greedy authorities. With the price of
rice soaring as high as Rs 13 at a time when the earnings were
barely Rs 2 month, the peasants often starved to death.
There is a
macabre aspect to the deaths during those two centuries. The
number of deaths that the voluminous records of the British
attribute to cholera, malaria, diarrhoea and other diseases
may actually have been caused by the deprivation of salt. Were
it possible to correlate the deaths caused by these diseases
and the deaths during the great famines beginning with 1770,
the monstrous dimensions of the tax would pale the holocaust
of the Nazi era into insignificance.
has with his painstaking study of salt explains a number of
inexplicable responses of the times. He has also made a
comparative study of salt taxes in other countries and has
found that it was only France which came anywhere close to the
high taxation in India. The peasants there needed the wages of
six weeks for buying salt, but they were better off than their
counterparts in India, and they rebelled against the
authorities when the tax was raised. In contrast, the peasants
of India, had been paying low taxes on salt during the Mughal
administration, suffered without demur the cruel and
oppressively high tax imposed by the British colonialists.
Could this meak sufferance be attributed to the gradual
slipping into the rut of failing crops, inability to pay land
revenue and subsequent loss of land, poverty, famine and the
general apathy induced by the low level of the salt in the
Europeans, Indian food contains little salt and has to be
added while cooking. Salt deprivation, the author tells us,
besides reducing resistance to diseases, causes inertia. This
could be the reason why Indian peasants never rebelled against
the British for a cause of their own, or that, the nonviolent
agitative approach of Mahatma Gandhi was more suited and
acceptable to a people who were not ready for an armed
awkward questions not likely to be faced by a future
generation, because during the intervening centuries food
habits and lifestyle have so changed that the problem is not
of what is the minimum quantity of salt required for the body,
but of what is the highest limit.
Eminently readable, the
author needs to be complimented not only for having succeeded
in identifying the "great hedge", but, in the
process, recording the history of British oppression in India,
as well as educating the reader on the various aspects of
salt, especially the physiological and political aspects. At
the end of it all, one is left a little puzzled as to how the
salt tax, initially a byproduct of greed, assumed such
oppressive dimensions that it finally manifested itself in the
great hedge, has been missed by Indian historians. It is
unbelievable that even after the Dandi march no one thought of
studying salt as a tool of oppression in the hands of the
the feet of world hegemon, really
Review by D.R. Chaudhry
and the Olive Tree by Thomos L. Friedman. Anchor Books, New
York. Pages xxii + 490. $ 15.
is one more treatise on globalisation — a buzz word these
days. Lexus is the luxury car produced by a Japanese company.
It symbolises globalisation — a drive for improvement,
prosperity and modernisation through high-tech. The olive tree
stands for old culture and tradition, community and family.
There is an underlying tension between the two. The biggest
threat to age-old tradition and culture comes from anonymous,
transnational, homogenising, standardising market forces and
technologies which drive today’s globalising economic
thesis of the book is that globalisation is not simply a trend
or a fad but is, rather, an international system which has
replaced the cold war system. To characterise the cold war —
a state of tension between two or more opposing forces at the
international plane — or globalisation — a technological
triumph in several crucial fields — as systems is a gross
oversimplification and a travesty of the basic concept. More
on this later.
overarching feature is integration of markets, nation-states
and technologies never witnessed before. It has its own set of
rules which revolve around opening up market deregulation and
privatisation of economy in order to make it more competitive
and attractive to foreign investment. It has its own defining
technologies: computerisation, miniaturisation, digitalisation,
satellite communication, fibre optics and the Internet. It has
its own demographic pattern — a rapid acceleration of the
movement of people from rural areas and agricultural life
styles to urban areas and urban life styles, intimately linked
with global fashion, food markets and entertainment trends.
What is more, it has its own defining power structure. During
cold war there were two super powers, the Soviet Union and the
USA. Now the USA is the sole and dominant power and all other
nations are subordinate to it in one degree or the other.
So far so
good. Globalisation is the steamroller, a bulldozer and the
USA is the giant pusher. But the quarrel begins when the
author takes it as the ultimate culmination of the march of
history. It is difficult to agree with his formulation that
free market capitalism is the omnipotent and ever lasting
new-found God and all major ideological alternatives to it has
been blown away for good. This is free market fundamentalism
at its worst and is riven with many infirmities like any other
In fact, the
book is a journalistic version — the author is the foreign
affairs columnist of The New York Times — of Francis
Fukuyama’s controversial concept of end of history. History
is too hard a task master and it keeps its whip always raised
and is perpetually full of surprises, in spite of all the
smart theorising of Fukuyamas and Friedmans.
unrest is located right in the core of capital. Capital has
the inherent tendency to multiply itself and rush wherever it
can proliferate itself. Thus, globalisation is as old as
capital itself. The only new element in the present situation
is its supersonic speed, ever enlarging reach and global
pervasiveness, thanks to the revolutionary advances in the
field of transport, communications, computer, Internet and
related technologies. The author himself admits that from the
mid-1800s to the late 1920s, the world experienced a similar
era of globalisation. Great Britain was then the dominant
global power and was a huge investor in emerging markets. The
author stresses that the fall of the Berlin Wall marks the end
of the cold war and the beginning of the era of globalisation.
What is new
today, he admits, is the degree of intensity with which the
world is tied together into a single globalised market. But
how does all this usher in a new system, as he claims? Did the
earlier phase of globalisation under the hegemony of Great
Britain led to the emergence of a new system? The author makes
no such claim as the subsequent events in the international
arena would belie it.
Then how does
the second phase of the same process under the hegemony of the
USA mark a new system? Does it mean that all social
contradictions and conflicts in human society have
disappeared? Does he imply that an everlasting era of peace
and harmony has dawned on the world with the onset of the
second phase of globalisation ensuring a blissful existence of
mankind for all times to come? An affirmative answer is
implied in the arguments of the author though he does not say
so in so many words.
rider is that a mechanism of safety nets must be evolved to
provide succour to the victims of what he calls "the
brutalities of globalisation". But brutalities are never
humanised through palliatives. What the author dreams is world
capitalism with a human face. But history is witness to such
sweet dreams often turning into nightmares.
under review is highly readable as it is replete with vivid
stories, anecdotes and experiences gathered through the author’s
extensive, travel — a privilege generously available to a
reporter of a newspaper like The New York Times. But anecdotes
are no substitute for serious arguments. It sounds all the
more jarring when travel stories and incidents become a basis
for drawing conclusions in such a way that the line of
demarcation between cocksureness and fundamentalism disappears
is no choice; it is a reality. The historical debate is over.
There is only one road and that is free market capitalism.
Thus argues the author. One has to traverse this road or one
is doomed. Globalisation understood in the context of a set of
technological advances is one thing but to say that free
market economy is synonymous with it and thus inescapable is
quite another. Free market is never friendly to the poor and
the deprived and it must be regulated if it is not to
degenerate into a tool to fatten the coffers of the affluent
and the privileged.
technological advance and innovation does not usher in a new
social system. The invention of the Persian wheel was as
revolutionary in ancient times as the Internet is in our
times. But the Persian wheel by itself did not mark the
beginning of a new social system; nor can the Internet and
other innovations in our times claim to do so.
claims that globalisation as unfolded under the hegemony of
the USA leads to democratisation of technology, finance and
information and it breeds accountability and transparency.
Noam Chomsky’s book "Profit over People" is enough
to prove the hollowness of these tall claims. Globalisation as
practised today produces consumers instead of citizens,
shopping malls instead of communities, resulting in an
atomised society of disengaged individuals who feel
demoralised and powerless, as stressed by Chomsky. There is no
possibility of unfolding of genuine democratisation in any
walk of life in such a situation.
electronic herd of today — global investors linked through
the Internet — is, in the author’s opinion, the driving
force behind globalisation. But this herd is an accumulating
and consuming monster and there is no end to its greed. It
poses a serious threat to ecology, environment and social
harmony. The author’s argument that "being green, being
global and being greedy can go hand in hand" is not
sustainable. Greed would have to be curbed if sanity has to be
restored to the troubled mankind. American society with little
of history may not provide an answer. One may fruitfully seek
an answer in eastern civilisations. Teachings of some eastern
savants like the Buddha, Confucius, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and
others put a high premium on a life of simplicity, austerity
and incessant striving to have access to realms other than the
mundane, can provide an answer to the garbage society being
created by the electronic herd.
The author is
emphatic that the only way the poor and the deprived in the
world can live down their misery is through knocking at the
portals of globalisation with all its attendant value system.
The "wretched of the earth", observes the author,
"want to go to the Disney World — not to the
barricades. They want the Magic Kingdom, not Les Miserables".
This amounts to putting the agonising dilemma of human misery
into a binary position. The division is too artificial to be
overlooked. There is also a third way out — neither the
realm of Disney make-believe nor the world of misery and
hardship. There can be a world based on mutual love, harmony
and compassion for each other wherein the people are contented
if their basic needs are met, though they may not have the
glamour of the Disney World.
unique position as the only super power in today’s unipolar
world breeds its own conceit and arrogance among those who
treat it as the high watermark in the march of history.
"We Americans are the apostles of the First World",
proclaims the author, "the enemies of tradition, the
prophets of the free market and the high priest of high tech.
We want ‘enlargement’ of both our values and our Pizza
Huts:" The modern world is "stabilised by a benign
super power with its capital in Washington, DC", the
author further claims.
words, America is the Mother Teresa of today’s world. It can
also act as the world gendarme if need be. American power is
there to be used "against those who would threaten the
system of globalisation — from Iraq to North Korea. The
hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden
fist", pontificates the author.
Would America have used its
"hidden fist" in the Gulf war if that zone had
produced oranges instead of oil? Such questions would never
strike the apologists of American hegemony. For them
"America is the ultimate benign hegemon and reluctant
enforcer", as stressed by the author. This is the dollar
land speaking. Are you listening?
is a voice, not Capital
Review by M.L. Raina
Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays by Isaiah Berlin.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. Pages xxxvi+667. $ 17.
thyself, presume not God to scan/the proper study of mankind
is ma n. — Pope
matters; to die in a false cause is wicked or pitiable —
is right. Only truth matters. Philosophers, ideologues,
scientists and humanists have all said this before. Berlin
cautions us against the demagogue and the propagandist who
claim that only their truth matters. Is he, then, a
relativist? These essays, chosen by his pupils and editors,
Henry Hardy and Roger Hausheer, from the entire corpus of
Berlin’s writing, may help us to answer the question.
recollection of Isaiah Berlin goes back to the winter of 1972
when, as a member of the Gauss Seminar at Princeton
University, I attended his lectures which were later published
as "Vico and Herder". Speaking in a tone varying
from introspective to admonitory, he kept his listeners
revetted for two long hours, his words flowing in swirls of
precisely inflected sentences.
characteristic gravitas quite becoming his reputation as a
philosopher, historian and political savant, his presence
enhanced by a natty grey suit, he stood before us on that
bleak evening like a biblical prophet telling us what to
expect from our follies as human beings.
Up to that
point I had only read what I still think is his unsurpassed
masterly essay on Tolstoy, "Hedgehog and the Fox"
(reprinted in full in the present collection). I later began
to read him more deeply and extensively; and having re-read
the Tolstoy essay for the umpteenth time recently for a class
lecture, I can say with a deep sense of responsibility that
Berlin is among a handful of seminal minds of our time,
sharing this honour with Hannah Arendt, Bertrand Russell,
Andre Malraux and a few others.
authors of "The Human Condition",
"Anti-Memoirs" and "Sceptical Essays", he
made freedom his life-long concern. This representative
collection demonstrates his concern in essay after essay.
One of Berlin’s
singular achievements has been the way in which he uses the
genre of the essay to convey the most recondite of
philosophical ideas without the froth and fudge we notice in
much contemporary academic discourse. In his "Notes to
Literature", Adorno says that the essay "does not
play to the rules of organised science and theory and is
rooted in the present moment". Berlin, like Adorno and
Hans Mayer, manages to make himself accessible to his readers
without wringing words by their necks, as happens in some of
our more avant-garde theorists of today. In spite of using the
form of essay as his vehicle, his prodigious virtuosity is
never in doubt.
bludgeons you with his brilliance. Yet at the end of a
veritable solo dance of ideas and insights you come away with
the feeling that you have witnessed a performer eager to
"make you see" in the sense in which Conrad used
this phrase. This was my reaction to his lectures at
Princeton. And this is the general reaction to his vibrating
incandescent prose, laced with wit and occasional irony, but
always bristling with lucid verbal felicities. Its rhythmic
iterative cadences reveal an agile and tenaciously rigorous
mind. Who says the "metaphysic of presence" is passe?
If I have
first dwelt on Berlin’s style rather than on his subject
matter, it is because this aspect of his achievement is not
being too strongly emphasised. Fed as most of us are on the
inane word-mongering of post-modernism and other brands of
reductionism in current discourse, it is salutary to be
reminded of thinkers who know the art of drawing the reader’s
sympathies towards what is of lasting value in human culture.
Berlin, like his younger contemporary George Steiner, never
tires of pointing our gaze away from the tinsel glitter of
contemporary writing towards what Steiner calls the "real
presences" in human thought.
the question: what is truth. But, unlike Jesting Pilate, stays
back to look for answer in the whole repertoire of European
thought from the ancient Greeks to our own day. Except for an
essay on Tagore in a previous collection, "The Sense of
Reality", he concentrates mostly on European thinkers. In
essay after essay he sees a curious paradox between different
versions of truth — between officially sanctioned truths of
theology, ideology and the state, and the truths revealed to
people not in the echelons of power, either in the Church or
in the ruling political-ideological establishments.
grandiloquent narratives of ideologues, reformers, preachers,
conquerors and other kinds of the powerful and the mighty, he
discovers small narratives, local truths and communal wisdom
in societies not within the immediate ken of the dominant
forces. Against the abstractions of system-builders, he
reveals the potency of what is unsystematic and wayward. He
supports Johannes Herder in asserting the validity of
"the imponderable and the impalpable", of that which
science disregards, "Herder and Enlightment".
Tolstoy essay, he compares the novelist’s urge to search for
a Christian pattern in life with the peasant’s uncanny sense
of a flowing unceasing stream bypassing this system. The
novelist mocks at the "absurdity of rational system, the
universal failure to understand the non-rational springs of
action and feeling, the sufferings to which all flesh is
In the essay
on the Romantic Will, also included in an earlier collection,
"The Crooked Timber of Humanity", he shows how some
important thinkers like Herder, Hamann, Herzen and Vico,
challenged the Eurocentric assumptions of the Enlightenment
philosophers such as Voltaire and de Maistre, and laid the
basis for comparative anthropology and literature.
challenged them on grounds of their supposed infallibility as
also for their dictatorial assumption of racial, class and
gender superiority. These proponents of
"Counter-Enlightenment" "denied the doctrine of
timeless natural law", and spoke of the languages, myths,
rituals of different cultures as "self-expressions"
of their individual and collective lives. They also stressed
"the plurality of cultures and the fallacious character
of the idea that there is only one structure of reality",
only one method of understanding truth.
of these views in almost all essays in this collection (most
forcefully in "Pursuit of the Ideal" and "The
Divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities"), cuts
at the root of empire-builders, racists (Nazis are singled
out), colonialists of all hues and sundry other big and small
peddlers of single-shot panaceas of western vintage. Endorsing
Eric Auerbach’s plea that each culture is to be judged
separately, he speaks for pluralism and not simply relativism
which regards cultures relevant in their own contexts.
danger here of equating primitivism with progress. Berlin is
in direct line of historians of ideas such as Franz Boas and
the author of "The Great Chain of Being", A.Lovejoy.
Boas’s study of primitivism shows the Romantic predilection
for the exotic and the outlandish. In our own era of political
correctness, we tend to condone some of the barbaric practices
of some non-western societies. Neither Hamann nor Berlin would
acquiesce in such nostalgia. Nor would they acquiesce in
shallow cosmopolitanism of the kind that the Universalists
regard as valid.
This is why
Berlin, in spite of his admiration for Turganev and other
Europhiles among the Russian intelligentsia, could find only
Tolstoy, Herzen and, in the present time, Pasternak and Anna
Akhmatova to his liking. They, like him, derived their
inspiration from non-rationalist traditions, from the
wellsprings of people’s deepest faiths unconsciously held,
and distrusted the official version of things.
thinking is located in the contrast between the ideal and the
actual, between a sense of reality and the dreams of utopian
fantasists. In the essay on the "Originality of
Machiavelli", he praises the Italian’s sense of what is
possible at a given time. Rejecting the accusation of
opportunism against him, Berlin suggests that though
Machiavelli was aware of the ideal of rulership, he also knew
that ideal rulers could not be found. It is this pragmatism
(not opportunism) that makes the Italian a kindred spirit.
rejects fundamentalism of all kinds and berates the cult of
nationalism actively encouraged by some oppressed peoples.
Calling nationalism "a pathological infliction of a wound
on the psyche" (see the essay "Nationalism")
Berlin warns against its dangers. In this respect his essay on
Tagore in "The Sense of Reality" makes a salutary
reading. His observations on this subject would certainly show
up the hollowness of our own Hindutva hordes bent upon
rewriting our history and calling the desecration of a mosque
"the expression of a national sentiment".
There is in
Berlin’s theses a familiar ring, that is familiar to those
who are exposed to the post-modernist onslaught on thinking
and behaviour. His advocacy of local communities and their
small narratives against the overarching but schematic
projections of earlier thought recalls Jean-Francois Lyotard’s
opposition to the entire Enlightenment philosophy of progress
and civilisation. Does it mean that Berlin is a post-modernist
before his time? Obviously not.
thing, in spite of his belief in the legitimacy and
singularity of all cultures and in spite of his sympathy for
the rituals and mythologies of non-European societies, Berlin
remains a rationalist to the core. He is deeply involved in
the rational pursuit of freedom for all and understands human
behaviour rationally. This implies his antipathy to irrational
justifications of the excesses committed in the name of the
legitimacy of all cultures. For another, Berlin does not
condone reckless action either by individuals or by entire
individuals with the faculty and exercise of choice leading to
their freedom ("From Hope and Fear Set Free" and
"Two Concepts of Liberty"). He would refuse Lyotard’s
espousal of a perspectivist approach to truth and the practice
deriving from this approach. He is very much his own man.
For Berlin the authority of
his mentors, all those classical and modern philosophers and
thinkers who ballast his own thinking, is the authority that
his own teaching envisions. His thought seeks succour in them
and discovers its own provenance through their ministrations.
He is not their mouthpiece, though. There is a core content in
his work that remains his and his only. And this content, the
bedrock of his belief in liberalism and freedom, is what draws
us to him. Like Tolstoy, he is both a hedgehog and a fox.
tricks to survive women
Review by Priyanka Singh
Women by Jerry Pinto. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 187. Rs
of us, I presume, are familiar with Jerry Pinto, the funny guy
with an even funnier imagination. And he is his usual self in
"Surviving Women" — insightful as he is
The book is,
as the title suggests, about surviving women. It is for all
Indian men even though Pinto insists it is essentially for the
Confused Indian Man (CIM). If you thought the Indian man comes
only in the typically-so kind—that of a self-obsessed,
pampered,selfish entity—you will be pleased to know there is
a whole lot of them.There is the Average Indian Man, the CIM,
the New Man, the Unreconstructed Man and the remainders who
fit in a little here and a little there.
Pinto holds the woman culpable for making a man’s life a
rollercoaster ride, he believes he must teach the CIM snap
tricks to survive the New Modern Women who thinks of him as an
ore. ‘’The man she wants is inside you and she is going to
make sure that he finds his way out of the hulking slagheap
that you represent in your current self ‘’.
Modern Woman is his friend (Incidentally, he has dedicated a
whole section on whether a man and a woman can truly be just
friends), his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s friend, his wife,
his colleague, his mother and his daughter.
on daughters is, however, laboured and he appears to be in an
awful hurry to tie the loose ends for want of something
substantial to say. also, there is no mention of how to
survive sisters. the cim could have used some help on that
front as well.
for those men
who do not know if they are the object of Pinto’s attention,
he describes the cim as a ‘’ new species of male, usually
urban, middle class, and confronted every day by new
indicators about his role in... to put it bluntly, life. or
those bits of his life that involve women, which pretty much
add up to his whole life.’’
introduction he seeks to convince the cim how this book would
make a paramount difference in his life and equip him to deal
with the vagaries of women.
them how to handle being dumped, being divorced, being
outbeaten, being outfoxed, being nagged—everything. He even
tells if it is all right for the CIM to cry or be a mama’s
boy all his life. He lists 10 commandments which will ensure
smooth-sailing for the CIM.
promises a sequel to "Surviving Women". Thanks to
his efforts to make the poles meet, soon we will be rid of
divorces, marital discord and broken hearts! It is another
matter that he has been married thrice and is due to be
married yet again. So much for his own understanding of women!
interviewed 100-odd men for this book which is our indigenous
version of "men are from mars, women are from venus"
and their point of view (prejudice?) can’t help but show.
some observations about women, if not all, are perceptive. It
is indeed true that women tend to imagine layers of meaning in
a remark no matter how innocous. Inarguably, they almost
always complain of their husbands not being at their
communicative best and they do delight in the minutest details
which often go unnoticed by men. Other than that, women are
not the blood-sucking demonic creatures Pinto (all in good
humour?) makes them out to be in the chapter ‘’She’s a
alphabetically the names which describe the ‘’terror in
the shape of a women’’—asrai, banshee, chudail,
etc. are all there. This was uncalled for as it discredits the
book which also attempts to promote harmony between the two
When he is
not being nasty, Pinto is tolerable. He says almost every
civilisation is based on the principle of wholeness only being
possible when male and female are both realised. It is,
however, hard to tell if he means it or is it only intended to
confuse the CIM further.
extremely crude at places and the innumerable spelling errors
in a quality publication like Penguin reflects on its falling
chapter ‘’Voices from the other side’’, he
incorporates the responses he received from his women friends
who had read the book. One of them remarks that the book is an
‘’illuminating account of male psychological illiteracy
and ineptitude’’ which is not entirely wrong of
How does a
women survive this book? Read it with as much
light-heartedness as Pinto has written it. He is never really
malicious. He is ready, even eager, to champion the cause of
the Dalit woman in Bihar and let her have her say.
He only meant to write an
entertaining book for men who need a step-by-step rulebook to
handle women and situations and manage life. It is a must for
women for the same reason—to know what conniving tricks are
employed by the CIM or the AIM, whichever, to handle women and
Review by Kanwalpreet
Century — Development Challenges by Bhagbanprakash. Tata
Donnelley Limited, New Delhi. Pages 160. Rs 175.
means to move ahead, it means progress in every sphere of
life. It includes not only the people and their standard of
living but also the air they breathe, the environment they
live in, the cities, the towns and the nation they inhabit.
And development takes place only after overcoming hurdles and
meeting them head on. This is what Bhagbanprakash has dealt
with in his book "21st Century — Development
been collected and placed before the readers in a friendly
way. Yes, last century holds the key to the 21st century. The
past century was marked by many, many new ideas. And
Bhagbanprakash in a very subtle way tells us what lies ahead
if we are not careful. The challenges, he says, are not in
just one field but in critical areas like biotechnology,
energy, ecology and globalisation. In fact, he examines the
issues and challenges in the development field. The world has
the potential to develop and also to meet the challenges but
the problem is that the common man is neither informed nor
aware of the dangers if he moves ahead relentlessly.
says in the Preface that he has avoided going into theories
and analyses. He has pursued facts looking for a pattern. He
talks of assessing human development in three aspects —
increasing longevity, learning and living standard — and
relates them to the challenges they will bring in the social
and economic fields. Knowledge and information are the raw
materials of the future and which have to be exploited to make
lives better. The author explains how innovation and
information will make a sound knowledge economy and
vice-versa. But the knowledge should be real and information
should be reliable to obtain real benefits. Change and
progress can come only through IEC — information, education
chapter, "Families of the future", he expresses
himself in favour of close family units as they are ideal and
for this trust, spending time together, touch and talk are the
essential components. Loneliness and isolation are what we
have to be beware of. Money and media will and do connect and
affect people everywhere. Quoting WHO reports, National
Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), HRD, market
survey of households (MSH) and many more, Bhagbanprakash
supports his analysis with figures. Even the jobless turn down
the "3-D" jobs — (jobs considered dirty, dangerous
and demanding). He talks of avoiding jobless growth and
The effect of
multinationals their growth, the impact on the nations in
which they operate, privatisation, entrepreneurial skill are
discussed in "Falling nations and rising
multinational". He calls them "global casinos"
and sympathises with nations which are helpless.
"Plying God: bypassing the evolution" is one which
is relatively new and difficult to comprehend by the common
reader. The author says, "Plants and seeds have caused
wealth as well as exploitation, power as well as penury"
and goes on to give examples. Mechanisation of agriculture and
worshipping land as mother in developing countries are the
other subjects discussed. The youth, their problems, how they
can be helped to escape loneliness, women and their
empowerment through "participation and partnership"
are critical issues which need to be delved into. He tackles
the problem of ecology energy and economy and how the idea of
"green GDP" has caught the attention of Europe.
In this well-researched book
we come across vital figures and their implication for
tomorrow. The writer has not only placed the challenges before
the world but has also classified them for the developed and
the developing countries.
glorious Army unit
Rajputana Rifles by R.S. Kadyan, Prakash S. Chaudhary, Mahesh
Mathur and others. Lancers, New Delhi. Pages 128. Rs 995.
and tradition often lend an aura to a person, a community or a
set-up which endures the march of history. The Rajputs in
general and the Rajputana Rifles in particular are
beneficiaries of such a potent mixture. This coffee table
publication traces the chequered history of the seniormost
rifle regiment and one of the most famous of our army’s
Council raised the 5th and 6th battalions of the Bombay Sepoys
in January, 1775, in order to ward off the Maratha threat. The
next six years saw the 5th battalion display its mettle in
enough measure to be rewarded with the honour of being
redesignated as 4 Regiment Native Infantry (Rifle Corps) in
1841 to become the Indian Army’s first rifle regiment. When
the armies of the three presidencies were amalgamated at the
turn of the 19th century the regiment was given the
nomenclature of 104 Wellesley’s Rifles.
restructuring of the Indian Army took place in 1921 which
resulted in the formation of the Rajputana Rifles. The
regiment has acquitted itself well in various battlefields —
both in and outside the subcontinent. The battle of Kirkee was
the regiment’s baptism by fire. It also saw action in
Kandahar, Abyssinia, China (the Boxer Rebellion of 1900-02),
France, Mesopotamia, etc. The regiment’s post-independence
record is equally noteworthy — be it the Kashmir conflict,
the 1965 war or the liberation of Bangladesh.
it has earned several laurels for its bravery.
about the acts of individual bravery of the regiment’s men
and officers, one is impressed by the pride that comes out of
the narrative. Adorned by excellent photographs and relevant
statistics, this is one coffee-table book that you can curl up
in the bed with for reading, present it to your
aspiring-to-be-soldiers-adolescent kids or proudly display in
your drawing room.
Political History and Buddhist Cultural Influences by Kanai
Lal Hazra. Decent Books, New Delhi. Pages (two volume set)
596. Rs 1000.
"The land of the free people", is the only
South-East Asian country which never became a colony of a
European power. It was originally known as Siam — a name
that finds mention in various Sanskrit and other ancient
texts. The present name was adopted in June, 1939, after the
Thai tribe that came from the northern hilly regions and
eventually became the country’s rulers. The Thais originally
belonged to the northwestern Szechwan in China and were
compelled to migrate to south due to the conflict with the
ethnic Chinese — perhaps the Hans. After going through
various tumultuous stages, the country has crystallised into
its present geo-political form.
strong evidence of Indian influence on the Thai culture and
history. Names like Ayuthiya, Rama, Vasudeva, Cammadevi et al,
which are so common there have distinct Hindu connotations.
Later on there was a profound influence of Buddhism. Both
Buddhist sects — the Hinayana and the Mahayana — have
flourished here. Today Buddhism, introduced by the Mauryan
emperor Ashoka, is Thailand’s state religion and 90 per cent
of its population is Buddhist. It has played a great role in
the country’s political, religious, social and cultural
Tharavada or Hinayana sect was introduced — much before the
Christian era — it has become the major creed of the Thais.
religions that have notable following are Taoism and
Confucianism. The hill tribesmen are animists and the people
in South Thailand follow Islam. Christianity and Brahminism
too have flourished in this land of ochre robes.
dwells on the various art forms — both extant and extinct
— of Thailand. The present Thai art is a fusion of various
art forms that came from India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and other
lands. Hazra avers, "Every decorative piece or painting
in a Thai religious structure tried to symbolise a particular
aspect of Thai Theravada Buddhism..."
the Thai sculpture too was greatly influenced by religion.
"Whether the origin of a figure was purely Indian, Mon,
Khmer or Thai or it originated from hybrid influence such as
Mon-Indian, Mon-Khmer or Khmer-Thai, primarily for devotional
purposes it was done..." Thailand’s traditional arts
were inspired by the Indian art. They also adopted many
features from Indian, Chinese, Sinhalese, etc traditions.
out that even though India had profound impact on the
classical Thai Buddhist art; the latter could not get
"direct help" from the former. Hazra does not
explain this but goes on to say, "In Thailand Indian art
and craftsmanship were mentioned as the prototype of the
Buddhist art... in the first quarter of the beginning of the
Christian era adaptation and imitation from India began in
Amaravati school of art inspired the Buddhist art movement in
Thailand, later on the Guptas, the Pallavas, the Pala-Senas,
the Madurai Pandiyans, the Gandhara art forms made a
substantial contribution to the evolution of Thai art.
these help one realise how wide and profound the influence of
our culture has been over the centuries. And most of this
influence spread not through military conquests or by
fire-eating fanatics but by apostles of peace. The process was
assimilative and regenerative and not exclusivist, destructive
This is amply
substantiated by John Keay in his celebrated work, "India
— a History". "In Thailand and Vietnam the odd
Roman coin has been found as well as beads, gems, pottery,
intaglios and metalwork of Indian provenance... More
emphatically, bronze vessels and a carnelian lion found at Don
Ta Phet in westcentral Thailand are said to be Buddhist...
Thanks to this trade and missionary activity, there are also
the first signs of Indianised cultures in South-East Asia...
one such (state) had five hundred families from India plus a
thousand Brahmans to whom the native population gave their
daughters in marriage... They (the Brahmans) do nothing but
study the sacred canon, bathe themselves with scents and
flowers, and practise piety ceaselessly by day and by
Japanese Eyes by Toshio Yamanouchi. Sterling, New Delhi. Pages
266. Rs 600
between Japan and India are more than a millennium old. More
than 1400 years ago Buddhism — probably the most famous
export from India — was introduced in Japan. The author
points out that the interaction between the two countries
"presents various transformations".
Nara and Heian periods India was called "Tenjiku" or
the holy land of Buddhism. The pious Japanese have since been
looking upon India as close to Japan despite the geographical
distance. Out of the 60,000 Japanese who visit India nowadays,
nearly 20 per cent make it a point to go to Buddhist centres.
cultural interaction is only one aspect of the Indo-Japanese
relationship. Trade and economic relations too have been
passing through various phases over the years. If you thought
Indo-Japanese economic relations are confined to the narrow
straits of electronics and automobiles, you err. Toshio
Yamanouchi points out that he was third generation in his
family that worked for Kishimoto Shoten Ltd, the oldest
wholesaler in iron and steel in Osaka. Since the early 20th
century the company had been importing pig iron from India.
Of course the
company later on merged with Itouchu and Marubeni to form
Daiken Sangyo Ltd. Similarly, for Nippon Kaishan Ltd the
Indian pig iron has been the primary raw material since 1912.
to the socialist days he points out that like the socialist
bloc countries, India had a meagre foreign exchange reserve.
Therefore all trade bills were settled at the end of the
fiscal year, as part of the overall settlement of the two-way
trade. India imported machinery and chemical equipment from
Japan and exported iron ore and general merchandise in return.
Now of course the
relationship has become more complex. There are joint ventures
in the field of automobiles, mining, power generation et al.
With the Indian government’s "Look East" policy
gathering momentum, trade, cultural and strategic ties between
the two countries are bound to improve and become more