name it, this book has it
Review by V. Eshwar Anand
by M V Kamath and Kalindi Randeri.
Arkansh, Mumbai. Pages 1021. Rs. 695.
a new arrival in the family is always an arduous task for
parents. In the South, it is not very difficult to name a baby
as the family is more or less bound by tradition. In Andhra
Pradesh, for instance, the baby is invariably named after
his/her parents or grandparents unlike in Tamil Nadu where the
first grandson in the family is named after the paternal
grandfather and the second one after the maternal grandfather.
practices prevail in other parts of the country, though
apparently under the influence of the West and because of the
tendency on the part of the parents to look modern, babies are
named after filmstars, cricketers, etc.
In fact, there
is no general rule as such for naming a child. In some cases, as
in Punjab, children are named even after trees or ranks in the
Indian Army such as general, (Jarnail), major, colonel (Karnail)
and so on.
A new arrival
is always a momentous occasion for the family to celebrate. In
fact, elaborate rituals are performed for the health and long
life of the child, much before its birth. The degree and extent
of rituals would of course depend on the social standing and
financial status of the parents. In some states the naming
ceremony, especially of a son, is considered the most important
event in the family. Most unfortunately, the desire for a son,
instead of a daughter, continues to be deeply entrenched in the
Indian psyche, notwithstanding the progressive and enlightened
views on women and their brilliant achievements in several
fields over the decades.
scriptures eulogise the values of a son. It is said that a
father would always aspire for a son as it is the latter who
would light his funeral pyre. Encouragingly, there is a
perceptible change in the mindset of many educated families
today with the result that the birth of a daughter is considered
equally propitious and celebrated with traditional enthusiasm
and solemnity. Some do regard the birth of a daughter as the
birth of goddess Laxmi or the goddess of wealth in the family.
Names" is a rich collection of names from classical to
contemporary periods. The book, which contains as many as 30,000
names of Sanskrit origin, could well be described as a treatise
on names. Of special mention is the chapter on the five
samskaras or sacrements. This chapter examines the entire
process of conception and child birth based on ancient Hindu
chapter, which speaks volumes for the author’s scholarship and
erudition, M V Kamath examines all the five sacrements — garbhadaana
(gift to the womb ceremony), pumsavana (performed in
the second, third and fourth months of pregnancy), seemantonnayana
(performed during the period between the fifth and eighth
months of pregnancy), jatakarma (performed before the
umbilical cord is cut) and naamakarana (performed on the
10th and 12th day after birth).
chapter, Kamath also discusses, briefly though, some of the
rituals performed in the naamakarana ceremony in a
typical Hindu Brahmin family. He says that as the breath of the
child is equated with the ``awakening of its consciousness’’,
the parents touch it and say in its ear thrice: ``Your name is
....’’ He writes ``Brahmins and elders are then requested to
follow, calling the child by its given name and blessing it. In
some societies, it is customary to place in the palm of the
child a gold coin.’’
Asvalayana Grihya Sutra from Raimundo Pannikar’s book
"The Vedic Experience", Kamath says the boy’s name
should have an even number of syllables like Rama or Krishna and
the girl’s an odd number of syllables to end in i, ee or aa
like Radha, Maitreyee or Rukmini for fame, good health and
prosperity. Undoubtedly, a lot of research has gone into the
book. The blurb mentions that it is the product of ``six years
sheer volume of the book (1021 pages excluding the 10 pages
covering index and introduction) with 30,000 names, it is no
small effort by the authors who are distinguished in their
respective fields. Kamath is a veteran journalist and author. He
had written over 40 books on politics, history and journalism.
Equally noted is Kalindi Randeri, an educationist who is
instrumental in introducing non-engineering, technical courses
at the polytechnic level for both men and women in Mumbai.
should heave a sigh of relief as they need not struggle anymore
in quest of appropriate names for their babies. The book should
make the parents’ task of naming their child easier. Moreover,
"Indian Names" does not confine itself to names for
people alone. It also covers names for places and products. For
the convenience of the users, the names are written (in 10-point
type for better readability) in both English and Devanagiri
scripts with meanings in English.
It has two
indices — Master list (containing the 30,000 names) and 25
sub-sections on certain human emotions and qualities. Names
depicting joy, delight, happiness, pleasure, intelligence,
knowledge, mind, wisdom, cleverness, skill, modesty, humility,
benevolence, honesty and compassion are particularly
And as if this voluminous
collection is not enough, the authors say that there is no
``last word’’ for listing of names and that they will be
happy to receive additions from readers! Clearly, this is an
open invitation to all to further enrich the quality and depth
of the book and thus contribute to knowledge.
Kashmir dispute: is a
Review by Randeep Wadehra
far can Vajpayee and Musharraf go?
edited by Karan R. Sawhny. Peace Publications, New Delhi. Pages:
240. Rs 250.
has become a blood-spattered region, a way out of which has
tested some of the best national and international brains. Some
try to offer political solutions, while others consider it a
socio-economic problem that requires sophisticated approach to
its resolution. Still others look at it as a mere law and order
question and feel that guns alone can bring peace to the state.
Of course there is an overwhelming feeling that Pakistan is the
source of all violence currently ravaging the valley.
the leaders of India and Pakistan meet to reach some sort of
agreement on Kashmir. The latest round was at Agra where
Vajpayee and Musharraf met amidst great optimism, only to
disappoint all lovers of peace. There must have been constraints
that prevented a solution in the spirit of give and take. What
were these compulsions?
in the foreword, avers in anticipatory mode, "Given the
irreconcilable positions of the Pakistan government on Jammu and
Kashmir and the rejection by both New Delhi and Islamabad of the
third option — independence — the difficulty of putting in
place a peace process which would include the diverse forces
which are active in Kashmir cannot be underestimated. The peace
offensive of the Government of India began in the spring of 2000
when the separatist Kashmiri leaders were released and
subsequent initiatives have proved how complex the task of peace
building is and how vital is the capacity for r ‘staying the
Let us not
forget that this collection of essays predates the Agra summit.
Whatever is mentioned in these essays rests on perspectives
formed before the summit. Therefore, there are bound to be some
red faces around. Whether one considers Agra a great fiasco, a
resounding success or simply a precursor to happier tidings, one
must remember that though the views expressed by different
writers might conflict with each other, none of them can be
In this volume
Suba Chandran avers that the lack of legitimacy of General
Musharraf’s military government and its support for jihad
in Kashmir, coupled with Pakistan’s inability to control the
various militant groups which are becoming increasingly
independent financially and ideologically, is bound to result in
escalating the conflict. Amitabh Mattoo disagrees with the
gloomy scenario and argues that in 2001, "more than in any
period during the past 12 years of insurgency", there is a
real chance of generating a process that could eventually create
the climate for durable peace.
points out that from 1990s onwards there has been a remarkable
transformation in the nature of "Kashmir liberation
struggle". Earlier, till 1947, the struggle was mainly
against Dogra rule. Later on it assumed nationalist colours with
the main emphasis on Kashmiriyat - a secular, democratic
concept. Presently it has become an Islamist enterprise — a
holy war against infidel rule. Observes Sikand, "Geelani
sees the armed struggle being waged in Kashmir not as a war of
national liberation but as a jihad between Islam, on the
one hand, and the forces of kufr or disbelief, on the
feels that we are nowhere near the peace process. He continues,
"Some aspects of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy aren’t
changing. Support for militancy, ever denied but rarely
constrained, is not up for negotiation. Pakistan believes that
militancy is its number one card in Kashmir; the main factor
that causes great expense for India and keeps the issue visible
internationally." Brian Cloughly dwells upon the steps
required for confidence building in Kashmir. Cloughly, if at all
he had cared to watch the live telecast of General Musharraf’s
tete-a-tete with Indian editors during the Agra summit, could
not have missed the disdain in the dictator’s expressed views
on confidence building measures. Balraj Puri stresses on the
need to rein in the hotheads on both sides of the communal
divide so that the peace process could be salvaged.
contributors to this thought-provoking collection are Rajinder
Sachar, Tahir Mohideen, Girija Dhar and Darshan Singh Maini.
Providing the Pakistani perspective are Assef Ahmed Ali, Khaled
Ahmed, Ayesha Siddiqa-Agha, Ejaz Haider and Zaffar Abbas. Papers
and proceedings from the November, 2000, symposium held by the
International Centre for Peace Initiative at Gurgaon have been
included in this collection.
If you are
interested in the subcontinent’s history and politics, this
book is an invaluable addition to your library.
* * *
before New Millennium
by M.G. Chitkara. APH Publishing Corporation, N. Delhi. Pages:
vviv+248. Rs. 400.
This book too
hit the market on the Agra summit eve. Chitkara belongs to that
school of thought which holds the 1947 partition as unnecessary
and avoidable. He feels that the similarities between Hindus and
non-Hindus in pre-partition Punjab were far more significant
than the differences. He points out, "The Muslims of what
used to be India are today three nations: Indian Muslims,
Muslims in Pakistan and Muslims in Bangladesh. All of them, who
happened to be Hindu converts, have the same tradition behind
them and culturally, each is heir to the same heritage…"
He too, like
many other writers, blames the British colonialists for sowing
the seeds of communal hatred in the subcontinent. Even if one
might not feel inclined to agree with this wholly, the avowed
colonial policy of divide and rule lends credibility to this
Be that as it
may, several factors were responsible for the country’s
partition. The most powerful one was individual leaders’
ambition. Both the Congress and the Muslim League had started
thinking in terms of carving out their respective independent
states. Describing partition as a fraud played on the Muslims by
their leaders Chitkara wishes for the arrival of a statesman who
would be able to undo the division.
the genesis of the present conflict Chitkara offers various
methods which could be employed to bring about peace and amity
in Indo-Pak relations. He gives an interesting analysis of the
There is much
to be gained economically as well as geo-strategically from the
settlement of all prickly issues. The region can then be
safeguarded against the ill effects of big power politics, and
the countries enabled to concentrate on uplifting the peoples’
standard of living — the much-neglected aspect of all
political activity in the subcontinent..
* * *
India on World Markets
by Raghu Nandan. Response Books, New Delhi. Pages 413. Rs 350.
happened to the Indian economy in the past decade or so.
Traditionally held dogmas have been shed in favour of more
adventurous policies. Words like liberalisation, disinvestment,
privatisation, etc. are being bandied about by those who are
eager to jump onto the brand new free market economy bandwagon.
Socialism has been dumped into the dustbin of history. So India,
like our beauty queens, is all decked up to wow the dons of
capitalism. Or, so one presumes.
The problem is
that what we have to offer in terms of goods and services do not
measure up to the quality standards of the international market.
Even the expectations of domestic consumers are soaring high.
They want nothing but the best at competitive prices. Can the
Indian industry meet the challenge? Raghu Nandan is not very
optimistic and he has good reasons to feel gloomy. Says he,
"India is a prisoner of its overseas trade. But see, the
door is locked from within." As an explanation he churns
out a whole volume that dissects the Indian mindset, the follies
committed and the myopic approach of the various segments of our
polity which impact the economic performance.
the factors leading to the poor performance of Indian exports by
primary, manufacturing and tertiary sectors. Dwelling on the
various hurdles and bottlenecks, he contends that Indians have
failed to present a solid front to the competition. He also
discusses possible measures to enhance the performance of these
sectors in the international arena. He avers that the country
has a very poor capacity for producing the tools and moulds
which are the lifeblood of most manufacturing units. This is
despite the fact that "we have a fantastic pool of highly
trained and skilled mould makers who earn more than their share
of respect overseas". He gives the example of Singapore’s
Tata Precision Industries, which is predominantly staffed with
Indians and has earned a formidable reputation in the high tech
mould and tool making world.
author feels that though the NRIs in the developing world are
employed as professionals and traders and are reasonably well
off, they are unable to provide captive markets for Indian goods
due to the lack of their clout. Thus Indian exporters to these
countries are unable to reach out to local population. Indian
goods are bought by Indians only and fail to penetrate deep into
the wider market. Further, the NRIs show no inclination to
promote these goods in their countries of adoption.
This book discusses in a
conversational style the need for product innovation,
improvement in the commercial infrastructure, and creating an
atmosphere conducive to information sharing. It gives relevant
case studies and statistics to make the various concepts clear.
An excellent book for professionals, traders, manufacturers and
students of Indian economy.
brigand is human, cunning and comes alive
Review by Padam Ahlawat
The Untold Story
by Sunaad Raghuram. Viking-Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 312.
crimes and delinquencies increase in numbe, it is proof that
misery is on the increase, and that society is
ill-governed;" wrote Napoleon. And if such criminals are
looked upon as Robin Hoods, it is evident that the people have
little faith in the government. Veerappan is one such brigand
who is looked upon as a robber of the rich and a friend of the
He has been
written about in the regional and national press, his name has
cropped up in state legislatures and Parliament. And now here is
a book on the life of India’s most wanted criminal who has
lately shown political inclination. But then he realises that
Phoolan Devi had made it from crime to politics. This is one of
the ugly aspects of Indian politics today. Though one can
appreciate the spirit to fight back the injustice meted out to
reward of Rs 40 lakh on his head, the brigand has killed about
120 people, has eluded the police force of two states for more
than a decade. This is largely due to the thick forests from
which he operates, but in a small measure also due to the
support of the local population, whether it is out of fear of
He has an
uncanny ability and native cunning to take on the police force
and ambush it, no doubt helped by a network of spies and food
suppliers. He is at home in the forest creating a jungle lore to
evade the police who have given away all elements of surprise.
Animals provide the brigand with all knowledge of police
to crime not to avenge any act of injustice or injury but
because of poverty. He born in a poor family of cattle graziers
at Gopinatham, a village in the M.M. Hills area, close to the
Tamil Nadu border. Along with his brothers he began stealing
forest produce, cutting bamboo and smuggling it out. He was
caught in 1965. Poacher and smuggler Sevi Gounder saw promise in
the young Veerappan and induced him to join him in the smuggling
of ivory and sandalwood.
to lead his gang in 1975 when Sevi Gounder retired. He was not
alone in poaching on the forest wealth. Several villagers joined
in looting forest wealth in connivance with corrupt forest
threat from other gang, Veerappan enticed five of the leaders
with peace proposals and shot them. In an uncontrolled frenzy he
hacked them to pieces and threw them into the Palar river. After
this chilling murder in front of all villagers no one dared
challenge him. From then on he embarked on eliminating anyone
who stood in his way. An honest guard, who dared to seize a
lorry of sandalwood being smuggled out, met the same fate.
From then on he
robbed tourists who passed through the forest, kidnapped rich
businessmen for ransom and in 1990 ambushed police officers who
dared enter the forest.
A special task
force was raised to nab Veerappan, while a BSF battalion was
sent into the forest to catch Veerappan dead or alive. All their
efforts were in vain. If anyone came close to capturing
Veerappan, it was three small time local youths. If they failed
in their effort, it was due to the short-sightedness of the
police officers who displayed poor leadership qualities.
as a cashier in a village wine shop at Ramapura. After his work
done and the shop closed, he went to his friend Muthuram’s
restaurant. When the last customer had left, the two would
settle down to drinks and dinner. They would occasionally be
joined by Nagaraj, a poor farm labourer.
soon noticed a change in Nagaraj’s life style. He seemed to
have more money and was buying rations worth thousands of rupees
every month. He had also got several khakhi shirts and trousers.
Suddenly Nagaraj disappeared. Days passed without any trace of
Then one night,
Nagaraj walked into the hotel, protecting himself from the
pouring rain with a plastic sheet. Joined by Nataraj, the three
friends got to drinking and talking. Both asked him where he had
been and how he had got so much money. The name of Veerappan
sobered down both of them. They realised he had become an
informer of the dreaded criminal.
him that this cosuld get him into deep trouble with the police.
Nataraj, however, was planning to use Nagaraj to lay a trap for
Veerappan. With the help of the police they would help nab
Veerappan and so claim a share of the reward. Nataraj was able
to persuade a reluctant Muthuram to join him in his plan.
Nagaraj was partly cajoled and partly frightened with police
action to join them in their amateurish plan that almost
They met the
superintendent of poice of the special task force (STF),
Harikrishna, and sub-inspector Shakeel Ahmed and agreed on
Muthuram’s simple plan of posing as ivory merchants and arms
suppliers. After several visits to the forest and supplying
bullets to Gurunathan, the right-hand man of Veerappan, they
gained their confidence and were called to meet Veerappan.
Shakeel Ahmed posed as the agent, and alongwith Nagaraj, Nataraj
and Muthuram agreed to buy ivory and supply 32 sten guns.
It is from here
that the story gets curious. The police began insisting that the
three of them should go to the forest next day to meet
Gurunathan. Harikrishna and Shakeel would go along and arrest
Gurunathan. Muthuram and Nataraj pleaded for patience so that
they could nab Veerappan. When all their pleas failed, they took
the police officers to the forest where Gurunathan met them.
With Gurunathan being arrested their cover was blown and any
hope of nabbing Veerappan was lost. Gurunathan was eliminated
when he failed to lead the police to Veerappan.
retribution was swift and sure. The police post at Ramapura was
attacked, leaving several policemen dead. Veerappan then planned
to kill Harikrishna, the police SP and sub-inspector Shakeel
Ahmed. His plan was better thought out and executed with
precision. The brigand sent his confidant, Kamala Naika, to the
police, offering to lead them to Veerappan. Muthuram’s and
Nagaraj’s warning not to trust Naika was brushed aside.
selected the spot where the policemen were to be ambushed.
Trenches were dug on the hillside overlooking the road. Naika
was then instructed to lead the SP to the spot beyond Meenyam
where Veerappan was supposed to be camping and was to meet a
buyer for ivory.
On the August
14, 1992, the DIG in consultation with the SP, decided to raid
Veerappan’s camp next day. The police party was led by
Harikrishna, SP and Shakeel Ahmed SI, who alongwith Naika were
in the car, while 22 constables followed in a lorry.
party started from Ramapura for Meenyam which was about 30 km
away. Minutes before the policeman’s departure a man named
Venkatachala was racing towards Meenyam on his Yezdi motorcycle
to inform Veerappan about the expected police arrival. The road
was blocked with boulders, at Boothikere Halla, 24 km from
As soon as the
police convoy reached the road block, Naika got out of the car
and ran into the forest and the policemen faced a fusillade of
bullets. Harikrishna and Shakeel died instantly, while three
constables were severely injured. The lorry with the police
force reached the spot six minutes late and was attacked with
bombs and rifle fire.
This was soon
followed by as bus full of policemen being blown off by land
mines. Nagaraj shifted to a town, while Muthuram too moved away.
Nataraj continued to stay but the fear of retaliation took its
toll. He began to drink heavily and lost his job.
task force was reorganised and on being tipped off about
Veerappan hiding in Tamil territory, a joint operation was
launched. The bandit, however, fled into the forest and the
police was found wandering in the forest, hungry and dishevelled.
was born in 1973 to a poor farmer owning a small patch of land
in Neruppur village near Hogenekal. With sandalwood in abundance
in the surrounding forest, she had heard of Veerappan who
frequented the area and settled disputes in villages. People
would queue up to get their disputes settled. Muthulakshmi had
began to like Veerappan, his moustache and the authority he
exuded in his tone and gait.
Bhanumathi introduced her to Veerappan and that day Muthulakshmi
was extremely pleased. Veerappan too had begun to like the dusky
girl and began visiting her house. One day, while talking to her
father, he proposed to marry his daughter. He promised to take
good care of her. Surprised at the unexpected proposal, her
father refused, as he had planned to marry her to a relative.
felt sad but a few months later when she was alone in her hut,
Veerappan came and swore that he would marry no one else but
her. His Muthu was thrilled and reciprocated the feeling. When
all efforts to persuade her family failed she eloped with
Veerappan and they got married in a forest temple.
She lived with
the gang moving constantly in the forest. As her pregnancy
reached an advanced stage, she was unable to cope with forest
life and with Veerappan’s help returned to her village. Her
parents took her in and fearing police action consulted a
lawyer. The lawyer provided shelter and sent them to Chennai
where she surrendered before the police. She was sent to a women’s
hostel and soon she gave birth to a girl.
She was allowed
to return to her village where a police vigil was kept day and
night in the hope that Veerappan could come to meet her. Instead
Veerappan sent a man disguised as a relative, who told her that
Veerappan wanted her to leave the baby and come to the forest.
At first she
did not want to desert her small girl who needed her all the
time. After two months, she convinced herself that the baby
would be more secure without her and could go to school. She
managed to hoodwink the strong police posse and escaped to the
forest. There she lived with Veerappan for three years, when she
was arrested by the police during a raid.
tortured her, kicking her, stripping her naked and passing
current through her nipples. All they wanted to learn was
Veerappan’s hiding place. When he changed his camp every day,
how could she tell the police his whereabouts? Chilli powder was
thrown into her eyes and she was hung naked with electric shock
given to her private parts. She could not bear the pain and one
day attempted suicide by drinking phenyl kept in the toilet.
She, however, vomited and was saved.
learned of her torture and arranged for a lawyer to petition the
Madras High Court. She was threatened with more torture and as
she yearned to see her little baby, she agreed to tell the court
that she had not been tortured.
promised to release her and allowed her to meet her daughter.
Her sister one day brought her. It was an emotional reunion for
the mother and daughter. In the author’s words, "She
called out, ‘come, my dearest one. Don’t you remember me? I’m
sure you do. I’m your mother, oh, how much I missed you. Only
my soul knows the kind of pain. I hope just to be able to see
you again. Come, my little one, don’t be scared. I’m your
mother, my baby, come, come".
while, my little daughter slowly began to walk towards me. I
hugged her tightly, unaware that I was crying in joy. I kept
kissing and hugging her. It was the ultimate moment of my life.
My heart had yearned for this moment and only I knew the
intensity of it."
while, my little one began to realise that I was indeed her
mother. She hugged me with her smallhands, ‘when will you come
home? Won’t you send me to school? I want to be with you all
the time,’ she said. ‘Oh my little one, I shall come out of
here soon. And I shall certainly send you to school. Don’t you
worry,’ I cried. Although I had decided to end my life on many
previous occasions, now there was this great desire in me to
live just for the sake of my daughter. I told my sister that I
would return home soon after deposing before the court."
Soon after her
release by the court, she was helped by the police to get a job
in a weaving mill near Coimbatore. She worked for three years
until her identity was revealed by a local newspaper. She lost
her job and moved over to Mettur where a relative gave her
shelter and helped Muthulakshmi to set a small cigarette outlet.
There she runs a cigarette shop in front of her relative’s tea
stall and her daughter goes to a convent school. Muthulakshmi
emerges very human and sensitive.
R.R. Gopal came
into contact with Veerappan due to the efforts of two intrepid
reporters of his magazine, Nakkeeran. They managed to meet
Veerappan who opened his heart to the reporters. They were able
to videotape Veerappan for nine hours. Gopal ran a series on
Veerappan in Nakkeeran and he came to be accepted as a
negotiator by Veerappan.
He played a role in the release
of Kannada actor Raj Kumar whose kidnapping is dealt with in
detail. Raj Kumar’s story was so extensively covered by the
press that the book has nothing new to add on it. The book is
well written and holds the interest of the reader.
history as popular fiction
Review by Shelley Walia
by Shashi Tharoor.Viking India, New Delhi. Pages 272. Rs 395.
Tharoor defies the distinction between the historian and the
novelist, stressing the contingency of all historical
knowledge in his recent novel "Riot". He writes in
the Afterword: "Memory and oblivion: how one leads to the
other, and back again, has been the concern of much of my
fiction. History, the old saying goes, is not a web woven with
the totality of the past is virtually impossible. Traditional
practices of writing of history fail to question the
conditions of their own making and therefore, retard any
development of a democratising critical intelligence. Is
history then an art or a science and is it really possible to
say what happened in the past without a bias? Should history
abandon the search for objective truth about the past? Is it
not important that it is time that history came to terms with
its own processes of production? These are some of the
questions that come to mind when confronting Tharoor’s new
experiment in novel writing. A writer in the situation of
Tharoor is always positioned by and positions himself within
the narrative consisting of a continuous play of history,
culture and power. Myth, memory, fantasy all constitute the
raw material on which he depends for a construction of
fictionalised history or historical fiction.
perspectives create new histories in terms of one’s
ideological dispositions and in accordance with race, gender
and class. Permanent insatiability, and the politics of
difference as well as recognition manoeuvre the form of the
novel. Positioned between alternative homelands as well as
ethnic communities, the perspective of different characters
alter continuously and clash thereby contributing to the
tension so much needed in a work of art as well as in the
young Hegelian outlook on politics and religion.
The lingo is
the same. The oft-repeated jokes are the same. Both the
language and the humour reminded me of my undergraduate days.
Does Tharoor write like an undergraduate? Is he good only with
short pieces more of the journalistic kind and not with a full
length novel? And is this not the reason he uses this new
experiment in the novel, a structural fragmentation which
allows the reader to open the book anywhere? Lakshman, the
protagonist, exclaims, "Down with the omniscient
narrator! It’s time for the omniscient reader. Let the
reader construct her own novel each time she reads it."
Is not Tharoor trying to do just this?
The mode of
address, with its multiple positioning, avoids a strong
interpellation. This is clear not just from the technique of
using different voices to speak to us, but also from the very
structure of the work. The device of a mystery which is never
unveiled first involves us, and then moves us into Priscilla’s
love affair and her personal drama of awakening. The result is
a more open text; the reader is also left in a dialectic of
ideological positioning, adopting a series of positions that
conflict with each other. The various documents that make up
the novel assume different audiences like the heterogeneity of
voices. The manifold vectors of ideology, individuality,
originality and intertextuality intertwine in so many ways
enabling the novel to emerge from an ideological context,
including the structures of class, gender and nationality.
takes off from an account of a riot in Khargone, Madhaya
Pradesh, sent to Tharoor by an IAS friend, Harish Mander,
especially since it introduced him to the intricacies of
controlling a riot. Another incident that lies at the origin
of this novel is the death of an American girl in South Africa
who is killed in racial disturbances. The two images, he says,
"fused in (my) mind. A lot of what I am trying to explore
involves collisions of various sorts."
traces the fate, through various voices, of the 24-year old
American student Priscilla Hart, killed in sectarian violence
in 1989 to bring out the communal tensions and cultural divide
facing the country. The gory, grim but always compelling
panorama evokes the almost unimaginable horrors and atrocities
of communal and cultural difference. A phantasmagoria of
estranged man-woman relationships and the indisciplined
apparatus of the state machinery, combining with the shadow
terrors of this small "dirty" town and the disturbed
life of its opposing communities, the novel turns out to be
popular history in the best sense with its attention to human
situations and its commanding prose. "Riot" is a
well researched book with a compelling hard-driving narrative.
cultural collision, xenophobia, man’s social and political
independence are some of its concerns that endeavour to weave
hPop history as popular fictionistory with the illusion of
truth and romance, mingling the lives of different characters
caught up in love and communal war and, most of all, in search
of their identity. The individual’s beliefs and values are
constructed through cultural and political pressures and
sometimes even by oneself. The clash between the private and
the public, between one’s individual beliefs and the beliefs
of others is thus a confrontation that sometimes results in a
riot and this is what the novel emphasises.
concern of "Riot" as well as the various characters
are steeped in an inherent dilemma. The time is our time. The
ravages of communalism and the consequences of a country
divided against itself are the political circumstances, into
which maelstrom steps a young woman from America. Tharoor has
introduced in his novel a foreigner like Adela Quested from
"A Passage to India" because, as he argues,
"very often we define ourselves in relation to others and
because a foreigner comes with a certain level of both
innocence and a lack of understanding that helps illuminate
for those who are trying to read a story like this".
Priscilla is in India as a volunteer in a women’s health
programme dealing with reproduction rights.
scrapbook dated December 25, 1989, she writes: "Here I
have come to do good. It’s true:/ So simple a task in so
complex a land./ I wheel my bicycle into their habits,/ Tell
them what’s right, what can be done/ And how to do it. They
listen to me,/ So ignorant, so knowing, and when they have
heard,/ They go back to their huts, / Roll out the chapaties
for dinner./ Pour the children drinks of sewer water,/ Serve
their men first, eat what’s left,/ If they’re lucky, and
then submit unprotected/ To the heaving thrusts of their
protectors,/Abusers, masters. One more baby comes,/ To wallow
in misery with the rest."
indicates the sincerity of her involvement, but she is an
intruder representing cultural penetration so obvious in the
political controversy generated by the Coca-Cola affair and
the reaction of the "hysterical left" or George
Fernandes who demanded to know, "What kind of a country
is India, where you can get Coke in the cities but not clean
water in the villages." Was Coca-Cola here to loot the
country or ruin the health of the nation? Such questions are
thrown up in the context of Priscilla’s father who was in
charge of Coca-Cola India before it was evicted from the
country in 1977, and symbolically represents the economic
penetration of India as well.
falls in love with the district magistrate, Lakshman and they
begin to meet in a haunted house called Kotli. They meet here
clandestinely every Tuesday and Saturday, but after an intense
courtship, Lakshman decides that he cannot possibly desert his
daughter whom he also loves. They plan to meet for the last
time on a Saturday. That is when the riots begin:
cannot make it and Pricilla is killed in their secret meeting
place. No one in the town can explain why anyone would want to
kill Priscilla. There are no clues, no confessions. "In
riots all sorts of things happen," says Gurinder Singh,
the police officer, "people strike first and ask
multiple perspective and the construction of meaning is
arguably the best way that history ought to proceed if it is
to be modernised. The work has to be read as a text and these
readings are infinite. Tharoor tries to show just this. He
uses journalistic reporting, diary writing and interviews to
depict from a multiple point of view the concerns of his
novel. This approach to history has provoked the historical
novelist like Tharoor or Rushdie to deny the purity and the
reality of the past and thus of any objective truth about this
novel, through its methodology, liberates the reader from the
coercive ideas of "reality"and "truth".
Truth can be found only in such a free approach which allows
the operation of pluralism, a kind of fictionalised free
history . Such a literary text thus becomes more than just an
exercise in reflecting its poetics or its rhetoric; its very
aesthetics are born out of a political concern to assert
fictional aesthetics, as well as to counterpose indigenous
institutions and oral traditions to the unfair hegemonic
impact of an alien culture.
The tension in the novel
offsets any totalising tendencies by probing into conflicts,
engagements, and estrangement between varying cultures. We can
thus situate this novel within the area of intersubjectivity
and archaeology of knowledge, a kind of "intertextual
weaving" that allows a work of literature not to be
submerged by any dominant discourse.
astonishing spiritual progress
Review by Rekha Jhanji
Sri Sri Ma Anandamayee
and Universal Religion
by Advaita P. Ganguly. Vedantic Research Centre Publication,
Dehra Dun. Rs 85.
book is a pamphlet commemorating the birth centenary of Ma
Anandamayee. The Ma was one of the great Indian saints of last
century, Swami Sivananda is said to have described her as a
perfect flower of the Indian soil. To my mind Sri Ramakrishna
Paramahansa, Anandamayee Ma and Sri Ramana Maharishi touched
the highest point of the Vedantic weltanschauung. From
their lives one can have a glimpse of the true significance of
the Upanisadic vision.
comprises two papers read on the occasion of the birth
centenary celebrations of the Ma. One centres on the problem
of caste, politics and religion from an Indian historical
perspective and the other on Anandamayee Ma and her
propagation of universal religion based on the Vedantic view
directs our attention to the crisis in Indian civilisation due
to the challenges posed by an upsurge of western materialism
through the mass media. He thinks that the exemplary life of
the Ma can help us overcome this civilisational crisis. I
would wholeheartedly agree with him that reading about the
lives of saints can provide a direction to our lives; but
transforming one’s life is a tedious process which is not be
possible without ruthless self-criticism and continuous hard
work of imbibing one’s avowed value system in one’s life.
essay is a sketchy review of religion as it was seen by Indian
sages and writers like E.M. Forster, Alduous Huxley and T.S.
Eliot, on the one hand, and historians like Jadunath Sarkar
and Aziz Ahmed, on the other.
concludes his review of Indian history and religion by
asserting that Vedantic philosophy should inspire all Indians
because that is the philosophy which can engender global peace
and prosperity. He sees the message of Vedanta epitomised in
the dictum of vasudhaiva kutumbakam. He views ancient
Hindu culture essentially in terms of a unifying force that
sees the whole earth as a single family.
While one may
agree with the unifying dimension of the authentic Vedantic
teaching, one ought to also see the divisive character of the
Hindu caste system. Caste may have originally been seen as a
division in terms of peoples’ nature and their
potentialities; it soon degenerated into a dehumanising
structure. It is in this context that one needs to see the
unforgettable contribution of Buddhism. There can be no
discussion of the classical Indian tradition without referring
to the positive contribution of Buddhism in reaching out to
humanity in general.
has not mentioned anything about the role of Buddhist thought
in unifying human kind. Anandamayee Ma herself talks of the mahasunya
in her own experiences. She says: "Whether you say it
exists or does not exist, or that it is beyond both existence
and non-existence, or even beyond that — as you
The paper on
Anandamayee Ma refers in brief to the main events (in
chronological order) of her life along with a reference to her
spiritual development in terms of her sadhana. It is
extremely difficult to write about an overarching personality
like the Ma in a brief essay of 10 pages. Ma lived from 1896
to 1982, she was born in a Brahmin family and her early life
was spent in Dhaka. She was married at an early age and during
the initial years of her married life she performed the
household chores and looked after her husband like any
in the middle of household activity, she would go into samadhi.
Ma was never given diksha by any guru On the fullmoon
night of August 3, 1922, Ma’s self initiation took place,
she experienced herself as both the guru and the disciple,
after this she was in samadhi for several days.
Referring to this period, she says this was "one
prolonged period of indescribable bliss ... she had no sense
of bodily pain.
period her husband looked after her like a father looks after
a small child. The Ma’s life is fascinating. I was
disappointed to see that while writing about the Ma’s life,
the author has not focused his attention on her sadhana and
her actual realisation of the Vedantic ideals for harmony and
peace but he has mostly focused on the yajnas she
performed for communal harmony and the crowds that thronged
for her last rites.
several biographies of the Ma written by both Indian and
European devotees. What comes out in these as the most
prominent feature is the perpetual joyfulness in which she
lived because of being established in the transcendental self.
Gopinath Kaviraj has described the Ma’s personality very
succinctly. He writes. "The mother’s body is no body
and her mind is no mind in the ordinary connotation of the
terms. They are only apparent and exist for the ignorants who
are under maya and unable to see behind the veil".
The Ma looked
upon the world as a manifestation of bhava, divine
love. All created objects can be seen as its embodiments
provided you raise yourself to that divine love. Suffering is
caused by isolating yourself from this divine source. The Ma
herself says that "for a self realised being neither the
world with its pairs of opposites exists, nor does the body.
If there is no world, there can obviously be no body either.
After self-realisation there is no body, no world and no
action — not even the faintest possibility of these — nor
is there such an idea as s ‘there is not’. To use words is
exactly the same as not to speak; to keep silent or not is
identical — all is that alone".
These are no
empty words, in the past 150 years, at least three Indian
saints have left enough evidence of having realised this state
and the Ma was one of them. She lived an exemplary life to
leave enough testimony of her being a jivanamukta. She
had no attachment to either worldly goods or name and fame.
Whatever she was offered by her devotees, she would
immediately pass on to others. For her the barriers of
religion, caste and nationality were totally unreal — she
could reach out not only to humanity at large but also to all
living beings in general. The Ma’s compassion and love
towards dogs, snakes and plants and trees is evidence of this
state of non-duality in which she perpetually lived.
In this sense the publication
of this little book would help disseminate some information
(however sketchy and incomplete) about this great woman saint
who was an embodiment of sastric knowledge without
having any formal education and who truly symbolised the empowerment
of women through spirituality. For the kind of freedom she had
no feminist can even dream of realising. I wish the author had
brought out these dimensions in his note.
Sen on poverty and development
Review by G.V. Gupta
by Amartya Sen. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages
xiv+366. Rs 250.
book, based on six lectures delivered by Prof Sen at the World
Bank and written in elegant prose devoid of jargan and free of
mathematical formulae, provides the basic framework of his
economic philosophy. Sen is still very active as a creative
thinker and writer. However, this work is in line with his
philosophic thinking of last three decades and is its mature
statement. It is thus a must read for those experts as also lay
readers interested in modern welfare economics, public policy
and political philosophy.
What are the
basic issues of social choice; their parameters and
instrumentality? It involves evaluation as also effectiveness.
It is assumed that it is possible to arrive at a social
given the primacy of self interest, the working of the
"hidden hand" in free market automatically ensured the
maximisation of growth and welfare. A minimal state had only to
ensure the working of a free market. Of course, he was aware of
some supplementary action for poverty alleviation. However, the
Utilitarians dominated the field for more than a century. This
created the welfare state. Marginal declining utility of money
justified the transfer of money from the rich whose marginal
utility was lower than the poor whose was higher, thus
increasing the aggregate welfare taken as equal to the
in its pure form, could not solve the problem of intra-personal
and inter-personal measurements. The issue was sought to be
tackled by a resort to indifference curves and schedules of
revealed preferences. Sophisticated conceptual tools of
maximisation of consumer surplus were developed.
optimality in general equilibrium theory placed the optimum at a
point where the welfare of any one could not be enhanced without
adversely affecting the well-being of at least one other person.
criticism came from Lionel Robbins who put "resources
efficiency" as the central issue of economic theory placing
technique at the top. Arrow’s "impossibility
theorem" ruled out the solution by a democratic choice. The
Libertines think that "liberty", as a procedure is
enough for maximisation of wealth and welfare. For them it is
not necessary to choose an objective.
the Libertines’ emphasis on liberty only, Rawls proposed his
theory of "justice" as "fairness". In common
with the Libertines he proposed five primary goods — liberty,
equality of opportunity, income, wealth and self-respect. He is
bound by Pareto optimality. He regards liberty and equality as
non-excludable and mutually enforcing but gives primacy to
liberty. For him equality of endowment of some knowledge or
ignorance and physical capacity is necessary at the starting
point of procedural justice. He agrees with Arrow on the
validity of Pareto optimality subject to the satisfaction of
some essential conditions for the freedom of the market,
particularly the availability of knowledge.
Sen takes note
of all this. He is one with Smith about freedom of the market.
It is part of his "freedoms", particularly of labour
to be free and to have a choice. This is an essential but not
sufficient condition of freedom and has to be supplemented. He
rejects utilitarian measurements but agrees with them about the
need for the state to have an objective of maximisation, which
for Sen is of "freedoms", a wider concept. Here he
disagrees with the Libertines and Rawls for whom liberty is a
procedural requirement. He critiques Arrow’s impossibility as
based on limited knowledge and options.
He argues that
given a number of schedules with preferences arranged in order,
it is possible to arrive at a rational social choice though its
practice may be doubtful. His strongest argument for democratic
state intervention comes from his study of famines where he
finds that democracies have not allowed starvation deaths. Here
he contrasts China with India. (His study of the Bengal famine
of 1943 is, however, seriously contested by Brahmananda in his
treatise on "Noble Economics" though it does not
invalidate the argument in favour of democratic state.)
Pareto for his assumption of inviolability of the conditions at
the start but agrees that it may allow achievement of freedoms
if conditions mentioned in Arrow-Debreu model are satisfied. He
criticises Rawls for giving primacy to liberty as a procedure
and not expanding it to freedoms both as an objective and as an
instrument. He also regards income and wealth as insufficient
primaries. There is a variation between income and wellbeing
because of (1) personal heterogeneities such as illness, age or
gender; (2) environmental diversities; (3) variation in social
climate such as the absence of crime; (4) difference in
relational perspectives — rich among poor, maybe poor among
rich — and, (5) distribution within the family. He is one with
Rawls, however, regarding a minimum equality at the start to
make equality of opportunity meaningful.
sets the stage for an alternative framework provided by Sen.
Here development is seen as a process of expansion of real
freedoms that people enjoy. This requires removal of major
sources of unfreedom — poverty as well as tyranny; poor
economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation;
neglect of public facilities as well as the intolerance of
repressive states. This is an evaluative aspect. The procedural
or institutional aspect includes (1) political freedom; (2)
economic facilities; (3) social opportunities; (4) transparency
guarantees; and, (5) protective security.
these creates capabilities to remove unfreedoms — to achieve
development which is an expansion of freedoms people enjoy.
freedoms have to reinforce one another and have to be sought
simultaneously. "Individual freedom is quintessentially a
social product, and there is a two-way relation between (1)
social arrangements to expand freedoms and (2) the use of
individual freedoms not only to improve the respective lives but
also to make the social arrangements more appropriate and
effective." Development, therefore, is a matter of
socio-political philosophy and action. He is aware of the
problem of prioritisation of the procedural freedoms but argues
that it is not important for the purposes of this book.
A major part of
the book deals with the data in support of this thesis. This is
based on massive research and is lucidly presented. Notes run
into 53 pages. The first two chapters give the outline of the
framework and Chapter V deals with the market, state and social
It will be
observed that Sen has retained welfare, defined as freedom, as
the objective of social choice in line with Utilitarians. He has
retained the freedom of the market at the core of economic
opportunities both for efficiency enhancement and, more
importantly for Sen, as an essential part of freedom. Even if it
were possible to achieve the same level of efficiency under a
dictator, something would be lost in the absence of a choice of
jobs and consumption of goods and services. Freedom of choice
also includes freedom to choose the type of government and to be
sure of the methods by which such choice can be exercised.
case of Kerala with China, Sen argues that the better
preformance of Kerala in terms of female literacy and longevity
of life, both male and female, is attributable to its democratic
governance. Kerala’s poor economic performance is, however,
attributed to its failure to take advantage of economic
opportunities. Sen does not elaborate on this but a hint of a
systemic failure is obvious. Kerala now promises to shift away
from state centred path of growth and has already started doing
well in the matter of tourism. Ironically, it recognises its
inability to sustain its welfare programme with its current
the market leads to faster income generation. But income itself
is not enough. Higher income of the blacks in America does not
give them better life expectancy or higher literacy, compared to
a much lower income of a Keralite. Therefore, Rawls’ two
primary goods have to be supplemented with a minimum of level
playing field in terms of education and health. Sen is aware of
the dichotomy between efficiency and equity but seeks an
equilibrium when capability enhancement of one cannot be done
without capability reduction of at least one other. Here he
re-embraces Pareto and marginality. Therefore, Sen’s
capabilities become axiomatic. Elementary education and basic
public and private health are regarded crucial. Knowledge is
also an absolute requirement for efficiency of the market.
Sen takes the
example of China contrasted with India to build his argument of
social investment in education and health, leading to faster
development once freedom of the market is introduced. However,
China’s achievement is also attracting much larger foreign
investment. Sen is silent on this unless one is to assume that
his basic point about the freedom of the market includes the
conditions of global free movement of capital. This, however,
Sen also does
not deal with the mess that Russia has created in switching over
to the market economy compared to the success achieved by China.
Is it the absence of a significant trading class or of the
tradition of classic bureaucracy? Sen’s comments would have
Sen is severely
critical of state protection patronage and direction of the
Indian economy and in particular its industry, and describes
this socialism as pre-capitalist feudalism. He approvingly
quotes Kalecki, the renowned Polish economist, on the success of
communism in Poland, "Yes, we have successfully abolished
capitalism; all we have to do now is to abolish feudalism."
Similar is Kancha Ilaiah’s views on Nehruvian socialism. Sen
is emphatically against programmes targeted at identified
Marx finds no
place here. The theory of surplus value stands condemned.
However, business cycle is a fact of life. Massive global
movement of capital has added to uncertainty. For autonomous
national economies Keynes was able to create a synthesis and
institutional framework. Peter Drucker has lamented the absence
of another Keynes for a way out for global economy. Sen, the
great synthesiser, will probably say something on this in
remains uncomfortable with minimum state action. How minimum is
The line between discriminatory
patronage and benign encouragement is thin. Eternal vigilance is
the price of liberty. One has always to ask the question, is it
the barest minimum? Could it be reduced further? Is there a
non-state-centred alternative? That will be the guarantee of
freedom and its expansion — a freedom all can enjoy. For this
emphasis on enjoyment and freedom, Sen is, as Brahmananda says,
part of classic tradition in economics. Sen acknowledges his
debt to Smith, a great propagator of axioms.