Sunday, July 23,
Review by Kuldip
New Man for the New
Millennium by Osho Edited and compiled by Ma Deva Sarito and Ma
Kamaal Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 275. Rs 250.
Rajneesh "Osho" could have done it.
When invited by a well-known
religious organisation to speak, Rajneesh, on the spur of the moment, decided to
play a practical joke on the organisers and the audience. He began talking about
a strange and highly advanced society called "Sitnalta". The truth of
the matter is that before delivering his speech, Rajneesh was reading about the
mythical continent called "Atlantis". He just reversed the order to
make it "Sitlanta"!
He told the gathering that in
our body we had 17 chakras, not seven as mentioned in ancient Indian
scriptures. The great ancient knowledge is lost, but a secret society of
enlightened masters called "Sitlanta" still exists, and this society
knew all the mysteries of life.
As people listened with rapt
attention, Rajneesh went on and on with all sorts of nonsense he could come up
with. He was surprised at the gullibility of his listeners. But an even greater
surprise was yet to come. At the end of the session, the president of the
society, who was totally floored, came up to him and said, that he had heard
about that society and its activities.
Then letters started pouring
in, says Rajneesh, One man went so far as to say that he was a member of the
"Sitlanta" society. "I can vouch that whatsoever you have said is
absolutely true," he averred.
Such are the uses of
"belief". It is very comforting, it is so reassuring, it makes us feel
so secure. The more absurd the notion, the more illogical and unscientific the
reasoning, the stronger is the belief. People are out there, eager to believe
anything. Anything, so long as it is reassuring. If you proposed something
logical, and if you could prove it scientifically, the question of believing it
or not believing it would not arise, because the statement is true, irrespective
of anyone’s opinion. If 2+2 make four, they will do so, whether you are a
Sikh, a Hindu, a Jew, or an atheist.
All beliefs are absurd, avers
Rajneesh, "man is basically coward, he does not want to enquire."
Because if you enquire, you might discover the truth, and not many of us are
brave enough to face the truth. Science has shattered so many so-called
religious truths, truths revealed by "God" himself to his
representatives on earth, but people go on believing regardless.
How does one discover Truth?
"By dropping all kinds of beliefs, — and remember I am saying all kinds
of — belief in me included. Experience me, come along with me, let me share
what I have seen, but don’t believe, don’t be in a hurry. . . .What I have
seen cannot become your experience unless you see it."
When it comes to the ultimate
truth, then, every one of us has to discover it our own way. It cannot be
discovered by following a Jesus, or a Buddha, or a Krishna.
As we enter the new millennium,
all this must change. Rajneesh believed that at the turn of the millennium, a
"new man" will be born. But he won’t be the ubermensche of
Nietzsche or Superman of fiction, this "new man" will be totally
different. "The old man was other-worldly, the old man was against this
world. The old man was always looking to the heavens. The old man was more
concerned with life after death than life before death.The new man’s
concern will be this life, because if this life is taken care of, the
other will follow of its own accord."
The new man will not lead a
life based on belief, he will simply live. Only those who simply live, without
belief, come to know what truth is. Neither the believer nor the non-believer
ever comes anywhere near the ultimate truth.
So far our lives have been
governed by fear — even God was nothing but a creation based on fear. When it
comes to realising the ultimate truth, we must remember that fear is not the
The new man will live life
naturally. He will not be conditioned by society’s efforts at making us
civilised and cultured. "Everybody is born as one single individual,"
reminds Rajneesh, " but by the time he is mature enough to participate in
life he has become a crowd. If you just sit silently and listen to your mind,
you will find so many voices."
It is no exaggeration to state
that most of us are mentally sick, thanks to all the conditioning we have had.
We have to learn to cleanse our minds of all this conditioning. We have to break
away from the past, we have to peel off the layers that cover our true self.
And this is the most difficult
thing to do, because to drop the past means to destroy our so-called
personality. It is a blow that our ego cannot bear. Most of us are quite happy
living with our neurotic selves, even if it means eternal misery.
People have either lead life in
a mathematical fashion, calculating every move, or have lived it spontaneously.
Both these approaches are wrong. This dualism is the main reason for our
suffering. Our effort should be to be as scientific as possible, as far as the
objective world is concerned, and as artistic, as spontaneous as possible as far
as the world of relationships is concerned.
Rajneesh then devotes some time
and talks about freedom, creativity, love, relationships, etc. What is
creativity? Here, he elaborates on the philosophy of karma yoga, without
really mentioning it. Creativity has nothing to do with art, he says. Art
critics have written volumes and volumes on creativity, but what is creativity
The word "creativity"
brings to mind all those wonderful works of art, but creativity has more to it
than art. Even as mundane an activity as polishing our own shoes could be done
in a creative way. "Anything could be creative — you bring that quality
to the activity. Activity itself is neither creative or uncreative. You can
paint in an uncreative way. You can sing in an uncreative way. You can clean the
floor in a creative way. You can cook in a creative way. . . . Creativity is the
quality that you bring to the activity you are doing. . . . So the first thing
to be remembered is: don’t confine creativity to anything in particular.
"A man is creative — and
if he is creative — whatsoever he does, even if he walks, you can see in his
walking there is creativity. . . . Once you understand it — that it is you,
the person, who is creative or uncreative — then the problem of finding your
How will the new man form
relationships? We talk about universal brotherhood, compassion, love. But why
are we, then, in conflict all the time? It is because our relationships are
based on conditions. When you lay down conditions, love vanishes, and the
relationship become a mere contract.
"Forget relationships and
learn how to relate. Once you are in a relationship you start taking each other
for granted. That’s what destroys all love affairs. The woman thinks she knows
the man, the man thinks he knows the woman. Nobody knows either. It is
impossible to know the other. . . . And to take the other for granted is
The solution is not to get into
a relationsip but to relate to the other. Relating, according to Rajneesh, is a
continual exploration of the other. "Again and again, you are introducing
yourself to each other. You are trying to see the many facets of the other’s
personality. You are trying to penetrate deeper and deeper into his realm of
inner feelings, into the deep recesses of his being.
"You are trying to unravel a mystery which
cannot be unravelled." That is the joy of love, the exploration of
consciousness. By not reducing your love to a mere relationship, both parties
become a mirror to the other. By exploring the other, you get deep insight into
your own being. "Lovers become mirrors to each other, and then love becomes
a meditation. Relationship is ugly, relating is beautiful."
Indian state is sick
Review by Ujjwal Kumar
the State: A Menu of Options by Pradip N. Khandwalla. Sage, New
Delhi. Pages 304. Rs 250.
Pradip Khandwalla’s book reflects an organisation theorist’s concerns with
the effective management of a developmental state. This primary concern,
however, packs in itself several lines of exploration, which make for wider
A significant strand running
through these explorations is what perhaps signifies a radical strand in
management theory itself — namely the problem of building a responsive state.
A possible means of building such a state, according to the author, is to break
it down into units which can have a more interactive relationship with the
people and can be held accountable to the latter.
It is through this constructive
medium, the people, the "master crafters" of the state, as the author
calls them in his dedication, that he purports to rejuvenate the moribund modern
The most striking feature of
the work is perhaps the hope it instills in the readers of the
"workability" of the modern state. This hope becomes all the more
remarkable as it strikes roots and develops alongside a lament emanating from a
realistic assessment of the decadence that has set in and is eating into the
institutions of the modern state. Delving into the experiences of some
countries, especially those of East Asia, with the working of the modern state
in specific areas of governance, the author offers a menu of options to restore
vitality and legitimacy to the state in countries like India.
Before we launch into an
assessment of these options, let us first see what, according to him, are the
conditions which render the state inadequate to the tasks it ought to ideally
perform. To begin with, the author distinguishes between (a) the democratic
interventionist-welfare state which developed in western societies after the
1970s and (b) the developmental state which arose in the erstwhile Soviet bloc,
spread in many developing societies, and is reminiscent of the state in the West
in the reconstruction (post-war) era. The vulnerability of the modern state
arises from two interrelated factors: (a) its staggering size and complexity
which emerges ostensibly from the need to address the needs of the people and
(b) its inability, therefore, to cater to these needs, which in turn leads to
pressures on the state, and increases its vulnerability. This vulnerability,
especially in poor countries, becomes part of a vicious circle — failed
expectations combining with increased popular pressures and reinforcing
Revitalising the state and
making it effectively democratic is then, according to the author, a greater
challenge before the "world’s poor societies". The bureaucracy along
with the political executive is identified as the most dysfunctional
constituents of the developmental state, "seemingly impervious to
reform". Another chapter attempts to allay such pessimistic conceptions.
Drawing on "case studies" from Britain, Australia, New Zealand,
Malaysia and Singapore, the author suggests that "sustained public
service" reforms are not only "inevitable", but they also have a
fair chance of success. There are, however, certain important "supporting
conditions" which facilitate and determine this success.
Among them are: (a) a political
commitment for change, (b) appropriate pacing of reforms, (c) a centralised
monitoring progress, (d) ownership of change, (e) institutionalised mechanism
for implementing change, (e) strengthening responsible professional bodies —
industry and trade associations, trade unions, consumer and environmental
protection groups, academic institutions, voluntary organisations, the media,
etc. as sources for sustaining public service reform.
How exactly these reforms
translate into reality is discussed in another chapter. The author recommends
what he calls "a sort of creative fragmentation" which would allow the
authority "without loss of public purpose". Creative fragmentation
does not involve a "minimal nihilistic state".
On the contrary, it involves a
creative restructuring which will enable the state to assume a vast
responsibility of public welfare. In literal terms it means that the detached
units and the devolved areas owing to this restruturation acquire considerably
greater freedom to innovate and perform, retaining at the same time their public
purpose and accountability.
Three logical questions which
the author addresses at this point are; what or how can this fragmentted state
be held together, will such a state work, and how long will one have to wait for
a fragmented and devolved state to deliver the goods. Public interest and
accountability and concern with public welfare, the ends for which a fragmented
state was primarily developed, along with centralised planning, trained cadres
would, according to the author, provide the cement to hold the state together.
Such a state would eventually deliver the goods but not in the short run, the
duration depending on the innovative capabilities of the "managers".
The basic thrust of the
argument for a fragmented state is to radically transform the state, without
"a diminution of its activities", without, in other words, the state
deviating from providing responsive and accountable governance. The
"trimming of the sails of the state" discussed later focuses on how to
rationalise the "portfolio of activities" of the state along these
The reconfiguration of state’s
activities involves not adding to its activities, as was the case with both the
modular state forms — that is, welfare-interventionist and the developmental
state. It rather involves finetuning of state’s activities, construed as
"a pragmatic enterprise" driven not by ideology but a judicious
sifting between "what the state can do well and what the state is
The nature and extent of this
finetuning is ultimately dependent on the specific contexts in which the state
operates. While it makes good sense to add to "welfare"
responsibilities of a "minimalist" state, other states are advised to
privatise social infrastructural activities like health, education, research and
development, if it optimises public accountability and public objectives. An
appropriate slimming of the portfolio of a "fragmented" state would
work best in conditions of excellence of political management.
To this end, the author urges
the reinvention of the democratic state. The democratic state, the author
claims, offers the best environment for conceptualising and implementing reforms
which have the backing of an informed public opinion. Experience of the working
of parliamentary democracies, especially in developing societies which are
plural in character, show, however, endemic political instability. This in turn
might lead to frequent, expensive elections, slow and cumbersome decision-making
and rampant corruption in public life, cancelling the very conditions which are
conducive to administrative reforms.
These disabling conditions can,
however, be removed, and democracy sustained, if the legitimacy of the political
executive is enhanced and the government is able to demonstrate to the people
that it is sensitive to their needs. This can be achieved "in poor
societies", suggests the author, "if civil rights, social justice,
rapid economic development, social security and effective implementation of the
decisions of the government are added to free and fair elections, adult
franchise and democratic procedures of decision-making".
The author identifies some
concrete ways through which some of the disabilities of democracy, especially
instability (of tenure), unfairness (of representation in the legislature) and
corruption can be diminished. A presidential form of government to replace the
unstable parliamentary system, proportional representation to provide a fair
share in governance to all political parties, state funding of elections, public
scrutiny of the credentials of candidates, their training and public
accountability could transform a "wheezing" democracy to an
The author then points out that
developmental states like India force other crisis points which put them under
perpetual threat of backsliding into a moribund democracy. "Extremely
differentiated, loosely coupled and soft to the point of near anarchy" is
how the author describes the Indian state. Operating in a highly turbulent
social, political and economic environment, the working of the Indian state
reveals two "distinct but highly interdependent layers" — "the
democratic populist" and the "bureaucratic regulatory", which
often work at cross purposes and are "tethered" to anachronistic
In an interesting analysis, the
author points out that the manner in which the Indian state has functioned over
the years can be described both as a "disaster" and conversely as
"one of the world’s most effective developmental state". It is for
enhancing this effectiveness that the author offers a menu of options in the
last chapter. Some of them flow from the previous chapter and pertain to
providing a fair and quality representation by screening contestants to weed out
incompetent and corrupt candidates in elections.
An interesting item is the case
for a "corporate state" in which the state and private interests share
a collaborative relationship, in which the private sector and the government
cooperate in strategic decision making in both public and the private sectors.
It is significant, however,
that whereas this menu of options is offered for revitalising the democratic
state and to purportedly rejuvenate a pluralistic society, corporate states have
historically existed (as the author himself points out), in militant (pre-war)
Japan and fascist Germany. Corporatism in India would, the author hopesenable
India to evolve national strategies for promoting rapid industrial and exports
growth and tackle problems of transition to an industrial state. How far this
would involve the participation of the people and make such a state accountable
to them is, however, not clear.
The lack of clarity on this
count becomes more conspicuous in the context of the concern the author
expresses in the previous chapter about the manner in which the implementation
of directive principles which incorporate notions of social justice and welfare,
is left entirely to the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy, he points out, is
predominantly urban and upper or middle class with little understanding of or
empathy for the poor. Moreover, the bureaucracy’s style of functioning is
directive and manipulative rather than participative and therefore unsuitable
for developmental tasks needing mobilisation and people’s participation.
One cannot help feeling that
these sentiments do not quite gel with the rapid growth and strategic
association model offered by the corporate state. One does, however, agree with
the various problem areas identified by the author as plaguing the state,
particularly in developing countries. One can also not dispute the credibility
and urgency of the correctives which the author seeks to make.
the line, however, the menu of options tends to become a wish
list, for there does not appear to be any practical means of
making them a reality.
Review by Kanwalpreet
The Pak File by
Satish C Seth. Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi. Pages 161. Rs
book distinguishes itself by its deft analysis of the north-eastern part of the
country. The author touches on the isolation of this region and also how to
mitigate the problems. The dances, the festivals, the wildlife all have been
described in detail as part of the fiction. The author tends to go into too many
details at times while the impatient reader wants to go ahead with the
engrossing plot involving Rehana and Devyani, both culture buffs.
Dr Seth, a futurologist that he
is, makes the characters speak his ideas of a changed system of governance. He
ponders over the "what if" question many times and appears to be
unclear about the ugly turn of events in the subcontinent. He dwells on the
formation of elected bodies and how India should be governed by the best of men.
Yes, the plot is complex and the author has dealt with it at two planes —
actions and feelings of the characters. With a flourish of the pen, the novel at
times mentions historical facts and incidents. The reference to different
organisations and their involvement in militancy is too serious to be treated as
fiction. It is not a single community but some people in all communities whom Dr
Seth blames for the social disharmony.
The three women characters
strike a fine balance in the novel. Lending charm and dignity, their feelings
hold a place of their own. One helps the other two reach their goals knowingly
or unknowingly. While Rehana uses Parthe to reach India and help the ISI,
Devyani drifts away as a tourist but begins to experience the feeling she had
never felt before — love. It is Devyani’s character whom the author seems to
be fond of. He prefers her child-like yet womanly behaviour over that of Rehana,
whose life revolves mainly around her mission which calls for the suppression of
Then there is a soldier who
grows up with a set of principles which come crashing down after he stumbles on
the truth about Rehana.
Parthe’s life reflects the
turmoil of a woman who feels shunned in love and one who has gone through the
heyday of insurgency, living and breathing a movement but disgrunt- led with it
after she was thrown out of the movement. A lot has been said in a few words
about the insurgency, which had a major impact on the country.
The writer is an ardent
follower of unity and is against all kinds of separatist movements. The
narration is in a fast pace and the reader does not have time to reflect on the
ultimate fate of the characters.
Dr Seth’s call for religious
tolerance and an end to communal hatred unfolds gradually. His message comes
subtly through the soldier’s sister who has had seen cordial relations between
the Hindus and Muslims during partition. Yet her thoughts reflect the teachings
of both religions which preach nonviolence and compassion.
A lot of research has gone into
writing this book. The writer minces no word about the role of the USA, China
and Pakistan. The CIA comes out in bad odour and Dr Seth holds the defunct USSR
as a victim of its nefarious activities. The book is an Indian’s view on the
dangers to the state from external and internal factors.
The writer has tried to drive
home the point that it is the boundaries on land which divide us and make us
hostile to one another. Our existence on a particular side of the boundary
moulds our thinking, our attitude and belief. It is not religion which causes
dispute but how we interpret it. No religion sanctions destruction and this the
writer has powerfully brought out through the verses of the Quran.
The hatred of a few people and
their mission to break up India are reflected in the novel while the people of
both countries are unaware of the extent of intrusion and sabotage. Each
character’s feelings are expressed — be it love or devotion — but the
writer takes his own time to do so. It is not the common man who betrays his
state for he is too busy earning his livelihood but a section of the elite which
sells its patriotism.Parthe is right when she praises the Indian political
system in which the people have freedom in all spheres and it is this freedom
which we tend to misuse.
The language is
lucid and the plot interesting. The writer has found an
excellent method to discuss espionage, and weaves it all in a
love story. The novel is short but captures all the feelings and
action in three chapters — Aizwal, Abbotabad and Agra, the
three cities in which the novel gradually unfolds.
map of a master
Review by M.L.
How to Read and Why? by
Harold Bloom Scribner, New York. Pages 283 .$ 25.
Bloom’s book reminds me of an anecdote about a Delhi
University professor of English. Asked by his colleagues what he
proposed to do after his retirement, he said he wanted to read
all the books that he had taught. Bloom seems to have taken
serious heed of this. After a dazzling career at Yale where he
taught generations of students, he seems to have flung his shoes
and settled down in a hammock to literally savour poets,
novelists, playwrights and short story writers, about many of
whom he had earlier written authoritatively. This book, though
like curate’s egg good only in parts, is a summation of years
of serious thinking about the classics of European and American
literature. It is his will and testament, so to speak.
love, is both a solitary and a gregarious pleasure. Solitary
because absorbed as you are in what Bloom calls the
"strangeness" of a great book, you are like Seamus
Heaney’s "inner émigré, grown long-haired and
thoughtful" in the contemplation of the book’s riches,
just as you are in the enjoyment of the lover’s gifts.
Gregarious because the very solitude puts you in close dialogue
with and animates an interior space in the imagined world of the
writer. To an initiated reader a book is an enabling entity
which, to quote Rilke, "once the work of the eyes is
done" creates the need for us to "go and do the
heart-work/on all the images imprisoned within you". It is
in this sense that reading a classic for Bloom is "the most
healing of pleasures".
reading soul satisfying is a quality of intimacy, palpable and
immediate. That quality takes the experience itself to another
level. It becomes a privileged state beyond voyeurism, a kind of
collaboration, a sense that the writer is disclosing subtle
secrets about behaviour, about life, or simply the numerous
possibilities of perception. Our ability to grasp is as
important as the writer’s ability to show. Here I cannot help
drawing a parallel from the cinema which also deserves to be
"read" if it is to afford pleasure.
You will recall
the Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaff’s 1996 film, "Gebbeh"
(the carpet). The title character keeps on weaving the stages of
her own sad story of waiting for her lover into the delicate
designs of the carpet which the old village couple take out to
wash in the beginning. The girl magically appears and relates
her story. I see in this act of skilful weaving a metaphor for
the intimacy of reading.
and impatient cry of the girl’s lover from across the desert
is the opposite of the intimacy that patient waiting rewards.
Just as the eternal-seeming waiting of the girl becomes the
artifact represented by the carpet, so the slow, never-ending
process of reading a classic becomes transformed into the
structured response of the reader who could also double up as
Roland Barthes’s lover. Even when most self-centred, intimacy
makes both the lover and the reader transcend themselves, an
ideal Harold Bloom aspires to in this most personal of his
books. Italo Calvino, whose "Why Read the Classics"
was reviewed in these pages earlier this year, would have
readily hailed Bloom as a kindred spirit.
"why" and the "how" in Bloom’s title need
special comment. What passes for reading today (the Internet
easing your job of acquiring bare information) is a heavily
processed and manipulated response to the assembly-line type of
creative and critical writing. The books written by most
contemporary writers are too slick to be intimate. They seem too
laminated to be natural, too much written to order to shock us
with something "strange" and unpredictable. As the
whole crop of memoirs by callow writers shows, the life span of
most contemporary writing is too short to merit attention. (Even
the Booker-grabbing work is a flash-in-the-pan wonder.)
that comes out of post-modern cliche-mongering is too ephemeral
to be lasting, too closely tied to the here and now to create a
sense of permanent curiosity. In place of great readers such as
Ramon Fernandez, Jacques Riviere, F.R. Leavis, R.P. Blackmur,
Raymond Williams and Frank Kermode, we have a plethora of
post-modernist criticasters whose prejudiced ideologies and
semi-literate prose take the palm in keeping wisdom at bay. They
create acolytes, not readers. As an instance, I may cite the
rash of adulation Spivaks and Bhabas (perhaps the most wilfully
obfuscating people on the scene) enjoy today among the drooling
bands of young Third World academics who obligingly parrot their
nostrums in their classes.
Why read? asks
Bloom. Because through reading we can establish contact,
activate the art of attentiveness that our technological age
stifles by providing readily available masticated kits of
knowledge such as the Internet. Reading attentively and
intimately is akin to loving and the great books of world
literature deserve nothing less. Even the most cussed among us
would not reject this assertion out of hand.
To Bloom, as to
many of us, reading goes beyond the pre-packaged responses
fostered by many post-modernist do-it-yourself methodologies, by
those palpable designs that make literature a hand-maiden of
political/sociological and other discourses. Reading is like the
heroic act of Casablanca who braves the raging sea until his
last breath. It is the act of discovery of the self’s capacity
to resist manipulation and makeover.
The art of
reading, as Bloom implies, may not survive our manufactured
illusion of virtual reality which our technologies make
possible. Yet reading is a kind of preserve — a figurative
place where we need to go in order for the self to make contact
with its sources. Tell this to the post-modernist celebrants of
simultaneities and ruptures and you become an object of their
contumely. See the pathetic illiteracy of these very celebrants
and you have the last laugh.
cannot be much opposition to Bloom for advocating reading
instead of the self-serving indulgences offered by our
quick-fixing experts, one must admit to a sense of unease that
Bloom’s "how" provokes. Reviewers in the past few
weeks are already blaming Bloom for a school-marm prissiness in
prescribing his personal manual of what and how to read. Others
accuse him of suggesting that the canon of great writers he
chooses for special mention is the only canon worth talking
about. Feminists, Bloom’s ever-watchful detractors, have as
usual found him gender-biased. All this is true up to a point.
Bloom knows very little of non-western canon and cannot be
faulted for not mentioning it. And his choices need not be any
less valid than those of similarly gifted critics.
What we can
criticise in this book is Bloom’s criteria for choosing his
authors. Even within the European and Anglo-American great
tradition, Bloom appears selective. Though not as puritanically
selective as Leavis, he has his own yardstick in measuring his
author’s greatness. His "touchstone" is Shakespeare
above every one else. In his book on Shakespeare reviewed in
these columns some time back, he defines the Shakespearean as a
quality of noninvolved involvement, of a capacity to so present
the human as to seem to invent it for us. In other words, to be
Shakespearean for Bloom is to possess both a zest for human
vulnerability and a difficult skill in turning this
vulnerability to advantage. For Bloom most classics of western
literature possessed these virtues in one way or another. His
readings emphasise his reasons for selecting these particular
selection of his authors is personal, but has the advantage of
wide acceptance. Who would quarrel with his choice of the great
Romantics, the classic Victorian novelists, Proust, Ibsen,
Melville, Dickinson and Dostoevesky, among others? They are all
universally accepted as the markers by whom all literary works
need to be measured. The new university wits (sic!) may find
this selection arbitrary, but I don’t think any reader with
some critical intelligence would reject it.
are never fixed. They are always added to (as Bloom himself does
in his choice of some promising contemporary novelists). I would
certainly want to include Mahfouz’s "Cairo Trilogy"
and Primodea’s "Baro Tetralogy" in the new canon as
well as Prem Chand, Lu Hsun and the unjustly neglected
"Bosnian Chronicle" by Ivo Andric, to mention only the
leading Third World writers. Also I would not follow Bloom’s
somewhat ex-cathedra pronouncements about the canon.
But most people
would find a lot to admire the way he reads his authors. Facing
great writers is an exercise in humility that Bloom manages to
convey to his readers. This is his principal strength here.
Under attack from the latest purveyors of shoddy argument
against the canon, we turn to Bloom, as to any other genuine
reader, for bracing good sense and true guidance.
This book is not
irritation free (do we read West only to learn about our
obsession with guns and violence?). But then Bloom does suggest
that only deep reading "augments and establishes our
autonomous self". I value my autonomy as a person. So, I
would let a hundred Blooms grow on our silted and salted
Review by Subhash
The Crises of A
Hung Parliament: The Role of the President by Archna Sinha.
Vikas Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 202. Rs 255.
caused by a fractured mandate was not an issue at the time of
independence, but today it is a crisis of democracy. A hung
Parliament at the Centre and coalition governments in the States
have adversely affected the pace of development. Not expecting
this crisis, the framers of our Constitution emphasised
accountability of the parliamentary system over the stability of
the presidential system. Today one of the major issues of debate
among politicians and academicians is a hung Parliament
vis-a-vis powers of the President.
Keeping in view
is situation the author of the book under review has attempted
to describe in detail the powers of the President.
First his power
to appoint the Prime Minister and, second, the power to dissolve
the Lok Sabha. In addition to this, she has tried to do a
comparative study of the working of the leading democracies of
the world, highlighting the powers of the President in an
The book is
divided into six chapters. The first chapter gives a brief
summary of the parliamentary form of government in India. It
also gives a comparative description of the powers of the
President with that of the king in England and the Presidents of
the USA and France. The second chapter is a summary of the
debates in the Constituent Assembly suggesting that the
President was just a ceremonial head and, on the other hand,
advancing that in special circumstances the President could act
and exercise discretion. While discussing the powers of the
President, in the next chapter, the author has focused on the
thorny issue whether the President is bound to accept the advice
of the Council of Ministers, specially while appointing the
Prime Minister and dissolving the Lok Sabha. The next chapter is
a brief account of the judicial interpretations of the President’s
obligations to go by the advice of the Council of Ministers as
laid down in the Articles 74, 75 and 85 of the Constitution.
chapter is a comprehensive discussion on the practical and
political situations relating to the powers and functions of the
President regarding (a) appointment of the Prime Minister when
there is no clear majority of any political party and (b)
dissolution of the House when (i) the Prime Minister has
resigned before the expiry of the term of the Lok Sabha and (ii)
the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House.
The last chapter sums up the discussion.
independence, India adopted the parliamentary form of government
both at the Centre and in the States with some modifications.
All executive powers of the Union were vested in the President
who was to exercise these powers on the advice of the Council of
Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. That means the Council
of Ministers is solely responsible for the functioning of the
If this is
accepted, it has to be concluded that the framers of the
Constitution plumped for responsibility rather than the
stability of the government. This is perhaps the root cause of
the crisis faced by Indian democracy in 1979, 1989, 1990 and
1998. Second, the overall satisfaction of the President in the
exercise of executive powers and functioning is the
responsibility of the Council of Ministers which itself is
responsible to the Lok Sabha.
are some issues regarding the powers and functions of the
President, which remain vague and undefined in the Constitution.
The first is the issue of discretionary powers and the second is
the position of the President vis-a-vis the Council of
Ministers. If one examines the executive powers and functions of
the President in the parliamentary form of government, it is
clear that the Head of State is different from the Head of
Government. The executive powers are exercised by the Head of
State but according to the advice of the Head of Government.
This means that
in terms of the powers vested in him, the Indian President is
closer to the President of the USA. However, when it comes to
the exercise of these powers, his position is akin to the
British monarch. To trace the intentions of the framers of the
Constitution, the author has dug into the Constituent Assembly
debates. The framers kept in view the Indian political
background of the period and the practice and traditions evolved
during the British rule. The author has given a historical
account of these factors which influenced the framers of the
constitution while outlining position of the President.
pre-independence era the Governor-General in Council, which
consisted of the Viceroy and his Executive Council, used to run
the affairs of the central government. Excluding those functions
where he would use his discretion, the Viceroy used to act
according to the advice of his Executive Council which was
accountable directly to the Legislature. However, since he had
excessive discretionary powers, the framers of the Indian
Constitution decided in favour of a full-fledged parliamentary
form of government where the President has no power to act on
his own so long as the Council of Ministers commands a majority
But it is
interesting to note that the President has not been provided
with any clear powers to deal with a situation where the Council
of Ministers loses majority support in the Parliament. Is the
President bound to accept the advice of his Council of
Ministers? Is such a Council of Ministers competent to advise
the President? In such a situation the discretionary powers of
the President takes a leap forward.
He can ask the
Council of Ministers to prove its majority again or, he can let
it hold on to power for an indefinate period giving it an
opportunity to regain majority. Or, even more significantly, he
can ask the leader of another party in Parliament to form a
government and prove his or her majority within a given period.
Such a situation is not unknown in the history of the Indian
Parliament. For example, when Morarji Desai resigned in 1979
before completing his term as Prime Minister, Charan Singh, who
did not command a majority in Parliament, was asked to form a
government but he decided not to prove his majority. Even then
he was asked to continue as caretaker Prime Minister till
elections and a new government was formed.
The issues that
arise about the powers of the President in such a situation
relate to (a) the appointment of Prime Minister, (b) the
continuation of the caretaker government which could not prove
its majority, (c) the President’s obligation to accept the
advice of such a government, and (d) the dissolution of the Lok
This issue came
up before the Supreme Court in the case of Madan Murari vs
Charan Singh and the court held that the President of India was
legally and constitutionally justified in calling upon Charan
Singh to form the government. The court also ruled that it was
not for the court to determine whether the President was
politically justified in doing so as it could not sit on
judgement on the political assessment of the President.
It is true,
nevertheless, that it is precisely this so-called
"political judgement" of the President in a situation
like this which forms his discretionary powers. Whether or not
it is legal or constitutional, a President who is not
sufficiently discreet, can play havoc with the institutions of a
democratic polity. On the other hand, a President who is too
discreet in his use of powers can be put in an awkward situation
by a powerful Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers where
he can be misled to take decisions which go against the spirit
of the democratic Constitution.
On the spirit
of the Constitution, there is another important issue that needs
to be discussed here and the author has competently handled it.
It concerns the appointment as Prime Minister of a person who is
the leader of the single largest party in Parliament. Here again
we can go back to 1979 in search of an example. It was pointed
out by the leader of the opposition after Morarji Desai resigned
that instead of inviting Charan Singh, the President should
invite Jagjiwan Ram, the leader of the then single largest
party, to form the Ministry. We flouted a well established
convention of parliamentary democracy under which it is
generally the leader of the single largest party in Parliament
who is asked to form a government.
At the same
time, however, the leader of the single largest party is not
always in a position to form the Ministry, whereas the leader of
a coalition of parties which constitute the majority may be able
to do so. What should the President do in such a situation?
Should he follow the convention and allow the leader of the
single largest party to prove his majority, or should he,
instead, ask the leader of the coalition to form the Ministry.
The Constitution is again silent on these matters.
As for the
specific matter of whether and in what situation the President
is bound to accept the advice of the Council of Ministers, the
author discusses the issue in detail citing the Supreme Court
rulings. The most interesting and crucial situation arises when
a Ministry has resigned because of the loss of confidence of
Parliament or the legislature and a new Ministry has been formed
which has not as yet sought a vote of confidence and therefore,
theoretically, does not command a majority in the House. In
Dinesh Chandra vs Charan Singh, the Supreme Court ruled that the
Constitution of the Council of Ministers must preceed in time
the vote of confidence or no-confidence in Parliament.
This means that
the President is, as such, bound to accept the advice of even a
Council of Ministers which he has appointed but which has not
proved its majority in Parliament. This Council can either
advise the President to ask it to seek a vote of confidence, or
even dissolve the Lok Sabha and order fresh elections. Going by
this ruling even Charan Singh’s Ministry, which had not proved
its majority, could be held to be competent to advise the
President in the matter of the vote of confidence or the
dissolution of the House. As can be seen, this is a most tricky
and perhaps indeterminate judgement and one can choose to differ
The author goes
into its intricacies citing cases from the court in an admirable
fashion. Some of these problems have arisen because the
Constituent Assembly opted for the parliamentary form of
government on the British model. What they could not anticipate
was that the political realities in India could turn out to be
different from those in Britain where there was, and still is a
clear-cut two-party system in operation because of which the
chances of a hung parliament are almost negligible. The only
solution is to either bring about a radical change or to arm the
President with clear-cut powers to deal with such situations.
the author, three opinions have been expressed on this. First,
some experts claim that the present Constitution can effectively
meet the challenge without any further amendment. Second, to
meet the challenge of the changing socio-political values, some
Articles must be changed or amended. Third, the present
Constitution has failed to meet the challenges of the changing
times and therefore, should be thrown out and a new Constitution
should be framed. The author has favoured the second view.
Overall, this is a
book which is useful for the students of Indian democracy and
legend and a lament
Review by Himmat Singh
Novel by Chandrashekhar Kambar. Penguin Books, New Delhi.
Pages 218. Rs 200.
Punjab by Kulwant Singh Gill. Published by Dharam Parchar
Committee (SGPC), Amritsar. Pages 94. Rs 18.
is with a purpose that I write this combined review of leading
Kaunada writer Kambar’s "Chakori" and a relatively
unknown Kulwant Singh Gill’s (Professor and Head of
Journalism, Languages and Culture, Punjab Agricultural
University, Ludhiana) "Thus Spake Punjab". The
sublimity and soothing nature of the poetry prose rendition of
the former contrasts so violently with the disturbing and
haunting verse of the latter. It is pertinent to ask ourselves
whether we should continue to live in the make-believe legends
of yore in this hi-tech age, or face the bitter truth of man’s
savagery with his fellow-beings and understand that
unfortunately it is this warped world we will have to live in
and, therefore, should read and understand whatever is being
written about it, even if not so tastefully presented.
The option of
having a pick of reality and legend aside, the fact that one
book comes from the house of the mighty Penguin and the other
from the agrarian-oriented SGPC which is more in the news
these days for other matters than the art of publishing and
printing, was reason enough to read these two works together.
"Chakori", a translation into English from Kannada
(ably executed by O.L. Nagabhushana Swamy and Pranava Manjari)
is an arresting study of contrasts with Kulwant’s
story is of a handsome cowhand Chandamutta, who charms the
stone idol of a Yakshi out in the woods with his celestial
music, and liberates it to divinity with his raga of
moonlight, transforming it into the mythical bird Chakori
which ultimately unites with the moon on the head of Lord
Shiva in fulfilment of her being. The story is as beautiful as
Kambar’s words. Here are samplers: "Chandamutta
savoured/The love of the Yakshi/The bee was buried/In the
fragrant pollen/ of the sweet flower."
describing Chandamutta’s world waiting for the rains:
"Please send the rains, O/Shiva/let our forests become
young again/Let the fresh green spread everywhere/Let the
blossoms fill the land/Let the forests be filled with/Singing
birds, mischievous beasts/And our grazing cattle."
liberating the Yakshi Chandamutta himself turning into stone,
and the former begging Shiva to save her love, or herself too
be turned into a lifeless rock: "Shiva, Shiva, you who
answers the call of faith,/you the conqueror of Markandeya/Open
your fiery eyes/ And look at the stone that swallows
Chandamutta/Help, O Shiva, help our truth, our love/Help our
lives in Bangalore has won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1991
and it is not difficult to see why This well-crafted morality
play of modern times, weaving the tale of man’s search for
divine perfection, has been written with simplicity and
rhythm, two flavours distinctly missing in many poets of
embodies the strength of pure and innocent devotion and the
art of selfless giving where Chandamutta even in intense
suffering, showers on the world of the living and the
non-living the balmy moonlight, bringing peace to the
suffering. To be able to read a 218-page legend in two
settings in proof enough of the natural and soothing flow of
verse in "Thus Spake Punjab" is a totally different
kind. It shakes one up as if with electric shock. His story is
of his native Punjab, and its spasmodic gasps. Of the land of
the five rivers, which has passed through troubled times of
partition, decade-long killings at the hands of radicals and
ironically the security forces, an attack on the Golden
Temple; and the killings (as opposed to a riot) of innocent
Sikhs in 1984 outside its territorial jurisdiction.
this turmoil and strife during the past 50 years, Punjab
itself speaks in first person and often through its chief
protagonist, Pummie, the main character in this long poem. It
happily bounds back into a hopeful and constructive future.
This is the message that Gill is trying to pass on to us, and
only time will tell whether his hopes and assessment are found
Here is a
sampling of his words. "Iam... Punjab/ I know I shall
survive/Through my doughty sons/of Majha, Malwa and Doab".
And with specific reference to Operation Bluestar he
continues, "So what/If the Sikh reference library/With
rare manuscripts/with precious hukamnamas/of the Sikh
masters/Went the ashen way".
optimist, sees hope and a future for Punjab after all the
destruction and insanity, "Iam resilient beyond
restraint/insanity, In me burns the flame/of Nanak, Ravidas
and Kabir/I have taken/The nectar of the gods...."
He is not one
to mince words. Talking of the bifurcation of Punjab in 1966,
he says: "Thus Haryana, was born, a child of linguistic
scorn". On Indira Gandhi he has this to say, "The
blue star/ Fell like Jehovah’s thunderbolt/To set millions
of hearts on fire/That no rain of wilful Indira/could ever
still, nor cool/The smouldering passions/of insult, injury and
Kulwant Singh Gill’s book
is a cry for forging a secular India, but not at the cost of
any state or community. Well worth the humble Rs 18 that it is
Anger: fight it
by Randeep Wadehra
Anger: How to
Transcend It by G.C. Mago. Sharada International, Jalandhar.
Pages 161. Rs 148.
cutting edge/ of insatiable thursts/ slashes/ through life’s
jungle/ a scythe through grass/ searing the earth/ with ugly
shingles/ when realisation dawns/ it dissipates/ a shamed
inferno’s/ dying spasm/ a body limp/ after/ an all
Indian philosophy there are five strong emotions that are
considered evil and destructive in essence — kama
(lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha
(lust) and ahankaara (arrogance). Mago has analysed the
cause and effect of anger in a lucid manner, quoting from the
scriptures and poets. He has also tried to establish a direct,
almost symbiotic, relationship between anger and the other
four strong emotions.
It has always
been man’s desire to lead a life of tranquility. Somehow he
has failed to do so, and Mago holds anger as the main cause
for this failure. In fact anger befuddles the mind, preventing
rational thought. As Thomas Fuller points out in "The
Holy State and the Profane State", "Anger is one of
the sinews of the soul; he that wants it hath a maimed
mind." Such a confused person cannot distinguish between
right and wrong. He will "exhibit acrimony, harshness,
anger, violence, vindictiveness...(and) behave in a silly,
stupid and wretched manner..."
Anger is a
reaction to real or perceived insult, frustration in realising
one’s desire or any other disappointment. Man usually gets
attached to sense objects, and wants to enjoy them repeatedly
and perpetually, an improbability that he is not prepared to
his desires are thwarted, he reacts violently. This violence
can be verbal or physical, directed towards some other person
or at oneself, but is always destructive. A shloka in
the Bhagwad Gita points out, "The man dwelling on sense
objects develops attachment for them; from attachment springs
desire and from desire (unfulfilled) ensues anger."
Russell avers in "A Free Man’s Worship and Other
Essays", "Indignation is a submission of our
thoughts, but not of our desires." However, Mago takes
this thesis a bit further and points out that there is a
coactive relationship between desire, lust, ego and anger.
In fact all
the passions that are either rajasic or tamasic
in nature are major obstacles in the way of man’s quest for
peaceful existence. Analysing the causes of anger, he asserts
that basically it is the materialistic approach that lies at
the root of all anger. Other reasons are hunger, hurt
emotions, failure of euphoria, blind commitment to a cause,
selfishness, estrangement, jealousy, exploitation, etc.
Psychological reason also create inner disharmony, resulting
Mago, there are at least six types of anger — rational,
irrational, reasonable, innocent, reactive and the carried-on
anger. The last one is the most harmful as it seldom subsides.
It keeps on smouldering in a person’s psyche and he nurses a
grudge against a selected adversary. Such a person will do
anything to destroy the object of his hatred. He closes his
mind to all reason and appeals for compromise. Duryodhana is a
classic example of such anger. His burning desire to wipe out
the Pandavas finally led to not only his own fall but also to
the entire Kuru clan’s ruin. In the bargain, he earned
How does one
cope with anger? The author cautions against suppressing it
and strongly recommends transcending it. First and foremost,
the higher self must penetrate the cause of anger; and defeat
the lower self through well-reasoned arguments.
of transcending anger are endurance and patience, developing a
broad vision, to look upon situational anger as futile,
realising that God dwells in all living beings, leading a
truthful and satvic life... phew! There are so many do’s
and don’ts for transcending anger in Mago’s book.
However, going by the
elaborately strict regimen, one would rather let off steam and
be done with it. Still, if you are the type who sincerely
wants to rise above all types of anger for all time to come,
this book is for you.
English journal named Hindi
Review by Satya Pal
Language Discourse Writing (quarterly) Vol. 1 Number 1
April-June, 2000. General Editor Ashok Vajpayee. Editor Rustam
Singh. Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, New
Delhi. Pages 322. Rs 75.
a majority of readers of this review, it would be news that an
international Hindi University has been set up by the
government of India at Wardha in Maharashtra. For the time
being its offices are in New Delhi and have started publishing
two academic journals, one of course in Hindi and the other in
English. The journal in English has been apply titled
"Hindi". Its inaugural issue of April-June, 2000, is
before the reader.
issue of any journal is special. More so, when a person like
Ashok Vajpayee is the general editor, who is known for his
ceremonial attitude towards literature. Editor Rustam Singh
has a reputation of being tough, ambitious and disciplined. It
must be some organisational and perspective lacunae in general
that this particular issue of "Hindi" falls short of
expectations. However, it raises many questions. Such is the
image of university journals that the questions raised may not
register. But with its editors one should be frank and engage
them in a debate.
journal from a Hindi university has wider ideological
implications. First, the publication is an acceptance of the
fact that English is the medium to communicate to a non-Hindi
audience. As the debate on English-Hindi relations in the
Hindi belt knows no end, some observers would look at the
publication of an English journal on Hindi literature more
subtly. The manner in which the journal is produced, the norms
it follows to evaluate Hindi literature, the writers it
chooses and the issues which it underlines shall come under
first issue of "Hindi" shows little awareness of
this, Editorial notes by the general editor and the editor do
not touch upon this vital aspect of the publication even in a
remote way. It is felt that Hindi-English debate has run dry
and it would be advisable to simply treat a language as a
language, not succumbing to phobias and conflicts which do not
have their roots in these languages per se.
speaking, one does not even see this in the making of
"Hindi"; quite the contrary. Somehow,
"Hindi" strengthens, hopefully unwittingly, the
feelings of those who find Hindi as a language with a
subordinate status. Those who look upon the language as a
political entity. Those who deconstruct their reading
experience of Hindi.
this lies the dilemmas of an institutional, a university
journal. Sooner "Hindi" confronts these issues, the
better. The politics of creating an international university
in the name of Hindi and in a journal meant for
English-knowing world should come out in the open. Its a live,
challenging issue, something that should be high on its
priority. And an opportunity as well to help sort out things
like the Hindi-English issue.
the readership of the journal would consist of those who do
not know Hindi and understand only English. In actuality, this
may not be as simple as that. The question of the target
readership of "Hindi" has been touched upon in the
journal in a different context. Partho Datta reviewing the
English translation of Premchand’s "Nirmala" says:
"Every time fiction from the Indian languages is
translated and published in English, it is presumably meant
for someone who is unacquainted with the original. But
surprisingly judging by reviews, it is the reader who knows
the work well at first hand who reacts most
This is going
to be the case for "Hindi" as well.
"Hindi" shall be found in the drawing rooms of many
a Hindi writer, academician and general reader.
"Hindi" shall always have a mixed readership,
including readers who know Hindi well. Hence, judgements
passed on the performance of the journal shall come from two
quarters. This certainly presents an interesting situation.
"Hindi" would have a readership which is not really
And one sees
certain other things related to this observation. One would
find many Hindi critics or thinkers writing straightaway in
English for "Hindi". There are one or two examples
in the very first issue. As no information about the
translation has been given, one assumes that Sudhish Pachauri’s
article "Deconstructing, reconstructing Kabir" and
Purushottam Agrawal’s research paper, "Reading Kabir in
the Times of Identity", have been written originally in
English. Could that be called truly Hindi writing? Truly Hindi
criticism? As we shall know later in this review, English has
its own temparament which may even affect the content
presented through its medium!
inaugural issue is quite predictable. In the sense that one
would always expect certain writers to be certainly there if
the journal has to have Ashok Vajpayee as its general editor.
Ostensibly, there would be the same plea for
multi-dimensionality of literature, though this
multi-dimensionality would be very well-defined and quite
note by the general editor makes piquent reading and it can
invite other comments as well. It proclaims victory and defeat
for literature in the same breath. It says: "With the
post-second world war polarities now extinct, the world today
is truly pluralistic, more in keeping with the inherent vision
of men in literature rather than anywhere else. One can almost
say that finally the world has come the way of
literature" (p 7). But on page 8 it sighs: "As the
global structures of mass media, entertainment and consumerism
engulf us, less and less people would be turning to
literature." What does this dichotomy suggest? Perhaps,
the absense of a well-earned ground of one’s own, earned for
the journal. Perhaps, the delayed eruption of the underlying
vital questions of language politics in a disguise,
such comments can only emanate from an insider. A non-Hindi
reader would view Hindi differently. For a moment, the insider
can put himself in the shoes of an outsider. From that angle,
it is a well-produced issue, which offers some special
reading. For example, the translation of legendary Hindi
critic and essayist Ramchandra Shukla ("Remembering the
Past"). this may well be the first time that he has been
translated into English. Or Dharamvir’s essay on the way
Kabir has been understood in Hindi, written from a dalit point
Anupam Mishra’s article "Ponds that drown
Mirages", Madan Soni’s "Some prose around AIDs"
and Swedish writer Lars Andersson’s piece "The Hindi
scene" make refreshing reading. Sudhish Pachauri
"Deconstructing, reconstructing Kabir"), Purushottam
Agrawal ("Reading Kabir in the Times of Identity")
and Udayan Vajpayee’s ("Cast off the Chaddar as Good as
New") can give some idea to the reader of the level of
literacy analysis by a relatively younger generation. The same
can be said about Vinod Kumar Shukala ("A Room on the
Tree": a short story) Teji Grover ("Nella": a
short novel) and Shirish Dobhale ("Coins": a short
It also makes
good sense to have a section on translation in the inaugural
issue of a journal like "Hindi". Alok Bhalla’s
"The place of translation in a literary habitat" and
Shama Futehally’s "Some thoughts on translating Meera"
make good reading for those who are interested in the
problematic of translation. Even three book reviews of the
translations of Hindi fictional work (of Vinod Kumar Shukala,
Prem Chand and Raji Seth) begin with notes on translation into
English. At least one observation by one of the reviewers can
be quoted here which makes a very pertinent comment: "In
many ways an English translation of an Indian language work
cannot help being what it is. The language not only exerts its
own hegemonic pressure, it also imparts it own ideological
flavour. And this flavour, one feels, is brought by the very
western creed of individualisation. The characters stay
distinct from the milieu even when they are not in conflict
with it. Like arks on the ocean they project their own spheres
of reality even while affirming the larger reality around
flowing from this, the vocal bents and drifts of a novel in
English seem timbered with a sense of individual pride even in
situations of defeat. There always seems to ring an undying
sense of I, mine and me in the unconscious semantics of the
narrative." (Raji Narsimhan: "Faithful to the
And it is
something every translation from Hindi into English has to
guard against. Here is some food for thought for editorial
staff as well as they are much bothered about bringing Hindi
literature to the forefront via English.
The issue has
some literary criticism from foreign scholars of Hindi. It may
be information for non-Hindi readers. But then, as the general
editor tells us, "It is taught, studied and researched in
nearly 150 universities, institutes and centres outside
India." In addition to this, we have a few research
articles by those working outside the Hindi academia. It is a
pleasant surprise even for those who follow Hindi literary
criticism that scholars like Avinash Kumar (a doctoral
candidate at the Centre for Historical Studies, School of
Social Sciences, JNU, Delhi) and Prassenjit R. Gupta (a
doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at the University
of Jawa, USA) are pursuing studies in Hindi literature with
seriousness, producing results.
lacking in elaboration, Gupta’s work on Nirmal Verma has
good insights and again raises the question of politics of
translating a Hindi work into English. He notes: "...the
act of translation of Indian regional language works into
English (the colonial as well as a post-colonial language in
the Indian context) is a political act as much as it is a
literary one. It is important to resist the assimilation of
the English translation of Indian literature (Hindi, for
example) and by extension the assimilation of Indian
literature itself into a western tradition of English
literature. One kind of resistance I call ‘political
resistance’, which may be expressed by the choice of the
text to be translated (as well as by the intended audience and
by the identity of the translator...).
deliberated upon Verma’s English translation in this
perspective. Choosing Verma for such an analysis becomes all
the more relevant as it is generally argued that Nirmal Verma
is significantly influenced by European and US fiction, and
his Indian characters, mostly male, are often located in the
concludes: "Thus, while the political charge carried by
the Hindi-ness of Verma’s fiction may, for the Indian
reader, be defused by the act of translation, it can be argued
that western readers’ increased awareness of the complex
variety of Hindi writing (providing thereby an increased
resistance to the easy exoticising of Indian culture) is a not
insignificant benefit arising from the translation of Nirmal
Verma’s works into English."
research article, "Representing the popular: Ugra Chand’s
"Hasinon ke khatoot", does shed some valuable light
on Ugra’s works though the methodology of a typical Ph.D.
work is a bit restrictive. The same is also true about
contributions from foreign scholars. Moni Ka Horstmann’s
"Whose Kabir" and Annie Montant’s
"Contemporary western techniques in Nirmal Verma:
Production of New Meaning", Mariola Offredi’s "A
note on marginality in Hindi Literature" have taken a
more spontaneous style to manage some really readable and
informative comments, though she has depended heavily on
traditional Hindi literary critics. It may be noted that the
sociological understanding that Hindi literacy criticism
provides is fraught with stereotypes.
Taking up the
position of an insider again, one would like to question
"Hindi" as coming from a public institution. Should
it present the best of Hindi literature as the editors deem it
fit or should it represent the Hindi literature, mirror it,
truthfully? The general editor does underline diversity and
plurality of the Hindi language on many occasions in his
"...There is little awareness about the range and depth
of its coverage and usage, its dynamics of change and
absorption; about its creative expanse, its imaginative
geography, its ideational constructs, its critical insights,
and its historical memories and resources."
writes: "We hope to convey through the pages of this
quarterly the rich plurality, rootedness and openness, and the
capacity and innovative verve of Hindi in coping with the
human condition, the human predicament and plight. above all,
we wish to be able to show Hindi as a powerful voice of
freedom and multiplicity in our times."
have liked to understand things like that. But for various
reasons, "Hindi’s" credibility in this regard is
at stake. First, Ashok Vajpayee is no ordinary general editor.
He has been in the thick and thin of many polemical battles of
current Hindi literary scene and can be considered very choosy
and opinionated, to the extent of being arrogant. One hopes
that it is a coincidence if the progressive stream of Hindi
literature with its various shades does not find worthwhile
space in this issue. One also hopes that it is the personal
belief of the editor and has no bearing on the publication
policies of the journal when Vajpayee, in his editorial note,
declares: "As this tumultuous century reaches its end,
the lure and terror of ideologies have receded and volunteers
of great causes seem to have withdrawn."
progressive and avant garde Hindi literature, though heavily
problematic, makes for the larger part of literature of the
past 50 years and beyond. One would have to be acquainted with
it, even with all its contradictions, to have a fair sense of
the "dynamics" of Hindi literature and its society.
"Hindi" will also have to prove that it is not an
elitist, high-brow journal, its claims for quality
notwithstanding. In any case, as Prassanjit R. Gupta argues in
this very issue, the act of translation is a political act,
defined by the text selected for translation and identity of
the translator. One would keep on impressing upon the editors
of the journal that they are into a serious political act.
So, here we
are at a historic moment. The inaugural issue of the first
ever English journal on Hindi literature is out. That too by
an international university set up in the name of Hindi by the
government of India, with a view to promoting and developing
Hindi as a major international language.
a big task for the university and for the journal. Not big
asking because it would be being unfair to Ashok Vajpayee and
Rustam Singh if one doubts their ability to accomplish the
work. It is the perspective at this point of time that is
questionable. They have obviously worked hand in hand for the
present issue and hopefully shall be working so in future too.
This should advisedly include a wider debate on what they have
already produced and what they are planning to do in coming
The journal can initiate a
discussion on it or even may plan an issue or two of
"Hindi" along this suggestion. Perhaps, it shall
prove its quality, as the term popularly goes. But in what
manner? And to what end? These are the questions discerning
voices shall always keep on asking "Hindi" Are you
listening Ashok Vajpayee and Rustam Singh?