The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, April 22, 2001

He was a modern maharishi
Review by Rekha Jhanji

Why this NRI is enchanted
Review by Ashu Pasricha

It’s end of society
Review by D.R. Chaudhry

Ask and you shall answer
Review by Vikramdeep Johal

Birth and growth of Indian Army
Review by Jai Narain Sharma

Story of ailing Asian Tigers
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Hindi literature
Favouring a third front in literary criticism
Review by Satya Pal Sehgal

Better funding of varsities
Review by S.P. Dhawan

The first woman-hater in modern times
Review by Bhupinder Singh




He was a modern maharishi
Review by Rekha Jhanji

Timeless in Time: Sri Ramana Maharshi A Biography by A.R. Natarajan, Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore. Rs 200.

THIS is the latest biography of the great sage of Thiruannamalai. Apart from a narrative of the maharishi’s life, it contains a beautiful collection of photographs of different stages of his life. The author begins with his salutations to all the earlier biographers of the maharishi and holds that Ramana’s disciples all over the world have endowed this biography with a spiritual power necessary for writing it.

He has included in it excerpts from his dialogue with several devotees; this has the great advantage of projecting the powerful presence of the maharishi from various vantage points. Amongst these are several well-known personalities like Paul Brunton, Arthur Osborne, Somerset Maugham and Maurice Frydman.

In Ramana Maharshi we see embodied the highest point of Indian spirituality. Someone asked him once to specify the qualities of a jnani. The maharishi spelt out the following three conditions: one who is indifferent to both praise and blame; one in whose presence peoples’ conflict cease; and one in whose presence one feels completely at peace with oneself. From all accounts of the maharishi, it is clear that he had attained this state.

In his presence not only did human beings feel total tranquility and peace but even animals felt completely at ease. Natarajan has referred to cows, dogs, peacocks and squirrels in the ashram which yearned to visit the maharishi and benefit from his soothing presence like any human being. During his early years when he stayed in the Virupaksha cave children would climb up to the cave and sit there for a long period just to be in his presence.

To his first disciple Gambhiram Seshier, Ramana termed his teaching as "intuitive knowledge of the heart". It is natural and inherent and that is why it is accessible to all. Ramana Maharishi’s path is straight, one travels from illusion to knowledge by a proper understanding of the mind. One has to go deeper into the origin of the mind.

Like the sage of the Mandukya Upanishad, he also asks us "was there a mind in sleep?" No. Is there a mind in waking? Yes. It must have a source. Otherwise, where can it subside and wherefrom can it rise again? Surely it must be within oneself for there is no break in the identity, in the continuity between the two states.

The source must inferentially be said to be an energising source, for one wakes up refreshed, and recalls the repose enjoyed during sleep. The source must be fullness of consciousness, responsible for this daily rejuvenation.

The maharishi emphasises the path of self-inquiry. If we go on asking the question who we really are, it would help us drop all illusory identities and understand our true self. It would have the effect of silencing the mind by warding off our association with thoughts. Natarajan has quoted one of his compositions, "Eight verses", which renders this method very clearly.

Ramana Maharishi says: "When there is no ‘I’ thought there can be no other thought; when other thoughts arise, ask ‘to whom? To me? Where from does this ‘I’ arise? Thus diving inwards, if one traces the source of the mind and reaches the heart, one becomes the sovereign lord of the universe. There is no more dreaming of such as in and out, right and wrong, birth and death, pleasure and pain, light and darkness."

One has to remember here that Ramana Maharishi was sharing his experience of the day of enlightenment and stressed that it can be experienced by everyone with an inward mind in search of its source. It may be useful here to see how the maharishi came to this realisation. Facing the overwhelming fear of death, he passionately enquired into his true identity, into the nature of I-consciousness. Reality was given to that enquiry by putting aside the body as if it were a corpse. Immediately there was an upsurge of the feeling of "I" distinct and apart from the dead body. Enquiring further he discovered that the "I" was a current, a force or centre. Though it existed in connection with the body, it was independent of the rigidity or activity of the body.

All along, Ramana Maharishi stressed the need for this enquiry for the realisation of the self. He looked upon rituals and the attainment of siddhis as an inferior religious activity because they do not enable one to silence the mind. Even the silencing of the mind through yoga is temporary, it lasts as long as one has controlled the breath; but soon one gets back to the original chatter. This method of vichara alone helps one to realise the self.

This is a book which one must not miss because it gives one a glimpse of the grand master and enables one to experiment with one’s state of consciousness.


Why this NRI is enchanted
Review by Ashu Pasricha

Pilgrimage One Woman’s Return to A Changing India by Pramila Jayapal Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 265. Rs 250.

INDIA, can be both a physical hell and a social heaven. On the one hand, it pulsates with life, with humanity, with small wonders; early mornings when the country side is fresh and cool, when men and women squat on their haunches in the grass and brush their teeth; the lush green glow of ready-to-harvest rice paddies, where long white necks of geese rise regally out of the fields; the monsoon rain as it beats out its rhythm on the roof; the jingle of bright glass bangles on a woman’s wrist; the graceful welcome of the village women who warmly led me into their homes. It is a place where people openly express their humanity; where connectedness matters; where there is a belief in being part of a larger social order.

But, on the other hand, India can be impossibly difficult: throngs of people, cars and animals; constant electricity outages; piles of garbage, broken sidewalks and rutted streets; and the unbearable unfairness of poverty, gender and caste discrimination.

This is how non-resident Indian Pramila Jayapal describes India in her book "Pilgrimage: One Woman’s Return To A Changing India". She came to India after 25 years on a two-year fellowship by the New Hampshire-based Institute of Current World Affairs to write about contemporary social issues in India.

She spent her time swinging between romanticising the country. Her most intense struggle centred on reconciling what seemed to be two completely different Indias. One India — culturally rich, artistically divine, spiritually enlightened-nurtures and propels individuals to spiritual greatness, to create architectural wonders which show genius and a palimpsest of rich history etched in stone, to return to the simple and the real rather than the plastic and chrome. The other India is the blackest of holes out of which few can crawl. This India mocks poverty by piling it on destitution. It laughs raucously at the intention to take one’s life into one’s own hands by dealing cards that could not win even the best gambler a penny.

Travelling from Kerala to Ladakh to the holy city of Varanasi, Jayapal witnesses firsthand a society struggling to reconcile tradition with modernity and confronts what both delights and frustrates her in her country of origin. In Gujarat she meets the founder of the Swadhyaya movement, "the silent but singing revolution" that has transformed the idea of the community life; in Bangalore she discusses feminism with young women who resist the idea of being labelled "feminist" and by definition "Western" and in Badrinath, one of the oldest pilgrimage destinations in India, she struggles to comprehend the ethical and religious teachings of the Rawal, the head-priest. In doing so, she begins to understand the profound lessons with the power to enlighten and enrich our way of living in today’s rapidly changing world.

During her stay she met people for whom life still revolved around family, community, spirituality and land. She began to understand how far from these real values life in the West has strayed. These people taught her that the life was to live but not to dictate; ours to question but not necessarily to receive answers; to appreciate but not to expect. From them, she learned that our only task is to fully live in the present. the past and future are creations of our minds; they last only as long as we think about them, dissolving into nothingness the instant we allow them to.

These attitudes are grounded, in part, in a long lineage of Indian spiritual teachings, from such great texts as the Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishads, to the teachings of Gandhi and J. Krishnamurti. But it was more than this, because many of the villagers she met who inspired her the most had never read these teachings. Yet they had a real sense of the space they occupied in the world. This sense fundamentally changed the way they interacted with their surroundings. They were more centred, more connected, not only to the physical place but to the spiritual place within them. Those in the so-called "developed" world fool themselves too often. "We allow ourselves to be surrounded by human-made things and forget that we are here by grace, not by right."

Success and accomplishment in India are viewed completely differently than in America. To be sure, this too is changing with the invasion of global forces, but across the country, she met men and women whose success appeared in their inner strength, calm and resilience. They persevered through conditions she could not have imagined because they truly understood who they were relative to the world. They maintained a sense of morality and humanity. They cultivated an inner wisdom and clarity that radiated brilliance. Their success was part of their search for truth, rather than a diversion, as "success" had been for her for most of her life.

The author, a product of a modern world in which we use (and have been used by) technology to both simplify and complicate our lives: seeking the easiest and fastest ways to travel, to communicate, and to exist. All too often, this means enclosing ourselves in imaginary bubbles that protect our sense of physical and mental space. To be physically uncomfortable in India does not just mean travelling down bumpy road in a decrepit old bus; it means being completely present to the smells and sounds of life on the bus: the feel of a sleeping woman’s head as it drops on your shoulder, the pressure of a man’s hand on your back as he struggles to keep his balance in the aisle, the belching of someone who has just finished a good lunch. There was no room in India for the physical or mental space that is held so sacred in America.

William Blake once said that reason is just Satan that it snuffs out imagination and freedom and emotion. Living in India convinced the author again that candle of imagination, of passion, of connectedness. She found that she could logically analyse issues until, as an individual, she was confronted with a reality, a practical enactment of an issue that placed her as a player on the scene. Then the analysis had to be adjusted to include emotions and circumstances, the lack of absolutes. Often these situations were outside her past framework of understanding. This is the only truth there is, she realised.

She became slightly nostalgic when she recorded, "Living in India rejuvenated my spirit, brought alive parts of me that had faded into the background of a modern life that is sometimes too efficient, where emotions are shielded by good manners, where space exists so bodies do not touch on buses or trains. In India I touched and was touched every day, by people, by scenes, by thoughts in my continuously bubbling mind. With each experience — whether I was accepting pickles from woman who had nothing else to give or watching a group of men willingly push our broken-down car down a deserted road — I have learned that even twenty-five years away from India could not break the basic threads of human commonality that bound us together from birth."

Weaving together her extraordinary personal journey with incisive, bold commentary on contemporary issues, Jayapal has written a thought-provoking and illuminating book of great power and grace.

What makes "Pilgrimage" unique is its almost frightening honesty, its rigorous and unsparing self-examination and its determination to eschew both sentimentalism and generalisation.


It’s end of society
Review by D.R. Chaudhry

The Individualised Society by Zygmunt Bauman, Polity Press, London. Pages 260. £ 15.

A TRADITIONAL society with a live community, warm neighbourhood and a wide network of social relationship is often praised, and more so in our times when old social mores are fast changing, for its multiple gains. It invests one’s life with security, fraternity and fellow feeling and tends to help one tide over the ebbs and downslides of life with comparative ease with the help of a network of human bonds and relationships. However, the weight of tradition sometimes proves too debilitating for an individual.

Family and social relationships often act as an encumbrance and sap one’s initiative. If one is free from all such hindrances, he or she is more likley to realise his or her potential. However, an individual in such a system is a highly atomised and alienated being that brings a train of agony and misery.

Does it mean that suffering is one’s destiny as lamented by Guru Nanak (Nanak dukhia sab sansar)? Or is "dukha" (suffering) an inalienable part of the existential predicament to be overcome by following the eight-fold path as conceived by the Buddha?

Bauman is no prophet to offer a metaphysical solution to the dilemma of existence. He is a serious social analyst who diligently dissects the ills of modern industrial society.

Living in society — agreeing, sharing and respecting what we share — is an important route to human happiness. However, "no more salvation by society" is the most important commandment of what Bauman calls an individualised society in our time. In such a society an individual is abandoned to a lonely struggle that most individuals lack the resources to undertake alone. For success or failure in life, one has to thank or blame oneself.

The value of "joining forces" or "standing arm in arm" is outdated. "We shall overcome some day", a theme song of the black-struggle in the USA that inspired a countless number of people who dreamt of a revolutionary transformation of society the world over rings hollow now. There is no common cause and "fighting alone" is the modern credo.

In the modern social milieu an individual is often hit in a surprise attack by mysterious forces dubbed as competitiveness, recession, fall in the market, "downsizing" and so on. The damage is not confined to those who have been hit. There is a message, loud and clear, for those who have been spared for the time being. Their turn may come any time. Everyone is potentially redundant and replaceable. So every one is vulnerable and has to live on life’s edge with the possibility of a fall without any warning. It is this state of precariousness that has gravely undermined the value of solidarity and social bonds.

It is the state of precariousness that has taken the sting out of the labour movement. The working class was once the vanguard of revolution. Then it was thought to be coopted into the larger capitalist system in the advanced industrial world. Now, it is neither here nor there. It is out of reckoning thanks to the state of precariousness, the element of uncertainty. Now the partners — a worker and his employer — no longer have to stay long in each other’s company. A young American with high school education expects to change job at least 11 times during his or her working career. There is work on short-term contract, rolling contract or no contract whatsoever.

There is no in-built security in most of the cases, with "until further notice" clause staring in one’s face. Employment of labour has become episodic, leaving little chance for mutual loyalty and commitment to grow. There is disengagement between labour and capital. This makes the situation precarious which further acts as a great individualising force. It divides instead of uniting. The idea of common interest no longer makes any sense.

Fear and anxiety are to be suffered alone. There is no possibility of putting up organised resistance to the vagaries of the capital, thanks to the flexible labour market. The developing countries are also rapidly falling in this mould (a Bill empowering the management to hire and fire workers at will is on the anvil in Indian Parliament).

In these days of globalisation, capital is becoming increasingly global while the labour stays local. The system is constantly exposed to the inscrutable whims of mysterious investors and shareholders transcending the limitations of space. A slide in the stock exchange in New York or Tokyo can set the economy spinning out of control all over the world. There is a feeling that those who work and produce cannot win. Exercising control over global capital is virtually impossible and this has weakened political institutions irrevocably.

The divorce between power and politics is an important derivative of the process of globalisation, so forcefully delineated by Bauman in this perceptive analysis. The power and reach of capital is increasingly becoming global while politics as represented by nation-states stays local. It is a world where power flows but politics stays tied to a place.

Power is increasingly global and extra territorial while social and political institutions stay territorial. It is the WTO regime that rules the world today. It is a handmaiden of those with strong economic sinews and others have to fall in line.

There is a global war being fought these days but it is of an entirely new variety. Conquest of territory is no longer its objective. Any door that remains closed must be flung open for the free flow of global capital. Clausewitz can be paraphrased to say that war is primarily the "promotion of free global trade by other means". This "global war" has two important dimensions— an element of anarchy in the world order and dismantling of the welfare state.

Globalisation stands for the disorderly nature of the process on which ration-states have no control. This has led to the erosion of the sovereignty of nation-states. Their major job, in most cases, is to safeguard the interest of the mega companies, irrespective of the consequences for the local population. The milieu of chaos or the absence of order is the major weapon of power in its bid for domination.

The global capital can pack up and leave for greener pastures without giving any notice, leaving the economy of a particular nation-state in ruin as has been the experience of many Third World countries like Mexico, Indonesia, etc. A new global elite is emerging, perhaps a new global ruling class is in the making. The confidence to benefit from disorder is the entry ticket to this elite. Those on the top "celebrate what others suffer", as observed by Roger Friedland.

In the world ruled by global capital those who fail on account of their personal failings and society is not responsible for this. A social stratum, euphemistically known as the under class, has emerged — poverty-stricken people, single mothers, school dropouts. drug addicts and criminals. They constitute the dregs of society, the social scum that deserves no sympathy. Empathy with them is a waste of sentiment. The provision of dole is increasingly under attack and is thought to be an unpardonable burden on the economy.

The concept of a welfare state is increasingly becoming an anarchronism in the ethics of global capital. The force of the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest in its most naked form has struck the humanity.

Many are aware of the dangers of the new situation. There is growing uneasiness over impoverishment and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, pollution, global warming, ozone depletion, erosion of soil, degradation of enviroment, demographic explosion and a host of such problems. However, this awareness goes hand in hand with growing impotence to effectively check the malaise.

There is no dearth of knowledge. There is freedom of speech but this seems to have lost its cutting edge. There is unprecedented freedom with unprecedented impotence. Social forces striving for a social change is a chimera now.

Peter Drucker, the top representative of the new business spirit, has proclaimed, "No more salvation from society." "There is no such thing as society," declared Margaret Thatcher. Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman are the ideologues of the new global order. Ideology has come to an end and there is the TINA principle in operation. There is no alternative to the new world order. Bear it even if you do not like it.

These ideologues seem to be saying that if one knows that one is going to be raped anyway, it is better to relax and enjoy it rather than offer resistence.

There is "the emptiness of the political space", to use a phrase of Hannah Arendt. The body politic no longer offers sites from which effective interventions can be made to reshape our life in order to make it a little more purposeful. Most haunting of political mysteries nowadays is not so much "what is to be done" but "who would do it if we knew it", as very aptly put by Bauman. There is an agency gap.

Bauman is no pulpit preacher to offer capsule remedies. He offers no readymade answers to several fundamental questions he raises. His achievement lies in raising a series of questions with great clarity and force—questions that trouble so many these days but most find it difficult to give them a concrete and logical shape. This task has been admirably performed by Bauman and his is a seminal work of great value to those who wish to understand the existential problems in the new global order.


Ask and you shall answer
Review by Vikramdeep Johal

The Penguin India 2001 Quiz Book by Gopa Sabharwal, Himanshu Dube and Sonia Minocha. Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages viii +222. Rs 200.

WE seem to be becoming a nation of quizzers. Quizzing is virtually the new national pastime. There was a time, not long ago, when quizzing was merely about instant intellectual gratification. No longer. Today, thanks primarily to "Kaun Banega Crorepati" (KBC), it is about instant money, instant fame.

Quiz buffs never had it so good. For casual quizzers, KBC and "Jeeto Chhapar Phaad Ke" are the not-to-be-missed shows. For serious ones, there is "Mastermind India," hosted by the inimitable quizmaster, Siddhartha Basu. Schoolchildren have their own "Bournvita Quiz Contest" run by Derek O’Brien.

Quiz books on a wide variety of subjects were readily available at bookshops but of late, they are being displayed quite prominently and selling like hot cakes. In an attempt to cash in on KBC’s popularity, many publishers are dishing out nondescript "help-books" (one goes by the name of "Kaun Banega Crorepati, Sawaal Dus Crore Ka, Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke Quiz Book"!).

Penguin India brought out Basu’s "Mastermind India 2000", which was a quiz book of quality. The book under review, also from the same publishing house, is in many ways even better.

Even though the authors’ names do not ring a bell, their profiles are quite impressive. All of them have been associated with television quiz shows for the past several years and the book amply shows their experience and expertise in quizzing.

There are a total of 2,000 questions, including 500 multiple-choice ones and 50 grids (with crossword clues), each containing 10 questions on particular topics like corporate icons, rivers in mythology, ragas, etc. Questions without clues are divided into two categories : rapid fire and core. Queries of each type are repeated every four pages. Due to this innovative format, the pattern of questions does not become monotonous, a common problem with most quiz books, including "Mastermind India".

All questions are related to India and are chosen from a wide, wide range of subjects. Those on history, mythology and the arts predominate, but there is hardly any field which has been overlooked.

There are quite a few questions likely to stump most quiz buffs. Not many would know that ZEE stands for Zebra Entertainment Enterprise; that the famous bhajan "Vaishnav jana to . . . " was written by the 15th century poet Narsi Mehta; that it was Winston Churchill who described Mahatma Gandhi as a "half-naked seditious fakir"; that Milkha Singh’s long-standing record was broken by Paramjeet Singh.

The multiple-choice section contains a few tricky ones. How many children were born to Gandhari? 100, 101 or 102? ( The answer is 101.) Who was the managing director of Maruti Technical Services from January 25, 1973, to January 25, 1975? Maneka, Sonia or Indira Gandhi? (It was Sonia.) The first Indian film to break into the UK top ten? Not "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun." Not "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge." It’s "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai."

After every few pages one comes across an amusing question: The drink which gets its name from the Hindi word for "five" — punch; the seven-letter word for the language of Kamala Hasan’s film "Pushpak" — silence!

Even though it is a remarkable quiz book which doubles as a rich source of information, a couple of things might limit its chances of success. First, the level of questions is generally high, which is likely to put off casual quizzers. Second, there are no big names like Basu, Bachchan or O’Brien to attract the buyer. Nevertheless, if you are seriously preparing for a quiz show or an entrance test, or looking for a challenging and stimulating quiz book, then grab this one.


Birth and growth of Indian Army
Review by Jai Narain Sharma

Fidelity And Honour: The Indian Army by S.L. Menezes. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages 701. Rs 350.

INDIA is full of contradictions — an ancient civilisation but a new nationstate, avowedly pacifist but maintaining the largest army in the world; a powerful, visible army but little known or understood.

The modern Indian Army owes its origin to European colonialists who came as traders around the turn of the 16th century. Soldiers were recruited for essentially police duties within their large trading establishments; conquest of the country was far from the European mind.

The Mughal empire was then at its zenith and India a great economic and military power. The next 150 years saw the decline and eventual demise of the Mughal empire with the attendant rise of the Mahrattas and Sikhs as well as the French and British forces who fought each other for the control of the subcontinent. By the 1840s the British and their "Indian Army" has emerged supreme; nine decades of Indian servitude followed when many Indo-British institutions developed which continue to flourish in independent India. The Army is one of them.

This is precisely the basic theme of the book "Fidelity and Honour, The Indian Army" by Lient-General S.L. Menezes (retd.). It is an objective and well researched on the growth and development of the Indian Army from its inception during the days of the East India Company to its present status.

Raised by a foreign power to serve its commercial and imperial interests, the army did not have a nationalist cause to serve for the first two centuries, but it was never a mercenary army either. Its soldiers did not enlist for money willing to sell their loyalty to the highest bidder. They joined the army because they considered fighting an honourable profession and they fought for their honour which included that of the family, the community, the region and the regiment. Serving in the army is considered a matter of honour. Even after Independence we now have over 50,000 Gorkha soldiers from Nepal who did not have any national cause in doing so. Like their Indian counterpart before Independence they too are not mercenaries and have the same motivation for serving in the Army.

The concept of nationhood was non-existent in the 18th century. Thus many Indians enlisted in the army of foreign power and had no in fighting against their own countrymen and contributing to the establishment of British imperial rule. However, this got duly compensated by the action of many of them in the sepay mutiny of 1857. This revolution was essentially an affair of the army. Even though the revolution failed, it became a source of inspiration for the subsequent generations in the freedom struggle.

It is noteworthy that notwithstanding the Jallianwala Bagh firing, the Indian army was sparingly used against the freedom fighters. Terrorism or the non-violent struggle for freedom were mostly contained by the civil administration, using the police for the purpose. When the army had to be called out, it was more the British Army in India than the Red Shirts during the non-cooperation movement.

The war years (1939-1945) make very interesting reading. The Indian National Army (INA) has been researched comprehensively and this particular analysis provides valuable insight into the INA itself — its leaders, the various Indo-Japanese and Indo-German protocols covering its role and, finally, a summary of its achievements and failures. During World War II, the emergence of the Indian National Army from the ranks of Indian Army prisoners with the Japanese, under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose, to fight for the independence of India became a major development.

Jawaharlal Nehru who earlier in 1943 had threatened to oppose Subhas Chandra "with open sword in hand" if he arrived in India assisted by an Axis power, later on did whatever he could to save the INA prisoners. He told Lord Mountbatten who was the supreme commander that the INA was more national than the Indian Army, and that, in his view, the vast majority of the INA personnel should be taken back into the Indian Army. Mountbatten advised him that it was in independent India’s own self-interest that the fabric of the Indian Army not be torn asunder, since the future government had to depend on it.

On his return, Nehru wrote to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Congress president, on March 28, 1946, "I pointed out in Malaya that we could not keep it (INA) going as an army there or in India…" In May, Nehru met Lord Archibald Wavell, and requested that ex-INA personnel be taken into the police as the latter had an "oppressive" image. Wavell said it would be "fatal" to do so. After this Nehru dropped the idea.

In military term, the contribution of the Indian National Army was limited but its political and psychological impact was tremendous. Hindsight says that however, Bose was right when in 1943, he had said that the convulsive effects of the war with Indian participation would determine the British Empire, even if the Axis lost.

Lord Wavell, Viceroy, in his farewell speech on March 21, 1947, five months before Independence, has said, "I believe that the stability of the Indian Army may perhaps be a deciding factor in the future of India." Later events more than justified this belief. At the time of Independence, the Indian Army had to undergo a major surgery. Muslim units and sub-units along with most Muslim officers left for Pakistan. The senior ranks in the Army were all held by British officers and they left for home. They were replaced by Indian officers.

Besides these, there were other problems too. Most of the personnel of the Army were from the North and the families of many had been uprooted from their homes as a result of partition and were living in refugee camps. The pay of Indian officers of the Army was slashed considerably. There were no representations nor any case filed in any court of law.

It was against this background that the Army was called upon to tackle the unprecedented carnage and the movement of millions of refugees in Punjab. The civil administration had collapsed. The Army was the only credible instrument available to the state to restore order. Within a couple of months after Independence, normalcy was restored in riot-ravaged Punjab.

No sooner had this been done than in October, 1947, the Army was called upon to defeat an armed invasion by Pakistan. Military operations in Kashmir in the most difficult terrain and at forbidding heights lasted for over a year. The task of defending Kashmir was carried out successfully despite all odds.

In the wake of Independence the question of integrating over 500 Indian states into the Union of India posed a major problem. The Army constituted the final sanction behind Patel’s moves for integration. Where this could not be achieved through negotiations, the Army had to be implied to enforce the nations will, as it happened in Junagarh, Hyderabad and Goa.

The last chapters deal with the post-independence era. The first decade or more after independence was an era in which India’s moral authority stood very high in all the chanceries of the world. The Indian Army was employed on tasks to promote international peace in Korea, the Gaza strip, Indo-China, Lebanon and Congo. After this came the rude awakening in the Himalayas in 1962. Both political and military leadership failed the nation bringing about a national humiliation. The Army later on recovered from this trauma. The war in 1965 was a partial success but the 1971 war was a decisive victory, the like of which had not taken place for many centuries. The compulsions under which the army undertook Operation Bluestar and Operation Pawan have also been elaborated upon.

Serious students of the Indian Army will certainly learn something new from the book.


Story of ailing Asian Tigers
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Crisis as Conquest: Learning from East Asia by Jayati Ghosh and C.P. Chandrasekhar. Orient Longman Hyderabad. Pages xiii+137. Rs 150

FEW could have predicted in the mid-1990s that Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand would have to go with a begging bowl to the IMF. These were, after all, East Asian economies whose economic policies the international financial community had loudly applauded. East Asia’s three decades of growth, averaging almost 8 per cent a year, had inspired pride at home and envy abroad. Never before had any economy sustained such rapid growth for so long. The four original "tiger" economies (Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan) had worked hard to reach the status of a developed country; Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand were also catching up fast. There was much talk of an "Asian century" ahead, when the region’s economies would leap ahead of the economies of the USA and Europe.

But in 1997, plunging currencies and stock markets put the economic miracle in deep freeze and these economies started concentrating simply on survival. What went wrong? The economic processes — both in the world economy and within the East Asian economies — that created both a period of unprecedented expansion and subsequent collapse have been discussed by the authors in this book.

The book starts with an analysis of the condition of world economy in the 1990s. They attribute the situation to various forces collectively known as globalisation, though not completely a new phenomenon.

Growing importance of external trade and dramatic increase of the foreign direct investments are the two causes responsible for this shift. Though in real terms, the share of external trade did not increase as compared to the late 19th century, a feeling of substantial growth of external trade came about because of the massive decline in such trade during the inter-war years. What we observe today is a shift back to the level of trade achieved by the international economy in the last decade of the 19th century, the authors point out.

The authors also discuss the factors which were responsible for the Asian Tigers’ fall, which began on July 2, 1997, when the Thai currency, the baht, was allowed to float. As the FDIs increased all around the world in the 1990s, the forms of capital flow widely seen as responsible for the increased vulnerability of these nations were portfolio capital investment, investments in the form of domestic stock and securities markets by non-residents — and the short-term debts by foreign banks. So the depreciation of the baht increased the demand for foreign exchange resulting in the collapse of investor confidence. It also resulted in panic withdrawal of funds invested in equities and prevented the rollover of short-term debts by multinational banks. Moreover, the increase in speculative operations by domestic and international traders cashing in on currency volatility made the problem very acute.

Regarding the role of finance, the authors opine that financial liberalisation increased the role of hedge funds which, unlike the banks, were not subject to regulation. Thus these unbridled capital flows led to undesirable consequences. The situation in South Korea has been dealt with individually and alternative solutions have been provided which could have decreased the intensity of the crisis. Moreover, along with the international finance, the self-interests of the powerful financial class of South Korea have also been said to be one of the causes of the crisis in the at country.

A similar crisis was felt in Mexico in 1995, but it lasted for a much shorter period, thanks to the USA. The USA government not only provided its own credit guarantee, but also arm-twisted US-based banks to help Mexico. since as the East Asian countries did not have the same strategic importance for the USA, it only formally supported the IMF-led financing packages. The USA’s own offers of financial support were stingy and it did relatively little to pressurise other private investors to stay on in these countries. Though the IMF released huge funds for the cash-starved economies, its policies before or even after the crisis were irresponsible in many ways. Throughout the 1990s, the IMF supported financial liberalisation in these countries and there is no doubt that with regulations on cross-border capital flows, this situation would not have arisen. But by the middle of 1999, signs of recovery were visible was evident from a shift from GDP contraction to moderate GDPgrowth in South Korea and Thailand.

Regarding industrialisation of East Asian countries, the authors point out that manufacturing in this region refuted the leftist perception that the possibilities for industrialisation in developing countries were constrained by the nature of capitalist development worldwide. The authors have also elaborated on the experience of East Asian development in the post-war period, which broke the orthodox perceptions about the hegemonic relationship between imperialism and underdeveloped countries.

Was the East Asian crisis unique? The book has the answer. Situations which occurred in Mexico(1994-95), Russia(1998) and Brazil(1999) have also been discussed. In all these countries, short-term debt caused a sudden loss of investor confidence triggering currency instability. As a major global fallout of these crises, the Bretton Woods institutions moved to centrestage and their role in the age of financial globalisation became a hot topic at economic discussions.

The concluding chapter discusses the policy implications for India. The authors suggest that economic strategy should not be directed towards keeping investors happy, but also at insulating the system from external shocks and checking a slump in export growth. Also, they recommend that India should not contemplate any further liberalisation of its exchange rate regime to avoid a similar situation in the country.

The book offers a comprehensive account of the crisis which the East Asian countries faced and their eventual recovery. The global fallout of the crisis, the role of the Bretton Woods twins in the age of financial liberalisation and precautionary measures India should take have also been discussed in detail. Importantly, the book is written in a jargon-free, simple language. Those who want to be aware of the changing equations in the age of financial liberalisation, should grab a copy.


Hindi literature
Favouring a third front in literary criticism
Review by Satya Pal Sehgal

WRITERS of two recent works of literary criticism in Hindi — namely, Parma Nand Srivastava and Arun Kamal — have more than one thing in common. Both of them write poetry, belong to the progressive school of Hindi literature, are admirers of each other, and, naturally, indulge in the evaluation of Hindi poetry. Parma Nand Srivastava who is a Professor Emiritus in Hindi, edits "Alochana", a reputed quarterly in Hindi, which has started publishing again after a gap of 10 years. "Nai Kavita ka Priprekshaya" ( Perspectives on New Poetry, 1965), Srivastava’s first book of criticism, was quite well received. He created a niche for himself in Hindi criticism over the years by a crisp expression and some good insights, through a series of well-done books on Hindi poetry and novel. "Kavita ka Arthat" (Adhar, Panchkula, 1999), his latest book on contemporary Hindi poetry, was long due and eagerly awaited.

The book fulfills aspirations aroused about it only partially . There has been major shifts in poetic sensibility and form in last 20 years. Arguably, these have neither been defined nor understood in a proper manner. Srivastava’s book helps in this regard but indirectly. It does draw certain contours of the period, like the rise of prose-poetry, increased activity by women poets, neo-mannerisms in younger poets and the shrinking of the reading public in the Hindi belt. To Srivastava, arthat in a kavita means rootedness of the poem in present history. Obviousaly, his reflections on Hindi poetry are in the context of the present times. In fact, he recognises poetry as being part of the present.

However, this presumption shows serious limitations. It comes out to be more of a stance than a fully developed system of thought. The final picture which his book conjures up of the present-day Hindi poetry is one of the achievement of the individual poets and not of a general trend. The complete map of the emerging new world of Hindi poetry does not lake shape. Instead, "Kavita ka Arthat" offers us elaborate studies of major contemporary Hindi poets. From Kedar Nath Singh to Manglesh Dabral to Arun Kamal and Rajesh Joshi. The complete list of poets is quite exhaustive. It incorporates poets like Ashok Vajpayee, Vinod Kumar Shukla, Ritu Raj and Gyanendra Pati. Add to this some stalwarts like the late Nagarjuna, Shamsher Bahadur Singh and Raghuvir Sahay. Also great Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri. Poetry of Kunwar Narayana, the elderly figure from the Nai Kavita movement of the sixties has also been dwelt upon.

The poet who stands out as the father figure among the poets discussed in the book, past and present, is none other than Suraya Kant Tripathi Nirala . In one of the better essays in the book "Varjanaon ke Vajar Dwar par Dastak" (knocking at the difficult doors of inhibitions), through some good research and interesting logic Parma Nand Srivastava tries to explain the deep effect Nirala had on most of later poets, including Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh, himself a doyen of post-independence Hindi poetry. Srivastava takes pains to construct his thesis on how Nirala’s tradition runs through the succeeding generations of Hindi poets. He quotes Kedar Nath Singh who opines: "Nirala’s poetry is a challenge to any upcoming poet."

It is here that the main project of the book betrays itself — locating contemporary Hindi poetry within a tradition. This means either modelling on earlier writers or using earlier poetic tools and strategies. Inadvertanly, one of the major dialemma of present Hindi criticism comes alive! How to speak authentically on present Hindi poetry? Except for Sudhish Pachouri, a Delhi-based Hindi critic, no one else has tried to find an explanation for the development of recent Hindi poetry in its own terms. Namvar Singh, author of "Kavita ke Naye Pratiman" (New canons of poetry), a post-independence classic of Hindi criticism, has shown no interest in the issue. Not in writing at least!

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an eerie silence in Hindi literary criticism. It is no coincidence but no organised movement is discernible in Hindi poetry for quite some time. No new manifestos! No new poetry journals! Mind you, there is a lot of activity otherwise! In the history of modern Hindi poetry, no other period has seen publication of so much of poetry, that too in the form of anthologies. However, the criticism this extraordinary upsurge of poetry attracted is mostly in the form of reviews or miscellaneous comments. Parma Nand Srivastava’s book brings relatively lengthy studies of main Hindi poets, except for the last two chapters. These chapters centre on the younger generation of Hindi poets and strive for generalities. One of these chapters is sub-titled, "Yuva Kavita par ek Adhoori Tippani". The other one is in the form of a diary, written off and on, full of inquisitiveness. These chapters help the writer in his difficult task of providing the book a larger theme. They offer food for thought to the reader who is a close observer of the writings of younger poets.

"Kavita ka Arthat" is dedicated to Shamsher Bahadur Singh, Nagarjuna and Raghuvir Sahay. On the face of it, this dedication is also personal, like any other. But history may also act behind dedications. Consider this dedication while you read Arun Kamal’s "Kavita aur Samay" which has three full essays on Raghuvir Sahay’s contribution to Hindi literature. Sahay, who is regarded as another trend-setter in Hindi poetry after Muktibodh was a socialist thinker like of Ram Manohar Lohia. If he is reckoned within the progressive fold, the change has occurred due to the inspirational effect of Sahay on poets of last two decades. The dedication by Srivastava formalises this. Evidently, there is a lot more space now inside progresive literary criticism. This development is understood better when we hear young critics like Purushotam Aggarwal talking of a third front in literary criticism and bringing out "Teesra Rukh" (Vani, Delhi). Srivastava echoes the same views when he says, "There should be a third grouping of poetry."

Is it because of this perestroica in ideological positions that poets like Ashok Vajpayee, considered a war-hero of the so-called formalists in Hindi literature, find a positive mention in a full chapter? The same can also be true of the chapter on Vinod Kumar Shukla, a poet of predominently social themes, but not finding much favour with established progressive criticism, presumably because of his experimentation in poetic diction. And also for the chapter on Kunwar Narayana who is generally associated with "nai kavita andolan"!

"Kavita ka Arthat’ suggests that the much talked about ideological regimentation in Hindi criticism is now a myth. Arun Kamal’s "Kavita aur Samay" provides support to the above suggestion.

In "Kavita aur Samay" (Vani, Delhi,1999) samay has been understood not as time but present history. Like Srivastava, Arun has also expressed his faith in the current times. A Sahitaya Akademi Award winner for poetry, Arun looks quite prosaic in the title of the book. A teacher in English in the University of Patna, Arun Kamal is understandably concerned more with his image as a poet than as a critic. Arun tells, in the preface of the book, how many of his friends (detractors?) wanted him to publish his critical writings so that he was the victim of criticism and driven out of the realm of poetry. Jokingly he informs that he is good at both — poetry and criticism.

And he is really that, particularly when he writes in the first person. For example, take the chapter "Parchoon" (grocery). This chapter, at the fag end of the book, brings out the best of Arun as a critic. This chapter contains notes on poetry which he prefers to call "rash writing". Broadly speaking, these notes are experiences of a poet with his medium. Some of these are quite revealing from the standpoint of a modern poet. Like, "Metre increses the longevity of the poet and poetry ... The horizontal growth of poetry is made circular by the metre.... To write in a metre is like residing in a joint family." (Arun himself writes in free verse though in his latest anthology he dabbles in new rhythmic patterns.) Sounding caution, he adds: "Merely writing in a metre does not necessarily make somebody a poet as nobody is an entrepreneur by just inheriting ancestral property. Creation is achieved only through one’s own toil."

Another of his cryptic observation: " Writing continuously is only possible with the writer’s belief in his re-birth i.e. his life as a writer after he is physically gone!" In the same chapter he observes how the image of a writer as a public figure can have detrimental effect on his work." In his own words: "Writing is possible by remaning a scoundrel but not by donning the usual dignitary image wearing kurta-pyjama-jacket. Darkness and seclusion are necessary for theft, debauchery and creation." On the pessimistic feelings so prevalent in poetry, Arun has this to say: "Feelings of hopelessness are always accompanied with some wisdom. On the contrary, hope is generally filled with ignorance."

So, this "grocery" has a few practical, theoretical and philosophical insights into writing poetry. It also brings out the freedom which all true poets like to cherish inspite of the difference between ideological bearings . In Arun Kamal, this sense of freedom has its imprint on his diction. The lucidity, the rootedness of the language in the spontaneous and mundane themes, the presence of simplicity when the writer puts forward a logic — all this have that impregnable touch of freedom. Because of this sense of freedom, Arun speaks his heart out on Ashok Vajpayee’s poetry. The following certificate given by Arun Kamal to Ashok Vajpayee may surprise many readers: " I have no hesitation in saying that the book ‘Samay se Bahar’ is no manifesto of art for art’s sake. Instead, it is a subtle and significant analysis of the relationship that art, life and present society have between them."

Inspite of the claims poet Arun Kamal makes about having no particular plans for his incursions into criticism and that these were the pressures from various quarters which made him take up literary criticism, his book has literary sociology of Hindi acting upon it. The inclusion of Raghuvir Sahay into the progressive fold has already been discussed. "Raghuvir Sahay aur Malyaz ka Alochana Karam", one of the three essays Arun has written on Raghuvir Sahay, is brilliant in its analysis of Sahay’s intellectual moorings. Pointing out Sahay’s ideological inconsistencies, Arun underscores Sahay’s larger human and literary concerns. He quotes Sahay: "For a poet to write truthfully, it is essential that the people hear his words."

Arun also has three short essays on Nirala. He is in tune with Srivastava when he tells: "Contemporary Hindi poetry has a fundamental relationship with Nirala." He also evolves some kind of a logical framework to elaborate how many of the trends in contemporary Hindi poetry have roots in the poetry of Nirala. (It is worth mentioning that some Dalit writers in Hindi are up in arms against Nirala). For Arun, Nirala is a poet of the totality of life.

Arun Kamal also deals with the poetry of Nagarjuna, Trilochan, Shamsher and Kedar Nath Singh. So did Srivastava. Arun makes a significant addition to his list. It is Srikant Verma, the celebrated Hindi poet of "Magadha" and once a powerful politician — the general secretary of the Congress and a close confidant of Indira Gandhi. Reading Verma with sympathy and empathy, Arun concludes that Verma’s poetry points towards the third way for Hindi poets and poets of today have chosen that way for themselves. Meanwhile, Arun raises certain basic questions regarding the relationship between the poet’s personal life and his poetic output. "Magadh" is a requiem on a dying power structure and the poet who penned it was its spokesperson, once!

In "Kavita aur Samay" we find an essay on our own Kumar Vikal: "Bhai Kumar Vikal ki Kavita aur Raat ka Antim Kaam" Admittedly, this is a rare piece of writing on Kumar written with tremendous affection and respect. To Arun, the distinction of Kumar’s poetry lies in its hypnotic effect, as if one is looking down into a deep well. A rare kind of honesty present in Kumar Vikal’s poetry is as much personal as it is social and political .

Going through these two significant books of Hindi criticism one comes to know the critical preoccupations of Hindi literary public better. It is the tradition of the past beaing searched in the present. Critics like Sudhish Pachouri and Madan Soni would rather prefer newer methodology of deconstruction but they are on the fringe. Still, undercurrents of political realignment are note- worthy, surfacing in phrases like "third grouping" or "third way". Grand formulations are missing. It is a typical post-modernist characteristic, though as a thought structure post-modernism does not find much favour in mainstream Hindi criticism. It is apprehensive of the politics of post-modernism.


Better funding of varsities
Review by S.P. Dhawan

Financing of Universities by G.S. Bhalla. Sharma Publications, Amritsar. Pages 221. Rs 250.

IN all civilised societies, universities symbolise excellence in higher education. They play a pivotal role in the development of human resources by imparting instructions even beyond the doctoral level, by conducting examinations in affiliated colleges by exercising a tight control over the academic activities and by undertaking research in a large number of disciplines. Moreover, universities are also expected to inculcate and develop the highest values of nationalism, universalism, liberalism, integrity and ethics and thus bring out the finest in human beings and motivate them to strive for higher perfection.

If the universities are to fulfil these objectives, they obviously need the support of society in various ways, the most significant of these being financial support. The study under review addresses itself to this aspect by focussing on the ways our universities receive and generate financial resources and how they spend the money at their disposal. G.S. Bhalla, a senior member of the faculty of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, has based his investigation chiefly on the facts and figures relating to two universities — namely, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Punjabi University, Patiala. But the conclusions he arrives at and the suggestions he offers can serve as the guidelines for evolving better ways of financial management of our universities in general.

He concentrates, in particular, on a comparative analysis of the pattern of expenditure in the two universities with emphasis on the analysis of library expenditure, examination expenditure, expenditure on general administration, expenditure on teaching in various departments, coupled with a study of the sources of income. This makes for elucidation of the results being achieved so far and the understanding of the manner in which these funds could be utilised for better results.

The study is primarily based on secondary data gathered from the annual budget estimates and annual reports by the universities, minutes of the meetings of various bodies of the universities, the report of the University Grants Commission, information bulletins of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and the statistical abstract of Punjab — the material being chosen for a period of 10 years from 1982-83 to 1991-92. The patterns of revenue receipts and expenditure incurred in both cases, recurring and non-recurring types being carefully scrutinised, provide an interesting and informative insight into the working of our universities. Government assistance comes in the shape of grants from the UGC and the state government whereas non-governmental receipts mainly come from examination fees, tuition fees, registration/certificate, etc. On the other side, the major components of university expenditure are on teaching departments, general administration, library, conduct of examinations and improvement of education.

The intensive nature of Bhalla’s study is reflected in the way he delves deep into various sectors. An example is while examining the library expenditure, he undertakes a detailed analysis of the following aspects: comparison of revenue receipts and expenditure of the library as a proportion of different library expenses such as the ones for books, periodicals, journals, rare manuscripts and miscellaneous expenses; library expenditure per member on the items listed above, and physical facilities available per member in the library; salaries and the extablishment expenses.

Among the steps suggested to tone up the financial health of universities are a radical change in the concept of budgeting by linking budget estimates to outputs rather than inputs, downsizing the establishment, computerisation of offices, a close liaison with industrial houses in the region so as to provide consultancy services and a greater provision of sponsored seats for the NRIs, running distance education courses which usually generate considerable income and the setting up of shopping complexes along the boundary wall of the university.

A very interesting section of the study is devoted to the history of the growth of education and its financing from the earliest to the modern times. The ashrams of the gurus in the Vedic period, the viharas or monasteries in the Buddhist period, the shaping of these viharas with universities like Taxila, Nalanda and Valbhi, the maktabs and the madarassas of the Muslim period, the setting up of institutes of higher learning by Mughal emperors like Babar, Humayun, Jahangir and Akbar, and the establishment of modern universities at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Lahore and other centres by the British colonialists are some important landmarks in the growth of education in this country. The post-independence period has witnessed a phenomenal growth in the number of universities — the present number being close to 250.

To probe the working of these universities and to recommend concrete steps for their improvement, a number of committees and commissions have been set up from time to time. The Radhakrishnan Committee in 1948 stressed to need for improving the pay scales of teachers, vocationalisation of education, the setting up of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the inclusion of education in the Concurrent List. The Mudaliar Commission, 1952, advocated the introduction of the three-year degree course. The Kothari Commission report in 1966 emphasised on higher education, especially teaching of science and technology. The Gajendragadkar Committee supported the autonomy of universities.

Of course, autonomy in the complete sense of the term has eluded our universities, as these largely depend on direct and indirect grants of the governments, and the politicians continue to interfere in matters of appointments and selections of teachers. Another cause for concern is improper use of the meagre resources in constructing and furnishing buildings such as guest houses and holiday homes at a very high cost and thus the universities appear to be out of harmony with the general conditions of the masses. Such aspects should have received greater attention in the book under review.


The first woman-hater in modern times
Review by Bhupinder Singh

Otto Weininger: Sex, Science and Self in Imperial Vienna by Chandak Dasgoopta. The Chicago University Press, Chicago. Pages 239. (including endnotes, selected bibliography and index). Price not stated.

CHANDAK Sengoopta is a Wellcome Research Lecturer in the History of Medicine at the University of Manchester. The book under review is a revised version of his doctoral dissertation submitted to the Johns Hopkins University in 1996.

I am not sure about the West, but Otto Weininger is little known in India, where academics are apt to react in puzzlement at the mention of his name. I guess Dr Sengoopta began to interest himself in Weininger and the fin-de-seicle Vienna only during his stay at Cornell University (1988-90) or perhaps later at the Johns Hopkins University (1990-96) in the United States.

It is imperative for me to briefly introduce Otto Weininger to the reader before turning to Sengoopta’s scholarly monograph. Weininger was a young Jewish philosopher who became famous or infamous (i) for his extreme views against women and Jews and (ii) for his dramatic suicide in Beethoven House at the age of 23 for undisclosed reasons.

Weininger was born (1880) and educated in imperial Vienna. He was a brilliant student in the Gymnasium. At 18, he knew Greek and Latin as well as a number of modern European languages. In 1889, writes Sengoopta, Otto enrolled at the philosophical faculty of the University of Vienna. The curriculum vitac appended to his dissertation shows that his intellectual interests, although diverse, tended to revolve around philosophy and psychology. He attended lectures on logic, experimental psychology, pedagogy and the history of philosophy, the most important courses of which were taught by the renowned positivist philosopher Friedrich Jodl and his colleague Laurenz Mullner, who would later be Weininger’s doctoral examiners.

"Taking full advantage of the flexibility of the German university system, he also attended the lectures of some well-known professors on mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany and zoology, anatomy, physiology, histology, embryology, neurology and psychiatry."

Weininger completed his doctoral dissertation in 1902. The dissertation called "Geschlecht und Charakter: Eine Biologische und Pschologische" (Sex and Character: A biological and psychological investigation) was based on two outlines "Eros and psycho" and "Zur theorie des lebens" (On the theory of life) earlier deposited by the author with the Viennese Academy of Sciences. Before he shot himself in 1903, Weininger had revised and published his thesis, and also converted to Protestantism to symbolically affirm his allegiance to "the spiritual nation of Kant".

Kant indeed was a major influence on him in philosophy and in psychology; others were Goethe, Schopenhauer, Neitzsche and Dilthey. In his intellectual itinerary, Weininger moved from critical positivism to anti-positivism with the two strands successively reflected in the biological and psychological parts of his book.

Weininger’s suicide together with his misogynist and anti-Semitic book "Geschlecht and Charakter: Eine Prinzipielle Untersuchung" (or Sex and character: An investigation of principles) created a sensation in Viennese and, more generally, European intellectual and cultural circles. Sengoopta quotes Ford Madox Ford as follows: "In the men’s clubs in England and in the cafes of France and Germany, one began to hear singular mutterings amongst men... The idea was that a new gospel had appeared. I remember sitting with a tableful of overbearing intgellectuals in that year, and they at once began to talk — about Weininger. It gave me a singular feeling because they all talked under their breath."

To which Sengoopta adds, "In Central Europe, however, few intellectuals referred to Weininger under their breath: their response to ‘Geschlecht und Charakter’ was open, enthusiastic, and loudly expressed..."

Among Weininger’s admirers were such luminaries as Strindberg, Karl Kraus, Wittgenstein, Joyce and Kafka. Even Freud, who was otherwise not very well disposed towards Weininger or his theories, agreed that he had "a touch of genius." But Weininger had his detractors as well. It was to be expected, given the provocative, almost inflammatory, nature of his book.

What exactly did "Geschlecht und Charakter" proclaim? The book was deeply polemical. It addressed the woman question lambasting modernity and women’s emancipation in the process. Weininger argued that the character of human beings varied with their sex and that the character of women was such that they did not deserve either equality with men or liberty.

"Biologically," said Weininger, "humans were bisexual down to their cells, but psychologically they somehow polarised into men and women. Thus every human being was both male and female at one level (biological) but either man or woman at another (psychological level)." Weininger tried to overcome the inconsistency in his argument by contending that his man and woman, like many of his other concepts, were only ideal types, but apparently he did not succeed. For, in actuality, he reified his constructs equating them with empirical reality.

How did the two psychological types, man and woman, contrast? According to Weininger, woman lacked soul or rational and moral self. She was not immoral or illogical, but only amoral and alogical. Sexualtiy was the essence of her being, whether as mother (coitus for progency) or as prostitute (coitus for pleasure), and if she denied her sexual nature out of servility to man, she was liable to become hysteric. Weininger distinguished between the maid and the shrew as sub-types of woman signifying respectively high and low vulnerability to hysteria. A subsidiary thesis in "Geschlecht and Charakter" — that the Jews had much in common with women — joined Weininger’s mosogyny to his anti-Semitism.

On the other side, man, who was only partly sexual, had logic and morals as well as individuality and autonomy on his side. In his perfect state, man became genius — the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm. "Woman was wholly passive, did not posses an intelligible self and had no conception of logic and ethics. All the qualities lacking in woman were found in man, the active, autonomous being created in the image of god. The essence of feminity was sexuality alone. But since this sexuality was universal and indiscriminate, the female could never be an autonomous subject." Woman is nothing. Man, on the other hand, was the complete, autonomous subject, the male psyche a microcosmic quality akin to genius: part of it could even be female. The female, however, could never be psychologically male, although some woman may possess masculine traits. The ideal type of woman had much in common with Weininger’s ideal type of the Jew, and without completely equating the two, their correspondences were emphasised (Sengoopta, page 67).

The spirit of the woman and the Jew, declared Weininger, ruled the modern epoch resulting in political anarchy, coitus culture, materialistic science, communism (but no socialism) and other pathologies. What could be done to transform woman into man, or the Jew into an Aryan? Humans, both men and women, would have to transcend sexuality even if it meant the extinction to the species

In the words of Sengoopta, "Since, however, woman was exclusively a passive sexual object, she could be elevated to subjecthood and full humanity only by the negation of sexuality itself. Man and woman must, therefore, transcend their sexuality and live in total chastity. Only then could women be emancipated from their sexual bondage to men and treated as free and equal individuals". (page 67)

I have briefly introduced, subject to limitations, Otto Weininger’s life and work so as to enable the reader to appreciate the problematics of Sengoopta’s book. Indeed, the introduction is based exclusively on Sengoopta’s account, although I have access to the English translation of Weininger’s "Geschlecht und Charakter" (Sex and character" Heinemann, London).

The main purpose of Otto Weininger: "Sex, science and self in imperial Vienna" is to examine the structure and conjuncture, or the semantics and pragmatics of Weininger’s text in their mutual relationship. "Put another way," says Sengoopta, "I disassemble ‘Geschlecht und Charakter’ and reassemble it within its many contexts: biographical, intellectual, scientific, medical, cultural, and ideological." (page 12)

Sengoopta’s exposition progresses, in the first three chapters, from Weininger’s eclectic and broad education through his worlds resounding with debates over the nature of self, gender and Jewishness to the structure, harmonies and contradictions of "Geschlecht und Charakter". The next four chapters closely examine the nature and sources of Weininger’s specific theories of human bisexuality, homosexuality, hysteria and motherhood. These substantive chapters are sandwiched between an indispensable "Introduction", on one side, and "Responses to Weininger", on the other, the latter describing how Weininger has been received by philosophers, scientists, litterateurs, feminists and others.

It is obviously not possible for me to reproduce, even in a summary form, the details of each of the nine chapters listed above, but I can briefly delineate Sengoopta’s overall conclusion. He finds that, in the ultimate analysis, Weininger’s was not a scientific but an "ideological critique of modernity in general and women’s emancipation in particular". Weininger only used science or scientific discourse for political ends, that is, in the service of his misogyny and anti-Semitism. But then his ideological prejudices were not idiosyncratic but rooted in his age. "It is thus essential," concludes Sengoopta, "that we see ‘Geschlecht und Charakter’ as a melange of science, bigotry, philosophy, personal anxiety, and cultural politics."

Sengoopta’s contextual and intertextual deconstruction of "Geschlecht und Charakter" is certainly illuminating, even if I am unable to see how one could separate facts and values in science, or any other field of knowledge. It is possible to imagine Weininger countercharging Sengoopta with scientism and the cultural prejudices of the "vaginal epoch".

I think Weininger erred not in bringing together science and ideology, but in believing that gender differences, as he understood them, were based in nature than in a dialectic between nature and history. One wishes Weininger had access to anthropological (such as Margaret Mead’s well-known "Sex and temperament in three primitive tibes") to disabuse him of his ontological blas.

Finally, Sengoopta has not considered at all the influence that Goethe’s science of forms might have had on Weininger generally or in his abrupt and mysterious transition from positivism to anti-positivism as manifested in the two parts of "Geschlecht und Charakter". It is an important neglect, given Weininger’s specific invocation of Goethe’s theory of colours in defence of his epistemology (Sengoopta, page 133).

All in all, Sengoopta’s erudite and extensively documented work is an outstanding piece of research and should serve as a model to Indian researchers at all levels.