was a modern maharishi
Review by Rekha Jhanji
in Time: Sri Ramana Maharshi A Biography by A.R. Natarajan,
Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore. Rs 200.
is the latest biography of the great sage of Thiruannamalai.
Apart from a narrative of the maharishi’s life, it contains
a beautiful collection of photographs of different stages of
his life. The author begins with his salutations to all the
earlier biographers of the maharishi and holds that Ramana’s
disciples all over the world have endowed this biography with
a spiritual power necessary for writing it.
included in it excerpts from his dialogue with several
devotees; this has the great advantage of projecting the
powerful presence of the maharishi from various vantage
points. Amongst these are several well-known personalities
like Paul Brunton, Arthur Osborne, Somerset Maugham and
Maharshi we see embodied the highest point of Indian
spirituality. Someone asked him once to specify the qualities
of a jnani. The maharishi spelt out the following three
conditions: one who is indifferent to both praise and blame;
one in whose presence peoples’ conflict cease; and one in
whose presence one feels completely at peace with oneself.
From all accounts of the maharishi, it is clear that he had
attained this state.
presence not only did human beings feel total tranquility and
peace but even animals felt completely at ease. Natarajan has
referred to cows, dogs, peacocks and squirrels in the ashram
which yearned to visit the maharishi and benefit from his
soothing presence like any human being. During his early years
when he stayed in the Virupaksha cave children would climb up
to the cave and sit there for a long period just to be in his
To his first
disciple Gambhiram Seshier, Ramana termed his teaching as
"intuitive knowledge of the heart". It is natural
and inherent and that is why it is accessible to all. Ramana
Maharishi’s path is straight, one travels from illusion to
knowledge by a proper understanding of the mind. One has to go
deeper into the origin of the mind.
Like the sage
of the Mandukya Upanishad, he also asks us "was there a
mind in sleep?" No. Is there a mind in waking? Yes. It
must have a source. Otherwise, where can it subside and
wherefrom can it rise again? Surely it must be within oneself
for there is no break in the identity, in the continuity
between the two states.
must inferentially be said to be an energising source, for one
wakes up refreshed, and recalls the repose enjoyed during
sleep. The source must be fullness of consciousness,
responsible for this daily rejuvenation.
emphasises the path of self-inquiry. If we go on asking the
question who we really are, it would help us drop all illusory
identities and understand our true self. It would have the
effect of silencing the mind by warding off our association
with thoughts. Natarajan has quoted one of his compositions,
"Eight verses", which renders this method very
Maharishi says: "When there is no ‘I’ thought there
can be no other thought; when other thoughts arise, ask ‘to
whom? To me? Where from does this ‘I’ arise? Thus diving
inwards, if one traces the source of the mind and reaches the
heart, one becomes the sovereign lord of the universe. There
is no more dreaming of such as in and out, right and wrong,
birth and death, pleasure and pain, light and darkness."
One has to
remember here that Ramana Maharishi was sharing his experience
of the day of enlightenment and stressed that it can be
experienced by everyone with an inward mind in search of its
source. It may be useful here to see how the maharishi came to
this realisation. Facing the overwhelming fear of death, he
passionately enquired into his true identity, into the nature
of I-consciousness. Reality was given to that enquiry by
putting aside the body as if it were a corpse. Immediately
there was an upsurge of the feeling of "I" distinct
and apart from the dead body. Enquiring further he discovered
that the "I" was a current, a force or centre.
Though it existed in connection with the body, it was
independent of the rigidity or activity of the body.
Ramana Maharishi stressed the need for this enquiry for the
realisation of the self. He looked upon rituals and the
attainment of siddhis as an inferior religious activity
because they do not enable one to silence the mind. Even the
silencing of the mind through yoga is temporary, it lasts as
long as one has controlled the breath; but soon one gets back
to the original chatter. This method of vichara alone
helps one to realise the self.
This is a book which one must
not miss because it gives one a glimpse of the grand master
and enables one to experiment with one’s state of
this NRI is enchanted
Review by Ashu Pasricha
One Woman’s Return to A Changing India by Pramila Jayapal
Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 265. Rs 250.
can be both a physical hell and a social heaven. On the one
hand, it pulsates with life, with humanity, with small
wonders; early mornings when the country side is fresh and
cool, when men and women squat on their haunches in the grass
and brush their teeth; the lush green glow of ready-to-harvest
rice paddies, where long white necks of geese rise regally out
of the fields; the monsoon rain as it beats out its rhythm on
the roof; the jingle of bright glass bangles on a woman’s
wrist; the graceful welcome of the village women who warmly
led me into their homes. It is a place where people openly
express their humanity; where connectedness matters; where
there is a belief in being part of a larger social order.
But, on the
other hand, India can be impossibly difficult: throngs of
people, cars and animals; constant electricity outages; piles
of garbage, broken sidewalks and rutted streets; and the
unbearable unfairness of poverty, gender and caste
This is how
non-resident Indian Pramila Jayapal describes India in her
book "Pilgrimage: One Woman’s Return To A Changing
India". She came to India after 25 years on a two-year
fellowship by the New Hampshire-based Institute of Current
World Affairs to write about contemporary social issues in
She spent her
time swinging between romanticising the country. Her most
intense struggle centred on reconciling what seemed to be two
completely different Indias. One India — culturally rich,
artistically divine, spiritually enlightened-nurtures and
propels individuals to spiritual greatness, to create
architectural wonders which show genius and a palimpsest of
rich history etched in stone, to return to the simple and the
real rather than the plastic and chrome. The other India is
the blackest of holes out of which few can crawl. This India
mocks poverty by piling it on destitution. It laughs raucously
at the intention to take one’s life into one’s own hands
by dealing cards that could not win even the best gambler a
from Kerala to Ladakh to the holy city of Varanasi, Jayapal
witnesses firsthand a society struggling to reconcile
tradition with modernity and confronts what both delights and
frustrates her in her country of origin. In Gujarat she meets
the founder of the Swadhyaya movement, "the silent but
singing revolution" that has transformed the idea of the
community life; in Bangalore she discusses feminism with young
women who resist the idea of being labelled
"feminist" and by definition "Western" and
in Badrinath, one of the oldest pilgrimage destinations in
India, she struggles to comprehend the ethical and religious
teachings of the Rawal, the head-priest. In doing so, she
begins to understand the profound lessons with the power to
enlighten and enrich our way of living in today’s rapidly
stay she met people for whom life still revolved around
family, community, spirituality and land. She began to
understand how far from these real values life in the West has
strayed. These people taught her that the life was to live but
not to dictate; ours to question but not necessarily to
receive answers; to appreciate but not to expect. From them,
she learned that our only task is to fully live in the
present. the past and future are creations of our minds; they
last only as long as we think about them, dissolving into
nothingness the instant we allow them to.
attitudes are grounded, in part, in a long lineage of Indian
spiritual teachings, from such great texts as the Bhagwad Gita
and the Upanishads, to the teachings of Gandhi and J.
Krishnamurti. But it was more than this, because many of the
villagers she met who inspired her the most had never read
these teachings. Yet they had a real sense of the space they
occupied in the world. This sense fundamentally changed the
way they interacted with their surroundings. They were more
centred, more connected, not only to the physical place but to
the spiritual place within them. Those in the so-called
"developed" world fool themselves too often.
"We allow ourselves to be surrounded by human-made things
and forget that we are here by grace, not by right."
accomplishment in India are viewed completely differently than
in America. To be sure, this too is changing with the invasion
of global forces, but across the country, she met men and
women whose success appeared in their inner strength, calm and
resilience. They persevered through conditions she could not
have imagined because they truly understood who they were
relative to the world. They maintained a sense of morality and
humanity. They cultivated an inner wisdom and clarity that
radiated brilliance. Their success was part of their search
for truth, rather than a diversion, as "success" had
been for her for most of her life.
The author, a
product of a modern world in which we use (and have been used
by) technology to both simplify and complicate our lives:
seeking the easiest and fastest ways to travel, to
communicate, and to exist. All too often, this means enclosing
ourselves in imaginary bubbles that protect our sense of
physical and mental space. To be physically uncomfortable in
India does not just mean travelling down bumpy road in a
decrepit old bus; it means being completely present to the
smells and sounds of life on the bus: the feel of a sleeping
woman’s head as it drops on your shoulder, the pressure of a
man’s hand on your back as he struggles to keep his balance
in the aisle, the belching of someone who has just finished a
good lunch. There was no room in India for the physical or
mental space that is held so sacred in America.
once said that reason is just Satan that it snuffs out
imagination and freedom and emotion. Living in India convinced
the author again that candle of imagination, of passion, of
connectedness. She found that she could logically analyse
issues until, as an individual, she was confronted with a
reality, a practical enactment of an issue that placed her as
a player on the scene. Then the analysis had to be adjusted to
include emotions and circumstances, the lack of absolutes.
Often these situations were outside her past framework of
understanding. This is the only truth there is, she realised.
slightly nostalgic when she recorded, "Living in India
rejuvenated my spirit, brought alive parts of me that had
faded into the background of a modern life that is sometimes
too efficient, where emotions are shielded by good manners,
where space exists so bodies do not touch on buses or trains.
In India I touched and was touched every day, by people, by
scenes, by thoughts in my continuously bubbling mind. With
each experience — whether I was accepting pickles from woman
who had nothing else to give or watching a group of men
willingly push our broken-down car down a deserted road — I
have learned that even twenty-five years away from India could
not break the basic threads of human commonality that bound us
together from birth."
together her extraordinary personal journey with incisive,
bold commentary on contemporary issues, Jayapal has written a
thought-provoking and illuminating book of great power and
What makes "Pilgrimage"
unique is its almost frightening honesty, its rigorous and
unsparing self-examination and its determination to eschew
both sentimentalism and generalisation.
end of society
Review by D.R. Chaudhry
Individualised Society by Zygmunt Bauman, Polity Press,
London. Pages 260. £ 15.
TRADITIONAL society with a live community, warm neighbourhood
and a wide network of social relationship is often praised,
and more so in our times when old social mores are fast
changing, for its multiple gains. It invests one’s life with
security, fraternity and fellow feeling and tends to help one
tide over the ebbs and downslides of life with comparative
ease with the help of a network of human bonds and
relationships. However, the weight of tradition sometimes
proves too debilitating for an individual.
social relationships often act as an encumbrance and sap one’s
initiative. If one is free from all such hindrances, he or she
is more likley to realise his or her potential. However, an
individual in such a system is a highly atomised and alienated
being that brings a train of agony and misery.
Does it mean
that suffering is one’s destiny as lamented by Guru Nanak (Nanak
dukhia sab sansar)? Or is "dukha"
(suffering) an inalienable part of the existential predicament
to be overcome by following the eight-fold path as conceived
by the Buddha?
Bauman is no
prophet to offer a metaphysical solution to the dilemma of
existence. He is a serious social analyst who diligently
dissects the ills of modern industrial society.
society — agreeing, sharing and respecting what we share —
is an important route to human happiness. However, "no
more salvation by society" is the most important
commandment of what Bauman calls an individualised society in
our time. In such a society an individual is abandoned to a
lonely struggle that most individuals lack the resources to
undertake alone. For success or failure in life, one has to
thank or blame oneself.
The value of
"joining forces" or "standing arm in arm"
is outdated. "We shall overcome some day", a theme
song of the black-struggle in the USA that inspired a
countless number of people who dreamt of a revolutionary
transformation of society the world over rings hollow now.
There is no common cause and "fighting alone" is the
In the modern
social milieu an individual is often hit in a surprise attack
by mysterious forces dubbed as competitiveness, recession,
fall in the market, "downsizing" and so on. The
damage is not confined to those who have been hit. There is a
message, loud and clear, for those who have been spared for
the time being. Their turn may come any time. Everyone is
potentially redundant and replaceable. So every one is
vulnerable and has to live on life’s edge with the
possibility of a fall without any warning. It is this state of
precariousness that has gravely undermined the value of
solidarity and social bonds.
It is the
state of precariousness that has taken the sting out of the
labour movement. The working class was once the vanguard of
revolution. Then it was thought to be coopted into the larger
capitalist system in the advanced industrial world. Now, it is
neither here nor there. It is out of reckoning thanks to the
state of precariousness, the element of uncertainty. Now the
partners — a worker and his employer — no longer have to
stay long in each other’s company. A young American with
high school education expects to change job at least 11 times
during his or her working career. There is work on short-term
contract, rolling contract or no contract whatsoever.
There is no
in-built security in most of the cases, with "until
further notice" clause staring in one’s face.
Employment of labour has become episodic, leaving little
chance for mutual loyalty and commitment to grow. There is
disengagement between labour and capital. This makes the
situation precarious which further acts as a great
individualising force. It divides instead of uniting. The idea
of common interest no longer makes any sense.
anxiety are to be suffered alone. There is no possibility of
putting up organised resistance to the vagaries of the
capital, thanks to the flexible labour market. The developing
countries are also rapidly falling in this mould (a Bill
empowering the management to hire and fire workers at will is
on the anvil in Indian Parliament).
In these days
of globalisation, capital is becoming increasingly global
while the labour stays local. The system is constantly exposed
to the inscrutable whims of mysterious investors and
shareholders transcending the limitations of space. A slide in
the stock exchange in New York or Tokyo can set the economy
spinning out of control all over the world. There is a feeling
that those who work and produce cannot win. Exercising control
over global capital is virtually impossible and this has
weakened political institutions irrevocably.
between power and politics is an important derivative of the
process of globalisation, so forcefully delineated by Bauman
in this perceptive analysis. The power and reach of capital is
increasingly becoming global while politics as represented by
nation-states stays local. It is a world where power flows but
politics stays tied to a place.
increasingly global and extra territorial while social and
political institutions stay territorial. It is the WTO regime
that rules the world today. It is a handmaiden of those with
strong economic sinews and others have to fall in line.
There is a
global war being fought these days but it is of an entirely
new variety. Conquest of territory is no longer its objective.
Any door that remains closed must be flung open for the free
flow of global capital. Clausewitz can be paraphrased to say
that war is primarily the "promotion of free global trade
by other means". This "global war" has two
important dimensions— an element of anarchy in the world
order and dismantling of the welfare state.
stands for the disorderly nature of the process on which
ration-states have no control. This has led to the erosion of
the sovereignty of nation-states. Their major job, in most
cases, is to safeguard the interest of the mega companies,
irrespective of the consequences for the local population. The
milieu of chaos or the absence of order is the major weapon of
power in its bid for domination.
capital can pack up and leave for greener pastures without
giving any notice, leaving the economy of a particular
nation-state in ruin as has been the experience of many Third
World countries like Mexico, Indonesia, etc. A new global
elite is emerging, perhaps a new global ruling class is in the
making. The confidence to benefit from disorder is the entry
ticket to this elite. Those on the top "celebrate what
others suffer", as observed by Roger Friedland.
In the world
ruled by global capital those who fail on account of their
personal failings and society is not responsible for this. A
social stratum, euphemistically known as the under class, has
emerged — poverty-stricken people, single mothers, school
dropouts. drug addicts and criminals. They constitute the
dregs of society, the social scum that deserves no sympathy.
Empathy with them is a waste of sentiment. The provision of
dole is increasingly under attack and is thought to be an
unpardonable burden on the economy.
of a welfare state is increasingly becoming an anarchronism in
the ethics of global capital. The force of the Darwinian
principle of the survival of the fittest in its most naked
form has struck the humanity.
aware of the dangers of the new situation. There is growing
uneasiness over impoverishment and the widening gap between
the rich and the poor, pollution, global warming, ozone
depletion, erosion of soil, degradation of enviroment,
demographic explosion and a host of such problems. However,
this awareness goes hand in hand with growing impotence to
effectively check the malaise.
There is no
dearth of knowledge. There is freedom of speech but this seems
to have lost its cutting edge. There is unprecedented freedom
with unprecedented impotence. Social forces striving for a
social change is a chimera now.
the top representative of the new business spirit, has
proclaimed, "No more salvation from society."
"There is no such thing as society," declared
Margaret Thatcher. Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman are
the ideologues of the new global order. Ideology has come to
an end and there is the TINA principle in operation. There is
no alternative to the new world order. Bear it even if you do
not like it.
ideologues seem to be saying that if one knows that one is
going to be raped anyway, it is better to relax and enjoy it
rather than offer resistence.
"the emptiness of the political space", to use a
phrase of Hannah Arendt. The body politic no longer offers
sites from which effective interventions can be made to
reshape our life in order to make it a little more purposeful.
Most haunting of political mysteries nowadays is not so much
"what is to be done" but "who would do it if we
knew it", as very aptly put by Bauman. There is an agency
Bauman is no pulpit preacher
to offer capsule remedies. He offers no readymade answers to
several fundamental questions he raises. His achievement lies
in raising a series of questions with great clarity and force—questions
that trouble so many these days but most find it difficult to
give them a concrete and logical shape. This task has been
admirably performed by Bauman and his is a seminal work of
great value to those who wish to understand the existential
problems in the new global order.
and you shall
Review by Vikramdeep
India 2001 Quiz Book by Gopa Sabharwal, Himanshu Dube and
Sonia Minocha. Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages viii +222. Rs
seem to be becoming a nation of quizzers. Quizzing is
virtually the new national pastime. There was a time, not long
ago, when quizzing was merely about instant intellectual
gratification. No longer. Today, thanks primarily to "Kaun
Banega Crorepati" (KBC), it is about instant money,
never had it so good. For casual quizzers, KBC and "Jeeto
Chhapar Phaad Ke" are the not-to-be-missed shows. For
serious ones, there is "Mastermind India," hosted by
the inimitable quizmaster, Siddhartha Basu. Schoolchildren
have their own "Bournvita Quiz Contest" run by Derek
Quiz books on
a wide variety of subjects were readily available at bookshops
but of late, they are being displayed quite prominently and
selling like hot cakes. In an attempt to cash in on KBC’s
popularity, many publishers are dishing out nondescript
"help-books" (one goes by the name of "Kaun
Banega Crorepati, Sawaal Dus Crore Ka, Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke
brought out Basu’s "Mastermind India 2000", which
was a quiz book of quality. The book under review, also from
the same publishing house, is in many ways even better.
the authors’ names do not ring a bell, their profiles are
quite impressive. All of them have been associated with
television quiz shows for the past several years and the book
amply shows their experience and expertise in quizzing.
There are a
total of 2,000 questions, including 500 multiple-choice ones
and 50 grids (with crossword clues), each containing 10
questions on particular topics like corporate icons, rivers in
mythology, ragas, etc. Questions without clues are divided
into two categories : rapid fire and core. Queries of each
type are repeated every four pages. Due to this innovative
format, the pattern of questions does not become monotonous, a
common problem with most quiz books, including
are related to India and are chosen from a wide, wide range of
subjects. Those on history, mythology and the arts
predominate, but there is hardly any field which has been
quite a few questions likely to stump most quiz buffs. Not
many would know that ZEE stands for Zebra Entertainment
Enterprise; that the famous bhajan "Vaishnav jana to . .
. " was written by the 15th century poet Narsi Mehta;
that it was Winston Churchill who described Mahatma Gandhi as
a "half-naked seditious fakir"; that Milkha Singh’s
long-standing record was broken by Paramjeet Singh.
multiple-choice section contains a few tricky ones. How many
children were born to Gandhari? 100, 101 or 102? ( The answer
is 101.) Who was the managing director of Maruti Technical
Services from January 25, 1973, to January 25, 1975? Maneka,
Sonia or Indira Gandhi? (It was Sonia.) The first Indian film
to break into the UK top ten? Not "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun."
Not "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge." It’s "Kuch
Kuch Hota Hai."
few pages one comes across an amusing question: The drink
which gets its name from the Hindi word for "five"
— punch; the seven-letter word for the language of Kamala
Hasan’s film "Pushpak" — silence!
Even though it is a
remarkable quiz book which doubles as a rich source of
information, a couple of things might limit its chances of
success. First, the level of questions is generally high,
which is likely to put off casual quizzers. Second, there are
no big names like Basu, Bachchan or O’Brien to attract the
buyer. Nevertheless, if you are seriously preparing for a quiz
show or an entrance test, or looking for a challenging and
stimulating quiz book, then grab this one.
and growth of Indian Army
Review by Jai Narain
And Honour: The Indian Army by S.L. Menezes. Oxford University
Press, New Delhi. Pages 701. Rs 350.
is full of contradictions — an ancient civilisation but a
new nationstate, avowedly pacifist but maintaining the largest
army in the world; a powerful, visible army but little known
Indian Army owes its origin to European colonialists who came
as traders around the turn of the 16th century. Soldiers were
recruited for essentially police duties within their large
trading establishments; conquest of the country was far from
the European mind.
empire was then at its zenith and India a great economic and
military power. The next 150 years saw the decline and
eventual demise of the Mughal empire with the attendant rise
of the Mahrattas and Sikhs as well as the French and British
forces who fought each other for the control of the
subcontinent. By the 1840s the British and their "Indian
Army" has emerged supreme; nine decades of Indian
servitude followed when many Indo-British institutions
developed which continue to flourish in independent India. The
Army is one of them.
precisely the basic theme of the book "Fidelity and
Honour, The Indian Army" by Lient-General S.L. Menezes (retd.).
It is an objective and well researched on the growth and
development of the Indian Army from its inception during the
days of the East India Company to its present status.
Raised by a
foreign power to serve its commercial and imperial interests,
the army did not have a nationalist cause to serve for the
first two centuries, but it was never a mercenary army either.
Its soldiers did not enlist for money willing to sell their
loyalty to the highest bidder. They joined the army because
they considered fighting an honourable profession and they
fought for their honour which included that of the family, the
community, the region and the regiment. Serving in the army is
considered a matter of honour. Even after Independence we now
have over 50,000 Gorkha soldiers from Nepal who did not have
any national cause in doing so. Like their Indian counterpart
before Independence they too are not mercenaries and have the
same motivation for serving in the Army.
of nationhood was non-existent in the 18th century. Thus many
Indians enlisted in the army of foreign power and had no in
fighting against their own countrymen and contributing to the
establishment of British imperial rule. However, this got duly
compensated by the action of many of them in the sepay mutiny
of 1857. This revolution was essentially an affair of the
army. Even though the revolution failed, it became a source of
inspiration for the subsequent generations in the freedom
noteworthy that notwithstanding the Jallianwala Bagh firing,
the Indian army was sparingly used against the freedom
fighters. Terrorism or the non-violent struggle for freedom
were mostly contained by the civil administration, using the
police for the purpose. When the army had to be called out, it
was more the British Army in India than the Red Shirts during
the non-cooperation movement.
The war years
(1939-1945) make very interesting reading. The Indian National
Army (INA) has been researched comprehensively and this
particular analysis provides valuable insight into the INA
itself — its leaders, the various Indo-Japanese and
Indo-German protocols covering its role and, finally, a
summary of its achievements and failures. During World War II,
the emergence of the Indian National Army from the ranks of
Indian Army prisoners with the Japanese, under the leadership
of Subhas Chandra Bose, to fight for the independence of India
became a major development.
Nehru who earlier in 1943 had threatened to oppose Subhas
Chandra "with open sword in hand" if he arrived in
India assisted by an Axis power, later on did whatever he
could to save the INA prisoners. He told Lord Mountbatten who
was the supreme commander that the INA was more national than
the Indian Army, and that, in his view, the vast majority of
the INA personnel should be taken back into the Indian Army.
Mountbatten advised him that it was in independent India’s
own self-interest that the fabric of the Indian Army not be
torn asunder, since the future government had to depend on it.
return, Nehru wrote to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Congress
president, on March 28, 1946, "I pointed out in Malaya
that we could not keep it (INA) going as an army there or in
India…" In May, Nehru met Lord Archibald Wavell, and
requested that ex-INA personnel be taken into the police as
the latter had an "oppressive" image. Wavell said it
would be "fatal" to do so. After this Nehru dropped
term, the contribution of the Indian National Army was limited
but its political and psychological impact was tremendous.
Hindsight says that however, Bose was right when in 1943, he
had said that the convulsive effects of the war with Indian
participation would determine the British Empire, even if the
Viceroy, in his farewell speech on March 21, 1947, five months
before Independence, has said, "I believe that the
stability of the Indian Army may perhaps be a deciding factor
in the future of India." Later events more than justified
this belief. At the time of Independence, the Indian Army had
to undergo a major surgery. Muslim units and sub-units along
with most Muslim officers left for Pakistan. The senior ranks
in the Army were all held by British officers and they left
for home. They were replaced by Indian officers.
these, there were other problems too. Most of the personnel of
the Army were from the North and the families of many had been
uprooted from their homes as a result of partition and were
living in refugee camps. The pay of Indian officers of the
Army was slashed considerably. There were no representations
nor any case filed in any court of law.
against this background that the Army was called upon to
tackle the unprecedented carnage and the movement of millions
of refugees in Punjab. The civil administration had collapsed.
The Army was the only credible instrument available to the
state to restore order. Within a couple of months after
Independence, normalcy was restored in riot-ravaged Punjab.
No sooner had
this been done than in October, 1947, the Army was called upon
to defeat an armed invasion by Pakistan. Military operations
in Kashmir in the most difficult terrain and at forbidding
heights lasted for over a year. The task of defending Kashmir
was carried out successfully despite all odds.
In the wake
of Independence the question of integrating over 500 Indian
states into the Union of India posed a major problem. The Army
constituted the final sanction behind Patel’s moves for
integration. Where this could not be achieved through
negotiations, the Army had to be implied to enforce the
nations will, as it happened in Junagarh, Hyderabad and Goa.
chapters deal with the post-independence era. The first decade
or more after independence was an era in which India’s moral
authority stood very high in all the chanceries of the world.
The Indian Army was employed on tasks to promote international
peace in Korea, the Gaza strip, Indo-China, Lebanon and Congo.
After this came the rude awakening in the Himalayas in 1962.
Both political and military leadership failed the nation
bringing about a national humiliation. The Army later on
recovered from this trauma. The war in 1965 was a partial
success but the 1971 war was a decisive victory, the like of
which had not taken place for many centuries. The compulsions
under which the army undertook Operation Bluestar and
Operation Pawan have also been elaborated upon.
Serious students of the
Indian Army will certainly learn something new from the book.
of ailing Asian Tigers
Review by Ivninderpal
Conquest: Learning from East Asia by Jayati Ghosh and C.P.
Chandrasekhar. Orient Longman Hyderabad. Pages xiii+137. Rs
could have predicted in the mid-1990s that Indonesia, South
Korea and Thailand would have to go with a begging bowl to the
IMF. These were, after all, East Asian economies whose
economic policies the international financial community had
loudly applauded. East Asia’s three decades of growth,
averaging almost 8 per cent a year, had inspired pride at home
and envy abroad. Never before had any economy sustained such
rapid growth for so long. The four original "tiger"
economies (Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan) had
worked hard to reach the status of a developed country;
Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand were also catching up fast.
There was much talk of an "Asian century" ahead,
when the region’s economies would leap ahead of the
economies of the USA and Europe.
But in 1997,
plunging currencies and stock markets put the economic miracle
in deep freeze and these economies started concentrating
simply on survival. What went wrong? The economic processes
— both in the world economy and within the East Asian
economies — that created both a period of unprecedented
expansion and subsequent collapse have been discussed by the
authors in this book.
starts with an analysis of the condition of world economy in
the 1990s. They attribute the situation to various forces
collectively known as globalisation, though not completely a
importance of external trade and dramatic increase of the
foreign direct investments are the two causes responsible for
this shift. Though in real terms, the share of external trade
did not increase as compared to the late 19th century, a
feeling of substantial growth of external trade came about
because of the massive decline in such trade during the
inter-war years. What we observe today is a shift back to the
level of trade achieved by the international economy in the
last decade of the 19th century, the authors point out.
also discuss the factors which were responsible for the Asian
Tigers’ fall, which began on July 2, 1997, when the Thai
currency, the baht, was allowed to float. As the FDIs
increased all around the world in the 1990s, the forms of
capital flow widely seen as responsible for the increased
vulnerability of these nations were portfolio capital
investment, investments in the form of domestic stock and
securities markets by non-residents — and the short-term
debts by foreign banks. So the depreciation of the baht
increased the demand for foreign exchange resulting in the
collapse of investor confidence. It also resulted in panic
withdrawal of funds invested in equities and prevented the
rollover of short-term debts by multinational banks. Moreover,
the increase in speculative operations by domestic and
international traders cashing in on currency volatility made
the problem very acute.
role of finance, the authors opine that financial
liberalisation increased the role of hedge funds which, unlike
the banks, were not subject to regulation. Thus these
unbridled capital flows led to undesirable consequences. The
situation in South Korea has been dealt with individually and
alternative solutions have been provided which could have
decreased the intensity of the crisis. Moreover, along with
the international finance, the self-interests of the powerful
financial class of South Korea have also been said to be one
of the causes of the crisis in the at country.
crisis was felt in Mexico in 1995, but it lasted for a much
shorter period, thanks to the USA. The USA government not only
provided its own credit guarantee, but also arm-twisted
US-based banks to help Mexico. since as the East Asian
countries did not have the same strategic importance for the
USA, it only formally supported the IMF-led financing
packages. The USA’s own offers of financial support were
stingy and it did relatively little to pressurise other
private investors to stay on in these countries. Though the
IMF released huge funds for the cash-starved economies, its
policies before or even after the crisis were irresponsible in
many ways. Throughout the 1990s, the IMF supported financial
liberalisation in these countries and there is no doubt that
with regulations on cross-border capital flows, this situation
would not have arisen. But by the middle of 1999, signs of
recovery were visible was evident from a shift from GDP
contraction to moderate GDPgrowth in South Korea and Thailand.
industrialisation of East Asian countries, the authors point
out that manufacturing in this region refuted the leftist
perception that the possibilities for industrialisation in
developing countries were constrained by the nature of
capitalist development worldwide. The authors have also
elaborated on the experience of East Asian development in the
post-war period, which broke the orthodox perceptions about
the hegemonic relationship between imperialism and
Was the East
Asian crisis unique? The book has the answer. Situations which
occurred in Mexico(1994-95), Russia(1998) and Brazil(1999)
have also been discussed. In all these countries, short-term
debt caused a sudden loss of investor confidence triggering
currency instability. As a major global fallout of these
crises, the Bretton Woods institutions moved to centrestage
and their role in the age of financial globalisation became a
hot topic at economic discussions.
concluding chapter discusses the policy implications for
India. The authors suggest that economic strategy should not
be directed towards keeping investors happy, but also at
insulating the system from external shocks and checking a
slump in export growth. Also, they recommend that India should
not contemplate any further liberalisation of its exchange
rate regime to avoid a similar situation in the country.
The book offers a
comprehensive account of the crisis which the East Asian
countries faced and their eventual recovery. The global
fallout of the crisis, the role of the Bretton Woods twins in
the age of financial liberalisation and precautionary measures
India should take have also been discussed in detail.
Importantly, the book is written in a jargon-free, simple
language. Those who want to be aware of the changing equations
in the age of financial liberalisation, should grab a copy.
Favouring a third
front in literary criticism
Review by Satya Pal
of two recent works of literary criticism in Hindi — namely,
Parma Nand Srivastava and Arun Kamal — have more than one
thing in common. Both of them write poetry, belong to the
progressive school of Hindi literature, are admirers of each
other, and, naturally, indulge in the evaluation of Hindi
poetry. Parma Nand Srivastava who is a Professor Emiritus in
Hindi, edits "Alochana", a reputed quarterly in
Hindi, which has started publishing again after a gap of 10
years. "Nai Kavita ka Priprekshaya" ( Perspectives
on New Poetry, 1965), Srivastava’s first book of criticism,
was quite well received. He created a niche for himself in
Hindi criticism over the years by a crisp expression and some
good insights, through a series of well-done books on Hindi
poetry and novel. "Kavita ka Arthat" (Adhar,
Panchkula, 1999), his latest book on contemporary Hindi
poetry, was long due and eagerly awaited.
fulfills aspirations aroused about it only partially . There
has been major shifts in poetic sensibility and form in last
20 years. Arguably, these have neither been defined nor
understood in a proper manner. Srivastava’s book helps in
this regard but indirectly. It does draw certain contours of
the period, like the rise of prose-poetry, increased activity
by women poets, neo-mannerisms in younger poets and the
shrinking of the reading public in the Hindi belt. To
Srivastava, arthat in a kavita means rootedness of the poem in
present history. Obviousaly, his reflections on Hindi poetry
are in the context of the present times. In fact, he
recognises poetry as being part of the present.
presumption shows serious limitations. It comes out to be more
of a stance than a fully developed system of thought. The
final picture which his book conjures up of the present-day
Hindi poetry is one of the achievement of the individual poets
and not of a general trend. The complete map of the emerging
new world of Hindi poetry does not lake shape. Instead, "Kavita
ka Arthat" offers us elaborate studies of major
contemporary Hindi poets. From Kedar Nath Singh to Manglesh
Dabral to Arun Kamal and Rajesh Joshi. The complete list of
poets is quite exhaustive. It incorporates poets like Ashok
Vajpayee, Vinod Kumar Shukla, Ritu Raj and Gyanendra Pati. Add
to this some stalwarts like the late Nagarjuna, Shamsher
Bahadur Singh and Raghuvir Sahay. Also great Urdu poet Firaq
Gorakhpuri. Poetry of Kunwar Narayana, the elderly figure from
the Nai Kavita movement of the sixties has also been dwelt
The poet who
stands out as the father figure among the poets discussed in
the book, past and present, is none other than Suraya Kant
Tripathi Nirala . In one of the better essays in the book
"Varjanaon ke Vajar Dwar par Dastak" (knocking at
the difficult doors of inhibitions), through some good
research and interesting logic Parma Nand Srivastava tries to
explain the deep effect Nirala had on most of later poets,
including Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh, himself a doyen of
post-independence Hindi poetry. Srivastava takes pains to
construct his thesis on how Nirala’s tradition runs through
the succeeding generations of Hindi poets. He quotes Kedar
Nath Singh who opines: "Nirala’s poetry is a challenge
to any upcoming poet."
It is here
that the main project of the book betrays itself — locating
contemporary Hindi poetry within a tradition. This means
either modelling on earlier writers or using earlier poetic
tools and strategies. Inadvertanly, one of the major dialemma
of present Hindi criticism comes alive! How to speak
authentically on present Hindi poetry? Except for Sudhish
Pachouri, a Delhi-based Hindi critic, no one else has tried to
find an explanation for the development of recent Hindi poetry
in its own terms. Namvar Singh, author of "Kavita ke Naye
Pratiman" (New canons of poetry), a post-independence
classic of Hindi criticism, has shown no interest in the
issue. Not in writing at least!
collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an eerie silence
in Hindi literary criticism. It is no coincidence but no
organised movement is discernible in Hindi poetry for quite
some time. No new manifestos! No new poetry journals! Mind
you, there is a lot of activity otherwise! In the history of
modern Hindi poetry, no other period has seen publication of
so much of poetry, that too in the form of anthologies.
However, the criticism this extraordinary upsurge of poetry
attracted is mostly in the form of reviews or miscellaneous
comments. Parma Nand Srivastava’s book brings relatively
lengthy studies of main Hindi poets, except for the last two
chapters. These chapters centre on the younger generation of
Hindi poets and strive for generalities. One of these chapters
is sub-titled, "Yuva Kavita par ek Adhoori Tippani".
The other one is in the form of a diary, written off and on,
full of inquisitiveness. These chapters help the writer in his
difficult task of providing the book a larger theme. They
offer food for thought to the reader who is a close observer
of the writings of younger poets.
ka Arthat" is dedicated to Shamsher Bahadur Singh,
Nagarjuna and Raghuvir Sahay. On the face of it, this
dedication is also personal, like any other. But history may
also act behind dedications. Consider this dedication while
you read Arun Kamal’s "Kavita aur Samay" which has
three full essays on Raghuvir Sahay’s contribution to Hindi
literature. Sahay, who is regarded as another trend-setter in
Hindi poetry after Muktibodh was a socialist thinker like of
Ram Manohar Lohia. If he is reckoned within the progressive
fold, the change has occurred due to the inspirational effect
of Sahay on poets of last two decades. The dedication by
Srivastava formalises this. Evidently, there is a lot more
space now inside progresive literary criticism. This
development is understood better when we hear young critics
like Purushotam Aggarwal talking of a third front in literary
criticism and bringing out "Teesra Rukh" (Vani,
Delhi). Srivastava echoes the same views when he says,
"There should be a third grouping of poetry."
Is it because
of this perestroica in ideological positions that poets like
Ashok Vajpayee, considered a war-hero of the so-called
formalists in Hindi literature, find a positive mention in a
full chapter? The same can also be true of the chapter on
Vinod Kumar Shukla, a poet of predominently social themes, but
not finding much favour with established progressive
criticism, presumably because of his experimentation in poetic
diction. And also for the chapter on Kunwar Narayana who is
generally associated with "nai kavita andolan"!
ka Arthat’ suggests that the much talked about ideological
regimentation in Hindi criticism is now a myth. Arun Kamal’s
"Kavita aur Samay" provides support to the above
aur Samay" (Vani, Delhi,1999) samay has been understood
not as time but present history. Like Srivastava, Arun has
also expressed his faith in the current times. A Sahitaya
Akademi Award winner for poetry, Arun looks quite prosaic in
the title of the book. A teacher in English in the University
of Patna, Arun Kamal is understandably concerned more with his
image as a poet than as a critic. Arun tells, in the preface
of the book, how many of his friends (detractors?) wanted him
to publish his critical writings so that he was the victim of
criticism and driven out of the realm of poetry. Jokingly he
informs that he is good at both — poetry and criticism.
And he is
really that, particularly when he writes in the first person.
For example, take the chapter "Parchoon" (grocery).
This chapter, at the fag end of the book, brings out the best
of Arun as a critic. This chapter contains notes on poetry
which he prefers to call "rash writing". Broadly
speaking, these notes are experiences of a poet with his
medium. Some of these are quite revealing from the standpoint
of a modern poet. Like, "Metre increses the longevity of
the poet and poetry ... The horizontal growth of poetry is
made circular by the metre.... To write in a metre is like
residing in a joint family." (Arun himself writes in free
verse though in his latest anthology he dabbles in new
rhythmic patterns.) Sounding caution, he adds: "Merely
writing in a metre does not necessarily make somebody a poet
as nobody is an entrepreneur by just inheriting ancestral
property. Creation is achieved only through one’s own
his cryptic observation: " Writing continuously is only
possible with the writer’s belief in his re-birth i.e. his
life as a writer after he is physically gone!" In the
same chapter he observes how the image of a writer as a public
figure can have detrimental effect on his work." In his
own words: "Writing is possible by remaning a scoundrel
but not by donning the usual dignitary image wearing
kurta-pyjama-jacket. Darkness and seclusion are necessary for
theft, debauchery and creation." On the pessimistic
feelings so prevalent in poetry, Arun has this to say:
"Feelings of hopelessness are always accompanied with
some wisdom. On the contrary, hope is generally filled with
"grocery" has a few practical, theoretical and
philosophical insights into writing poetry. It also brings out
the freedom which all true poets like to cherish inspite of
the difference between ideological bearings . In Arun Kamal,
this sense of freedom has its imprint on his diction. The
lucidity, the rootedness of the language in the spontaneous
and mundane themes, the presence of simplicity when the writer
puts forward a logic — all this have that impregnable touch
of freedom. Because of this sense of freedom, Arun speaks his
heart out on Ashok Vajpayee’s poetry. The following
certificate given by Arun Kamal to Ashok Vajpayee may surprise
many readers: " I have no hesitation in saying that the
book ‘Samay se Bahar’ is no manifesto of art for art’s
sake. Instead, it is a subtle and significant analysis of the
relationship that art, life and present society have between
the claims poet Arun Kamal makes about having no particular
plans for his incursions into criticism and that these were
the pressures from various quarters which made him take up
literary criticism, his book has literary sociology of Hindi
acting upon it. The inclusion of Raghuvir Sahay into the
progressive fold has already been discussed. "Raghuvir
Sahay aur Malyaz ka Alochana Karam", one of the three
essays Arun has written on Raghuvir Sahay, is brilliant in its
analysis of Sahay’s intellectual moorings. Pointing out
Sahay’s ideological inconsistencies, Arun underscores Sahay’s
larger human and literary concerns. He quotes Sahay: "For
a poet to write truthfully, it is essential that the people
hear his words."
Arun also has
three short essays on Nirala. He is in tune with Srivastava
when he tells: "Contemporary Hindi poetry has a
fundamental relationship with Nirala." He also evolves
some kind of a logical framework to elaborate how many of the
trends in contemporary Hindi poetry have roots in the poetry
of Nirala. (It is worth mentioning that some Dalit writers in
Hindi are up in arms against Nirala). For Arun, Nirala is a
poet of the totality of life.
also deals with the poetry of Nagarjuna, Trilochan, Shamsher
and Kedar Nath Singh. So did Srivastava. Arun makes a
significant addition to his list. It is Srikant Verma, the
celebrated Hindi poet of "Magadha" and once a
powerful politician — the general secretary of the Congress
and a close confidant of Indira Gandhi. Reading Verma with
sympathy and empathy, Arun concludes that Verma’s poetry
points towards the third way for Hindi poets and poets of
today have chosen that way for themselves. Meanwhile, Arun
raises certain basic questions regarding the relationship
between the poet’s personal life and his poetic output.
"Magadh" is a requiem on a dying power structure and
the poet who penned it was its spokesperson, once!
aur Samay" we find an essay on our own Kumar Vikal:
"Bhai Kumar Vikal ki Kavita aur Raat ka Antim Kaam"
Admittedly, this is a rare piece of writing on Kumar written
with tremendous affection and respect. To Arun, the
distinction of Kumar’s poetry lies in its hypnotic effect,
as if one is looking down into a deep well. A rare kind of
honesty present in Kumar Vikal’s poetry is as much personal
as it is social and political .
Going through these two
significant books of Hindi criticism one comes to know the
critical preoccupations of Hindi literary public better. It is
the tradition of the past beaing searched in the present.
Critics like Sudhish Pachouri and Madan Soni would rather
prefer newer methodology of deconstruction but they are on the
fringe. Still, undercurrents of political realignment are
note- worthy, surfacing in phrases like "third
grouping" or "third way". Grand formulations
are missing. It is a typical post-modernist characteristic,
though as a thought structure post-modernism does not find
much favour in mainstream Hindi criticism. It is apprehensive
of the politics of post-modernism.
funding of varsities
Review by S.P. Dhawan
of Universities by G.S. Bhalla. Sharma Publications, Amritsar.
Pages 221. Rs 250.
all civilised societies, universities symbolise excellence in
higher education. They play a pivotal role in the development
of human resources by imparting instructions even beyond the
doctoral level, by conducting examinations in affiliated
colleges by exercising a tight control over the academic
activities and by undertaking research in a large number of
disciplines. Moreover, universities are also expected to
inculcate and develop the highest values of nationalism,
universalism, liberalism, integrity and ethics and thus bring
out the finest in human beings and motivate them to strive for
universities are to fulfil these objectives, they obviously
need the support of society in various ways, the most
significant of these being financial support. The study under
review addresses itself to this aspect by focussing on the
ways our universities receive and generate financial resources
and how they spend the money at their disposal. G.S. Bhalla, a
senior member of the faculty of Guru Nanak Dev University,
Amritsar, has based his investigation chiefly on the facts and
figures relating to two universities — namely, Guru Nanak
Dev University, Amritsar and Punjabi University, Patiala. But
the conclusions he arrives at and the suggestions he offers
can serve as the guidelines for evolving better ways of
financial management of our universities in general.
concentrates, in particular, on a comparative analysis of the
pattern of expenditure in the two universities with emphasis
on the analysis of library expenditure, examination
expenditure, expenditure on general administration,
expenditure on teaching in various departments, coupled with a
study of the sources of income. This makes for elucidation of
the results being achieved so far and the understanding of the
manner in which these funds could be utilised for better
The study is
primarily based on secondary data gathered from the annual
budget estimates and annual reports by the universities,
minutes of the meetings of various bodies of the universities,
the report of the University Grants Commission, information
bulletins of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development
and the statistical abstract of Punjab — the material being
chosen for a period of 10 years from 1982-83 to 1991-92. The
patterns of revenue receipts and expenditure incurred in both
cases, recurring and non-recurring types being carefully
scrutinised, provide an interesting and informative insight
into the working of our universities. Government assistance
comes in the shape of grants from the UGC and the state
government whereas non-governmental receipts mainly come from
examination fees, tuition fees, registration/certificate, etc.
On the other side, the major components of university
expenditure are on teaching departments, general
administration, library, conduct of examinations and
improvement of education.
nature of Bhalla’s study is reflected in the way he delves
deep into various sectors. An example is while examining the
library expenditure, he undertakes a detailed analysis of the
following aspects: comparison of revenue receipts and
expenditure of the library as a proportion of different
library expenses such as the ones for books, periodicals,
journals, rare manuscripts and miscellaneous expenses; library
expenditure per member on the items listed above, and physical
facilities available per member in the library; salaries and
the extablishment expenses.
steps suggested to tone up the financial health of
universities are a radical change in the concept of budgeting
by linking budget estimates to outputs rather than inputs,
downsizing the establishment, computerisation of offices, a
close liaison with industrial houses in the region so as to
provide consultancy services and a greater provision of
sponsored seats for the NRIs, running distance education
courses which usually generate considerable income and the
setting up of shopping complexes along the boundary wall of
interesting section of the study is devoted to the history of
the growth of education and its financing from the earliest to
the modern times. The ashrams of the gurus in the Vedic
period, the viharas or monasteries in the Buddhist
period, the shaping of these viharas with universities
like Taxila, Nalanda and Valbhi, the maktabs and the madarassas
of the Muslim period, the setting up of institutes of
higher learning by Mughal emperors like Babar, Humayun,
Jahangir and Akbar, and the establishment of modern
universities at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Lahore and other
centres by the British colonialists are some important
landmarks in the growth of education in this country. The
post-independence period has witnessed a phenomenal growth in
the number of universities — the present number being close
To probe the
working of these universities and to recommend concrete steps
for their improvement, a number of committees and commissions
have been set up from time to time. The Radhakrishnan
Committee in 1948 stressed to need for improving the pay
scales of teachers, vocationalisation of education, the
setting up of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the
inclusion of education in the Concurrent List. The Mudaliar
Commission, 1952, advocated the introduction of the three-year
degree course. The Kothari Commission report in 1966
emphasised on higher education, especially teaching of science
and technology. The Gajendragadkar Committee supported the
autonomy of universities.
Of course, autonomy in the
complete sense of the term has eluded our universities, as
these largely depend on direct and indirect grants of the
governments, and the politicians continue to interfere in
matters of appointments and selections of teachers. Another
cause for concern is improper use of the meagre resources in
constructing and furnishing buildings such as guest houses and
holiday homes at a very high cost and thus the universities
appear to be out of harmony with the general conditions of the
masses. Such aspects should have received greater attention in
the book under review.
The first woman-hater
in modern times
Review by Bhupinder Singh
Weininger: Sex, Science and Self in Imperial Vienna by Chandak
Dasgoopta. The Chicago University Press, Chicago. Pages 239.
(including endnotes, selected bibliography and index). Price
Sengoopta is a Wellcome Research Lecturer in the History of
Medicine at the University of Manchester. The book under
review is a revised version of his doctoral dissertation
submitted to the Johns Hopkins University in 1996.
I am not sure
about the West, but Otto Weininger is little known in India,
where academics are apt to react in puzzlement at the mention
of his name. I guess Dr Sengoopta began to interest himself in
Weininger and the fin-de-seicle Vienna only during his
stay at Cornell University (1988-90) or perhaps later at the
Johns Hopkins University (1990-96) in the United States.
imperative for me to briefly introduce Otto Weininger to the
reader before turning to Sengoopta’s scholarly monograph.
Weininger was a young Jewish philosopher who became famous or
infamous (i) for his extreme views against women and Jews and
(ii) for his dramatic suicide in Beethoven House at the age of
23 for undisclosed reasons.
born (1880) and educated in imperial Vienna. He was a
brilliant student in the Gymnasium. At 18, he knew Greek and
Latin as well as a number of modern European languages. In
1889, writes Sengoopta, Otto enrolled at the philosophical
faculty of the University of Vienna. The curriculum vitac
appended to his dissertation shows that his intellectual
interests, although diverse, tended to revolve around
philosophy and psychology. He attended lectures on logic,
experimental psychology, pedagogy and the history of
philosophy, the most important courses of which were taught by
the renowned positivist philosopher Friedrich Jodl and his
colleague Laurenz Mullner, who would later be Weininger’s
full advantage of the flexibility of the German university
system, he also attended the lectures of some well-known
professors on mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany and
zoology, anatomy, physiology, histology, embryology, neurology
completed his doctoral dissertation in 1902. The dissertation
called "Geschlecht und Charakter: Eine Biologische und
Pschologische" (Sex and Character: A biological and
psychological investigation) was based on two outlines
"Eros and psycho" and "Zur theorie des lebens"
(On the theory of life) earlier deposited by the author with
the Viennese Academy of Sciences. Before he shot himself in
1903, Weininger had revised and published his thesis, and also
converted to Protestantism to symbolically affirm his
allegiance to "the spiritual nation of Kant".
was a major influence on him in philosophy and in psychology;
others were Goethe, Schopenhauer, Neitzsche and Dilthey. In
his intellectual itinerary, Weininger moved from critical
positivism to anti-positivism with the two strands
successively reflected in the biological and psychological
parts of his book.
suicide together with his misogynist and anti-Semitic book
"Geschlecht and Charakter: Eine Prinzipielle Untersuchung"
(or Sex and character: An investigation of principles) created
a sensation in Viennese and, more generally, European
intellectual and cultural circles. Sengoopta quotes Ford Madox
Ford as follows: "In the men’s clubs in England and in
the cafes of France and Germany, one began to hear singular
mutterings amongst men... The idea was that a new gospel had
appeared. I remember sitting with a tableful of overbearing
intgellectuals in that year, and they at once began to talk
— about Weininger. It gave me a singular feeling because
they all talked under their breath."
Sengoopta adds, "In Central Europe, however, few
intellectuals referred to Weininger under their breath: their
response to ‘Geschlecht und Charakter’ was open,
enthusiastic, and loudly expressed..."
Weininger’s admirers were such luminaries as Strindberg,
Karl Kraus, Wittgenstein, Joyce and Kafka. Even Freud, who was
otherwise not very well disposed towards Weininger or his
theories, agreed that he had "a touch of genius."
But Weininger had his detractors as well. It was to be
expected, given the provocative, almost inflammatory, nature
of his book.
did "Geschlecht und Charakter" proclaim? The book
was deeply polemical. It addressed the woman question
lambasting modernity and women’s emancipation in the
process. Weininger argued that the character of human beings
varied with their sex and that the character of women was such
that they did not deserve either equality with men or liberty.
said Weininger, "humans were bisexual down to their
cells, but psychologically they somehow polarised into men and
women. Thus every human being was both male and female at one
level (biological) but either man or woman at another
(psychological level)." Weininger tried to overcome the
inconsistency in his argument by contending that his man and
woman, like many of his other concepts, were only ideal types,
but apparently he did not succeed. For, in actuality, he
reified his constructs equating them with empirical reality.
How did the
two psychological types, man and woman, contrast? According to
Weininger, woman lacked soul or rational and moral self. She
was not immoral or illogical, but only amoral and alogical.
Sexualtiy was the essence of her being, whether as mother
(coitus for progency) or as prostitute (coitus for pleasure),
and if she denied her sexual nature out of servility to man,
she was liable to become hysteric. Weininger distinguished
between the maid and the shrew as sub-types of woman
signifying respectively high and low vulnerability to
hysteria. A subsidiary thesis in "Geschlecht and
Charakter" — that the Jews had much in common with
women — joined Weininger’s mosogyny to his anti-Semitism.
On the other
side, man, who was only partly sexual, had logic and morals as
well as individuality and autonomy on his side. In his perfect
state, man became genius — the microcosm reflecting the
macrocosm. "Woman was wholly passive, did not posses an
intelligible self and had no conception of logic and ethics.
All the qualities lacking in woman were found in man, the
active, autonomous being created in the image of god. The
essence of feminity was sexuality alone. But since this
sexuality was universal and indiscriminate, the female could
never be an autonomous subject." Woman is nothing. Man,
on the other hand, was the complete, autonomous subject, the
male psyche a microcosmic quality akin to genius: part of it
could even be female. The female, however, could never be
psychologically male, although some woman may possess
masculine traits. The ideal type of woman had much in common
with Weininger’s ideal type of the Jew, and without
completely equating the two, their correspondences were
emphasised (Sengoopta, page 67).
The spirit of
the woman and the Jew, declared Weininger, ruled the modern
epoch resulting in political anarchy, coitus culture,
materialistic science, communism (but no socialism) and other
pathologies. What could be done to transform woman into man,
or the Jew into an Aryan? Humans, both men and women, would
have to transcend sexuality even if it meant the extinction to
In the words
of Sengoopta, "Since, however, woman was exclusively a
passive sexual object, she could be elevated to subjecthood
and full humanity only by the negation of sexuality itself.
Man and woman must, therefore, transcend their sexuality and
live in total chastity. Only then could women be emancipated
from their sexual bondage to men and treated as free and equal
individuals". (page 67)
briefly introduced, subject to limitations, Otto Weininger’s
life and work so as to enable the reader to appreciate the
problematics of Sengoopta’s book. Indeed, the introduction
is based exclusively on Sengoopta’s account, although I have
access to the English translation of Weininger’s "Geschlecht
und Charakter" (Sex and character" Heinemann,
purpose of Otto Weininger: "Sex, science and self in
imperial Vienna" is to examine the structure and
conjuncture, or the semantics and pragmatics of Weininger’s
text in their mutual relationship. "Put another
way," says Sengoopta, "I disassemble ‘Geschlecht
und Charakter’ and reassemble it within its many contexts:
biographical, intellectual, scientific, medical, cultural, and
ideological." (page 12)
exposition progresses, in the first three chapters, from
Weininger’s eclectic and broad education through his worlds
resounding with debates over the nature of self, gender and
Jewishness to the structure, harmonies and contradictions of
"Geschlecht und Charakter". The next four chapters
closely examine the nature and sources of Weininger’s
specific theories of human bisexuality, homosexuality,
hysteria and motherhood. These substantive chapters are
sandwiched between an indispensable "Introduction",
on one side, and "Responses to Weininger", on the
other, the latter describing how Weininger has been received
by philosophers, scientists, litterateurs, feminists and
obviously not possible for me to reproduce, even in a summary
form, the details of each of the nine chapters listed above,
but I can briefly delineate Sengoopta’s overall conclusion.
He finds that, in the ultimate analysis, Weininger’s was not
a scientific but an "ideological critique of modernity in
general and women’s emancipation in particular".
Weininger only used science or scientific discourse for
political ends, that is, in the service of his misogyny and
anti-Semitism. But then his ideological prejudices were not
idiosyncratic but rooted in his age. "It is thus
essential," concludes Sengoopta, "that we see ‘Geschlecht
und Charakter’ as a melange of science, bigotry, philosophy,
personal anxiety, and cultural politics."
contextual and intertextual deconstruction of "Geschlecht
und Charakter" is certainly illuminating, even if I am
unable to see how one could separate facts and values in
science, or any other field of knowledge. It is possible to
imagine Weininger countercharging Sengoopta with scientism and
the cultural prejudices of the "vaginal epoch".
Weininger erred not in bringing together science and ideology,
but in believing that gender differences, as he understood
them, were based in nature than in a dialectic between nature
and history. One wishes Weininger had access to
anthropological (such as Margaret Mead’s well-known
"Sex and temperament in three primitive tibes") to
disabuse him of his ontological blas.
Sengoopta has not considered at all the influence that Goethe’s
science of forms might have had on Weininger generally or in
his abrupt and mysterious transition from positivism to
anti-positivism as manifested in the two parts of "Geschlecht
und Charakter". It is an important neglect, given
Weininger’s specific invocation of Goethe’s theory of
colours in defence of his epistemology (Sengoopta, page 133).
All in all, Sengoopta’s
erudite and extensively documented work is an outstanding
piece of research and should serve as a model to Indian
researchers at all levels.