118 years of Trust BOOK REVIEW
Sunday, December 27, 1998
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Off the shelf
by V.N. Datta

The classic liberal’s classic dilemmas

Not exactly the India we live in
India towards Millennium edited by P.R. Chari. Manohar, New Delhi. Pp. 274. Rs 500.
Reviewed by D.R. Chaudhry

Depressing “D” word for women
Divorced Women by Usha Devi R. APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi. Pp. 170+XI. Rs 400
Reviewed by M.L. Sharma

Mountains and the men who climb them
Meeting the Mountains by Harish Kapadia. Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi. Pp. 398. Rs 500.
Reviewed by Padam Ahlawat

Movers and shakers in villages
Small Groups and Village Development by M.K. Narain. Reliance Publishing, New Delhi. Pp. xii + 125. Rs 150.
Reviewed by Kuldip Kalia

Health care: beyond pills
and vials

Asian Medical Systems: A Comprehensive Study by Charles Leslie. Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi. Pp. 419. Rs 395.
Reviewed by Uma Vasudev

50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence
50 years on indian independence

Off the shelf
by V.N. Datta

The classic liberal’s classic dilemmas

ISAIAH Berlin has been one of the leading and influential political scientists of our time. In particular, he has left a profound impact on a generation of students at Oxford where he spent most of his life teaching and research. In other universities and academic institutions his books consisting mostly of essays, have stimulated scholars to undertake further studies. It is heartening indeed that a full-scale biography, “Isaiah Berlin: A Life” by Michael Ignatieff (Chatto, p 386, 20) has appeared.

Born with a defective left arm, Isaiah was removed as a child to St Patersburg because of a disruption in family business. There he saw a “terrified Tsarist cop destroyed away by a mob”. This experience, which he recounts in several of his essays, left a profound impact on his mind and powerfully coloured his view of disorder and insurrection. With vivid imagination he described the subsequent scenes of lynching, murder and drowning, which he in fact did not witness.

While his uncle and aunt, to whom he was deeply attached, were active supporters of the socialist revoluntionary movement, Berlin chose altogether a different path and became a confirmed and committed liberal.

Ignatieff is absolutely right in saying that the lynching of the policeman “continued to work within Berlin” and deepened his horror of physical violence and his suspicion of political experiment. I think that it would be more appropriate to say that Berlin was opposed to only certain types of physical violence and political experiment.

All his life Berlin remained a vehement critic of Marxism. He wrote, “I saw the revolution in St Petersburg and it cured me for life.” In 1933 H.A.L., Fisher, Warden of New College Oxford, asked him to write a book on Karl Marx for the Home University Library. Berlin confessed that he had never read a line of Marx. Is not it surprising that until 1933, even after St Petersburg, he had not read Marx? He produced his book “Marx” which, though dull in parts and pompous in style, expounded some of the key ideas of Marxism.

According to the author, Berlin’s special contribution was pluralism or what he called synthesis. An individualist, Berlin abhored dogmas, doctrines and the “tyranny of concept”. He repeatedly describes his subject admiringly as a synthesis. Ignatieff insists that Berlin’s allegiance frequently bore the “stamp of realpolitik” and, well, shrewd calculation.

Berlin delivered his original lecture on “Liberty” first at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1952. He divided ideas about liberty between what is “liberal” and what is “romantic”. To be let down — the most desirable consummation in his own terms — is the negative. To be uplifted by others or forcibly emancipated is the positive. Later he elaborated on the same theme in his famous Chichele inaugural lectures for the Oxford Professiorial Chair, which was published later as “Two concepts of liberty”.

Ignatieff narrates the encounter that Berlin had with the distinguished historian Sir Lewis Namier about his lecture. Berlin presented a copy to him seeking his opinion. Namier was a dour, difficult man to get on with, meticulous and reserved. After a few days, when Berlin asked Namier about his reaction he said: “Berlin, you must be clever that you understand what you write.”

Ignatieff does not deny Berlin’s range of scholarship, wit and brilliance evident in several of his essays, but he thinks that Berlin lacked originally in thought and failed to produce a close, sustained and scholarly work of oustanding merit.

Though Berlin warned repeatedly against sacrificing living people to test abstract ideas or totemic dogmas, it is curious to see him supporting the hideous war in Vietnam. He never recanted on it. But Ignatieff dismisses Berlin’s attitude to the Vietnam war in a page or so and does not state his position on it at all but, instead, gives an impression of he being an honest and troubled man torn by twinges of conscience and unable to ally himself with the extremists of either camp. Does it mean that his faith in liberalism had diminished!

Berlin used to joke at Oxford about he being “an old mastandon of liberalism, a last feeble echo of J.S. Mill to be treated gently as a harmless old relic”. His critics hold the view that in his attitude to the Vietnam war he was dishonest in the face of a live moral crisis in which his conversion would have made a difference. But this aspect has been ignored by the legion of his memorialists and admirers.

Ignatieff writes that Berlin blocked the appointment of Isaac Deutscher, the distinguished biographer of Lenin and Marx, to a chair at Sussex University. When asked about it, Berlin said it was true that he did not approve of Deutscher but it was not his opinion which shaped the final decision. Ignatieff shows that it was a devastating letter from Berlin to the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex which “put paid to Deutscher’s chances”.

The author emphasises that Berlin presents Marx and other “utopians” as apostles or prophets of ultimate harmony, while offering his aggreeable and consensual self as the realistic man who recognises the inevitability of conflict and controversy. Ignatieff shows that Berlin’s emphasis on complexity, while viewing the conflict of rights, had a strong sense of simplification.

Ignatieff’s treatment of the period when Berlin served as a diplomat in the USA is excellent. Berlin was able to establish contacts with some leading American intellectuals. His concept of pluralism was ideally suited to and harmonised with the American ethos that exhibited many ambiguities about the war. The author writes, “Once transferred to Washington, Berlin could rotate — we would say ‘spin’ between tough and stupid isolationists, between the old guard at the ‘British embassy and the new Churchillian bosses in London, between the Anglophile hostesses of Georgetown and the anti-Nazi emigres from Central Europe’. He also involved himself in the quarrel between Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurian over the project of a Jewish national home, and in the attempts of both to play off the British against the Americans.”

The diplomatic career in the USA equipped Berlin with skills for compromise and manoeuvre which would help him supremely later in academic life and intellectual polities. The author writes that the slogan might well have been surtout pas de zele. He stood up for “multiplicity” and “conciliation”. During the cold war he found himself quite close to the establishment. On several occasions he had many opportunities to talk on the Soviet system with young Kennedy. A foot in both camps of the Atlantic alliance was the ideal post-war “positioning” for a cosmopolitan who had been a fluent and persuasive Greek at the initial movement of the new Rome.

Ignatieff puts the most lenient construction on his engagement with power. Describing an exchange between Berlin and George Kennan, he writes. “It was a fixed principle of his that the so-called ‘elites — intellectual or otherwise’ — had no business presuming that they knew better than the man or woman in the street.”

Berlin omitted to clarify his position on disarmament which is evident in his reply to Philip Toynbee. Berlin replied: ‘With a rather characteristic broadside — that liberal principles were of little meaning unless one was prepared to risk one’s very survival in their defence!’ When pressed further to elaborate, he said, ‘Unless there is some point at which you are prepared to fight against whatever odds, and whatever the threat may be, not merely to yourself but to anybody, all principles become flexible, all codes melt, and all ends in themselves for which we live disappear.’”

The author regards this as causistry of a low order and attributes this vacuous reply to Berlin’s visceral hatred for the Soviet system.

The author asserts that Berlin was shocked as anybody else was by the CIA funding of Encounter magazine to which he contributed articles on pluralism, the Soviet system, etc. He also repudiates the charge that Berlin had any unofficial relationship with the British intelligence on this point. Further discussion is needed because the author has depended exclusively on Berlin’s own denial.

The author suggests that Berlin always felt some sort of insecurity about himself; he was unsure of himself and was uneasy about the admiration he received from some acolytes. Ignatieff makes it clear that Jewishness lay at the bottom of this unease! He also suffered much private anxiety over Zionism. He knew not how to relax; the coils within him were always tight.

This full-scale biography of Berlin, compelling and rich in details, is a distinct contribution to our understanding of a versatile mind and complex personality.



Not exactly the India we live in

India towards Millennium edited by P.R. Chari. Manohar, New Delhi. Pp. 274. Rs 500.

A MAJORITY of contributors to the book under review and its editor belong to the creamiest layer of Indian society — IAS, IPS and IFS. It is the outcome of a project funded by the Department of Culture, Government of India.

The project “specified that a book of essays commemorating 50 years of India’s independence and addressing various facets of its polity be written” and the commandment was faithfully carried out. The result is a made-to-order kind of book.

The study, as claimed in the introduction, is aimed at evaluating the success and failure of the Indian state since independence and the “balance sheet shows a mixed record” — achievements and failures of the Indian republic. The book resembles a compilation of essays attempted by students in the annual examination on themes like merits and demerits of democracy, uses and abuses of science, etc. etc. There is no running theme in the book — not necessary in a work of this kind. But the minimum a reader expects is the major thrust which is sadly lacking.

T.C.A. Ramanujachari in his essay on the Constitution of India treats it as a kind of supra-social agency which has failed to deliver goods. He has no idea that the Constitution after all is an instrument in the hands of the ruling elites to shape society in consonance with their world view.

Harish Khare, a seasoned journalist, traces the evolution of the Indian political system as reflected in the functioning of different political parties — national as well as regional — and concludes that their emphasis is on pragmatism and the only ideology they have is the ideology of power.

G.K. Arora traces the malady of the Indian bureaucracy to the smooth transference of the colonial bureaucratic apparatus to the new ruling set-up after independence without making any attempt at a qualitative transformation in the changed circumstances. K.S. Dhillon has to say the same thing about the Indian police system — the colonial culture of lording over the people is kept intact in the police force even after the departure of the colonial masters. But why? Has it got anything to do with the class character of the new rulers? No attempt is made to grapple with such basic questions.

Prem Shankar Jha blames the command economy for all the economic ills of India and pleads for giving a free hand to market forces, sale of the PSUs, radical slashing of subsidies and such other measures chanted these days to propitiate the new-found god of globalisation. He suggests that this would generate more funds to carry out social development as envisaged by Professors Amartya Sen and Dreze, forgetting that these thinkers unreservedly stand for state intervention in several spheres — an anathema for people like Jha. The height of intellectual dishonesty! The balance is somewhat restored by B.G. Verghese when he states that everything cannot be left to the market forces as a large number of the Indian poor live outside and beyond the market and the state must intervene.

Urvashi Butalia in the only essay on the gender question in the book makes an important point about the communal agenda of the rightist Hindutva forces who wish to empower their women to attack the “other community”, while home is the best place so far as their own community is concerned.

M.N. Buch’s is another enlightened piece in the collection. With the help of the census data, he draws a graphic picture of the havoc caused by unplanned urbanisation. The only viable strategy is to develop the rural hinterland to check migration from the countryside to the town.

K. Subrahmanyam, a great votary of a nuclear India, is jubilant that India’s successful nuclear tests have greatly ensured Indian security. He is emphatic that “nuclear weapons cannot be used for war-fighting and their most effective role is for deterrence”. If the argument is taken to its logical conclusion, one may state that the world would have lasting peace, making war a total anachronism, if every country, big or small, could acquire nuclear weapons!

Ravi Vyas’s piece on Indian culture tells little about culture and less about its development since independence.

The editor has mercifully added Jawaharlal Nehru’s memorable “A tryst with destiny” speech and a speech by Indira Gandhi and K.R. Narayanan at the end of the book. One would very much wish that the worthy editor could ask the contributors to keep in mind the ringing words of Nehru about “the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity” defining the task of the new republic while they laboured on their essays.

Like most government-funded intellectual projects, this exercise too has gone haywire.

D.R. Chaudhry



Mountains and the men who climb them

Meeting the Mountains by Harish Kapadia. Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi. Pp. 398. Rs 500.

THE author is a known mountaineer who is as keen on mountaineering as writing. This is his fifth book on mountaineering and he has been editing “The Himalyan Journal” since 1978.

The mountaineering bug smit him 35 year ago, when he was in college and his first expedition was to the Pindari Glacier in the Kumaon range. Then followed mountaineering courses at Darjeeling and an expedition to the peaks of the Himalayas.

He has had on enviable record of mountaineering activity and has led five joint expeditions with foreign climbers such as Chris Bonnington. Among the high peaks he has climbed are the Devtoli at 6788 metres, Panch Chuli (Kumaon), 6904 metres and the Lungser Kangri in Ladakh, 6666 metres. However, the author’s greatest contribution to mountaineering and trekking has been to explore virgin peaks and encouraging the young to take to trekking the Western ghats or the lesser known valleys of the Himalayas.

In between all this activities, the author somehow found time to do law and business management from Bombay University. It is amazing how Harish Kapadia manages to visit several countries, including the UK, Norway, France and Japan to lecture on mountaineering expeditions and yet manages his business as a cloth merchant at Mumbai. Probably his wife manages the business, when he is away on expeditions or lecturing to mountaineering enthusiasts in India and abroad.

Why do men climb mountains? In the words of George Leigh Mallory, “there is not the slightest prospect whatever of any gain. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, nor a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. What we get from his adventure is sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life is for.”

With the mountains standing there as a challenge to man, those with indomitable spirit to find adventure have been drawn to the mountains. Harish Kapadia has been one such person who has had a long love affair with the mountains. Even in his middle age his pleasant appearance on the peak betrays no trace of age or fatigue. The writer brings out that love for the mountains in this book and writes about his experience at the Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling, expedition to the snowy peaks and trekking and explorations of the mountain passes and valleys of Kashmir, Ladakh, Kinnaur, Spiti, Garhwal and Kamaon.

For explorers and mountaineers there is a wealth of information and numerous trekking routes to choose from. The photographs of the icy peaks are of fine quality.

But the author is not as good a writer as he is a mountaineer. It is not a very interesting book to read as it lacks the personal touch of the traveller. We do not get the feel of the troubles and hardships encountered in day-to-day climbing, nor the pleasure or disappointment at its success or failure. It appears as if there are no dangers involved.

The Siachen expedition had to be abandoned in the middle due to an objection the defence authorities raised. Mountaineering can claim to have been the genesis of the Siachen issue. It was the numerous expeditions to Siachen from the Pakistan side that prompted the Indian to stake their claim to Siachen.

Of the mountaineering personalities that the author writes about, I consider Nima Dorjee Sherpa as one of the most striking and tragic. The Kanchenjunga has been earlier tried unsuccessfully by the difficult eastern route by a German expedition.

In 1977 this route was successfully climbed by Nima Dorjee Sherpa, a member of the Indian Army expedition. This catapulted Subedar Nima Dorjee as a leading mountaineer of the world. His second attempt on the Everest in 1985, as a member of the Indian Army expedition, met with disaster.

A disturbed family life and a sense of emptiness forced him to take to alcohol. That took the life of this mountain hero in 1993 and he died unsung.

This simple sherpa of the 5/3 Gorkha Rifles was a born mountaineer. But the Army failed to recognise his worth.

Padam Ahlawat



Movers and shakers in villages

Small Groups and Village Development by M.K. Narain. Reliance Publishing, New Delhi. Pp. xii + 125. Rs 150.

THE basic unit of society is group. A group can be small or large, but small groups play a vital role in the socio-politico-economic life of the rural people. These are an intrinsic part of the system and play the role of a sub-system at the micro level and ultimately act as a potential unit of development.

The book under review is an attempt to study the group structure and to understand the dynamic of membership. It also highlights group relationship, cohesiveness and their norms. More, it discusses at length their role in decision-making, implementation of programmes and organisation of rural developmental activities.

Small groups are important because of the greater degree of continuous relationship and interaction. Moreover, it is the individual who is important in such groups. Individuals can communicate with one another directly. These groups are not based exclusively on caste, group loyalties and community but they can be categorised as active and inactive groups.

Groups are not formed in a day since a great deal of understanding is needed to know each other, and in fact, it is a form of a contract to respect the other’s point of view. These small groups are normally located in villages. These groups meet regularly. The biggest is at the place where free smoke, generally from a hookah, is available and sometimes where there is radio to listen to and television to watch.

It is the group interest which regulates group behaviour. Such groups have many interrelated functions and activities. The pattern of interaction between caste groups is also instrumental in bringing about social change because caste is always a factor in the formation of factions in villages. Cohesiveness binds them and motivates them to work.

These groups discuss a wide range of subjects ranging from personal matters to national affairs, but the most pertinent part of their discussion relates to individual group welfare, village affair and community development.

Over a period of time and collective work, norms are developed which serve as guidelines for the members and help in regulating their behaviour. Any violation is considered disruptive and invites punitive action. The study reveals that group norms are more important in an underdeveloped village than in a developed one. Another factor which came to light is that self-realisation is a feeling of guilt or awkwardness. In such cases, normally a strategy of pacifying the member is adopted.

For any development effort, the most important aspect is decision-making and implementation. The study points out that a majority of villagers engaged in active participation are educated, enlightened, effective and experienced with leadership qualities. The decision-making process has three stages: availability of relevant information on issues; knowledge of other’s points of view on the subject, and the advantages or disadvantage based on experience. The data shows that a lesser number is involved in collective information but the issues are largely discussed and only a few are involved at the last stage.

Decisions can be connected with professional aspects of farmers such as agricultural innovations, development of seed, methods of sowing; or the physical development of the village such as street-lighting, brick laying of lanes; or personal matters such as family affairs, marriages and the issues broadly classified as individual-oriented or for promoting the development and welfare of the community.

Then decisions are translated into action but lack of resources, lack of cooperation and motivation for collective action are some of the hurdles which come in the way of proper implementation of policies and programmes.

Mutual help plays a vital role in such a situation. However it depends on the pattern of relationship. Mutual assistance, particularly in farming operations, has become a necessity.

The government must realise the necessity of involving these small groups in solving local problems and should strengthen such organisations. Moreover, these organisations do need expertise and what we really need to help them is “rural technology for the overall socio-economic development of the area”.

Kuldip Kalia



Depressing “D” word for women

Divorced Women by Usha Devi R. APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi. Pp. 170+XI. Rs 400.

“DIVORCED Women” is a research work although it appears as a collection of stories, pathetic and painful, woven around those hapless women who live in isolation or in an island of their own. Separated from their spouses, they live with other families not as a part and parcel but as strangers, though apparently appearing calm and composed.

With more enlightenment, thanks to higher education and more avenues for higher studies, they have been able to get jobs in all fields, as executives in banks and finance companies, as administrators and assistants in government and semi-government establishments. But darkness has descended on their social lives.

Blame it on their stars or on other factors, the cases of divorce are mounting day by day, forcing women to spend their lives in semi-wretched conditions. Gone are the days when women were unlettered and could not contribute financially to their families. But in those days discord or tension in marriage was unheard of and women lived in surrender to their spouses, not in abject slavery but out of respect and family “maryada”.

The traditional role of a housewife in India has been to serve her husband and his parents with devotion and look after their children and be helpful to sisters-in-law and youngsters. “Maryada” was the rule of law.

It sounds strange that with more avenues of higher education and better economic conditions, a considerable number of women are not happy with their married lives. Some of them bear with the unhappy situations, some take to extreme steps and commit suicide, while others knock at the doors of the law and seek separation. Whom God unites, judges divide.

The book under review is a study, in all its dimensions, of those individuals who have separated from their husbands and are living a lonely life even though surrounded by friends and relatives. The book studies the socio-psychological problems of those women and explores the reasons for their seeking divorce. It explores the ways they adjust themselves to the social and economic surrounding.

The author finds that in recent years there has been a spurt in he number of divorce cases as marital difficulties seem to be more evident now than before. This, she says, is partly because the traditional structure of society is not supported by the people who believe in traditional values. “The changes in the status of women, both legal and social, have made an enormous impact on their psychology. Moreover, girls are brought up today in a more liberal, less rigid atmosphere, less conforming to the traditional feminine etiquette”.

She has examined the law on matrimony right from the Vedic age down to this day. There is a good look at Manu Smriti and those aspects related to matrimony and divorce. Kautilya and Buddhist writings have been quoted extensively to show the attitude of the ancient writers to women and their conduct or misconduct leading to separations.

In medieval India, she says, monogamy was the prevalent social custom, with a few cases of polygamy. Widows were not permitted to remarry. Divorce was considered a taboo in the higher castes and religious and social customs governed the marriage codes.

In interviews with 300 women, she finds that the primary reason for divorce is the pursuit of individual goals when the other was found to be an obstacle. Divorces, she says, are common in the early years of wedlock. Still fear gripped the divorced women that the future of the children would be bleak in the absence of the father.

Economic independence, however, has overcome social insecurity. Remarriages are more likely among those women who are without children and that remarried women find their new relationships happier.

In one chapter she discloses that over 83 per cent of the respondents went back to their parental homes but they were not always welcome there. Some women disclosed that neighbours shunned their company. What was abhorrent to them was the gossips made about them, people discussing their married lives and the guesses made to find out the reasons for divorce or their relations with male colleagues. Often colourful stories were woven around them.

She believes that fearing a bleak future for their children, women should have thought twice before walking out marriage as the fundamental reason behind divorce is lack of understanding, not love. There is a confrontation between the “I” attitude and “we” attitude. Their wishes and aspirations are separated from that of their spouses and they pursue their own individual goals.

In this way, disintegration of the family takes place and after much mental torture, recourse of law is taken. Clinical evidence also indicates that some young children of divorced women remain insecure, lonely, anxious individuals for the whole of their lives. Memory of the hurt feelings invariably confronts them.

M. L. Sharma



Health care: beyond pills and vials

Asian Medical Systems: A Comprehensive Study by Charles Leslie. Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi. Pp. 419. Rs 395.

ASIAN Medical systems and practices have a great correlation with modern science and technology. The three great traditions of medical science evolved during antiquity in Chinese, Indian and Mediterranean civilisations, all based on humaral medicine, coexist with cosmopolitan medicine which draws upon modern science and modes of professional organisation.

This volume has been designed by Leslie to show how research on Asian medicine opens a new field of scholarship and also gives a comparative study of the medical systems. The authors of this volume are experts in sociology, anthropology, public health, pharmacology, epidemology, cosmopolitan medicine and philosophy.

Leslie has divided this volume into seven parts. Part one is, “The great traditions of Hindu, Arabic and Chinese medicine”, part two, “The structure and character of cosmopolitan medicine”, part three, “The adaptive significance of medical traditions”, part four, “The culture of plural medical systems”, part five, “The ecology of indigenous and cosmopolitan medical practice”, part six, “Medical revivalism”, and part seven pertains to “Perspective: world-views and Asian medical system”.

Ayurveda is an intrinsic part of Indian culture, but this cannot be said of the Unani system with regard to Islamic culture, says J. Christoph Burgel in “Secular and religious features of medieval Arabian medicine”. He says that it is Greek medicine taken over during the early Islamic period and superimposed on a culture of different origin where, consequently, it met with reserve or even rejection by conservative and narrow-minded religious people. The coexistence of different medical traditions during the early Islamic period shows some parallels to the situation in some Asian and other developing countries today.

On the intellectual and social impulses behind the evolution of traditional Chinese medicine, Manfred Porkert says that whoever tries to appraise the status of indigenous medicine today is confronted by conflicting evidence. On the one hand, more than a century of contact with western science has until now failed to stimulate any significant effort at theoretical reassessment of the heritage of traditional medicine in terms of universal modern medicine. On the other hand, the traditional methods continue to stand up remarkably well against the competition of western medicine not only in China, but also in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The Chinese medicine, says the author, resolves the contradictions through the intellectual and social constants of medicine operative throughout history.

The strengths of the Chinese medicine are (i) the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that are manifest, essentially through symptoms; (ii) the diagnosis and treatment of so called chronodemic (shih-ch’i) diseases; (iii) the early diagnosis and prevention of organic diseases.

The Soviet variant of the modern medical system, according to Mark G. Field, are: (i) there must be a person identified as a physician who is available, motivated and ready to provide service to the patient; (ii) the physician must have the knowledge and techniques that the patient does not have; (iii) the physicians activities must be formally defined and sanctioned by society, particularly by its values; (iv) terms must be arranged to exchange the time and services of the physician for payment, either by the patient, insurance fund, governmental or other agency.

The author says that there is some talk about folk medicine and folk remedies and the superiority of some medicinal herbs used by the Russian peasants over pharmaceutical compounds. However, the development of the two parallel systems was never encouraged in Russia.

While dealing with the modern medical, research, Renee C. Fox says that medicine as an institution turns around the relationship between health and illness and physical and psychic capacity of individuals to perform their social roles. Medicine is linked with birth, life, pain, suffering, anxiety, mortality and death. Medical research is a way of inquiring into and striving to control the body, mind, psyche and environment as they bear upon the health and illness, says the author.

The final key attribute of modern medical research is the extensive participation of human subjects in its inquiries and experiments. The furtherance of medical skill and knowledge, according to the author, is therapeutic innovation. When the patients are used as subjects for new forms of therapy, the usual procedure is to advance from work on animals to clinical trials with terminally ill patients, and from there to testing with persons in progressively earlier, more benign phases of the malady.

William Caudill talks of the “cultural and interpersonal context of everyday health and illness in Japan and America.” He says that culture and social structure are interrelated in the occurrence of disease and its treatment. This is true of major and minor illnesses and of the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that make up everyday care of the body. Japan and America provide a good comparison for exploring traditional and modern medical systems. Both countries are highly urbanised and industrialised, both have well-developed medical systems, and both are plagued with the myriad problems of modern society: urban deterioration, overcrowding, environmental pollution, the ennui of increasing leisure time, a lengthening lifespan with an attendant shift from infectious to chronic diseases, and bleakness of retirement and the old age. At the same time both the countries have a different cultural background.

Alan R. Beals has dealt with “strategies of resort to curers in South India” in great detail. An anthropologist, he is concerned with cultural change, ecology and conflict in a small number of villages in Mysore State where strategies of medical resort is based on casual observation. The author refers to two villages, Namhalli and Gopalpur. Namhalli is close to the city of Bangalore and has a long history of experience with sophisticated and urbanised medical practitioners. Gopalpur, on the other hand, is in the northern part of Mysore and is far from any city and has only limited access to urban medical traditions.

In modern Namhalli and traditional Gopalpur, there are a wide range of practitioners, including unpaid local healers, saints and religious figures, priests, drug and herb authorities, midwives, astrologers, government doctors, missionary doctors, private doctors and foreign returned doctors. Most of these doctors and practitioners are sincere, are competent, honest, and trustworthy. But a few practitioners in each category are insensitive, dishonest and incompetent. All of them have flourishing business. Faith healing is the biggest boon among the rural poor.

In Gopalpur, persons suffering from leprosy or tuberculosis could be prevailed upon to attempt western medications; but even when these were free, most patients were unwilling to make repeated visits to the dispensary for additional medicine. The result is that tuberculosis and leprosy are incurable, and this reinforces the unwillingness to seek treatment. Whereas all these diseases are curable and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is spending millions of dollars all over the world to eradicate these diseases from the earth.

Gananath Obeyesekere has described the impact of ayurveda on culture and the individual in Sri Lanka in great depth. He says that ayurveda is more than a system of physical medicine, because its underlying ideas have permeated religion and ritual. An analysis of these metamedical concepts must begin with the fundamental principles (mula dharma) of ayurveda, which include the doctrine of five basic elements of universe; the three humors and the seven components of the body. The five elements are ether, wind, water, earth and fire. The five elements are constituents of all life and as such also make up the three humors and the seven physical components of the body. As the five elements in the food are “cooked” by fire in the body they are converted into a fine portion and refuse. Body elements are produced by successive transformation of the refined food substance into food juice, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow and semen. Semen is said to be the most refined form of element in the body, the “vital juice” that tones up the whole organism.

W.T. Jones has given the worldviews on the Asian medical systems and has given a number of suggestions for further study. This volume is a treasure of medical science, old and new, ancient and modern. Lot of emphasis is laid on natures cure. This book is useful for all to follow and know the Asian medical system, which is the base of the present modern medical research.

Uma Vasudeva


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