The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 23, 2000

Don’t believe, just 'live
Review by Kuldip Dhiman

The Indian state is sick but workable
Review by
Ujjwal Kumar Singh

Love story of foreign saboteurs
Review by

Mental map of a master reader
Review  by
M.L. Raina

President’s precarious position
Review by

A legend and a lament
Review by
Himmat Singh Gill

Anger: fight it with patience
Write view by
Randeep Wadehra
An English journal named Hindi
Review by
Satya Pal Sehgal

Don’t believe, just ‘live’
Review by Kuldip Dhiman

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.

ONLY 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 key.

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 after all?

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 creativity disappears."

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 insulting, disrespectful."

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."


The Indian state is
sick but workable
Review by Ujjwal Kumar Singh

Revitalizing the State: A Menu of Options by Pradip N. Khandwalla. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 304. Rs 250.

PROFESSOR 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 readership.

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 state.

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 authoritarian rule.

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 devolution of
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 lines.

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 (actually) doing".

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 "athletic" one.

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 norms.

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.

Somewhere along 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.



Love story of foreign saboteurs
Review by Kanwalpreet

The Pak File by Satish C Seth. Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi. Pages 161. Rs 295.

THIS 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 her feelings.

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.



Mental map of a master reader
Review  by M.L. Raina

How to Read and Why? by Harold Bloom Scribner, New York. Pages 283 .$ 25.

HAROLD 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.

Reading, like 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".

What makes 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.

The persistent 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.

The "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.)

The criticism 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.

Whereas there 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 texts.

Bloom’s 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.

Literary canons 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 literary marshlands!



President’s precarious position
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.

INSTABILITY 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 identical situation.

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.

One more 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.

After 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 government.

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.

However, there 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.

In the 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 in Parliament.

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 Sabha.

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 with it.

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.

According to 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 constitutional law.



A legend and a lament
Review by Himmat Singh Gill

Chakori: A Novel by Chandrashekhar Kambar. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 218. Rs 200.

Thus Spake Punjab by Kulwant Singh Gill. Published by Dharam Parchar Committee (SGPC), Amritsar. Pages 94. Rs 18.

IT 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 "Punjab".

Kambar’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."

Or, 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."

Or, on 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 devotion."

Kambar who 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 today.

"Chakori" 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 the narrative.

Gill’s 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.

After all 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 correct.

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".

Gill, the 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 ire."

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 priced at.



Write view
Anger: fight it with patience
by Randeep Wadehra

Anger: How to Transcend It by G.C. Mago. Sharada International, Jalandhar. Pages 161. Rs 148.

"The 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 consuming/ orgasm."

IN 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 accept.

Thus whenever 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."

Bertrand 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 in anger.

According to 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 permanent infamy.

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.

Other means 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.



An English journal named Hindi
Review by Satya Pal Sehgal

Hindi 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.

FOR 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.

The inaugural 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.

An English 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 severe scrutiny.

Sadly, this 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.

Frankly 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.

Perhaps, in 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.

Supposedly, 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 passionately."

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 intended.

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!

This 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 predictable.

The editorial 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, psychoanalytically speaking?

Of course, 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 of view.

Similarly, 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 story).

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 them.

"And 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 Letter").

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.

Though 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...).

He has 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 West!

Gupta 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."

Avinash Kumar’s 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 editorial note.

He says: "...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."

He again 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."

One would 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."

The 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.

"Indeed 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 months.

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?