Sunday, October 29,
A Utopian poet
Review by Jaspal Singh
Katha" (Jaswant Printers, Ludhiana) is the seventh
collection of poems by Gurbhajan Gill, a Ludhiana-based poet.
Among his earlier collections "Surakh Samundar" and
"Bol Mitti dia Bavia" were well received by literary
Katha" (the tale of fire) carries 36 long and short poems
and 21 ghazals. Gillís poetry is one of commitment to social
revolution which alone can bring about a qualitative change in
life which now is being plagued by many evils like cultish
superstitions, criminalised politics, unethical economic
practices and vulgarisation of culture.
that Gill aspires to make is of a subdued nature verging more on
a reformatory movement than a sweeping socio-political change in
the manner of a classical revolution (a la French Revolution of
"Jang tan aje larhni hai/Una kalian karur taaktan de khilaf/Jinah
ne dasuti chadar kadhdian/Merian bhaina bhatijian kolon/Rangeen
dhage walian attian khohian..." (We have to wage a war
against those dark forces that have deprived my sisters and
nieces of the colourful embroideries). The poet wants to make
war against all the weapons, including kirpans (swords)
and trishuls (tridents) which strip the plants of boughs,
leaves, flowers and fruit. The war must go on against all those
superstitious ó charms, spells, talismans, jinxes and hexes
that mislead the simple folk and throw them into a bottomless
abyss of suicidal ignorance.
We have to
fight against the so-called liberalisation also that has
unleashed multinational predators on us. We must make war
against our own meanness that has dehumanised the great mass of
our people and also against those manipulators cosily ensconced
in Yojana Bhawan. We have to fight against the tribe of modern
cannibals who have gobbled up our entire generation.
We must fight
against that blind dog which keeps on barking at the wind day in
day out. We have to fight against the misleading media blitz
that befuddles our consciousness and also against those literary
trends and issues which distract the writer from writing the
truth about the people.
poem is the gist of Gurbhajan Gillís philosophy of life. The
poems which follow repeat the same message though in different
forms and metaphors. The poem "Sehran vich guach gaye han"
succinctly summerises the sense of nostalgia of a sensitive mind
when he goes back to his village after having lived for years
among the jostling crowd of the city. The waving crops in fields
remind the poet of his affection for his parents and other kin
and even for trees and plants.
It also leads
him to think about the fate of a mother who brings up her
children with milk, honey and prayers and when the fledglings
grow wings, they take flight leaving the hapless mother behind.
addressed to Guru Gobind Singh brings forth the poetís sense
of helplessness in a life plagued by lust, wrath, avarice and
egotism. He says we have lost the Guruís message during last
300 years. "Na surat, na sirat palle/Tote tote soch te
chintan/Garjan de jangal vich gum/ne/ukhre tan-man." (We
have lot both form and content. Our thinking is fragmented and
our bodies and minds have lost their way in the thick forest of
puerile wants and desires.) The poet now does not feel at home
at Anandpur Sahib nor does the blood-soaked soil of Chamkaur
Sahib inspire him. He has forgotten the message of the entombed
"flowers" in the walls of Sirhind.
patriarch of Chandni Chowk reminds us time and time again of the
link between the victim and the persecutor. Through these
historical allusions, the poet espouses the cause of those who
cannot light lamps in their houses since the oil in the lamps
has dried up and crows have made off with the cotton wicks. He
gives a call to the conscientious people around to visit those
dark houses in order to inspire and arouse the inmates to
confront the omnivorous predators.
nahi pharhide" (donít run after shadows) is one of the
most sensitive poems in this collection. The poet says, "Tu
milen tan suraj da tap tez/sham wele vi jhalia nahi janda/Awaz
vich jaan pai jandi hai/Suk rahi vel nu pani milan wang/Baat nu
hungara milan wang/Bujh rahe dive vich tel pain wang" (When
you meet me, the sun shines brighter and remains as such till
evening. My words are animated as if a dying creeper gets a
trickle of water or a passionate speaker gets a responsive
listener or a dying flame gets a few drops of oil. We meet like
the sky and the earth meet at the horizon).
It seems that
when the poet diverts his attention from social problems and
addresses his own intrinsic being, he becomes more poetic and
his imagination undergoes a qualitative change. He avers: "Tere
kol hundian bilkul uwen hunda hai/Jiwen phulan vich rang bharda
hai/Raat rani mehkdi hai/Amban, anguran, anaran vich ras tapkada
hai/Garib te jawani aundi hai/Andassi analani jang wang/Karumbal
phutdi hai jiwen basant rutte/Jiwen kanak de sitian vich duddh
bharda hai/Duddh ton dane bande ne/Jiwen makki suut katdi hai/Tande
di dhak on chhalli palmdi hai/Kaatthe kamaad vich ras bharda hai."
(When I am with
you I feel like a colourful flower, like the "raat ki rani"
emitting fragrance all around, like the mangoes, grapes and
pomegranates filled with juice, like the dawning of stormy youth
that appears like an undeclared war, like the tender shoots
appearing on the plants in the spring, like the milk filling the
tender wheat and milky sap turning into grain, like corncobs
spinning a golden yarn and the ears of corn embracing the stalks
and like the raw sugarcane packed with juice. But all this is
like chasing the shadows since this was not to be. The old
mother advises her son to be himself and stop chasing the
poem, the poet meditates on the destiny of old parents whose
sons have settled abroad ó a very common situation in Punjab.
The poem "Puttar
tan pardes gaye ne" (The sons have settled abroad) brings
out this tragic irony. The parents make desperate efforts to
help their sons migrate, particularly to the USA, Canada,
Britain or any country in the European Union. They take loan,
sell their land and borrow from friends.
initial trials and tribulations the sons comfortably settle down
but the aging parents are left in the lurch. They have nobody to
look after them in their old age. Sometime the sons visit the
parents but only for a few weeks or the parents visit the sons
that too for a few weeks. The western individualistic way of
life repels the old people. They feel homesick and get back to
India as soon as possible. But here they miss their sons and
grandchildren. The mother impatiently waits for the telephone to
ring. The son expresses his helplessness to visit her in the
coming winter. Her eyes well up and with an aching heart she
wishes best of life to her son.
ghazals are a little different from contemporary ghazalgos
in Punjabi. The ghazals transcend the usual romantic strain and
hence there are no gasping squeals of love-lorn hearts. They are
also free from the "sharab" and "shawab"
cliche, so popular with Urdu poets.
Most of the
couplets either spell out a universal truth or phenomenon or
carry a social message, usually a paradox or a predicament that
leaves behind a feeling of anguish. Quest for meaning and
purpose in life is another favourite concern of the poet.
Now with the
advent of the new millennium many writers have woken up to
environmental concerns. Gill does not lag behind. Perhaps he has
taken a cue from his mentor Surjit Pattar.
these poems one thing irks a sensitive soul a little ó that
is, Gillís bluntness and blatantly transparent indictment of
things and phenomena that do not fit in his scheme of things.
Most of the issues that he deals with are obvious and they are
presented in a loud tone.
and symbols, most of the time, are unilayered. A candid
statement about the obvious without much aesthetic finesse makes
the writing a little screamy. Creativity in literature begins
with second level articulation and it has endless semantic
layers. Artistic finesse is always subdued and disciplined but
metaphorically polysemic, unleashing an atomic chain reaction in
the mind of the reader.
Gill has made up for all this
by inculcating other qualities. He is a good organiser of
literary functions and is one of the main organisers of Prof
Mohan Singh mela in Ludhiana. This particular fair is perhaps
the only celebration organised to commemorate the contribution
of a poet to the language and culture of Punjab. One such
celebration was started in Chandigarh as well in the form of
chrysanthemum show in memory of Bhai Vir Singh, one of the
greatest poets in Punjabi, at the terraced garden in Sector 33.
But sadly, the organisers have forgotten all about the great
poet (a lover of guldaudis) and they no longer dedicate the fair
to his memory. It only M.S. Randhawa were around to remind the
officials of its importance!
Off the shelf
Hitler: why he dominated?
Review by V.N.Datta
unification of Germany was one of the greatest and most
significant events of the 20th century. Nobody could foresee
that after its collapse in 1945 followed by its division,
Germany would ever be united and emerge as a sovereign
independent country ready to throw its weight around in
has many surprises and there operate in human affairs forces
of contingency which produce displacements in international
politics and create situations just the opposite of what is
apprehended or expected. It was only given to the genius of a
statesman like Edmund Burke who could forsee the disastrous
results of the French Revolution which was generally hailed as
a new age and the dawn of a new era.
under review, "Hitler (1936-1945): Nemesis" by Ian
Kershaw (Allen Lane, £ 25) is a sequel to the first volume
"Hitlerís Hubriss", in which the author had
focussed primarily on Hitlerís rise to power from 1933 to
1936, and his emergence as the unquestioned leader of Germany,
who by his grand vision, evocation of their past glory and his
extraordinary oratorical skills had enthused, enchanted and
enthralled the people. That part of the story was told in The
part of the story is now unfolded with magisterial authority
by Kershaw with profound erudition and dramatically in a
part of this study deals with the occupation of Austria, the
Sudetenland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia which whetted
Hitlerís lust for power and fired the imagination of the
Germans to put their trust in his grandiose schemes for the
glory of Germany. By using hitherto unpublished source
material from the Soviet archives, Kershaw breaks new ground
in dealing with the Nazi brutality during the occupation of
Poland, where by the end of the war, three million Polish Jews
were dead. This grim, sordid account is described vividly and
political vocabulary which he carefully crafted, the words
"Jews" and "Bolshevism" were synonymous.
The Germans had an inveterate hatred against the Jews but also
feared Bolshevism. Kershaw shows by producing formidable
evidence from Russian and the former East Germany archives how
fear and hatred were generated and used by Hitler and his
cronies for the extirpation of the Jews and warfare against
The array of
authentic evidence demonstrates unmistakenly (what
revisionists ignore, perhaps wilfully) that Hitlerís main
occupation with the Jewish problem was with the German and
Austrian Jews. Before his invasion of Poland, he was not
sufficiently aware of the strength and influence of the Polish
and Russian Jews. Hitler wanted to get rid of what remained of
Greater Germanyís Jews the outbreak of the war ó 215,000
in the old "Reich" and 60,000 in Austria.
sets at rest the bitter controversy that had raged about the
Holocaust for which David Irving, the controversial historian,
had taken a strong revisionist stand and thrown a challenge to
the generally accepted view of the extermination of the Jews
which Hitler had planned. Kershaw rebuts Irvingís theory
with candour and without emotional arguments. Kershaw examines
in detail Irvingís main thesis that Hitler was completely
unaware of the extermination of the Jews until October, 1943,
and that it was his fanatical and highly impetuous and
irresponsible subordinates who had been provoked by the Jewish
misconduct in embarking on the nefarious campaign of
Hitlersí personal innocence in his treatment of Jews, Irving
had cited his documented remark made in October, 1941, that
the "final solution" could wait until after the war.
ignores is the occasion: in October, 1941, Hitler was at the
height of power and was confident of his ultimate victory over
the Allied powers, leaving him the conqueror of Europe. When
the war expanded and Hitlerís armies were retreating from
several fronts while hundreds of thousands of Communists,
intellectuals, Jews and clergy were being shot, other methods
of killing had to be devised in order to inflict maximum
casualties with the minimum of resources. The object was to
produce quick results.
acknowledges that Hitler, though cognisant of all the
decisions taken, was carefully kept away from anything that
could personally identify him and hold him responsible for the
murders in Poland and elsewhere which were to be carried out.
In support of
his argument, Kershaw cites Albert Speer who knew Hitler more
than any of his contemporaries. Speer, who had initially been
charmed by Hitlerís charisma and had come under his spell,
wrote in his memoirs that Hitler was an evil genius with
demonic charisma, who would go to any length without any tinge
of remorse to destroy anyone or anything that stood in his
emphasises that Hitler endowed with a marvellous command of
the German language and extraordinary oratorical powers,
kindled imagination and ambition. Depending on his audience
whom he could inspire, he could also fanatically violate by
his gesticulations bordering on the incomprehensible. The
listeners were so overwhelmed by the magic of his oratory that
they would stand up in reverence and give a thunderous
applause with tears rolling down their cheeks.
greatest failure was that he depended exclusively on his own
judgement and refused to listen to others. To this mindset he
stuck throughout the war. He was warned of the catastrophe
that would fall on Germany if it invaded the Soviet Union. He
was repeating Napoleonís colossal blunder of opening two
long fronts which was bound to deplete his resources. But
Hitler stood his ground. He was too confident to be prudent.
loud protests and dissents. Conspiracies were hatched to
overthrow him but they all misfired. Field Marshal Fedeor von
Boch was opposed to Hitlerís invasion of the Soviet Union in
1941 and even refused to issue the "commissiarís"
order to his army. Boch was persuaded by some of his
subordinates to lead a coup, but the effort failed. Of Boch, a
brilliant authority on military strategy during World War II,
Michael Edward wrote, "Though Boch, despite National
Socialism found repellant its increasing bloodlust, he was
consumed with vanity, egotism and the insignificance of
character prevented him lifting his finger to overthrow a
system for which he felt nothing but contempt. He was among
those many whose response to the approach of conspiratorís
was, "if it succeeds, Iíll support you, but I do not
take the consequences of failure." That was the attitude
of several of the high-ranking British army officers who
fumbled and faltered and refused to act when the occasion
castigates the West for its moral failure to understand the
nefarious plans of Hitler. Of course, Winston Churchill had
warned the British Cabinet of Hitlerís vaulting ambition and
evil designs, but his was a voice in wilderness which was
dismissed as silly rhetoric. Even Lord Halifax who was highly
respectable for his integrity of character and sobriety of
judgement, was pressing for an amicable settlement with Hitler
in 1937-38. In Germany Hitler had caught the imagination of
the German people, and those who should have known Hitler and
his sinister plans and who should have resisted them,
succumbed and worked in implementing them. There was no
question of any disapproval or criticism!
In this work
there is little of Hitlerís private life ó he had little
private life ó all was public. This work throws light on his
daily life which is quite well-known and has been recorded in
several studies. Hitler used to have lunches with official
guests, late supper and nightly tea with his close circles
where he talked loud and divulged his schemes.
It appears to
his listeners that his mind was congested with alternatives on
a course of action, though such a course he invariably adopted
to hoodwink and mislead others. On such occasions Hitler
talked incessantly, then stopped, mumbled a few words, and
then sat in his chair exhausted. Mostly his guests showed
infinite patience and sometimes nodded their approval but they
got tired of his daily rantings.
through his monologues that Hitler released his ideas until he
convinced himself that they were right.
In his entire approach to the
fundamental problems of peace and war, Hitler depended
exclusively on his own judgement and suffered from the
besetting sin of the conviction of infallibility which led to
catastrophic consequences to himself, his country and to
Buddhist tale retold
Review by Jaswant Kaur
- A Novel by Sanjay Sonawani. Pushpa Prakashan, New Delhi. Pages
179. Rs 150.
is a story of a king who conquers several lands but gets trapped
in the mess created by his own misdeeds. In order to escape the
agonies of guilt, he renounces his throne and goes to a remote
island to spend his last years. Even then he cannot get rid of
his sense of guilt. Destiny plays a cruel joke on him and his
past repeats itself all over again, thereby reopening his old
starts with a brief description of the island and its
surroundings. It is evening and Ketumal is sitting on a rock
enjoying the beauty of nature. Ketumal is one of the three
servants the king has on the island. He had left the capital
city of Rajghriha to overcome his sorrows, but he is lost in the
memories of his beloved Yashomala who had left him because he
was of a low caste. He was fed up with the solitude of life and
wanted to go back to his native land but he cannot do so as he
had promised to serve the king till he death.
the second servant, is totally different from Ketumal. He has
features of a scriptorís dream and leads a philosophical life.
He admires the beauty of nature. He mocks at Ketumal who is
always sad and lost in the memories of a beautiful girl who
spurned his love. He hears the waves of the sea singing, the
leaves whispering and the sun covering the earth with rays of
hope. His life is calm and peaceful.
Ballav is the
third servant. He is the cook and speaks very little. He has an
oily body, potbellied, wears dirty clothes. He is only seen
Yashovarman has grown old. His face is wrinkled and has lost its
royal glow. In his opinion, love is the biggest curse of youth.
It creates a longing for some external beauty, weakening the
other strengths of youth. He accepts the truth that every man
needs a woman. But when a man feels that woman is only his and
life without her becomes a desert,all that it leads to
heartbreak. It seems that the king has gone through a sad
experience which has led him to form this opinion about love.
in a very different way to the kingís views. Although he is
very sad and disappointed by the rejection by his beloved, he
still believes that love is something which is very sacred and
eternal in the destructive nature of life.
The winter is
about to end. The sky is changing. The trees are bursting with
sprouts. The sun becomes scorching. The kingís heart is filled
with sorrow. At times he prays to God to set him free from this
life which is full of restlessness caused by his past sins. He
says it is now almost impossible for him to live for even one
minute. He reads scriptures and the works of great poets which
he has brought with him from the capital. But he is not able to
find an answer to his problems from the teachings of the
scriptures. He has set up a huge empire. He loved his people and
was loved by them. He had talented people to add to the grace of
his kingdom. He was very kind to the kings whom he had defeated
and had never ill-treated them. He never ridiculed Buddhim which
was his biggest enemy. Even then he had to face turmoil which
forced him to leave his empire and take refuge in a lonely
This part of
story creates lot of suspense. It compels the reader to think
over a few questions. What kind of problems did the king have?
What was the solution that he wanted? What was those sins which
preyed on his mind? What made him leave his empire and lead a
The king often
goes back into his childhood. He remembers the foothills of a
mountain and his village. He was a son of a soldier. His father
used to stay away from home fighting frequent wars. His mother
was a very brave woman and encouraged him to handle weapons. She
is of the view that wars feed the hungry stomachs and the talk
of God is a farce. She dreams of her son becoming a top order
official of the Kosal army and a woman from a high family
serving him. Her motherís dream becomes his ultimate goal and
he becomes a true warrior.
suddenly comes back to his present and looks outside the window
of the mansion in which he lives. He is surprised to see Ketumal
moving in the forest below. He is angry that his servant does
not obey his orders. But he recovers soon thinking that there is
no use losing his temper. He is a king without a throne and no
one will obey his orders sincerely.
at the setting sun and heaves a sigh of relief as the heat is
not all that intense in the forest. He feels that he is present
in the island but still he is absent. He feels the footsteps of
Yashomala. Her silent and imaginary laughter reopens his old
To escape from
his sufferings he wants to jump from a rock and embrace death.
But then Ballav appears and his life is saved.Both of them start
walking back to the forest.
Ketumal sits on
a rock and goes back to his past where he can find Yashomala.
This shows how
deeply Ketumal loved Yashomala. He is very much depressed. She
did not want to marry him because he belonged to a low caste.
Life is no more meaningful.
The story takes
a different turn from here. The change in the story is
accompanied by a change in the season. The monsoon has started.
A pigeon is seen in the sky which carries a royal message. The
king takes the message and reads it.
It is from king
Kunal, son of Yashovarman, and carries the seal of Magadh. He is
married and seeks his blessing. The queen of Magadh is very
beautiful and is the daughter of traitor Mahaketa who was
punished but ran away. It also informs him that Kumal and
Yashomala would come to the island for seeking his blessings.
The king is
filled with anger, hatred and disappointment on reading the
message. He collapses. He feels that the shadow of his sins
would never leave him. It looks as if his past is repeating
Then he gets
lost in his memories when he joined the army and was eager to
prove his strength. Soon he became an army commander and the new
king of Kosal respected him. His parents were worried about his
marriage but not he. He paid attention only to wars and his own
heroic deeds. Then one day he met princess Mahadevi and he fell
in love with her.
After a few
days he received a letter from the princess saying she also
loves him but she is a princess and would marry only prince. He
asked her to give him one year to come to her as a king and
His life has
changed. Without thinking over the right or wrong, he left the
kingdom and started moving towards Rajgriha. Rajgriha was once
very prosperous but now has no human life. What life there was
of foxes, dogs flowerless gardens, dried lakes and silence. He
decides to re-establish the kingdom of Magadh. He starts
clearing up the lakes, building new houses, and chasing away
foxes and dogs. The empire takes new shape and again becomes
The kings of
Assam, Bengal, Mithila and Kashi launch their armies against the
kingdom. He defeats them one by one and establishes the new
After one year,
he goes back to Kosal as the king of a huge empire and marries
the princess. Immediately after his marriage he gets busy with
wars. The king of Kosal sends many slaves and soldiers as gift
at his marriage. Mahaketu, who was an ordinary servant, joins
the army and faces the enemy with great skill. Soon he is
respected by the king.
As time passes,
Mahadeviís love for the king vanishes and she starts loving
Mahaketu. She told the king about her love and asked for his
forgiveness. He knows that it was Mahadevi who inspired him to
achieve so much. When he married her he thought that he had won
the battle but now he has lost it.
birth to a son, Kunal. Soon he learns that Mahaketu is Kosal
kingís son, born to a maid. As such Mahaketu is the brother of
Mahadevi and Mahadevi is his sister. He feels that both of them
practised incest which is a sin and for this they should be
punished. He awards death sentence to both of them and he goes
himself to Mahadeviís house to kill her.
He climbs the
minaret where she is standing. He tells her what she had done
but is unable to kill her because of his love for her. So he
gets back but Mahadevi jumps off and commits suicide. Mahaketu
however is successful in running away to a forest and has a
After about a
week or so, Kunal and Yashomala reach the island. Ketumal and
Sinhabhadra are waiting for them. As they approach the seacoast
Sinhabhadraís face is expressionless while Ketumal is sad.
Ketumal tells Sinhabhadra that the queen is none other than his
Yashomala. At last she is successful in achieving her goal of
marrying a prince.
changed totally. He talks like a beast. He says he would kill
Yashomala and the old king too and would be the only heir to the
throne. He feels that the empire can be annexed only after a
bloodshed. Yashvarman and Kunal have done the same to set up
their the empire.
The story has a
very tragic end. It is based on Buddhist tales. Buddhists
opposed violence and detested weapons. According to them, people
kill innocent people to establish empires. These sins never
leave them alone and chase them all their life.
escape from oneís sins. They go along with him till he dies
and he has to suffer because of his misdeeds.
The novel is
full of sorrow and examines the seriousness of life. One cannot
survive unless and until there is some hope of happiness.
The event of a girl marrying
his brother or a brother marrying his sister is alien to Indian
culture. The story is very unique. It throws light on the human
nature of running away from his sins.
politicos are witty
Review by Kuldip Kalia
Finest Political Wit and Humour by Suresh C. Maheshwari.
Kanishka Publishers, New Delhi. Pages viii+230. Rs 450.
determination and thinking to perform better are by and large
attributed to oneís level of intelligence. The quickness of
mind sharpens the quality of action but the writing ability
sparkles with wit. However, humour normally brings a smile on
the face. Also it causes a great a deal of amusement.
The book under
review is a collection of political wit and humour of
personalities and outstanding national leaders, right from the
days of the Roman empire.
In the fourth
century, Philip was the ruler of Macedon in Greece. The citizens
of the wealthy town of Byzantium asked him the reason of his
attacking their town and he replied, "If a man has a pretty
wife, does he ask why others make passes at her?"
Similarly, Democritus explained the reason for his being a large
man with a small wife. "In making a choice one should
always choose the lesser evil."
were known for their precise expression. Once an ambassador
arrived in Sparta with his hair dyed and the king remarked,
"How can one trust the words of a man who carried a lie on
top of his head?"
did their women appear with their faces uncovered in the streets
before marriage, but coveted it with a veil after marriage, a
foreigner wondered! Equally strange was the reply from a
Spartan. "Before marriage they have to find husbands but
afterwards their husbands have to keep them."
was a leading statesman in the early fifth century BC, used to
be away from the home most of the time because of his political
compulsions. That is why his wife wanted him "to be a bit
more politic at home, and a bit more homely in politics."
A sense of
humour and the capacity to laugh reflect the brilliance and the
Britishers were in no way inferior to anyone. Once two dukes met
Richard Brinsley Sheridan in St James Street and told him that
they were discussing whether Sheridan was a greater fool or a
rogue. Taking each by the arm, he retorted, "Why, in faith,
I believe I am between both".
Here is another
example of British humour. "That depends upon whether I
embrace your principles or your mistresses," replied
Benjamin Disraeli when Gladstone, who was known for his witty
remarks, said "Disraeli, you will end up either in the
gallows or with some loathsome disease."
Gladstonesí ministry, Disraeli once remarked, "Half of
the Cabinet consists of asses". There was strong resentment
in Parliament. Everyone wanted him to apologise and withdraw the
remarks. Then he calmly replied, "I am sorry. Sir, half of
the Cabinet does not consist of asses."
Americans may be somewhat less humorous people but one cannot
forget the wit and humour of President John F. Kennedy. When
Kennedy was in Vienna, he found Khrushchev wearing a medal. On
being asked, the Russian leader told him that it was the Lenin
Peace Prize. The President said, "Let us hope you keep
journalists wanted to know the level of fluency in English of
Mao from Kissinger. Kissinger confirmed his using a few English
sentences and told them that these were "sit down",
In the same
next ó 1972 ó when Ranga, cartoonist, wanted to have the
autograph of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on his cartoon, Bhutto wrote,
"A bad cartoon. I do not look anything like this. For
instance, I have much more hair on my head and elsewhere."
When the Pakistanis show their knack for humour, how can the
Chinese be far behind? Ha Ling Tong, a Taiwanese Ambassador to
the USA, offered the following two rules for a happy marriage:
"The wife should love her husband less but understand him
more; the husband must love his wife more and not try to
understand her at all."
At the same
time, the Canadians too add their bit to the world of satire,
wit and humour. "I just hold my nose and mark the
ballot" was the remark of Frank Underbull when asked how he
could vote for the Liberals in 1967. Sir Rodmond Robin
(1853-1937) analysed his performance saying, "I am opposed
by all the short-haired women and the long-haired men in the
Let us name a few politicians
and statesmen like Acharya J.B. Kripalani,
C. Rajagopalachari, Krishna Menon, Sardar Patel, Piloo Mody,
Bhupesh Gupta and Usha Malhotra who dominated the two Houses of
Parliament with their wit and humour. Once Kriplani was
exercising his lung power criticising the Congress government,
one of the members reminded him that he was attacking the party
which attracted his wife. Kriplani retorted, "All these
years I thought Congressmen were stupid fools. I never knew they
were gangsters too who ran away with otherís wives."
Rajaji had the
ability to lighten the atmosphere during heated debates or
tension over political controversy. When Morarji Desai presented
the budget in 1963, the Opposition reacted in a different way;
some said, "it was a rightist budget or a Leftist
budget", but Rajagopalachari said, "Morarjiís budget
is neither left nor right, but is wrong."
Nehru was getting impatient because of delay in taking his
pictures and angrily asked, "what does the photographer
want us to do." Without losing time, Rajaji, who was then
the Governor of West Bengal, replied, "He wants us to keep
quiet, so that he can shoot us all with an easy
Menon had the mastery of using the right word and applying the
subtle with his brilliant mind even in a moment of agony. Once
he said, "there is nothing common in the Commonwealth ó
certainly, not wealth". Similarly, when he was asked to
comment on the Pakistanís naming the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
as Azad Kashmir, he said, "Names do not mean anything. You
can call a man with a weak arm Armstrong."
Those who knew
Sardar Patel intimately must be knowing that he had a moustache
for many years. When he was asked the reason for shaving it off,
Patel replied, "Canít you see? I have now become a
Who does not
know Piloo Modyís touch of humour? Once Mody was standing with
his back to the Chair in the House. A member objected his
showing disrespect to the Chair, he in a serious tone said,
"Sir, there is no question of turning my back to you. I
have no front or back, I am round."
He would not
mind cutting jokes at his expense even when the situation was
grim. That is why the fat man said, "I am willing to accept
that anybody who looks at me would not believe that there is a
food problem in the country."
would you do if the prices of tyres and shoes showed the same
trend?" asked Mr Hidayatullah when he saw a member entering
the House wearing a garland of onions to protest against the
high onion prices. Similarly, when Nehru emotionally declared in
the House that he would not surrender an inch of territory to
the Chinese, Mr H.V. Kamath asked, "Mr Prime Minister,
would you tell us in your map how many miles is an inch
equivalent to?" The members used to call T. T.
Krishnamachari a burglar or juggler. He never resented and once
said, "It does not matter very much. After all, Mahavishnu
has a thousand names; I can have a few."
At a farewell,
Najma Heptullah, who had resigned as Deputy Chairman of the
Rajya Sabha, said in a higher vein, "Now I wonít be in
the chair to give him (Mr Ashok Sen) the opportunity to call me
particularly the parliamentarians, have not only enlightened but
also entertained the public.
herbs to healthy living
Review by Uma Vasudeva
Remedies: A Hand-book of Herbal Cures for Common Ailments by
T. V. Sairam. Penguin Books. Pages 344. Rs 250.
research in various systems of Indian medicine under the
patronage of the government commenced in 1969 with the
establishment of the Central Council for Research in Indian
Medicine and Homeopathy (CCRIMH). In 1978, this body was split
into four separate research councils ó ayurveda and sidha,
unani medicine, homeopathy and yoga, and naturopathy.
A recent WHO
estimate reveals that around 80 per cent of the global
population consume phyto-medicines, and documents a shift in
emphasis from the underdeveloped to the developing countries
of the world. This trend has both a negative and positive
fallout in society. While the prices of useful herbs skyrocket
in the developing world as their main sources are depleted,
the rural poor who have long been dependent on them, find them
unaffordable when compared to synthetic drugs and medicines.
Even in the remote corners of rural and tribal India, we
notice that branded synthetic medicines manufactured by MNCs
have begun to percolate.
says the Indian subcontinent contains about 25,000 species of
vascular plants, of which 7500 are used by folks with other
traditional systems of medicine. Many plants are common to all
traditional systems. Several of them are used either alone or
in combination with other plants. The current regulations
state that if these drugs are prepared in exactly the same way
as laid down in ancient literature and if they are preserved
as detailed by the texts, such drugs do not require approval
of registration. The drug will however be treated as new when
a different method of preparation is used.
has used 40 commonly used herbs in the subcontinent, some of
them familiar kitchen and spice staples which have therapeutic
properties. The majority of these herbs are indigenous, though
some were brought into the country by invaders, colonisers and
migrants. Over a period, they have merged so much with Indian
gastronomy and medicine that their place of origin appears to
with each herb, the author has recorded its traditional use
along with recent scientific information, particularly its
efficacy as a drug. A list of references from scientific
research work indicating the composition and efficacy of herbs
and their constituents will enable the reader to make his or
her own evaluation of the relevance of both the traditional
practices and the scientific literature. The "In
Tradition" pages record the accepted remedies for
specific ailments that draw upon each herbís unique
therapeutic properties. The author in an alphabetical order
classifies medical terminology and has arranged the ailments.
records traditional medicinal remedies that are in danger of
falling into disuse in forms in which they have been handed
down by generations of practitioners. Traditional household
practices regarding dosage, application and combination of
herbs for alleviating symptoms and curing ailments were all
gathered by the author from hundreds of housewives, illiterate
grandmothers, vaids, and ojhas who voluntarily
came forward to reveal them, including specialised tips
derived from lifetime experience. The author has included
certain herbal preparations that serve as inexpensive
substitutes for the chemical-based ones in the market.
be some confusion regarding the preparation of home remedies
among lay readers. The author has attempted to explain the
various procedures, processes and preparations dealt in this
traditional system of medicine, particularly the one prevalent
in South India, one often comes across the practice of mixing
honey with almost every herbal powder or bhasma. Honey
is regarded as an essential vehicle that aids easy digestion
and assimilation of the drug. Whenever honey is not available,
other sweet substances such as jaggery, sugar candy, etc. are
powdered and mixed with the drug. As in ayurveda, balancing of
tastes is an essential phenomenon and drugs which are bitter,
sour or astringent are often mixed with sweet substances and
has given details of the preparation of resins, gums, jams,
medicated oils and fats, nasal and eye drops, application of
leaves, burning of plant materials and so on. For example,
resins and gums are from branches of several trees, especially
acasia. They are generally harvested in the dry season. The
liquid exudate, which soldifies quickly, is then scrapped off
the tree with a knife.
are solid or semi-solid preparations. The herbal paste or
powder is cooked in liquid (water or milk) and ghee, and sugar
syrup is added while cooking. A jam is ready when it achieves
single or double thread consistency and when a dollop sinks
into water without spreading. A jam made of fresh ginger is a
common household remedy used to strengthen the digestive fire,
while another made of dry ginger powder is used as a winter
tonic. There is a variety of jams used therapeutically for
digestion, diarrhoea, piles, bleeding disorders, respiratory
problems, reproductive disorders, etc. Chavanaprasa, the
most famous and well-known among jams, consists of mainly amla
in addition to as many as 40 herbs and, at times, is fortified
with even minerals. It is a rejuvenator and a remedy for
debility and old age.
Nasal and eye
drops are preferred for the purification in all diseases of
head, lungs, throat and eyes. A good daily routine includes
introduction of a couple of drops of medicated oil or ghee
into the nose or eyes as the case may be. Whenever any fresh
juice is required to be introduced, sufficient caution is
exercised to avoid any contamination. Sterilised cotton and
clean hands are a must.
has given details of the dosage of herbal medicines to avoid
ill-effects. Prescribing the optimal dosage of the plant
material for a particular ailment and for a particular patient
has always been quite a challenging task for any herbalist.
The main reason for this is the fact that the content of the
so-called "active principle" of a plant part varies
widely due to factors such as climate, altitude, latitude,
soil type, nutrition, temperature, relative humidity, season,
time of plucking, packing, storage and so on. Determining the
constitution of the patient has also been a crucial factor for
determining the dosage of the drug.
has also given detailed notes on the preparation of plant
parts. For example, roots, rhizomes and bark are collected in
late autumn or early spring when vegetative growth has ceased.
Leaves and flowering tops are collected at the time of
development of flowers and before maturing of fruit and seed
as the photosynthetic activities at this time matures. Fruit
are collected when fully grown but unripe. The seeds are
collected when fully matured and, if possible, before the
fruits open for dispersal. Seed-like fruits such as coriander,
saunf, ajwain, etc. are harvested a little before they are
fully ripe to retain their fresh and bright appearance. The
author has given details of packing, storage and preservation,
infusion, decoction, cold extracts, syrups, powders and so on
of all herbal drugs.
A comprehensive bibliography
of scientific articles, separate glossaries of English and
non-English technical terms, a multi-language index of plant
names and detailed illustrations make this volume an
illuminating rediscovery of herbs that have come into their
own as purveyors of a health and happiness increasingly hard
to come by.
heart, soul and money
Review by Randeep Wadehra
Everything in Love, including Love by R.P. Sandal. Sandal
Publica-tions, Delhi. Pages viii+116. Rs 100.
my funny bone is dead or it has been lost. Otherwise, how does
one explain a rather bemused, if not exactly bored, response
to what the author claims to be a "profusely humorous,
thoughtful and vivid" personal creation? A person, who
would burst into mirthful paroxysms even at the Santa-Banta
type of humour, now is unable to feel the punchline impact.
take the very first two-line in Sandalís book. "Lost
Everything in Love including Love!/Oh! She ran away with
everything!" Now, why doesnít it evoke even a polite
chuckle? Perhaps it is not a joke, but some profoundly
thoughtful and vivid aphorism that one missed reading at the
pearls of humorous wisdom are all over the book. Take this
one. "Marrying after fifty is extension of foolishness,
of not getting married before fifty!" and this one,
"I didnít know, how much I love you until (sic) you are
wanted this grammatical tragedy to be in capital letters is
beyond my comprehension. The definition of the heart as given
in this book is, "Is it thumping or beating? If the GF.
(?) stares, itís thumping and if she smiles, itís
Ronal Knox, a
British scholar and priest, wrote in 1928: "The hallmark
of American humour is its pose of illiteracy." Well, for
us Indians it is our pose of literacy that makes our humour so
Culture by R.C. Chakravorty. Reliance, New Delhi. Pages 154.
Vat temple in Cambodia testifies to the reach and richness,
the span and status, of our culture since ancient times. If
has endured all sorts of onslaughts, has assimilated varied
alien influences and has emerged a stronger and more vibrant
Yet it has
successfully retained its pristine purity and essence as
evidenced by our age-old cultural traditions, especially in
the performing and fine arts, prompting Alain Denielou to
exclaim, "The extraordinary longevity of Hindu
civilisation seems to have no parallel among any people
existing today, including the Chinese... if one takes account
of the contribution made by these old civilisations in the
realm of intellect or spirit, then the worldís indebtedness
to ancient India will possibly outweigh its indebtedness to
has, after giving a brief historical background, elucidated
the different aspects of our culture. Language and literature,
science and philosophy, religion, music and other arts, etc.
have been introduced in a laymanís language. Diverse
subjects that were studied deeply in ancient India were
astronomy, logic, epistemology (a branch of philosophy).
Temple architecture and town planning flourished. Significant
contributions in the fields of political thought and military
science too were made by different scholars at different
points of our hoary past.
This book is
an excellent reference material for students of Indian
A Man without
Guile by Paul T. Lauby. Vikas, New Delhi. Pages xvi+149. Rs
educational institutions have made a name for themselves
throughout the world. Therefore, there should be little
surprise that this community has given India a number of
quality educational institutions as well as high calibre
educationists. Panavelil Thomas Chandi is one such person. He
has carved a niche for himself among the respected educators
of post-independence India.
An admirer of
Gandhiís nonviolence credo and Nehruís secularism, his
career spanned 60 years beginning from the pre-independence
era and ending in independent India. Beginning his career as a
teacher of applied mathematics, he rose to be college
principal and university Vice-Chancellor. He was also
associated with a commission set up by the Kerala Government
to evaluate the working of Calicut University and Kerala
Methods for Valuation of Financial Assets by A.S. Ramasastri.
Response Books, New Delhi. Pages 199. Rs 175.
financial assets evaluated, especially when some of them yield
fixed income, while dividends on others fluctuate? Different
financial assets have different characteristics and they ought
to be evaluated accordingly. For example, bond is a fixed
income security which gives two types of returns ó the
coupon rate and face value. The coupon rate is a periodical
payment in fixed amount made to the holder at specified points
of time. The face value is paid when the bond matures.
In order to
determine a bondís market value for trading purposes, the
present value of future payments is taken into consideration.
This becomes possible because we already know what amount will
be paid at what future date on a particular bond. In order to
obtain such future receiptís present value a suitable
discount rate is employed.
On the other
hand, a share offers varying rates of income. The periodicity
of yield is also not certain. For example, if a company incurs
losses it would not declare dividends on its equity, although
it will have to pay interest on debentures or bonds. For that
reason valuation of a share becomes a bit tricky. Often its
face value is taken into account. This may be at variance with
its real or market value. A blue chipís face value may be Rs
100 whereas its market value may exceed Rs 100.
of valuation is to use the book value of a share. A companyís
net worth is derived by deducting outside liabilities from its
assets. Then its net worth is divided by the number of
outstanding shares to arrive at share value. Some accountants
consider this approach as too simplistic. They prefer to
employ dividend discount models in order to determine a shareís
drawback of this method is that one has to assume the amount
of dividend that a share would yield at some uncertain future
point of time. Of course this method too is based on certain
assumptions. The various methods for calculating the expected
returns on a given number of shares have been explained with
then goes on to explain the concept of portfolios. It is
always risky to invest wholly in one companyís shares.
Investment should be so diversified that it protects the
investor against share-market fluctuations and also ensures
optimum returns on the mixed basket of securities.
fourth chapter deals with options. While a forward contract
binds both the buyer and the seller to execute a transaction
at a predetermined rate irrespective of what prevails in the
market, the option contract gives a buyer (option holder) of
the contract a right without any obligation.
There are two
types of option contracts ó call and put. The call option
gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy an
asset at a specified price in the future. The seller (option
writer) has the obligation to sell the asset if the buyer of
the call option desires to buy it.
The buyer of
a put option purchases a right to sell an asset. Option can
thus be used to manage risk arising out of fluctuations in the
market price of such financial assets as government
securities, stocks commodities and foreign exchange.
This book is written in a
question and answer format. Relevant graphs and other
illustrations make the lucid prose all the more interesting.
Extremely useful for students and a handy reference book for
the price of singlehood
Review by Ashu Pasricha
India: Social Neglect and Public Action edited by Martha Alter
Chen. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 455. Rs 495.
volume has grown out of two gatherings aimed at a better
understanding of the social and economic condition of widows,
at focusing attention on widowhood as a social problem, and at
promoting public action and policies in support of widows in
India. The two gatherings were planned as complementary
events. Both took place at the Indian Institute of Management,
Bangalore, during the last week of March, 1994.
event was an informal workshop involving 25 widows from
different parts of the country and 10 women activists with
some experience of working with widows and single women. This
informal workshop was followed by a conference which brought
together about 65 activists, scholars and policy-makers who
have worked on issues relating to widows.
number of widows in India is extremely large ó more than 33
million at the time of the 1991 census. The proportion of
widows in the total female population is about 8 per cent.
Among women over 50-years of age the proportion of widows is
as high as 50 per cent. In spite of these numbers, relatively
little is known about the actual living conditions of widows
in India. Widows are rarely mentioned in the literature on
poverty, in public debates on social policy, or even by womenís
is general public anxiety about elderly widows and while we
hear of the occasional public outcry when the treatment of
widows takes a sensational form such as that of sati (widow
immolation), there is a striking lack of public concern for
the quiet deprivation experienced by millions of widows daily.
This gap in
our understanding is particularly serious in view of the fact
that some of these deprivations are quite severe and
widespread and reflected vulnerabilities. Widows surely
deserve an important place in the study of public policy and
economic development in India. The purpose of this volume,
which presents the proceedings of a March, 1994, conference on
widows in India is to achieve a better understanding of the
social and economic conditions of widows, to focus attention
on widowhood as a special problem and to promote public action
and policies in support of widows in India.
opens with three papers which explore the dominant ideological
construction of widowhood in India as well as variations in
local customary norms regarding widowhood: one of the dominant
patriarchal construction of widowhood as social death; another
on the practice of levirate (remarriage of the widow to the
late husbandís brother) by certain castes in Haryana and
Punjab states, and the third on the property rights of women
(as widows and daughters) under customary law and modern
dominant Hindu world-view, women are a key symbol of the
purity and honour of family, lineage and caste. Under the
ideal life cycle, a Hindu woman progresses from being a virgin
daughter, to being a chaste married woman, to being a devoted
mother under the watchful eye of, in turn, her father,
husband, and son. If properly protected and controlled, the
woman brings honour to her own and her husbandís family and
becomes a symbol of societyís ability to uphold the moral
In the best
of all possible worlds, according to this world-view, there
would be no widows: all wives would die before their husbands.
A second-best scenario is that a woman is widowed at an older
age when she has adult sons to support her. But in real life,
these ideals are often challenged by the husbandís early
death or by the failure to produce a son. Such eventualities
present Hindu families with a dilemma: as to how to control
the sexuality of the widow, especially if she is young, and
how to provide economic support to the widow, especially if
she is childless or if she has young children.
followed by two papers on the demographics of widowhood: one
on widowhood and morality, the other on widowhood and aging.
More significantly, in terms of the prevalence of widowhood,
India ranks among the highest in the world for all age groups.
In rural India, widows represent about 3 per cent of all young
women (15-35), 30 per cent of all middle aged women (35-59),
and 60 per cent of women above 60 years of age. This is so for
several interrelated reasons: marriage in India is near
universal; husband, on the average; are five years older than
their wives; male mortality rates are still rather high; women
begin to outlive men after their reproductive years; and, most
importantly, few widows remarry.
contemporary India, the presence of many elderly dependent
widows is a matter of increasing social concern, especially
among the urban middle class. However, the presence of so many
young widows captures less attention, except when the widow is
childless. One reason for their presence is that so few widows
(of any age) remarry. Another is that so many women are
married at a very young age. Even now, in some communities in
India, girls are married before they reach puberty. As a
result, there are still child widows in India; even so-called
"virgin" widows whose marriage had not been
consummated before their husbands died.
number of widows in India, however, should not detract us from
the differences in the incidence of widowhood across regions
(and over time) in India and from the still more important
issue of the relatively high mortality risk of widows.
then turns to four key areas for public policy and action in
support of widows: property rights, social security,
employment and social identity. The last four sections include
short case studies on actual practice in these areas and
illustrative case histories of individual widows. What are the
property rights of widows under Indian law? There is no simple
answer to this important question as there is no single system
of law in India.
diverse systems of law are the statutory laws of modern India,
the personal laws of various religious communities, and
customary law which, by definition, rests in the mores and
norms of communities. While guaranteeing gender equality under
the Constitution, the founding fathers of modern India
followed the practice of allowing each religious community to
be governed by its own personal law in regard to inheritance
and other personal matters, giving rise to a number of civil
matters still, they followed the British colonial policy of
vesting all legislative powers in relation to agricultural
land in state legislatures, which means that womenís legal
rights to property in general are treated somewhat differently
from their legal rights to agricultural land in particular.
Hindu personal laws were unified and reformed into a single
personal code called the Hindu Succession Act. However, the
personal codes of other religious communities have not been
reformed or unified. Moreover, and more fundamentally, the
proposal to adopt a single personal code to cover all
communities in India has not been acted upon. As a result,
there is one criminal code but multiple civil codes in India.
As it is
evident, modern law is not widely enforced and customary norms
still prevail across most regions and social groups in India.
Therefore, when we consider what we mean by rights under Hindu
law we have to distinguish between legal rights (those
guaranteed under modern law) and customary rights (those
recognised under local customary norms). Further, actual
practice involves selective borrowing from customary norms or,
more precisely, selective enforcement or violation of
customary rights. One must remember that it is actual practice
ó not customary law or any other system of law ó that
affects most directly the every-day lives of widows.
conference raised a number of critical issues for future
research, action and policy. More importantly, the conference
began a process of rethinking among the participants about the
critical links between the predicament of Indian widows, the
situation of Indian women more generally and a wide range of
patriarchal institutions. The cause of widows came to be seen
as an integral part of the broader battle against gender
Weaving together the analytic
essay, hard data and poignant case studies, this comprehensive
and pioneering volume on the social and economic status of
widows in India will be of interest to those in the fields of
gender studies, sociology, demography and social policy, as
well as NGOs and policy makers.