The Tribune - Spectrum

A Quaker who joined freedom struggle
by Randeep Wadehra

An American in Khadi by Asha Sharma. Penguin, New Delhi. Pages xii + 426. Rs 395.

HERE is a riddle for you: who was the only non-Indian to sign the Congress manifesto in 1921 calling upon Indians to quit government service? Stumped? OK, here is a clue. That man was a Quaker and the only American to be jailed for actively participating in India’s freedom struggle. He had earned the ire of the British colonial rulers for his articles in The Tribune, which were deemed to "spread sedition". Pass?

Another clue: he almost single-handedly turned Himachal Pradesh into the apple state of India. Yes!!! You are right. He is Samuel Evans Stokes, Indianised as Satyanand Stokes.

Not many people outside Himachal Pradesh know about this American who contributed so much to the Indian nation. He was an idealist, rebel, visionary, social reformer, ascetic and political worker — a heady mix indeed. At a time when the golden jubilee of our Constitution is being celebrated and the names of many great Indians are being recollected, Satyanand Stokes has been ignored. He was the only American and one among the few westerners to serve the Indian cause with a great sense of dedication.

Samuel Evans Stokes set out for India from Philadelphia on January 9, 1904, much against his parents’ wishes. He had not completed his education, nor acquired any professional skill. He also let go of the opportunity to run the Stokes and Parish Machine Company set up by his father and a reputed manufacturer of elevators.

The 21-year-old lad had no idea about the duration of his stay in India but his aim was clear: to serve in the leprosy home run by Dr Marcus Carleton at Subathu. Little did he realise then that his life was about to be transformed beyond his wildest imagination.

At Subathu he showed that serving the sick was his forte. He put in much time and effort learning the local language. Though he had visited the leprosy homes run by Christian missionaries at Taran Tarn and Kotgarh, he felt happy leading a simple life amongst the villagers at Subathu. He was much enchanted by the "wondrous splendour" of the Himalayas.

Soon he decided to stay permanently in India. Despite his Christian upbringing and the good work that the missionaries were doing, Samuel developed an aversion for organised work. He wanted to serve the humanity by staying out of the organisational structure of the Church.

Refusing to be enticed by the trappings of a white man’s sojourn in the colonised India, Stokes consciously tried to befriend the locals who, while greeting him warmly, preferred to keep a deferential distance.

He decided to lead a spartan life as exemplified by St Francis of Assisi. In his quest for relationship on equal terms with the Indians, he changed his food habits as well as his "bada sahib" habiliment. The 1905 earthquake in Kangra saw Stokes at his best as a genuine servant of humanity.

Though appointed by the government to distribute money and other assistance among the quake affected, Stokes refused to use the government funds. Instead he used his own savings for the purpose. Though he learnt what a thankless job it was, he did not regret completing it. The rigours of his work took their toll. He became severely ill.

After recovering, ignoring his well wishers’ advice, he stayed on in India. A small village near Kotgarh became his "karma bhoomi". He gave away all his belongings to lead as ascetic life. this astonished the locals. Soon the story of a saib becoming a sadhu spread far and wide attracting visitrs who paid homage to his courage and fortitude. A wealthy orthodox Brahmin remarked, "Now, you are one of us." However he had to flee when a local Rajput lad, Dhan Singh, declared his intention to become a Christian. Stokes took him away to the plains.

Though his attempts to convert Brahmins and Rajputs in Punjab earned Stokes the ire of the Arya Samajists, he had the advantage of being a sadhu — a status that overshadowed the fact of he being a Christian. He was able to befriend them as well as the villagers by his selfless service and love.

When plague hit the region in 1907 Stokes worked among the affected and earned their respect. Soon he overcame his prejudices against Indians and discovered many virtues in the way of life of the locals. His interaction with the Arya Samaj gave him first hand experience of the running of gurukuls at Hardwar. This inspired him to establish a Christian school at Kotgarh. This should be an eye-opener to those who never tire of running down traditional Indian institutions.

Apart from serving the poor, the lepers and victims of epidemics, Stokes made immense contribution in the field of education by fusing the Indian and western systems. It was not easy for him, as, on the one hand, he had to deal with local prejudices and, on the other, with a not-so-cooperative government machinery.

True to his rebel genes, he decided to leave the "Brotherhood of Imitation of Jesus" and settled down as an ordinary householder after marrying a local "pahari" girl. Another reason was his unease with the Indian attitude towards the code of living. They believed that a normal householder cannot live up to the exacting standards set for a sadhu, even when such standards of conduct are deemed as most desirable. He wanted to cut through the double standards practised by the locals by setting a personal example. He was also disappointed with the racist practices of missionaries.

Thus he declared: " I shall as far as in me lies become an Indian, marry an Indian girl and, if God gives me sons and daughters, bring them up absolutely as Indians in the matter of life, language, dress and education. I shall try to make my home life, in all aspects, a gospel of what Indian home life should be..." He married a first generation Rajput Christian girl named Agnes.

In 1920 he clashed with the government over the despicable begar practised by it. Though the British were only continuing what was being practised by the various chiefs in the hills, Stokes found it unjust, exploitative and inhuman. Gandhi gave unstinted support to the Stokes struggle. In a message to the people of Simla hill states he said, "You should continue under the guidance of Stokes and suspend all kar and begar to the government and to the state... In your efforts I am with you with all my heart and soul."

Soon Stokes got involved in India’s freedom struggle — as he was inspired by the Gandhi-led freedom movement. Stokes was convinced that India would not only become a free nation but also a world power in due course. After the Congress special session in 1920 at Calcutta, Stokes wrote a series of articles in the Bombay Chronicle entittled "A Study in Non-cooperation". He declared, " (our) Ultimate goal must be absolute swaraj..." Stokes became a full-fledged delegate from Kotgarh to the All India Congress Committee which met at Nagpur in 1920.

He identified totally with the Indian aspirations. On July 31, 1921, when foreigners were warned to keep away from the public burning of imported clothes, Stokes along with an English nurse attended a bonfire. Two whites in an ocean of brown humanity must have been a scene to watch! But one must admire their courage of conviction for standing up against the unjust regime that was culturally supposed to be their own. Stokes started wearing khadi after that event.

Stokes opposed the attempts of the moderate Indian leaders — who had split from the Congress — to accord a welcome to the Prince of Wales on his visit in November, 1921. He considered it foolish and unmanly for Indians to treat the Prince as their own. The British government was particularly wary of the Punjab city of Lahore where the Congress committee, the Khilafat committee and various Sikh organisations had united in holding anti-government demonstrations to protest against the Prince’s visit there in February. Stokes was the first PPCC member to be detained on December 3 under Section 108 of the CrPC.

Stokes’ trial was covered in great detail by The Tribune. He was eventually sentenced to six months in jail. The Tribune denounced the sentence on Stokes as a "grievous failure of justice".

This is what Gandhi had to say in an article in Young India on Stokes’ arrest, "This is a unique move on the part of the government. Mr Stokes is an American who has naturalised himself as a British subject who has made India his home in a manner in which perhaps no other American or Englishman has... But that he should feel with and like an Indian, share his sorrows and throw himself into the struggle, has proved too much for the government. To leave him free to criticise the government was intolerable, so his white skin has proved no protection for him..."

Elsewhere, Gandhi remarks: "As long as we have an Andrews, a Stokes, a Pearson in our midst, so long it will be ungentlemanly on our part to wish every Englishman out of India. Non-cooperators worship Andrews, honour Stokes."

In this excellent biography by Asha Sharma I have personally liked the chapter, "Debates with Gandhi: Test of friendship". This chapter shows how Stokes respected Gandhi and yet did not hesitate to air his views even if they were contrary to those of the Mahatma. For example, Stokes did not accept the idea of compulsory spinning as the sine qua non of participation in the Congress. Well, the two karma yogis might have had their differences yet they remained friends.

Another chapter that I would like to commend to the reader’s attention is, "Came to teach and stayed to learn". It portrays the evolution of Stokes as a thinker. Over a period of time he became increasingly interested in Hindu philosophy.

Inspired by the Arya Samajist assertion that "the soul attains mukti through karma and not by grace", he studied Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s Satyarth Prakash. He considered this philosophy valid. Disillusioned by Christianity as taught and practised in India, he wanted the Church to be imbued with the Indian ethos, independent of the western worldview. Since this volume does not mention whether Stokes was aware of the fact that Christianity had gained roots in the South, especially Kerala, centuries before the West was Christianised, one can say that the wholly Indian Church was already in existence even before the first European set foot on our soil.

There were many Christian precepts and practices with which Stokes did not agree. In Hinduism he found the validation of his rejection of the Christian idea of eternal punishment. His belief in universal salvation, transmigration of the soul and the non-existence of sin as a power in opposition to holiness show him closer to the Vedantic philosophy. In the Hindu scriptures he found "not so much in the actual solutions arrived at, as in the general tendency of thought and method of approach, the key to much that the Christian religion, as evolved in the West, has never attempted to explain, or about which its teachings have been frankly agnostic."

Though Stokes remained true to the Christian canon, he showed courage of conviction when he freely admitted, "The light from the Hindu scriptures had come to fill the gaps in Christianity."

Here it will not be impertinent to mention that Stokes and The Tribune had developed a sort of symbiotic relationship. Several of his anti-British articles like "Oppression in the Simla Hills" (November 24, 1921) were published in the paper. His political as well as social activities were duly covered too. Asha Sharma, the author of the biography under review, has used the paper’s files to write this meticulously documented volume on one of the undeservingly ignored leaders of India’s freedom struggle.

Since the book under review is about an American who came as a missionary, one expects something non-scholarly. But mercifully one does not encounter another Dr Aziz or Chandrapore with its heaps of rubbish as in EM Forster’s novel "A Passage to India", nor is it a wide-eyed autobiograhical account of the sensations experienced by Nirad C. Chaudhuri during his first visit to England and recounted in his "A Passage to England". It certainly does not remanticise the exotic as the two former works do in their respective genres.

Often when one writes about one’s kin or ancestor objectivity suffers. Asha Sharma, who is Samuel Evans Stokes’ granddaughter, has avoided this pitfall. It is indeed a tribute to her erudition and integrity that she has presented the facts as they were. Its detached manner reminds one of S. Gopal’s biography of his father S. Radhakrishnan.

However, one wonders why other historians or research scholars did not take up this subject for publication. Have we already reached a stage where a great personality languishes in the shadows if he or she has no descendant with intellectual propensities?

If you are wondering how, when and why Samuel Evans Stokes came to be known as Satyanand Stokes. Well, for the answer, you will have to read this meticulously chronicled biography of our freedom struggle’s unsung hero, which puts into perspective persons, places and events related to a crucial phase of India’s emergence as a nation.Top


Itchy palms that control levers of power
by Harbans Singh

Corruption in India: Agenda for Action edited by S. Guhan and Samuel Paul. Vision Books, New Delhi. Pages 312.Rs 280.

"THE sinner suffers in his longing till at at long last overcome by temptation," wrote the Greek poet Aeschylus, though in a different context of human failing. The problem today in India, as in many developing countries, is that not just temptations have increased but the citizens are falling prey to them without letting the suffering to trouble their soul even momentarily.

The inability, or the unwillingness, to put up even a semblance of resistance has been disturbing many meaningful people and groups. For, they are of the firm belief that the statement of the late Indira Gandhi that corruption is a global phenomenon notwithstanding, the vast majority of the masses would prefer a life which is less tainted by it. They believe that there are many people and groups who are willing to go through the pain caused by the longing to have a comfortable life relatively free of wants. This book has emerged from the efforts of the Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore, which has examined the cancer of corruption and has also evolved a strategic agenda for action.

Without apportioning all the blame on Indira Gandhi for giving legitimacy to corruption by treating it in a cavalier manner, the book looks into the political and administrative system and the distortions that have become a part of it, both as a result of the subversion of the system and its inherent weakness. As a result, not a little responsibility lies with politicians whose policies and deeds, while promising the moon to the masses, continue to fill the coffers of the rich and the beneficiaries of their discretion, and letting the common masses fend for themselves in a system which has become increasingly the extended arm of organised mafia.

The various contributors to the book have put the subjects of their choice under the microscope and suggested how to improve, change or strengthen the system. However, while delineating their chosen subject, the authors seem to have collectively forgotten an important aspect of corruption. The better governed societies too are occasionally victims of corruption but it is the response of society which insulates it from too much damage; and, rarely does corruption affect the man in the street.

It is not that Indian society was never affected by corruption and therefore no social response was evolved. In fact, till the sixties society was by and large capable of isolating the corrupt by not according a respectable place. But ever since the nationalisation of banks, the social response has collapsed. With the money of the banks becoming easily available even to that section of society which would otherwise have entered a bank with fear, it tempted the resourceful and the deceitful to defraud public money, secure in the belief that they would neither be caught nor punished.

The recent row between the CII and the bank employees unions has exposed the underbelly of the Indian business. There cannot be two opinions on the need to have less bureaucratic controls on entrepreneurship, but then entrepreneurs too need to be respectful of public trust when they avail of public money. It would be unrealistic to lay all the blame on the rules and regulations about loans; an unscrupulous businessman would always dangle temptations to corrupt others. Therefore, what is also needed is an effective and speedy judicial system which punishes the culprit. The stand-off between the CII and the bank employees has demonstrated what can be achieved by a public outcry as a mere threat of exposure of the defaulting businessmen has forced the CII to run for cover and retract its recommendations to the government.

We also seem to be obsessed with the nature of our political system. No system can be foolproof, and corruption can cause turmoil among the best of people. The disgrace and punishment of public figures in Japan has not ensured a corruption-free polity. It is, once again, the public response to it that is vital to clean public life. The intensity of the response sets societies apart. We, unfortunately have been less than intense. Moreover there is a propensity to politicise issues and hence truth gets blurred when accusations, often manufactured, start flying in all directions.

The book might appear inadequate in the face of the fact that corruption has perhaps grown too big to be tackled by the thoughts of well-meaning citizens. For, though the book deals with the various aspects, for some strange reason it fails to take notice of the crumbling judicial system. This alone, more than any other measure, strengthens the faith of the common man in the system. Three illustrations of the immediate past bring out the urgency to deal with the decay.

The acquittal of the accused in the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case, the Jain Hawala case and the blatant use of money power in the infamous BMW case has destroyed the confidence of the common man and the weak citizen. These cases also demonstrate what can happen to a society which refuses to deal with corruption at the outset.

There is hope yet. For the outcry against them has been deafening, and as long as there are people and groups trying to work out agendas, however limited, against corruption, the people can be sure that a leadership is being built to combat the menace.Top


Not being fair to fair sex
by M.L. Sharma

Women’s Studies in India by L. Thara Bhai. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 232 +xii. Rs 400.

THE book under review is a research work on the various facets of the theme. The author has refined the concept and the methodology of this academic pursuit. Interest in women studies in India arose in the 19th century itself when social reformers began to grapple with growing inequalities and other evil social customs. In the forefront were Gandhi, Nehru, C.R. Das, Netaji and a galaxy of liberals.

The UN General Assembly declared 1975 as Women’s Year. An International Women’s Conference was organised in Mexico, which adopted a world action plan for the empowerment of women at large. This added momentum to women’s movement and gradually the cause became dear to social activists.

Women studies as an academic discipline began in the same year, 1975, although in the initial years there was lot of confusion over its scope. The uplift of women was equated with educational and job opportunities and never with equality. The first national conference of women’s studies held in Mumbai decided to form an association to promote the cause of women and appealed to universities to include the subject in their curriculum. But still a lot remains to be done in this direction.

Mother Teresa Women’s University, Kodaikanal, is a model where all efforts and resources are devoted to women studies. While the work at this university is definitive, others continue to be confused about the scope of such studies. The focus has been shifting from one area to another.

The author lists nine issues of significance for such studies. They are (a) status or position of women in society; (b) career or work as contrasted with occupational roles; (c) equality or inequality; (d) power and authority; (e) sexism; (f) feminism; (g) sex role stereotypes; (h) network; and (i) marriage and sexuality.

Dr Thara makes it clear that marriage is to be highlighted in such studies as a married girl’s role undergoes a big change. "When man gains from marriage women loses in marriage as far as material, physical and psychological relations are concerned irrespective of the socio-economic background of girls."

She laments that women’s authority is never recognised, as equality is meaningless in the absence of this recognition. "Biological differences of women," she believes, "are conventionally utilised to explain the discrimination in social fields, thereby legitimising and institutionalising inequality of women." While pursuing women studies it should be kept in mind that the perspective of different religious laws is at variance with each other. The author is happy that the new economic policy has facilitated investment in India and many women have become self-employed or have set up technology-driven units.

The book is a significant contribution to the direction to women’s studies.


A Karma Yogi Politician by M.G. Chitkara. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 238 + xxiiiRs 500.

This book recounts the main events in the life of the late K.L. Sharma, a BJP front rank leader. The author says the late leader was free from narrow parochialism and bigotry. Although he wielded considerable influence as an active member of the ruling alliance (having been vice-president of the BJP in 1991-92 and 1995), he was a self-less worker, and never hankered for power and position.

The author describes the former Sangh pracharak, who died recently, as a "karma yogi" because "he practised humility by being neither self-assertive nor too talkative and boastful. A leader is best when people are hardly aware of his existence, not so good when they eulogise him, less good when they fear him and worst when they are contemptuous of him". Sharma was a Hindi poet and his poem "Veh kali raat", written in the wake of the emergency, is a piece of literature. He wanted the people in the new millennium to "excel excellence" in all fields. He opposed economic power going to a few people.

There is a most useful suggestion by Sharma that future capital cities should be administrative centres and no other activity unrelated to the administration should come up. At present new settlements and industrial areas surround the administrative capital cities adding to congestion, pollution and other problems.Top


Many loose ends in security set-up
by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon

Society, State and Security: The Indian Experience by Verghese Koithara. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 414. Rs 550.

THE book under review is a maiden attempt by Vice Admiral Verghese Koithara, who retired from the Indian Navy in 1998. The author has had two stints with the Defence Planning Staff and has a Ph.D degree in political science. The book, written in a critical vein, makes no effort to unnecessarily boost national self-esteem. It examines the problem of security in India, external as well as internal. It turns the spolight on our weaknesses and failings and the need to overcome them in the light of past experience.

Can there be a dichotomy between national and human security? How can Indian nationalism be strengthened? What factors can help India to become a great power in the international arena? Can India aspire for external influence without achieving internal peace? Can India achieve and sustain a high economic growth rate without improving the lot of its masses in terms of education and health? Can India acquire global clout without becoming a military power of consequence? How can India emerge as a modern society in the true sense? How can the security of the country and its people be enhanced? How can human rights and national security needs be reconciled? How can India confront the challenges of the coming decade, the first of the new millennium?

The author seeks an enlightened answer to all these crucial issues. He believes that state security is inextricably linked with human security and there can be no dichotomy between the two. In an enlightened state, the concept of security must be linked with the welfare of the masses. But unfortunately in India the articulation of human security needs are linked only with the aspirations and fears of the elite and not with the well-being of Indians at large. National security must lead to broad-based human welfare and not just upper class-oriented prosperity.

The term security, according to the writer, means much more than territorial integrity and the preservation of sovereignty. He stresses the importance of economic and social well-being where both the state and the individual tread a shared path.

The book traces the development of the Indian state and its security concerns during the first 50 years of independence. The author holds the view that in terms of India’s future security, the low levels of human development, the low rate of economic growth, the failure to broadbase technology and the worsening of Hindu-Muslim relations, all flash dangerous signals.

A good appraisal is made of India’s nonalignment policy and the handling of relations with the West, Russia, China, Pakistan and other South Asian countries. The author laments that the direction and execution of India’s external security efforts have not been up to the mark. There has been no analytical history of any of the four major wars fought by India since independence. Pervasive secrecy and national ego make serious and sincere stock-taking difficult. No honest and objective analysis of the 1962 war, which tarnished India’s standing globally, has been made. This, in fact, is equally applicable to the other wars. Image-building by the propaganda media often hampers an objective assessment. That is why the country does not learn a lesson for the future.

The author is highly critical of the role of the Indian state in the management of internal security. The state with a poor world-view has not been able to foster a peaceful and participatory political environment in the country by promoting appropriate economic and social changes. Indian nationalism has been used as a means to manipulate the masses. Failure of the state to address the root causes, arbitrary and excessive use of force, poor quality of intelligence, frequent enactment of stringent laws, usurpation of the powers of the states by the Centre, political chicanery and self-righteousness on the part of Indian leadership are some of the factors that are jeopardising the internal security of the country.

The author admonishes politicians and administrators of the country for their poor handling of the situation in Assam, Punjab and Kashmir. His comments on the internal emergency are noteworthy. The author also makes a comparative study of the way national and human security affairs have been managed by India, China and Indonesia. All three countries have had to use force periodically within the country, but in China and Indonesia its frequency and duration have been much less thanks to more tactful handling.

The book explores the emerging global scenario in which India has to deal with crucial security issues during the first decade of the new millennium. Among the latent dangers faced by the country are economic and technological mismanagement, improverished, enfeebled, segmented and estranged society, energy and food crises, environmental decline and weakened democracy.

To guard against military dangers, the author stresses the need to evolve a new and substantial military programme, which includes the need to increase India’s nuclear capability. This programme can be evolved through a more pragmatic approach which requires a coordinated functioning of political leaders, military officers and civil servants. Lack of good decision-making has been the bane of Indian policy.

The book is of abiding interest to politicians, academicians, policy makers, defence personnel and all those engaged in the management of country’s internal and external security. It makes the reader wake up to contemporary milieu and enables him to gain new perspectives on complex security issues in the politico-military and socio-economic dimensions. It must come as an eye-opener for the ruling elite.Top


Service to succeed
by Chandra Mohan

Discovering the Soul of Service by Leonard L. Berry. Free Press, New York. Pages 247. Rs 880.

SERVICE companies sell a promise easy to keep for a five- man single location operation, even if labour-intensive. The real challenge comes in sustaining the entrepreneurial spirit of the young, small company in growth. Severity multiplies when (a) growth is rapid and (b) it runs into price competition.

The world is awash with companies which started with fanfare, performed superbly for a short while, but died young in a sea of red ink.

Berry has researched that all great service companies share seven core values.

q Excellence. They are strong profit-makers, but profit is not the defining value; it is rather an outcome. Pursuit of excellence is the defining value.

q Innovation. Innovation and excellence are inextricably linked. Changing what exists into something better is the defining value.

q Joy. Uplifting human spirit. Bringing human potential into full flower and celebrating achievement are part of being successful.

q Teamwork. Individuals collaboratively pooling their resources for a common purpose is the normal style for enriching quality of work life.

q Respect. Respect for the customer. Respect for the employee. Respect for suppliers and business partners. Respect for the community.


q Social profit. Beyond the marketing of goods and services and creating employment into causes to benefit the larger community.

All this demands trust, sensitivity and listening. It means value-driven leaders who live the values. Leaders who articulate their dreams and in simple language which touches people’s hearts. It means attracting, motivating and retaining people. It means cultivating leadership qualities in others in the organisation; inspired leadership at the point of delivery being of utmost importance.

The road is never smooth and easy. Leaders rely on their values to navigate through the difficult spells, reminding others in the organisation and at times their own selves. Their quest for excellence makes them challenge the status quo even at the best of times.

For the business to become and remain successful, the core strategy must be implemented through an effective business design and effective execution. Successful companies effect a good fit between what and how targeted markets buy and what and how to sell. Listening to customers and with singular focus on them, they constantly innovate, often leading market change.

Their systems are flexible. Teams are trained to jump into other roles to handle the inevitable fluctuating work-loads.

Such companies invariably face competition, yet in real sense they compete hardest against themselves. Their strength lies in their trust in themselves and their team. Trust is the glue binding them together. They share information, for employees feel most vulnerable when they lack information. Fairness and family honour dictate their actions. They organise continuous learning to ensure growth from within.

It is through generosity and sharing that leaders build the brand equity of their companies.

Berry has drawn excellent inferences from the experience of the most successful service companies to guide other aspirants into the service sector, which is certain to dominate the new millennium.Top


A bridge cult extraordinary
by H.P. Sah

A Sufi Galaxy by S.L. Gajwani. H.M. Damodar Publications, Ulhas Nagar. Pages 316. Rs 250.

SUFISM is not startlingly new for India. The tradition of spiritualism which cohesively unifies the non-dualism of Vedanta and the Islamic attitude of total surrender before God has also helped in keeping alive the assimilative culture of India.

Grave of Qutub Ali ShahYet most people don’t know much about this tradition and its saints beyond a few names like Mansoor and Sharmad. People have very little knowledge about the life and Sadhana of those Sufi saints who spread the message of love and abhed in villages and small towns of this land.

"A Sufi Galaxy" presents an insightful account of the life and teaching of Qutab Ali Shah and other saints of the Jahaniyan lineage of Sufism. It helps expand our knowledge in this direction. Sufism was brought by Syed Jalal-ud-Din from Bukhara in Uzbekistan to Sindh and parts of Punjab (now in Pakistan) and reached even Maharashtra. It has the potential to break even the false boundaries raised by the partition of the country.

There is a dichotomy of plurality and homogienity whenever we try to understand religion merely at the conceptual level. Whether we take a realistic view or an idealistic one, it does not make much difference. In one approach, plurality is over-emphasised and oneness is ignored and in another, oneness is over-emphasised and plurality is reduced to an illusion. Both cannot be respected equally and the conceptual attempts at synthesis fails miserably.

Realists are happy with their understanding of religion as a set of customs, rituals and institutions and grant some space to the oneness of the experience of the divine in the name of social welfare. Idealists, on the other hand, fascinated by their own variety of transcendental insights, despise the realists who, they think, are befuddled by the plurality of the phenomenal world, and preach the essential unity of religions.

Sufism — the sadhna of love which lets the head be guided by the heart, gets over the conceptual dilemma in the realisation of the non-duality of self and the Absolute without disturbing the valuable diversity of religious faiths. This mystical feature of Sufism is heavily underlined in "A Sufi Galaxy".

Complete dissolution (fanai) of ego is a necessary condition of Sufi sadhna. Only by accomplishing this arduous task, a yogi (this word is frequently used by the Sufis too) attains the eternal and absolute identity of his being which usually manifests itself in the proclamation of An-al-haq (I am the Absolute). It is the speciality of the Sufis of the Jahaniyan stream that they make all efforts to hide the majestic realisation in the humility of their behaviour and never make such a proclamation in public.

To remain humble and not to disclose the divine qualities is the way of life of every saint of this lineage which begins with Qutab Ali Shah and continues till this date, and which is also strictly followed in its subcurrent represented by Rochal Das and his successors.

To talk about the unity of religions is easy; to practise it is very difficult. At times even a preceptor has to pass through this difficulty when the holy attitude of equal respect for different religious faiths comes in the way to guide and help his disciples on their inward journey.

This difficulty may prove to be devastating like a black hole which totally absorbs the light rays (of self-realisation) coming in its proximity. But as in the cosmos, dangerous black holes are present. In "A Sufi Glaxy" also the presence of few such spots cannot be denied.

Hadi Bakhsh once in the early phase of his life passed through this trouble. The episode of his successfully coming out of the dilemma through the vision of Prophet Mohammed instructing him to do the japa of a shloka from the Bhagvad Gita and again in a similar vision Lord Krishna instructing him to do japa of an ayat of the Holy Quran attests to the need for an inter-cultural exchange at a higher level of consciousness to achieve the sentiment of equal respect for various religious faiths.

The problem faced by Hadi Bakhsh is more serious than that of a politician who swears by his respect for all religions and, therefore, claims a solution to the communal problem. But the problem is of great importance for anyone who thinks over it deeply.

However, by giving a detailed account of this event the author has helped in getting a close look at the human face of a great Sufi saint, which is generally over-mystified by the disciples and tradition.

The book also describes briefly the initiation and method of sadhna of every saint of the Jahaniyan lineage along with their short biographies. Pranayam and dhyan, alongwith namjapa in every breath seem to be the integral sadhna of the followers of this path. The author has effectively highlighted this aspect of Sufism.

A saint is like a lamp who spreads light of spiritualism and love around him. When the work of such a saint is over, he lights another lamp before his flame is lost in eternity so that light is kept flowing. But it is not only a unilinear progress. Many other lamps also get lit and they all independently begin to spread light at different places. New streams of light are, thus, born to benefit the folks living at different parts of the land.

A new sub-stream of Jahaniyan Sufism began with Bhai Gobindram Sahib who got enlightenment under the guidance of Qutab Ali Shah. This stream continued in Rochal Das and then in R.M. Hari who eventually brought it to India after the partition of the country. It is still helping the seekers in the small town of Ulhas Nagar near Mumbai in Maharashtra where the successor of Hari is spreading his message till this date.

The author has written the book mainly in a descriptive style to save the common reader from the burden of heavy spiritual doctrines. However, the philosophical background of Sufism is not totally skipped over. In his simple style the author has presented the life sketches of Rachal Das and Hari in such an interesting manner that the philosophical framework of Sufism and Vedanta becomes clearly visible.

In the teaching of Rachal Das, the philosophical understanding of ishq (love) has got a special place. He has explained the nature of love as the fire which attracts moths towards it and burns them to ashes. Love also destroys the ego of a person and sets him free to acquire a greater identity.

Ishq mazazi (wordly love) also destroys the ego of the lover but does not go beyond the psycho-physical existence of the beloved. Ishq haqiqi (love for God) frees the lover (the sadhak) absolutely from his lower identity and merges it in the infiniteness of the beloved (the Absolute).

Ishq mazazi is only an occasion or invitation to attain the supreme love — Ishq haqiqi.

Nature of the mind, state of consciousness, the concept of jivan mukta and videh mukta are some of the important philosophical issues which frequently figured in Rachal Das’s talks.

Hari also contributed a lot in explaining the philosophically significant distinction between para (transcendent) and apara (phenomenal) knowledge and the importance of dharma, karma, bhakti and jnan on the path of spiritual realisation.

Although Sufism is a path of complete self-surrender, the proclamation of an-al-haq lures many egoists to declare themselves as great saints only to serve some petty ends of wealth or power or both. To caution the innocent people and the spiritual seekers against such fake faqirs is one of the serious responsibilities of a genuine saint. This responsibility is directly or indirectly carried out by every saint of Jahaniyan lineage of Sufism.

In "A Sufi Galaxy" the author has given the English rendering of various lyrics composed by Sufi saints which deal with different subjects of sadhna. Many of them expose the character of fake saints who are themselves misguided and misguide others.

Hadi Bakhsh says in one of his lyrics: "Outwordly they are like swans, / But dark like crows they are within, / They remember God outwardly, / But their minds are fixed on luxuries.

"Publicity of one’s spiritual endeavour and divine qualities is no proof of divinity: self sacrifice alone is the test of saintliness.

"Some imitate endeavour and piety in public, / Some announce sacrifices openly in the fields. / But they alone realise Haq, O miskeen, / Who sacrifice self and realise the Self."

(Miskeen is humble and poor, which is the signature word of Hadi Baksh.)

In fact, by describing the character of fake saints, a true saint defines or redefines Sufism in a new context in a historical perspective and helps in understanding the sadhna path of love more closely. In complex human situations and interrelation the meaning of "poverty" and "humility" also undergoes some complex changes and a man of wealth may turn out to be humble whereas an overtly poor person may be an egoist. Thus the vocabulary of Sufism needs to be interpreted and reinterpreted in the changing scenario. That is why genuine saints define Sufism again and again and add new meanings to the old vocabulary.

The lyrics composed by the saints of the Jahaniyan lineage are of great significance and value. A large number of such lyrics is given (in English rendering) in "A Sufi Glaxy", which manifest the profound feeling of Ishq-haqiqi of these Sufi saints. They are an invaluable heritage not only of Sindhi literature but of any literature of devotional lyrics.Top


Death of a dream ‘sabhton khatarnak’
by Harjinder Singh

Reckoning With Dark Times : 75 Poems of Pash translated from the Punjabi original by Tejwant Singh Gill. Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. Pages 126+xxviii. Rs 80.

AT a time when educated people, especially the privileged among the youth in this country, are choosing to be blind to realities, it may seem inappropriate to remember that years ago, a young poet was killed in broad daylight. He was killed because he dared to dream of a world where man would not cause misery to man; where Nature and the humans will harmonise.

He said it in muse that the torture by a policeman’s lathi is not a thing to fear, what is scary is the death of dreams. The cessation of dreaming is the scariest thing for us all. As many of us continue dreaming, in our dreams comes Pash, the poet of Punjab who died so young for he dreamed.

Pash has been known in Indian languages for a long time. Even when he was alive, his works appeared in translation in leading Hindi magazines. Progressive writers and thinkers all over the country had read something or other by him.

That his work should also appear in English could not have made any sense then, because those to whom he mattered lived in native cultures. Still a number of translations of individual poems in English appeared occasionally. Pash himself went across the seas and naturally must have indulged in translating his work sometime or other, but no known translations in English existed in a book form until this work by Tejwant Singh Gill was published by the Sahitya Akademi.

For the admirers of Pash, this is a thing that should have happened much earlier. Pash was a revolutionary poet not simply because he shared an ideology of rapid transformation of our society with radicals of his time, but also because he went deep into the world around a word. Prominent among his contemporaries, he indulged in passionate dialogues with poets like Amarjeet Chandan and Amitoz about what poetry means. Together with them he changed the idiom of Punjabi poetry as it grew into a shape that it had never before. That he should be recognised beyond the borders and by people of all corners of the world is a natural desire of anyone who has read and admired him.

Tejwant Singh Gill has selected 75 poems mostly from the three anthologies that Pash published while living — namely "Loh Katha" (The iron; 1970), "Udd de bajzan magar" (Follow the flying hawks; 1974), "Sadde sameyan wich" (In our times; 1974) and a few that appeared after he died in two anthologies, "Ladange sathi" (Comrade, we will fight) and "Vartaman de roobaroo" (Facing the present). In a fairly comprehensive 20 page introduction Gill introduces Pash the person, Pash the early poet and Pash the mature creative writer obsessed with developing new forms of committed poetry.

‘‘Pash’’ is a nickname that Avtar Singh Sandhu chose for his indulgence in muse. A true son of the soil, a fighter against the oppression of the state, he had the experience of a varied background and active participation in radical politics. For those who knew him from close, he remains a bohemian, a representative of his times and one ideally suited for legends that live on for later generations.

A rationalist at heart, he wrote in prose about the eclipses, superstitions and sundry other things. In verse, he grew fast and indulgently. The intensity of passion that he and his revolutionary comrades left behind is history that we relive as we find ourselves amidst the perpetual struggle of those below to claim a share of the surface.

Certainly Pash, more than anyone else, deserves to be translated in English. His works document a reality of our times and of the years preceding ours. Let it be known to the world that we are part of the howl of protest which engulfed the world of the sixties and seventies. It is in this context Gill’s translation acquires significance. Gill’s selection is laudable. The 75 poems he offers are a near Pash omnibus.

Translating poetry is an extremely difficult task, even if you have taught it all your life and by and large, Gill has done an excellent job. Having said this, one needs to point out that there are areas where a bit of disappointment awaits the reader. Pash used free verse (mostly) for what he had to say was too real to be tied down to meter. Naturally, a translation of free verse will most suitably and conveniently be in free verse only.

Gill seems to attempt a structure here and there that makes Pash less real than he is. For instance, when Pash writes "Roz hee ese taran hunda hai", it simply says; "Everyday this is what happens". Gill twists it to "This is what daily does happen"; it seems more convoluted than the original. Sometimes, the translator seems to be culturally too remote from a English-speaking environment (which he is), as in the lines: "Daily dutiful daughters/ Bury in wet dung/ The fire of their virginity." One ought to do better than that.

Occasionally, in literal translation, presumably to retain whatever structure already existed, the power of the original is lost. Take the title ‘‘Loh Katha’’ for instance. Katha is a complex word that has almost the same meaning as tale. Gill’s translation (in his introduction) reduces it to "iron’s tale". It leaves one dissatisfied and restless.

Pash, like most poets, in his early years was louder than later in depicting the agonies and struggles of ordinary people. This "vyatha" of the struggling masses and their rising together is more than a tale and is also part of the "katha". In a sense, Gill is a bit old fashioned and he may be using "tale" in a Dickensian context. The first 25 poems in Gill’s selection are from "Loh Katha". The next 24 are from "Udd de bajzan magar".

The best of Pash is in the poems that appeared in the later years, the eighties. In "Application for disinheritence", he challenges the communalised consciousness of the national mainstream in a loud and clear voice: "If the whole country mourns the death of one/ Against whom I thought and wrote all my life;/ Then my name off its register do strike (strike off my name from its directory)." This poem, in spite of its loud rhetoric, is one of his best works in its form and aesthetics.

Similarly in "Most ominous", a poem that is perhaps one of his most used work and perhaps translated in most languages of the world, he reaches his peak in craft: "Most ominous is the moon / That after each killing / Rises in courtyard muffled in silence/ But does not rancour like peppers in the eyes." Gill comments in his introduction on the changing forms in Pash’s later poetry and his response to post-modern trends.

The choice of the word "ominous" for "khatarnak" is too simplistic. It is also difficult to find a better alternative. When Pash says that the death (or dying) of dreams is "sabhton khatarnak", it seems to carry a horror that is in orders of magnitude more intense than "most ominous". And what integrity that bright-eyed handsome man had that he worried more the death of his mind than the body; we learnt that all across Punjab as we gathered in small numbers near libraries, in class-rooms and elsewhere after his murder on the day that also saw the hanging of another visionary 57 years before. Pash died at the age of 37 in 1988.

Overall, this is a timely and long awaited work. Gill and the Sahitya Akademi should be lauded for this. Especially, for a book in hard cover and a nice design, its price is very reasonable. Top


Pash — past, present and Punjabi poetry
by Akshaya Kumar

Pash by Tejwant Singh Gill, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. Pages 108. Rs 25.

AT a time when the Indian literary space runs the risk of being appropriated by the Rushdie-clan of Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, etc., the publication of a monograph on Pash, a Punjabi poet of the seventies and eighties, by the Sahitya Akademi under its project of "Makers of Indian Literature", comes as a welcome relief against this on-going cultural politics of representation. It is recognition of the contribution of regional poetry to the making of India as a nation.

The monograph also undoes another fallacy. In the name of Indian literature, the translations of ancient Sanskrit texts are fed to the international gazer as specimens of the ancient Indian wisdom. Most of the writers included in the series of "Makers of Indian Literature" also happen to be the writers of the ancient and medieval Indian past. The very fact that a writer as recent as Pash has featured in this Sahitya Akademi project goes to vindicate that contemporary Indian native writer is intensely alive and alert.

Pash’s poetry has the potential of a counter-discourse within the canonical Indian literature, as it does neither harbour the false consciousness of his brahmanical ancestors, nor does it tread the safe and sophisticated quotidian line of his contemporary Indian English poets. To Pash, poetry is neither a speculation into the fictional infinite, nor a playful flirtation with reality. It "is no feast or play/Or river flowing leisurely away". It is a discourse of protest against the politics of the sublime and subliminal both.

The cooption of an overtly leftist poet like Pash into institutionalised frame of the Sahitya Akademi is rare and unprecedented. The repositories of pure culture seem to have conceded the genius of Pash.

The monograph combines elements of biography with the critical estimate of the creative output of the writer under study. The author of Pash’s monograph, Tejwant Singh Gill, lives up to this challenge very diligently. In the first chapter entitled "Pash: Life and Experience", Gill accounts for Pash’s revolutionary bent of mind in terms of his "village background", "peasant upbringing", "commitment to human relationships", "impeded schooling", "unimpeded learning" and, finally, a "full-blooded encounter with the world at large".

The ideological underpinnings of Pash’s protest are explained in terms of how Trotsky’s views on permanent revolution helped Pash in reconciling his intellectual pessimism with wilful optimism. Surprisingly, there is no reference to the possible influence of the homespun marxism of Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Kriplani, etc. on the poetry and persona of Pash.

As a commentator, Tejwant Singh Gill keeps his intellectual mediations to the minimum level. The poems quoted in the course of the argument speak for themselves. Pash undergoes three distinct paradigmatic shifts: (i) the "elementary" phase "drawn from Mao", (ii) the "innovative phase under Trotsky" and finally (iii) the "productive phase of cultural immanence".

Such a model of evolution, based purely on the subtle ideological shifts in Pash’s poetry, should have been complemented by another model based on the categories of aesthetics. After all, more than simple ideology, it is the poetic transmutation that catapults Pash to the stature of a legend in the post-independent India.

The 13 poems anthologised in the monograph do represent a mature and accomplished Pash. But this entails exclusion of his relatively less poetical first collection "Loh Katha" altogether. The poems quoted at length in the chapter on "Loh Katha" nevertheless make up for this imbalance. Some of the other oft-quoted poems of the poet like "Jitthe kavita khatm hondi hai", "Censor hon wale khat da dukhant", "Dooshit bhasa de khilaf", etc. could have been anthologised, but since the author quotes the substantial part of these poems in the course of his argument, he chooses not to repeat them.

Gill’s critical frame to evaluate Pash is heavily tinged with marxist jargon. The use of critical terms like "structure of feeling", "ideogemes", "subaltern", "residual", "dominant", "commitment", "alignment", etc. reveals beyond doubt the author’s strong foregrounding in the idiom of cultural materialists like Raymond Williams, Walter Benjamin or Gramsci.

The monographer, therefore, is more an involved sympathiser than a neutral empathiser. Such a critical stance does help in understanding the sublte paradigmatic shifts that the poetry of Pash undergoes, but it also backfires as it tends to gloss over or simply essentialise the possible discontinuities and fissures in the discourse under study.

Gill’s critical frame is so exclusively marxist that it even fails to place Pash in the post-colonial perspective of Franz Fanon, the Algerian revolutionary, who advocated the use of poetry as a weapon to disarm and expose the politics of comprador intelligentsia in the Third World. Fanon divides the literature of colonised nations into three periods: an assimilationist phase, a period of pre-combat literature and finally a revolutionary literature. Pash’s revolutionary poetry is the most apt illustration of Fanonian paradigm of post-colonial protest.

In his introduction to his "Saade Samian Vich", Pash attributes his poetry to the living literary tradition of poetry in India. Surprising it might seem, but Pash begins from Kalidas’s Meghdoot. The poet is fascinated by Kalidas’s technique of ode whereby a wandering cloud is invoked to convey the sentiment of love and romance to the dejected lover. From Guru Gobind Singh’s "Mitr payare noon" to a contemporary Amitoz’s "Lahore de naam khat", the ode has been an integral part of Punjabi poetry.

In the same introduction, Pash throws another surprise as he acknowledges the influence of a contemporary woman Indian English poet Kamala Das on his poetic output. Not only these references reveal Pash’s responsiveness to Indian literature as a whole, more importantly, they reveal the inclusive range of protest in his poetry.

Pash is not oblivious of gender discrimination. But Gill’s monograph is silent on the role of the tradition of poetry in India on the cultural make-up of Pash. Of course, he does mention the seminal influence of Pablo Neruda and Brecht on Pash’s radical outlook, but the indebtedness of Pash to Indian writers has been totally ignored.

Had Gill placed Pash in the larger Indian tradition of literature, it could have helped his own enterprise of projecting Pash as a maker of Indian literature. Tejwant Singh Gill does situate Pash’s death-defying radicalism in the spirit of martyrdom built into the discourse of Sikhism. The influence of Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary anti-imperialism on the young mind of Pash has also been well spelt out. But Pash’s position within the rubric of contemporary Punjabi poetry has been left undefined. Pash’s poetry emerges almost as an alternative discourse vis-a-vis the romantic poetry of Shiv Kumar Batalavi, the realistic poetry of Mohan Singh, the experimental poetry of Harbhajan Singh, and the quasi-mystical poetry of Hasrat, etc.

The monograph on Pash would definitely generate a cross-cultural dialogue within India and abroad. Gill really redeems the position of an Indian teacher in English by way of channelising his knowledge of English in bringing forth the writings in his own mother tongue to a larger national and international perspective.Top


Shobha mom gets sentimental and sensitive
by Cookie Maini

Speed Post by Shobha De. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 284. Rs 250.

TODAY'S kids are growing up in a gizmo-populated world, where practically every action and interaction is electronically monitored — video games, satellite television and Internet surfing — which suppresses their emotional spontaneity. Shobha De has focused on a fading sentimental mode of communication, letters which are getting to be anachronistic today.

As letters evolved in their heyday, thoughts just poured out on paper, sharable moments were shared, bonds were bonded. The process was cathartic and those bits of paper helped you recapture the emotions frozen in time. We have lost that world as we wade in to e-mails, cable wires and long distance telephones. Our children are becoming a deprived species as their emotions are becoming dry in this hi-tech environ.

It has taken the mother in Shobha De to revive the practice and focus on letters to her six children of various ages about "living, loving, caring and coping with the world". Forgive me for sounding sexist but for men fatherhood is not very vital but is slotted somewhere in his persona, but a women is all motherhood. So a best-selling woman author has brought to the fore this unquestionably live and special human bond through her letters.

What stuck me instantly was the sparkling spontaneity of the book. Right from the introduction, it spills out from her pen and reading "Speed Post" is for every mother reliving her own experience with parenting. Moments or episodes in this mother-children saga may seem trivial but they are meaningful to the totality of life.

Shobha De has perfected the art of recounting such episodes simply yet packed with significance. "Yes, it’s extravagant, but for me it’s essential to stay in touch and any price is worth that electric charge I get when, in a strange city at an odd hour in an unfamiliar setting, the shrill ring of a cellphone nestling in my handbag galvanises me into action. I dive for the instrument, pick it up eagerly and hear one of you say, ‘Mama... how are you?’

"Believe me, I’d pay anything for the pure pleasure of listening to those sweet, simple words wherever I may be in the world. How often have I excused myself from a meeting to take a call and then carried on the conversation sotto voce furtively, feeling a lot like the guy in the ‘happy birthday to you’ commercials."

The most poignant letters are those she has written to the children from her first marriage, whom she had to leave as she separated, her regrets as she irretrievably lost out on beautiful moments in their lives because of no fault of theirs. "If I shut my eyes, I can see you in her place. But I don’t do that, I can’t. It’s too painful. I can never make up for the loss. Never. All I can do is console myself that we’ve had other moments, other memories over time, that are equally precious, equally beautiful. But those? Those are irretrievably lost. I can only mourn their loss quietly and seek your forgiveness, my precious one."

She has been ethical enough not to ignore the children she is "stepmom" to, penning beautiful letters to them, too. "For all the roles you will be called upon to play in future, my prayers and blessings are with you. I may not have given birth to you, but fate has cast me in a small role while raising you. I have watched with pride as you came into your own as an individual. There is still one responsibility left for me to discharge — that of a grandmother."

The book is a contrast to Shobha De’s earlier sleazy writing. Like her autobiography, this comes straight from the heart. Beneath all those layers of being a slick, sophisticated media personality, she seems to still identify herself with her middle class upbringing and values. She cherishes those and endeavours to impart them to her children.

Inspite of her fame authoring best-selling books, there are perceptible undercurrents of nostalgia for the days gone by as a middle class girl brought up in a close-knit family. She lapses into bouts of nostalgia and very often her associations radiate warm vibes.

"If you were to ask me to name one single, strong memory of food I recall from my childhood, I’d take no time at all to say aamti. Mother’s aamti — a humble dal, eaten on a daily basis with rice or chappatis, nothing more than a staple in any Maharashtrian home. Yet, I can recall its special flavour so many years later. And each time I do, I can actually taste it. What was so special about her aamti, you’ll ask. I’ll tell you. Mother’s aamti stood for something very deep and moving for me. It stood for her commitment to all of us. It revealed her love and duty towards the family."

From her books Shobha De emerges as a rather split personality, a woman writing rather harsh critiques on the hypocrisies of high society and the humane, compassionate emotional being who revels in her family ties of the past — her father, mother and sisters and her children to whom she pours out her heart and subtly imparts human values like her attachment to her dying driver. "A week later Vinayak was no more. I heaved a sigh of relief. Vinayak had been set free from pain and sorrow. He had died a dignified death in his house in his own bed, with his sister and a friend by his side. My only regret was that I hadn’t been able to fulfil his last wish. No flight to Ahmedabad for poor Vinayak. So long, dear, faithful, good soul. May you wander to different worlds, close to the stars than you’d ever have been in a (Boeing) 737."

Inspite of De’s dare all, bare all writing of the past, another facet of her personality is her adherence to and conviction in festivals and traditional ceremonies. "Ilove the idea of continuity, and festivals provide it. I’m certain that if we don’t break what we’ve set in motion, all of you will try and maintain that vital link in your future lives too. There is no religious significance in any of this and that’s the real beauty. We follow it as a beautiful ritual invested with a lot of sentiment.

"Today, my brother is close to sixty. And yet, when we meet for the annual aarti during bhau-bij, we forget our respective ages, even our married selves. We become just brother and sister, as we once were, part of the same small unit, tied together by the oldest bond in the world — blood. As I prepare the thali for the aarti, my own mood changes. A certain solemnity gets into me. I light the diyas, place a whole supari on a fresh betel leaf, make sure there is kumkum powder and a few grains of rice in a tiny silver container, keep some mithai handy, and approach Ashok mama".

At the end of the book, I would like to ask Shobha De which is her true self — the one churning out all those satirical novels or the sensitive one spilling over into these true life roles. I would reckon it is the latter. Anyway, whatever be her true self, she should continue writing stuff on similar lines to bring forth an emotional renaissance in the endangered species — the present-day kids.