The Tribune - Spectrum
 


Tibetan tears still flow
by Parshotam Mehra

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 Shakya’s 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, Tibet’s polity lacked cohesion and a sense of direction.

More, the 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 people.

Nor was Tibet’s 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".

Washington too was remiss — because of the Korean "imbroglio" and the impending Kashmir "flap".

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.

Understandably, 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 Lama’s camp, who had fled in the wake of Chinese threats, whether it should be accepted. Shakya’s 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 Nehru’s perceptive observation that Lhasa accepted the agreement "without" joy and "under the compulsion of circumstances".

The almost 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.

Before long there was trouble between the Chinese authorities and Tibet’s lay and religious officials: popular support for the latter unhinged the cadres no end. Beijing’s propaganda stance that it had arrived primarily to build a modern Tibet made no dent. Presently Tibet’s 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 people.

Initial Chinese 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 India’s "unequivocal acceptance" of Beijing’s sovereignty — not suzerainty — over Tibet, now referred to as a "region of China".

As Shakya heavily underlines, here was the "first international agreement" to do so. Tibet’s emigres were outraged while Whitehall, though not exactly happy, was "not willingly to voice publicly" its dissent, much less oppose the agreement.

Another gain Beijing had was the Dalai Lama’s 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 China’s real intent was to "bring progress". Symptomatic of Mao’s 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 Lama’s now well-nigh resourcless Kashag became almost redundant.

To no one’s 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 him.

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) solitary imprisonment!

Meanwhile the full force of the mighty Cultural Revolution was felt in Tibet, where local Red Guards insisted on the complete eradication of "zhingtren lamlung", Tibet’s "feudal culture". What it meant in practice was to destroy all vestiges of Tibet’s 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".

Mao’s death (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. Beijing’s idea about the "talks" was that the Lama’s 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 Lama’s 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 Beijing’s occupation is an embodiment of state power and a malevolent force which seeks ultimately to destroy Buddhism and Tibet’s 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.

The author, among other things, furnishes the first complete account of CIA involvement, of British duplicity, of India’s squeamishness in their dealings with Tibet. Heavy though his pages are, Shakya’s voluminous tome is eminently readable. And largely objective, and well-researched.Top

 

History of the forgotten ones
by Deepak Kumar

The 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.

Butalia’s 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.

This conscious 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 individual choices.

As Butalia puts it, "Despite the women’s 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."

Moreover, the 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.

The author 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.

While exploring 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".

The author further shows how the fate of these children was deeply affected as a result of the state’s policy on abducted persons. The question of children’s 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 as illegitimate.

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 history.

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 partition.

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.

Rather, she 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 partition is.

Butalia also 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 forgetting."

By revisiting 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.

Finally, while 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.

The greatest strength of the book then perhaps lies in the fact that it forces us into rethinking these issues even after 50 years of India’s independence by reminding us that the freedom it won did not come all that free.Top

 

Atal Behari Bajpai you said?
by Kuldip Kalia

Encyclopedia 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 related items.

However, this 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. Advani’s 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.

In its 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 this encyclopedia.

Moreover the 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 Volume VIII.

It lacks proper alphabetical indexing too. How could Vipra Harivara come between Vermas in an alphabetical order that is, Verma, Ganga Prasad and Verma, Manakya Lal?

Despite these 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.Top

 

He went, he saw and he wrote... well
Punjabi literature
by Jaspal Singh

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.

What 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.

One such 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.

Nevertheless, a 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.

A serious attempt is by Baldev Singh Dhaliwal, a university teacher and a promising short story writer fromPatiala.

His "Motian 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.

The first travelogue of some consequence in Punjabi is Lal Singh Kamla Akali’s "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.

Dhaliwal’s 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 mastered.

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 of merrymakers.

A Pakistani 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."

BaldevSingh 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 (‘dalia’)".

Despite the 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.

Daliwal says, "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."

Yogi Harbhajan 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 proof.

Ultimately the 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 village fair.

In the evening during a "kavi darbar" a literary atmosphere was generated but, alas, it was disrupted by a "heavyweight" singer from Delhi.

At another 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 substitute.

As the 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 insensitive environment.

One thing peculiar to this travelogue is the author’s 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 Dhaliwal’s 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.

This precisely 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 taxation policy.

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.

While travelling 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, Dhaliwal’s attempt is more sensitive to human feelings than many others’ which have appeared in recent decades.Top

 

Khera speak for a better you
by P.D. Shasrri

You 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 India’s."

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 over.

This inspiring 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".

Its eight 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 scientist’s 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."

They blame 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 will power.

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 them.

Positive attitude? We have heard of that before but never with such a telling effect that can change the reader’s life. Here is a book with a difference and an author with a world of difference. Others mouth platitudes and impractical concepts.

The grass on the neighbour’s 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."

Top class 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.

Edison was 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.

Our author advises us to study the biographies of such persons, who from negative ones turned to be world famous heroes.

Another example 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 courtyard.

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.

Universities are 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 nations.

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. Life’s 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.

An athlete 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 don’t 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.

Don’t make the same mistake twice. If you are wrong, confess to it fully and immediately. Don’t go in for alibis. Never compromise your integrity, for any cause, for expediency.

Selfishness or greed is the cancer of the soul. Be brave and accept responsibility. Don’t shirk.

When duty 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.

Look for positive traits in every man. Don’t 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 against authority.

The writer gives 26 very practical tips to develop a pleasing personality.

Discipline is 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.

People make 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."

Better to 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 a cause.

Nothing great 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."

Good people 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 possible.

The last words in the book are: "Remember, winners do not do different things; they do things differently."

This sentence also appears on the front title cover.Top

 

Of worthies, worthy books and others
by Kuldip Dhiman

Best 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 mental asylum.

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 hasn’t 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.

Reading this 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. Manto’s story raises many questions about humans and their so-called achievements.

A similar paradox is voiced in Munshi Prem Chand’s "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 don’t 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 woman’s life.

Then you have Rabindranath Tagore’s 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.

"Best 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 slip.

Rajagopalachari’s 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. Dhumaketu’s 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 uninteresting.

The publication 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 narrator’s 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

Short story 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 readers.

Tagore’s "Kabuliwala" and Manto’s "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 entertaining.

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.Top

 

Deride so you can differ
by Shelley Walia

Alterities: Criticism, History, Representation by Thomas Docherty. Clarendon Press, London. Pages 222. 13.99.

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.

Marking an advance in critical theory, Thomas Docherty’s 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 contemporary culture.

In western 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.

Cultural 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."

The Habermasian 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 master-narrative.

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 subject’s efforts in coming to knowledge".

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 heterogeneous condition.

As Foucault 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.

Recent criticism 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, history’s effort to "legitimise one’s 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.

Docherty, however, is talking about nothing new. Before him Tzvetan Todorov has explained "exotopy" as an author’s 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 other.

Stepping beyond 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 Bakhtin’s 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 "difference".

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 Docherty’s 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 creates it".

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 man’s 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 Sartre’s 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. Sartre’s "Critique of Dialectical Reason" rejects European humanism, seeing human subjects as "products of a conflictual psyche and political economy".

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.

We can, 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 alterities.

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.

As Alyosha Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s "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.Top

 

Military is not what it was
by Bimal Bhatia

Dismissal 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 Army’s status in society vis-a-vis other professions.

Amar Jawan Jyoti: Old traditions are not burning that bright.The gist of the Brigadier’s reply was that politicians are considered as second-rate within the military circles.

Sentiments 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.

The inept 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 India’s 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 Singh’s gross insubordination and overlooking his communal remarks against a service chief.

The surreptitious manner of Admiral Bhagwat’s 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,

Compare this 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.

Cariappa was 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.

Such high 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.

But playing 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 army’s 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.

Political 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.

In earlier 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.

Professional 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.

A Major-General 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 Kargil.

When senior 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.

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