The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, April 1, 2001

Mind-reading of Pak Generals
Review by Bimal Bhatia

PTL’s mantra of success
Review by Surinder Singla

Fiction as modern myths
Review by M.L. Raina

The second oppressed sex
Review by Anupama Roy

Western elite’s threat
Review by D.R. Chaudhry

In-patriate writing in English
Review by Akshaya Kumar

Age of the global media
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Saga of BJP’s founder
Review by Bhupinder Singh

Faiz: poet of Urdu & this century
Review by Gobind Thukral




Mind-reading of Pak Generals
Review by Bimal Bhatia

Generals and Governments in India and Pakistan edited by Maroof Raza. Military Affairs Series of Har-Anand, New Delhi. Pages 144. Rs 250.

INDIA and Pakistan can loosely be called "brothers separated at birth". Yet the military and governments in these states took different courses. The military in Pakistan usurped governance, domestic and foreign policies — even the nuclear programme to pursue its Kashmir fixation. The Pakistan army sidelined and embarrassed the elected Head of government — whenever there was one — and even drove Benazir Bhutto to admit to a foreign correspondent, "I am in office; not in power."

The birth of Bangladesh in 1971, due partly to its Army’s incompetence, resulted in more power to the Pakistan army despite Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s gameplan to sideline it. On the contrary, the Indian Army which notched up significant victories after 1965 found itself downgraded systematically.

The five articles offer a narrative which defines and analyses the different environments in which the Indian and Pakistani armies have functioned since independence. While Pakistan has a tradition of military intervention, India’s military establishment functioned as an exemplary non-political force.

In his title essay Maroof Raza quotes Samuel Huntington: "The military institutions of any society are shaped by two forces: a functional imperative stemming from the threats to society’s security and a societal imperative arising from the social forces, ideologies, and institutions dominant within the society. The interaction of these two forces is the hub of the problem of civil-military relations."

The legitimacy of political authority is traditionally deeply accepted in India where the army has never sought to control or be an arbiter in the nation’s political affairs. In fact, it has often appeared even in times of social and political disorder as a staunch "no-nonsense" defender of the elected government.

The political history of Pakistan has been different. Pakistan was born in agony and confusion. The cumulative bitterness, frustration and pain accompanying Pakistan’s creation, and the continued threat to its existence (whether real or imagined) from India have shaped much of its political history.

Raza quotes Stephen Cohen in an appraisal of the two countries at the time of partition. India not only had a greater military advantage in the partition of stores, but the calibre of its politicians and civil servants was definitely superior to that of Pakistan. Indian civil servants in some cases had even more military-related experience than its senior military officers, and were thus able to conduct a rational political dialogue in military matters.

In Pakistan, on the other hand, Iskander Mirza (a military officer turned bureaucrat) was perhaps the only political figure with a military background. Jinnah had little interest and Premier Liaqat Ali Khan’s knowledge of the military was negligible. Thus, Pakistan’s military was rightly frustrated with its politicians, leading eventually to a breakdown in communication between them.

The increasing use of the Pakistan army in administrative roles and "aid to the civil" duties between 1952-1957 (including the Ahmadiya riots of 1953 in Lahore) combined with continued corruption and ineffectiveness of the civilian leadership led to a loss of military patience and it took power as an increasingly apprehensive society feared Pakistan’s fragmentation.

Its military demonstrated that professionalism may in fact contribute to its intervention in politics. The military coup of 1958 was undertaken in disgust and disappointment with the incompetent political leadership, as it threatened Pakistan’s security and, in turn, the interests and integrity of the military as an organisation.

India’s resounding victory over Pakistan in 1971 stunned the world as it did the Pakistani army. Though with the creation of Bangladesh India’s military reputation got a big boost, it continued to remain strictly subordinate to the civilian leadership and became an example to many developing countries.

Indira Gandhi inherited a deep-seated suspicion of the military from her father Nehru. She repeatedly employed a divide-and-rule strategy against the higher army command, and the civil servants supported her efforts. Her suspicion of men in uniform prompted her to be careful and not allow the military to get involved in the domestic sphere beyond a point.

Indira Gandhi’s defeat in 1977 and her return to power in 1980 demonstrated the degree of maturity of Indian democracy and how governments could change without any hint of military intervention. Her use of the Army in the unfortunate Operation Bluestar in 1984 resulted in a crisis which shook the integrity of the Indian Army at many levels. It led to her assassination and that of former army chief Gen A. S. Vaidya.

It was in the 1970s that two outstanding and powerful Generals, Lieut-Gen Harbaksh Singh and Lieut-Gen Prem Bhagat, VC, were denied promotion to the post of army chief. Her later supersession of Lieut-Gen Sinha, one of India’s best military minds, created considerable bitterness within the Indian military establishment.

Sumona Dasgupta discusses the militarisation of the Indian state since the 1980s — the dual role of the armed forces as an instrument of domestic and foreign policy. She discusses two foreign missions — India’s "peacekeeping" Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka during 1987-90, and Operation Cactus in the Maldives in 1988 — apart from the Army’s use for internal security.

Smruti Pattanaik’s well-researched chapter on military decision-making in Pakistan gives you an inside view of the khaki mind. While military decision-making is an important function of the state, in Pakistan it lies in the sole domain of the armed forces and outside civilian control. National interests are defined by the military which also tells the government how to achieve them.

The role of the Pakistan army being to protect the "territorial and ideological frontiers of Pakistan", it perceives an ideological claim over Kashmir. Moreover, the army often considered itself the most honest and efficient organisation while expressing a total lack of faith in politicians.

During Zia-ul-Haq’s period the ISI acted not only as the country’s largest intelligence agency but also as a major policy-making body. Under Zia’s supervision it was assigned a task which otherwise had been the function of Foreign, Home and Defence Ministries.

When elected, Benazir Bhutto was not administered the oath of office till she agreed to surrender her right as civilian Head of Government on important matters like Afghan policy, nuclear programme, Kashmir and Pakistan’s relations with India.

The post-Kargil events and the military takeover in Pakistan indicate the army’s primacy in defence and foreign policy. The Washington Agreement and withdrawal from Kargil were humiliating for the army which was blamed by Nawaz Sharif for the misadventure. Musharraf maintained that it was a joint decision and accused Sharif of destroying the "last institution of stability by creating dissension in the ranks of the armed forces".

What of the nuclear issue? Sanjay Dasgupta’s chapter on command and control in the nuclear era provides significant conclusions. He cites George Perkovich to argue that the military establishment in Pakistan, like its counterpart in India, is likely to be far more circumspect with its nuclear option than civilian politicians. And India’s "no first use" deters a Pakistani nuclear attack, while Pakistan’s "first use" deters a full-scale conventional attack by India.

Overlooked is the fact that the revised nuclear threshold gives Pakistan the leverage to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir. This, if nothing else, underscores why we in India cannot afford to pussyfoot about institutionalising national security and decision-making at the macro level to the extent it deserves.

It is an affordable book for all those who like to know about the enormity of "burden" carried by khaki-clad Generals next door.


PTL’s mantra of success
Review by Surinder Singla

"THE government support is no easy game," reminisces Chandra Mohan, the former CEO of a blue chip company Punjab Tractors Ltd (PTL), in his autobiographical rendezvous "Zero to Blue Chip". He navigates the reader through the conception of the company to the birth and its eventual robust health, while intermittently narrating the interface with the politico-bureaucratic combination at different stages of its growth.

In an overall evaluation of his interaction with this all-important and powerful network, Chandra Mohan fortunately had been on the right side of this combination that benefited the company as also his personal growth along the way. His personal anecdotes amply demonstrate the informality with which he could entice the cooperation of people who mattered in government. Hailed as a unique success story by the World Bank, Chandra Mohan experimented with new strategies in PTL, contrary to the established line of global thoughts, albeit with the establishment support.

By and large, public servants are handicapped in their effort to give spark to their entrepreneurial instincts because of political interference and spaghetti like administrative machinery. However, Chandra Mohan has been more of an exception to this golden rule. A towering personality, armed with technical qualification and declared pursuits in the context of green revolution, he overwhelmed the politico-bureaucratic network and made them support him. His passion to focus on the bottlenecks and come up with innovative solution in the larger interest of farmers made him steer through many a difficult paths in his journey.

The political leadership of the state supported him since, because of its peasantry background success depended upon farmers’ acceptability. This was also a boon and expectedly chose not to put spokes since he was fulfilling the need of farmers. The peasantry leadership was in fact positively helpful since the interest of farmers coincided with that of the company. The need for cheaper and smaller tractors for farmers made the state leadership to even offer state concessions to the company that perhaps were not available to other companies.

Besides, it is my perception that the IAS pool of the state, be the Punjabis or living with Punjabis, possesses, relatively, a better insight into the entrepreneurial way of working per se. This virtue in the background of positive political climate enabled them to become facilitators, whether willing or otherwise, for Chandra Mohan to experiment and give shape to his vision. The entrepreneur in him was allowed to follow his convictions to their logical conclusion and eventually succeed, of course not without occasional hiccups. Some of the leading lights of yesteryears that assisted him are Mr Tejinder Khanna who actually launched the company, Mr MS Gill, TK Nair, PH Vaishnav and NN Vohra, to name a few.

An important facet that prompted and spurred him was his association with the Research & Development Wing of the Railways and his disappointment at not being able to translate the virtues of patent technology there. Disenchanted with non-translation of R&D efforts into the ultimate welfare of people, he chose to shift to the application department from a theoretical R&D. "Beware of the armchair theoretical specialists. Custo-mer’s mind is beyond customer-surveys and charts. Listen to them. But finally, go deep, trust your gut-feeling and dive in", he reminds us. Later, committing himself with a missionary zeal to serve the larger interest of society, he applied his mind to entrepreneurial wits and psyche that Punjab can feel proud of. However, it is no secret that his efforts, howsoever honest and resilient, would have come to naught without the catalytic role of an otherwise precedent-bound politico-bureaucratic machinery. Later, while being a member of the committee for disinvestment, he even successfully persuaded the leadership not to interfere in his company.

Entrepreneurs are needed to see the economic possibilities of new technologies. It is an accepted fact that men who prepare themselves to be entrepreneurs do great things. They are central to the process of creativity and are the agents of change. They have an inborn passion, risk-taking abilities and a will to elevate themselves from the managerial slots to entrepreneurial roles. Of course, circumstances do have their influence in their very special and specific ways.

In my view, for any enterprise to succeed and grow, what is required is not only entrepreneurial instincts coupled with a clear vision supplemented with management skills, and backed with R&D but also, at the same time, a facilitating role of the political and administrative establishment. Once served with this kind of menu, PTL became an outstanding entity in its own right. The technical upgradation exhibited by Punjab Tractors equaled with the R&D anywhere in tractor industry in the world and competed successfully with the international giants.

Chandra Mohan has been a very lucky man that the system did not impinge upon his entrepreneurial instincts, rather it nurtured it. The results are for everyone to see and rejoice (market capitalisation Rs 3,000 crores) and do provide the motivation not only for the young entrepreneurs but also for the politico-bureaucratic set-up in planning their strategies for harnessing the latent potential of these entrepreneurs. They must realise that it is only too easy to stamp out entrepreneurship since it is a latent human characteristic that despite its creative power, it is extremely fragile. Chandra Mohan undoubtedly had a vision, was a workaholic who used management techniques to the advantage of the company and never gave up. Of course the potent combination that he was blessed with in terms of inheritance and the environment took him to where he is today at the summit. He nurtured his relationship with everyone who mattered.

The lesson learnt, however, points to the question as to whether it is possible to expect non-interference from politico-bureaucratic setup. The instances that Chandra Mohan offers in the shape of excise waiver given to his company, thus putting clogs on the financial bleeding when the red ink was spilling fast, while excluding others do point in this direction. However, it is another side of the story that all companies that get the favour of establishment discretion do not succeed.

Punjab Tractors Limited is one that made the most of it, with all the hard work of its CEO.

With a never ending tirade against complacency and an ever growing desire to realise his fullest potential, Chandra Mohan is now busy giving shape to another entrepreneurial venture of a 21st century battery company. Known for his yearning to turn challenges into opportunities, there is no doubt in my mind that he shall repeat his success formula.


Fiction as modern myths
Review by M.L. Raina

Myths of Modern Individualism: Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Robinson Crusoe by Ian Watt. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Pages xvi+293. $ 12.95.

Will your own will, and it gives power which is better than liberty! —Turgenev in "First Love"

MICHEL Tournier, the contemporary French novelist who adapted the myth of Robinson Crusoe in his novel "Friday", defined myth as the story "we all know". What he meant was that myths are inscribed in our consciousness, and in our everyday life we make sense of the world in their terms. The fact that we give mythical names to people implies the pervasiveness of myth in all cultures. Ian Watt is not concerned with myths as sacred narratives beyond time in the way in which Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Victor Turner or Ernest Cassirer are. He is concerned with literary myths that became frames of reference for and mirrors of the evolution of European culture in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Watt regards myth as a "traditional story that is exceptionally widely known throughout the culture and credited with a quasi-historical belief", and that symbolises the governing values of a society. In this sense his treatment of myth is secular and formal, and is free from normative value judgements implicit in the sacralisation of religious interpreters.

How literary myths structure and mirror our thinking can be illustrated in the following two instances. Just recall the scene in the 1965 Merchant-Ivory film, "Shakespearewallah", in which the protagonist Manjula (memorably played by Madhur Jaffrey) confronts her lover’s English paramour while the production of Othello is on. Manjula suppresses her own desire to strangle her while on stage the strangling scene from the play is taking place. The Othello-Desdmona story has given meaning to Manjula’s rage as well as interpreted it for viewers familiar with the Shakespeare text.

The second instance is from the American poet Karl Shapiro’s poem, "The Progress of Faust": "Backward, tolerant, Faustus was expelled/From the Third Reich in nineteen thirty nine. /His exit caused the breaching of the Rhine... Five years unknown to enemy and friend/He hid, appearing on the sixth to pose.../Where, at his back, a dome of atoms rose." The poem is a testimony to the need to attribute a new invention (the atom bomb) to an established mythical name of the past. It uses an old story to tell a new one, even as it regards Hitler as the culmination of the Faustian spirit in the manner of Oswald Spengler.

The late Ian Watt was a respected scholar whose first major work "The Rise of the Novel" still remains a groundbreaking study of the sociology of English fiction. By his own admission, he worked on this, his last work, for four decades. His erudition, as that of others of his kind (a dwindling breed now!), derives from a rare blend of deep thinking and sustained reading These qualities are not much in evidence in the new class of finger-on-the-keyboard scholars spawned by the Internet, whose instant "downloads" and tin-eared argot are fast replacing the humane professionalism of genuine committed scholars. Hence two cheers for the likes of Watt!

In this book Watt has chosen the central myths of the European imagination to explain and interpret some well-known classic works of literature. The myths of Faust, Quixote, Don Juan and Crusoe are widely disseminated in European writing. They have been assimilated into the languages and behavioural patterns of Europe and denote ambition (Faust), adventure (Crusoe), sexual libertinage (Don Juan) and fantasising (Quixote). For Watt these myths represent the transition from a life of hide-bound conformism typical of the Middle Ages, to one of individual assertion characteristic of the modern bourgeois phase of nascent capitalism.

Watt himself explains the scope of this study: "My four myths are not ‘sacred’ exactly, but they do derive from the transition from the Middle the system dominated by the modern individualist thought, and this transition has itself been marked by the remarkable development from the original Renaissance meanings to their present Romantic meanings." What Watt does not explicitly mention here but amply reveals in his discussion of literary texts is the transformations these myths undergo in various epochs of social evolution. It is here that Watt’s study scores over other studies of this kind. For one thing Watt sees the utility of myths as cultural symbols in binding popular beliefs and attitudes.

Each myth is this book illustrates a single aspect of the relationship between the individual and society in which he or she is placed. The Faust myth, as Goethe was to interpret it later, is the quintessential articulation of the individualist effort to grasp reality and mould it to human desire for perfection. But in medieval literature and in Marlowe’s "Dr Faustus" it remains an image of the unaccommodated human ambition out to defy prohibitions and restraints of religion.

Marlowe’s hero is a Renaissance man, not a magician as depicted in the medieval folklore. He is ambitious in a way in which most of us are not: he seeks knowledge and power, indeed, as Foucault would put it, knowledge is power. His pact with the devil is the first modern contractual relationship that will mark out the capitalist enterprise in which all traditional relationships, all obligations are negated.

A relationship shorn of pietistic and sentimental uncertainties, Faustus’s contract is nonetheless a transgression of man’s place in the medieval cosmology. His punishment, therefore, is justified within the terms of that cosmology. The pathos of the last scene wherein Faustus hesitates to hand over his soul to the devil is human, all too human. "Resolve me of all ambiguities" he commands the devil in the beginning, but the devil has the last laugh. He cannot allow this request, because he cannot postpone death, a fact neither Marlowe, nor Goethe, nor Thomas Mann in "Dr Faustus" (1949) glosses over in their versions.

Goethe’s Faust is the modern capitalist-reformer using his power to bring benefits to mankind and, in a marked difference from Marlowe’s hero, goes to heaven instead of hell. In Part II, Goethe’s hero has none of the sensualities besetting Marlowe’s hero. He is very much a modern planner, reformer and benefactor. In this sense he reflects his period’s emphasis on the social and political primacy of the individual.

In Thomas Mann’s novel, even though the punitive element of Zeitblom’s pact with the devil (his muse) is present in the hero’s fatal disease (a theme also underlying "Death in Venice"), the whole German culture is implicated in Faustus’s fate. In Mann, unlike in Marlowe and Goethe, Zeitblom-Faust’s fate signals the demise of European culture as centuries of European humanism had envisaged it. The passage of Faust reaches a dead-end in the barbarity of Nazism, so Mann believes. In Istvan Szabo’s film "Mephisto" (not discussed in Watt) the myth becomes overtly political.

Like Marlowe’s hero, Cervantes’s Quixote and Defoe’s Robinson Cursoe are folk heroes embedded in the popular culture of the 17th century Spain and the 18th century England."Don Quixote" is the first "modern" novel, if modernity is understood as the self-searching, self-questioning attitude using as subject matter its own doubt and belief in the value of its message. "Robinson Crusoe" can claim another kind of priority: it is "modern" insofar as it expresses the tendencies of the mercantile middle classes emerging from the English Revolution.

Crusoe and Quixote arrive on the European scene to coincide with the social and religious aberrations and Cromwell’s bourgeois revolution. Both are facets of the emerging individualism. Both symbolise the anomalies that beset the transition from one social and political epoch to another. In Cervantes’s novel the conflict between fantasy and reality, between Quixote and Sancho Panza, is the degraded form of the secular version of the conflict between sanctioned order and its defiance. In Crusoe that conflict is resolved in the hero’s will to fashion his own order out of nothing.

And yet, as Watt shows, the punitive element is not altogether absent: it has only been brought in conformity with the emerging secular ideas. At the end Quixote accepts his dream fantasy as irrelevant and Crusoe returns to his shores cured of his obsession with himself. This is not the same thing as being condemned to hell but it is a comeuppance all right. Hell returns later in the Don Juan myth.

In the original Spanish version by El Burlador the statue of the dead Commander he had earlier killed attacks Don Juan. This is his punishment for flouting the codes of sexual moderation enjoined by the very ethics of Puritanism that the bourgeois revolution represents. Part of this punitive sense is carried over in Bernard’s Shaw’s "Don Juan in Hell", but Byron in the 19th century provides this archetypal philanderer a cynical justification for his deceits and betrayals. He is apathetic and passive; he does not battle to survive. His passage "leaves behind as many doubts as any other doctrine/has ever puzzled faith withal, or yoked her in". (Byron in "Don Juan").

Robinson Crusoe experiences the difficult transition from solitude to society very slowly, because Defoe fills his narrative with minute details of daily life and introduces Friday’s footprints rather late in his tale. By inventing Man Friday he allows Crusoe to save himself from the weight of his obsessive individualism. Incidentally those who admired Crusoe, men like Rousseau and Marx (both products of the new age), ignored Defoe’s chastening of his hero; and Coetzee’s "Foe" has different dimensions altogether.

Don Quixote’s advent reveals the omnipotence of desire (a point regrettably underplayed by Watt). This leads him to disown all kinship and to claim for himself an autonomous status. It is only through Sancho, his horse Rocinante and to some extent his niece, that he realises the need for human contact. An embodiment of pure imagination, Don Quixote becomes human only after he re-establishes contact with the quotidian world. In terms of Watt’s argument, Quixote’s individualism of unaccommodated fantasy is ameliorated within the demands of a secular idea.

Watt has a twofold purpose in analysing these myths as they appear in his chosen novels. One is to reassert the fact that these myths, now become "extraordinary commonplaces", bear the stamp of a particular consciousness that was to express itself in certain recurring attitudes towards what has been called the European Enlightenment. Individualism, secularism, scepticism are different forms of that consciousness. In this way Watt draws a field map of how these myths spread out to provide a pattern to European culture. That western culture by and large still exhibits these traits speaks for the persistence of the mythical presence in various historical periods.

The second purpose, existing as a submerged hope in his account, is to reiterate the values of moderation in our own age of excess and extremity. That does not make an explicit statement that would draw our attention to his judgement on these myths. But there definitely is a judgmental gesture in his account. This reminds us of Ortega Y Gasset (himself a wise but cautious admirer of Don Quixote) in whose "Revolt of the Masses" we can trace Watt’s plea for moderation:

"Restrictions, standards, reason", argues Ortega, "they are all summed up in the word civilisation...A man is uncivilised, barbarian in the degree in which he does not take others into account". This judgement, not exactly a judgement but a perception, is what seems to me to make Watt’s recall of the founding myths of European culture relevant to us as a cautionary tale.


The second oppressed sex
Review by Anupama Roy

Crossing the Sacred Line: Women’s Search for Political Power by Abhilasha Kumari and Sabina Kidwai. Orient Longman, New Delhi. Pages ix+226. Rs 190 (paperback).

THE recent debate on reservation of seats for women in Parliament raises crucial issues pertaining to women’s political participation. It is interesting that these issues were seen as "resolved" with the constitutional guarantee of universal adult franchise and the assurance of political equality to women, apparently without the acrimonious "gender war" experienced in western societies before women there achieved what women in India ostensibly received on a platter.

The explanations for the invisibility of women in the political sphere are frequently grounded in biological determinism which prescribes for women "feminine" interests separate from, and incommensurable with, the male sphere of political activities. This presumed political "backwardness" and "incapacity" of women has had many implications, all of them detrimental to women’s political participation.

Perhaps the most significant among these is the perception that women are not "mature" enough to take politically sound decisions and remain guided in political matters by their male "guardians". A logical outcome of such a perception is that women’s participaiton and representation of their interests can be ensured and safeguarded through their male guardians.

Thus any attempt to ensure a more direct role for women in political decision-making may be seen either as "doubling" the presence of their male guardians, or the woman participant herself may be seen as a male "proxy". In both cases, her participation is construed as irrelevant, redundant and unnecessary.

Abhilasha Kumari and Sabina Kidwai have taken up the task of exploring and unravelling these "myths" surrounding women’s political roles by constructing what they call an "authoritative self-knowledge", through women’s own experiences in politics. Through interviews with women in political parties, Kumari and Kidwai look at the "hidden barriers" which these "myths" create and perpetuate within political parties.

Focussing on three major political parties — the BJP, Congress and the CPM — the study examines how these political parties view women ideollogically, what roles they envisage for them within the party, how much power are the men in the party willing to share with them and the extent and urgency with which questions of women’s rights are taken up by them. The authors also explore regional parties like the Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh and the Telugu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh to see if their emergence widens the space for participation by women in any way significantly different from the "major" parties.

The interviews bring out, however, that irrespective of their public postures on reservation for women, their Left, Right or centrist orientation or their regional or national character, none of the political parties questioned the traditional notions of women’s role or status in society.

While political participation has been primarily associated with political activity in the public realm, women are seen as belonging naturally to the apolitical, private realm so much so that debates and discussions on women’s efforts to "cross the sacred line" are seen either as a challenge to some sacrosanct "tradition" or an irredeemable affront to the "natural" order. Invariably then, discussions on this theme get focused not on sorting out the best possible ways of assuring their adequate participation but on the fundamental inability of women to be political.

The authors correctly point out that whereas debates pertaining to the access of other "marginalised" groups to political power are more often than not grounded in the principles of democratic participation and inclusion, in the case of women issues of democratic participation almost always become contingent upon their capabilities, education and awareness. Such ideological conservatism on the women’s question translates itself into discriminatory structures within party organisations and politics.

Almost all women politicians interviewed by the authors pointed out that women were absent or inadequately represented in the organisational structures of parties. Unless they came from politically entrenched families, women claimed to have found it extremely difficult to get an opportunity to contest elections. Even when they were given the chance, often women candidates found themselves contesting seats that the party was more likely to lose.

In conditions of confusion and uncertainty emanating from political alliances and seat adjustment, opportunities for women appeared to have been further restricted as women candidates were more likely to be seen as dispensable in the bargaining process. When elected, women politicians claimed to have found it more difficult to reach a position of responsibility like ministerial position) commensurate with their political experience and ability.

The women’s wings of political parties similarly seemed to have had little autonomy over the setting of its agenda. While a considerable part of their energies seemed to have been spent in generating and mobilising support for their parties, mobilisation in the form of awareness for women’s rights did not appear to be a primary party concern.

The frustrations by failure of such attempts is perhaps best articulated in the following comment by a Uttar Pradesh Assembly candidate’s retort cited in the book: "These men will never give us power. We will have to put our hands into their throats and pull it out from their stomachs, that is the only way."

"Crossing the Sacred Line" is an insightful book forcing us out of the complacency instilled by constitutional guarantees promising equality. It forces us to question why women remain marginal in the political process, why, despite the considerable increase in the size of women voters, the number of women who contest elections and women representatives in Parliament remain abysmally low.


Western elite’s threat
Review by D.R. Chaudhry

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy by Christopher Lasch. W.W. Norton & Company, New York. Pages x + 276. $ 12.95

ORTEGA YGASSET’s well-known book "The Revolt of the Masses" published in the 1939s was a loud and anguished howl over the possible mass upsurge in the world in the wake of the successful Bolshevik revolution that took place in Russia some years earlier. Ortega has utter contempt for the mass man. The mass man, thinks Ortega, has no use for obligations and no feeling for great historical duties. He rejects "everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select." Being a "spoiled child of human history ", he is unruly and follows no direction of any kind.

Political domination of the masses, so thinks Ortega, is the root cause of the crisis of the western culture. The mass man recognises no authority outside of himself and suffers from incredible ignorance of history. Mass culture reflects "radical ingratitude"with an unquestioned belief in limitless possibility.

Christopher Lasch, a historian of repute at the University of Rochester, turns Ortega upside down and sees the chief threat coming from the top of the social hierarchy and not the masses. The elites control the international flow of money and information and manage the instruments of material and cultural production. Lack of faith in values is the most glaring characteristic they flaunt with abandon. The value of the cultural elites, in Ortega’s opinion, lies in their willingness to assume responsibility for the exacting standards without which civilisation is impossible. They live in the service of demanding ideals and care more for obligations, than rights. This is no longer true, observes Christopher Lasch.

It is argued forcefully by the author of the book under review that the new elites are simultaneously arrogant and insecure. They regard the masses with scorn mingled with apprehension. They now operate in a market that is international in its scope. Their loyalties are international rather than national, regional or local. They represent a class of cosmopolitans who see themselves as "world citizens without accepting any of the obligations that citizenship in a polity normally implies". The notion that the masses are riding the wave of history has long since departed.

The industrial working class is no longer the vanguard of revolutionary transformation of social relations. All its efforts are aimed at its inclusion in the dominant structures of the existing social system. It is the elites who call the shots. Being arrogant, self-centred and acquisitive and devoid of all empathy and compassion, they pose a real threat to society.

Lasch seriously examines the question whether democracy has a future. It is the insulation of the elites from society and its larger concerns that poses a potent threat to democracy. It is the elites who define the social issues but they have lost touch with the masses. Their ivory tower existence has rendered them unfit to think creatively and boldly in tackling the larger issues of society.

In the process, they have developed a secret conviction that the real problems cannot be solved. They wash their hands off their social responsibility and furiously engage themselves in their narrow, mundane pursuits. The mounting problems like the decline of manufacturing and the consequent loss of jobs, the shrinkage of the middle class, the growing number of the poor; the decay of the cities and host of such other issues no longer touch their moral sensibility and imagination.

Self-governing communities, not individuals, are the basic units of a democratic society. It is the decline of the communities, more than anything else, that makes the future of democracy dim. Shopping malls are no substitute for neighbourhood. Professional bodies cannot take the place of a community. This individualisation of society has made the city a big bazar, but the luxuries on display are beyond the reach of the most of the residents. Some of them take to crime as the only ticket to the glittering world seductively advertised as the American dream. The trouble with this kind of society is not just that the rich have too much money but that their money insulates them, much more than it used to, from common life.

After insulation of the elites it is the deterioration in the content and level of public debate which poses a lethal threat to the survival of democracy. A vigorous exchange of ideas and opinions on substantive questions lends meaning and vitality to democracy. Now such issues are left to experts. The narrow expertise in the absence of a conceptual framework confounds the people at large and renders them apathetic to the larger issues of social life. The smugness of experts coupled with the mass apathy renders the political debate and elections a periodic ritual, a charade to be gone through.

There is a surfeit of information in American society these days. Rather, Americans are now drowning in information, thanks to newspapers, television and other media. However, surveys indicate a steady decline in their knowledge of public affairs. The complexity of public affairs is best left to experts and they debate it among themselves. In the absence of public debate and democratic exchange among the public, most people have no incentive to master the knowledge which would make them capable citizens. In the age of information, observes the author with pain in his heart, the American people are notoriously ill informed.

The social mobility and meritocracy are flaunted as two crowning achievements of the American system. The author discounts both. The ladder of mobility is available to some from a particular group or a class, leaving the bulk to slog at the base. This makes American society highly mobile as well as highly stratified. As a result, the class divisions in it run far more deeply than they did in the past. The policy to provide relief to the deprived minorities in the matter of recruitment into professional and managerial class is opposed on the ground that it weakens the principle of meritocracy.

Meritocracy as seen in practice breeds careerism that tends to undermine democracy by divorcing knowledge from practical experience. This creates a social situation in which ordinary people are not supposed to know anything at all. The reign of specialised knowledge is the antithesis of democracy.

Whether democracy can survive or not is not the basic question. A more deeper question raised by the author is whether democracy deserves to survive. After all, democracy is not an end in itself and its efficacy is to be judged by its success in producing superior goods, superior works of art and learning, superior character. A democratic society must have common standards. A democracy cannot afford multiple standards which are the distinguishing feature of a society organised around the hierarchy of privileges.

Recognition of equal rights is necessary but not a sufficient condition of democratic citizenship. Unless everyone has equal access to the means of competence, equal rights alone will not take us far. Democracy also requires something more invigorating than tolerance. Democracy these days is more threatened by indifference than by intolerance.

The author makes some highly insightful and penetrating comments on the system of education in American society. He laments the decline of liberal education so necessary for a rounded development of personality. Liberal education has become the prerogative of the rich and a few students from select minorities, thanks to economic stratification. The great majority of students have given up the pretence of liberal education. They study business management, accounting, computer science and other practical subjects. They get little training in writing and seldom read a book, and graduate without exposure to literature, philosophy, history and other areas of humanity.

In this system of education, fundamental issues go unnoticed, abandoning the historic mission of American culture, the democratisation of liberal culture. This leads to moral breakdown of society, marked by the frequency of divorce, increase in female-headed households, instability of personal relations and the shattering effects of this instability on children and other related problems.

Lasch is convinced that it is the corporate sector and not the academia that has corrupted higher education in America. The corporate control has diverted social resources from the humanities into military and technological research, fostered an obsession with quantification that has destroyed the social sciences. The university’s assimilation into the corporate order is fast driving out critical thinkers, leaving the field free to the technocrats, a knowledge class, whose activities and ideas do not threaten any vested interest.

One can see a similar phenomenon in the offing in India as well. Kumarmangalam Birla and Mukesh Ambani have jointly submitted a paper on higher education to the Prime Minister. Henceforth, it is the industrialists and not the academics who would lay down the education policy in India.

The book is a powerful critique of the American system. Christopher Lasch is unsparing in attacking its shortcomings and failures and this is the hallmark of a honest and fearless intellectual who rates truth above everything else. Written in a breathtakingly lucid style, suffused with deep moral commitment and convictions, the book is a valuable treatise to sift grain from the chaff and lay bare the inner core of the American system.


In-patriate writing in English
Review by Akshaya Kumar

The Perishable Empire: Essays on Indian Writing in English by Meenakshi Mukherjee. Oxford University Press, Delhi Pages 212. Rs 545.

UNTIL now, Indian English novel has been evaluated as an isolated and perhaps more privileged and sophisticated stream of creativity within the rubric of Indian novel as a whole. Its relationship — complementary or contrasting — with novel in bhasha literatures has been overlooked for overtly political reasons. A dialogic encounter with bhasha literature threatens to undermine its international claims as also its projection in the media as the only authentic discourse of post-colonial India. It is usually alleged that bhasha writers are parochial and therefore are qualified enough to express narrow regional interests only.

Meenakshi Mukherjee, a well-known critic of Indian English fiction, in her latest critical endeavour locates the cultural dynamics of Indian English fiction in the broader context of Indian novel as a whole. This is definitely a step forward in the direction of Indian English criticism as it wriggles out of the colonial hangover in its attempt to explore the poetics of Indian English literature vis-a-vis bhasha literature.

In her earlier enterprise, "Realism and Reality", Mukherjee had speculated on the possible lineage of Indian English novel from ancient Indian narratives lake the Panchatantra, Kaadambari, Daskumarcharita, etc. In "The Perishable Empire", she shifts her focus once again to the post-colonial fiction scenario but within a comparative frame to underline its tensions and heterogeneity.

In her insightful opening chapter "Nation, novel, language", Mukherjee argues that in the wake of colonial encounter, it was novel in Indian languages more than English writings which received a major impetus. While Indian English novel lacked direction, in many of the Macaulay-maligned dialects, it soon matured and forged its respective traditions in a definite manner. She observes, "While novels in Bangla, Marathi, Malayalam and other languages soon consolidated their strengths and initiated literary traditions that continue to this day, scores of English novels written in the late 19th and early 20th century are virtually forgotten now." She quite significantly adds: "By the turn of the century novel in the ‘vernaculars’ had become a major vehicle of political dissent, positing in fictional terms what was not yet feasible in the arena of action, novel after novel in English paid direct or veiled tribute to imperial rule."

More than a theoretician, Mukherjee is known for her meticulous archival research. She analyses more than 60 rather obscure novels in English written by Indian between 1830 and 1930 — a period seldom taken into account to theorise the history of Indian English novel. She discovers certain distinct tendencies in early Indian English fiction. One, early "Indian English novelists displayed their acquaintance with the classics of western literature more readily than did Indian-language novelists". Two,"Novels in English hardly ever provide us with examples of self-reflexivity about the language they use." Three, this fiction catered only to male readership for the knowledge of English was a male-specific skill in the 19th century; novels in Indian languages on the other hand, had a sizeable readership among women.

In another significant eassy, "Churning the seas of treacle: three ways", the writer theorises the three distinct ways in which early Indian English fiction takes off. She chooses "Govinda Samanta" (1874) by Lal Behari Day as a novel of subaltern life, "Sanjogita" (1902) by K.K.Sinha as historical romance, and "Prince of Destiny: The New Krishna" (1909) by Sarath Kumar Ghosh as a philosophical narrative. These three novels lay down the direction of future Indian English fiction.

The prince as protagonist in Sarath Kumar Ghosh’s "The Prince of Destiny" is "born on the day Queen Victoria became the Empress of India, which occasioned great show and pageantry in Delhi, thus becoming ‘hand-cuffed’ to history — as Salman Rushdie’s hero would be years later". With regard to "Govinda Samanta", Mukherjee makes a very bold statement thus: "‘Govinda Samanta’ might even be seen as precursor to the Hindi classic ‘Godan’ (1936), though Premchand may never have known about the existence of this book. It seems surprising today that the first subaltern novel in India should have been written in English."

Indian English novel has its unique worries and anxieties. One overriding concern of Indian English novelist has been to vindicate his Indianness, the choice of English as medium of expression notwithstanding. One comes across a spate of articles, doctoral dissertations on Indianness of Indian English writers writings, but it is unthinkable to even imagine a thesis on Indianness of Marathi or Punjabi novel as such. This anxiety of Indianness weighs so heavy on the imagination of Indian English novelist that more often than not he ends up in presenting a rather homogenised or essentialised perspective of India as a nation.

Mukherjee compares the enterprise of Indian English writings to "one-string instrument", which even in the hands of a master like R.K.Narayan "cannot become a sitar or a veena". According to her, the much-hyped Malgudi of Narayan lacks local colour, and therefore it very easily lapses into "a metonymic relationship with India as whole". Also, she adds, since English in India functions on relatively fewer registers, it does not allow Indian writer in English the creative freedom to bring out the polyphony of Indian character. Translation studies, institutionalised as they are, have divided us more than ever before. Translation is no longer a "part of natural ambience", it is a self-conscious act, a field of study. Instead of acting as a conduit of cultural transmission within country, it is generating cultural divide among us. Mukherjee recalls that how earlier Hindi-speaking women readers used to take Sharat Chandra as original Hindi writer; and how students from Kerala in the 1970s and 1980s used to know about Premchand’s "Godan".

The commodification or professionalisation of translation has resulted in the decline of its quality. The fact that contemporary translation industry encourages translation from native languages into English has destroyed the unofficial indigenous translation culture which we as a multilingual society has always had. "Mutual translation" continues to be a neglected area.

The very title of Mukherjee’s book, "The perishable Empire", however appears rather wishful, and therefore unreal too. She intends to counter Macaulay’s claim of British Empire as an "imperishable", one by way of asserting the unprecedented changes post-colonial history has undergone in terms of its deconstructive methodologies and discursive practices. The slogan of writing back to Empire is more hype than truth. Empire continues to dictate to us in ways that are too subtle to be underplayed.

Second, the writer is carried away by her Bangla heritage. Novelists or poets belonging to Bengal or Bihar receive preferential treatment. By underplaying Sanskrit as an alternative to English imperialism, Mukherjee is hinting towards the regionalisation of Indian novel. Such regionalisation is welcome provided it is not done at the cost of the nation. Moreover by asserting different trajectories of novel in different Indian languages, she seems to suggest a total absence of Indianness per se in these novels.

Although the book contains many chapters, yet most of them have already been published in different anthologies earlier. Essays on Amitav Ghosh’s "The Shadow Lines", Rushdie’s "Haroun and Sea of Stories", Bankim’s
Rajmohan’s Wife", etc. no doubt carry important critical insights, but the fact that they have been published elsewhere do dampen the over-all freshness of her critical endeavour. The book primarily addresses to the rise and evolution of Indian novel in English and bhasha literature, the addition of an essay on the poetry of Sarojini Naidu and Toru Dutt is out of place, and does not contribute to the developments of the argument of the book.



Age of the global media
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Communication Technology, Media Policy and National Development by V.S. Gupta. Concept Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 242. Rs 300.

EXPANSION of media, spearheaded by the development of technology, has blurred geographical and political boundaries, bringing about a global village. The effects of the media can be seen in all spheres of human activity. It has changed the perception of individuals about self and society. Even the functions of the media have changed. Many social scientists are of the view that media has submitted itself to market forces, especially in the post-WTO period. Previously a major function of the media was to provide information; but of late this has given way to commercialised infotainment.

Moreover, this information revolution has directly influenced the socio-cultural environment in the developing countries as the media barons belonging to the Occidental world care little about the values of the Oriental world. Today media is frenetically promoting material culture, thus increasing the gap between material and non-material culture. This is so because the pace of change in the latter is slower. This cultural lag, as social scientist William F. Ogburn says, encourages normlessness in society.

But this proliferation of media has a positive aspect too — its role in nation-building. The book under review stresses how the media strengthens basic foundations like rural development, spread of education, awareness of environment, empowerment of women, and rights of the disadvantaged sections of society.

The book has been divided into three thematic sections. In the first, communication technology, information revolution and its social implications have been discussed. The second analyses the national media policy and the third covers the role of media in nation-building.

But a major flaw in this book is that the author has tried to cover all aspects of the media in just about 200 pages. Thus most of the topics are given a superficial treatment and they fail to enlighten the reader. In the first section, he dwells more on the history of communication technology than its present status. Too much space is devoted to the SITE and INSAT programmes while NICNET and ERNET get a passing reference. Great injustice has been done to the Internet, the information highway, multimedia and cable television.

Regarding the impact of media on society, the author should have explained the socio-cultural changes with case studies. Concerning the ever-growing communication gap between what is and what ought to be in the context of the nation’s cherished goals and ideals, the author neither critically evaluates the problem nor offers any solution.

In the section on the national media policy, he has merely reproduced reports of committees or commissions which were formed by the government starting from the Committee on Broadcasting and Information Media, 1964, and ending with the working group for reviewing the provisions of Prasar Bharati Act formed in 1996. Even in the annexe he merely discusses the reports of such commissions and committees without pointing out which of these recommendations were accepted by the government, what changes they brought about in the national media scene and the present status of these reports.

On the issue of the entry of foreign newspapers in India, he has merely quoted leading social scientists as these appeared in various newspapers rather then discussing its pros and cons for India’s sovereignty.

The third section is worth reading. Various topics concerned with nation-building have been discussed in detail. The author deals with the role of media in rural development, role of the rural Press in the uplift of the backward classes and the constraints in reporting rural development. The need for decentralised planning and the introduction of agricultural journalism courses have also been stressed by the author.

The concept of national unity and national cohesiveness along with the role of media while reporting communal incidents and grievances of disadvantaged sections of society have been examined with examples from the post-independence period. The role of media in promoting awareness and literacy among citizens through distance education programmes and virtual online university has also been discussed.

In the concluding chapter, the author has tried to look into the relationship between market forces and media in the age of liberalisation. It is a subject of much debate among social scientists. Some feel that market forces dictate media functioning while others believe that media formulates the market strategy. He has also discussed the corporatisation of media, regional Press and the "right to know" campaign.

Missing in the book is a glossary. The author repeatedly uses scientific terms related to media strategies but does not define them.

The author should have dealt with only one aspect of the media scene in detail rather than discussing several aspects briefly.

The book is not likely to be of much interest either to the layman or the media researcher. At best, it can serve as a textbook.


Saga of BJP’s founder
Review by Bhupinder Singh

Portrait of a Martyr: A Biography of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji by Balraj Madhok. Rupa and Co, New Delhi. Pages 312. Rs 195.

SHYAMA Prasad Mookerji has been hailed as the first martyr in Kashmir. The book under review is an attempt by Balraj Madhok, the long time Jana Sangh leader and one time associate of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, to present the life story of the founder president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Much of the narrative is taken up by the last few days of Mookerji’s life, the days when he was arrested in Jammu and Kashmir and then died under what is claimed to be mysterious circumstances.

The son of the nationalist and educationist (and founder of the Calcutta University) Ashutosh Mookerji, Shyama Prasad became the youngest Vice- Chancellor of an Indian university (Calcutta University) at the age of 33 in 1934. He distinguished himself as an administrator, though not as a scholar or academic.

It was a short haul from education to politics. He had earlier been elected as a Congress candidate to the Bengal Legislature Council from the Calcutta University in 1929. He later left the Congress and joined the Hindu Mahasabha sometime in 1939 under the influence of V.D. Savarkar. This scion of a Bengali bhadralok family was the first Minister to be sworn in independent India as the representative of a militant Hindu organisation. He soon resigned from the cabinet and became the founder president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He had earlier been the president of the Hindu Mahasabha during 1943-45 and its acting president earlier.

The author remarks that Mookerji’s "decision to join the Hindu Mahasabha instead of the Congress, in which he could have surely reached the top in no time..." seems unconvincing. He brings forth no evidence of Mookerji’s role in the Congress as long as he was in it. There are similar speculative statements that abound throughout the book. These might help to impress the party cadre, but not those not yet part of the faithful, to say nothing of those sceptical of the ideology that Mookerji represented and Madhok upholds. Unfortunately that is a major lacuna of the book, much of it is a sermon being preached to the choir. The absence of any references to published sources is a major drawback of the book.

There is an underlying streak of violence evident in the book that is a little disconcerting for those (like the reviewer) somewhat less inclined to recourse to strongarm tactics. For example, regarding relations with Subhas Bose, the author writes: "(The Calcutta Corporation elections in 1940) pitted the two stalwarts against each other... Subhas Bose, with the help of his favourites, decided to intimidate the Mahasabha candidates by the use of force. His men would break up all Mahasabha meetings and beat up its candidates. As a result, Mahasabha candidates got so terrified and demoralised that they would not hold any meetings at all.

"Dr Mookerji could not tolerate this. He got a meeting announce that he planned to address himself. As soon as he rose to speak an audience member chucked a stone at him that hit in the head causing profuse bleeding. This infuriated the audience that adored him. They fell upon the goondas, including the strongmen of Subhas Bose and gave them a thorough beating that put an end to their hooliganism. Soon after, Subhas Bose met Dr Mookerji and suggested that there should be no interference or attempt at disturbing the meetings of the rival parties.

"This incident proved the mettle of Dr Mookerji as a political leader of the people of Calcutta and created a salutary effect on his opponents. Subhas Bose learned to respect him and they became good friends though their paths remained different. This friendship slowly grew into mutual admiration."

The message that the author wishes to convey is clear, but unfortunately it is precisely this kind of abetment and tit-for-tat tactics that all parties employ. Going by the logic suggested by the author, we know now why each political party is competing with others to have the bigger goonda force with them. They are merely trying to "prove their mettle", win the "respect" and "mutual admiration" of the other parties.

It is, therefore, not an accident that Nathuram Godse, a member of Shyama Prasad Mookerji’s party, the Hindu Mahasabha, was to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. Significantly, the author makes no mention of Mookerji’s reaction to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. However, the climbdown in the stand of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the party that Mookerji founded along with the author Balraj Madhok in 1951, was evident when the new party, unlike the Hindu Mahasabha, decided to open its membership to people from all religions and castes. Of course, he never gave up the core militant Hindu hardline and anti-Muslim stand.

The book would have been valuable had it been more userfriendly. As it is, there is no index and no bibliography for the interested reader. Letters (or portions of them) have been reproduced in the book as part of the main text. It would have made the work much more useful by incorporating the Kashmir letters as appendices.


Faiz: poet of Urdu & this century
Review by Gobind Thukral

The Best of Faiz (Faiz Ahmed Faiz) translated by Shiv K. Kumar. UBS Publishers’ Distributors, New Delhi. Pages 200. Rs 195.

TRANSLATING poetry from one language to another is indeed a challenging task if not an impossible one. Rhythm and rhyme are difficult to come by as the translator tries to catch the meaning, syntax, mood and the form from the original to a new. Shiv K. Kumar, a poet, novelist and an outstanding teacher of English, knew this fact too well when he started his second attempt to translate the legendary Faiz Ahmed Faiz from Urdu to English. Shiv Kumar admits this.

We can turn to that rebellious poet who never compromised with any kind of tyranny — social, political or religious. Faiz himself has this to say, "Translating poetry, even when confined to a cognate language with formal and idiomatic affinities with the original compositions, is an exacting task; but this task is obviously far from formidable when the languages involved are as far removed from each other in cultural background, rhythmic and formal patterns, and the vocabulary of symbol allusion as Urdu and English."

Shiv Kumar admits the tough task. He says, "When one undertakes to translate as difficult a poet as Faiz whose involved thought processes often make his syntax very complex, almost intractable to rendition in a language whose diction, phrasing and rhythmic patterns are not tuned to Oriental sensibility." Faiz could write English with great felicity and Kumar is a well-known teacher of English.

Another advantage he has is that Faiz and himself are "ham watan, ham zuban and ham pesha". They come from what is the other Punjab for us. Faiz, a Marxist thinker and an activist, spent years in jail where his poetic genius flowered and was editor of the Pakistan Times, ambassador of his country to the erstwhile Soviet Union and won the Lenin Peace Prize.

He became a legend in his lifetime. A man of unbound courage and clear convictions, Faiz was no armchair thinker. He lived as he preached. In 1982 when Gen Zia’s Islamic fundamentalism ruled high, he told the BBC in the presence of a large group of people, including this reviewer, that he was a Marxist and did not believe in God and that Pakistan was moving towards religious fundamentalism and endangering its welfare. Only Faiz could have the courage of conviction and declare his belief so openly.

Humility had marked his comments. Years in jail had mellowed him and made him greatly aware of the suffering of the people. We do not have a melancholy poet, but a singer of inspiring songs. Those who met him in India or abroad and had the pleasure of listening to his poetry knew that they were in the presence of a genius.

Here was an inspiring poet who lived his poetry. His genius was "maqam Faiz koi rah mein jacha hi nahin/jo koo-yar se nikle to soo-e dar chale. (No resting place, O Faiz, Appeared all resting place, O Faiz, Appeared all through the journey,/as I emerged from; the beloved’s lane, I headed straight for the gallows.)

In the preface to his first book of poems, "Naqash-e-Feradi", Faiz has said, "Writing poetry may not be a crime. But to keep on writing couplets without any reason is no sign of wisdom either." And when Mirza Ghalib was asked why he has stopped writing poetry his reply was, "From the time the aching wound (nasoor) in the heart has been closed, I have stopped writing poetry." In the same introduction delineating on the birth of poesy or the poetic mood that gives rise to writing. Faiz said, "The pangs of the heart give birth to poetry, but it is nurtured by deep and abiding experiences, often tragic, of life." Again somewhere in the late fifties he had described his poetic experience thus: "It is the intensity of your experience, your overpowering feelings that sway your mind and push you to write." Spontaneous indeed, some would say. The jails of Montgomery, Lahore and Multan are witness to the flowering of the genius of this revolutionary poet.

Faiz is a passionate poet with deep commitments. The man and the poet are inseparable. What made him great was his deep commitments and poetic genius. He was a colossus on the literary horizon of Asia. His role as a progressive writer and leader of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Movement would always be remembered. In his poetry he recreated reality without any compromises. Even as a journalist and as the editor of the Pakistan Times, Fiaz Ahmed Faiz upheld the value of independent journalism and stuck to it. He had to pay the price, a heavy one indeed. But he still stands as a beacon light for the coming generations of journalists.

It is worthwhile to quote Shiv Kumar. "It would, therefore, be appropriate to say that Faiz’s all-embracing poetics is like a mighty river that carries in its sweep countless tributaries. Faiz denies no experience, excludes nothing to project reality in all its baffling complexity. He is a poet of many moods, and his work is a mosaic of diverse concerns — of classicism and modernity, of political commitment and romantic love, of affirmation and denial." He is a Sufi, a classicist, a modernist and deeply humane. His poetry lends easily to ghazal singers. He went with ease from one style to another — from formal prose syntax to free wheeling structures. He once said, "A poet is not a grammarian or a lexicographer. Language is his tool, the material he uses to create. It is thus subservient to him, not he to it." There is, therefore, no fixed pattern in his writing,both in case of ghazals and nazms.

For a translator of Shiv Kumar’s competence, providing a different cloak to the poetry of Faiz, English in this case, has proved to be very tough. He has ably captured in many poems the mood and provided reasonably valid translation. But the spirit is at times missing. You read the Urdu version which has along side a rendering in Roman script and then move to the next page for translation in English. Why could it not be on the opposite page to make it easier for the reader. You would know that the verve, the fire, the passion and the vitality are at times missing.

It may not be the fault of the learned professor. The two languages differ so vastly. Yet this translation serves some purpose. One, the selection of poems from collections — "Naqsh-e-Faryadi", "Dasta-e-Saba". "Zindan nama", "Dast-e-Teh-Sang","Sare Vadi’s Sina," "Sham-e-Shahir-e-Yaran", "Mere Dil, Mere Musafir" and "Ghubar-e-Ayyam" is really the best. Second, it introduces that eminent poet in whose death in 1984 an era in Urdu poetry came to end, to a larger non-Urdu knowing readers who might have heard his ghazals. This is a service to Urdu literature and language which has been a victim of communal politics since the subcontinent was partitioned by wily politicians.