Tibetan tears still flow
The Dragon in
the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet
since 1947. by Tsering Shakya. Pimlico, London.
Pages xxx+ 574. £ 12.50.
LONG a land of mystery and
snow ensconced safely beyond the horizon and the
Himalayas, Tibet and its people have invariably
evinced no small interest nearer home and in the
wider world outside. And it is so of late for
such weighty and increasingly relevant issues as
minority and human rights.
More importantly, studies
on a Tibetan Shangri-La, hitherto mostly by
western explorers, have dwelt largely on the
esoterics of lamaism or its quaint beliefs and
practices. Happily there is emerging a small
group of Tibetan scholars who have broken fresh
ground to deal with more mundane affairs of state
and the existing ground realities. The book under
review by a young London-based Tibetan academic
is a case in point.
The half century
surveyed in Shakyas big and heavy tome
running into well over 600 large-sized pages,
opens with "Lull before the storm", the
hectic, event-filled couple of years immediately
preceding the communist Chinese onslaught in
1950. With a youthful 14th Dalai Lama, still to
attain majority and saddled with a Regent badly
embroiled in serpentine intrigue, Tibets
polity lacked cohesion and a sense of direction.
near-unanimous popular sentiment to resist the
unwelcome Chinese was ill-supported by any
physical prowess. For what passed for the Tibetan
army was an untrained, ill-equipped, poorly-led
rabble which even at the best of times would have
been singularly inadequate to resist any armed
incursion. Much less the massed battalions of the
well-equipped PLA which had neatly worked out its
plans. In the event, an uncontested China imposed
its will on a helpless land and its hapless
Tibets appeal to the UN of any avail. For
the only two governments that could have lent a
helping hand, the British Raj in India and its
political legatees, were not exactly forthcoming.
New Delhi entertained the "false
belief" that a peaceful solution could be
reached and the "status quo
maintained"; Whitehall was ambivalent at
best, much too worried about the "whole
question of our relations with China", Tibet
posed "a very secondary issue".
was remiss because of the Korean
"imbroglio" and the impending Kashmir
All in all,
those who mattered developed cold feet to aid and
offer succour to a victim of aggression whose
independence was being ruthlessly trampled under
and whose political modesty was outraged.
Lhasa had little room for manoeuvre and not many
months after the "Liberation" (October,
1950) made to "negotiate" in Beijing
where the 17-point agreement (May, 1951) was
literally forced on its less than willing
delegation. There was a serious debate in the
Dalai Lamas camp, who had fled in the wake
of Chinese threats, whether it should be
accepted. Shakyas conclusion that once the
Chinese had invaded, and Tibet failed to garner
any international support, there was "no
choice" in the matter is unexceptional, as
was Nehrus perceptive observation that
Lhasa accepted the agreement "without"
joy and "under the compulsion of
decade-long (1951-59) "uneasy
coexistence" between a demoralised rump of
the Tibetan administration and an increasingly
overbearing Chinese presence was witness to
growing tensions. Lhasa was woefully short of
food, fuel and accommodation in the wake of an
almost endless stream of PLA personnel. The worst
sufferers were the locals whose meagre rations
were now literally unaffordable.
there was trouble between the Chinese authorities
and Tibets lay and religious officials:
popular support for the latter unhinged the
cadres no end. Beijings propaganda stance
that it had arrived primarily to build a modern
Tibet made no dent. Presently Tibets lay
and religiously ordained Prime Ministers found
themselves on a collision course with their new
masters and the Dalai Lama was coerced into
accepting their ouster. Their dismissal, "a
severe blow" to Tibetan morale, bred a great
deal of disillusionment among all sections of
gains on the Panchen Lama front too were
impressive. The much-estranged Lama, a Chinese
protege, was formally enthroned at Tashilhunpo
(June, 1952) with the Lhasa administration forced
into providing his estate "substantial"
compensation and loans. Meanwhile the long-drawn
out negotiations between New Delhi and Beijing
(December, 1953-April, 1954) leading to the
India-China trade agreement tacitly acknowledged
Indias "unequivocal acceptance"
of Beijings sovereignty not
suzerainty over Tibet, now referred to as
a "region of China".
heavily underlines, here was the "first
international agreement" to do so.
Tibets emigres were outraged while
Whitehall, though not exactly happy, was
"not willingly to voice publicly" its
dissent, much less oppose the agreement.
Beijing had was the Dalai Lamas year-long
sojourn in China (1954-55) and his meetings with
Chairman Mao. The great helmsman was glad Tibet
had "come back" to the motherland and
affirmed that Chinas real intent was to
"bring progress". Symptomatic of
Maos promise was the decision to set up the
preparatory committee for the Autonomous Region
of Tibet (PCART), later formally inaugurated in
Lhasa (April, 1956). Before long it was to emerge
as the principal governing body in Tibet while
the Dalai Lamas now well-nigh resourcless
Kashag became almost redundant.
To no ones
surprise the "rift" between the Dalai
Lama and his Chinese masters began to widen by
the day. All the same, the main thrust for
destabilising the Chinese position came from the
east: from Kham and Amdo, both inhabited by
ethnic Tibetans who had close cultural ties with
Lhasa. It is of interest to note that the revolt
in east Tibet in the winter of 1955, was not
organised under any cohesive leadership but was
characterised, for most part, by
"spontaneous and localised" attacks on
Chinese cadres. It was suppressed by the end of
1956 when the bulk of the defeated rebels, the
Khampas and the renegade Guomindang troops, moved
into central Tibet.
Here, there was
enough discontent against Chinese attempts to
introduce "reforms" which the mass of
Tibetans viewed as a frontal assault on their
traditional way of life. The Dalai Lama who had
been on a visit to India was under mounting
pressure from a number of his advisers not to
return when Zhou Enlai directly, and Nehru
indirectly, persuaded him to retrace his steps.
The Chinese Premier held out the firm assurance
that "reforms" would be postponed for
five years and staggered for another five, if
necessary. For the record, the Lama did return
(March, 1957) only to flee two years later, and
now with a price on his head.
For by March,
1959, the Khampa rebellion had reached Lhasa and
all was upside down.
The four decades
that have elapsed since may be briefly
summarised. Beijing has blown hot and cold; the
Lama has, by and large, kept his cool. China
started by denouncing the Tibetan ruler and the
"reactionary clique" that surrounded
And to counter
his influence it built up the Panchen Lama.
Sadly, the latter was soon critical of his
masters and in his famous 70,000 "character
petition" to Chairman Mao (1962) averred
that Chinese policies had proved disastrous for
his land. For his pains, the junior Lama was
subjected to humiliation and a 14-year (1964-78)
full force of the mighty Cultural Revolution was
felt in Tibet, where local Red Guards insisted on
the complete eradication of "zhingtren
lamlung", Tibets "feudal
culture". What it meant in practice was to
destroy all vestiges of Tibets faith and
raze to the ground thousands of Tibetan gompas.
Beijing insisted that is was a
"fallacy" to advocate the idea that
there were special circumstances in Tibet. As if
that were not clear enough, the newly revised
Constitution (January, 1975) contained few
references to minority groups with Article 24
clearly stipulating that regional autonomy could
only be exercised "within the limits"
of authority prescribed by law. More, that there
was no room for "local nationalism".
(1976) however led to a dramatic turn for the
better and with Deng Xiaopeng, the "great
capitalist roader", there was a whiff of
fresh air. The great paramount leader was
prepared to discuss all Tibetan grievances (1979)
as long as the Dalai Lama did not demand
independence and separation from China. Sadly,
the Dharamsala-Beijing "dialogue"
(1979-89) soon ground to a halt. Beijings
idea about the "talks" was that the
Lamas return was the main issue; there was
no question of discussing the status of Tibet
much less acknowledging in any shape or form the
Dalai Lamas government in exile.
As the last
decade of the century drew to a close, the
impasse persisted. The Chinese self-image of a
benign presence in the land of the lamas that
contributes to its future growth and prosperity,
runs counter to the Tibetans clear
conviction that Beijings occupation is an
embodiment of state power and a malevolent force
which seeks ultimately to destroy Buddhism and
Tibets distinct identity. There is no
bridging this yawning chasm.
Born in the year
of the March (1959) Rebellion, the young author,
while critical of Chinese chauvinism, has not
been altogether oblivious of Tibetan failings.
The book has drawn heavily on a wealth of
archival sources in western languages and a
plethora of oral evidence from Tibetan officials
with first hand knowledge of men and affairs.
among other things, furnishes the first complete
account of CIA involvement, of British duplicity,
of Indias squeamishness in their dealings
with Tibet. Heavy though his pages are,
Shakyas voluminous tome is eminently
readable. And largely objective, and
History of the forgotten ones
Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition
of India by Urvashi Butalia. Viking India, New
Delhi. Pages 278. Rs 295.
NO matter who writes it,
when and how, no history is ever complete. There
is always a hidden side to it. And it is this
attempt at uncovering the hidden histories
the silences that makes the book under
review a remarkable addition to the existing
partition literature. Urvashi Butalia succeeds
enormously in bringing home the point that there
is not, and can never be, one single monolithic
history of any event. Instead, as she rightly
contends, we have histories which are unfolded at
different levels in different contexts. It is
with this fundamental understanding of history
then that the author approaches partition which
sets her work apart.
reconstruction of the past through individual
recounting is noteworthy, among others, for three
important reasons. The first is her attempt at
reviving and articulating the voices of the
invisible or the marginal women, children
and the dalits and recording what they
have to say on partition which deeply dislocated
and traumatised their lives. The second is her
graphic representation of such voices and
bringing to the fore the social cost of political
decisions and, finally, and perhaps most
important of all, her conscious choice of
approaching an understanding of partition within
the framework of oral history, which is what
makes this work refreshing and brilliant reading
on the partition of the subcontinent.
choice for narratives over the classical tools of
history writing enormously enables the author in
presenting a vivid account of some of the
experience of partition victims and survivors,
bringing to the fore some of the shattering and
mind-boggling revelations which no history book
on partition has ever attempted.
In a fairly long
section on women and their predicament both
during and in the aftermath of partition, Butalia
brings out the patriarchal character of the
Indian state by highlighting the nature of
state-women relationship. For example, the whole
exercise of recovery and restoration of
"abducted women" undertaken by the
state did not leave any option whatsoever to
them. The abducted women were perforce
"recovered" and "restored" by
the Indian state without any regard for their
As Butalia puts
it, "Despite the womens reluctance
(and not all women were thus reluctant, many were
happy to be recovered and restored to their
families) to leave, considerable pressure,
sometimes even force, was brought to bear on them
to convince them to do so."
enactment of the Abducted Persons (Recovery and
Restoration) Law in 1949 only served as a
legitimising weapon for the Indian state in
tracking these women down and bringing them back.
further shows how the promulgation of this Act
made the fate of these unfortunate women a
prerogative of the state, so much so that the
state clearly became the defining authority
defining even something as private and
intensely personal as motherhood.
the impact of partition on children, the author
enters into what she calls a relatively unmapped
terrain. Highlighting the failure of the dominant
historical discourse in addressing the question
of children, particularly the
"post-abduction children", the author
sets out to recover their voices. And this she
manages to do very well by taking recourse to
memory. The story of Murad and several
others like him is only a reminder of how they
were "lost to history".
further shows how the fate of these children was
deeply affected as a result of the states
policy on abducted persons. The question of
childrens rightful place for
example, who did they actually belong to
became quite controversial, causing not only
confusion to their parents but also hardship to
these children for no fault of theirs. The plight
of these "post-abduction children", a
product of "illegitimate unions", she
argues, was much more intense than the abducted
women who could still be integrated in their home
countries but not these children who were labeled
Her critique of
"mainstream" history for focusing
almost exclusively on the Hindus, the Sikhs and
the Muslims, the author shows how the other minor
indentities like the dalits and Christians where
subsumed by the overwhelming dominant ones.
Located on the
margin of society, the dalits had virtually no
one to represent them. By way of recovering these
unheard voices, the author discovers how the
Indian state had summarily failed to respond to
their genuine concerns. For example, despite
their persistent claims for land rights, they
were refused the same by the state on the ground
that they did not "fit" into the
definition of legitimate claimants for land.
Thus, by way of
recovering and articulating peoples
narratives, the author succeeds in showing how
the experience of women, children, the dalits and
many others were "silenced" both at the
level of the state and at the level of writing
This book also
merits attention for bringing into sharp focus
the conflict between the state-centred and
people-oriented solutions. For example, the
formal declaration, to partition India on June 3,
1947, might have come as a relief to the state
and several political leaders and activists of
varying political shades, but it did come as a
shock to hundreds of thousands of common people
who lost almost everything that they had in the
wake of violence unleashed by the communal rights
that followed the formal declaration of
It is this
traumatic experience of deprivation and
directionlessness which has been vividly captured
and represented in this work.
It is extremely
important, however, to remember that by grounding
this work in the domain of memory and oral
history, the author does not seek to provide an
alternative history of partition.
seeks to provide an alternative mode of
approaching partition history by trying to
uncover what she calls the "underside"
of partition "the feelings, the
emotions, the pains and anguish, the trauma, the
sense of loss, the silences in which it lay
shrouded" making it an original work
with new insights and revelations. It is in this
sense that this work is not just yet another
addition to partition history; rather it is an
unique work of its own kind. What distinguishes
this work from others is its focus on the human
condition as against the general focus on
documenting political developments of partition
which is what standard writing of history on
draws a parallel between 1947 and 1984 and shows
how some of the common victims of the two
recollected their past memories because the
nature of violence in both was starkly similar.
One may well ask what is the point in raking up
these memories all over again? This is one
question which was not only put to the author by
several of her respondents time and again but
which she herself was conscious of. Expressing
her concern over this question, she justifies her
exploration of partition by saying"...while
it may be dangerous to remember, it is also
essential to do so... so that (not only) we can
come to terms with it, but also because unlocking
memory and remembering is an essential part of
beginning the process of resolving, perhaps even
partition, she thus sheds light on the concerns
of the present. Conversely, she approaches an
understanding of the past through the experience
of the present.
one may well understand and appreciate the
numerous dilemmas that the Indian state might
have then confronted in the form of myriad
problems thrown up by the partition of the
subcontinent, how does one explain the
discriminatory policies formulated and
implemented by the state towards its citizens
women, children and the dalits the
most vulnerable of the vulnerables.
strength of the book then perhaps lies in the
fact that it forces us into rethinking these
issues even after 50 years of Indias
independence by reminding us that the freedom it
won did not come all that free.
Atal Behari Bajpai you
of Indian Biography edited by Nagendra Kr. Singh.
A.P.H. Publishing, New Delhi. 8 vols (each with
different number of pages). Rs 10,000
CAN you recollect the
poetic works of Jnanpith award winner Mahadevi
Varma? Do you know that Nissim Ezekiel is an
India-English poet and writer? When did the
well-known politician Yashwantrao Balwantrao
Chavan die? It appears strange but remains a fact
that Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi was born in a Sikh
family in 1872 near Sialkot.
These facts and posers
are not from any quiz contest but taken from the
recently published "Encylopedia of Indian
Biography". It covers comprehensively more
than 4000 leading personalities, including
scientists, philosophers, social and religious
leaders, saints, artists and politicians.
Alphabetically arranged, the eight-volume work is
not strictly treated or presented in a
"liberally adopted" style which is to
some extent, artistic and maginative. Cross
reference entries are used extensively to link
work is not without flaws. The information given
therein is misleading to the extent that Hindi
writer Upendra Nath Ashk is said to be busy
writing the last sequel to his "Girti
Diwaren", but the fact is that he died at
the age of 87 on January 19, 1996. Similarly Home
Minister L.K. Advanis life contents are
treated shabbily and nothing is available about
him beyond 1980.
The very first
entry on the contents page of Volume I is
incomplete. The entry on Khwaja Ahmad Abbas
should have been 1914-1987 and not 1914 with
open-ended entry, that is born in 1914 and still
living. A disturbing trend in this work is
putting a big question mark(?) after the year of
birth as done in the case of eminent economist
and educationist Malcolm S. Adiseshiah, who died
on November 21, 1994, at the age of 84.
It would have
been a better presentation if the compiler-editor
had mentioned the volume number and page while
providing a cross reference entry like, for
example, Acharya J.B. Kripalani see under
Kripalani, J.B; vol number IV, page number 630.
literature survey, the reviewer has failed to
locate any information regarding many prominent
Indian personalities such as President of India
K.R. Narayanan, former Presidents Zail Singh and
R. Venkataraman, eminent jurist Nani Palkhivala
and freedom fighter Vijaylakshmi Pandit. Only a
few are mentioned; in fact the lapses are many.
Similarly Chaudhri Charan Singh is there but Devi
Lal is missing.
In such an
exercise, standardised spellings are always
desirable. Atal Behari is better known as
Vajpayee and not as Bajpai or Vajpai. Amazingly
but amusingly, the cross reference entry directs
us to see Bajpai, Atal Bihari under Vajpai, A.B.
but no information is available even under that
surname. One wonders why the correct name of
Prime Minister Atal Behari does not figure in
cross reference entry should be used judiciously
when the entry directs us to see Bajpai, Nand
Dulari under Vajpai, Nand Dulare. It should be
under Vajpai and not Vajpeyi as mentioned in
It lacks proper
alphabetical indexing too. How could Vipra
Harivara come between Vermas in an alphabetical
order that is, Verma, Ganga Prasad and Verma,
shortcomings, the value of this encylopedia
cannot be minimised. It is, perhaps, the first
comprehensive work of Indian biography but
desperately needs the professional touch.
He went, he saw and he
WHEN the Punjabi emigrants to the
western world settled down comfortably after
their initial trials and tribulations, they
thought of organising world Punjabi conferences
in quick succession to discuss the problems of
the Punjabi community the language,
literature, culture, identity and so on. The
first conference was held in England in 1980
which was attended by scores of writers, big and
small. After that a number of conferences were
held in Canada, the USA, Thailand and so on.
intellectual purpose the exercise served is yet
to be evaluated. But its most obvious aim was to
expose Punjabi writers to the western ways of
life and to provide them a chance to travel and
enjoy the hospitality of their brethren settled
in the various parts of the world.
The wander lust
of Punjabi writers got a fillip and they boarded
planes in hordes to reach across the
"uneven" terrains of the western world.
conference was organised in Thailand, an Asian
country, yet the main attraction of writers has
been Europe and America.
Among all these
conferences, the most controversial has been the
recent one at Milwaukee in the USA which was
mainly financed by Punjabi gas mughal in America,
Darshan Singh Dhaliwal. The arrangements for the
conference were nearly superb, forget the
missteps of the Indian organisers, some of whom
had extra-literary interests to take care of.
happy byproduct of these jaunts has been scores
of writings by the delegates, some of whom were
on a ritualistic pilgrimage to their dream land.
attempt is by Baldev Singh Dhaliwal, a university
teacher and a promising short story writer
di Chog" (Ravi Sahit Parkashan, Amritsar) is
a sensitive travelogue detailing his wanderings
in the USA, England and Canada. Travelogue
("safarnama") in Punjabi is a 20th
century entrant. Punjab does not have a
Hsuan-tsang, a Marco Polo or an Ibn Batuta,
though it has Guru Nanak who travelled far and
wide in the medieval times. But he maintained no
record of his extensive travels.
travelogue of some consequence in Punjabi is Lal
Singh Kamla Akalis "Mera Valaiti
Safarnama" which became very popular. After
that every Punjabi writer who visited a foreign
country sat down to write at least for newspaper
columns. The result was a monotonous repetition
of insignificant facts and feelings.
is a little different with factual details
narrated in an interesting manner which does not
tire the reader. Right from the preparation for
the conference till he returns home, he shares
his experience and impressions in idiomatic
Malwai which very few Punjabi writers have
The sponsors of
the conference were working overtime to make it a
grand success, yet it failed to take off
smoothly. Most of the participants were
non-scholars. It was simply beyond their
competence to conceptualise the phenomenal
changes taking place in different spheres of life
the world-over, which the Punjabi community has
to grapple with. A microscopic minority of
participants had some theoretical pretentions but
they were simply overwhelmed by the motley crowd
Punjabi poet, looking at the complexion of the
gathering, commented, "The most appropriate
description of this conference is a Sikh sangat,
rather than a Punjabi conference."
Dhaliwal says: "The ingredients for
preparing rice pudding (kheer) were
provided by Darshan Singh Dhaliwal but the cooks
were well-known Delhi dons, some with dubious
credentials. Consequently," he says,
"the delicious rice pudding planned by
Darshan Singh turned out to be insipid porridge
University of Wisconsin collaboration, nothing of
intellectual consequence emerged from the
deliberations. The diversity of issues and topics
was presented in a superficial manner and this
left everyone more confused than enlightened.
"The Punjabi Sardars treated the main theme
of the conference like naughty pups would handle
a rag ball." For three full days the
"scholars" went on an
"expedition" to discover the unique
traits of the Punjabi identity like "a
beloved searching for a lost clove in the bushy
moustache of her lover."
Singh then put forth his panacea for all ills
afflicting the Punjabi community. He exhorted the
audience to follow the Sikh path by renouncing
all illusions. "See how these American young
men and women are running after me." He then
presented his show piece followers as irrefutable
participants reached the conclusion that the
Punjabis have everything money,
determination, diligence, perseverance and a
dream to spread across the world. But they lack
knowledge and planning. That is why every
conference ends up as a variety show, a kind of
In the evening
during a "kavi darbar" a literary
atmosphere was generated but, alas, it was
disrupted by a "heavyweight" singer
meeting Waryam Sandhu, the well-known story
writer, was heckled by a bodyguard of an
organiser who thought that Sandhu, as the stage
secretary, was not using lavish words in praise
of the sponsors. Sandhu was so upset that he
immediately retreated to his hotel room leaving
the job to Tejwant Gill who proved to be a poor
conference came to an end, all participants
dispersed in different directions to meet their
friends and kin scattered all over North America.
Whatever they could not comprehend
intellectually, they tried to capture through
their eyes. They hopped through many tourist
spots which Dhaliwal describes in minute detail.
His depiction of certain situations adds a little
pathos wherever he found dehumanised conditions
of Indian immigrants.
He spent a few
days with a bunch of "bachelors" who
had left their families back in Punjab. They
worked like beasts of burden, earned a lot and
invested it in Punjab in building palatial houses
with the hope that one day they would return to
them and live in peace. From a long distance they
see a silver lining on the dark horizon that
inspired them to keep on fighting against the
dark forces surrounding them in their present
peculiar to this travelogue is the authors
picturesque description of museums of various
kinds, film centres, the fabled Disneyland,
casinoes and even brothels and sex shops in the
USA. At places he tries to understand the logic
of the structure of the modern capitalist system
in the most powerful country of the world.
From the USA the
author goes to England where he is feted at quite
a few gatherings of Punjabi writers. He
specifically mentions the hospitality extended to
him by Pritam Sidhu, Harjit Atwal and a few
others. He found Swarn Chandan glum and morose as
usual, dismayed at the readers failure to
recognise his "creative genius".
One thing which
disappoints Dhaliwal is that despite their
ascendence in the western world, the Punjabis
still nurse a sense of insecurity; hence they do
not live life in full like those in the West do.
Most of the adventure sports and leisure games
are monopolised by the people of European origin.
Indians mostly concentrate on professions and
other money-making pursuits.
The last part of
this narrative pertains to Dhaliwals short
story in Canada where he was invited to attend an
international conference which was ignored by
other writers. The author here became a VIPin the
absence of bigwigs.
One thing that
strikes the reader while going through such
travelogues is that most of the writers
concentrate on Europe and America. No writer has
ever written about the colourful life in Latin
America, Africa or East Asia. Many countries in
central Asia and Eastern Europe are also ignored
by the Punjabi itinerant.
is the reason why most of the descriptions are
repetitive except for the human element here and
there. Many Punjabi writers commit factual
mistakes when they give historical or
geographical facts. For instance, Dhaliwal
believes that the war of American independence
was waged against the white colonists by the
black slaves who were bought from Africa to be
sold in New York markets. In fact the war of
independence was fought by white colonists
against the British Crown. The European who
colonised America wanted to rid themselves of the
British domination because of their oppressive
Then he says the
13 states which got independence in the beginning
founded the United Nations. In fact they founded
the United States. The United Nations was
established only in 1945. "The war of
independence was won under the leadership of
George Washington on 4th December, 1783," he
adds. In fact the treaty of Paris that made the
USA free was ratified on September 3, 1783.
in Scotland (Glasgow) he felt like visiting
Ireland as well "across the nearby
river". Well, Ireland is across the Irish
Sea, not across a river from the United Kingdom.
Such inaccuracies in the narrative puts off a
sensitive reader who respects accurate details.
All in all,
Dhaliwals attempt is more sensitive to
human feelings than many others which have
appeared in recent decades.
Khera speak for a better
Can Win by Shiv Khera. MacMillan India, Delhi.
Pages 269. Rs 285.
THE little cover of this
book carries these brave words:
"International best seller. Now
The author, Shiv
Khera, is the founder of the Qualified Learning
Systems Inc., USA. His clientele includes envoys,
world leaders and global institutions. He is
among the few top management experts in the world
and his maxims appear as quotes in newspapers all
book teaches us to lead life purposefully,
gloriously and happily. The headings of chapters
are: "Building a positive attitude",
"Success motivation", "Self
esteem", "Building a pleasing
personality", "Forming positive habits
and character", "Goal setting",
and "Values and vision".
chapters take the reader beyond the seventh
heaven of success and delight. Such book could
change our attitude towards life; may even change
our life itself.
A world famous
scientist opened his daily newspaper and read the
news about his own death, wrongly reported of
course. The obituary said: "The merchant of
death dies, dynamite king is dead." So this
was the legacy he was going to leave. It must not
be so. He must work for peace. You know this
scientists name Alfred Nobel. He
changed his life. Now his Nobel Prizes for
various disciplines continue to make the biggest
news every year.
A flood was
coming and people were leaving the threatened
areas. One man did not leave He had firm faith in
God. "God will save me," he said. A
jeep came to rescue him. He declined to leave.
The water level rose. Aboat came to save his
life. He did not board it. The flood waters rose
higher and higher. He shifted to the top of the
building. A helicopter came to save him. Still he
stayed put there. He was drowned.
When he reached
the presence of God, he complained:"You did
not save me." God said, "Who it was who
sent the jeep, the boat and the copter?"
Moral. God sends
many opportunities in our life. We do not take
advantage of them. We complain of our bad luck
and being born under an unlucky star. We blame
our fate or stars, while we are ourselves to
blame. We take shelter behind fatalism.
Such men have a
negative attitude towards life. The heading of
the first chapter is:"Importance of
attitude, building the positive attitude."
The part played by positive attitude in any
success is as high as 85 per cent. Negative
persons mouth such sentences as, "I was born
only to fail. God has not given me brains so that
I could make my mark."
everyone except themselves. Everyone is bad
except they themselves. All are wrong. But he is
the only exception.
They are a
bundle of complaints, criticising every person
and every thing. They pose to be suffering from
many diseases mostly imagined ones. They
could work wonders but for health reasons. To say
I can quit my job whenever I like betrays a
negative attitude, which is more powerful than
Every man enjoys
so many blessings (home, bread, income, life,
etc.) which are important and long-lasting) and a
few curses. Make a list of your blessings; it is
long and of a permanent nature. The curses are
few and ephemeral. Negative persons concentrate
on these few curses; positive persons always
thank God for the many blessings bestowed on
attitude? We have heard of that before but never
with such a telling effect that can change the
readers life. Here is a book with a
difference and an author with a world of
difference. Others mouth platitudes and
The grass on the
neighbours lawn looks greener. The
neighbour thinks the same about your lawn.
Success does not
mean total absence of failure. It means overall
success. It is winning the war, not every battle.
Positive thinkers are winners; the negative ones
always criticise and are chronic losers. Success
is not destination, but the journey the
sheer pleasure of it. Work completed to fullness
refreshes and promotes self-confidence, whereas
work half done or badly done is exhausting and
frustrating. Pride of performance is not ego; it
is pleasure with humility.
A person told
the French philosopher Pascal, "If I had
your brains. I could work miracles." The
philosopher replied, "If you work wonders,
you would have my brains."
workers do not wait for miracles. They produce
them. Their secret is that they are the hardest
workers.Thomas Alva Edison, called the greatest
inventor who invented 1,000 new things and took
2500 patents, worked for 20 hours a day. For
inventing the electric bulb, he made 10,000
unsuccessful experiments. These are not persons
with the most unique brains. They are just like
you and me.
dubbed "an addled boy" by his teacher.
His famous adage is:"Genius is 99 per cent
perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration."
Einstein, who is called the father of the atomic
age and space age, was judged by his teacher as
good for nothing in physics and mathematics. In
these subjects he came on the top of the world.
advises us to study the biographies of such
persons, who from negative ones turned to be
world famous heroes.
of hard work being the key to world class success
is Andrew Carnegie, the steel king. He had 43
millionaires working under him. His secret,
"You have to dig tons of dust, before you
come to an ounce of gold."
Fear of failure
is worse than failure itself. Every man is an
image of God with infinite potentialities. The
pauper (in luck and achievement) does not know
that millions of dollars lie buried in his
Life is not a
dress rehearsal but a once-for-all chance. It is
to do or die, here and now. He who says,
"Iwill do this work one of these days",
means he will do the work in none of these days.
turning out high skilled barbarians.
How to build
self-esteem? Do some great good to others who
cannot repay you in cash or kind.
In the USA there
is one rape every 46 seconds, 57 per cent of it
is imitation of TV or film scenes. They
glamourise premarital or extramarital sex, crime
and violence. So keep company with persons of
high moral character, not thugs or cheats,
drunkards or gentlemen-criminals. All failures in
history have been due to loss of character by
There is a
memorable chapter on success. People love
success, but hate successful persons more than
they hate plague or criminals.
If you think you
are beaten, you are beaten. Lifes battles
go not to the strongest but to the man who thinks
he can win. It takes both sunshine and rain to
make a rainbow.
trains for 15 years to come on top in a 25-second
event. For winning the game you have to make not
100 per cent effort but 200 per cent. Play to
win, never to lose.
Kabir placed the
guru (teacher) even above God. His hindsight
becomes your foresight. He can make extraordinary
figures even out of men of clay.
He who risks
nothing achieves nothing. It is neck or nothing.
Take risks, but dont be a gambler. Some
fear to take a decisive step; they stay in the
middle and are run over by onrushing trucks.
People find it
easier to buy gifts for wife or children, instead
of giving 15 minutes of attention that could make
a paradise of the family life.
the same mistake twice. If you are wrong, confess
to it fully and immediately. Dont go in for
alibis. Never compromise your integrity, for any
cause, for expediency.
greed is the cancer of the soul. Be brave and
accept responsibility. Dont shirk.
becomes a desire, it will become a delight. An
average person puts only 25 per cent of his
energy in his work. If he puts in 50 per cent, he
would become a hero. Always give to your employer
or the customer more than what you are paid. No
person was ever honoured for what he received,
but for what he gave. Talent without producing
result is pure waste.
Make a promise
to yourself everyday to go an extra mile. Human
beings are being daily conditioned by the books
they read, movies and TVshows they view and the
company they keep.
positive traits in every man. Dont be a
habitual fault-finder. Bragging about self is a
sign of lack of self-confidence. Some betray it
by being unduly aggressive or being a rebel
The writer gives
26 very practical tips to develop a pleasing
irksome to little minds, but a pleasure to great
souls. If it is practised in every home,
delinquency will go down by 95 per cent.
detailed plans for vacation but no plan for life.
Have two columns: your strong points and your
weak points. Read it every morning for 15
minutes. This daily audit will make you daily
self-surpassed. Repeat auto-suggestion for your
goal, twice a day.
Accept the fact
that most persons are ungrateful. Christ healed
10 leapers. All ran away except one who stayed
behind to thank Christ. Jesus said, "Idid
not do a thing."
deserve an honour and not have it, than to have
it without deserving it. "Try not to be a
man of success, but a man of values," said
Einstein. A girl found a purse containing $1,000.
She returned it to the owner. People called her a
fool yet that was character. People have died for
was ever done without enthusiasm. A senior
executive was being paid $ 1 million a year.
"Are you over paid? he was
asked. "Not at all. I create enthusiasm
among the workers."
remain inactive; they would not enter the rough
and tumble of public life. They leave the field
to corrupt politicians. Hence evil flourishes.
Great men have
vision to dream what is beyond the
The last words
in the book are: "Remember, winners do not
do different things; they do things
also appears on the front title cover.
Of worthies, worthy
books and others
Loved Indian Stories of the Century Vol II edited
by Indira Srinivasan & Chetna Bhatt. Penguin
Books, New Delhi. Pages 302. Rs 250.
THE announcement of
partition creates a logistical problem for India
and Pakistan. Not being content with dividing the
land, the peoples of the two countries are
hell-bent on dividing offices, museums, libraries
and even human beings. A strange situation arises
in a mental asylum that now finds itself in
Pakistan. The management is of the opinion that
the Hindu and Sikh lunatics should be deported to
India, while the Muslims could remain in
Pakistan. The decision creates havoc in the
One Sikh lunatic
refuses to be deported to India, for he rightly
claims that when he was sent there the asylum was
in India; he hasnt heard of Pakistan at
all. He claims he is from a village called Toba
Tek Singh. No one in the asylum has heard of this
obscure village. As the story progresses, there
is confusion and more confusion. The situation is
hilarious as well as tragic.
story by Saadat Hasan Manto, you begin to wonder
who is insane: the inmates of the lunatic asylum
or the frenzied mob outside, ready to kill anyone
not belonging to their religion. Mantos
story raises many questions about humans and
their so-called achievements.
paradox is voiced in Munshi Prem Chands
"Shroud" ("Qafan"), a potent
comment on the sorry state the socially deprived
classes find themselves in. The wife of a cobbler
dies during childbirth leaving her husband and
father-in-law in a quandary about her last rites.
They dont have money to buy wood and shroud
for the funeral. The local landlord and villagers
feel sorry for the poor cobblers. They manage to
collect five rupees and give it to the bereaved
family. The hapless father and son wonder if they
had the money earlier, they would have bought
medicines and saved the womans life.
Then you have
Rabindranath Tagores touching tale
"Kabuliwala", that so powerfully
portrays the softer emotions of a Pathan trader
who is forced to stay away from his hometown. In
India he sells dry fruit, and one of his
customers is a little girl, Mini, who reminds him
of his own daughter. It is a story that crosses
all frontiers and comes out with the universal
truth what do humans desire, after all?
Love of home and society can transcend political,
cultural, and religious barriers at individual
level, but when identified with society and state
differences begin to emerge.
Loved Indian Stories of the Century Vol. II"
is a collection of 23 stories by leading writers
such as T. S. Sivasankara Pillai, C.
Rajagopalachari, Masti Venkatesa Iyengar, K. P.
Poornachandra Tejasvi, Krishan Chander, Krishna
Sobti, et al., but unfortunately not all tales
are of high calibre. If you withhold the name of
the author and send them to a publisher, most of
these stories would come back with a rejection
unimpressive "Ardhanari" is the story
of a dalit boy who hides his true identity, even
wishes his parents were dead so that he could
gain acceptance in society and marry his beloved.
Dhumaketus melodramatic Gujarati story
"The Letter" is about a poor coachman,
Ali, who goes to the post office everyday to
check if there is any letter for him. He has been
doing this for years. The postman is irritated by
his behaviour. In the end the postman does find a
letter addressed to the coachman, but,
predictably, that day Ali fails to turn up. The
rest of the stories are equally dull and
of such mundane stuff can be understood because
good or bad is often a subjective matter, but the
inclusion of "Poovan Banana", a
blatantly male chauvinistic story by Vaikom
Mohammad Basheer makes no sense. Educated Jameela
Bibi is married off to Abdul Khader Saheb, an
undergraduate who beats his wife into submission.
He "lifted the stick" the author tells
us graphically, "and gave her six whacks
which fell whistling on her posterior". How
could this story be one of the best loved of the
century? In anthologies like this, the editors
choose five or six excellent stories, and mix
them up with about two dozen substandard ones,
and make you pay for all.
In a country as
diverse as India, not all can master the dozen or
so different languages enough to appreciate
fiction, and such translations if done well are
immensely useful. But if the translation is inept
the whole purpose is lost as is the case with
this volume that abounds in stilted and awkward
constructions and often word-by-word translation
of the original. A woman is described as
"chic and debonair"; another character
does not stroke the narrators hair but
"caresses" it; Dinu was "just a
college student reading for his B. A. exam";
then you have someone who hits "at the bed
with his turban". It appears as though the
editors have not bothered to go through the
translations, otherwise how could such appalling
expressions have escaped their notice? The
original titles of the stories should have been
given so that one could read the original if
interested. A brief publication history of the
stories would have been welcome
could be such an effective medium of
entertainment and education, because people, who
do not have the time to wade through a 300-page
novel, can surely enjoy a five-page short story.
But our authors have taken it upon themselves to
force their own morals down the throats of their
"Kabuliwala" and Mantos
"Exchange of Lunatics" do have a moral
to preach, but look at the clever way it is done.
These stories are literary works that are also
There are others
who write mainly to please the critics, and that
probably explains the general apathy to fiction
these days. No wonder the short story, which was
a regular feature of newspapers and magazines,
has nearly disappeared from those columns.
Deride so you can differ
Criticism, History, Representation by Thomas
Docherty. Clarendon Press, London. Pages 222. £
RECENT trends in discourse
analysis have shown a continuing obsession with
the philosophy of identity within modern
criticism, a rather limiting factor which has
only the solace of self-legitimation for the
subject of criticism. The consequence of this
attitude is the conspicuous neglect of the
historical object. The fundamental problem here
concerns the way in which theory and history are
constituted through the comprehension and
incorporation of the other into different
categories of knowledge.
advance in critical theory, Thomas
Dochertys new book,
"Alterities...", pays full heed to the
oppositional forms through a serious critical
focus on the otherness of the world outside
consciousness. It is only then, he contends, that
we can arrive at a historical and materialist
criticism. In his assertion of this objective he
brings to attention the question of social
concern for art, suggesting new ways of studying
philosophy, when knowledge comprehends the other,
the alterity of the latter disappears as it is
integrated into the same. What has to be
understood is that it is the subject that remains
always privileged by its temporality, a state of
continuous change that is denied to the object
which is taken to be a static entity. The object,
by its very stable character bestowed on it by
the subject, is then very conveniently
appropriated and commodified. For instance, the
dynamic nature of Islam is often ignored by the
West. Diversity and variety is overlooked and
uniformity imposed on a group in spite of the
philosophy of accepting difference and tolerance.
In order to
desist from such a standpoint, the West must take
cognisance of the view that there can be no
authentic expressions of national culture; and
further, the argument of there being an orthodox
or dogmatic character of a race or minority is to
be consciously blind to the cosmopolitan,
hedonistic, and humane nature of Islam or, for
that matter, Sikhism.
relativism of a multicultural ideology is what
the western discourse is allergic to, and speaks
of a type of ethnocentrism that is responsible
for a combative reaction from the
"other". Reducing a person to a nobody
is the inexorable plot of racism. As Helene
Cixous argues, "There has to be some
other no master without a
slave, no economic-political power without
exploitation, no dominant class without cattle
under the yoke, no Frenchmen without
wogs, no Nazis without Jews, no property without
exclusion an exclusion that has its limits
and is part of the dialectic."
sense of autonomy is exaggerated by ignoring the
alterity of the object. This brings us to the
task of the critic which is to "find a means
of thinking alterity, of constructing a critical
philosophy that will eschew the solace of
identity always predictable in the
interest of an alterity for which the subject is
precisely unprepared ". The other is
possessed, and the act, according to Heidegger,
is "the form in which the other becomes the
same, by becoming mine".
The end result
of this perspective is to grasp the priority of
the object and the derived nature of the subject
that in all probability depends for its identity
and autonomy on the other. This is what Docherty
means by the "terror of alterity", the
idea that he borrows from Emmanuel Levinas, which
compels the subject to straitjacket the object as
is visible in the Hegelian dialect of the
The result of
this "imperialism of the consciousness"
is the creation of different forms of
colonialism. You "are" how you define
the "other". "The frightening
otherness of the object its resistance to
consciousness becomes instrumental in
generating the subjects efforts in coming
Levinas has also
objected to the implicit violence in the process
of the construction of knowledge which
appropriates and sublates the essence of the
other into itself. The relationship between the
subject and the object has to be rendered more
complex because a uniform coherence or closure to
any discourse risks misrepresentation of the
would argue, knowledge is never static or
identical, and traditional history writing stands
questioned for its propensity to strive for the
primary idealities of origin, unified
development, and cause and effect. A relationship
of difference, therefore, by its very nature of
permanence overlooks the fundamental dynamism
that underscores any social or political
construction. The dualism of identity and
difference itself is an inherent inconstant
referent disallowing any homogenising.
is thus a validation of "its subjects at the
cost of the radical otherness of its
object". This inherently post-modern mood
endeavours to draw attention to alterity or its
terror, which in turn helps to delegate full
authority to the identity of the
"other". Derrida and Cixous also
illustrate this amply in their writings. In their
view, historys effort to "legitimise
ones truth-claim precisely upon the fact
that they are spoken here, now, upon
the fact that they derive from a present
I " is amusingly narcissistic.
The subject, on the other hand, is more concerned
with its own identity than with the truths about
the world outside of its identity.
however, is talking about nothing new. Before him
Tzvetan Todorov has explained "exotopy"
as an authors movement outside of and away
from his or her character, subsequent to an
earlier or initial stage of identifying with
itself. Bakhtin, similarly, is of the view that
in order to fully understand the character it
must be perceived as an other, as apart from its
creator, and in its distant alterity. Such a
dialogic view of criticism and creation,
therefore, emphasises that self-communication can
only be possible if one steps out of the outside
part of oneself and treats that part as the
accepted or conventional attitudes and beliefs of
the dominant, we can see that this could be a
potential way of coming to grips with the social
or national identity of a marginalised group.
Marginality has, thus, become the central focus
of modernism and post-modernism, of feminism, and
of post-colonial cultural studies. For example,
recent feminist writers have focused attention on
the way partiarchy marginalises female experience
and thereby makes the male experience the
determining and the dominating notion of all
"logocentric" discourse. In other
words, as Derrida argues: "The sign is
always the supplement of the thing itself".
Or we could take
the instance of Bakhtins argument regarding
Dostoeveskian experiments which "unfold not
a multitude of characters and fates in a single
objective world, illuminated by a single
authorial consciousness; rather a plurality of
consciousness, with equal rights and each with
its own world".
This is the
primary reason for not having a single centre or
voice in modernist texts. The voice of the
subject or the author is one among many and thus
easy to dispense with. The corollary to this
would be the death of the author, or to put it
differently, the end of centres of authority
which always endeavour to escape from the play of
Though not a
very easy book to handle, "Alterities"
does explain the ethics of alterity and its
cultural politics in the context of post-marxism.
Domination of ideological mechanisms, he argues,
is the norm, a subject position which is the
confirmation of itself in response of and to the
other. There is a broad political purpose to
Dochertys project that develops out of a
radical scepticism about "truth". It
celebrates the increasing impossibility of
defending "truth" and welcomes the
political possibilities for self-determination
inherent in the recognition that
"truth" is constructed by man as a
result of very specific material practices. A
relativistic or anti-foundational view of history
and humanistic discourse shows how truth has no
reality beyond "the logic of the system that
In this debate
if one were to consider the subject of
colonialism, one could see it as a cultural
project of control which transformed the
traditional cultures through strategies of
conquest and rule, by creating opposition of the
coloniser and the colonised, the modern and the
traditional,the Orient and the Occident. To the
colonial project, if there was one thing
important, it was the knowledge of culture, a
concept that became significant only during the
period of colonial history as it gave impetus to
the idea of nationalism, of common language, of
the discourse of race, and consequently, to the
East-West oppositions. What colonisation created
became, in effect, a principle form of
resistance, notably in nationalist movements.
The West, on the
other hand, ended up in creating an economic
hegemony of world capitalism. Hegemony and
coercion, in effect, are inherent in
relationships between colonialism and culture. So
is violence which becomes integral to the very
idea of colonial culture.
The mistake that
is often committed by many social historians is
to see culture as monolithic or unchanging
through history. The enlightenment concept of
mans unchanging nature or the humanist idea
of an ahistorical essence of man has been
rejected by Sartre and by the Marxist-humanists
who see violence behind such a homogenising
discourse. Man is seen by them as a product of
himself and his own activity in history. Humanism
was a strategy for legitimising the ideological
control of the colonised or, in Sartres
words, "a practice of exclusion".
I would say that
it is also a practice of assimilation and
inclusion of the human itself with the values of
Europe. Sartres "Critique of
Dialectical Reason" rejects European
humanism, seeing human subjects as "products
of a conflictual psyche and political
The project of
decentring of the subject by the structuralists
was in many ways itself derived from a
"suspicion that the ontological category of
the human and human
nature had been inextricably associated
with the violence of western history". The
centrality and unity of the "I" as
regarded by humanism stands demolished.
It is this view
of the alterity within the self, which is made up
of innumerable other selves, that coheres with
the Foucouldian redefinition of the self that
continuously gets displaced as well as decentred
as systems alter and institutions and hierarchies
of power undergo a change.
therefore, conclude that culture is the site for
viewing the impact of colonialism as they
together provide a domain where one is enabled,
in the words of Nicholas Dirks, to "deploy a
critical cartography of the history and effects
of power" and become sites for intervention,
dislocation, and struggle. Recent studies by
Nandy, Spivak, and Bhabha draw attention to the
cultural dislocations ushered in by colonialism
for both the coloniser and the colonised, and are
major theoretical advances in the elaboration of
original critical approaches to the relation
between resistance and the understandings of
power, cultural influence and the issue of
Respect for the
other based not on negation and assimilation, but
as infinite separation is how the ontology
involving an ethico-political violence can be
replaced by the ethics of recognition.
Karamazov in Dostoevskys "The Brothers
Karamazav" remarks: "We are all
responsible for everyone else but I am
more responsible than all the others." It is
this endless obligation to the other, "a
multiplicity in being which refuses totalisation
and takes form instead as fraternity and
discourse, an ethical relation which forever
precedes and exceeds the egoism and tyranny of
(imperialist) ontology" which Derrida and
Levinas learnt from Dostoevsky, an idea that led
to their critique of logocentricism which is, to
put it briefly, the search for the other.
Military is not what it was
of the Naval Chief: Arms Deal expose by A.K.
Chakraborty. Trishual Publishing, Noida. Pages
240. Rs. 2950.
IT was a scene of much
back-slapping and officers mess humour during PLD
(pre-lunch drinks, a Navy terminology). The
visiting British Brigadier seemed to be enjoying
his chilled beer as he flung questions at young
army officers. He probably wanted to know more
about a service which had its roots in the
British Indian Army. Then someone asked the
Brigadier about the British Armys status in
society vis-a-vis other professions.
The gist of the Brigadiers
reply was that politicians are considered as
second-rate within the military circles.
within the Indian military were on the same
lines. Talking politics (and about women) in
messes was not only taboo but considered somewhat
ill-mannered and crass, because politicians were
a different species. Reared on a diet which
prohibited the mixing of politics with military,
service officers were careful not to meddle in
politics not only to avoid controversies but also
because they considered military professionalism
to be above politics.
handling of events that led to the dismissal,
resembling a bureaucratic coup, of Admiral Vishnu
Bhagwat in December, 1998, will go down as a low
point of Indias history. Even as books
continue to appear on the theme like
"Dismissal of the Naval Chief: Arms Deal
Expose" by A.K. Chakraborty, an in-depth
analysis of the deteriorating civil-military
equation has remains elusive.
Much has already
appeared in print of the alleged nexus of
Vice-Admiral Harinder Singh with arms dealers and
his propulsion into the slot of Deputy Chief of
Naval Staff at the behest of Defence Minister
George Fernandes and with the help of a willing
bureaucracy. Fernandes subverted the military
chain of command through the Defence Secretary by
encouraging Harinder Singhs gross
insubordination and overlooking his communal
remarks against a service chief.
surreptitious manner of Admiral Bhagwats
dismissal reeked of paranoia, as did the flying
into Delhi of Vice-Admiral Sushil Kumar in a RAW
aircraft for being installed as the naval chief.
The whole drama was preceded by a series of
secret telephonic parleys between Vice-Admiral
Sushil Kumar and the Defence Secretary,
with what happened in 1948 when the government
was contemplating the appointment of Lieut-Gen
Rajendrasinhji as the first Indian army chief.
The idea was orally conveyed to him whereupon he
advised that the choice should be made on the
basis of seniority and that he himself by age was
still available to be the army chief, if the
government was so desirous.
thus elevated to the top post in January, 1949,
and Rajendrasinhji succeeded him in January,
1953, though only for a two-year stint because of
his now diminished residual service.
traditions of service were to falter in 1962 when
some men in uniform used their political links to
move upwards and secure select posting.
True-blooded soldiers, however, stuck to the
service ethos and refused to be drawn into
seeking favours from political masters.
political favourites continued. Violating the
seniority principle for elevation to the post of
army chief, Indira Gandhi played promotion
politics on at least two occasions. The more
blatant case was the supersession of the highly
articulate intellectual Lieut-Gen S.K. Sinha by
Lieut-Gen A.S. Vaidya, a highly decorated man who
was considered by some to have compromised
himself by making political statements.
The bypassing of
Sinha, who had unparalleled professional
integrity and ability, sent ripples down the
armys spine and generated a back- lash at
the top to induce the PR department to announce
in a damage control measure that the Indian Army
"continues to remain apolitical in its best
tradition". Sinha took the best course of
resigning with dignity.
needling becomes possible only when the
environment within the services is considered by
those in North. Block as being conducive to
playing favourites and indulging in manipulation.
times, command of a unit, ship or a squadron was
the ultimate, and progression beyond Lieut-Col or
equivalent rank was considered a bonus by even
the most professional officer.
ambitions were soon mixed with personal quest for
a higher rank, mainly for the clout and perks
that accompany the top posts. Professionalism
took a back-seat and sycophancy became the
driving force to ensure easy vertical mobility.
The combination of excessive careerism and
sycophancy is a sure recipe to incompetence.
One has only to
re-read "The Psychology of Military
Incompetence" by Norman Dixon to fathom how
the deleterious effects of sycophancy and
incompetence can weigh down the military and
leave holes in national security.
While many scale
the steep military structure because of their
abilities, a sizeable section attempts the
easier, and sometimes more profitable,
sycophantic route. Because even competent
officers must fall by the wayside due to the
steep pyramidical structure, most accept it with
grace and just fade away. But some others find it
difficult to face a road-block, which causes more
turbulence than necessary.
killed himself in his house and another jumped
from the top floor of Sena Bhavan because they
were aggrieved for being denied higher slots.
Finding his future prospects sealed because of a
heart condition, a Brigadier promptly persuaded
his subordinate (a colonel) to substitute for him
during the ECG examination.The ploy was
discovered and the Brigadier was fortunate to be
let off with a stern warning. Imagine the
consequences on organisational effectiveness if
such people had gotten into higher ranks.
Such a craze for
higher ranks sets the stage for political and
bureaucratic echelons to angle for pliable
officers whose sycophantic tendencies offer
functional "convenience" at the apex
level, whether it pertains to payoffs in arms
deals, politician-militant nexus, prolonged
insurgencies which have been termed as
"mini-industries", or allowing vital
operational and intelligence aspects to be
overlooked, as it appears to have happened in
defence officers resort to intricate and obdurate
posturing over more brass and stripes,
politicians and their underlings in the Defence
Ministry know how best to exploit these
"high-rise" ambitions for their own
gains. Setting their own house in order and
diminishing the lust for high office will signal
to the bureaucratic and political echelons that
their ranks are not game for manipulation.