high and powerful during a war
Review by N.K. Pant
Air Power in the
by Air Cmde N.B. Singh (retd), Manas Publications, New Delhi. Pages
284. Rs 595.
said Clauswitz in his often quoted words, "is continuation of
politics by other means." And to achieve the ultimate victory in
today’s war, the air power is the modern military technology’s
real cutting edge. Air power since its advent in the early years of
the 20th century, has made it possible to hit directly at the
political, economic and military nerve centres of the opponent causing
The combat aircraft’s
speed, reach, surprise element, firepower and flexibility has made it
a dominant and decisive instrument in the conduct of warfare.
Air Commodore NB
Singh (retd) in his book "Air Power in the New Millennium"
has dealt with the subject with the similar brilliance and ease which
he had exhibited in flying fighter planes while participating in air
campaigns ranging from the World War II to 1971 war with Pakistan
during his more than three decades of career in the Indian Air Force.
The book, as Air Chief Marshal S.K. Sareen brings out in his forword,
has " benefited from his varied experience, analytical approach
and critical insight" on the subject of military aviation on
which till now restricted literature is available in India.
The first use of
aircraft in combat was made during the World War I (1914-18). During
that period, air forces were used mainly in support of the army and
artillery observation and tactical close support missions. The
during this great war "led the major powers to critically examine
and conceptualise the role air power could play in the future."
The World War II saw
air power emerging as the dominant force in a
warfare. The author considers the Battle of Britain, the bomber
Germany and Japan, the air war over the Atlantic against the
German U-boats, the
German air-borne invasion of Crete, the employment of air
power in the western
desert in support of ground forces during the North African
campaign and the
airborne and sea-borne invasion of Europe in 1944 ending with
atomic bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as important landmarks in the
evolution of air
For his in-depth
analysis, Air Cmde Singh has selected the 1973 Arab-Israeli War which
was the first conflict in the modern history of warfare wherein new
technology weapons like guided missiles, electronic warfare systems
and space-based satellite communication and surveillance were deployed
intensively, Likewise, the Gulf War of 1991 which demonstrated the
impact of modern air power on the outcome of war — total victory
with minimum losses, has been given a detailed treatment in the book..
The last chapter of
the book deals with the relevance of modern air power to meet threats
to India’s security. The air arm, especially the transport aircraft,
played a vital role in helping the army in Jammu and Kashmir during
the first Indo-Pak conflict in 1947-48. In the Sino-Indian conflict of
1962, the IAF transport and helicopter fleet provided communication
and logistic support to the army whenever possible in remote areas of
Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
attacked India in 1965, the IAF plunged into action with offensive
close air support to ground troops besides carrying out strategic
bombings deep inside Pakistan, reconnaissance and air defence tasks.
The air operations of
1971 Bangladesh liberation war were well planned and th IAF retained
the initiative throughout the campaign. While in the eastern sector
Indian airmen gained
complete air superiority within 48 hours, in the western sector
both the air forces
remained on the defensive after the first few days of operations
against counter air
targets like fighter air bases and radar stations.
The author also
briefly touches upon the Kargil air operations in which the IAF was
deployed to attack enemy-held positions on hill tops. Without the use
of air power, it would have taken a much longer time to evict the
Pakistani intruders with much higher casualities.
The book deftly marshals the growth
and maturing of air power during the 20th century. It has not only
been a major revolution in the art and conduct of warfare but has also
has become a vital part of all military elements of a state. It would
be in India’s national interest to maintain a comparative
technological advantage in the sphere of air delivery platforms and
weaponry. Suitable doctrines, organisation, command and control
structure will have to be in place in order to avail maximum advantage
from the air and aerospace power in the nuclear backdrop.
Pandits and their pain
Review by Harbans
Pandits: Looking to the Future
edited by M.K. Kaw, S. Bhatt, B.B. Dhar, A.N. Kaul and Gita
Bamzai. APH Publishing, Delhi. Pages 296. Rs 500.
must confess that the political impact of the turmoil in
Kashmir during the past decade has to a certain extent dwarfed
a tragedy which otherwise should have weighed heavily on the
conscience of mankind. It is sad indeed that the forced exodus
of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley has not only not
provoked the international community to act, but has been
played down in the country in the face of secular stakes for
leading political parties.
mercifully, is not just an attempt to sensitise the
consciousness of fellow citizens to the event; it is but an
attempt to reconcile with the present and prepare a road map
to future without losing sight of history which has brought
the Kashmiri Pandits to the present plight. The emphasis on
the past is understandably heavy and is born out of the fear
of losing identity in some distant future.
An outcome of
a national seminar conducted by the Kashmir Education, Culture
and Science Society, the various papers are on various levels
of Kashmiri consciousness.
They dwell on
the making of the Kashmiri Pandits, trace their history and
bring out their contributions not only to sanatan dharma but
also Buddhism and Sufism. Barring a few weak attempts to
portray a history which has been kind to them, most of the
contributors have been candid in tracing the systematic and
never ending decimation of the Kashmiri Pandits.
in a repetition of what happened during the reign of terror of
Sultan Sikander the Butshikan during the 14th century, when
the valley has no Pandits, it is essential for them to know
and remember their heritage and history. This may not help
them to regain the paradise but it would be a factor in
motivating them to excel in their chosen fields, as they have
done in the past.
of nature notwithstanding, the history of Kashmir has been a
curious mixture of long periods of creativity and intermittent
but devastating periods of religious vandalism. It is amazing,
indeed, as to how this community survived to tell the tale. Dr
S.S. Toshkhani’s paper is blunt in exposing the myth of
peaceful propagation of Islam, and debunks the concept of
Kashmiriyat as a concept coined to make Muslim separatism more
acceptable and respectable.
In fact, he
points out with some justification that the cultural character
of Kashmir started changing with the supposedly great king
Lulbadshah, Zainul-Abidin’s reign, when he made Kashmir a
cultural colony of West Asia. His royal patronage to the art
and artists of an alien land damaged indigenous arts and
crafts and eroded the Kashmiri identity.
their effort to make the right kind of noises to maintain
harmony with the vast majority, the learned men have begun to
question even Sufism in general and the Rishi cult in
particular. While Nund Rishi might be a symbol of all that is
best to have emerged from the fusion of Islam and Hinduism,
some have started wondering if Sufism was not a midway halt in
a one-way traffic to the Islamisation of the valley. It has
been pointed out that all leading disciples of Nund Rishi were
not only Pandits but one of them was an ardent practitioner of
Shaivism. The Rishi cult grew so as to present the benign face
of Islam, they seem to say.
him is Prof K. Warikoo who not only recounts the barbaric
manner in which conversions were made over a sustained period,
but also the myth created during the first half of the 20th
century that the Pandits were rich landed aristocrats during
the Dogra rule. Chaman Lal Gadoo rightly feels that the golden
period in recent history of Pandits spanned the 128- year-rule
of Sikhs and the Dogras, during which they not only practised
their own faith the way they liked but also spread to various
parts of the country where they occupied high positions by
virtue of their learning and proficiency in ancient and modern
At the other
end of the spectrum stands Prof S.L. Pandit, whose response to
the past is tempered with the need to maintain correct
relations with the majority in the valley. He tries to
painstakingly underplay the role of Sultan Sikander the
Butshikan in destroying the Hindu and Buddhist Kashmir and
converting it to Islam.
seems to justify the conversions as an event waiting to happen
in the post-Buddhist, post-Shankara period. Like many others,
he finds the rule of Lulbadshah Zainul-Abidin as benign and
tolerant, not wondering if the greatness and tolerance were
because of the comparative ruthless and intolerant rule of
scars of the past continue to be raw and painful for many,
there are others like S.N. Bhatt "Haleem", Prof
Nirja Mattoo and M.L. Bhatt and Shafaq Bharati who prefer to
dwell on the higher planes of life to find reason and
motivation to survive and excel wherever they might be. One
thing is certain that no matter what the state of physical
being, the collective consciousness and the richness of the
spirit that a Kashmiri Pandit inherits is a well of wisdom and
knowledge which helps him lead a rich and fulfilling life.
interesting to note that only a handful of them dream of
reclaiming the land of their ancestors. Though yearning for
it, they know that their place in the modern context is too
narrow to help them regain the full expression of their
talent. It has been so for quite some time and that is why as
individuals and units, the Kashmiri Pandits had been moving to
distant lands in search of not only security but also better
employment opportunities. Some talk of a homeland of their
own, but do they really believe that in the present context
that would be feasible, or help develop a composite Kashmiri
culture, which again is at variance with the values they
cherish so passionately? And when and if it does happen, would
the generation be content to living in the lap of benign
nature, knowing fully well that the rest of the world is in a
hurry to pass them by?
It is in this
context that one reads in disbelief the hope of M.K. Kaw,
President of Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society
and at present education secretary to the Government of India.
He says in his keynote address, "I can see that one day
Kashmir will be a Hindu majority state as in old times.
How this will
be brought about I cannot say. India cannot have peace in
Kashmir if it is not a Hindu majority state. I feel that some
day, some party in Delhi will wake up and do what ought to
have been done in 1947. We should work for the achievement of
The book is a disjointed
history of Kashmir and its culture. Though priced very high,
it does help in understanding not only the community and life
of the Kashmiri Pandits but also their pain and anguish at the
injustice of having to become victims of continued persecution
although they have done so much to enrich life.
primer on mass communication
by Gobind Thukral
Journalism and Mass Communication
by Vir Bala Aggarwal and V.S. Gupta. Concept Publishing, New
Delhi. Pages 474. Rs. 180.
than three decades ago as a student of mass communication and
journalism; I had the privilege of being taught by a teacher
who had set up the first school for journalism in the country
at Lahore. But the problem with the aging teacher was that he
could dictate mostly from his written notes. These were so old
that even the paper had yellowed and become brittle. Now there
is a large number of textbooks on mass communication and
journalism; devoted to every aspect of the course such as mass
communication, print media, electronic media, media ownership
and management, public relations and advertising, ethics and
now, of course, the Internet and instant journalism.
followed the pattern set by British or American universities.
Some of the books still come from foreign universities. In
Indian books, the information and case studies are related to
this country. Right now more than 60 universities or
institutions offer a regular course, mostly at the
the requirements of students are never fully met. Hence any
effort by professional journalists or by experienced teachers
is welcome. Here are two well-known teachers trying to fill
the gap with a new book. It is a useful handbook that takes
care of mass communication, its origin and development, media
and communication, print media that includes the study of
several laws concerning press and electronic media. Patterns
of management and forms of ownership are discussed in a
separate chapter as are other subjects like public relations,
advertising and the related issues. The annexures and the
glossary provide vital information like the Press Council of
India’s guidelines, media’s coverage of communal issues
and flare-ups, ethical code for financial journalists,
international code of ethics, broadcasting code and the Times
of India code of ethics and several other codes.
contains useful information in one volume, helpful to
students. But teachers who do take pains to teach students
what mass media and journalism are would not be satisfied with
the basic information. While describing the different kinds of
ownership, an in-depth discussion is missing. There should
have been a more meaningful discussion when big business
houses own newspapers, news magazines, TV or radio stations.
How they monopolise information and tailor it to suit their
business interests! Or, how the advertisers with heavy budgets
influence the readers, listeners or viewers, not only to buy
their products, but also how they should be voting and what
political opinions they should hold.
advertisers and owners act as censors and filters.
Inconvenient journalists are not liked and are eased out.
Also, there is need to discuss the ownership pattern and what
the best alternatives available are. These could be like The
Tribune Trust or the BBC’s public broadcasting system funded
by the state or private multinational ownership like that of
Rupert Murdoch’s media empire across the globe. Budding
journalists should know more and in detail.
In short, the
political economy of the media should be discussed in detail
in the class rooms. So that when students land in newspaper
offices or at TV or radio stations, they should have their
eyes wide open and their mental faculties sharp enough to
discern what is happening around.
media is no longer seen as the purveyor of undoctored
information and fair comment. There is increasing apprehension
that idealism and liberalism are deserting the profession. TV
and print journalists are impatient and unload pre-cooked and
packaged news and views. Consumer culture and trivial issues
seem to dominate. Those who saw the live coverage of the Agra
summit would have seen the sameness and emptiness. The viewers
were left with little insight. A dialogue between the
communicator and the object is now being missed.
exercises vast power and its reach in this information age
when everyday when there is some technological breakthrough
increases its reach and scope is tremendous. The print media
— that is, newspapers, magazines and journals — continues
to exercise vast influence while radio has brought speed and
increased its scope by crossing national boundaries.
Television has added an entirely new dimension through visual
and speedy presentation of news and views. Its visual impact
could be best gauged by how the two major wars, the Vietnam
war from 1970 to 1975 and the Gulf war in 1991 were really
fought on the television screen in the drawing rooms.
considered a pillar of democracy. In theory the media stands
for equality and social justice and should be deeply concerned
with discovering the truth and offer the people information
and knowledge. We really cannot think of the industrial age
and democracy without the enlightening role of the media.
Hence and importance of teachers of journalism and books on
But all this does not mean
that the handbook is not a useful attempt. It is. It shall
certainly help students get a lot of information in one book.
Mrs Aggarwal who heads the department of mass communication at
the Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, surely knows the need
of the students and hence this handbook. The co-author who
retired from Hisar, has made his own useful contribution.
Did Ambedkar have a
Review by Lalit
writes from Gurgaon
the publication of Arun Shourie’s scathing critique of
Babasaheb Ambedkar’s political career it was but natural
that any biography or film made on his life would try to
rationalise and explain his subservience to the colonial
rulers at a time when most Indians had resolved to throw them
out. D.R. Chaudhry’s review. ("Ambedkar was no British
Toady", The Tribune, July 8) of H.S. Sarkar’s
"True Gods — False Gods", looks at the
circumstances that prompted him to oppose the freedom struggle
and accept office in the then Government of India. Even if we
accept the premise that he did not trust the Congress to do
justice to dalits, the question still remains: did Ambedkar
have no other option?
Ambedkar was born in 1891 in a Mahar family in Mhow, Madhya
Bharat, and from as early as he could remember, experienced
insults and repression because of his caste. His father was a
low ranked soldier in the British army, which may explain
partly the son’s attitude towards the government of the day.
He faced formidable hurdles in pursuing education. However,
with grit and determination, and the fortuitous support of the
Maharaja of Baroda, he overcame these obstacles and won
scholarship and got a doctorate from Columbia University for
his thesis on famines in India.
poverty as only a person who has lived in it can. Having
experienced the most degrading type of discrimination first
hand, he understood only too well the structure of Indian
society. His distrust of the upper castes which, despite
Gandhi’s efforts, dominated the Congress, cannot be faulted
and he had said more than once, "Can anyone who realises
what the outlook, tradition and social philosophy of the
governing classes in India is, believe that under the Congress
regime, a sovereign and independent India will be different
from the India we have today?" ("Writings and
Speeches", vol ix).
says, "It is a pity that they do not seem to distinguish
the case of a tyrant who is held down and who pleads for
liberty because he wants to regain the right to oppress and
the case of an oppressed class seeking to be free from the
oppression of the tyrant."
Much the same
sentiments were expressed by another, younger man. In one of
his letters to his mother, written in the late 1920s, he said,
"Ma, I have no doubt that my country will be free one
day. But I am afraid that brown sahibs will sit in chairs that
white sahibs will vacate."
occasion, writing to his comrades through the columns of a
newspaper, he said that for the revolution "the toiling
masses have to be mobilised, because for them it won’t
matter much if Lord Reading is replaced by Sir Tej Bahadur
Sapru or Purshottamdas Thakurdas." Later he summed up his
views very clearly. "Revolution means complete overthrow
of the existing social order."
The last note
was written a few weeks before he was hanged. This young man’s
name was Bhagat Singh.
could not have agreed with him more. And both stalwarts had
nothing but disdain for Gandhian satyagraha. They were two of
the most original, daring and perceptive thinkers of India in
They lived at
different times and hailed from different regions and
different ends of the social spectrum, but their analysis of
India’s problems and their assessment of the Congress’s
inventions and ability to solve them was nearly identical.
he viewed the Indian system through the prism of class,
instead of caste, Bhagat Singh’s "oppressed
masses" were in reality the same as Ambedkar’s —
people at the bottom rung of the social and economic ladder.
Yet, having made a similar diagnosis, their respective
perceptions of India’s ills were so radically different that
they took them to two different extremes of political action.
political strategy was quite clear.
He wanted to
fight the British colonial rulers first, get rid of them and
then confront the Congress. Like Ambedkar, he also believed
that the departure of the rulers would not be the end of the
struggle. Only, it would enter a new phase of social upheaval.
He would compromise with neither the British nor the Congress.
the other hand, would rather have had the British stay on than
even contemplate a temporary transfer of power to the
Congress. At one of the Round Table Conferences he said,
"We are not anxious for transfer of political
power." He called the freedom struggle a "dishonest
agitation" whereby the Congress was "sidetracking
the servile classes and fooling them to play upon the
sentiment of nationalism." He would rather sup with
Jinnah than with the Mahatma and even joined the former in
celebrating his "Deliverance Day". His stand at the
1931 conference was so inimical to the nationalist cause that
it prompted the Secretary of State to the Viceroy to give him
a patronising pat on his back with the remark, "Ambedkar
behaved very well and I am most anxious to strengthen his
too, could have joined in the struggle to throw the firangis
out of the country. And after their departure launch a
crusade for a social revolution in India as, indeed, Bhagat
Singh would have done had he lived to see India free. Instead,
the dalit leader accepted appointment as the Labour Member of
the Viceroy’s Council, at the very moment when the masses in
India were demanding that the British "quit India".
He called the movement "treachery to India" and
collaborated fully with the imperial power to suppress and
towards Gandhi was in marked contrast with the gratitude he
expressed for the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, when the latter
for all his differences with Gandhi, was never disrespectful.
But in his commitment to a political and social revolution he
paid for his beliefs with his life. No such sacrifice was
required of Ambedkar. He could have revolted against the
British while he held the reins of power and, after
independence, fought the Congress. Instead even after India
became free, he remained part of the ruling establishment,
helping draft the Constitution that his own followers say is
biased in favour of the affluent classes.
Whether he can be called a
toady or not, on both occasions he made the wrong choice.
of devotion, the Indian style
Review by Kavita Chauhan
Praises Divine: Music in the Hindu Tradition
by Selina Thielemann. A.P.H. Publishing,
New Delhi. Rs 500.
book under review is a selection of lectures and articles
based on the theme of music in Hindu tradition, with special
emphasis on song as a mode of worship in Vaisnava Bhakti. The
writer’s basic concern is to discuss music as part of
religious tradition in the South Asian cultural context.
In India, the
religious element is perceived as the essence of music and the
prime cause of musical activity. The Indian music theory was
not developed as a separate science, but it emerged from the
In the Vedic
tradition sound is identified with the supreme reality, Shabda-Brahman,
the prime object of worship and mediation. The music of
today represents a direct continuation of the practice of
ritual service through the medium of sound that organised from
If in India
music is perceived as a divine art, it is so because of the
positive powers and bliss-giving effects inherent in the
medium of sound. The Indian term for the aesthetic experience,
rasa, is equated with divine bliss and it is through
music that man becomes blissful, for music acts as the
motivating energy that causes the current of rasa to
Sound is the
medium that carries the flow of rasa, thus establishing
the direct communication between man and the divine force. In
the Hindu tradition, no ritual can be performed without the
use of sound. Bhakti, a term which is derived from the
Sanskrit verbal root bhaj is understood in two senses
— first, in the sense of partaking of divine bliss and
second, it denotes loving devotion to God.
Music as the
foremost vehicle of devotional expression in the context of bhakti,
establishes a personal bond between man and divinity and
it articulates the bliss arising from the ultimate experience
in union with the divine. The principal function of music is
to verbalise the praise of God. Among all musical instruments,
the human voice alone has the capacity to pronounce the sacred
words composed for the glorification of the divine. In this
sense the word ‘samgita’, the modern term for
music, literally known as "together with song" can
be interpreted as the vocalisation of divine praises (gita)
enhanced by musical accompaniment of various kinds (sam).
Just as rituals cannot be performed without the sound of
appropriate mantras in bhakti tradition. God
cannot be worshiped without devotional songs.
music and performing arts have been carried forward by a
continuous flow of religious traditions and many cultural
treasures have been saved from extinction because of its
permanent religious value that left it unaffected by changes
in aesthetic perception. Despite Islamic invasions in North
India, the classical music of this region does have its roots
in the musical practice of Hindu temples and, in particular,
in the Vaishnava tradition.
the Indian classical music, the great classical dance styles
of India, too, evolved from Hindu temples. The author refers
to bharatanatyam, kathak, kuchipudi, odissi and manipuri as
the five main stylistic traditions in dance pertaining to
different regions of India. All these classical dances have a
common origin in the temple tradition of their respective
regions. Surprisingly the author has not mentioned kathakali
amongst these classical dance forms.
Since the bhakti
tradition empahsies the emotional relation between man and
God, in Indian aesthetics, rasa is equated with
experience of the divine. Rasa is the connecting link
that emerges from unbounded love, from unlimited commitment of
the soul to God. And for the author the best medium to express
the spiritual reality in tangible terms in music. Music is the
motivating energy — the energy that sets the flow of rasa
holds that the religious element represents not only a
determining factor for the presentation and development of
musical traditions, but is also vital for the survival of all
musical genres. To substantiate this point she gives the
example of the North Indian dhrupad tradition. Dhrupad
originally took its birth as a devotional song in the Vaishnava
temples. Later on, it was taken to Mughal courts from
where it became the part of the classical musical tradition.
Whereas the pre-eminent theme of the South Indian kirtans is
separation, dhrupads are composed as praises of major
Hindu deities. Dhrupad was regarded as the most pure
and powerful form of devotional singing.
of associating ragas with the times of the day and seasons is
of particular relevance to the North Indian cultural sphere.
In India, the day is divided into eight period of three hours
each, referred to as ashtayama or ashtakala. The
songs for the first watch mangala are rendered in early
morning ragas such as Bhairava, Ramakali and Bhairavi
and remain relevant for second and third watches Bala and
ragas enjoy special popularity in songs for Sringara
Ragas such as
todi and Saranga are sung around rajabhoga, and
ragas Purvi, Gauri, Sri and others for Utthapana.
ragas such as Yamana, Hamira and Kalyan for Sandhya
arati and the late evening ragas such as Keddar, Kanhar
and Bihag are sung for the seventh watch. Raga Bihaga
is the characteristic melody type to render the concluding
songs of the day at sayana.
devotional religion in India has preferred to use vernaculars
in place of Sanskrit as literary and poetic language. During
that time, a rich tradition of devotional poetry developed in
Braja and Brajabhasa came to be the foremost language of Vaishnava
poetry. The author focuses on the devotional music in Braja,
one of India’s important pilgrimage centres.
concludes that various traditions of bhakti are
responsible for India’s rich variety of musical forms. She
contends that according to its innate nature, music can grow
and unfold only in an environment that is characterised by
faith in and devotion to God, and where there is no devotion,
music too will perish.
All told, the book makes very
interesting reading for anyone wanting to have an idea of
Indian classical music. Since the author is herself a
musician, her remarks have great authenticity.
as protector of mother
Review by Akshaya
by Geetanjali Shree, Kali for Women, New Delhi. Pages 208.
remains an absent character in mainstream fiction. This is not
to say that the mother does not figure at all in this type of
literature; as a topos of selfdenying love and affection, she
is always there. What is missing is the depiction of mother as
a significant functional being as one who has a distinct
identity and a space of her own. More often than not she is
taken for granted, she is presented to us as a vulnerable
creature, one who does not have the strength to withstand the
realities of life without male support. She is eulogised for
her unflinching commitment to patriarchy.
In such a
scenario of her gross appropriation by the ever-clever
patriarchy, the onus of representing the mother obviously
falls on contemporary women-writers, more gender-sensitive as
they grow in the emerging awareness about women’s rights.
Shree, an upcoming writer of Hindi fiction, undertakes this
task of retrieving the mother from the margin through her
fictional endeavour "Mai". In Hindi fiction, woman
writers like Krishna Sobti, Mridula Garg, Mrinal Pande, Usha
Priyamvada, Raji Seth, etc have almost created a parallel
discourse on the so-called feminist fiction which at times,
due to its inherent revelatory potentials, overtakes the
In fact, on
the literary firmament across languages it is the woman-writer
who hogs the limelight every day. With her own gender-specific
experiences, she has the authority to unfold the hidden and
rather misconstrued sexuality of woman in ways which are
unprecedented by the standards laid down by patriarchy.
In terms of
story-line, the novel is a passionate daughterly account of a
mother, mai, caught as she is in the drudgery of
typical North Indian middle class joint family set-up. As the
narrative opens, we are introduced to a mother with a weak
spine, always attending to the needs of family members at the
cost of her health. Dada, the intimidating patriarch, is loud
and boisterous. Even the father, Babu, is helpless before the
authority of Dada. The two children Subodh, the son, and
Sunaina, the daughter, take upon themselves to free their
mother from the clutches of patriarchy, but eventually the
onus falls on the unmarried daughter who vows to pull mai’s
fire outside and keep it alight in her effort to seek equal
space for all women.
matrices of gender differentiation have been worked out very
diligently in the narrative. Specific space has been allocated
to characters according to their age, status and power
position in the patriarchal set-up. The outer domain is meant
for males, the inner belongs to females. Even in the outer
domain, there is hierarchy. Grandfather’s (Dada’s) sitting
room is the outer most part of the huge house. Dadi’s domain
is inner vernadah. Babu’s room is sandwiched in-between. The
inner courtyard is the space of the mai, where she, for
most the time, remains confined behind a pardah. Even among
servants, men-servants operate in the outer estate and
maid-servants in the inner. Only "at boundaries objects,
messages and scoldings were exchanged".
irrespective of their sex, do not have restrictions, but
somehow Dada’s world does not fascinate them and they keep
hovering around dadi and mai. The outer space is
abuzz with roars of laughter, calls to servants, loud music,
and countless commands to the "insiders". The inside
is quiet, the site of silent (or silenced) mother who works
without any noise.
It is only
after the demise of grandparents that prison walls of the
inside begin to open up. She takes over as the new mistress of
the house. She could be seen "on the lawn, in the fields,
bent over flower pots and beds". The character of the
outer sphere undergoes a change. Instead of the usual guavas
and mangoes, the garden of the house witnesses a "new
womanly blossoming": "The mild smell of the lime
trees mingling with the fragrance of harshringar, roses,
chameli. A cool, fresh breeze and an innocence burgeoning
of the novel lies in its capacity to capture the complexity of
the situation. One-sided narratives degenerate into propaganda
literature. In the novel, Geetanjali Shree manages the
contradictions or confusions within the project of feminist
emancipation very well. While uplifting her mother from the
mire of patriarchy, Sunaina undergoes moments of
self-reflexivity: "I was tired of victories and defeats.
If I was on the side of victory, I became an oppressor; if I
was on the side of defeat, I became a martyr". The house
depicted as an impregnable prison throughout the novel, at
some other moments turns out to be a space of protection and
security: "We had believed the house to be a prison and
felt it to be suffocating. Then we began to miss this very
house as if there was some shadow there which would protect
ends on paradoxical note as the daughter fights against the
mother for the mother herself. "I have to fight till
then, fight herself, the mai who is alive, who is in
me, who is in the fire, in the ashes, who is there forever.
Before whom I bow. I will fight her".
has great surviving skills. It taps all discourses of
emancipation — from religion to English education — to its
advantage leaving "the other" eternally deprived and
utterly helpless. The son Subodh is sent to a boarding school,
while the daughter studies in a local school. Colonialism with
all its facade of liberal humanism ends up in consolidating
the indigenous patriarchal systems thus: "it was dada who
sent Subodh to a boarding school with some actual English
teachers to turn him into an ‘English’ officer".
Subodh in fact promises to "teach" English to his
sister to help her run away from the Hindi household.
redeems the novel from lapsing into an easy dydadic allegory
of female emancipation is the characterisation of Babu who is
neither as authoritarian as Dada, nor as helpless as mai.
The "poor" Babu’s predicament is well captured
thus: "Everyone else’s life was bound by rules or even
a sort of imprisonment, only he was like a pigeon among them
all, hopping in all directions, feeble like a pigeon, free
like a pigeon. With no problem of ever having to answer to
anyone". He presents a very innocent face of patriarchy.
characterisation of mai, Geetanjali Shree excels with
her terse observations such as these: "Her absence is her
presence", "mai was the synonym of ‘not-becoming’",
"The not-mai was the human for us". How ‘parda’
obliterates the individual behind it is well-articulated thus:
"But looking at mai’s pardah we forgot there was
something behind it as well".
translator Nita Kumar deserves a word of praise for holding
the basic drift and tenor of the novel intact. In the original
Hindi version, it is easy to run down English as the alien
language, but in its English translation it becomes a
challenge to retain this alienness of English. Nita Kumar’s
translation does in no way undermine "Hindi versus
English binary" — a running motif of the novel. The
extended introduction towards the "end" of the
translated novel further unfolds "the matter of the
mother" to the benefit of critical reader.
otherwise racy narration, occasional lapses into ideology are
unwarranted. Shree should have allowed the narrative to speak
for itself, abstract theorising only gives the feeling that
somewhere the narrative lacks momentum, and that it needs
external support in the form of overt authorial interventions.
Also the novelist should have avoided the already exhausted
imagery of "bird breaking free from a cage" as a
trope of woman’s liberation. The imagery of fire, inside as
well as outside, tends to be more polemical than aesthetically
innovative. The sustained use of ladder and pit as a metaphor
of struggle however does lend aesthetic maturity to the novel,
but on the whole "Mai" remains more or less a
microscopic anthropological documentation of a North Indian
It must be read by all those
who tend to take mother as an absolutely unproblematic site of
Indian family system. There is nothing against motherhood; it
only seeks to assert the humanness of mother. Maternalism with
a human face, perhaps, is feminism for hard times.
Review by Satyapal Sehgal
about Hindi poets of Himachal. Yes, as a collectivity, the
poets of Himachal Pradesh have not been writing about mother
nature, as one would expect them to do. So it is not
surprising that none of them followed Sumitra Nandan Pant, the
great Hindi poet of nature’s splendor, of the "chayavaad"
movement of the thirties, who belonged to Kosani in Kumoun
hills. Hindi poetry being written in Himachal has been mainly
on social themes -– about men and women in the street or, as
one may put it, about weather-beaten people climbing up and
down the hills, labouring, and being easy meat for the
insensitive power structures. It was not, therefore, a
coincidence that during the nineties, two main national
associations of leftist writers — Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh
and Janvaadi Lekhak Sangh — which have always stressed the
importance of sharpening social consciousness in literature,
had good presence in Himachal Pradesh, particularly in Mandi
and Shimla regions. Even poets who are not known to be
activists of these organisations, like Amitabh and Arvind
Ranchan, were busy with themes like disillusionment of the
people with the present social system. .
comprehensive list of such poets may include names like
Devender Dhar and Avtar Singh Engil and a lot of old and
young, wellknown and lesser known poets like Prakash Pant and
Kul Rajiv Pant, Dev Badotara, Mohan Sahil and Tarsem Bharti.
Poets come to attend poetry workshops held at various places
in the state -– at Shimla, Dharamsala, Mandi or Nahan — or
the conventions of Pragatishil Lekhak Sangh and Janvadi Lekhak
Sangh. These meets are dominated by subjects like economic
deprivation of the masses, unemployment, communal tension,
discrimination against women, and corruption in politics.
It is for the
critics and researchers to show to what extent prevalence of
these themes in Hindi poetry of Himachal reflects the hegemony
the mainstream Hindi poetry exercises over lesser streams,
like that of Himachal. Presentation of these themes in the
Hindi poetry of Himachal is somewhat alienated in character.
One may not contest the local social determinants of this kind
of poetic endeavour but one must question the literary idiom
and style these poets choose. And are not there any subaltern
Hindi poetry in Himachal is not known for the dalit voice
though the percentage of dalits is highest in the state next
only to Punjab in whole of the country.
respected and one of the seniormost poets of the state, Sri
Niwas Srikant has always been different. He has great poetic
energy with a fascination for mythical contents. Dinu Kashyap
is also in his own mould. (He is a public relation officer
with the state government posted at Una. There he is known as
Dina Nath (ooch!). He was in the Indian Army as a signal man.
Service conditions took him to various regions in Hindi
heartland which gave him the necessary exposure to the Hindi
literary milieu. A blue-eyed boy of stalwart Trilochan, he had
a great passion for reading and writing poetry. He came out
with widely acclaimed poems on the life of a sepoy. His
achievements are extraodinary.
Rakeshi, Rekha, Satyender Sharma, Ram Dayal Neeraj and Sunder
Lohiya are simply unforgettable. They have earned respect of
literary circles in Himachal and beyond. Keshav is a known
Hindi short-story writer and so is Rekha. The maturity they
show in the use of language is there in their verses as well.
Missing out a local touch though, Rekha has a sensitive and
refined feminine touch in her poetry. Anil Rakeshi, a retired
handsome Principal of the famous Evening College of Shimla, is
a father figure, particularly to the writers of Nahan (where
helives. He is so popular that he might win a seat the
Assembly election there, I guess!).
who like Dinu Kashyap hails from Mandi, is a short story
writer of repute and felt this sudden urge for poetry in the
nineties, wrote some well received poems and then involved
himself in the activities of Literacy Mission. Ram Dayal
Neeraj is the grand old man of Hindi poetry in Himachal. And
he will remain so forever.
And there are
more. Patronage of academies or state governments or
favourable social or literary conditions are not a
pre-requisite for poets. (These factors do go to nourish and
sustain them. They are always there, at all places. I take
this opportunity to mention a few of them whose works were
available to me and whose verses and other writings appealed
to me for one reason or the other, inspite of my the dis-satisfaction
I have mentioned earlier. Among those I remember are the likes
of Madhukar Bharti (Theog), Kishori Lal Vaidya (Shimla), Ravi
Rana Shaheen (Mandi), Hem Chand Shastri (Nahan), Yadvinder
Sharma (Sundernagar), Rajesh Sharma (Una), Aditi Guleri
(Dharamsala), Suresh Rana (Lahoul-Spiti) and Satish Tegta (Navodaya
But where is
Kumar Krishan, that poet and master of calligraphy rolled into
one, who as a teacher of Hindi literature knew that literary
movements make poets. So he got into preparing a manifesto for
one –- the "Bhoo-Kavita". And there is Praful
Mahajan, an engineer by education and administrator by
profession but a passionate poet of basic relationships and a
kind soul. Where is he? In Mandi? In Shimla? Is he writing?
Writing ghazals, his first love, or free verses?
And what about Anup Sethi?
That promising Hindi poet acclaimed all over the Hindi belt
and now working in Mumbai, outside his home-state for almost
two decades. He is from Dharamsala. Should we call him a
Himachalì? Is he now part of the literary lore of Shimla? By
now, he must be quiet old. Is he still the same Zia, Kumar
Vikal was very fond of? Always.
and lots of labour, but to very little effect
Review by H. P.
Encyclopaedia of Buddhism: A World Faith (Five volumes),
by M.G. Chitkara. A.P.H. Publishing, Delhi.
is expected from the title of a book that it will give an idea
of its contents at the first glance. This is a norm. Since
this is a norm, it is very often violated. Many titles do not
rightly give an idea of the content of the work. But one is
shocked when one finds that the title is just misleading.
"An Encyclopaedia of Buddhism: A World Faith" is one
such misleading title.
When you open
up the book clad in art-paper jacket bearing a picture of the
Buddha, you expect that you will get enormous piece of
information about Buddhism. But your expectation dies very
soon. You come to know that it is no Encyclopaedia of Buddhism
at all; it is an attempt by the author to acquaint you with
his encyclopaedic knowledge about Buddhism, about Yoga, about
Vedanta, about particle physics, about human psychology, about
global problems of peace, non-proliferation of nuclear
weapons. ...and so on. You are impressed. But at the same time
you are left bewildered because you expected some historically
authentic information about Buddhism, which you don’t get at
volume of "Encyclopaedia of Buddhism: A World Faith"
is the author’s commentary on Dhammapada verses and stories.
Tripitakas are the basic texts of early Buddhism. Every Pitaka
contains many Nikayas which are divided into many books.
Dhammapada is one of the books of Khuddak Nikaya of Sutta
Pitaka. Dhammapada has almost the same importance for a
Buddhist as the Bhagwad Gita has for a Hindu. It has 26
has given an elaborate commentary of all these chapters and
has tried to explain the themes with the help of thoughts from
other thinkers and through scientific theories too. Vedant has
been frequently used to support the explanation. Buddhism and
Vedant are normally regarded as opposite schools of Indian
philosophy — the former denounces the existence of Atman whereas
the latter strongly defends the existence of it and argues
that only Atman is absolutely real and it is identical
A thinker can
argue for similarities or continuity between Buddhist and
Vedantic thoughts but in a work which is entitled
encyclopaedia such statements and arguments are bound to
mislead the reader. The author has not taken any care in
commenting on Dhammapada to caution the reader that it is his
own view and the points which he has tried to explain with the
help of some other school of thought does not normally defend
volume of "Encyclopaedia of Buddhism: A World Faith"
does not deal with any specific Buddhist text. It deals with
the problem of world peace in the age of nuclear weapons and
tries to establish that only the Buddha’s message can help
solve this problem. This view is expressed in 29 chapters.
Various political, social and developmental issues are dealt
with in these chapters. Hardly any one would like to oppose
the author’s views on these issues but one just wonders what
makes the author to call the collection of these chapters as
another volume of "Encyclopaedia of Buddhism".
volume deals with the teachings of Bodhisattava. No specific
Buddhist text is the base of this volume. "So says
Bodhisattva" is the subtitle of this volume. This volume,
in fact, is a kind of the author’s diary in each page of
which he has written his thought for the day. So this volume
begins with January 1 and ends with December 31. These pieces
of thought are occasionally used by the author to convey good
wishes to his friends and followers. These thoughts do not
necessarily come from Bodhisattava’s teaching; it may begin
with a poem of Milton, some statement of Abraham Lincoln or
with a shloka from Bhagvad Gita. Love and friendliness
to nature are the general message delivered in the 365 main
pages of this volume.
is the central theme of the fourth volume. The author tries to
show that Buddhism preaches human being to live as "man
in nature" in contradiction to "man versus
nature". Nature has given human beings everything in
abundance for survival and growth in harmony. But due to
unnatural style of life, men exploited nature very brutally.
The result is ecological unbalance. The author reminds us of
the Buddhist teaching that Trishna (lust) is
fundamental source of all Dukha (sufferings). He
suggests that following the teaching of the Buddha is the only
way to solve all the major national and global problems of our
Nirvana is the subtitle of the fifth volume. In 58 chapters of
this volume the author explains the nature of Nirvana, Maha
Parinirvana,Praticcha Sammutpada (concept of dependent
origination), Karma, re-birth and some aspects of
tantrik Buddhism. He has tried to explain how the conceit of
re-birth in Buddhism is different from the general idea of
transmigration of soul, and why Dhamma (or Dharma)
should not be confused with religion. The author tries to
convince us that Buddhism is very different from other
religions of India and the world (in some sense superior also)
but by reflecting on it with an unbiased mind, one discovers
that all other dominant religions of the world also have the
The first and
the last (the fifth) volumes have a distinct feature — the
appendices. These appendices make these volumes very special.
In the appendix of the first volume the Sanskrit and the Palil
texts of Dhammapada are given. The author has rendered it in
Hindi verses for easy grasp of its sublime thoughts. In the
two appendices of the fifth volume the author has given the
English rendering of Madhyamik Karika of Nagarjuna. It would
have been better if he had given its original text also.
The aim of the author of
these volumes is to spread the message of peace and
compassion, which is the central theme of Buddhism. Perhaps
this aim could have been more successfully realised if he had
written a series of small handy books instead of writing heavy
and costly volumes of encyclopaedia. The tremendous amount of
labour and time imparted by Chitkara deserves applaud but his
immense labour would have borne fruit if he only changed the
form of his work.