The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, March 25, 2001

Salman Rushdie: freedom writer
Review by Rumina Sethi

Off the shelf
How Hitler fooled entire Europe
Review by V. N. Datta

Truly speaking, it is it
Review by Kuldip Kalia

Punjabi Literature
Malwa: as the folk constructs and lives it
Review by Jaspal Singh

New-look history
Review by G.V Gupta

Troubles and threats of tourism industry
Review by Ashu Pasricha

Water use: old is gold
Review by Randeep Wadehra

Williams, the prince of liberal values
Review by Shelly Walia




Salman Rushdie: freedom writer
Review by Rumina Sethi

Salman Rushdie by Damian Grant. Northcote House Publishers, London. Pages xi + 148. £ 8.99.

TALKING about the art of novel writing in The Guardian Salman Rushdie declared that what matters most to him was the "freedom of the imagination, the great overwhelming, overarching issue of the freedom of speech and the right of human beings to walk down the streets of their own country without fear".

Jonathan Swift before him had already talked about the role of the imagination which gives access to the whole spectrum of human potential. Shelley, in "Defence of Poetry", had declared that "a man, to be greatly good must imagine intensely and comprehensively". This is the key to our humanity illustrated by Rushdie’s fiction in terms of its dual responsibility to the world of historical truth and its transformation through the fabulous world of imagination. And Damian Grant rightly pays homage to this sentiment.

Grant sees Rushdie’s novels as representations of a variety of intermingling cultures made up of complex and uncertain processes involving the experience of difference within a country and internationally. This breaks up the categories of identity that are either imposed or adopted. Perhaps there is something congenial in the polymorphous nature of Indian culture that allows the proliferation of alien cultural components without really assimilating them. Rushdie’s texts thus take up cultural dynamics of colonial conquest and the colonial cultures of resistance.

Grant demonstrates how in Rushdie’s work, culture is taken as the basis of influence, of subversion and dislocation. Working on the frontline of imagination, Rushdie makes his fiction a site of intervention and a metaphor for subtle relationship between culture and control. Metahistorical formations are thrown to the wind; the historical specific phenomenon gives way to the heterogeneous and the sign of difference.

It is not that Rushdie is against objectivity; he is more for universal freedom that allows the development of forms of representation which are emancipatory in their effects and political in their nature. This emancipatory potential is built into the self-reflexivity of his texts which apart from giving a new version to history also take up the dynamics of fictional writing. This is an endeavour towards a purposive agenda of historical reconstruction and political engagement. For instance, "Midnight’s Children" and "Shame" are particularly good examples of the processes of movement and transformation, of emergence and decline, a "reality" that is a historically contingent instability.

Like a post-modernist, Rushdie fluctuates between objectivity and self-representation. The different voices in his fiction always promote politics and do not inhibit a heteroglossia that reacts against the authoritarian centre. Totalising systems like capitalism are too straightjacketing but apparently their very existence results in a positive opposition and resistance that is so essential for human development.

It is for the recovery of history and identity that Saleem Sinai has to tell his story, a self-representation based on memory, lies, exaggeration and "truth" "I told you the truth, I say yet again, memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimises, glorifies and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own."

The sense of history is made all the more vibrant through "shoring fragments against one’s ruins", an indication of the proliferation of the super-rational experience, sometimes wrongly called "magic realism", that is intrinsic to Rushdie’s vision. It is a mode of perceptual reality where the inscription of the imaginative is produced through dissonance and consonance as well as disjuncture caused by reactive nationalisms, neo-colonialisms and innumerable cases of domination.

Here lies, in Wilson Harris’s words, "a counter-culture of the imagination", a philosophy of history that lies buried in imaginative writings, thus liberating us from the crude "facts" of history. Rushdie proclaims that no fact is unqualified or an absolute fiction. The two always "leak into each other". In "imaginary Homelands" he holds the journalists more responsible for writing fiction than the novelists:

Journalists in general appear to be the only human beings for whom Graham Greene has little time or respect. "A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction," he says sharply before demolishing one Stephen Pile.

This is obviously an ironic comment on the novelist’s mistrust of history. Defending the writing of "The Satanic Verses", Rushdie declares: "... my overt use of fabulation would make it clear to any reader that I was not attempting to falsify history, but to allow fiction to take off from history ... the use of fiction was a way of creating the sort of distance from actuality that I felt would prevent offence from being taken."

The real frontiers for his fiction " are neither political nor linguistic but imaginative", an endeavour that always evolves a new reality and new languages so as to comprehend our world where reality and illusion are always hand in glove. Since it is language that basically plays up to the conventions of literary realism, it is no wonder that it is language that becomes an obsessive concern for Rushdie. It is fairly well known that Rushdie’s "polyglot" language tradition is derived as much form Gogol, Cervantes, Kafka, Melville as from Grass, Llosa, Fuentes and Kundera.

Damian Grant’s notably thoughtful and well-informed book is divided into eight chapters, each taking up the complex issue of the navigation between the real and the fictional worlds. Particularly relevant here is his discussion of the violent response to Satanic Verses" and the death sentence pronounced on Rushdie which resulted in heated debates throughout the world on freedom of speech and race relations. This is an example of the coalescence of reality and its opposite which, as Rushdie writes, "is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems — but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible".



Off the shelf
How Hitler fooled entire Europe
Review by
V. N. Datta

AT the end of World War II, Winston Churchill said, "The more you go to the past, the more you will understand the present and the future." Churchill made this statement in the context of the bitter and hostile relations between the French and the German in the pre-1939 period. Statesman who do not foresee the unforseable mortgage the future of their country. Hardly anyone anticipated the coming of World War II.

Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany, had an uncanny sense of premonition and he warned the young, volatile Kaiser William II that 20 years after he was gone, Europe would be plunged into warfare. This he foresaw because the Kaiser by a non-renewal of the Reinsurance Treaty between Russia and Germany had disturbed the balance of power which was the only security system to stabilise peace in Europe.

In his speech delivered in Zurich, Churchill observed that "the first step in the recreation of the Europe family must be a partnership between France and Germany". Between 1800 and 1940 the Germans and the French fought five wars. The Franco-German war was regarded in France as a war of national humiliation which sowed the seeds of World War I. After the Prussion victory over France, the wife of Bismarck suggested that the "French should be shot and stabbed to death, down to the little babies". At the end of World War I, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France.

The French also secured reparations considerably exceeding the large indemnity that the Germans had taken in the 1870s. The Germans could not pay up the large indemnity, so the French troops occupied the Ruhr in 1923. This soured the Franco-German relations further. On May 10, 1940, Hitler’s army attacked France which forms the theme of the book under review, "Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France" by Ernest R May (Hill and Wang, pages 594, $ 30).

The German victory over France within just a period of seven weeks was spectacular. The Germans forced the British, the French and the Belgium army into a pocket at Dunkirk, imposed armistice on the new French Government of Marshal Petain, occupied Paris and to humiliate France staged a victory parade for Adolf Hitler and his entourage on the Champs Elysees. In six weeks of fighting, the author states that France lost 124,000 lives and 200,000 were wounded. General Rommel took at one point on May 16-17, 10,000 French prisoners while losing one German officer and 40 men. Nicol Jorden, the distinguished historian, wrote, "Hitler’s victory over France is one of the great military catastrophes in world history." Hitler’s success freed him to concentrate on defeating Britain and later on attacking the Soviet Union.

The question that Ernest May asks is why the French, who had a powerful army, were defeated so easily within such a short time. How do we explain this French disaster? Was it lack of political and military leadership or a combination of circumstances that resulted in the defeat? Or was it that the French were caught napping, not realising what was coming.

Professor May has produced a wonderful work of scholarship by his penetrating analysis of the war from purely a military angle. He has made extensive use of German, French, British and American archives. He has given a perceptive analysis of the French historiography on the French war in 1940. He acknowledges a special debt of gratitude to the doyen of historians, Marc Bloch, who in his brilliant "Estrange Defaite" recorded his testimony in 1940 which was published after the war. By that time Bloch, an active member of the Resistance, had been shot dead by the Germans.

In his masterly analysis, Bloch emphasised that complete military incompetence on the part of army Generals combined with political ineptitude by the French leadership riven by internecine ideological quarrels brought about the French collapse. Furthermore, the press like the political parties was venal and corrupt and was influenced by short-term personal interests rather than national goals. Bloch concludes that the war ended before it began.

Professor May is a protagonist of what has come to be known as "counterfactual history". He argues that the French defeat could have been avoided if things had happened otherwise. In other words, if military errors committed with reckless abandon had been avoided, history would have taken altogether a different course. For May, it is not the French defeat but the German victory that needs explaining. May writes, "What happened in May, 1940, is indicated of the condition of particular military units, not of the French national soul".

May argues that Hitler wanted to strike France in the late fall of 1939 but the Generals dithered. The weather proved unfavourable which compelled Hitler to postpone the attack. But had this invasion taken place, it would not have been south-west, through the Ardennes, but west through Belgium, and into the plains of France. In such a situation, both the armies would have clashed in Flanders and the French supported by the British, the Belgians and the Dutch would have had a reasonable chance of success. This information of the German attack fell into Belgium hands. The Germans changed their plan and attacked through the thickly forested Ardennes, instead sending weaker troops into central Belgium as a decoy.

According to the author, no one in the army anticipated the German troops approaching Sedan from the north. General Charles Huntziger, whose second Army was defending the unthreatened frontier to the last, refused to send reinforcements. He did not see the danger inherent in the situation and fell for Geobbles’ bluff about imminent attack near Switzerland.

Caught in a trap by the attack of which they had no inkling, the main French army and the Britain’s expeditionary force retreated to the coast which the Belgium king surrendered. It was considered a treachery, and after the war he was never restored to the throne. This ill-coordinated plan hurriedly conceived by the French and the British army to resist the German onslaught, ended in failure. May further stresses that the French Generals had a contingency plan for a breakthrough and could "only imagine holes to maintain a continuous front". They believed in the infallibility of the Maginot line which became irrelevant in the circumstances.

May shows how the French army was ill-informed about the German invasion plans. In fact it did not know what the Germans were up to and ignored evidence that should have alerted the army to the impending danger. May cites a portion of the intelligence report addressed to the French Government. "According to our information the Hitler regime will continue to hold power until the spring of 1940, and then will be replaced by communism."

The same foolhardy complacence was evident in the letter Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wrote to his sister on March 12, 1939, three days before Hitler seized Czechoslovakia. "Like Chatham I know that I can save the country and I do not believe that anyone else can."

Maurice Gamelim, the overall commander, confessed before a post-war Commission of Inquiry. "Personally I envisaged a group of few tank divisions around Chalons. How was I to know it would get broken up? We had no advance knowledge of where and how the German would attack?" It seems that May has given exaggerated importance to the role of chance in determining crucial events in the war.

In his introduction, May writes that if the French had anticipated the Ardennes offensive, "it is more than conceivable that the outcome would have been not France’s defeat but Germanys", and possibly a French victory on the Unter den Linden in Berlin. Later in the volume May returns to the same theme. I think this explanation is too simplistic and is conditioned by focusing on the military aspect of the war than seeing the whole situation from the political, diplomatic and economic angles. May’s speculation is based on the assumption that the Germans should have fought the war as they had expected it to go.

May extols the military strategy of General Georges Blanchard who for some time had an upper hand and temporarily repulsed the Germans. But this is an exception, in which success was for a short time. I think May is taking counterfactual history to its extreme. That is why this study in partial and incomplete, and mainly military, exclusive of political and social dimensions. In a study of this theme it becomes necessary to unfold not one or two chance episodes but the complex sequence of decisions and personalities which determine the course of history. The domestic issues confronting France is 1940 are ignored.


Truly speaking, it is it
Review by Kuldip Kalia

For the Soul: Truth — A Book on Self-Empowerment compiled by M.M. Walia. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 64. Price not mentioned.

DO you understand what truth is! Is it simply a beautiful connotation? Does it mean revealing everything to everyone? Does it offer dexterity in dealing with the materialistic world? Does it make us physically, intellectually and spiritually strong and courageous human beings?

Men like Raja Harishchandra and Yudhishtra had made truth the very basis of their lives and the practice of truth had been given the most significance since ancient times. Now it has been categorised as exemplary and, is being used rarely.

Frankly speaking, it is not easy to explain the term truth. However, the word satya is derived from sat which means "being". So Mahatma Gandhi said, "Truth is God. Except truth, nothing is or exists." In the words of Sri Aurobindo, "Truth is the foundation of real spirituality and, courage is its soul. Perhaps observing rules in life without truth is impractical. That is why it (truth) should be the very breath of life."

Kahlil Gibran explains it thus: "Truth is like all beautiful things in the world; it does not disclose its desirability except to those who first feel the influence of falsehood." Falsehood should be destroyed and in the end truth shall prevail. This is what the Adi Granth assures us. For the Buddha, truth is noble and sweet.

The basic and the best element in truth is "as it is". It means it can neither be improved upon nor altered. Swami Dayanand, Swami Sivananda and Baha’u’llah have said almost the same thing. To Dayanand, "What is not subject to negation is truth (negation in all the three periods of time)". Swami Sivananda explains, "That which never changes and is unrestricted by anything is truth". That is why for Baha’u’llah, "No truth can contradict another truth".

However, sorrow, its cause, cessation and the way which leads to the cessation are the "four noble truths". Most of us are aware that the root of the Buddhist doctrine is almost on similar lines of the four noble truths. Suffering refers to illness which could be due to external conditions or internal conditions and its state of cure leads to cessation and its cause. But what cures it is the path of truth. Thus, truth is the only saviour in the world.

Satya Sai Baba explains known and accepted levels of truth. There is the truth of sense perception like "the fire burns". Similarly, the "man is mortal" which is based on our observation because every human being dies ultimately. Then there is truth which is incapable of being destroyed or hurt. It "persists and pervades" the cosmos.

The most important thing is its sublime association. It is said, "One acquires the disposition of right thought, right belief and right endeavour by participating in sublime association."

It is rightly pointed out that a truthful person is "not one who always tells the truth but whose utterance always becomes true". At the same time, a person who does not have the moral courage to express what he really feels is a liar.

Swami Chinmayananda believes, "Truthfulness is mainly in uttering a thought as it is actually perceived". However, wisdom lies in the constant devotion to spiritual knowledge and the realisation of the essence of truth, or anything opposing this is ignorance. This is what the Bhagavad Gita has taught us.

Again, truth can never be shaped to suit human connivance. It is the love of truth which makes the person "fearless". He becomes a shining example for human society and the fear of death no more terrorises him. Strictly speaking, truth pays no homage to any society, whether ancient or modern; on the contrary, society has to pay homage to truth and the society where the highest truth becomes practical is in fact the greatest society in the universe.

It brings in spiritual boldness and strengthens moral courage. That is why we say, "Truth is strength, truth is purity and truth is all knowledge." We must analyse what is "not seen but true" and what is "seen but false".

Swami Chinmayananda explained in a simple but easily understandable couplet, "World we see, but not true; truth we see not but true".

The Dalai Lama has given more practical and worldly views on truth when he says, "Truth is the best guarantor and the real foundation of freedom and democracy." It is an immense force in human mind and, as a result; in the shaping of history.

Here is a tip for the seeker of truth. Mercy, character, control over the senses, peace, courage and humility are said to be the virtues which every seeker of truth must possess. The compiler deserves a word of appreciation for encouraging and brightening the lasting instinct in life.


Punjabi Literature
Malwa: as the folk
constructs and lives it
Review by Jaspal Singh

NAHAR Singh, a reader in the School of Punjabi Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh, has emerged as the top folklorist of Punjab. Of course, Banjara Bedi, who lives in Delhi, the compiler of an exhaustive encyclopaedia of the folklore of Punjab, has a much wider range and sweep. Yet the work done by Nahar Singh single-handedly in the field of folksongs of Malwa is unsurpassed in the history of folkloristic studies in the region.

Nahar Singh has done a lot of field work and has collected thousands of folksongs fromMalwa, moving from village to village in all kinds of weather.

Punjabi University, Patiala, has shown great interest in publishing all this material in 10 volumes, seven of which have already appeared. The first volume "Kalia Harna Rohiyen Phirna"(The black-buck in the moor) deals with the songs of dances by men. The second volume, "Laung Burijian Wala" (The carved nose-stud), carries the songs accompanying women’s dances.

The third volume, "Channa ve Teri Chanini" (The light of the moon), has the long songs of Malwa women — their songs of strife and separation. The fourth volume, "Khuni Nain Jal Bhare"(The wet bloodshot eyes), is the second part of the third volume on the same theme.

The fifth volume, "Baagin Chamba Khirh Riha"(The champacca in bloom in the garden), deals with wedding songs. The sixth volume, "Rarhe Bhambiri Bole"(The dragonfly reverberates in the arid plains), carries the lampooning songs by the bridesmaids and the prolonged multipurpose singsongs.

The remaining four volumes deal with ritual songs, invocations, incantations, play-songs, rhymed adages and proverbs, mourning wails and folk couplets, etc.

All these songs cover the entire life span of an individual in the Malwa from womb to tomb. There are hundreds of birth, wedding and death songs. But most of them are associated only with wedding since the occasion specially calls for singing and dancing by both men and women.

A few decades ago this singing and dancing during the wedding went on for days together. These songs are the collective creation of the Punjabis in their long struggle for existence through turbulent times across centuries. Every community devises its own life strategies to work off its tension, stress and depression and to conceptualise, organise and control its environment to suit its own needs and urges.

In an effort to understand the spiritual history of man, his desires, dreams, drives, fears, phobias and feelings become the most important source material. Folklore of a community faithfully represents its existential urges as a voice of the inarticulate "folk", who anonymously pass through life without creating significant "events" on the temporal scale. The job of a folklorist is to collect, classify and then analyse the folk forms so that a comprehensive idea of the inner life of the community is formed.

The folklorist has only one method — that is, observation through field work to reach his object of study. Unlike a scientist he cannot indulge in experiments to test a hypothesis. That is why for most of the time he uses the comparative method to arrive at a viable explanation of the socio-cultural phenomena that he deals with.

Since communities are very dynamic in their life activity, their socio-cultural vicissitudes can mislead a researcher. Nahar Singh being an insider is free from such handicaps.

When a folklorist tries to collect and study the different constituents of folklore like folktales, legends, folksongs, proverbs, ballads, rhymes, riddles, charms, superstitions, customs, rituals, folk dances, spells, magic, folk performances, rites, rituals, ceremonies, folk beliefs, myths and religion he is literally thrown into a strange and mysterious world which is semantically multilayered and highly intricate in its conceptualisation.

Culture scientists like Vladimir Propp, Alexander Krappe, Bronislav Malinowski, James Frazer, Carl Gustav Jung, Sigmund Freud, Claude Levi-Strauss and so on could do only a bit to unravel the mystery of the folk mind despite the gigantic effort they put in. The greatest stumbling block in this enterprise is the oral nature of the subject matter with an extant parallel version a few miles away.

Another difficulty is that of the physical aspect of the ritual which goes with the oral aspect. Orality and literacy are the two stages of human development and when orality is supplemented with kineses, the literate society finds it difficult to translate it into a graphic form.

In the Malwa region many songs are associated with festivals and fairs. The famous fairs at Jagraon and Chhapaa have given birth to many songs called "bolian". One such song goes like this:"Aari-aari-aari/vich Jagrawan de/Jithe lagdi Roshni bhari/mela Chhapaa lagda/jithe uchi sunidi ae maarhi/vailian da kaatth ho gia/othe botlan manga lian chali/chalian chon ik bachgi/Jihrhi chukk ke mahil naal maari/Dulla Bhatti Rai Kotia/Jinhe thanedar de patt te gandasi maari/Thanedar ain digia/Jime digda barota bhari/Bhajj lai putt Bachnia/Aa gi pulas di laari..."

(The huge fair of Roshni is held at Jagraon and another at Chhapaa near the high Gugga temple. The profligates gathered and had a drinking bout with 40 bottles of liquor which they consumed all but one which they broke against the wall as a challenge to the police. Dulla Bhatti from Rai Kot gave a hard chopper blow to the thigh of the police officer who fell like a huge banyan tree. As the police reinforcement arrived the crowd of revellers disappeared....)

Now this particular song signifies the people’s endemic antagonism to the police.

Another song displays a different dimension of the culture of Malwa, in which the elder brother advises his wife to put up with the silly jokes of his younger brother. He says "Diur bhabian lakh lakh hasde/ki goli si maari/Je niane ne karli mashkari/Tu ki ho gi marhi/Harhi suddhe vandaa lau sauni/Bhoin vandaa lau saari/Pher vandaa lau tumban nakhro/Ah butha nahin rahina/mai samjha dunga/Tain ki bol ke laina...."

(The boys merrily play with their elder sisters-in-law. He has not fired at you that you mind it so much. If he has cracked a joke, you are not going to lose anything and if you mind this, he may demand his share of crops, farm land and family jewellery. In that case you will lose a lot. Don’t object to his pranks. I’ll politely advise him to be gentle.)

This particular folksong brings out tensions in property relations within the family and at the same time throws light on the structure of the kinship system. Not very long ago many people in Malwa could not get married due to an acute shortage of women in the countryside. This led to a strange institution of forced celibacy. Many of these chronic bachelors (chharha) were notorious opium-eaters or had some other oddities in their character.

One of the folksongs brings forth the social predicament caused by this abnormality. "Aari-aari aari /Chharhian de agg nu gai/Meri chappni vagha ke maari/Rondi chupp na kare/Ro ro ke raat gujari/Chharhe da guandh bura/Karde bahut khuari/Mar jo ve chharheo /Vain pave kartari...."(A village belle goes to the house of lousy bachelors seeking a burning piece of wood. Her fire pan is thrown away by them. She weeps through the night and laments that the neighbourhood of such people is a curse. They always look at a woman with a malicious intent.)

In another folk song the brother visits his married sister who pleads with him to take her back to her mother. The song gives voice to their feelings. "Bharia katora dhud da veera bhar ghutt/Bhar ghutt amma ve jaya/Veera kharhiyan praye desh ve/Veera lai chal amma ve jaya/Bhaine rahin tan raatan nehrian/Bhaine reh ghar, reh ghar amma ni jaiye/Veera rahin lavavan gais ve/Veera lai chal, lai chal amma ve jaya/Bhaine rahin tan bukkde sher ni /Bhaine reh ghar reh ghar amma ni jaiye/Veera sheran nu pavan chuurme/Veera lai chal, lai chal amma ve jaya."("I offer you a bowl of milk to drink, dear brother! I am abandoned in an alien land, please take me along to my mother." "Dear sister, there are dark nights on the way, better stay in your own house.""I’ll arrange a lamp to dispel the darkness, my brother, please take me along." "There are dangerous beasts on the way, dear sister; better stay at your own house.""I’ll sumptuously feed the beasts, my brother, please take me back to my mother."

The song brings out the sorrow of a married girl who is feeling ill at ease at her husband’s place. She seeks the help of her brother to take her out of distress. But the brother understands the social complications of such a move. He cautions her of the " and "dangerous beasts" on this path and rather advises her to stay put at her "own house" and accept her fate which may eventually change.

A song of separation gives voice to the hidden feelings of a married girl whose husband has gone to a distant land. The song appears as a dialogue between a married girl and a village fop. It goes like this. The boy says: "The belle standing under the mango tree, dry mango bloom is falling on you." She replies, "The succulent mangoes are ripening. The juice is dripping from them; but the one to taste them is away."The boy points out, "All the belles are wearing colourful dresses, why do you sport a faded one?" She says, "Their men are at home with them and mine has gone abroad."

This particular song brings out the pangs of separation when the spring has arrived and other belles and beaux are busy in seasonal festivities.

Among the Punjabi folksongs, the ones sung by bridesmaids a few days before the marriage are called "suhags". These songs have deep doleful but melodious tune that is right from the heart. The girls sing: "We are a covey of sparrows, Odear kinsfolk, destined to take a flight to distant unknown lands."

"Sitthnian" are the most spicy lampooning folksongs sung by the bridesmaids to tease the members of the marriage party. The butt end of these songs is very often the bridegroom himself. One of the songs goes like this. "The bridegroom’s sister visited us in a skirt torn by her suitors. Get it mended, you slut. Who will spin the threads for you and who will stitch a patch on it? Get your torn skirt mended. Let Jinda spin your threads and let Minda stitch the patch on it. Get the skirt torn by your suitors mended, quick." Most of the "sitthnian" have a suggestive meaning which usually is a little salacious.

As opposed to "sitthnian", there are "ghorian" which are sung by the sisters of the groom in his praise.

Thus Nahar Singh has collected thousands of folksongs of Malwa having different forms and rhythms. In fact these songs have been devised by the collective psyche to suit every event of life. This 10-volume collection is a gigantic task indeed.

In his long introduction to various volumes, Nahar Singh has also tried to analyse the semiological import of many songs by decoding the symbols and metaphors occurring in these compositions. Nevertheless, most of the analytical work is yet to be completed, which may be done by scholars in the field and it may take years of serious effort and research. Since no interpretation of such socio-cultural phenomena is final so it will go on and on.


New-look history
Review by G.V Gupta

Independence and Partition — The Erosion of Colonial Power in India by Sucheta Mahajan. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 425. Rs 275.

THIS book is the first volume in the proposed Sage series on modern Indian history. It does not give any indication of the issues or the authors of future volumes.

Prof Bipin Chandra, who needs no introduction to students of Indian history, heads the board of editors. The composition of the board clearly indicates the ideological thrust of the series. In the preface the editors say, "In the fifty years since independence from colonial rule, research and writing in modern Indian history has given rise to intense debates resulting in the emergence of different schools of thought. Prominent among them are the Cambridge school and subaltern school. Some of us at Jawaharlal Nehru University have tried to promote teaching and research along somewhat different lines. We have endeavoured to steer clear of colonial stereotypes, nationalist romanticisation, sectarian radicalism and a rigid and dogmatic approach. …It (this approach) focuses on communalism and casteism as major features of modern Indian development."

The author in her introduction is more specific about this approach. "The concluding episodes of the saga of independence and partition come across as the opening acts of the post-independence sequel when viewed from the 1990’s…The assassination acquires sinister overtones as the tiger growls in Maharashtra and Gandhi is vilified…The politics of assassination was this contest on the terrain of nationhood — the contestations have not abated over the years, they are fiercer….

"This continuing struggle between secular and communal forces informs this work on the independence and partition of India with contemporary evidence." One is tempted to call it the JNU approach with Nehru as the hero even if Gandhi is the dominant figure of the narrative.

Criticism of others is trenchant, even emotional. "Denigrating nationalism continues to be fashionable. Generously funded scholarships ensure that ideas emanating from Oxbridge, Chicago or even lowly Canberra rule the roost…The Cambridge school has come a long way from (the days of ) its direct (and) frontal assault on nationalism…(assault is now) mounted from another battery, positioned in the province and the locality. All India history ..(is)..dealt with only in generalities….(it) indirectly suggests the bankruptcy of all-India politics and national concerns…

"Subaltern studies, whose deep complicity with imperialist scholarship is fairly well accepted, condemned nationalism for its alienation from the real issues of subaltern resistance, culture and gender…All existing histories of (India’s struggle for freedom) were dismissed as statist, elitist and modernising, just as the favourite terms of abuse of the orthodox Left were ‘bourgeois’ and ‘compromising’ and that of Oxbridge were ‘totalitarian’ and ‘majoritarian’."

The Left is accused of emphasising community at the cost of nation.

Ayesha Jalal, termed as a Pakistani scholar, is charged with ignoring facts when she finds Jinnah not wanting partition and when she condemns "secular historiography …for marginalising the problem of cultural differences by denigrating it as communalism." The frequency of Ayesha Jalal’s appearance in the narrative gives the impression that one of the objectives is to specifically disprove her thesis.

Mahajan also takes note of the critics of modernism, who regard secularism as a product of post-Enlightenment Europe with an emphasis on the values of science and reason and the primacy of individual and to the neglect of the cultural aspects of society.

The author also takes strong objection to those who regard the Congress brand of secularism as essentially informed by Hindu values, of which Gandhi’s was a moderate pluralist version while Savarkar represented the radical variant. She defines secularism essentially as anti-communalism. For her, the freedom movement was essentially a nationalist movement whose dominant character was secularism defined as anti-communalism. The Congress represented this. It follows that all important leaders of the Congress were secular in their outlook and this included Gandhi, Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Rajaji and Azad, among others. Nehru, of course, was always there. Here, as we shall see, Mahajan is equating state with nation. The narration also necessarily becomes reductionist, as is the case with Leftists.

Mahajan argues that the national movement had succeeded in undermining imperialist hegemony by the long-term process of its retreat in the face of nationalist challenge. This came to a head by the end of World War II with the impending breakdown of the administrative machine. Four moments embody this: the 1942 collapse of British authority in the countryside; the Labour Party election victory in Great Britain in 1945; the Royal Indian Navy revolt in 1946 and the statement of February 26, 1947, fixing June, 1948, as the final date of British withdrawal.

However, since the 1942 Quit India movement had been fully suppressed within a short time, the final phase really starts from 1944 when Wavell took a fresh initiative resulting in the Simla conference. Therefore this narrative starts with the events of 1944. There is nothing much that is new about the facts and events. The difference essentially lies in their interpretation. The culminating events were independence — an achievement — and partition — a failure — both representing the struggle between secular nationalism and communalism; the good and the evil.

Having started with the premise of the freedom struggle being a secular nationalist movement led by the Congress and assuming that secularism, that is, anti-communalism, as a necessary value, the author has to look for secular reasons for the Congress’s acceptance of partition and also for Gandhi’s endorsement of it. This is the essential purpose of the book and the job has been done with considerable skill.

Defining secularism as anti-communalism limits the concept to state action. Its negative content means that the state shall not do anything to promote communal or religious interests. Its positive content can be that the state shall discourage religious structures and promote religious harmony. It saves the religious space of an individual in that the state shall not discriminate against him or her on the basis of religion. One can extend this to a political party also. But that does not create nationalism. There is no commonly accepted definition of nationalism but it has some emotional and cultural content which compels people to come together and persuades them to make sacrifices to acquire a common identity. This makes the distinction between nation and state.

When Patel said that India could not be a Hindu nation and the state shall protect every minority; he was talking more about the duty of the state. There is no doubt about the mutual feelings of Patel (and Prasad), on the one side, and Nehru and Azad on the other. There is also the fact that Patel had some idea of treating the Indian Muslims as hostages and also wanting a declaration of allegiance by them. Therefore, to say that Patel, Nehru and Gandhi were equally committed to secularism is true only to the extent that all of them regarded the safety of minorities as the primary responsibility of the state. The BJP today rightly claims that that it has effectively brought down the number of communal riots in the country. Will Ms Mahajan accept the BJP as a secular party?

In 1936-37 the Muslim League was politically wiped out except in some pockets of UP and Bihar. In 1946, Nehru conceded that it had emerged as the representative of the Muslims. Still Nehru mocked at its capacity to mobilise the masses when it called a direct action programme. It set Bengal on fire. Nehru said he understood the feelings of the Hindus when they retaliated in Bihar even when he threatened to shoot the rioters there. The government of Bihar refused to appoint a commission of inquiry even when asked to do so by Gandhi. Here statecraft prevailed over secularism.

Muslim separatism was consistent and strong only in UP and Bihar. But these Muslims had no hope of being themselves part of a separate Muslim state. Nehru’s mass contact programme had utterly failed there. Did they think that a Muslim state in the North-West of India will be able to guarantee their security or did they think that veto power with the Muslims over large spheres of state policy would protect them? What was Jinnah’s sense of responsibility towards them? How did they perceive it?

Ayesha Jalal goes into these questions to understand Jinnah. Mahajan skips them. Therefore, Mahajan cannot say that Jinnah was always for partition and the creation of a sovereign state of Pakistan. She also points out the dilemma in Jinnah’s desire for an effective role in a strong centre and the urge of the provinces for autonomy. The Congress was consistent in its desire for a strong centre, particularly after its experience with the Suhrawardy government in Bengal. In this Nehru , Patel and Prasad represented the centrist stance while Gandhi, Rajaji and Azad were willing to grant provincial autonomy. Nehru’s centralism was inspired, in addition to nationalism, by democratic centralism of the USSR. Ideologically, he had a strong affinity with Upanishadic monotheism as is clear in his "Discovery of India".

Jinnah was fired by the desire for a modern Islamic nation. Azad was distinct in his eclecticism. Gandhi was a polytheist Sanatani Hindu following the Sant tradition. Rajaji was the most intelligent, objective and farsighted leader. Ultimately Islamic centralism of Jinnah and nationalism of Nehru, Patel and Prasad succeeded in partitioning India.

There would have been nothing wrong in it except for the subsequent and consistent enmity between India and Pakistan. Nationalism has not been able to take care of it. Nationalism does not allow Pakistan to come to terms with its linguistic minorities even after parting with Bangladesh. Indian nationalism has been consistently forced to come to terms with different ethnic aspirations and get diluted. Partition was ironic in a modern world getting together to exploit the economies of scale and a common universal culture.

The term minorities does not cover communal or religious minorities alone. It also mean ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities. Secularism has to take care of the interests of all. Therefore, it has to respect civil society. This also requires limiting the area of state action. Only local level compromises between communities respecting their cultural identities in a decentralised system can ensure harmony. This is somewhat at variance with nationalism. Thus there is a conflict between nationalism and secularism. The present paradigm requires rethinking. In its undertones, Indian nationalism is bound to have a strong Hindu content.

The book is written in a very lucid style and has been very well produced. It is also very reasonably priced and is a good companion to Ayesha Jalal’s work.



Troubles and threats of tourism industry
Review by Ashu Pasricha

Tourism & The Environment A Quest for Sustainability by R.N. Batta. Indus Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 248. Rs 400.

MAN has been interfering with nature since the dawn of civilisation. The primitive man made use of fire and tools to bring alterations in environment. After exhausting the resources from a particular place, he used to move to other areas in groups. However, his impact on environment was not felt because the human population was less and his technology was primitive. With the advent of agriculture and advances in the industrial sector, population started climbing.

In order to feed the expanding population, man started exploiting all available resources without caring for the laws of nature. In the name of progress, forests were denuded, lakes poisoned with hazardous chemicals and air was polluted with noxious gases. Nature has been striving hard to compromise with man and bear the onslaught. In fact, nature gave warning signals to man in the form of droughts and floods in many countries. However, man did not care and continued to deploy modern technology to fight nature.

Actually man does not know how to be a truly modern man. Other species do not have similar failings. A swallow has learned what it takes to be a swallow. A tiger knows how to be a tiger. By the use of natural wisdom, these species are continually readjusting and retaining their survival qualities, adapting themselves to the changing environment. Their success is proved by their very existence. Now they are also in danger because man continues to move against them. At the dawn of history, he began to forsake his natural capacity and survive, finding it expedient to trust his technological capacity to modify environment. While animals adapt themselves to environment, man tries to modify environment according to his requirements. The Club of Rome has termed it the "predicament of mankind."

The emergence of tourism as a major industry has added fuel to the fire. This industry has grown from being a marginal aspect of national economic life to an important socio-economic asset since the late 1970s. Being the third largest economic activity in the world, next only to oil and automobiles, it is one of the fastest growing sectors of economic activity. Increasing international tourist arrivals in the past few decades have proved the point. In 1970 there were about 160 million international tourist arrivals. By 1980 the number increased to about 285 million, and by 1990 to about 439 million. The latest figure says arrivals have grown by 2.4 per cent in 1998 despite serious concerns about the world economy. The WTO (1999) has observed: "Tourism is the world’s largest growth industry with no signs of slowing down in the 21st century. Receipts from international tourism have increased by an average of 9 per cent annually for the past 16 years to reach $ 423 billion in 1996. During the same period, international arrivals arose by a yearly average of 4.6 per cent to reach 594 million in 1996. The WTO forecasts that international arrivals will top 700 million by the year 2000 and one billion by 2010. Likewise, earnings are predicted to grow to $ 621 billion by the year 2000 and $ 1,550 billion by 2010."

Aimed at providing a systematic analysis of tourism’s interaction with the environment and ways to achieve sustainability, discussions in the book "Tourism & The Environment: A Quest for Sustainability" by R.N. Batta, a renowned bureaucrat, under review revolve around three key concepts: tourism, environment and sustainability. Starting with the definition of tourism, features of the tourism industry and the disection of the tourism product, an attempt has been made to systematically delineate the role of environment in tourism. Subsequent discussions revolve around the impact of tourism on the economy and environment. Evaluation of the actual economic impact of tourism on the economy can be quite useful for formulating the tourism development policy. The book focuses on the three important aspects of economic impact of tourism — its balance of payments effect, income effect and the employment effect.

Analysis of the relationship between tourism and environment is the most important part of the book. Interestingly, the environmental effects of tourism development are not merely negative. Instead, it is also a source of gain. The gain accrues because of the importance of environment for tourism. The industry has to invest in environmental activities for making the sector attractive as part of promotion and marketing.

Literature on the positive and the negative effects of tourism on environment is reviewed with illustrations and case studies. The negative effects are studied in three parts: on natural, built and cultural environment.

Given its impact formulation of an appropriate development strategy for achieving environmentally sustainable tourism obviously is the right choice. Sustainable tourism development, however, is a complex objective. Concentration of tourist activities in the urban areas further worsens the situation as the growing population multiplies with the addition of the floating population. There is strain on civic amenities and negative external effects of tourism such as pollution and congestion became pronounced.

The use of planning as a tool to achieve sustainable tourism development is therefore advocated. However, owing to the multifaceted character of the tourism industry, sustainable tourism planning includes a very diverse set to activities undertaken by many different groups representing different interests. While the variants of sustainable tourism like alternative tourism and ecotourism are examined in detail, the discussions on sustainable tourism could conclude with "Agenda 21" for the tourism industry.

The emphasis of the book is on finding ways to manage tourism in a sustainable way. Discussions on tools for managing sustainable tourism are therefore included. Three basic tools — namely, the carrying capacity analysis, environmental impact assessment, and valuation of environmental resources — are considered. Finally, the environmental policy instruments like moral suasion, command and control instruments, economic instruments like taxes, subsidies and tradable permits, allocation of property rights and direct government investment are also discussed.

Also included are discussions on the use of these instruments in policy making. Similarly, with a view to strengthening the tourism policy-making, a case study on the analysis of tourism policy of an important Himalayan destination — Himachal Pradesh — and guidelines for making tourism units environment-friendly are incorporated.

Sustainable tourism development, however, is a complex objective. Especially, concentration of tourist activities in urban areas further worsens the situation because of the growing concentration of population. The key players in tourism development can be divided into three categories — namely, the business sector, non-profit sector and the government. These three developers of tourism encompass a number of individuals and institutions and are responsible for decisions on their specific role. Any lack of coordination of efforts and policies between the sectors can jeopardise the future development of the tourism sector. An effective tourism policy, therefore, has an important role to play in guiding the activities in private and non-profit sector.

Ecotourism, on the other hand, represents a nature-based tourism which is developed in an environmentally sound manner, encourages recognition of the intrinsic value of the resources, promotes understanding and partnership among many players, and involves education of all. It is a responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves environment and sustains the well-being of the local people. Ecotourism can offer one form of sustainable tourism. The aim is to incorporate all goods — economic, social, and environmental — in a balanced way.

Adequate planning for tourism, however, is very important. Not only that, the planning process has to be undertaken at all stages — national, regional and local levels — a coordination mechanism has to be developed. The importance of national and regional tourism planning as a conservation and sustainable tourism development technique was expressed at the WTO and UNEP workshop in 1983.

It emphasised that regional planning provides the best opportunity for achieving environmental protection goals through the use of zoning strategies. Zoning strategies and regulations can be used to encourage the concentration of tourist activity in some areas and/or dispersal in others so that extreme pressures are restricted to resilient environments while fragile environments can be given the most rigid protection measures. The goals of sustainability can be achieved by following the suitable management approaches. These are: undertaking a carrying capacity analysis, implementation of procedures of environmental impact assessment and valuation of environmental resources. These three approaches are not mutually exclusive and can be used in combination.



Water use: old is gold
by Randeep Wadehra

Water Resources in the Himalayas by Piyoosh Rautele. Concept Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 123. Rs 200.

AS high as 97.5 per cent of the total water available on earth is salty, and a further 1.76 per cent is locked in permanent ice caps. The supply of fresh water is limited and fixed. It is almost impossible to increase the quantity. Worse, pollution is making a substantial volume of fresh water unfit for human use. Various water-borne diseases kill roughly four million children annually around the globe.

With every passing day the per capita availability of water is rapidly declining. This is nowhere more evident than in our country. Sadly we have not learnt much from the persistent calamities like floods and droughts. If only there was a national network for harvesting excess rainfall, floods would become less frequent and the damage to life and property can be avoided. What is more, droughts would not cause the sort of harm to cattle, farm produce and human life that is so normal at present.

Rautela points out that ancient texts, inscriptions, local traditions and archeological findings give ample proof of the existence of water harvesting traditions in India. The Rig Veda alludes profusely to the benefits as well as ways of judicious use of water from wells, tanks, ponds and canals. The Ramayana allegorically refers to dykes releasing rainwater. Chakrapani’s "Visva Vallaha" describes the methods for estimating the depth of subsurface water reserves: "While digging if the stone like hard surface is reached and when struck it sounds like a thin slab of stone, then there is sure to be plenty of water beneath."

Karyapa Muni has given details of site selection, building of reservoirs and the various benefits which could be derived from them.

Brahat Samhita goes to the extent of prescribing laws regarding the orientation of ponds to store and conserve water efficiently and the protection of such water reservoirs from possible damages. That water conservation was not an academic exercise (unlike today) but a serious undertaking in the past is proved by the discovery of an extraordinary example of hydraulic engineering dating back to the first century BC near Allabahad by archeologists. While other contemporary or near contemporary tanks merely collected rainwater, this particular tank — the biggest find so far — was fed by Ganga waters.

When the river swelled during the monsoon, the excess water was diverted with the help of a canal. The water in the canal first entered a silting chamber, and then the relatively clean water filled a tank made of bricks. Only clean water was allowed into the second tank while the third tank was circular and had elaborate staircase. On its edge shrines were built. Thus giving the place a holy outlook, it thus ensured that the users did not pollute the water.

The author points out that Kalhana’s "Rajatarangini" gives exhaustive information on canals, irrigation channels, embankments, aqueducts, circular dykes, barrages, wells and water wheels. The Guddasetu — a huge embankment built by King Damodara-II — the network of canals that control Mahapadma (Wular) lake’s water, diversion of waters of the Vitasta and construction of a series of water wheels for distribution of water in different villages of Maktapids (725-760 AD) are analysed in detail. The most important evidence of sophisticated waterworks is regarding the irrigation works carried out during the reign of Avantivarman of the Utpala dynasty (855-883 AD) by Suyya. He drained the water of the Vitasta and constructed a stone dam by clearing the riverbed. Suyya also displaced the confluence of the rivers Sindhu and Vitasta and constructed stone embankments for seven yojanas and dammed the Mahapadma lake. This ensured fair share of water to all users.

Firoze Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388 AD) was known for building five irrigation canals, several dams across rivers, reservoirs for irrigation and repairs to earlier works. He brought waters of the Yamuna and the Sutlej to Hissar by constructing a stream from each river. Both these streams were conducted through Karnal and after wending through a length of 80 kos discharged the water by one channel into the town.

Feroze Shah also built embankment for storage of water in the close vicinity of his hunting lodges — namely, the Malcha Mahal, Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal and Kusk Mahal. Among other notable water conservation works of his reign is the repair of the Surajkund that was constructed in the 10th century by Surajpal of the Tomar dynasty. Nearby is the Anangpur dam built by Anangpal of the same dynasty. This dam with sluice opening is still in use.

The surplus generated in the rural areas of ancient and medieval India made it one of the world’s richest and most urbanised countries. The land around each village had been transformed over the centuries into a complex ecosystem of croplands, grazing lands, forests, all of which constituted an interactive and multi-component biological system that responded to the region’s sharp seasonal rhythms and also reduced risk by keeping the social and economic impact of rainfall variations to the minimum possible levels. The seasonal nature of rains resulted in the development of various water harvesting practices.

Rautela observes: "The locally developed technologies was supported by an elaborate system of property rights and religious practices. Not only the cow, but also the grazing lands had a religious significance. Certain forest land was set aside as sacred groves. The rivers, springs and tanks themselves and their catchments acquired religious importance and would not be polluted."

The author points out that before the British colonial rule the Indian economy prospered mainly because of its agriculture-oriented institutional infrastructure. This infrastructure wilted under British rule.

The new breed of westernised Indians scoffed at the traditional way of life and threw the baby out with the bathwater. Consequently today our earth, water and air are among the most polluted in the world.

In this volume the author analyses the Himalayan regions such as the Uttarkhand, Changar in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Chamba, the Doon Valley, etc. He strongly feels that the age-old traditions of harvesting and conserving water resources should be revived. But one fears that the author’s is a cry in the wilderness and is not going to be heard in the right quarters given the establishment’s penchant for gargantuan multipurpose hydel projects.

The rulers are least bothered even if their quest for water causes quakes!

This book needs to be prescribed at the undergraduate level in order to inculcate a sense of respect among students — our future citizens, technocrats and bureaucrats — for our water and other natural resources.



Williams, the prince of liberal values
Review by Shelly Walia

Raymond Williams by Fred Inglis. Routledge, London. Pages 333. £ 25

ON my recent visit to Wales, I was determined to visit Clodick Church in Raymond Williams’ beloved Black Mountains where he was buried on January 26, 1988. From Monmouth to Y Fenny and then to Hay on Wye, passing through Abergavenny and reaching Pandy, his home village, I made the journey not only because I wanted to see the mountains he had walked so often, but feel the place and the air that had sustained this socialist. And as I stood beside his grave, I thought of the years he had spent at Cambridge, some happy, others agitated, but overall so productive that his place now in the world of cultural thought cannot be overlooked.

In most of the university departments around the world, meetings are usually, in the words of Frank Kermode, "scenes of ignoble strife", almost endlessly prolonged. Given the motivations of a powerful sense of real work to be done towards tangible improvement in the working conditions and academic sphere, it sometimes becomes a torture to preside over tedious and vainglorious brawling which is aimed at either killing all initiative or for self-aggrandisement of some nature.

Much as you may try to be conciliatory and patient or have the calm good-humoured determination of Raymond Williams to talk past the point of conflict to some further intersection of human encounter at which comradeship would be possible, it all amounts to your efforts being regarded thanklessly as either connived at or insincere, a kind of generalised animus or nastiness at a "flyblown level". The university would not be the place it unfortunately turns out to be if it did not have people to peddle lies about their critics, show malice toward people better than they are, hatred and rage about those who disagree or disobey the silent canons of unfair play.

On that sunny morning what came to my mind was this culture that Raymond Williams stood against all his life. Though running the department was important to him, he was always deeply involved in the understanding of society and culture, a project intended to vindicate "culture as ordinary". He tried to grasp the whole process of the working of society, of the forms of its writings or the changes in response to history.

"As long as Raymond Williams and Edward Thompson were still there, still speaking and writing in the splendid rhythms and time-honored litanies of the labour movement, of common hopes and purposes, of the visible and monstrous injustices and indifference, the cruelty and wrong so apparent in all that mere power and ruling class did, then we could keep up a good heart." This is how Fred Inglis eulogises these two Marxist scholars in his book on Raymond Williams whose passing away has left a significant vacuum in the already dismayingly quiet political radicalism around the world. As long as they were there, there was idealism, political energy and hope which could have done a lot to boost the "scrappy and impoverished" organisations in the face of a radiant and arrogant conservatism which was markedly Thatcherite.

Williams had stood for the ideas of internationalism and socialism, those "excellently civic virtues" so heartlessly trampled upon by the rising European and American politics overrun by the anonymity of metropolitan-style consumerism and violence and the draconian structural adjustment programmers devised by the IMF. Williams died at a time when it had almost become difficult to formulate one’s own political and ethical vision, especially after the defeat of the trade union movement in Britain and the rise of conservative politics.

He had tried to defend ideas, ideals, structure, family and society in the face of environmental abuse, ecological disasters and the exploitation of the masses. And his belief in "domestic settlement and a quiet, unglamorous local courtesy" along with all that he wrote with leftwing dissent, were all responsible for the wide esteem and love that his countrymen and intellectuals bestowed on him till the end.

As Stephen Heath wrote in an obituary: "To be suddenly and unexpectedly without Williams is for any serious socialist today and in Britain like losing a father. I mean this, I realise, at once vehemently and with unbelieving anguish. In what Williams himself noted as the cold rudeness and sheer bloodymindedness of British academic life, it is rare to find generous (or even any) acknowledgement of intellectual indebtedness in the community of scholars. But in William’s case, the tributes are paid only in comradeship but also, it seems, in honest attempts to stand solid with his inspiring sense of the common endeavour and human mutuality which constitute politics."

Civic Britain in 1988, as at the turn of the century was "enough to break your heart". And Williams’s death had diluted the intellectual opposition in the "wastelands of British academic life". This is obvious in the nastiness and indecency of the brief memoir written by Frank Kermode and George Watson without whom "the British state could not continue to be the master that it is without enough people at the elite universities which bring the next government to power".

Williams’s life had been a subtle and scathing defiance of all that Watson and his kind stand for. His work transformed the contemporary understanding of society and culture. As a socialist thinker Williams was fully engaged with the project aimed at vindicating "culture as ordinary" so as to stand out against "minority culture", a Levisite position that he had once supported and then totally went against. It is now important for any student of sociology or culture studies to see how Williams grasped the "whole process of the stories of a society, of the forms of its writing as they change in response to history".

In this he had a deep sense of sustained purpose of writing about truth and lies in the way people describe rural and city life, of writing on the role of the television, of the acute problem of ecology and nuclear disasters. His intellectual effort worked on human experience and its oddities so as to face facts of life and not hesitate to counter "the toadies and cowards, the vicious snobs and the traitors who throng the roads leading to all places of learning".

Williams looked at the language of drama and poetry, at the language of the ordinary people always conscious of the unfinished and transient relationship on the stage and the structure of feelings running through the strong and heartening working class life that he was so familiar with. This obsessed him, as it had done other thinkers, an obsession with a search for the ungraspable interplay of language and feeling and to be turned into some kind of theory of the narrative of culture "told through glimpses of whatever caught his eye and ear". Faith in emancipation of the common people and the Foucauldian forging of all political strategies for domination into a discursive was never to be abandoned. After the 1968 revolutionary uprising in the western academic world, he moved away from the intense variety of story telling of everyday life to a position of defining his own grand theory throught the genre of drama which he regarded as a metaphor for "that untidy, unfinished, sprawling inclusive conversation of culture".

Here he became the forerunner of Richard Rorty and Derrida who would later pay their complete attention to the philosophy and theory of conversation as the "only measure of good sense and workable politics".

But Raymond Williams’s purpose was more political and embedded in the notion of studying the sources of daily life through cultural materialism. Fred Inglis sees Williams more as a hermeneutician than a Marxist heretic who would go beyond the orthodox idea of the proletarian revolutionary victory to a kind of modernist Marxist thinking that would reclaim materialism in order to see the interrelationship between thought and life, between the academic privileged class and the exploited and much ignored problems of the working class.

To Williams the old Marxist concepts needed to be overhauled and the much needed vocabulary such as "meanings", "values" and "tradition" had to be introduced into the lexicon that would keep the enemy alert. He therefore went on to dissolve the two distinct categorisers of base and superstructure into one another. He refused to give up his commitment to understand culture as the place where life is really lived. For him it could never be a simplistic superstructuralist effect of the material base.

And as Inglis argues, "he took from Gramci the idea of ‘egemonia’ or the power of culture to saturate consciousness with its forms and values", insisting in the high, dry abstractions of the day that hegemony and culture are coterminous. Books, taste, entertainment all are sites of political struggle, and every inch material and materially produced.