of yesterday and today
Review by Bhupinder Singh
Ghalib Selected, Translated and Introduced by Ralph Russell
Roli Books, New Delhi. Pages 192. Rs 295.
Russell came to India as a British soldier during World War II
and went on to join the Department of Oriental Studies at
Cambridge. His previous works over the years, mostly written
along with Khursidul Islam, have made him known as an
authority on Urdu literature, especially on Mirza Ghalib.
that, "If his (Ghalib’s) language had been English, he
would have been recognised all over the world as a great poet
long ago. My translations are an attempt to present some of
his poetry in English so that English speakers may be able to
judge the work for themselves." However, the book caters
well even to those already familiar with the poetry of Ghalib,
this is so both in the selection and translations of the
poetry and in the accompanying essays.
and ghazals translated into English are followed by the
original in Urdu and the transliterated versions in the Roman
and Devnagari scripts. An essay on "Getting to know
Ghalib’" serves as an insightful introduction to Ghalib,
his poetry and the milieu that it grew on. Another essay
"On Translating Ghalib" brings forth the problems
and techniques of translating from Urdu to English. These
essays help to supplement and explain the translations. They
weave together the translated sheyrs into a cohesive
translations are marked by a stress on the literal meaning of
the sheyrs, though there are some sheyrs and ghazals
where the translator has tried to practically recreate both
the meaning and form in English. This is not a mean
achievement and as compared to the other two significant
translations (one by Qurrat-ul- ain Haider and another edited
by Aijaz Ahmed), Russel has attempted -and achieved- much
more. One hopes that it will encourage the reader to read the
over and above his predecessors as well as contemporaries, he
rarely whimpers. He is a lively, even a gregarious character.
For a long time and especially till the age of 25, Ghalib
refused to consider any criticism of his poetry. Consider the
bhi vuh azada o khud-bin hain ki ham
Ulte phir ae
dar I kaba agar va na hua.
(We serve You,
yet our independent self regard is such
we shall at
once turn back if we would find the Kaba closed)
assertion of the self was to reach its crescendo in Iqbal
(with the development of the concept of khudi) and
still later metamorphosed into the collective individual in
the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz:
Jo main bhi
hoon, aur tum bhi ho
creations of the Lord, which is you and me, Shall rule the
selection rightly brings forth this aspect of Ghalib’s
poetry. One cannot stress this enough as the traditional
ghazal form does not facilitate presentation of the poet’s
world- view in a systematic form. Each sheyr is a complete
poem in itself, and it is not necessary for a ghazal to
express the same mood in all the sheyrs- in that sense it can
be said that the form tends to dominate the content. The
exposition is, therefore, disparate and scattered in sheyrs
across different ghazals. One has to wade through to pick and
choose and then reconstruct- a difficult and onerous task.
Ghalib requires that one understands not only the literal
meaning of a verse, but also the allusions in them. Ghalib
wrote from within the Muslim tradition and it is therefore
necessary to understand that tradition, the religious
concepts, references to aspects of the Muslim way of life and
so on. Russell explains some of these and illustrates the
usage in some sheyrs.
himself, however was hardly a "good" Muslim. For
one, he drank wine, as is famously known. He did not keep
fasts or say his prayers or go on pilgrimage. In this he
follows other Urdu poets who stand on the verge of
transgression or beyond. For instance, Mir had said:
deen-o-mazhab ko, ab poochtey kya ho, unney toh
khaincha, dair main baitha, kab ka tark islam kiya
(Do not ask
what Mir’s religion is, he has Put on the sacred mark on the
forehead (tilak), sits in the idol house, and has given up
much that ridiculed and often put to serious cross-examination
many of the religious and Islamic concepts. One of his
somewhat cryptic posers is:
na tha kuch,
toh khuda tha, na hoga kuch toh khuda hoga
hooney ney, na hota main, toh kya hota?
was, then God was there; had nothing been, God would have
been, My being has defeated me, had I not been what would have
references to idol worship and Hinduism in Ghalib’s poetry,
Russell observes that Hinduism was the nearest religion
outside Islam known to Ghalib. He points out that the
practices of Hinduism afford a vivid symbol of the worship of
God through the worship of beauty. "The idol is the
symbol of the irresistibly beautiful mistress you ‘idolise’
and adore... All these concepts make ‘Hinduism’- that is,
Hinduism as a symbol rather than actual Hinduism- the
expression of one of the mystics’ key beliefs."
aware that the milieu in which he grew up was in its twilight
and was being replaced by a more advanced civilisation. At the
same time, he saw the emerging world from the framework of
"medieval ways of thought and shared many of the
attitudes of his eighteenth century predecessors in
poetry." Hence, the conflicting pulls in the following
roke hai, jo khainche hai mujhe kufr
peeche hai, kalisa merey aagey
restrains me while the lure of unbelief attracts me, That way,
the Kaaba, and this way, the Church before my eyes)
It was the
spirit of transgression, of crossing the accepted norms of
society that excited Ghalib. "If you are to experience
life to the full, you must not confine yourself to actions
approved by the virtuous," remarks Russell. This recalls
to mind a Punjabi Sufi couplet:
Jo had tapey
so auliya, behad tapey so pir
Jo had, behad
dono tapey, us noon aakhan fakir
(The one who
crosses all boundaries attains the exalted title Auliya, the
one who crosses non- boundaries becomes the pir, The one who
crosses both boundaries as well as non- boundaries, becomes a
of course, prided himself on being a fakir. He remarked:
fakeeron ka hum bheys ghalib,
the garb of a fakir, Ghalib I watch the goings on of the world
with a detached air)
points out that Urdu poetry, unlike poetry written in English,
is meant to be primarily recited and not read. "It is
significant that in Urdu idiom, you don’t write verse; you
say verse; and the poet who ‘says’ it presents it to his
audience by reciting it to them. Only later does it appear in
print... Clearly, poets who compose in this tradition need
qualities which those who compose for a tradition of written
transmission do not need at all...."
mushaira is a long- drawn out affair and the poet’s main
enemy is monotony. If they are to participate effectively in a
mushaira, which will perhaps last for hours together, they
cannot hope to do so without resort to variety. The audience
knows as soon as the first couplet has been recited what the
metre and the rhyme scheme are. Unless the ghazal is one of
quite exceptional force, uniformity of tone and emotional
pitch are likely to pall."
selection has a number of sheyrs from what is
considered to be one of the finest ghazals that Ghalib wrote
in Urdu and whose matla is:
hai yaar ko mehmaan kiye hue
se bazm chiraaghaan kiye hue
translated this as: (An age has passed since I last brought my
loved one to my house Lighting the whole assembly with the
wine- cup’s radiance)."
only have appreciated if the author had included the ibtidaayi
(first) ghazal of Diwan-i-Ghalib. It provides the poet’s
own introduction to his diwan, despite it being a little
complicated for a beginner:
fariyaadee hai kiskee shokhee-e-tehreer ka
pairhan har paikar-e-tasveer ka
Jafri wrote that visionary is the one who sees and speaks to
the future. It is to this exalted group of remarkable men that
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib belonged.
In his own
time, he had rued: "Today none buys my verse’s wine,
that it may grow old To make the senses reel in many a drinker
yet to come My star rose highest in the firmament before my
birth My poetry will win the world’s acclaim when I am gone
Urdu poetry, Kaifi Azmi once
remarked in an interview, will keep the Urdu language alive.
In the past one-decade or so interest in Ghalib’s poetry has
seen something of a revival with the increasing presence of
audio and visual mediums in addition to print. While the TV
serial "Mirza Ghalib" and the rendering of his
poetry by a variety of singers have increased the reach of his
poetry, one still has to turn to the written word to drink
deep and not merely taste the Pierian Spring. This is clearly
illustrated by the book under review — a masterly
introduction to the Urdu language’s greatest poet.
is Nirmal Verma?
Review by Satyapal Sehgal
is Nirmal Verma? The question may well be asked, though Nirmal
Verma has won the well-known Gyanpith award jointly with
Punjabi novelist Gurdial Singh in 1999. The reasons to pose
this question here can be very simple like ignorance of
educated Indians even about our celebrated writers in Indian
languages. These can be a little complex. What does Nirmal
Verma write about? What is his real identity as a writer? One
which mesmerises readers while painting existential crises
which post-independence Indian middle-class youth faces? And
with a rare intensity, integrity and humanness, with
extraordinary richness, artistically speaking. Or one which
has been deeply influenced by the literature, art, music and
philosophies of the West, thus bringing to Hindi literary
writing a unique content and literary style with a touch of
western predicament. Or, one which in his recent writings show
excessive indulgence in and adulation for tradition,
patriotism and for an India which he calls a dream (Bharat ek
Swapana’"in "Aadi Ant Aur Aarambh"). More
who in early days of literary career was considered
sympathetic to Marxist ideals, is on record supporting the
present ruling dispensation at the Centre! Who is Nirmal Verma?
Isn’t it a valid question, then?
critics, he has always been an enigma. They could not but
praise him for his exceptional art of story-telling. But his
obsession with certain themes, particularly alienation, could
not find much favour with them. Hindi literary criticism has a
legacy of being demanding – demanding that writers should
bring social and cultural issues to the fore. And the diehard
conservatives had much to poke fun at him, that he was
westernised, that his fiction encouraged immorality, that he
was this and he was that. And lo and behold, the same Nirmal
Verma is being seen as a neo-conservative, neo-Hindu,
neo-mystic and what not!
many among them are left to view Nirmal Verma’s new avtaar.
Some of them have since retired from teaching Hindi (their
main reason to pursue literary criticism), others have left
this world.. Not surprisingly, to a present day hardcore
Marxist, he is a reactionary at his best!
Who is Nirmal
Verma? And what is he writing these days, at the age of 70
Born in 1929
at Shimla, and dormant literarily for quite some time – his
last novel "Raat ka Reporter" was published in 1989
and his last collection of short-stories, "Sukha Tatha
Anya Kahaniyan" in 1995 (the earlier collection came 12
years back in 1983) – Verma has now taken up, perhaps one of
his most ambitious projects, a novel on the topic of the
death, spread over almost 300 pages. In fact, "Antim
Aaranya" (The last forest – RajKamal, Delhi, 2000) is
about many more things and invites repeated readings. Still,
the story-line revolves chiefly around an old man approaching
death, his dead wife, and the narrator in the novel appear
both as an observer of events and a scared person himself, of
death, looming large in distant future (he introduces himself
in the novel as a middle-aged person).
prominent characters in the novel are either old people or
middle-aged individuals, entering into that zone of human
existence where a sense of futility slowly creeps into one’s
life. And old answers wither away like old leaves!
withering away! Perhaps, this would be the mode of expression
Nirmal Verma would like to be used to understand him as a
writer. Really? The creative writer in him does not fashion
answers or, for that matter, questions, in such a linear
fashion. It is always a little hazy, a mist wrapping it, an
ambiguity entrenching itself into the language it chooses to
convey itself. His readers like it, are in awe of him
precisely for that. In fact, It is his strategy. A strategy to
believe, to having the ability to recognising life – life
which does not give easy access, so difficult to comprehend?
Somewhere between his lines, he would murmur that it is the
way out, suggested by one and only literature.
accomplished writers, Nirmal Verma too broods over the
literariness of literature. It is another of his strategies. A
strategy which rationalises the need of literature,
establishes its exclusiveness from and importance over other
means of cognisance which make sense of realty and beyond.
Talking in a lighter vein, writers like him are ambassadors of
goodwill for literature in this highly unliterary world. But
this strategy is explicitly ideological. For good, Nirmal
Verma does not have a habit of getting polemical, but his
positions on literariness in literature and the objectives of
literary writing show limitations. He fails to appreciate the
literary endeavour which aims at changing the face of human
reality physically and the social forces which create this
new collection of essays and lectures "Aadi Ant Aur
Aarambh" (Rajkamal, 2001) has a complete section in it,
titled "Kathya ki Khoj’, having his favourite themes
like "Kala ka Satya", (The Truth of Art), Needless
to say, as suggested earlier, his comments on literature, in
essence, propagating its a-historicity and autonomy have got
stiffer and have been increasingly on the Right with time.
Notwithstanding the repetitiveness of the main rationale of
his intellectual moorings, there is still a touch of magic
soaking in freshness. And this freshness is what characterises
his new writings in a positive manner. This is how he earns
his relevance. He has been successful in defeating the
senility. Kudos to him!
"Antim Aaranya". The novel is a significant addition
to Nirmal Verma’s works as it has his imprint on it, of his
new preoccupations with spiritualism and Hindu tradition. The
central character in the novel, his body decaying, day by day
and the past overpowering him, disintegrating him. It is the
guilt. Finally, this former powerful bureaucrat finds
something to bow before – Taradevi (the story has as its
location an unnamed hill town). Then comes death. Then the
last rites to lay his soul in rest. There is something moving
about it all, one has to confess. But a critique of a literary
creation cannot end like that. More pertinent queries would
follow before one can map its worth. That is how adulation and
positive criticism of Nirmal Verma should qualify itself. It
is the art of writing novel, with an underpinning of heart
element (rather than mind), the "truth" of
loneliness of all citizens of this "global village"
which becomes hallmark of the novel. But as he would have to
consider, all acts of creation are open to ideological
scrutiny, howsoever painful one’s experiences with such a
scrutiny and the shabbiness too.
The need for
this become ever more stronger, as we go through his essays in
"Aadi Ant Aur Aarambh" or in other books published
in recent years, like ‘"Bharat aur Europe", "Pratishruti
ke Kshetra" (RajKamal) "Doosre Shabdon Main" (Gyanpith,
Delhi) and "Patthar aur Behata Paani" (edited by
Nand Kishore Aacharya, Vagdevi, Bikaner). The predominance in
these essays of the schizophrenic crises which western
colonisation, the western civilisation (to some modernity) has
created is quite valid. Nirmal Verma who lived in and
travelled through Europe for more than two decades and may
well be called the first and only writer in Hindi who knew and
understood the West, has obviously lived through crises. If he
concludes that Indians should get back to their own "mode
of existence", that may be of help in regaining the
"lost self". But the challenges the modernity throws
up may not all be settled just by that exercise. For example,
the Indian tradition he talks about! Ask a dalit about his
Indian tradition! Dalits constitute one third of us. For that
matter, ask a enlightened woman. Similarly, look at the space
modernity creates for the "individual". And the way
modern science has done away with many a mysteries! And who
gets benefited politically when one beats the drum too much
about tradition. Nirmal Verma’s anguish has a point when he
feels sick of all the noise made about the political analysis
of a piece of literature as these analyses often prove to be
two-edged weapons, at times, used by an ignorant or an
this, politics is a life and death issue, more to the innocent
and the weak. It also concerns human progress. And humanity
Nirmal Verma? No problem for him. He has listened to a lot of
stuff like this and he does not feel bitter. Read him and you
And this lecturing is being
deliberately ended with the same question which I had posed at
the beginning of this review – who is Nirmal Verma? Do you
know Nirmal Verma? Ah! he might well say, "Writing is not
Greer still Germane?
Review by Deepika Gurdev
Woman by Germaine Greer. Anchor, London. Pages 452. £ 7.99.
GREER is angry again. One of feminism’s fiercer proponents
was in Singapore last week to speak at the Singapore
Advertising Lecture 2001 about the "The Gendered
Consumer" or the manipulation of woman as a consumer by
the strong forces of marketing. And her anger showed.
the lecture peppered with quotable quotes, Professor Greer
began: "The moment the gendered consumer walks into the
shopping mall she’s bathed in soft light, sweet music,
scented air and people who are very concerned for her. This
kind of marketing has the grammar of seduction that offers her
all kinds of consolation."
only is a woman expected to acquire something every time she
sticks her nose out of the door, she’s often lured into
acquiring things that have absolutely no value." So the
inevitable question then is, why does she do it? Now take this
with or without a pinch of salt from the brazen feminist who
has worn "Dramatically Different" moisturiser for
the past 30 years of her life. "The thing is, women want
to be loved….it has to do with depression, self-loathing,
loneliness and self-doubt."
And for those
aspiring twig thin Kate Moss’ in the making here’s
absolutely encouraging news. "The reason why Kate Moss is
paid billions is because nobody looks as good in those
clothes." Looking like supermodels as we all know is not
the norm but Greer puts it even more bluntly they are
"extraordinary genetic freaks". That sure helped
several women with the nine course dinner that ensued as they
no longer had to worry about the circumference of their thighs
or the semi-precious inches they would be adding on their
wondering why men make better cooks than women (this
incidentally was an audience question), Professor Greer shed
some light into the blinding logic of it all. When men cook
they make a show out it, they hunt for the smallest little
ingredient to perfect that delectable dish that the entire
world by now knows they are dishing out and they "never
clean up" the messy trails they leave behind. Women, on
the other hand, Greer concluded, contend with having to put
food on the table, keep the refrigerator stocked and ensure
the tiniest ingredient appears rather magically while the chef’s
work is in progress.
It was all
this and more that set me on a discovery of Professor Germaine
Greer — "the fearless" as she was dubbed on one of
the television shows she was interviewed on. Of course, I was
to discover much later that the fearless, fiery proponent was
a wee bit scared of spiders, an aside that came through the
impromptu book signing session. My first possession of an
autographed author book which I believe would have auction
value if feminism’s push comes to shove.
started off on the signed version of "The Whole
Woman", I did a bit of back tracking to figure out the
who the real Greer is. Surprise, surprise the huge industry de
Greer offered varied versions all of which sounded like
subjective versions of the woman herself. If you have visions
of a man-bashing witless, soulless writer and speaker, forget
it. Here she is brimming with confidence, wit and oodles of
humour and she actually seems to like men.
Hailed as a
feminist icon, she shot to fame with the 1970 book "The
Female Eunuch", which dramatically altered the lives of
women in the flower power era. "The Female Eunuch’s"
predominant message was that sexual repression of women
devitalises them (hence the "eunuch") and cuts them
off from the dynamic, creative "energy" they need in
order to summon the will to achieve independence, excellence
and full selfhood. Sexual liberation, Greer proclaimed, in the
70’s era was the path to fulfillment.
At 50, Greer
published a memoir about her father "Daddy". Greer,
had always been a rebellious if bright student who went on to
become an intellectual celebrity who renounced the church,
advocated rampant sexual freedom for women, trashed marriage
and the family and fulminated against the imposition of
western values on indigenous peasant cultures throughout the
Germaine Greer is one of those individuals to whom the
ordinary rules of good conduct just don’t apply. Her
charisma is powerful, her looks winning, her confidence
brimming. This confidence and charm though, only imperfectly
protects Greer’s latest opus, "The Whole Woman"
that has been trumpeted as her follow-up to "The Female
The book like
Greer has been creating its share of controversies wherever it
is being read. There are those who are absolutely perturbed by
Greer’s disorganised, self-contradictory diatribe and
disgusted by her positions on such issues as female
circumcision and pap smears. Members of the media, who once
found Greer’s long legs, bawdy braggadocio and paeans to
group sex irresistible (Life dubbed her a "saucy feminist
that even men like"), are crestfallen to learn that she
has recanted the doctrine of free love and now condemns all
men as "brutal, lazy sperm factories incapable of
offering women emotional or sexual satisfaction."
liberationist who once scolded women for not stepping up and
slipping up on professional opportunities offered to them, now
moans about weekly food shopping at the supermarket, which she
describes as "exhausting".
Part of Greer’s
current cynicism stems from the fact that she truly believed
the theories she propogated in her earlier works. In "The
Whole Woman" she writes, "We were sold sexual
"freedom" and "the lie of the sexual
revolution," forgetting rather conveniently that she was
one of its main proponents. And if you continue reading the
book, you realise that Greer switches from the stance of
talking about womanhood in general to her own experiences as a
universality of "the status of women globally" wears
painfully thin especially when you read the entire supermarket
tirade in which she describes the indignities suffered by a
typical shopper. This generic woman suddenly embarks on a
hypothetical search for "a jar of pimentos." She
searches the Tex-Mex section, then "among the
pickles" and finally resorts to asking "a man in a
suit with a company pin," who tells her he never heard of
them, implying that "the customer is mad ... She shows
him fresh red peppers and explains that she wants skinned,
seeded peppers in brine ..." and she goes on to explain
in detail how the supermarket experience is a harrowing one
for her . She has to park her car, look for a trolley, head in
shop, fill up the trolley, unload the trolley at the cashier
check-out, reload trolley, unload at the car, reach home,
unload, organise the items in kitchen shelves and so on. Well,
if this is exhausting, one is inevitably left wondering how
Greer identifies with women in the developing world who make
the trek for firewood, the search for water, for food and at
the same time manage to put food on everyone’s plates, take
care of the children and the family.
me to the next question: what has changed? Not all that much,
actually. Greer insists that she hasn’t done an about-face
on any of her earlier positions. She is simply followed her
premises to the conclusions implicit in them from the very
beginning. At no point does Greer feel she is being
inconsistent. Her method — transforming personal trials into
theories about the condition of women — has remained
unchanged. Her resentment of sexual utopianism stems from the
fact that in her late 30s, when she desperately wanted a
child, she was unable to conceive and turned to expensive
medical interventions, all of which failed. When you read her
denunciation of elaborate fertility treatments as causing
untold "damage" to desperate women, the argument
only makes sense when you understand that the process raised
her hopes at one time and the its failure to work broke her
continue with "The Whole Woman" you also realise
that the 1980s brought home the point that she was getting
older, time and her looks were running out. Age inevitably
altered the dynamics of Greer’s life and hence her thinking
on issues closest to her heart. "Women have been
conditioned to believe that men’s work is harder and more
stressful than theirs, which is a con. The truth seems to be
that men resent having to work and harbour a positive ambition
to do nothing, which women do not share. A love of idleness is
another characteristic that male Homo sapiens has inherited
from his anthropoid ancestors." And just when you get
past this bit about male idleness, four pages along you hit
upon this: "Many women behave as if they feel a real
sense of gratitude to their employer and act delighted as more
and more work is heaped upon them, never pausing to ask if
their male colleagues are doing anywhere near as much. If
women themselves put a lower value on their own contribution
than on that of men, personnel managers will seize the cue to
employ them on as low in the pay scale as they can."
So if you are
looking at sustained idea or vision, forget it because
"The Whole Woman" is clearly lacking in it. The
arguments are sort of all over the place and the book is more
about Greer herself rather than about women. But then again,
Greer has never been considered much of a thinker, it is the
way she delivers her ideas, with gusto and with charm is what
has appealed to readers. There is a certain joie de vivre in
her writing, she has the rare ability to laugh at herself and
delve on the several botched experiments and an unmatched zest
for taking on the world. And that is what is appealing to me
about "The Whole Woman".
wondering who is the real Germaine Greer? A revolutionary
feminist and what is her new wave of feminism all about? You
just have to read the book to figure out for yourself why
Germaine Greer is without doubt, one of the most controversial
and "read" women in our time.
And still wondering what’s
Greer’s definition of a feminist, here goes: "A
feminist is one who identifies herself as a woman before she
identifies herself as belonging to any race or colour or creed
short on spontaneity
Review by Vikramdeep
poems and sketches by N.K.Singh in association with Petra
Golob. Full Circle, New Delhi. Pages 165. Rs 95.
is small, it is beautiful, it is sensuous. It captures a
moment and preserves it for all eternity. It is direct yet
profound, accessible yet open to interpretation. In a world
becoming increasingly cluttered and complicated, it is an
oasis of lightness and simplicity. It is the haiku, the
three-line, 17-syllable poem rooted in nature and created in
the spirit of Zen.
originated and blossomed in Japan. Noted Zen historian
D.T.Suzuki tells us why: "When a feeling reaches its
highest pitch, we remain silent, even 17 syllables may be too
many. Japanese artists... influenced by the way of Zen, tend
to use the fewest words or strokes of brush to express their
feelings. When they are too fully expressed, no room for
suggestion is possible, and suggestibility is the secret of
the Japanese arts."
usually extol the beauty of the natural world or reflect on
the transience of life and man’s solitude. Basho (1644-94)
is perhaps the finest and most influential haiku writer
ever. According to Doho, a disciple of his: "The master
said,‘Learn about a pine tree from a pine tree, and about a
bamboo stalk from a bamboo stalk.’ What he meant was that
the poet should detach his mind from self... and enter into
the object, sharing its delicate life and its feelings. Unless
a poem contains feelings which have come from the object, the
object and the poet’s self will be separate things."
the writer of the book under review to compose haikus?
"I simply felt in the forests of Slovenia that I was a
hermit," he writes in the foreword, "I felt as if I
could live with as little as possible. Why should I then
compose long poems and epics?" N.K.Singh’s haikus
are based on his experiences in places like Mumbai, Bangkok,
Kathmandu, Brisbane and Ljubljana (Slovenia), as he "gypsied
through the world wondering at its creator and creation."
deserves a pat on the back for trying his hand at a genre all
but neglected by contemporary poets. The disappointing thing,
however, is that most of the poems in the collection fail to
stir the soul and leave a lot to be desired. They pale
miserably in comparison with the all-time great creations. No
wonder Singh feels that his haikus would be viewed with
acerbic skepticism by Zen masters.
For Basho, a
good poem is one "in which the form of the verse, and the
joining of its two parts, seem light as a shallow river
flowing over its sandy bed." But Singh repeatedly
succumbs to the temptation of stuffing meaning into the poem,
thereby making it ponderous, loud and short on spontaneity.
Consider this Brisbane haiku:
on the tree/Softly hugging leaves/Mindful of delicate
beautiful image is evoked but the poem lacks the lightness and
naturalness of a classic haiku, like this one by Issa
cherry trees/There are/No strangers."
Or, one of
Basho’s creations: "Rainy days/Silkworms droop/On
which do leave an impact appear to stem from the writer’s
intuitive response to the world around him. A couple of his
Bangkok ones are memorable.
city/Everything sells/No price for me?"
orchids/Artificially manicured in pots/Like parlour
Or this one
from Mumbai: "This morning/I woke up/To mirages all
several poems on love, not a traditional haiku theme.
The pick of the lot is:
Slovenia/The heady journeys/Jazvene and you."
(Jazvene is a
The need to
connect in the age of alienation is expressed thus:
"Telephones ring/Some one is calling you/From the border
of aliens." The fate suffered by love and beauty in an
insensitive, power-hungry society comes across in two mournful
money and greed/Taking the toll of/All those beautiful
moisture of your eyes/ Washing the pain of/Love killed by
composed by Basho, Issa and other major Zen writers, the poet
pours out his heart to animals, birds, insects, trees, etc.
but usually does not humanise the latter by putting words into
their mouths or thoughts into their heads. Singh, however, at
times makes use of anthropomorphism, to the detriment of some
poems, which appear forced and artificial. For instance,
fearless monkey/Of Pashupathinath Ji/Derides my human
mango tree/Outside silently pities/My aimless drift."
Most of Petra
Golob’s haikus suffer from similar flaws. There are
quite a few prosaic creations like "Without understanding
love/He is naive to claim/The triumph of intelligence."
"Burdened by sacredness/ Slowly she gave in/To the
passion of living."
One of the
few good ones reads:
with being and becoming/They forget to open the window/For the
In the tradition of Zen
poets, Singh alternates between haikus and sketches.
Most of the latter are of female nudes in various poses (the
poet calls a woman, along with a tree, as the most poignant
expressions of prakriti). However, as in the case of
his haikus, there is nothing much here to write home
Narayan and his novels
Review by R. P. Chaddah
of Malgudi — R.K. Narayan edited by S. Krishnan.
Penguin India. New Delhi. Pages 571. Rs 495.
"Memories of Malgudi", Penguin India completes its
omnibus editions of all of R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi novels and
also his finest short stories. This book is the fourth in a
row. The first three, "A Town Called Malgudi",
"The World of Malgudi" and the "Magic of
Malgudi" have already been reviewed in these columns. S.
Krishnan, a teacher of English at a Chennai university, is a
self-confessed Narayan aficionado for the past 50 years. He is
the force behind bringing out the omnibus editions for the
output at the last count in 1998 is important. It is 36 books,
his range is rare — novels, novellas, short stories,
memoirs, travel books, columns et al — it cannot be easily
of Malgudi" brings together fiction of RKN’s early
period when he was between his thirties and fifties to almost
his last major novel when he was in his late eighties;
"The Dark Room" (1938); "The English
Teacher" (1945); "Waiting for Mahatma" (1955),
"The Guide" (1958) and "The World of Nagaraj"
presents the fruitful 50 years in the life of RKN and the
makings of an almost obscure novelist into a nationally and
internationally known major writer. The book, according to me,
which made him an international name is "The Guide"
and there has been no looking back since 1958. Many prizes,
medals and an honorary membership of the American Academy and
Institute of Arts and Letters, and membership of the Rajya
Sabha in 1989. The Hindi movie made on "The Guide"
made RKN and Malgudi popular with the literati and the
glitterati and now so many quiz programmes, once in a while,
ask questions culled from his various novels.
feature of Narayan’s world is that it is densely populated
by borderline people — sanyasis, recluses, criminals,
sorcerers and the like. Narayan’s world is convincing and
compelling because most of his people are not characters as
figures or characters aspiring to become figures, because of
inner compulsions. Liminal figures like Raju in "The
Guide"; Jagan in "The Vendor of Sweets" and
Swami in "A Tiger for Malgudi", make us aware of a
sadness that pervades his work — sadness that has its roots
in separation. The proliferation of marginal people largely
explains the absence of any great sense of evil and the lack
of scope for strong passions in Narayan’s work.
Dark Room" is a lament on the disharmony of domestic
life. A domesticated life of 15 years of a branch manager is
disturbed when a beautiful woman joins the organisation.
Ramani, the branch manager, falls for her lock, stock and
barrel and she responds with equal fervour and passion. Way
back in the late 30s in the township of Malgudi it creates a
havoc of sorts. But the author does not bring in cheap change
of hearts, a la Hindi films. In- stead, he sticks to
realism. Savitri returns home and looks after her children,
and Ramani carries on with the "other woman" as
before, till life adjusts itself.
English Teacher" (1945) is "a song of love in
marriage" with heavy autobiographical tones. It is
psychic, mystic and a spiritual study of some part of
Indianness. It tells a love story, but an entirely different
one from conventional love stories. Which starts as an
interesting novel of domestic fidelity it gets bogged down in
spiritual things and philosophic discussions which many a
time, tax the patience of the reader.
for Mahatma" (1955) is, of course, a political novel
based on Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for independence and
ending with the murder of the Mahatma. It narrates the love
story of Sriram-Bharti against the backdrop of political
upheavels which immediately preceded the independence of the
country in 1947. For once, Narayan steps out of Malgudi and as
the novel did not jell well with the reading public, for later
fiction Narayan went back to secure Malgudi.
Guide" got him the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award. The
story is a variation of the eternal triangle. It delineates
the career of a remarkable Malgudi boy who achieves success on
both materialistic and sexual levels — only to end up as a
fake sadhu, made by circumstances beyond his control, to
undertake a fatal fast for the termination of a serious
drought in a region. The novel traces the life and times of
Raju, the guide, his coming into contact with Rosie, wife of
archaeologist Marco and a lover of dancing. She forsakes
everything to become a dancer extraordinary with the active
help of Raju and then things fall apart. He goes to jail for a
little offence and when he is released the mantle of a sadhu-swami
is forced on him, just because he looked unkempt and was
resting in a temple. Raju, the guide, the lover, the sinner,
becomes the saint and dies like one, on the banks of the
Malgudi river Sarayu. It can happen only in India, that is
World of Nagaraj" published in 1990, again focuses on the
widening gap between generations. Narayan touched it earlier,
and to a good effect in "The Vendor of Sweets"
(1967). In real terms the novel presents the ochrous mood of
an Indian sunset vis-a-vis the eclipse of the novelist in RKN.
In Narayan’s own words, Nagaraj is a sort of grown up child.
Not vicious at all. Does not care to correct anything. No idea
of reforming or contradicting anything or he is all passion
spent and calm of mind.
almost follows the dictum of Alexander Pope, "Blessed is
the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be
writ large on almost every page. Just like his protagonist in
the novel, Narayan finds it difficult to give a convincing
ending to the world of Nagaraj, which is peopled by card-board
characters. All his earlier characters rub shoulders with each
other in the Kabir Street. He has nothing new to say and this
is almost a goodbye novel from the master story-teller.
As I was about to end this
review of "Memories of Malgudi", I heard it on the
radio that RKN has been admitted to a Chennai hospital two
weeks ago following breathing problem and his condition has
turned critical. "His condition is waxing and
waning" (May 10, 2001) In the newsitem other details read
as "Born in 1906, Mr Narayan shot into limelight with his
very first novel ‘Swami and Friends’ (1935). He has penned
16 novels altogether." The timing of Penguin has been
appropriate for bringing out four omnibus volumes of his
scientific are social sciences?
Review by Surinder S.
in Social Research: Dilemmas and Perspectives. Essays in
Honour of Ramkrishna Mukherjee edited
by Partha Nath Mukherji. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages
263. Price 225.
the practitioners of science, the question of methods is
perhaps as important, if not more, as its achievements.
Methods, in a way, define science. It is on the basis of some
minimum consensus on the methodology of doing science that a
scientific community gets formed. Without such a consensus, it
would perhaps be impossible for scientists working at
different places, in different cultural contexts, to
communicate with each other or learn from each other’s
methodology also determines, to a significant extent, what can
be researched and what is beyond the scope of scientific
investigation. Thus to be called a science, a discipline of
inquiry must have a method that conforms to the cannons of
science and on which the community of its practitioners
and physical sciences have, more or less, been able to evolve
a common research methodology, it has been rather difficult to
do so for social sciences. Not only have the social scientists
not been able to evolve techniques and tools which are
acceptable to all disciplines and cultures, the past 200 years
of the history of social sciences has also witnessed
contentions and debates on the very nature of social
phenomena. Not everyone doing social sciences, for example,
agrees on the use of the methods of physical science for the
study of social phenomenon. Unlike the realities of the
physical world, the social reality is not just out there to be
studied by social scientists. The intentions and meanings that
human actors assign to their action are also a part of the
social reality and they cannot be ignored in any exercise
claiming to represent the social phenomena.
presented in the volume edited by Partha Nath Mukherji deal
with various dimensions of these questions. In a rather long
introduction, the editor of the book offers an extremely
comprehensive and useful survey of the dilemmas and
perspectives on the question of methodology in social
research. Methodology, according to Mukherji, denotes a
combination of several things. First of all, it has to have a
"technology" of data collection — namely, tools
and methods of research, such as the questionnaire, schedule,
interview guide, case study, participant observations and
content analysis. It also requires analytical tools such as
statistical tests and methods. Finally, a philosophy, a
theory, and an epistemology, explicitly or implicitly, also
guides all research.
have been disagreements on what could be the most relevant and
useful technique of data collection, the more important
contentions in social sciences have been of theoretical and
philosophical nature. What constitutes social reality and how
could it be studied are not just questions of technology of
data collection. These questions are primarily philosophical.
Perhaps the most problematic of these philosophical categories
in social sciences has been that of positivism.
advocates "scientism" or "the unity of
science", implying that the method of science is
universal. According to positivists, if we need to study human
society scientifically, we ought to be using the same method
as used by physical sciences. The subject matter of science is
to study reality, which by definition, is objective and
external. Empiricism, which postulates that the foundation of
science was observation of phenomenon which can be positively
experienced through the senses and verified, is an extension
of positivism. And finally positivism advocates value
neutrality, a disinterested engagement with the search for
It is on the
basis of this self-image of technical soundness and relative
disinterestedness in the immediate questions of power and
politics that the practitioners of science acquire a certain
degree of authority in society. Arguing "for science and
against scientism", Immanuel Wallerstein in another
essay, questions such an authority given to the scientist.
Scientists are not above society. They are also living human
beings and are subject to various pressures like everyone
else. While science is important, mystification of science can
be a problem.
similar argument, Rajni Kothari too argues for a critical
attitude towards science. "The scientific estate has
become a privileged sector closely associated with the State
and the international order, gradually reducing the openness
and critical role of science. The defence of the
"scientific temper" has become a way of steamrolling
other forms of knowledge and introspection as a result of
which ‘scientific method’ has become a shield for
has also been criticised on many other grounds. It treats the
"reality" as having an independent existence and
assigns no place to human intentions and meanings. Those who
advocate the hermeneutical perspective as an alternative to
positivism argue that there was nothing called reality
independent of the manner in which human beings understood it.
"Reality was a meaningful social construction" and
thus, they advocated, there could be several interpretations
of the same a reality. They also emphasised on the need to
look at things in relation to cultures and the importance of
understanding human languages.
epistemology criticised both positivists as also the
hermeneutical tradition. The reality, according to them, was
constituted dialectically and was full of contradictions and
conflicts. The contradictions were the potential source of
social change. Arguing against the dispassionate science of
the positivists and the cultural relativism of the
hermeneutical tradition, they advocate the need to understand
the existing contradictions. The practitioners of social
sciences could intervene by identifying these contradictions,
sharpening them and accelerating the process of social change
leading to human emancipation from exploitation and
recently, the post-modernists and post-structuralists have
come up with fresh critiques of all scientific enterprises
including those of the Marxists. They reject all
meta-narratives and the universal theoretical claims.
Similarly, the feminists too find all the social science
knowledge as being "male-centric". The so-called
"value-neutral" science ignored questions of gender
and reinforced the patriarchal structures of authority, they
these contentions on the nature of social scientific
knowledge, there have also been disagreements of techniques of
data collections. One of the most frequent questions of
dispute, particularly in the disciplines such as sociology,
political science and anthropology, has been that of
qualitative versus quantitative method of data collection. How
far social phenomena could be understood through use of
statistical techniques? And how far we needed to use the
method of ethnography and story telling to deal with the
interesting article, Joseph Gusfield further comments on these
ironies and agonies of social sciences. The problems of social
sciences were largely due to the nature of social reality and
the nature of the enterprise called social science. He argues
that social sciences needed to be recognised as an artform
because they were in the business of manufacturing meanings.
For example, they could change the terms of popular discourses
on subjects of wider interests by undertaking empirical
researches on such questions.
historical comparisons between European experience and our
presentday context, Satish Saberwal offers an interesting
discussion on the subject of "the perception and
construction of reality". In another paper, T.K. Oommen
looks at the changing modes of conceptualising the world. The
conceptions of the social reality change not only because of
the different theoretical and philosophical paradigms but also
with the process of political and economic transformations in
the world. The two obvious example of such a process could be
the emergence of as global world order after World War II and
the consequent conceptualisation of the world into the three
words. Similarly, the end of cold war and ensuing process of
globalisation is once again altering the manner in which we
understand the world around us.
India has one of the most
vibrant social science community in the world. There have been
several debates and initiatives in Indian social sciences
which have come to be regarded as original contributions to
social sciences all over the world. However, compared to the
overall size of Indian social science, there have been very
few writings on social science research methods. This book is
indeed an important contribution in this area. Students and
teachers of social sciences, particularly at the post-graduate
level, will find the book immensely useful.
Raj from the beginning
Review by Gobind Thukral
over 300 years edited by J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga. Tulika,
New Delhi. Pages 227. Rs 200.
the 15th century onwards Punjab has been a witness to major
social, religious and political movements. What impact these
had on the lives of the common people? What are the historical
roots of the rise and spread of Sikhism? How it grew from a
simple religious reform movement to a political-military power
and captured the state and established Khalsa raj? How it
changed the tapestry of the Punjabi nation? What kind of
relations the Sikh Gurus had with the rulers, the Mughals and
others, over the period? What are the changes during the past
500 years in the social, religious and political life of the
people? How different political forces operated in areas from
Delhi to Kabul and what impact these had on the Indian nation?
How simple-minded peasants and artisans became instruments of
major political upheavals?
And, a host
of other questions fascinate the mind. We need to shed myths,
remove the cover of blind faith in order to correctly
understand and appreciate history. And if the right kind of
answers are offered by scholars, they help us understand the
past and develop a sense of history which we lack so much.
book has been sponsored by the Indian History Congress and the
Anandpur Sahib Foundation. It analyses the history and
ideology of the Khalsa over the past 300 years. It is set in
the context of the general history of India. The essays
selected with care cover major phases of Sikh history broadly
conceived by famous historian Sita Ram Kohli. The editors,
Professors J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga, are eminent historians
and have impeccable credentials.
indeed a universal religion and it is an important part of
Indian religious and social ethos. The political, social and
cultural history of the Sikhs right from the times of Guru
Nanak Dev to the birth of the Khalsa has enriched the
composite history of the Indian nation. Therefore a deeper
understanding of the evolution of Sikhism and the various
phases through which it has passed will help in understanding
the overall history of the region and the country.
collection of 27 articles has appeared in the proceedings of
the Indian History Congress since its foundation in 1935 and
cover a wide range. These essays show that some scholars had
developed a keen sense of history and their incisive mind has
probed the deep recesses of the past. They have painstakingly
collected material from all sources and tried their best to
separate the grain from the chaff.
plenty of material — religious books, the Guru Granth Sahib,
Sakhis, vars of Bhai Gurdas, travelogues, accounts of
court historians, autobiographical accounts and much more. But
the most difficult task was to clinically examine facts that
had got mixed up with myths. We have Giani Gian Singh who
toured extensively and collected voluminous material, both
from books and traditions and published several volumes so the
future generations can understand the past.
Singh added a wealth of details. He had the requisite critical
mind. In the mid-19th century J.D. Cunnigham got so interested
as a British civil servant that he did deep research and
published a scholarly work, "History of the Sikhs".
It throws ample light on Anglo-Sikh relations and the social
life of that period.
Sita Ram Kohli, Hari Ram Gupta, Rattan Singh Bhangu, Muzaffar
Alam, J.S. Grewal, Indu Banga and others have indeed made
valuable contributions to our understanding of history.
touch upon many aspects and any keen student can fruitfully go
into the details. Events and personalities come alive. For
example, why was Banda Bahadur so successful during his eight
years of military campaign between 1708-15 and how was he
captured? Which class or caste sided with him and why? Was
there a peasant revolution in the making which annoyed big
zamindars and traders and they opposed him tooth and nail?
What was the composition of the Sikh Panth at that time?
We are told
that the hill chiefs who had been a source of trouble to Guru
Gobind Singh were his allies. What conflict the Khatris had
with the Sikhs and why again did the relation of Guru Gobind
Singh with the Mughals change after he moved out of Anandpur
and why was he accompanying Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah during
his campaign in Agra, Rajputana and Deccan?
Kohli’s lists the main phases of early Sikh history from the
time of Guru Nanak to the annexation of Ranjit Singh’s
kingdom by the British in 1849. This he read out in the 1938
session of the History Congress. Kohli characterises these
phases as theocracy — up to the death of Banda Bahadur in
1716 — theocratic feudalism up to 1765 — feudal chiefships
up to 1799 — and monarchy up to the annexation. Later
historians made some changes in this demarcation.
Singh, the eminent researcher, deals with major sources of
Sikh history. It is a very comprehensive listing, but can
never be complete. Persian accounts occupy a prominent place.
Grewal writes about the ideas of early Sikh history. What we
could learn from the vars of Bhai Gurdas who was
witness to the peaceful reign of Akbar. This phase, from Guru
Nanak to Guru Hargobind, was marked by crisis and transition.
Bhai Gurdas was related to Guru Amar Das and is regarded as St
Paul of Sikhs. This is an important source to understand
Punjab’s cultural, social and political history.The next
chapter on Guru Gobind Singh and his immediate successor to
lead the armed struggle, Banda Bahadur, details the
relationship from a broader prospective.
Add to this
Muzaffar Alam’s well-researched account of Sikh uprising
under Banda Bahadur. There is a very brief analysis by Gurtej
Singh of the rise of Sikh power as Rattan Singh Bhangu saw it.
Then Kohli depicts the determination, strategy, tactics,
institutions and the morale of the Khalsa in their critical
conflict with Ahmed Shah Abdali.
eminent historian Hari Ram Gupta describes how the Khalsa
struck coins at Lahore and how that city was captured and how
different misl sardars captured different territories. The
papers by Indu Banga relate to Khalsa Raj under Ranjit Singh.
She examines how principalities were formed and a ruler
emerged. The unification and civil and military organisation
and how Punjabi identity took shape are also discussed. Her
third article deals with the jagirdari system. The next three
chapters deal with British themes.
discusses the contribution of Cunningham who presented a great
study of the Sikhs.
There are four papers dealing
with the social life during colonial rule. Three other papers
deal with gurdwara reform. There are papers on vernacular
press and the Akali movement, demand for Punjabi Suba. All
these papers cover a large canvas, but could never be the last
word on the subject. During the past 500 years Sikhism has
passed through several stages and shall be passing through
many more providing much food for thought for those who wish
to understand Punjab and the Sikh faith.
— a postscript
Review by N.K. Pant
The Tables Turned Edited by Major General Ashok Krishna and PR
Chari. Manohar Publishers & Distributers, New Delhi. Pages
341. Rs 700.
military treachery on the Kargil heights in the summer of 1999
will for ever be etched on the Indian historical mosaic.
Authentic details of this shocking betrayal will continue to
be unearthed by researchers as the protective paint of
official secrecy peters off in the years to come. The latest
book by Major-Gen Ashok Krishna (retd) and well known defence
analyst and a former bureaucrat PR Chari makes an earnest
attempt in this respect. The editors have done a brilliant job
by delving deep into historical, political, diplomatic and
military aspects of Pakistan’s inimical behavioral chemistry
towards India since its very inception in 1947. The book is
certainly different from several other accounts churned out in
quick succession immediately after the Pakistani army was
forced to beat a retreat in later half of July, 1999.
introductory remarks, Chari calls the Kargil conflict between
India and Pakistan unique in terms of prevailing theology that
democracies, having nuclear weapons do not fight each other.
There were miscalculations by Islamabad who did not foresee
the course of events like use of air power by India and
disapproval of the USA would enter into its calculus of covert
operations. Pakistan’s aim in view of the failing militancy
in the valley was "to permit an interventionary force to
deliver the final coup de grace" with a view to
internationalising the Kashmir dispute to its advantage.
definitely failed to discover and frustrate the intrusion. Had
the area been regularly patrolled on the ground and from the
air, these could not have remained undetected. Besides, it was
a failure of intelligence. That the enemy’s overthrow was
ultimately achieved by the heroism of young officers and
jawans, more than 500 of whom laid down their lives for the
motherland, is unique in the annals of military history.
Chandran in his analysis clears the mist that Pakistan army
functioned independently and kept Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
uninformed about the infiltration into Kargil. The return of
normalcy to J&K, declining international concern regarding
Kashmir issue, and changed strategic scenario in South Asia,
in which India was hesitant to respond strongly, provided
alibis to Pakistan to go ahead with its Kargil misadventure.
Ashok Krishna discusses threadbare military dimensions of the
Kargil conflict which he terms as "limited war". It
is a continuation of an unresolved problem between the two
neighbours who have been fighting against each other in
J&K since 1947. According to him, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had
once articulated dependence of Pakistan’s national survival
in keeping India on the defensive and destabilising it.
Islamabad’s political aim to capture maximum territory in
Kashmir with the ultimate objective of merging the state into
Pakistan corroborates this view.
of the Kargil war lies in Pakistan’s repeated failures to
annex J&K. This time Pakistan thought that by choking the
road to Leh, gaining territory and freezing the situation it
would erode the concept of the LoC and the Shimla Agreement.
The intrusion plan was the brainchild of Pakistan army chief
General Pervez Musharraf and his deputy Lt Gen Mohammed Aziz.
They obtained an "in principle" concurrence from
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Later, the taped telephonic
conversations between the two had substantiated these
conjectures. In this massive aggressive gambit, Pakistan used
a total of 13 battalions, including the commando elements.
They were supported by 15 artillery units, two engineer and a
deployed 16 to 17 battalions in "Operation Vijay"
launched to evict the intruders. Its priority for the capture
of objectives was first the Dras sector followed by the
Mushkoh valley, Batalik sector and last the Kaksar area. The
book provides hair raising account of fierce battles for the
capture of Tololing, Tiger Hill, Point 4875, Kaksar and
Batalik besides operations in Chorbat La and Turtok where rare
valour was displayed by Indian soldiers.
offensive code named "Operation Safed Sagar",
launched to assist the army in pushing back the intruders has
been adequately covered in the book. The Air Force flew 550
missions and provided the ground troops with tremendous
psychological advantage. Even the Indian Navy mobilised its
combat ships in the Arabian Sea to impose a naval blockade of
Pakistan’s coastline in the event of a war.
also touches upon the lessons learnt, precepts and
perspectives for future guidance. The Kargil war proved that
New Delhi’s corridors of power had valued budgets more than
territorial integrity and the precious lives of its soldiers.
Politicians and bureaucrats hesitate to take timely decisions
depriving the soldier from availability of essential combat
gear in the field. General Krishna suggests a proactive
approach and underlines the need for maintaining a balanced
force level commensurate with the anticipated threat. He is
all for the nuclear deterrent and links it with the morale of
the soldier who "must have the confidence that his
country possesses retaliatory capability".
exposition of India’s political and diplomatic responses to
the Kargil crisis is apt. At the political level, senior
leaders kept their cool and public pronouncements were
generally measured. The Indian diplomatic approach was
calibrated and the world was informed that there was an LoC
and that Pakistan had breached it. Diplomacy certainly
supplemented the gains made on the ground.
played by the USA in deescalating the Kargil crisis has also
been elucidated by D Suba Chandran who opines the USA acted as
a facilitator and not a mediator. Had it not been for tough
talking on part of the USA, Pakistan would not have withdrawn
its troops by the first week of July itself. The possibility
of a full-scale war between the two nuclear powers induced
Washington to pressurise to avert further escalation.
The book also
analyses China’s Kargil policy since 5000 square kilomteres
of J&K territory is under Chinese occupation. Earlier,
India had justified the Pokhran II tests by espousing the
"China threat" theory. It appears that various
nuances of China’s own external and internal security
considerations shaped its favourable response to the Kargil
the subsequent dissertation by Mallika Joseph gives full marks
to Indian diplomacy in bringing a commendatory change in G-8’s
position in acknowledging Pakistan’s undeniable role in
violating the LoC by armed infiltration.
concluding chapter P R Chari touches upon the uncertain future
of Indo-Pak relations. He advocates resumption of dialogue
with Pakistan on all outstanding issues, adherence to Simla
Agreement and turning the LoC as an international border. He
raises a pertinent question: how should the international
community deal with the phenomenon of aberrant states like
Pakistan which are not bound by norms of accepted
international behaviour but have come into possession of
nuclear weapons? In the final analysis, Kargil indeed was a
major defining moment in the in tortuous history of Indo-Pak
The book clears to a great
extent, certain ambiguities about the undeclared war on the
high mountains of Kargil and puts the course of events in the
proper perspective. Minor aberrations like avoidable
repetitions and varying writing styles are overshadowed by
rich contents. It is a sheer coincidence that this lucidly
informative work has been published on the eve of the second
commemoration of the Kargil war and hence happens to be well
timed. A must for armed forces’ personnel, diplomats and
students of defence and international studies.