The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, May 27, 2001

The weak & strong during World War-II
Review by V.N. Datta

Earliest feminist and anti-racialist
Review by Shelley Walia

Ballad on bloody past
Review by Jaspal Singh

Ingredients of Punjabi nationalism
Review by Roopinder Singh

The end of an empire
Review by Rumina Sethi

She speaks like a Bohemian
Review by M.L. Sharma

Sick public health policy
Review by Randeep Wadehra

Sweet and saltish bolian
Review by Darshan Singh Maini



The weak & strong during World War-II
Review by V.N. Datta

LAST week at a dinner attended by a section of Delhi’s glitterati, a rich, professionally well-educated and well-travelled businessman asked me, "Why should we study history any more when so much of it has already been produced and published?"

The implication was that events which are indisputable do not change and since their certainty is well-established, what is the point in further digging up the past by using archival and other tangible material.

Such a naive attitude towards historical knowledge astonished me; possibly such a view is shared by a number of people who are ignorant of the value of history as a discipline.

As an interpretation of the past history is never a dogma or a fixed notion. Each age has its own historians! That is why a variety of interpretations on a particular theme add to our understanding of the past. Diversity of views sharpen our perception, widen our perspective, and bring us closer to a sympathetic comprehension of the world we live in.

Historiography of World War II enriched by American, Soviet, German and British scholars has given us valuable insights into the traumatic events and its impact on world politics during 1940-46. The reputation of leaders who held key positions and made decisions on crucial issues has gone up and down. Before the war Churchill was condemned as a war-monger and Neville Chamberlain was lauded as a peace-maker but after the war Churchill was hailed as a hero and Chamberlain as a dismal failure. How reputations soar and tumble which baffles commonsense! Such a perspective is provided by Graham Stewart in "Burying Caesar: The Churchill-Chamberlain Rivalry" (Overlook, pages 553).

Chamberlain, British Prime Minister from 1936 to 1940, is identified with the policy of appeasement of Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the period immediately preceding the war. In the earlier part of the book, Stewart dilates on the early life of Chamberlain. He belonged to an aristocratic family. He was the son of statesman Joseph Chamberlain and the younger brother of Sir Austin Chamberlain. During World War I Chamberlain joined David Lloyd George coalition government as director-general of national services but because of his indifferent health, resigned. As a Conservative member of the House of Commons, he held various positions such as Postmaster-General Paymaster-General of the armed forces, Minister of Health (1923, 1924-29, 1931), and Chancellor of Exchequer (1937). He became the Prime Minister in March, 1937.

At a personal level Chamberlain was well-meaning and of amiable disposition. He meant no harm to anyone and was ever willing to accommodate others. He recognised Italy’s supremacy in Ethiopia with a view to avoiding a conflict with Italy. Similarly, he thought it prudent to keep Britain out of the Spanish civil war between 1936 and 1939.

Hitler was embarking on a sinister policy of redrawing the map of Europe by his aggressive expeditions. In the House of Commons strong pressure was exerted on Chamberlain to abandon his policy of "drift" and "vascillation". Winston Churchill was the leader of this group which criticised Chamberlain’s handling of the grave situation confronting Britain.

In the course of a spirited debate on Chamberlain’s policy, Churchill said: "The Prime Minister (Chamberlain) looks foreign affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe". Again, "At the depth of that dirty soil there is nothing but abject surrender." Condemning Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, Churchill described an appeaser as one "who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last".

Despite this vehement opposition to his policy, Chamberlain stuck to his policy, and refused to budge from his decision to negotiate a settlement with Hitler through peaceful means. So by Munich agreement, Chamberlain and Premier Daladier of France granted almost all of Hitler’s demands and left Czechoslovakia defenseless.

When Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1938, Chamberlain declared war. Chamberlain remained Primer Minister during the period of sporadic military action and took Churchill into his Cabinet. But after British expedition to Norway in August, 1940, Chamberlain lost the support of many Conservatives and resigned on May 10, the day of German invasion of the low countries.

The most striking feature of this work is that Stewart follows Plutarch’s model of biographical writing in which he had analysed some ancient Greek and Roman personalities by comparing and contrasting them by focusing on their ideas and actions. In this highly stimulating study, based on a detailed analysis of private source-material hitherto unpublished and written with verve and passion, Stewart raises the fundamental issue of "rivalry" between Chamberlain and Churchill who greatly influenced major diplomatic and political issues of their time.

The issue that Stewart grapples with is why Chamberlain preferred the policy of appeasement. In other words, why did he want to avoid war? Wat it that Chamberlain failed to understand Hitler? Or was he acting as a sly fox marking time because he had been strongly advised by the British service chiefs that Britain was not adequately equipped and strong enough to fight at the moment.

Stewart, a Cambridge man, who studied history and has not lived through the war period, campares the family backgrounds of these two antagonists. The families of these rivals were luminaries of Victorian and Edwardian politics, but both of them were frustrated. Churchill’s father, Lord Randolf Churchill died of tertiary syphlus and failed to revive and revitalise the Tory party along neo-Disraelian lines.

Stewart emphasises how the elder Joseph Chamberlain had cemented the Empire by a programme of "imperial preference,"an institution of tariffs that favoured imports from Commonwealth countries. Within this perspective Stewart now turns to Churchill and Chamberlain.

It is difficult to summarise Stewart’s analysis of Chamberlain’s policy though he endorses the view that Chamberlain was deceived by Hitler and he almost come close to mortgaging the future of his country. Stewart points out that Chamberlain and Churchill did not oppose each other initially and collaborated in war against Nazism. Stewart questions a number of received opinions of both the personalities. Temperamentally, Churchill could be magnanimous and he showed due deference to Chamberlain. Stewart stresses that Chamberlain as Chancellor of Exchequer was a highly competent fiscal manager than his counterparts in Paris or Washington.

Stewart clears Churchill of the usual charge that he tried to exploit the great battle over India in 1933 or the abdication of Edward VIII three years later. He argues that both parties to the abdication believed in what they said and did. Both were men of strong convictions, patriotic, highly self-respecting, and committed to decency and finer values of life.

Stewart does not view Chamberlain as a blundering fool who refused to see the reality. In such a perception Stewart shares David Charmley’s view that Churchill was impetuous and aggressive, and was entirely responsible for pushing Britain into war and liquidating the empire. On other controversial issues, Stewart defends Churchill, particularly his dismissal of some of his inefficient subordinates.

In a nutshell, Stewart’s view is that Chamberlain was naive in the game of realpolitik and dithered when the occasion demanded prompt action. Churchill was the man of the hour who met the challenge by united strength of allied powers.



Earliest feminist and anti-racialist
Review by Shelley Walia

The Story of an African Farm
by Olive Schreiner. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Pages 278. £5.95

SIR Raymond Hoffenberg, Professor of Medical Ethics and President of Wolfson College, Oxford introduced me to Olive Shchreiner’s "The Story of an African Farm". He had been a resident of South Africa in his young days and because of his active anti-apartheid involvement, his entry had been banned by the white regime. One afternoon, discussing the works of the radical socialist and homosexual emancipationist Edward Carpenter, he mentioned how a young writer, Olive Schreiner, born at Wittebergen, Basutuland, in 1855 had travelled to England in 1881 and had enrolled herself as a nurse at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and soon developed intellectual relationships with Edward Carpenter and George Moore, the Irish exponent of naturalism, who in fact proposed to her but was rejected.

This South African novelist, political activist and radical feminist had sent the manuscript of the first great South African novel, "The Story of an African Farm" (1883), to Browns but it was not accepted. In 1883, it was on the recommendation of George Meredith that Chapman and Hall published it and 15 editions were to follow during her lifetime. It was published under the pseudonym, Ralph Iron, but it was not good enough to hide the woman of 28 behind the writer who would soon be involved in most of the radical and progressive socialist movements in Britain. Indeed the novel transformed the shape and course of the late Victorian novel.

I picked up a recent reprint of this daring and intellectual novel published by Oxford University Press in the series Oxford Classics from Heffers at Cambridge.

Schreiner had a forceful intellect, aggressive feminist and open-minded views on politics and society, and great vivacity that was somewhat weakened by asthma and acute depression. In Britain she came to be accepted in literary and political circles and became a leading campaigner of women’s rights. Her friendship with Cecil was brief as she caused a literary and political storm in relation to his activities with her book "Trooper Halkett of Mashonaland" which condemned the colonisation of Rhodesia. In 1911 she published "Women and Labour", in which she called men as sexual bloodsuckers. A gutsy and avant-garde woman, she broke new ground in her handling of women, and made numerous discerning comments on the political prospect of South Africa, chiefly the condition of blacks under apartheid.

Though the title of the novel gives no idea of its content, it raises simple questions of human nature and action. Apart from the growth of the human mind, it deals with Orthodox Christianity, Unitarian Christianity, woman’s suffering, dissolution of marriage and women’s social and political independence. The novel tells a disquieting story set in 1860s of a girl on an isolated farm in the veld who fights back for her independence in the face of rigid Boer social conventions. It is a story of the hard life of Lyndall, Schreiner’s articulate and strong willed young heroine, representing the contentious New Woman of 19th century fiction.

Raised as an orphan and a strict Calvinist amid a rough and ready family in the plains of South Africa’s high Karoo, Lyndall observes the ruthless world of colonial expansion and exploitation. Her only true friends are Em and Waldo. Longing for a life of proper education, she leaves the miserable and distressing farm for a boarding school only to return after an ill-fated relationship. She retires worn out to a secluded life in a house in Bloemfontein where she is nursed back to health by a farmer masquerading as a female nurse, the original prototype of the sensitive and responsive New Man that Schreiner envisioned.

"The Story of an African Farm" has a strong episodic structure quite relevant to the fragmentary overtones of modernism. It is full of instances of undeserved outcomes, forestalled aspirations and sheer bathos. This is the acrid reality and compassionlessness of life on the farm. Economic necessity overwhelms filial ties; the disempowered are the only ones who have some affection for one another, and paradoxically they are the losers in the end.

The story deals with the agnostic and feminist concerns of Lyndall and Waldo. Both children realise at the outset that they cannot fit into a society based on institutions like Christianity. Their attitudes and views, very much Nietzschean in spirit, are harbingers of a brave new world where good and evil no longer exist in any transcendental way. They do not believe in a world of absolute values or divine sanction. Waldo is afraid of the ticking of the watch that for him symbolises the brevity of life, sending shudders. "Dying, dying, dying!/ Said the watch; "dying, dying, dying!"

This is an anguished response to 19th century scientific developments where the world becomes too chaotic and inhuman for a child; old religious and political certainties collapse and undermine much of orthodox Christian teaching. The subconscious motives of Christianity and its slave morality are questioned as they are taken as an attempt to emasculate the will power. Human beings, it is argued, create truths for themselves that are functional; concepts are never objective.

The entire apparatus for conventional knowledge is an apparatus for abstraction and simplification, directed not towards the attaining of knowledge but taking possession of all things. Indeed there is only falsehood and mendacity in all Christian interpretations of history and the world. The individual, therefore, has to take responsibility for his own actions in a godless universe and make his own values in unfettered freedom. Morality is nothing but the herd instinct and represents those who are individually weak but collectively strong; it is an evolutionary urge to survive.

Lyndall, thus aims at a life of free spirit and a daring venture for knowledge where meaning is not fixed or timeless.

Africa, so often claimed by imperialists to be a pagan continent without a history, has a store of cosmography and meaning that perplexes western forms of knowledge. This has a peculiar allure for Waldo. Taken together, these particular elements of Schreiner’s novel certainly emphasise a disjunction between prevailing "Victorian precepts about history, religion, and culture and the never-ending world of Karoo where the stark ‘primitive’ farmlands and its seemingly ‘civilised’ European inhabitants do not cohere." Stretching out towards the horizon, Africa surpasses the explanation offered by the worldview transported by those invaders who have settled there.

The book’s originality, assured handling of narrative and description, exotic background, and vigorous expression of feminist, anti-Christian views on religion and marriage give it both notoriety and wide appeal. Lingeringly and poignantly elegiac, it became the first distinctly feminist narrative in English. It stands up against conservative marriage, against frilly frocks and the brutality of imperialism.

The double 20th century occurrence of urbanisation and the separation of the black and white races by government policy have significantly affected the psychosomatic composition and thus the literary expression of such English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites, as well as of Africans. The moral and artistic challenges inherent in South Africa’s situation enthused Schreiner and kept her preoccupied with race problems.

The novel displays impressive technical abilities in bleak depictions of desolate landscapes and alienation; the melancholic experience of individual desolation are combined with a probing depiction of South African political realities that almost succeeded in smothering the craving for self-assertion and a social identity. Restraint and wry humour are characteristic of the novel. But Schreiner has dealt sympathetically with rural Africa and is definitely the most eloquent voice of South African liberal humanism as characterised by rhythmic prose, a compassionate and incisive scrutiny of South Africa’s tormented race relations and irony.



Ballad on bloody past
Jaspal Singh

"KUA mua re kaun mua" is a disturbing text. Gurnaib Singh from Garhangan village in Ropar district, now a teacher at Punjabi University, Patiala, has done this by reliving those dark days which most of us today shudder to remember. Think of Punjab between 1984 to 1995! If one’s faculties are intact and if one does not suffer from amnesia, he or she will not have a sound sleep at least for a night or two.

Human beings like grass immediately strike roots after uprooting, start growing, turning arid lands into oases. Punjab, in its turbulent history, has seen many a great crisis but the one faced in 1947 was perhaps the severest of all since it tore the people apart not only physically but also socially, psychologically, culturally and spiritually. Such a fractured existence is almost unheard of in the history of the human race.

Wherever such wrongs were committed by the forces that be — Germany, Vietnam, Korea and so on — they have been either undone or are in the process of being revoked. In the recent past the second such crisis, when Punjab again had a bloodbath and a schizoid psyche leading to physical and psychological atrophy was in the eighties of last century.

Gurnaib Singh has tried to capture those "days of despair" when he was doing his honours degree in Punjabi literature in Panjabi University, Patiala, and was deeply involved in student politics that opposed Khalistan and militancy.

"Kaun mua re kaun mua" (Ravi Sahit Parkashan, Amritsar) is a book-length ballad (kaavgattha) on the arduous journey of a village boy from a family of marginal farmers to become a university teacher and a budding intellectual. While a student, the boy comes in contact with Left student activists but is soon overtaken by the events of 1984.

With the rise of militancy in Punjab the boy figures prominently on the terrorist hit list. A number of student activists and teachers who did not subscribe to the Khalistan ideology were done to death.

The ballad begins at midnight and the protagonist is planning to go to his village on the eve of his sister’s marriage. The village is in the grip of terrorism. Bands of armed militants prowl the fields where they stay at the tubewell shelters for the night. For a man on the hit list it is extremely dangerous to venture into the countryside where his opponents rule.

The boy thinks of the various hit lists prepared by different tyrants at different stages of history in Germany, Kabul, Lahore or Delhi. He asks a rhetorical question: "What is the difference between the hit list of ‘Singhs" made by the later Mughal rulers and their cohorts to wipe out the entire Sikh community and the other by the English to exterminate revolutionaries during the freedom struggle and now the one being carried by the Khalistani terrorists?"

The author avers: "Nindak han mai/ katal, kaatal/te hit list da/ Is badle naam hai jekar mera/ hit list utte/tan mainu afsos nahi hai".

The ballad wades through various hurdles and hassles that one has to face if the family is caught in a debt trap and makes it difficult to meet both ends after a day’s gruelling labour. The son is sent to university to do his graduation, post-graduation and then his research with the hope that one day he will become an "officer" and would liberate the family from the debt trap. Both his parents and his sisters have great expectation from him but the boy instead becomes a student activist belying all their hopes and gets a job as a university teacher only when his three sisters have been married off and his parents have grown old.

When Operation Bluestar takes place, the Sikh psyche was badly wounded, leaving a deep scar behind. There were myths galore which the folk mind concocted such as, "The sant has not been martyred. He has just escaped. He had the blessing of the Gurus. He is now in Pakistan... Tanks failed to move and the shell froze in the barrels. The Singhs repulsed the attack. The Indian Army and the Delhi government were smitten by God’s wrath."

It was the time when the people would switch off their radio and throw away the newspaper. The author’s mother and father would allege, "Dhakka hai Punjab naal/ Beadbi keeti hai Dilli ne Guru ghar di." (Punjab has been wronged. Guru’s house has been desecrated.)

The old people would have a lump in their throat and they would have tears welling up in their eyes. They slept on the floor for many a night. Then somebody would declare, "The sant would appear on Pakistan TV. The entire village would have its eyes glued on the only TV set (a dowry gift) that one household proudly flaunted. When electricity failed at night, they alleged, "This is a government of cheats. They cut off the electric supply so that people should not have a glimpse of the sant."

After this Punjab sank still deeper. There was a daily toll of lives. There were daylight depredations and docoities which were soon followed by rape and other crimes. The people would refuse to see the truth. They would proclaim, "These are the misdeeds of government touts. The militants have nothing to do with it."

Many professors in university grew long beards. Some would plan emigration to the West, others would advise their students to lie low for some time till bad days are over.

As the protagonist goes to his village, he is shot in the back by terrorists. He shouted, "I am not an Arjun but I know for certain that you are an Abhimanyu who has entered the ‘chakarviyu’ and will not come out of it alive." Today we know many militants were initially innocent boys who were sucked by hard times into the whirlwind of ghastly events. Their escape route was through the valley of death. Thousands of innocent people perished. The inexorable dialectics of history has its own logic which certainly is beyond the individual "will". The ballad then passes through Anandpur Sahib and via Chamkaur, Sirhind and Machhiwara reches Khadrane di Dhaab.

The partition of 1947 makes its grisly visitation. The long caravans of uprooted and wretched people in utter despair are heading towards an unknown destination on both sides of the Radcliff Line. The events of 1947, though were more devastating, they passed over swifty like a hurricane. But the events of the eighties and the mineties had a rise, a climax and a denouement that took more than a decade for things to come back to normal.

There are two superimposed woman characters in the balled — Amma Devki and Bibi Fatima, the former is the grandmother of the protagonist and the latter is supposed to be a daughter of Mohammed. They have been introduced to fill the gaps in the narrative in the manner of chorus in a Greek play.

The eternal question remains unanswered for the reader to meditate on — "Why does a Punjabi become a rebel: a Ghadri, a Babber Akali, a Bhagat Singh, an Udham Singh, a Naxalite, a comrade or a Sikh militant?" The question needs an answer not a death sentence or oppression or imprisonment.

If you don’t answer this question it may appear in a different garb at a, different time in any country of the world. The poem in a nutshell gives a vivid description of the Sikh struggle since the days of the Gurus. Then this struggle undergoes several transformations, including that of the freedom struggle and the trials of 1947 and the eighties.

Some perennial metaphors like the Sutlej, Sirsa, Bibi Fatima, Amma Devki, Akal Takht, Machhiwara and Sirhind occur with all their historical force.

There are seven movements of the poem and they ramble through different times and places with a back and forth movement trying to capture the spirit of different epochs. In fact the past is cast in the mould of the present in order to make it more relevant.

There is a sharp focus on the state of peasantry in Punjab at the present moment when farms do not generate a surplus. The education of children, their marriage and other social and domestic obligations eat up every-thing they produce, pushing many farmers into a debt trap.

Thus this autobiographical ballad becomes a tale of the most representative section of the people of Punjab for whom the times have gone awry and life utterly out of gear.



Ingredients of Punjabi nationalism
Review by Roopinder Singh

Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab
by Harnik Deol. Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia, Routledge, London, New York. Pages 200. Rs 1,400.

NATIONALISM is a term that means different things to different people at different points of time. Trying to pin down the concept can be a daunting task. Add to it a touch of religion and the odds mount up.

Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjabet this is what the writer of this book has done, and managed to come out unscathed rather well. In its simplest sense, nationalism is the devotion to the interests or culture of a particular nation. For the author nationalism represents an ideology and movement on behalf of the nation and incorporates both political and cultural dimensions.

She notes that many scholars like the historian J. D. Cunningham argue that the Sikhs constituted a nation during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The way the notion of nationalism developed in India is different from the historic developments in Europe, which is seen by scholars against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution. In India, nationalism had a cultural and religious context and "religion dominated the social bond that defined the characteristics of the nation."

One agrees with Deol in that it would be misleading to examine the emergence of Hindu nationalism as a single phenomenon. Religious groups have subsections and are divided on caste, regional, linguistic and other lines. She traces the recent resurgence of religious nationalism to the weakening of political instituitions and loss of faith in secular institutions. One would also add here a general weakening of the moral fabric that has lead to divisiveness where religious masks masquerade as moral exemplars.

Tracing out the historical routes of Sikh consciousness, the author maintains that Guru Nanak's emphasis on Gurbani, and not on personal devotion to himself was of great significance, especially in the egalitarian community that he established at Kartarpur. The tradition of combining religious and social aspects, the establishment of the instituition of langar at Kartarpur, the compilation of the Adi Granth by Guru Arjan Dev are all significant to the establishment of a common communal consciousness. With the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev under the orders of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, who was concerned about the growing influence and the expansion of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind, his son, proclaimed the Miri-Piri doctrine under which religious and temporal aspects were bonded.

The period after the Gurus, till the annexation of Punjab (1706-1849), saw the rise of the 12 "misls" and the Sikh kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sikhs were only 10 per cent of the population of this kingdom, with Muslims constituting 80 per cent and the Hindus 10 per cent. Sikh rule was secular and it gave the Sikhs a successful institutional framework for articulating political aspirations.

With the advent of the British came fresh challenges, especially in the form of state-supported Christian missionaries that gave rise to reform movements like the Arya Samaj and the Singh Sabha. It was during this period that the Sikh voice for a distinctive identity took the form expressed in Bhai Kahan Singh's book Ham Hindu Nahin! This was also the period of the gurdwara reform movement when mahants were removed from gurdwaras and eventually the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee came into being. The handing over of the keys of the toshakhana of Darbar Sahib to the SGPC by the British authorities was greeted by Mahatma Gandhi with the following telegram: "Congratulations, first decisive battle for India's freedom won" (The Tribune, January 17, 1922).

The SGPC gave the Akali Dal, which has dominated it since its inception, a considerable hold over Punjab politics. The Akalis participated in the nationalist campaign for Independence, though they had their grouse with the majority communities, especially the decision to grant 33 of the 175 seats in the Punjab Legislative Assembly to the Sikhs, which constituted an 18 per cent representation.

Deol argues that the interplay between the general growth in literacy, communications and the expansion of imperial bureaucracy, on one hand, and the socio-religious reforms on the other, gave birth to religio-linguistic nationalism at the end of the 19th century in Punjab; print capitalism facilitated the historic formation of languages of everyday life to the sacred languages of scriptures.

After Independence, the demand for "Punjabi Suba", or a Punjabi-speaking state, dominated the politics of Punjab from 1950 to 1966. During the linguistic re-organisation of states in 1956, the demand of Punjabi being the basis of such reorganisation was not initially recognised. The prospect of having little political leverage as a minority community raised Akali apprehensions as they sought to protect the language and religion in a Hindu-dominated society. The Arya Samaj protagonists aggressively promoted Hindi as the language amongst the Hindus and opposed the adoption of Punjabi as an official language in Punjabi-speaking regions of the state.

This lead to confrontation and much acrimony. The Akali demand was rejected by the State Reorganisation Commission and the Akali Dal launched its Punjabi Suba agitation and eventually it resulted in the trifurcation of the state in September, 1966, and saw the emergence of the Akali Dal as the ruling party.

The Anandpur Sahib resolution of 1973 became the subject of considerable controversy, though various Akali leaders have gone on record saying it had no secessionist overtones, though this is what the Congress alleged. The prolonged and often acrimonious negotiations for socio-economic demands of the Akalis and the Central government, to which they were opposed, are "partially responsible for beginnings of the Sikh armed struggle".

Deol contends that the lack of tacit support for guerrilla resistance by a broad cross-section of the rural and the urban Sikh population lead to the virtual disintegration of the movement."

She maintains that the Green Revolution was an agent of change for the Sikh peasantry and the new agricultural technology was unfavourable to the lower strata of the population.

Commenting on the role of the vernacular Press, Deol says it has "played a critical role in heightening religious identification in recent years by reinforcing the linguistic basis of religious identity. Consequently, a composite Punjabi identity, shared by all religious communities failed to emerge in Punjab. This underlines the widespread support that the Sikh movement for Khalistan elicited from the Sikh peasantry."

One would point out that there is a distinct Punjabi identity that emerges at many forums, including various interactions amongst the Punjabi diaspora. The divisive politics that had overtaken the state at the time did find reflection and support among elements of the diaspora, it did not obliterate the commonalities, and they were merely swept under the force of the vents and have re-surfaced.

Deol has undertaken, as noted in the beginning, a difficult task. She has covered a vast canvas in this study, which is a revised version of her PhD thesis on sociology presented at the London School of Economics in 1996. She is now based in Geneva and works for the United Nations Council for Trade and Development, UNCTAD. Routlegde is to be commended for publishing a work that is sure to be a reference point for further studies as a part of its modern history of Asia series.



The end of an empire
Review by Rumina Sethi

Imperium by Rysard Kapuscinski.
Granta Books, London. Pages 300. £14.99.

PARENTS in Russia would often frighten their children by saying, "Behave yourself or they will deport you to Siberia." For them, Siberia was not only a freezing, icy space but a land of oppression. In more democratic countries like Canada or American Alaska, one does not hear parents frightening their children by saying they will send them to the freezing north. This is because there is no dictatorship here. In the latter countries, there is only one antagonist — the cold. But in Siberia, there are three: the cold, hunger and the armed force. Such notions of fear, torture, and suffering became integral to the Russian psyche and were used to advantage in imperialist ventures..

Such impressions of alien dominance captured the mind of Rysard Kapuscinski who had his first brush with Soviet power as a child in Poland when Stalinist terror was at its peak. It is unfortunate to have one’s homeland occupied by an outsider. In the eyes of a growing child, this often leads to trauma, especially when his father is forced into captivity and his close relatives, friends, and classmates pushed into "deportation" — a strange word that the child does not understand. He asks his mother who wants to answer the question but only breaks down.

As an adult, Kapuscinski returns to the USSR, again to witness the fragmentation of the Soviet Union. One of the world’s greatest foreign correspondents, he was born in Pinsk, then part of Poland, and now Belaru. During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for the Polish Press Agency, bringing out heart-rending accounts of 27 revolutions and coups around the world. His other book, "The Soccer War", brought him wider fame. His writings have spurred agencies upholding human rights to even more diligently protect the citizens of the world from oppression and safeguard fundamental human rights such as free expression, freedom from discrimination and a fair trial under the due process of law.

The occupation in Poland had left an indelible impression on the mind of young Kapuscinski, which finally became the force behind the writing of "Imperium" that recounts Russia’s compelling and horrifying tyranny:

"My first encounter with the Imperium takes place near the bridge linking the small town of Pinsk, Poland, with the territories to the south. It is the end of September, 1939. War is everywhere. Villages are burning; people are taking shelter from air raids in ditches and in forests, seeking salvation wherever they can. . . . Crowds of refugees, fleeing in dust, dirt, panic. What do they need so many bundles for, so many suitcases? Why so many tea kettles and pots? Why are they cursing? Why are they constantly asking questions? All of them are walking, riding, running somewhere — nobody knows where.""

Confronted by soldiers, aiming their rifles at the fleeing people, the child Kapuscinski saw his mother as well as other women and children crying and begging for mercy, kneeling on the road, sobbing and stretching out their arms. All of it seemed so dreadful and incomprehensible to him at the age of seven.

"Imperium" is a collection of essays which begin with memories of the Red Army’s entry into Kapuscinski’s home village of Pinsk. It then covers his repeated trips to the USSR right up to the end of the Gorbachev period. Growing up in the terribly harsh and troublesome environment, Kapuscinski became a curious citizen who could not help but question the history of occupation where people have no freedom to question its legitimacy. This curiosity took him to the northern "circle of hell" where the Soviet power ruthlessly employed Polish labour force for economic benefits from coal and gold mines. Kapuscinski writes passionately: "More constructions of barbed wire clasping together the sky and the earth, clinging to every bit of frozen field, to the white landscape, to the icy horizon. On the face of it, this thorny, rapacious barrier stretching along the border seemed like an absurd and surreal idea, for who would force his way through here?"

It was difficult to penetrate the Red Army’s barbed wire in this area but Kapuscinski fearlessly forced his way through. He later went on to join the rebels in the Nagorny Karabakh region by disguising himself as an Armenian pilot.

It is this boyish energy that compelled him to risk his life in his search for facts under the very nose of the brutal and invincible overreacher that Russia had become. The book "Imperium" comes out of these tortuous and solitary travels across his country and Russia. It is as fascinating as his previous book, "The Emperor", which is a very definitive account of the last leg of Haile Selassie’s rule. All dictators, irrespective of epoch or country, have one common trait: they know everything, are experts on everything. Be it Gaddafi or Ceacescu, Idi Amin or Alfredo Stroessner - there is no end to their profundity and wisdom.

"Imperium" is a diatribe against Stalinism, highlighting the spectacle of Stalin’s architectural mutilation of the old Moscow. It is an account of cruelty which exists only for the sake of cruelty that is institutionalised so visibly in the torture and humiliation of new recruits to the Red Army, leading to their unbearable deaths at the hands of their own countrymen. The very form of the book is a case of "parataxis" — a fragmentary account of the erstwhile Soviet Union which finally went to pieces. The promise of a unified account comes to a disappointing break-up symbolising the collapse of all notions of humanness; this is the very content of a form that brought about havoc in the wake of tyrannical imperialism..

Largely, Kapuscinski sees nationalism, racism, and religious fundamentalism as the "three plagues" responsible for the inhuman and violent conditions in pre- and post-Soviet Union era. Russia has often been described as the last European empire which apparently lasted the longest and also disintegrated faster than all previous imperial enterprises. Russia was no more than a colony in the same pattern as the non-Russian republics where people lived under oppressive conditions of injustice, violence and dispossession.

But Kapuscinski is not interested in arguing why the Soviet Union disintegrated. He merely takes political snapshots of a country falling apart. He is not a political analyst but a writer who uses his imagination along with his experience of history and knowledge of human behaviour to depict a nation "in pursuit of suffering" As he writes of his teacher who disappeared one day, "Why did they take our teacher? He was constantly nervous and looked out of the window frequently. He was always serious and seemed very sad. He was good to us and if a student stammered while reading Stalin, he didn’t shout and even smiled a little."

Kapuscinski speaks of a Russian nation which is vast, where the road that a traveller takes seems to have no end. One can walk along it for days and months but the landscape stretches forever. The plains and forests and rivers are endless. It was such a large state that the Russian wanted to rule over, to maintain. And thus the Russian had to burn up all his energy "for organisation, for husbandry and so on." He expended his energy on a state that both enthralled and oppressed him.

Kapuscinski believes that this limitlessness of Russia has a negative effect on the thinking of its citizens. It does not demand of him concentration or the creation of a dynamic, vigorous culture. Everything drowns in a formless, ungraspable expanse that leaves room for little else but a crushing sense of defeat.

Communism, according to Kapuscinski, gave "some victims a special opportunity to become villains" leaving millions of people orphaned and hungry. The children of such nations who learn stealing and wander barefoot through the country learnt violence and hatred "holding the nation in the grip of bestial fear". Drawing attention to the mess floating on the floors of airport lavatories, Kapuscinski foregrounds the squalor which is the very essence of "Imperium".

"The horror, the horror!" As one recalls, it was a Russian who steered Conrad’s Captain Marlowe to the heart of darkness. From this imperium emerges no good news. Only a void full of "the uselessness of suffering". Here is a sensitive attempt by Kapuscinski at evoking an assembly of experiences of Russia and its dominions. Like Conrad, he has told the Russian story of the "brutal destruction of dignity, of truth, of rectitude, of all that is faithful in human nature".



She speaks like a Bohemian
Review by M.L. Sharma

The Act of Living by Anita Duhan.
APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 300. Rs 200.

"THE Act of Living" teaches the art of living. The author is not a well-known essayist and her genre of writing is different from others. She does not follow the style of either Vincent Peele or Swett Marden and there are no references of successful people who followed certain principles and ascended the ladder of glory. The book consists of pithy sentences written after much meditation or reflection on the deeper aspects of life. Her approach is pragmatic and in that way she is close to William James, the well-known American psychologist.

Her style is also quite different from Francis Bacon, Hazlitt or Charles Lamb but in her expression she bears distant resemblance to Walter Pater and George Santayana in some of her "gems of thoughts". She is rational in her approach. She has given expression to a main thought on each page followed by allied thoughts, explaining the main thought. She is of course original and has not drawn from other sources.

Deepak Chopra and Shiv Khera, world famous writers, do not seem to have inspired her. She is not religious in her approach to several significant or spiritual issues in providing guidelines for living in the present situation and milieu. To her prayer is exalted begging". But still she is thoughtful in several ideas just as: "Our cheerfulness and happiness, our depression and sadness, are tides high and low. Both are must as part of the flow. A turn from one to the other may be desirable or not but that makes us know that we are alive."

She does not offer any kaleidoscopic view of the world scenario. The hallmark of her writing is originality, deep meditation and reasoned treatment of issues and ideas, however cynical they may sound. Instead of calling the world maya or illusory or describing people as passengers in the train of life, she has quite a different view and approach and considers them as guests posing as hosts. In a few telling sentences she explains this truth. "We are guests in the world but are trying to be hosts. Thereby, we are even endangering our respect of being the responsible guests. Moreover, the guests are always free and cheerful and the host hesitant and fearful." The last sentence is quite poetic in expression.

In her first meditation on page 1 she lays stress on individual freedom and takes man not as a particle or a bubble in the ocean of existence. Unlike Gurdjief, she believes that man has his own history. She would not relish the thought of Gurdjief appearing "In Search of the Miraculous": "Man should realise that he can lose nothing because he has nothing to lose." She says,"Everybody is a page of your life history. The good thing is that you are the writer. Whatever you write or keep that blank it is up to you. But the bad thing is that the page is daily turned over."

On philosophical subjects of origin and creation she has her own way of understanding. She maintains that light is uncreated or a priory. "Every phenomenon," she muses, "in the world starts from the past and pushed forward. Light was there, eyes originated, sound was there, ears originated..."

Like Osho she believe in the power of sex and condemns celibacy as a sign of sickness. "It is disloyalty to future life, misuse of present life and faithlessness for past life." For her celibacy is a "living fullstop".

She sounds cynical and agnostic when she talks about God. "Don’t thank God for your well-being... The idea of God makes us instantly strong but permanently weak."

She believes that nothing is free in nature and there is no free will. Everything, including birth, in nature is accidental. She does not approve of significant role of saints in life. "The various saints and swamis... give fake fantasy but receive real respect. Beware of their sweet but spurious verbosity."

Religion, to her, is the cheapest means of entertainment. Man to her is selfish by nature and her understanding of man resembles that of Thomas Hobbes.

In some thoughts she sounds naive but, of course, interesting. About a woman behind every successful man, she says, "What a male superstition conspired by female obsession that there is always a woman behind the success of every man. But what about the successful woman? Are they all lesbians". Apparently these sentences appear sarcastic but they conceal a truth. For happier living she counsels self-dependence and reliance on one’s own self. The feeling of hopelessness, she says, may cause a heart attack and of helplessness cancer.

"Neither expect good from others nor accept your ill. Practice enthusiasm and be cheerful, to always feel thrill." Self-reliance, enthusiasm and cheerfulness are most vital in life and one should not feel small in the presence of successful men. She does not favour family planning. "It is a deadly conspiracy against the future generations."

She is not happy with adult fascination for sports. "Ball is meant for a child." She holds the view that adults should mind their own business and leave the playground for children.

The book will delight the reader who does not seek any serious thought for his uplift, mentally and spiritually, but only wants to have an inkling of practical wisdom in all walks of life. In her obsession with sex she has surpassed Byron, Osho, Shobha De and Kamla Das and her advice on page 203 is deleterious to social morality: "A healthy man should have desire for sexual intimacy with all the beautiful women of the world. But a healthy man should have desire only for one or two handsome men." Even Byron could not dream of intimacy with all the beautiful women of the world. His obsession was restricted only to the British royalty. Even Casanova would blush hearing such words emanating from the pen of an Indian lady!

Such permissiveness and belittling of the role of spiritualism in life are her main characteristics. She is pan-sexualist like Freud. For instance on page 124 we come across the following sentence: "We like flowers apparently for their beauty but actually and deeply for their resemblance to the sex organs of the females."

Her philosophy pertaining to sexuality can be summed up in the words of Will Durant: "In the midst of our machines we have lost sight of the fact that basic reality in life is not politics nor industry but human relationship — the association of men with women and parents with a child. About these two focii of love — mate love and mother love — all love revolves." The book is a bold attempt at original thoughts (opinion?) and makes interesting reading.



Sick public health policy
Review by Randeep Wadehra

Public Health and Poverty of Reforms by Imrana Qadeer,
Kasturi Sen and K. R. Nayar.
Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages: 547. Rs 700.

WHY is it so difficult to bring about necessary structural changes in our society in order to facilitate better health facilities for all? What prevents us from ensuring a smooth transition from the present chaotic social health sector to a more orderly scenario?

Extreme poverty, social backwardness, inequitable distribution of wealth, skewed power structure and several other similar problems of colossal dimensions faced the newly independent South Asian countries. To these, add rising import bill, increase in real interest rate and foreign debt and you have some idea of the misery of these countries which are trying to modernise themselves. Consequently, all developmental efforts face daunting financial crunch. Out of the total South Asian external debt of $ 150 billion in 1999, India’s share was as high as US $ 98.87 billion. The authors trace the genesis of this huge debt burden to the 1973 oil crisis.

This book attempts to provide a global context to the health sector scene in South Asia. "It moves away from the prevailing neo-classical framework of analysis of health sector reforms to look at the health sector through epidemiological, health and social sciences, rooted in alternative theoretical moorings." The authors look at the health sector beyond traditional concepts of markets, medical technologies, overpopulation, etc. and give due weightage to social processes born out of conflicting and complementary economic, political, social and cultural realities.

This volume concentrates on "complexities and processes and on unraveling the internal and external linkages of the health sector in order to draw attention to the challenges of health planning in South Asia."

Debabar Banerji in his paper states that in the recent past there has been a distinct tendency among some "responsible international organisations and aid agencies" to describe the conditions prevailing in the region as being worse than they actually are. He dubs their database "dubious". He strongly feels that there is need for incorporating important political, historical, socio-cultural, epidemiological and related dimensions in the analysis of health systems.

Jennifer Bennett cautions, "Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) are not simple instruments for rectifying macro-economic imbalances through the imposition of policies, such as currency devaluation, privatisation, trade liberalisation, and cuts in government spending, as proclaimed. They may be viewed instead as carefully engineered projects for generating social and economic transformation in the interests of the countries of the North."

She points out that both the World Bank and the IMF give loans to poor countries in the name of development. Then they are told that in order to be able to pay off the loans and be eligible for more they should undergo structural adjustment reforms. This sets off a vicious circle. Instead of resolving their economic crisis, such programmes cripple the Third World economies.

Farida Akhter, referring to the situation in Bangladesh, avers that the health and social sectors there are a product of donor-driven development strategy led by the USA. She goes on to say, "East Pakistan had been an internal colony of West Pakistan. The agrarian surpluses of the former have been expropriated to meet the needs of industrial development of West Pakistan. A particular form of military-bureaucratic state structure and the powerful alliance between feudal, commercial, trade, military and bureaucratic forces, more or less, can be seen as the consequence of a particular development strategy adopted in the post-colonial period."

Akhter feels that lack of relevant tradition and historiography has prevented careful scrutiny and analysis of developmental plans that decide the fate of millions.

Meri Koivusalo, however, observes that a close scrutiny of the public sector reforms taking place in Europe reveals similarities with the structural adjustment and health sector reforms that have been implemented in developing countries. She goes on to say, "These changes may be related to the ideological domination of right-wing policies backed by neo-liberal economic prescriptions, all of which have altered the focus of policy action and understanding of the role of the state." Does this observation have any relevance to the present BJP-led NDA dispensation in India?

Here is a book that takes a comprehensive view of health care and poverty amelioration related programmes in South Asia. The focus is unrelentingly on the roles of the state and international agencies. Statistics have been provided wherever needed. Tables and charts make this book invaluable for social scientists and policy makers alike.


Understanding Business Systems in Developing Countries
 by Gurli Jakobsen and Jens Erik Torp.
Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 260. Rs 225.

It was taken for granted that development was a state function. In fact most of the literature concentrated on development-related functions with focus solely on the state. Things are changing now. It is being increasingly recognised that business, especially of the private sector, too has an important part in the progress of a developing economy. The authors observe, "...the changes which have taken place during the past 15 years in the macro-economic setting and in the role of the various economic actors have led to new types of societal dynamics..."

This brings into sharp focus the role of local companies as "socially embedded and acting economic organisations".

The authors point out that in the wake of structural adjustment and liberalisation a number of new and important questions should be raised about the role of local companies. This may very well lead to a reexamination of the existing notions of relations between private companies, the state and society.

In order to understand the various processes involved in development efforts in "the South" it is important to be aware of various theoretical approaches to the study of business development. Since the theoretical field of such study is vast one might confine one’s investigation to a critical review of the business systems approach. This approach, developed over the past decade, is "based on the practical and empirical experience of a number of East Asian countries..."

The tome seeks to highlight the concept of "business system" as elaborated by Richard Whitley and associates. According to Whitley, business systems are "particular arrangements of hierarchy-market relations which become institutionalised and relatively successful in particular contexts... They develop and change in relation to dominant social institutions, especially those important during processes of industrialisation..."

This approach assumes that there are some features of the way economic actors are organised that are characteristic of and particular to a specific country, and are the result of historically derived structures.

Apart from the business systems approach, this book also examines other theories. One such is what Kaplinsky calls the "Easternisation" theory that studies the Japanese-oriented techniques and management practices. A third approach is the old research focus on TNCs. In fact this one has been revived owing to the increasing direct investments by TNCs in the developing world, and the impact that they have had on such countries.

This book seeks to present, contrast and elaborate on various approaches to the study of contemporary business transformations and developments in the South "in order to re-examine critically the business systems approach as an appropriate theoretical framework which can further the understanding of the dynamics and trajectories of the private sector of developing countries in the 1990s".


Economic Humanism by Manjit Kalra.
Unistar Books, Chandigarh. Pages 204. Rs 140.

Welfare economists have been trying, quite successfully, to keep the human angle firmly in focus while formulating various economic theories. Adam Smith, Robert Malthus and Karl Marx are some of the names that one recalls in this context. Today one talks of Amartya Sen as the latest heavyweight champion of welfare economics who recommended concerted public action in the 1960s in order to avert the possibility of famines and social inequity.

Kalra asserts that market-led growth cannot ensure freedom from misery and want. He refers to the five freedoms enunciated by Sen – namely, creative freedom, participatory freedom, transactional freedom, procedural freedom and protective freedom. Failure to ensure these freedoms result in illiteracy, gender inequality, child labour, bonded labour, political restrictions, corruption and similar other ills.

Kalra goes on to claim that such social rot can lead to revolution. One thought that the era of revolutions is long over. Today’s international climate is certainly not conducive to such radical upheavals. However, social and political conflicts do crop up as a result of economic injustice. These lose their momentum due to lack of ideological ballast. Witness the conflict in some of the African states and one realises what ideology could have done by providing direction to the exploited. Alas! The age of ideology is over. As an editorial put it, we live in the era of junk ideology.



Sweet and saltish bolian
Review by Darshan Singh Maini

Folk Songs of Love and Humour: (Punjabi bolian) transcreated by Ajit Khullar. Virago Publications, New Delhi. Pages 70. Rs 100.

THE art of translating poetry has received an insightful and erudite attention in the past few decades as, indeed, is the case with other genres and forms of verse. Increasingly, it has been evolving its own aesthetic or poetics, and the emphasis has shifted from rendering to recreation. The 19th century concepts of translating verse were found inadequate in reproducing the aura, the local colour, the ambience and indeed, the spirit of the original poem into another tongue.

This short preamble is intended to point out the directions which Ajit Khullar’s muses have taken to bring about the happiest "effects". No wonder, he has had to do a fair amount of poetic vaulting and joy-riding to keep the steeds in hand, even as they kicked up a lot of dust and heat en route. Considering the nature of his enterprise — putting Punjabi folk songs into a racy, juicy and jocund idiom — it was, I think, the right thing to use a mixed lexicon of native idiom and English-American folk language, slang and new, innovative, provocative phrases.

The volume under review carries a select, though varied, sampling of an overflowing trove of Punjabi bolian. 222 in all, a number that itself seems to suggest something to the imagination of patterns. Khullar has judiciously spread his fare to include many a dish from the Punjabi cuisine of milk and meat and one finds the sense of abandon in these little folk songs of love and humour. All, of course, in apposite metaphors.

It may be observed that bolian are only one striking form of Punjabi songs which comprehend various and colourful skeins of phulkari. From songs of harvesting, seasons, fruit and flowers to wedding ditties, mock, satirical couplets directed against the groom’s folks and friends called sithanian such as the songs accompanying the two dominant male and female bhangra and giddha forms, ensembles of dance and other aspects of creature, diurnal life, all rich in humour and indicative of the Punjabi spirit of buoyancy, or joie vivre, there is an ever-expanding genre, spontaneous and generally anonymous, incremental, absorbing new life-styles, new idioms as a result of commercialisation, entertainment industry, etc.

Indeed, the sense of plentitude and expansiveness in Punjabi folk songs, in this case, bolian, has a compulsive touch about it. Moving round the axis of Eros in all human — and "mystic" aspects — these love ditties have structured a palace of pleasure and dalliance in which the honey and salt of love, the aroma of "the body’s rapture" in a miniature manner have enacted for us the story of the great Indian temples and frescoes rich in detail, asanas and postures of love where the earth and the heaven come together in nuptials.

This is high praise not for the volume under review (which has its own limitations alongside its beauties), but for the folk poetry of these parts. I have seen some earlier attempts to render bolian into English, and I find Khullar’s effort deeply rewarding. Yes, two strong "cheers" for it — like raising a mix of wine and vinegar to the lips in a ceremony of celebration.

Indeed, the theme is too large to be contained in a review of this nature, and I can at best only pick up a few strains from Punjab’s racial, immemorial consciousness, a corporate entity conditioned by history and geography, and thus, by that border state existence which in generations helps create sinews, not only of the body and heart, but also of the spirit.

So, there is now the occasion or the moment to savour some of those inebriating bolian, preserved in the cellars of people’s consciousness and now recreated by Khullar, preserving as well as he could the tang, the saltishness, the stinging sweetness, the tilt and swing of the Punjabi songs — now a rage in the entertainment industry and a passion even in those countries abroad where Punjabis are settled in large numbers.

There are so many frames of idyllic to erotic love before me, and therefore, the selection is intended as an aperitiff.

It is not surprising to find the imagery and the metaphors drawn from the daily business and traffic of life in rural Punjab. Wine and viands, meat and masala, milk and curds etc. are turned into a joyous feast for the ear. Here is the call of the aching body in the monsoon-megha days.

"O, the luscious levities/Of the raintide spell/My bedstead posts/Weep, weep like hell!"

And again:

"My thighs are perfectly bottle green/Full of red red wine/Who the devil keeps you fro’ then,/Your bashfulness or mine."

Here the lover or husband is out on duty somewhere, chiefly in the army, and the unlettered wife or beloved is longing for his letters....

"You’re miles away, my dear,/Your letter gets, all the share/Of my bosom’s warm fair,/My crazy love my care.

Which motif reminds me of one of my own favourite couplets (not included in Khullar’s volume):

"My letter’s deciphered by others;/I’m content to kiss the envelopes.

"Early of dawn I go to pick/cottonheads in the field!/do come after me stalking,/won’t you pick your yield?

There are scores of such suggestive, erotically inviting, naughtily provocative, teasing bolian:

"Your man is rather/Annoyed with you,/Who will plough/Your patch, who?"

And shades of dark sexuality, of illicit amour:

"My deour is so tall and stout/Besides being single, horny, bullish;/He’s a real lady-killer, I find,/He scares me, he’s, frankly, foolish."

A typical young filly, Lacchi (a popular name in folk music), is thus sketched many a bawdy song:

"Lacchi is a shrew who flirts;/Lout-lovers haunt her skirts".

Similarly, male symbols of lusting sexuality are openly named, and at times the line between candidness and abscenity does get erased.

The social structure of rural society too is mirrored fairly frequently in between these love songs. Here the caste-consciousness of Jats who consider themselves a cut above the rest showing residues of feudal culture, and lording it over, their women folk cannot but be thus oriented!

"Alas I’m a retailer’s/Child nuptially tied/To a tardy trader,/A spineless evader!"

"I am a cussed carpenter’s wife/Who’s to broom and sweep aside/His pushy planer’s crypto-doings/Instead of the sweet soft cooings."

I may at this point observe that Khullar does seem to create "the effect", and, in the process, lose control over the idea. For instance, the use of a modern world like "crypto", appears to me to strike a forced, if not false, note. And there are some other such examples in the volume. But I repeat, no one can find the right phrase for the right occasion, chiefly because as even the Marxian critic, Maxwell Caudwell put it in his classic "Illusion and Reality", poetry is, fundamentally, "untranslatable". For no translator, whatever his endowments and skill, can re-create the same order of words with their own unique aroma and ambience.