father of the hegemony concept
Review by Shelley Walia
Political Thought by Roger Simon. Lawrence & Wishart,
London. Pages 143. £ 7.95.
influence on contemporary critical and socio-cultural debates
is significant in offering a theory of art, politics and
culture. Political and sociological writing under the
influence of Gramsci has a continuing relevance at a time of
widespread retreat from Marxist positions among those on the
post-modern Left. The theory of cultural production and
critique when applied to cultural criticism, brings out the
relevant issues of social domination and the subversion that
takes place continuously to resist any fixed notions of
The ideas of
Gramsci as they evolved in the context of his position as a
major leader of the Italian working class movement, and as
they took shape during his long imprisonment, lead to a
reappraisal of cultural, artistic and literary forces as shown
in Roger Simon’s book. It is an approach which seeks to
explicate as well as underscore the substantial achievement of
one of the most important figures in Marxism.
contemporary historians and literary theoreticians have
resorted to Gramsci’s major work, "Selections From
Prison Notebooks" for their various projects on cultural
studies. The defence of democratic culture is central to the
understanding of this project of responding to imperial or
theoretical concerns deal with ideology and Marxist aesthetics
within a historical context. Such a view of history requires
from Gramsci’s perspective, a good deal of rethinking in the
light of unprecedented historical developments unsettling the
world around World War I which becomes important for the
understanding of cultural change in terms of colonialism and
the notion of a single linear narrative of any natural
trajectory of history. He reconceptualises the formidable
historical events and their representation through the roles
of what Renate Holub calls "critical
cultural criticism in fact rescued Marxist thinking from
determinism and economic reductionism to which it had fallen
prey, enabling many critics to take up this Gramscian model
for the writing of revisionist history where their foremost
concern is the notion of the materiality of ideas, the
theorising on political praxis and the concept of hegemony
which had mainly one common underlying suggestion: the
vitality of language as a dramatic and active social
construction that plays a material role in creating the social
history of the world.
as for other critics like Edward Said, history is not
"preordained" as it can be influenced by ideas and
not solely by the economic base as maintained by orthodox
Marxists. Here, universal ideas are not given any importance
as all events and ideas are historicised and contextualised in
time and place.
idea of hegemony links the spontaneous consent of the masses
to the maintenance of power by a minority class. This consent
is caused by the aura and prestige of the dominant fundamental
group which constantly manipulates its social and political
strategies to maintain the acceptance of a class society which
otherwise should go into a revolutionary reaction to such a
hegemony, through the subtle and unconscious use of
persuasion, sways the populace. To achieve this, the
imposition of language, and through it, the writing of
literature and history, play a significant role in setting up
systems and institutions that perpetuate the ideology of the
dominant class. British literature and history, for instance,
as well as the English language — the carrier of Englishness
— therefore, have the function of disseminating ideas that
help in contributing to the hegemonic domination of one class
In the light
of this argument we can view literary texts and the historical
accounts of the West as valuable representations of the ways
in which hegemony is achieved. The use of a
"deconstructive" analysis of different European
texts is an example for Third World critics to understand the
possibility of the subaltern interpreting in his writings the
methods used for oppression and their reproduction in
literature or music. Ideas thus become sites of power
relations and knowledge working in tandem with the maintenance
of power. This emphasises the need for intellectuals to react
to any authoritarian practice and be aware of the strategies
of the repressive myths of hegemony.
myths of power the subaltern critic has to decipher the
combination of coercion and persuasion behind the organisation
of political and ideological leadership. It must be understood
that Gramsci draws a contrast between egemonia (hegemony)
and dominazione (domination). Thus he turns the notion
of hegemony as a strategy to hegemony as concept that is a
tool for understanding society in order to change it. Hegemony
has, in the words of Roger Simon, "national-popular
dimension as well as a class dimension" and thus requires
"the unification of a variety of different social forces
into a broad alliance expressing a national-popular collective
this standpoint, colonial discourse, for instance, is itself a
process of extensive reorganisation which is needed in order
to establish western hegemony. It is a way of transmuting
popular consciousness, of people’s ways of thinking and
feeling, of their conception of themselves, their moral
standards and their history. A wholesale transformation of
popular consciousness brought about by western hegemony serves
the purpose of stabilising foreign rule.
taken from Gramsci that informs contemporary theory highlights
the confused and contradictory ideas "absorbed from a
variety of sources and from the past, which tend to make (the
subaltern) accept inequality and oppression as natural and
unchageable". This Gramscian notion of "common
sense" which enables the West to create myths of power
and dominance is revealed in western constructions of history.
sense" is purely a negative term in the Gramscian sense
as it becomes the site of ideological construction and
conflict or resistance. Criticism of this inculcation of
"common sense" is the task of a
"contrapuntal" critic who reveals the
national-popular struggles and the nature of ideological
concepts of "civil society as the sphere of class and
popular-democratic struggles, and of the contest of hegemony
between the two fundamental classes" has enabled many
historians to give a new dimension to the study of imperialist
historical accounts and cultural resistance to them to finally
understand the theory of political power and of the
revolutionary process in the making of history.
Roger Simon’s book is a
coherent account of the rigorous and polemical life of the
20th century’s most original and wide-ranging Marxist
thinker who, through the use of terms such as hegemony, civil
society and historical bloc has added a new dimension to the
vocabulary of political thought. As Stuart Hall points out in
the introductory essay, "it is from Gramsci that we
learned to understand — and practise — the discipline
imposed by an unswerving attention to the peculiaritis"
and unevenness of national-cultural development. It is Gramsci’s
example which cautions us against the too-easy transfer of
historical generalisations from one society or epoch to
another, in the name of ‘theory’. Indeed Gramsci has
taught the political and theoretical Left to reread Marx from
a new perspective and show ways of developing and living
constantly renewable stream of ideas. The cultural and
political logics of Gramsci’s notions on liberation and
ideology have helped in reconceptualising the nature of class,
power and the conditions of existence in modern
Neurosis as spring of
Review by Jaspal Singh
Punjabi poet Manjit Tiwana is a restless soul, lost in the
inscrutable maze of life. She has done six collections of
poems, though "Ilhaam", "Ilzaam" and
"Dargah" are more popular. Now she has come out with
a long poem, "Jin Prem Kiao" (Navyug Publishers, New
Delhi) dedicated to her Guru Dev, with an epilogue, "Tun
"poetry is more important than breathing, being the
conscience of an age, a mirror of the times, a means to reach
the invisible, an expression of love and an epistle of the
dead and the departed. Poetry is the voice of the soul and a
chronicle of the different stages of mind.... It is a melody
of suffering that casts a spell over me... It is a bridge to
reach the beyond and the transcendental."
that a person without love is the poorest of the poor and she
has encountered freedom, love and death at one and the same
point of time and space. She has spent most of her life in her
own company since there is a wide gap between her dreams and
a neo-Freudian psychologist, says that neurosis manifests in
individuals in the form of withdrawal, aggression or
indifference and the main source of neurosis is the gap
between the ideal and the reality. The wider the gap, the
higher the degree of neurosis, which Manjit Tiwana tried to
bridge through the medium of her poems. If she were not a
poet, she would have been in a lunatic asylum.
She has a lot
to curse in her life that gave her loneliness, exile and
rejection. The life-situations, she avers, brought her terror
and oppression though as a college teacher, she has been
"neurosis" is manifested more prominently when she
compares herself with God. She says, "Iam alone even in a
crowd. God himself is alone like me. Had he not been alone, he
would not have created such a beautiful world." Solitude
is the first condition of a creator, though it can be both a
boon and a bane.
Manjit Tiwana is a rebel who fights for undefined freedom. She
claims that throughout her life she has been fighting for
light against darkness and that she undertakes the
responsibility of presenting her poems to the world as a
genuine translation of the consciousness of the epoch. A tall
resents her birth in a family that had a "curse of
thinking like slaves" which precisely is the reason of
her being a rebel. She has "lost a lot in her domestic
warfare". She then justifies her way of thinking with the
words, "I have not come to this world to tend my kinship
relations. I have come to the earth to serve a great cause; to
fulfil a great calling which I am trying to execute through my
poems.... I hate being a slave and I do not know what words
like peace, harmony and rest mean."
these claims and confessions, Manjit Tiwana says in "Jin
Prem Kiao" "Main rojh wang/Rohian ghumdi han/Shaid
mai koi kahani/kahn lai hi aai han." (I am wandering
aimlessly in the moor like a nilgai. Perhaps I have come to
the world to tell an untold tale.)
In fact this
long poem is an epic on the self, a story of her quest, her
navigation and her drift. She states, "Iwalk for miles
together to quench my thirst which remains unsated and after a
time thorns grow on my body.... my own venom poisons me. And
this is my malediction, my own curse."Her life-long
wandering adds to her restlessness. She realises "all
kinship relations are false. Hunger is a curse that leads to
endless anguish. As I walk along, the distance to the
indistinct destination increases leading to still greater
But she moves
on to meet her Guru Dev like a buck chasing a mirage in the
desert. Then she compares her condition with the wayward
clouds in the sky which may disappear in strong wind. These
straying clouds are also homeless like the poet. She longs to
shower her Guru Dev like rain does so that he may flourish.
But he does not care to respond.
The poet is
growing old fast and she feels tired inside. Now at times she
carps at herself and many derogatory epithets pour out of her.
She leads an "artificial life". She can shed
"crocodile tears". Her smile is equally deceptive.
She feels that there would be nobody around to weep when she
dies. She declares "Panchhian nu kaho/Mere ghar ‘ch
aalna pa lain/Eh chiran ton khali pia hai." (I invite the
birds to weave nests in my home which is lying vacant for
ages.) In such desolation, only "birds" can console.
The poet confesses, "Phaisla karna mere lai/Sabh to vaddi
sirdardi hai/Ise lai sabh gaddian langh gaian? Mai hale vi
station te kharhi/Harek gaddi chon/Aun wale nu labhdi rahindi
han." (Ihave always been indecisive which is why all
trains have passed by and I am still waiting on the platform
for the arrival of somebody.)
At such times
poetry comes to her rescue. She tries to climb the stairs of
words and structures to reach the top where she walks
cautiously along the semantic boundaries. But the one she
waits for never turns up. The impending decay and decline
By and by she
learns to live with herself. She remarks, "Phir hauli
hauli/Jadon mai apne aap nu/khali kita/mai athru/Samundar nu
saump aai/Main haase phul nu de aai/Bol kavita nu de aai/soch
mai aakash nu de aai/Es tarahn panje tatt/Mai panje tattan nu/Morh
loaded off myself I handed over the tears to the ocean, smiles
to flowers, words to poetry and thinking to the sky. Thus
returning all the elements to their sources.)
As a defence
mechanism, she wears an armour of "Om". She says,
"I have veiled myself in ‘Om’. I can hear its echos
from my heart. Only this name is inscribed in every cell of my
body. I don’t need the help of the sun to see it. Words have
lagged far far behind. I have wrapped ‘Om’ around
But her quest
goes on without respite. There is no response from the other
side. The poet gets impatient. She implores, "Tun kadon
bolenga/Mai tan vairaag de akheerle dande te /Khaloti han/Jithe
mai reh rahi han/Ithe sach bolan/Sach sunan di aadat nahi."
(When will you respond?Iam standing on the edge at the top
staircase of angst caused by separation. Where I live the
people are not in the habit of speaking the truth nor of
listening to it.)
complains that he does not at all respond to her prayers. She
states:"My dreams have been waiting for you since ages.
Do pay me a visit, at least to see my condition and to learn
how inexorable times have violently tossed me about like grain
is winnowed. Fate has stabbed every cell of my being from
where thorns have sprouted. What a cursed being I am! ......
You are my other self.... our relation is eternal, beyond
body, beyond shapes, wealth and races..... you are beyond
tradition, religion, language and even time....Ihave nestled
you in my consciousness."
Manjit Tiwana’s alienation comes to an end and she realises
herself within her own self.
The blurb of the book has
something written in English about the poet. The ten lines
carry more than ten howlers. Navyug Publishers have to be very
careful about such things if they want to retain their
Zindagi zaari hai!
Review by Kuldip Kalia
Soul: Silence — a Book on Self-Empowerment compiled by M.M.
Walia. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 64. Price not
the teacher ordered. Then everything was frozen in silence.
Does such silence mean a confession or giving a consent? Is it
more eloquent than words?Does it have a healing impact on
ailments? Whatever you may call it, silence is certainly a
strength and it never betrays.
everything there is a season, a time to keep silence, and a
time to speak. This is what the Bible teaches us. Truly
speaking, most misunderstandings are a byproduct of carelessly
spoken words. So always avoid falsehood, scandalous or
excessive speech. This is good for both society and the
individual as well. At the same time, do not forget that
"silence is synonymous with peace". It is in fact,
the way to achieve"universal happiness and eternal
immemorial, silence has always been used by saints and
philosophers as a mode to "attain communion with the
higher self". Not only this, the access to an "inner
sanctuary" which is hidden from the materialistic world
is made easy. There is also a belief that sages had a gift for
prophecy and bless others, particularly when they become munis
or silent ones. Moreover, the practice of silence does not
mean "merely refraining from speech. The body must be
without motion and the mind has to be serene and furthermore
the heart should be tranquil".
"Energy is wasted in idle talking and gossiping,"
Swami Sivananda warns. So mauna conserves energy. It
develops"will force" and the power of
"endurance". Also helps in observance of truth and
controls anger. The word mauna comprises two syllables
— ma and na. Ma signifies manas
(mind) and na means nalu(no). So it is that
state of mind when this is no mind — in simple words, in
such a situation mind is never disturbed by emotions,
thoughts, desires and feelings. Thus at the stage of
"mindlessness", one can hear the "antaratma"
or the inner voice. That is why silence is considered to be
"as deep as eternity".
(abstention from speech); manomouna (free from mental
activity); karana mouna (keeping external organs like
feet and hands motionless); kasta mouna (abstention
from all the external and internal organs including mind) are
the types of silence mentioned in ancient Hindu scriptures.
There can also be physical and mental silence. Physical
silence restores our body and sense organs whereas the mental
one refreshes our mind.
and concentrated thought, silence is the basic ingredient. It
is the definite factor because it helps to coordinate our
body, mind and faculties to move in rhythm. Moreover one must
keep in mind that the great things are always done silently.
That is why the Mother says, "It is only in silence that
true progress can be made".
question arises: how to practise silence!It can be done in two
ways: through the absence of thought (mental depression,
melancholy and insanity) and through the fullness of thought
(tranquility and strength). Thus through a persistent practice
of "discriminative elimination and concentration"
the mind acquires silence.
silence is a precious commodity so one should learn to
distinguish between the "vital and non-vital, the real
and unreal". Frankly speaking, in silence there is always
strength, wisdom, peace, poise, joy and bliss. In the words of
the Buddha, "Better than a thousand useless words is a
single useful sentence, hearing which one is pacified".
spiritual front, silence is his language, so train yourself in
the language of God. "Silence is at the root of our union
with God and with one another."This is how Mother Teresa
describes the very essence of silence. "Sadhana" is
perhaps the first step towards cleansing of one’s speech.
For Mahatma Gandhi,"Silence is a great help to the seeker
of truth and thus a part of the spiritual discipline of a
votary of truth." That is why control of speech is always
considered the first lesson in the premier of spiritual text.
words is always "good" because it helps one away
from scandal-mongering or anything that leads to other evils.
But the "better" thing is if one could succeed in
"silencing desires and passions" and, above all,
silence from wandering thoughts is the "best" (one
could ever think of or imagine). Anyway "soft and sweet
speech is the expression of genuine love because "hate
screeches, fear squeals, and conceit triumphs".
Buddha rightly said, "A word spoken in wrath is the
It is better
to learn the "vocabulary of love" and unlearn the
"language of hate and contempt". How can we ignore
Sathya Sai Baba when he says, "Words should be used only
to see symmetry, harmony and beauty".
wisdom lies in the deeper theme of life which can in no way be
achieved without silence.
Bernard Shaw, "Silence is the most perfect expression of
scorn".But to Hazlitt, it is "one great art of
But whosoever it may be, he
always keeps the advice of Pythagoras in mind when he says,
"Be silent or let your words be worth more than
silence". Perhaps nothing can be better said than this
Bhagwat in his defence
Review by Rajendra Nath
of the Defence Forces by Vishnu Bhagwat. Manas Publications,
New Delhi. Pages 415. Rs 595
Fernandes, the then Defence Minister, and also the BJP-led
alliance government, came in for a lot of criticism when
Admiral Bhagwat, Chief of Naval Staff was dismissed in 1998.
It was the first time any government had dismissed a chief of
staff. Admiral Bhagwat blamed Fernandes for receiving
kickbacks in defence deals as also for his dismissal. However,
the government did not take much notice of kickbacks in
defence deals. But the recent Tehelka episode, which really
shook the nation and proved the prevalence of kickbacks in
defence deals, has revived to some extent the debate on
Bhagwat has basically written this book to put forward his
point of view before the reading public, in which he has
blamed the government and Fernandes in particular, for
dismissing him even without a court of enquiry. But he has
covered many other aspects dealing with the Navy as well as
the security of the country.
half of the book makes better reading, in which the author
deals with the ethos of the armed forces, the threats to the
country in the Indian Ocean and the kind of navy the country
should have to deal with those threats. Dealing with the ethos
of our armed forces, the author states that the guiding factor
of an officer in the armed forces has been and will remain
"duty, honour and the country".
In spite of
many ups and downs that the republic has faced, the armed
forces have retained their core tenets and values. The history
of our democracy has never been sullied by ugly chapters of
adventurous colonels and Generals trying to wield power in the
name of democracy, the author states with legitimate pride.
since 1991 the country’s defence budget has come down in
real terms. It has declined from 3.4 per cent of GDP in
1989-90 to 2.2 per cent in 1997. Successive weak and
irresolute governments have endangered national security, the
book states. There is a mistaken view that there is a conflict
between national security and economic development; in fact,
the two go hand in hand.
notes with concern the inadeqate pace of defence research and
development. He is critical of the way in which the Defence
Ministry bureaucrats function. According to the author, civil
and not civilian control meant control and accountability to
the Cabinet Minister, the Cabinet, the Parliamentary Committee
and finally to Parliament. It did not mean by any stretch of
imagination the bureaucratic control of the armed forces. This
is reflected in interference in the matters of transfers,
postings and promotions. To support his view, the author
quotes former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh who has stated
"we Ministers move on, it is you bureaucrats who form the
permanent government and know all the tricks of the
writes about the Navy and the threats to the country from the
sea in a thoughtful and logical manner. He states that the
Navy has been a neglected service compared to China, the USA
and even the UK and that it clearly requires a special effort
to make it an effective force.
It was the
perception of most strategic thinkers that the 21st century
would be the "century of the oceans".
him, China has designated the PLA Navy as the first and senior
service, allocating it one-third of the defence budget,
despite an army-dominated leadership. The Chinese had declared
that as a matter of policy, ship-building would be the
springboard to China’s industrial development. China has in
fact overtaken India and is now more than three times ahead of
India in every index of maritime competitiveness.
Bhagwat strongly recommends building of warships and
submarines in out shipyards which are working at less than 50
per cent capacity as ship/submarine building orders provide
stimulus to engineers, designers and research and development
states that very few in India pause to reflect that two-thirds
of the world in covered by oceans, 70 per cent of humanity
lives within 150 miles of the sea and 80 per cent of the world’s
industrial and economic activities are located on sea shores.
The fulcrum of power is situated on the littoral. Therein lies
the importance of the navy to look after India’s long sea
coast, along which industry is developing.
regrets that our high-ranking political leaders have little or
no military background, while in the USA, almost all
Presidents, with the exception of only three have served in
the armed forces or seen actual fighting. They therefore
understand the problems of the armed forces. The foreign
delegations, including the Chinese team at international
negotiations and at UN headquarters, always have military
representatives. But it is not the case with India for reasons
which are not clear. No wonder India loses at the
international negotiating table.
Bhagwat also discusses the sensitive subject of defence
purchases and construction of ships in India. In this
connection, he states that the navy’s plans to build an air
defence ship (ADS) at the Cochin Shipyard were delayed for a
long period as the import lobby wanted to purchase an old
aircraft carrier from Russia. Initially, the price quoted by
the Russiana was $400 million but then middlemen like Admiral
Nanda entered the game, the price of the Russian ship was
raised to $ 700 million. It was a clear case of kickbacks in a
talks of a politician-arms dealer-bureaucratic nexus in the
Ministry of Defence in respect of defence purchases. He has
also accused Farnandes of deliberately turning a Nelson’s
eye to gun running in the Bay of Bengal, where several
shiploads of weapons destined for insurgent groups in Myanmar
and the North-East, were allowed to go through. Conceivably,
some of the weapons may now be used against the Indian Army in
the North-East, the author claims.
the author starts dealing with his bitter quarrels with
Vice-Admiral Harinder Singh, Vice Admiral Sushil Kumar, the
then Defence Minister Fernandes as well as the then Defence
Secretary, Ajit Kumar, the sordid aspects of working of senior
politicians, bureaurocrats and naval officers come to light.
He is critical of General Malik, who was his course-mate and
was then Chief of Army Staff, as Malik opposed him. No wonder
somebody remarked that the only time the three Chiefs of Army
Staff, Navy and Air Force had fully agreed in recent times was
when they decided to allow young girls to join the three
services as officers.
of Admiral Bhagwat was a serious mistake on the part of the
government. I wonder if the government considered its effect
on the morale of the armed forces.
This is an interesting and
well written book which contains useful information regarding
not only the dismissal of Bhagwat but also analyses the
threats to India from sea and the naval strategy that India
should adopt to look after its maritime security.
attempts to make Tibet a pawn
Review by Parshotam Mehra
the Great Game and Tsarist Russia by Tatiana Shaumian. Oxford
University Press. New Delhi. Pages xii plus 223. Rs 545.
through the later half of the 19th century and the opening
decade of the 20th, the "great game" was the subject
of voluminous outpouring from the press and the platform. Of
learned disquisitions and not-so-learned rhetoric and
pamphleteering. And no end of lively, even animated debate.
the "game" concerned the gradual — and not always
so gradual — expansion of Czarist Russia into the vast,
empty spaces of the heart of Asia. Into fabled Samarkand and
Bokhara and Khiva, and on to the shores of the Caspian. Across
the Pamirs, to the frontiers of Great Britain’s much-coveted
and Afghanistan felt the heat and the Raj was unnerved no end.
What Whitehall feared most was that through the soft
underbelly of these hitherto largely inert, sleepy regions,
the Cossacks might creep through, threatening the Raj and all
it stood for.
barricades and mount defences against this seemingly
unstoppable advance, the British employed all their skills. A
good deal of adventure, and spying, was in order. So were
small wars. From the late 1830s to the early 1920s, the
British waged three such wars in Afghanistan alone. Their
principal objective was to install a regime that could stem
the Russian tide and at the same time be amenable to Whitehall’s
Nor was the
Afghan Amir the sole target of the Raj’s attention. Nearer
home, across the Himalayas, the Dalai Lama too attracted
notice. Through the to-ings and fro-ings of the Buryat and
Kalmyk Mongols who were subjects of the great white Czar, and
among the most fervid of the Dalai Lama’s followers, the
Russians may build up in Tibet a danger zone, threatening the
peace and security of Pax Brittanica. Tatiana Shaumian’s
thin volume under review concerns itself largely with this
intriguing if fascinating facet of the "great game".
outlines are easily mapped out. In Lhasa, in 1895 or
thereabouts the young and ambitious 13th Dalai Lama had
attained adulthood after a bitter struggle with an
unscrupulous regent and his cohorts. Among his many advisors,
one close to his person was a Buryat Mongol, Aguan Dorjieff.
As if by
coincidence, the youthful Lord Curzon, barely 40 and fresh
from his laurels as an author of no mean repute and a rising
Tory parliamentarian, became Indian Viceroy (1899). His one
major obsession, both as a student at Oxford and later as an
indefatigable traveller in an around Persia, the Gulf and the
Far East, was Russia. And the danger it posed to Britain’s
Indian empire. His singular ambition was to stem the tide and
keep it as far as he could from India.
Curzon arrived on the Indian scene, there had been some minor
skirmishes with the Tibetans across the Sikkim frontier. A few
boundary pillars had been knocked down and some disputes had
arisen about the border trade. Characteristically, the Viceroy
magnified the incidents, sought out the Dalai Lama and
demanded premptory action.
with a view to forging a closer link between the land of his
birth and that of his spiritual guru, Dorjieff had made a
couple of visits (1899-1900) to the Czar. This was no small
cause for anxiety to Curzon; what deepened his suspicion was
the knowledge that Dorjieff had undertaken these journeys —
undiscovered — through India!
rage, even as the mystery surrounding the Buryat failed to
unravel, the Viceroy was shaken by the unbelievable. On his
doorstep, the Russians were threatening to obtain a toehold in
Tibet; its Dalai Lama willing to buy the Czar’s patronage.
Tibetan ruler proved singularly unresponsive to the Indian
potentate’s repeated overtures for a direct relationship.
Worse, the Dalai Lama was rude and even failed to acknowledge
the Viceroy’s communications. Nor was the Manchu Amban any
help. Not that he was unwilling; he was, to all appearances,
Curzon found himself at his wit’s end. To break this logjam,
he decided on a march to Lhasa under the command of an old
friend and fellow traveller, Francis Younghusband. And in the
bargain, he led a reluctant and stoutly unwilling regime into
a plan of action it had no heart to underwrite.
Tibet, Younghusband’s principal effort was to establish and
convincingly substantiate — the existence of a Russian
conspiracy to overawe the domain of the Dalai Lama, by sap if
not by storm. And make the Tibetan ruler into a Russian
protege, no less.
He was deeply
disenchanted. To his great embarrassment and that of the
overbearing Curzon, the evidence to hand proved to be very
thin. There were no Cossacks hanging around and hardly any
Russian arms or ammunition. Nor any drill sergeants training a
Tibetan army for battle against an assault from without. As a
matter of fact, there was no armed resistance worth the name
and as Younghusband and his men marched into Lhasa, the Dalai
Lama and Dorjieff had made good their escape.
convention (September, 1904) which Younghusband
"negotiated" with the runaway and deposed Dalai Lama’s
regent, concerned itself largely with making Tibet a vague
British protectorate. In ratifying it, however, Whitehall took
the sting out by reducing the stipulated 75-year occupation of
the Chumbi valley to three and withdrawing a proposed British
resident hovering around Lhasa. A couple of years later China
became a party through the Adhesion Agreement (1906) which
largely restored the Amban’s authority. Presently, the
British concluded a deal with the Russians (1907) which in
more ways than one brought the long saga of the great game to
its unceremonious, if also unromantic close. As far as Tibet
was concerned, both the powers agreed to a hands-off policy.
That is where
the major thrust of this brief story tapers off to an end. The
author does however continue the narrative over the next half
a dozen years to comprehend the frustrations of the Dalai Lama’s
first exile (1904-09) with its futile attempts to win Russian
support. And takes note of China’s major assault on ethnic
Tibet’s well-entrenched hold on Khamp, which it now sought
to incorporate into the mainland. Above all, an ill-disguised
attempt to suborn the Dalai Lama and extinguish the authority
of his government.
Sadly for the
reigning Ch’ing rulers, they had bitten more than they could
chew. While happily for Tibet and its ruler, their seething in
discontent, bordering on an open rebellion, synchronised with
the October (1911) revolution in the mainland. In its
aftermath, China came round to accepting the British proposal
for a tripartite, India-China-Tibet conference at Simla to
sort out the problem of regaining a modicum of control in
Lhasa. Where the rebellious Chinese army had beaten an
playing an honest broker between a defiant Dalai Lama
unwilling to compromise and an equally stubborn China refusing
to barter away its theoretical claims to a virtually
non-existent authority, the British were keen to obtain
Russian endorsement for a partial return to a measure of
control in Tibet.
government, even though inching closer to Great Britain in the
then fast looming European contest against imperial Germany
proved singularly unwilling to give its nod of approval on
Tibet until Whitehall agreed to a quid pro quo in Afghanistan.
This was not acceptable to the British rulers who argued that
the concession they sought in Tibet had its counterpart in the
near-control Russia had earlier acquired in Outer Mongolia.
Despite a flurry of intense diplomatic exchanges in London as
well as St Petersburg, the talks remained deadlocked. Nor in
the final count were the British prepared to pick up the
Russian tag, for with China’s stubborn refusal to sign the
Simla convention, Russian adherence to its terms held no major
"central theme", to use the author’s own words, is
that both Russia and China concealed the true motives of their
interest in Tibet: its favourable strategic position in the
heart of central Asia. While it is true that Russia never
contemplated any direct military intervention in Tibet, it
"skilfully and often successfully" exploited the
Tibetan question to exert pressure on Great Britain and
thereby obtain concessions in other regions more germane to
its military-strategic and political interests. And to
substantiate her arguments, Shaumian points to the existence
of a special clause on Tibet in the Anglo-Russian convention
All this is
old hat and as the author would doubtless bear out,
unexceptional. Even a casual glance at any good map — sadly
conspicuous by its absence in this book — would clearly
demonstrate that Russia’s closest strategic interests in
Asia in the 19th century, as indeed in the 21st, were
Afghanistan and Mongolia. Not Tibet.
distinguished Russian historian, Professor Kulesov, whose work
finds a mention in the bibliography, has in a recent article
(not cited) gone much farther than the author in heavily
underlining Russia’s "indifference"to the Tibetan
problem. For while there may be talk of Tibet’s "plans
for Russia", there was no truth in Russia having
"plans for Tibet". And he cites the Russian Foreign
Minister Sazonov telling his British counterpart, Grey, (1904)
that "it does not matter what we do in Tibet, if only it
is done sub rosa".
value of the present work lies in the fact that the author has
thoroughly studied the Russian archives to come up broadly
with the thesis long widely held that Aguan Dorjieff and his
ilk, and their close proximity to the corridors of power in St
Petersburg notwithstanding, the Czarist government refrained
from any direct help, much less encouragement to the Dalai
Lama or his regime. And that neither then nor later did Russia
evince any interest in Tibet of its affairs.
of the Centre for Indian Studies in Moscow, Shaumian published
her doctoral work, "Tibet in International Relations at
the Beginning of the Twentieth Century" way back in 1977.
The present study, a "revised and expanded version"
in English translation, would appear largely to confine itself
to the original in Russian. For despite brave efforts to list
some later titles in the bibliography, there is little
evidence that more recent research and writings on the subject
have been woven into the body of her work.
A brief personal note may be
in order. Long before his work on the expedition to Lhasa —
the "Younghusband Expedition, an Interpretation"
(1968) — this reviewer published a short piece, "Tibet
and Russian Intrigue" in the Royal Central Asian Journal
(1958). Combined with his later writings on the McMahon Line
(1947), Tibetan polity (1976) and the Ladakh frontier (1993),
it provoked a lively debate and kept up heightened interest in
the subject. This slim volume only serves to underline how
very relevant the subject is even today for any meaningful
understanding of Tibet’s place in the heart of central Asia.
An orator’s sad
Review by V.
speaking, post-graduate teaching in Indian universities
suffers from a serious neglect of European history. In the
pre-independence period, some provision for the teaching of
European and British history was made but we are now so much
swayed by local, regional and national interests that we tend
to ignore the study of history other than Indian.
for the benefit of our students the courses of study taught to
them for the purpose of examination have to be limited in
scope and narrow in range because of the limited time
available. While preparing the courses of study, priorities
and choices have to be made. However, these constraints in no
way justify the elimination of European studies.
neither local, nor regional, nor national. It is universal. It
is the study of mankind, a story of the rise and fall of
civilisations and a convincing account of the steps and slips
of man, in his advancement and progress in different spheres
of human activity. And in this onward march of our
achievement, the Greco-Roman civilisation recorded a
substantial achievement. It laid the foundation of European
religion, science and literature.
hardly a human activity in which the Greeks and the Romans did
not achieve excellence. They still enjoy the reputation of
having produced great poets, dramatists, philosophers and
orators. Oratory was acknowledged as an admirable art which
was assiduously cultivated by the elite. Demosthenese and
Cicero are rated among the greatest of orators. Cicero said,
"Oratory is a song and its power is incalculable. Its
object is to persuade and sway the public by the magic of
words in the realisation of truth." The book under review
is "Cicero: A turbulant life" by Anthony Everitt
(John Murry, pages, 344, £ 22.50).
Tullius Cicero was the most famous writer and orator of his
day. Born in 106 BC at Arpinam, he studied philosophy, law,
Greek literature and acquired military knowledge. His father
enjoyed the patronage of some public men from whom he derived
financial benefits. Cicero became a pleader at 25 and visited
Greece in 79 BC, conversed with the philosophers of various
schools and profited by the instruction of the masters of
oratory. At Rhodes he met some of the distinguished orators
and cultivated the art of oratory with devotion by example and
practice. He believed in the power of words, which he used
provides a detailed account of the principal events in Cicero’s
life. It is divided into two parts. In the first there is a
meteoric rise, but in the latter, there is a fall which
arouses our sympathy. Plutarch, the best biographer of the
ancient world, distinguished between history concerned with
the narration of events and biography concerned with the
portrayal of characters. Regrettably, Everitt is more
concerned with events rather than with biography to analyse
his character. But this is not to deny the narrative skill and
sweep of the author. Everitt does not examine Cicero’s style
of oratory or its effect and the many influences which worked
On his return
to Rome Cicero’s eloquence proved the values of his Grecian
institutions. He became a distinguished and admired orator of
the day. In 76 BC he was appointed Questor of Sicily
and behaved with such condour and ensured fairplay that
Sicilians gratefully remembered him and requested that he
conduct the suit against their Governor Verres who was
regarded as a robber fleecing the state by his avarice and
As a result
of Cicero’s powerful oratory which produced great effect,
Verres was forced to retire into exile. Due to his growing
reputation, Cicero was appointed eventually as a Consel in 63
BC. After defeating the sinister conspiracy of Catiline who
had strong political support, he received the greatest honours
and was hailed as the protector of the state and the father of
the country. His life had reached the climax of power and soon
went on to decline.
Everitt, Catilinian conspirators were executed without being
sentenced by a court and Cicero as chief magistrate was held
responsible for the irregularity. There was a strong public
outcry against him, and he was obliged to go into exile.
Cicero did not lose his equipoise and used profitably this
period of isolation for enhancing his literary powers by
extensive reading and reflection. On the fall of the Claudious
faction, he was recalled to Rome in 52 BC and became proconsul
of Cilicin province which he administered with great skill.
termination of his office as proconsul, Cicero returned to
Rome in 49 BC which was threatened with disturbances between
Caesar and Pampey. There was a power struggle between the
rivals which was threatening a civil war. Cicero tried to
bring about a compromise between the rivals but in vain. The
author maintains that it was a naive move and totally
unrealistic. Cicero was a moderate, well-meaning man of mild
disposition, whose ideal was to bring about a harmonious
relationship between the rich and the poor.
expounded the cause of Pampey but after the battle of
Pharsalia he made peace with Caesar with whom he continued to
be friendly. A unique opportunity came his way when he was
invited to join Pampey, Caeser and Cassius in running the
country. But he felt that he was too conservative to take up
the offer. Caesar treated him kindly until his assassination
in 44 BC.
took Caesar’s place and Cicero composed admirable orations
against him which he delivered in 43 BC. His implacable hatred
for Antony induced him to support Octavian (later Emperor
Augustus) who entertained very friendly feelings for him.
Octavian formed later an alliance with Antony but was unable
to rescue Cicero from Antony’s fury. Antony wanted Cicero to
be arrested. In endeavouring to escape when the news of his
arrest arrived, he was overtaken and murdered by a group of
soldiers. His throat was slit, and his hands and head were
publicly exhibited in the Forum in Rome. Cicero died when he
was 64 with a copy of Eurpides’ "Medes" in his
hand. It was in 43 BC.
behind numerous philosophical treatises. Endowed with
remarkable histrionic talents, his love of mockery ran into
scurrilous images with telling gestures and facetious remarks.
When Octavian Ramulus said while Cicero was pleading that he
could not hear him, Cicero thundered, "Yes, there are
holes in your ears". Cicero desired his friends to call
him not an orator but a philosopher because he made philosophy
his business, and had only used rhetoric as an instrument of
promoting his objective. Cicero wrote a treatise on law in
which he laboured to strees the wisdom and justice of the
Roman Constitution. According to him, the whole universe
formed an immense commonwealth, and men who participated in
the same are members of the same community.
mentions that from these philosophical works, Cicero excluded
the sceptics who refuse to believe and the epicures who are
unwilling to accept. Cicero had great admiration for Plato and
Aristotle because he thought that they were the only teachers
who arm and instruct a citizen for social life.
emphasises that it is from Cicero that the Romans derived the
love of paradox, the habit of disputation and attachment to
words and verbal distinctions. The superiority of form to
matter was set in the narrative, which was later strongly
criticised by John Stuart Mill.
Cicero still remains one of
the most admired of ancient writers for the purity and
elegance of his style and is acknowledged as a first rank
Roman classicists. Everitt has projected his own predilections
in the text by his excessive concern with the major events
that figure in Cicero’s life. This is not to deny the many
insights in the pages of this scholarly work.
Review by Harbans Singh
Singh’s Book of Unforgettable Women compiled and edited by
Mala Dayal. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 298. Rs 250.
since Khushwant Singh guided the weekly magazine Illustrated
Weekly of India to phenomenal popularity, he has
cultivated an image of himself of a man best illustrated by
Ravi Shankar on the cover of this book. In fact he was sure
that success would forever be his consort if he projected
himself as a fun-loving Sardar, who had a dirty mind, but in
whose company, with the approval of his wife, girls were safe.
His publishers have assiduously worked to consolidate that
image. The present collection is an extension of the same
exercise even though the book begins on a serious note with
two sensitive portraits and a genuine desire to understand
women of India in general.
The cover of
the book claims that Khushwant Singh is an irreverent author
and he claims that "it is women who have sought my
company more than I have sought theirs". The present
collection gives us a good opportunity not only to know his
unforgettable women, and why they are drawn to him but also to
recognise and critically examine the person on whose one end
of the spectrum stands an old woman whose death is mourned by
hundreds, Mother Teresa, and on the other, lustful and sexual
Sarojini and Molly Gomes.
there are three women who hardly seem to fit in book’s
theme. Two of them are very old grandmother and saintly Mother
Teresa. But it is amusing that the third is his wife Kaval
Malik and she has been treated with a liberal dose of
antiseptic spray in sharp contrast to the manner in which
other women have been scanned and stripped. With the others he
has been the archetypal Indian male, ready to violate their
dignity and privacy, and use them as an excuse to indulge in
sufferers at his hands are Amrita Sher-Gil and Phoolan Devi.
There is little doubt that Amrita Sher-Gil lived a complex
life and could, therefore, be an unforgettable woman even if
she were not such a good artist. Khushwant Singh knew her
because he had the good fortune of being called on by her,
though all that she wanted to know from him as a neighbour was
about the dhobi and other domestic help while living in
Lahore. The other time they met was in Mashobra where she said
something unbecoming and which justifiably angered his wife,
provoking her to say equally harsh things. The result, we are
told, was that she threatened to seduce Khushwant Singh, which
he eagerly, but in vain, waited for.
Much of what
he has written about Amrita is gathered from secondary and
third sources much after the artist had died, which hardly
makes him qualified for the kind of portrait he has drawn. One
must credit him for weaving a credible story even if it is not
in good taste.
He has done a
more professional work on Phoolan Devi going to her places of
action and getting her version of the various persons in her
wife. However, a serious student would not fail to notice that
the making of a dacoit has hardly anything to do with the
unequal social system, if one were to go by the portrait. He
has taken considerable pains to trace the evolution of not a
nymphomaniac but a "slut", who is brutalised by
being sexually abused. Little regard is paid to the fact that
the headman’s son can use her at will, but on realising that
she has been with a person of low caste, thrashes her publicly
with shoes! It would not be too impertinent to suggest that
since a discourse on socio-economic factors in poor
countryside does not make a saleable reading, the author opted
for the lewd and the luscivious to explain away Phoolan
Sadia Dehlavi and Kamna stand apart. Urbane and apparently
with little to worry about, they are the kind of persons any
male would want them around, especially if they are smart
enough to have won the approval of the lady of the house. Only
Khushwant Singh could find virtue in the character of a
"grass-hopper" (Sadia) or Anees who successfully
masqueraded as, to use late Giani Zail Singh’s
understandably awed description, "bada gharana" but
who for all intent and purpose emerges as little better than a
career pusher. Kamna Prasad who is not in that class of Delhi,
is a riddle for she does little but give social company to the
Martha Stack, Molly Gomes and Sarojini are exercises in sexual
fantasising, though it must be said that Stack is a cut above
the rest. In fact these characters read along with some others
make interesting reading when juxtaposed with "Sex in
Indian Life". Bindo, a village girl, Dhanno, a
sweeper woman, Nooran of "Train to Pakistan", Molly
Gomes, Sarojini and the newly wed Mrs Saxena, who becomes so
much the object of the author’s ridicule, have one thing in
common. They are all characters who are driven by elemental
desire, most submit to it readily, some like Bindo
unwittingly, and still others like Dhanno, it is just another
day at work but which brings a few perks along with momentary
alongwith Jennifer of "The Sardarji and the Starlet"
throw more light on the personality of the person who is
the protagonist of this mixed bag of fact and fiction. The
Sardarji, like the hero of "She Stoops to Conquer",
is too intent on impressing Jennifer with his extremely
cultured bearing. But it is equally possible that he is too
insecure, or is assailed by self-doubt at the critical moment,
and therefore does not have the confidence to make a timely
move. It is only appropriate that his simple guest responds to
his urging and takes her away from right under his nose.
inadequacy is again reflected in the character of Gullo
Bannerjee. It takes him years to come to terms and that too
when Martha is drained of all initiative, aggression and
passion. Mohan Kumar again is a creature of the platonic
world, who has to be literally taken to bed by Yasmeen.
male characters are to be read along with the author’s views
on love and sex in "Sex in Indian Life". The
total submission to carnal desire, unmindful of the
surroundings is difficult to appreciate in a couple like Prof
and Mrs Saxena, one must concede, but one must understand the
fact that this is happening in a subcontinent where Manto
wrote that very sensitive story "Nangi Awazein" (The
Naked Voices), where the hero is unable to consummate his
marriage because he is too aware of the people around him! A
Sigmund Freud could dig more about of the author from these
characters than what all his autobiographies tell!
However, what is amazing is
that apart from his grandmother, Mother Teresa and the
glacially impersonal Kawal Malik, there is hardly any woman of
substance in his life. It is a pity indeed that in such a long
and distinguished career, with more successful
diversifications than any living person has had, the women in
his life have been either decoration pieces or objects of
lustful thoughts, or characters to be revered.
can make life beautiful
with Morrie, an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest
lesson by Mitch Albom. Doubleday, New York, London, Toronto,
Sydney and Auckland. Pages 192. $ 6.99
many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem
half-asleep, even when they’re doing things they think are
important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things.
The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself
to loving others, devote yourself to your community around
you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you
purpose and meaning."
This quote of
Morrie Schwartz rather aptly sums up the situation we find
ourselves in all too often. "Tuesdays with Morrie"
is a fine book. It is a part of the final lesson taught by
Morrie Schwartz, an old professor of social psychology, to a
student who is no longer a pupil in the technical sense of the
term, but will always remain a favourite apprentice to the man
who shaped his academic life 20 long years ago.
Now the young
man is a successful journalist, has been voted America’s No
1 sports columnist 10 times by the Associated Press Sports
Editors, and has written best sellers, "Bo," about
Bo Jackson, the American football and baseball star, and
"Fab Five", about a University of Michigan
He runs his
life and schedules with computer-like precision and has all
the trappings of such a life — gizmos, lack of time, rushing
from one place to another, multi-tasking (the practice of
human beings named for the computer term describing a machine’s
ability to run several programmes at once), everything that
makes him lose touch with all that gives meaning to life.
sees his former teacher on television and finds out that he is
dying and this makes him pause. Morrie Schwartz is suffering
from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, (ALS), a brutal,
neurological illness. Albom makes an impulsive decision to
meet his former teacher and connect with him. This begins the
story of lessons that will last far longer and have a far
greater impact than all the academic lessons taught by
Schwartz and attended by the likes of Albom.
had always been taken with simple pleasure, singing, laughing,
dancing. Now, more than ever, material things held little or
no significance. When people die, you always hear the
expression ‘You can’t take it with you,’ Morrie seemed
to know that a long time ago.
got a form of brainwashing going on in our country,"
Morrie sighed. "Do you know how they brainwash people?
They repeat something over and over. And that’s what we do
in this country. Owning thing is good. More money is good.
More property is good. More commercialism is good. More is
good. More is good. We repeat it and have it repeated to us
over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise.
The average person is so flogged up by all this, he has no
perspective on what’s really important anymore.
I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something
new. Gobble up a new car. Gobble up a new piece of property.
Gobble up the latest toy. And then they wanted to tell you
about it. ‘Guess what I got? Guess what I got?’
know how I always interpreted that? These were people so
hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They
were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug
back. But it never works. You can’t substitute material
things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a
sense of comradeship.
is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a
substitute for tenderness. I can tell you, as I’m sitting
here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power
will give you the feeling you’re looking for, no matter how
much of them you have."
glanced around Morrie Schwartz’s study. It was the same
today as it had been the first day he arrived. The books held
their same places on the shelves. The papers cluttered the
same old desk. The outside rooms had not been improved or
this sound familiar? The above-mentioned quote is from
"Tuesdays with Morris, an old man, a young man, and life’s
greatest lesson" by Mitch Albom. Simply written, the book
explores the relationship between a teacher and the taught, of
how teaching can extend far beyond the confines of an academic
imported the American crass materialism without the work ethic
that makes it possible for people in America have what they
want? In India, a liberalisation seems to be bringing in. A
kind of terrible laissez faire; everything goes provided you
can get away with it. Do any of us ever think of the kind of
toll of our personal and consequently our general social fibre?
in marriages becoming something we not only just read but
increasingly feel through the experiences of our friends and
members of our social circles, Morrie Schwartze’s rule about
love and marriage makes a lot of sense: "If you don’t
respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of
trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna
have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what
goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And
if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re
gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.
biggest one of those values, Mitch?"
belief in the importance of your marriage."
We all assume
the roles of students and teachers at different times in our
lives. For equipping ourselves with a kind of a handbook to
deal with the exigencies that arise when we seek to take up
these roles, one would definitely recommend Tuesdays with
Morrie", and since Prof Morrie Schwartz is no more, his
conversation with his pupil would be one American experience
that would enrich lives globally. As the Professor says,
"Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to
believe what you feel. And if you are going to have other
people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too
— even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re
Correct fundamentals are the
basic building blocks of a good life. Morrie Schwartz has the
knack of breaking down life’s complexities into fundamental
truths. And Mitch Albom knows how to pen them down in the