Sita Must Live:
The Role of Women in Society
Lakshmikumari. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 90. Rs 60.
generally considered as the "woe of man" to be
maltreated by him in every aspect of life. From the day she is
born till she is married off, she is a "burden on the
family". After marriage, she is a slave to the likes and
dislikes of her husband and his family.
If she is a
working woman and outwits her colleagues, she is termed
"aggressive", "unwomanly" and so on. She is
suppressed, tortured and burnt alive for want of dowry. So much
so that she has accepted this as a by-product of life. Even if
she revolts, her voice is confined to the four walls of her
house with no one to listen to her.
Those who have
made their place in society have no different tale to tell. They
had to face great resentment from their family members, friends
and relatives. Why this injustice to her? Why is she considered
inferior to man? Is she really inferior to him? Does she not
play any role in society? Is she a useless creature with no
identity of her own?
The book "Sita
Must Live: The Role of Women in Society" provides an answer
to all these questions. It is a collection of select editorials
written by the author for Yuva Bharati magazine published by the
Vivekananda Kendra. Being a follower of Vivekananda
Lakshmikumari projects woman with unique qualities and as an
evolutionary force to entrench a value system in everyday life.
Spread over 16
chapters the book brings out the personality of woman as a
source of power, strength, love and happiness.
before, woman was treated with respect and was considered as a
beautiful representative of nature. She was named Durga — the
embodiment of strength and power — Lakshmi — the bestower of
wealth — and Saraswati — the source of knowledge. There are
no male equivalents in the Hindu mythology.
As a wife, she
was a symbol of the glory and prestige of her family and a
transmitter of tradition from one generation to another.
As a mother,
she was a teacher and protector of the heritage. And therefore,
a moulder of patriots, which made her universal — a Sita with
unbound capacity to love, sacrifice, serve and suffer.
Even the land
of one's birth came to be called as Mathrubhoomi — and
motherland. Man had great respect for the mother and motherland.
He has been ready to sacrifice his life to protect its honour
and dignity. Nation prospered at that time and had no social
today woman has forgotten her role as Universal mother. Her
materialistic pursuit has reduced her to a commercial product.
She has lost her identity and lusture.
The home has
turned into a house, devoid of love, happiness and peace.
Children have lost their link with tradition. They do not
recognise the right or the wrong and often go astray. Some of
them are drug addicts and petty criminals. Sita, the universal
mother, has lost.
his or her significance. Even a moth which burns itself in the
candle has some purpose. How can a woman then be useless? Is
she? Certainly not.
self-inflicted suffering. The reality is that she herself is
responsible for her plight. Yes, she herself. She has accepted
the dominance of man merely because he is the bread winner and
fulfills the basic needs of the family. She is the one who has
created this inferiority complex and she will have to get rid of
The need is to
educate woman and to make her aware of her strength which lies
within her and her identity — the identity she has lost in the
midst of neon lights and stage effects. Her capacity to love,
sacrifice and serve can change the world. She can teach her
children how to subside hatred, violence with nonviolence and be
compassionate and selfless. She can restore lost moral values in
society and can show the youth the right path.
The author says that "By
strengthening the three main currents of her life — the
capacity to love, sacrifice and serve — a woman can transcend
the barriers of her limitations of motherhood and add a
The origin of
Review by Roopinder
The Making of
Singh Mann. Oxford University Press, New York. Pages 193. $39.95.
traces the history of the Guru Granth Sahib, the primary Sikh
scripture, in this important new book. He reconstructs the
compilation of the Sikh sacred text from the time of Guru Nanak,
the founder of the tradition, to the text presently used in Sikh
worship. Given the importance that the Guru Granth Sahib enjoys
in the Sikh community, the study deserves serious attention.
The book is
divided into eight chapters. Mann begins by placing the origin
of the Sikh sacred text in the larger context of Guru Nanak’s
foundation of the Sikh community at Kartarpur on the right bank
of the river Ravi. He explains Guru Nanak’s activity as
follows: "During the final stage of his life, we see him
translating the theological and ethical ideas in his hymns into
reality. Using families as building blocks, Guru Nanak gathered
his followers at Kartarpur, involved them in agricultural
activity for sustenance and attempted to replicate what he
thought to be the ideal way of life."
with W. H. McLeod and many others who have argued that Guru
Nanak belonged to the sant tradition and emphasised a religion
of meditation and interiority. He contends that "In Guru
Nanak’s case, however, meditation is one critical piece in an
otherwise larger vision of life that constituted the basis of
the community of Kartarpur. For Guru Nanak, three key virtues
— meditation of the divine (naam), charity (daan)
and purity (ishnaan) — are prerequisites to a
successful search for liberation.." Thus, for the author,
the compilation of the pothi fits into his general effort
of building a community.
In the second
chapter, "Writings on Sikh Scripture", there is an
overview of early scholars’ works on Sikh scriptures. Mann
should be given credit for paying due attention to indigenous
scholarship. He painstakingly summarises the significant
contribution of Sikh scholars, beginning with Chaupa Singh in
the early 18th century coming up to the works of Giani Gurdit
Singh, Piara Singh and Pashauara Singh in the 1990s.
In the next
three chapters, basing his argument on the evidence available in
the early manuscripts, Mann presents his understanding of the
history of the compilation of the Adi Granth. Mann highlights
the importance of the Guru Harsahai Pothi, in the early
formation of the scriptural text. Quoting Giani Gurdit Singh,
Mann reports that the opening text of the Guru Harsahai Pothi
contained only the hymns of Guru Nanak. To date, no comparable
manuscript recording the hymns of Guru Nanak and him alone, has
come to light. All other manuscripts we know of contain his
hymns followed by those of his successors at different stages in
the development of the Sikh text.
Pothis are the next landmark in the author’s examination. His
analysis supports the Sikh traditional view of their being
compiled during Guru Amardas period (1551-1574). He maintains
that originally there were four of these of which only two are
extant. These two pothis are in the custody of the
descendants of the third Guru and are at present in Pinjore and
that is at present with Sodhis of Kartarpur comes into focus
next. Mann supports the firmly-held Sikh tradition of its being
compiled during the period of Guru Arjan (1584-1606). He
analyses the contents of the pothi and discusses the
changes introduced from time to time. He, however, argues that
it is at the fountainhead of the later scriptural tradition.
following chapter, Mann examines the data in 27 extant
manuscripts of the Sikh sacred text created between1642 and
1692. He traces the compilation of the canonical text known as
Guru Granth Sahib. Here he differs from the traditional accounts
of there being three families of manuscripts available during
this period and argues for a two branch picture. For him,
"The Kartarpur Pothi began to be copied while still in the
process of reaching its final form; a copy of it made in 1605
was taken to Peshawar area where it served as a source for
manuscripts that constitute branch 1; the Kartarpur Pothi
reached its final form in 1606 and then its copies became the
manuscripts of branch 2."
organisation of the text at various stages of its expansion, the
author contends that while the use of raag and the
compilation of the sacred text according to raag assignments
of the hymns is not unique; the way the Gurus applied raag-related
knowledge in compiling these texts indicates a high degree of
He differs from
the traditional view and argues that bhagat bani was
incorporated during the time of Guru Amardas. The incorporation
of the bhagat bani into the Sikh scriptural text
provided Guru Amardas with the unique opportunity to assert the
"Sikh belief in social equality, without diluting the
doctrinal thrust in any way".
In the final
chapter, Mann traces the history of the Guru Granth Sahib from
1680s up to the present day and explains the variations in
manuscripts in terms of the continued re-copying of the early
scriptures. This situation, however, underwent major change with
the coming of the printing press to Punjab in the 1860s. The
SGPC produced the first one-volume Guru Granth Sahib in 1952
after establishing its own press. The text came under criticism
for not following the Kartarpur Pothi. Subsequently the SGPC
brought out a revised edition presently in use.
examines the future prospects and talks about the Sikhs born and
brought up abroad and the new converts to Sikhism in the West.
They both have difficulty in reading the text in Gurmukhi and
"the inevitable need for a non-Gurmukhi text for
performative and ceremonial purposes."
the dilemma that this issue raises, he notes that the Jews and
the Muslims have similar views on the notions of sacred language
and script. He explains how the Jews have reaffirmed the
sacredness of Hebrew, while simultaneously permitting the use of
translation of the Torah in congregational worship and
individual study, while the Muslims have stuck to the original
Arabic script for all devotional purposes. There is still
tension in both the religious communities about this issue.
various dimensions of the Sikh scripture is a continual effort
that has spanned centuries. Gurinder Singh Mann has spent the
past 10 years studying the history of the Guru Granth Sahib and
has presented a well-researched and considered account of what
went into the compilation of Sikh scripture.
scholars will examine his observations and his theories, and may
differ with his position. The book, however, deserves to be
commended for its comprehensiveness, the sensitivity with which
the author approaches the subject and in demonstrating what is
now, unfortunately, a rare quality of scholarly examination of
tradition without the condemnation of positions inimical to one’s
The book is
refreshingly jargon-free, which is no mean accomplishment. The
writer establishes a tone of scholarly humility, and prefaces
his observations with statements like "it seems to me…;
the evidence at our disposal points to this…." And makes
no claim of giving the final word on the issue.
It is an expensive book for
Indian readers and one hopes that OUP, Delhi, would publish an
Indian edition so that it becomes more accessible to scholars in
the region. It could also be translated into Punjabi for wider
dissemination, since this book will be read by those who are
interested in Sikh studies.
How to regain the
Review by Randeep
Kashmir: A Vision for the Future
by M. A. Kawosa.
Natraj Publishers, Dehradun.
Pages 262. Rs 550.
land of blazing Klashnikovs, the valley of blood and tears where
widows in black and widows in white weep separately for their
dead. Kashmir, for the present generation, has become a metaphor
for mindless violence.
But there is
another Kashmir - the valley of divine saffron flowers;
succulent apples, deodars swaying to the music of water flowing
in silvery streams…an idyllic place where spiritualism
manifests itself in the most natural manner. Unfortunately, this
Kashmir is lost in the haze of gunpowder smoke.
The needs of
today’s Kashmir are mundane — namely, provision of clean
drinking water, food, clothing and shelter for the ordinary
folks. The statee’s economy is heavily dependent upon its
forest wealth. The author warns, "If we fail to arrest the
degradation of forest resources and its consequent environmental
catastrophe, it will not be uncommon to see the people in the
villages fighting over sharing their meagre water resources…"
Is then the state heading for water riots even when it is being
assailed by terrorism?
that J&K’s geographical expanse is approximately 6.74 per
cent of India’s total area as it is spread over an expanse of
2,22,236.00 sq km, including 1,20,849.00 sq km occupied by China
and Pakistan at present.
agricultural area accounts for 20 per cent of the total land,
while forests cover 30 per cent and cultivable wasteland
accounts for 12.34 per cent. The state has five types of forests
— subtropical dry deciduous, subtropical pine, Himalayan dry
temperate, Himalayan moist temperate and the Alpine forests.
These forests are coming under increasing pressure due to the
rising demand for fuelwood, timber and grazing fields. Moreover,
there have been attempts to set up wood-based industries like
paper pulp, matchsticks, plywood, etc. which will put further
strain on the dwindling natural forests..
In the past six
five year Plans several schemes were implemented to preserve and
enrich the state’s forest wealth. Afforestation and
plantation, improved communication, demarcation of newly cleared
areas in order to rehabilitate them, improvement of the growing
stock and strengthening the forest administration are some of
the important schemes in this regard. The policy resolution of
1952 lays down the main direction for the country’s various
forest departments prescribing measures for complementary and
balanced land use, protection of natural forests, checking
denudation in mountainous regions and prevention of erosion and
A book written
by a government servant invariably becomes a double-edged sword.
The various statistics given in it cannot be challenged for the
simple reason that these have been from official and hence
"authentic" sources. At the same time one cannot be
sure whether the projections are realistic or mere official
propaganda. The author has given a lot of statistics regarding J
& K’s natural, especially the forest resources. He has
also delineated the various measures to protect the state’s
bio-wealth and water resources. He in fact talks of improving
the standard of life of the state’s denizens. All this sounds
very nice in theory. Our academicians too will find the various
schemes quite acceptable.
But what about
the practical side? The actual ground realities are quite
different. The shameless exploitation of the forest wealth and
the government attitude of indifference to the common folk’s
aspiration are well known and documented. One need not go into
too many details here. All one need ask is whether the people of
Jammu and Kashmir require bare essentials of life or the highest
Golf Links in the world built in record time that the State
Chief Minister is so proud of? With such callous attitudes in
the corridors of power can Kashmir ever live up to its famed
sobriquet of being a paradise on earth?
book comes in the category of a must buy book for it provides us
with invaluable information regarding various aspects of the
state of J&K, and compels us to think about its ecological
* * *
in Asia: ASEAN and SAARC Experiences
by Abul Kalam.
UBSPD, New Delhi. Pages xiix + 254. Rs 395.
South Asia is
burdened with too much of history. This "baggage of
history" creates enough suspicion in the countries here to
discourage them from going full steam ahead in economic
cooperation. Not that attempts have not been made to cast aside
the unwanted paraphernalia and foster subregional
interdependence for the benefit of all countries in the region.
Prompted by the
ASEAN experiment in subregional cooperation, SAARC was formed.
Further, subregional organisations like the SAGQ (South Asian
Growth Quadrangle) launched in 1996 by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India
and Nepal; and the BIMSTEC established in June, 1997, and
elaborated as Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand
Economic Cooperation "are now a reality". The member
states are at the moment giving shape to a common agenda for
multi-sectored growth such as transportation, environment and
infrastructure-related projects, common energy grids, and
optimum use of the region’s water resources for the increased
benefit of the member states.
surmises: "Thus, new transnational structures of
cooperation have come into existence, encompassing states of
both South Asia and/or South-East Asia. Apparently, the new
growth entities have become part of international life,
distinctly visible across the ASEAN and SAARC crossborders,
seemingly ordered to replicate the East Asian and ASEAN
are snags. The lingering border disputes, the questions
involving sharing of common sources of water, exploitation of
hydroelectricity generating potential in various international
border areas involving India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and
Myanmar can easily put an end to all well-meaning attempts at
economic cooperation among the various countries. It is
imperative that an independent mechanism for resolving all such
disputes and also for anticipating future problems should be set
up. Perhaps such a body should have the powers of a court of
presents this book in the form of a three-part study of the new
geo-economic model of growth in Asia - namely, subregional
cooperation. Part one deals with the ASEAN growth triangle, with
the hindsight of similar efforts in southern China.
"Conceptually it views ASEAN’s model for subregional
growth as modified structuralism that is supported by
appropriate vision and followed by serious efforts to make
operational a blueprint of action towards
Part two points
out that the subregional effort in South Asia lacked the
necessary conceptual inputs to give direction to developmental
and cooperative efforts. It failed to come up with a coherent
plan to replicate growth effort in the ASEAN region. Politics,
rather than developmental economics, became the salient feature
of all projects.
deals with policy recommendations. It includes the framework for
a conceptual model, to be supported by an effective plan for
both subregional and regional development.
well-researched book that one would like to keep handy for
reference and further research.
* * *
Participation in Sustainable Human Development
by Kamal Taori.
Concept Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 276. Rs 400.
different connotations for different people. Factors like the
standard of living, the type of governance, natural resources,
prospects for further and industrial and technological
advancement play a role in defining development. Thus for an
advanced country the term development will have an entirely
different significance from that for a developing country like,
India too is a
developing country but it comes in a different category. Its
geographical span and diversity, the range of natural resources,
its huge population and the complex ethnic-linguistic-religious
mosaic, its inherent economic and technological contradictions
— different segments of the populace live in different stages
of human development from the pre-historic to medieval to
post-modern. On the roads of even a megapolis like Kolkata one
sees swank cars and hand-pulled rickshaws jostling for space.
The fact that in the same village one farmer uses tractor and
the other animal power shows how uneven the
economic-technological distribution has been..
countries with homogenous populations it is well nigh impossible
to have a single formula for resolving the country’s myriad
problems. Yet one has to come up with sophisticated tools to
tackle the complicated obstacles in our quest for development.
suggests that our planners should concentrate on value addition
to the products of rural industries by harnessing the experience
and skills of artisans who traditionally works in a given field.
These people could be trained in the latest techniques of
production. Thus tannery, pottery, handmade paper, stone
carving, construction and water management are some of the
fields where the relevant expertise can be developed without
great expense. Inputs like better technology, market
orientation, computerisation and identification of competitive
strength-building requirements could certainly be useful in
value addition. This would result in greater benefit to the
points out that people’s participation in sustainable
developments is a must. For this the development should be
socially just, eco-friendly, economically viable and culturally
vibrant. He has however not said anything about the attitudes of
officials in the various rungs of the administrative machinery.
Is it possible to set up an industry in any part of the country
without confronting the hydra-headed ogre of corruption,
red-tape and nepotism? Are not our attempts at economic
liberalisation being thwarted by the machinations of corrupt
politico-administrative combine? Perhaps this aspect of
sustainable development would require a full-fledged analytical
Kamal Taori further suggests
that there is a need for developing and transferring relevant
technologies to various traditional and non-traditional
industries. It is imperative to improve the rural industrial
product’s shelf life through quality upgradation, to develop
effective technologies in the field of communication and
transportation, and to improve the skills of workers and develop
Yes, feministic? No
Review by Priyanka
by Anita Nair.
Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages 276. Rs 250.
writers, Anita Nair is the most promising and a writer to
reckon with. With her second book she has carved a niche for
herself. Her novel, "Ladies Coupe", is as good, in
some ways even better than her first, the "Better
Man". In fact, it will not be fair to draw a parallel
between the two since they are hugely different. The
"Better Man" has a male protagonist and a man’s
worldview while ladies coupe is women-centric without taking a
feministic tone. As a writer she excels in both.
characters with dexterity, gently guiding and prodding them to
tell their own story; never controlling them. "Ladies
Coupe" is primarily the story of Akhila who is 45 and a
spinster. Being the eldest in a conservative Brahmin family,
she is expected to sacrifice her emotions and throttle her
bottled-up desires at the altar of duty following the death of
her father. Her siblings refuse to regard her as anything but
a "cash cow".
insensitivity bogs her down and she develops a keen urge to
find whatever little that remains of the real woman in her,
prompting her to undertake a distant journey to Kanyakumari.
On the train she finds herself in a ladies coupe with five
other women. She opens her heart to them just as they do to
is a camaraderie so strong and a bonding so rare that they
reveal their darkest thoughts and deepest secrets. There is
old Janaki married for 40 years to a man who absolutely adores
her in spite of her mood swings. She finds it unnatural for a
woman wanting to stay alone without a husband for a prop.
Then there is
Margaret Shanti, a gold medallist in chemistry, married to a
narcissistic husband whom she gradually grows to hate. At one
point blind love for him had compelled her to abort her child
only because he thought it was the right thing to do. As their
marriage grows, so does his indifference towards her, making
her toy with the idea of revenge. This she does by cooking
sumptuous meals for him which he cannot resist, thereby
reducing him to a caricature of his former self. Her revenge
is a typical example of a woman who loses her identity and a
sense of self-worth several years down the marriage line. As a
young spirited bride, she transforms into a coquette after a
trip abroad. When Pramod (not her husband) remains apparently
unaffected by her charms, she makes an extra effort but when
he comes on too strong, she withdraws fearing the
consequences. She decides she would revert to being a coy,
dutiful wife. Many years later though she begins to secretly
learn swimming which puts the spark and excitement back into
have a 14-year-old girl amidst them. She shows a rare
sensitivity by understanding her eccentric grandmother better
than her own children.
is Marikolanthu whose character is the most interesting. She
has suffered more personal anguish than all of them put
together. Her plans for her future come to a nought after she
is raped at the age of 18 in her village. She forsakes her son
soon after his birth, unwilling to acknowledge his place in
her life, and is ostracised by her brothers. For a brief
period she becomes the lover of her mistress Sujata Akka and
her husband Sridhar Anna. Much misunderstood, she is asked to
leave. Her perpetrator later dies and with him dies her
bitterness. She accepts her son, now eight.
element of verity in her story line, Anita Nair’s strongest
point is her deep understanding of people and complexities of
life which are easily manifested in the narrative. Hers are
commonplace, everyday characters. They are alive, their tears
real, their exasperation genuine and undramatic and their
dilemma understandable. It could very well be a story of
anyone of us. We could be them, they us.
is evocative, smooth, simply put, splendid and her style easy.
"Ladies Coupe" is an attempt to study traditional,
social relationships and roles and put them in their right
perspective. She even makes a departure and talks of love
between women, arising out of an unfulfilled need to be cared
for and understood. No relationship can work-even between
women-unless there is mutual sensitivity and respect for
The book ends
with a happier, stronger Akhila who has found a direction to
her life.The only question which haunted Akhila was whether it
is possible for a woman to essentially live by herself; live
without a man. The answers are all relative and the choices
personal. What matters is not people’s reaction but
conviction and the strength to hold one’s own.
Once Akhila had given up the
love of a younger man, Hari, for fear of society’s
acceptance of her. Now she seduces a younger man to prove to
herself that it doesn’t matter. She gives in to her desires
and calls up Ravi, wondering if he would still have her after
so many years.
Rasputin - the
real one who refused to die
Review by V.N.
THERE is a
universal tendency to create mythological saints and divinity.
Human nature seeks to find comfort wherever it can. The myth
of Rasputin as a holy man endowed with extraordinary spiritual
powers has persisted for long and, of late, Rasputin is
enjoying a popular revival. The book under discussion is by
Edvard Radzinsky, "The Last Word" (Weidenfeld and
Nicolson, London, pages 524, 20 pound sterling). Radzinsky, a
distinguished Russian playwright and historian, has made use
of a missing file which he had been searching for long.
This file is
a very valuable source of first-hand information. Containing
highly sensitive material about the sinister holy man it was
bought from Sothby’s. Radzinsky’s aim is to understand his
own past by analysing "the frightening symbiosis that
involved a highly religious family, the mutually devoted tsar
and tsarina, their chaste daughters - a lewd priest (Rasputin)
whose escapades were on everybody’s lips."
part of the book deals with Rasputin’s early life. Born in a
Siberian village in 1872, Rasputin showed no interest in his
studies and was virtually an illiterate. At the age of 28, he
gave up drinking, fighting and stealing. He visited several
holy places and heard religious discourses, begged for alms
and prayed. He joined a group of people who whipped themselves
and whirled into sexual frenzies culminating in group
sinning." Rasputin underwent a religious conversion which
alternated between sin and repentance and followed by
spiritual purposes and ecstacy.
that the best way to attain divine bliss was through sexual
exhaustion that came after prolonged bouts of debauchery.
There was no question of his becoming a monk. At 19 he married
Proskovia Fyodorova who bore him four children. But marriage
was a routine affair which gave him no pleasure or excitement.
This was so because his insatiable sexual appetite. He visited
Greece and Jerusalem, living off donations from peasants and
gaining a reputation as a starets (self-proclaimed holy
man) with the ability to heal the sick and predict the future.
shows how in the Czar’s court in St Petersburg much interest
persisted in mysticism and occult. No wonder Rasputin was
welcomed there with open arms. In 1908 he was summoned to the
palace of Czar Nicholas (Nicky) and Czarina Alexandra (Alix)
during one of their haemophiliac son’s bleeding. Rasputin
enjoyed the reputation of possessing powers of curing patients
suffering from serious ailments. Rasputin succeeded in curing
the boy’s suffering by using hypnotic powers.
He warned the
parents that the destruction of the child and also the dynasty
was irrevocably linked to him and, like Iago of Othello, he
used his skills adroitly thereby setting in motion a decade of
powerful influence in the imperial family and the affairs of
the state. All through, Rasputin behaved as a humble and holy
peasant. The Czarina was dazzled by his prowess of curing her
son. She began to look up to him as her mentor.
according to the author, Rasputin gave the "imperial
family an idealised look" to the "real Russian
people which proved a refreshing change from St Petersburg’s
venal offences and the arrogant court." Radzinsky has
clearly documented the sexual excesses committed by Rasputin
wherein ladies would yield to him with abandon on the warm
sofa and obscure petitioners (his influence was widening)
would make their down payments. Rasputin also visited bath
houses with prostitutes. Preaching that physical contact with
him had a purifying effect, he seduced many women and acquired
mistresses.He instilled a strong belief among them that there
was a close link between sexual indulgence and spirituality,
and that he was himself a devotee of his pecularily novel
interpretation of Christianity.
At a number
of places the author does not hesitate in demonising Rasputin’s
lecherous misdeeds, which goes against the principles of
biogrphy-writing which he has set out with a flourishing
rhetoric in his preface.When accounts of Rasputin’s conduct
reached the Czar, he refused to believe that Rasputin was
anything but a holy man imbued with the highest ideals of
been a long debate on the extent of Rasputin’s influence, on
the imperial policy in resisting the revolutionary activities.
Radzinsky illustrates many convincing cases of apparent
success, though some of them speculative. Rasputin’s
influence ranged from the appointment of officials to the
selection of Cabinet ministers. The author shows that he
intervened in military matters.
supporting no particular group, Rasputin was a strong opponent
of anyone opposing the autocracy. Several attempts were made
on his life to end his influence but were unsuccessful until
1916.The imperial authorities treated Rasputin’s critics
severely, and despatched them to remote regions of the em
1916 his behaviour had become a public scandal. Quite a number
of the Czar’s confidants felt dismayed by the pernicious
influence that Rasputin was exercising over the Czar and his
expelled from the court but eventually Alexandra had him
readmitted within a few months. Nicholas chose to ignore
disturbing accounts against Rasputin. After 1915 Rasputin
reached the pinnacle of power and became a personal adviser to
Alix. The general view was that the weak and highly
incompetant Czar was a puppet manupulated by his impulsive and
hysterical wife and a holy devil. Probably Rasputin would have
proved less "fatal for himself and the imperial family
had it not been for his power-hungry friends".
host to a large number of naive searchers for spirituality,
cunning politicians, greedy bankers and others who thought
that they could secure immense material benefits through his
powerful connections. It seemed that this reckless debauch
exceeded all limits so much so that Alex’s obsession with
him got politicised. Rasputin formed a formidable clique in
the imperial court with the Czarina at the centre of the
stage. This coterie started making suggestions to the Czar for
political and church appointments. The Czarina badgered her
husband to act on these "holy orders." As public
opinion became hostile to Rasputin, conspiracies were hatched
to murder him.
Even in the
imperial court little sympathy, far less admiration, was left.
According to Radzinsky, the general view is that Rasputin’s
murderer was the aristocratic dandy, Prince Felix Yusupov, who
had married the Czar’s niece. For this contention Radzinsky
quotes Yusupov’s memoirs which offers a blow-by-blow account
of the melodrama on December 6, 1911 - the cellar where
Rasputin was beaten and tortured, then he was force-fed
poisoned pink cakes, his horrific revival after being shot,
the final shooting in the snow, and the dumping of his body in
the Neva river where he finally died of drowning.
Radzinsky rejects Yusupov’s
version. According to him, Rasputin and Yusupov were engaged
in an erotic relationship; he bases this version on secret
police reports. Radzinsky maintains that it was Grand Duke
Dmitry Pavlovich (the Czar’s cousin) who shot Rasputin
outside the Yusupov palace. The author argues that it was not
right for the hands of a royal youth...to be stained with
blood, and as a popular military man he would have been a
claimant to the throne in case of a coup. Thus a story was
invented to protect the Grand Duke "to perpetuate the
myth of the terrifying devil man who refused to die".
Review by Jaspal
Sajjan was one of the founders of the Left movement inPunjab.He
was born in Sajjan village inHoshiarpur district in the early
years of the 20th century, participated in freedoms
struggle,mostly doing underground work, was arrested several
times and spent many years in jail. He remained a bachelor
throughout his life. Nobody could ever imagine that a political
activist of Sajjan's ilk would ever write a novel.
of this novel was dug out from his old papers when one of his
associates scanned them recently. It was written in 1955, eight
years after Independence but has just been published
posthumously by Desh Sewak Publishers, Chandigarh.
pertains to one of the most glorious chapters of India's freedom
struggle — namely, the ghadar movement that began in the
western coast of North America (the USAand Canada) under the
leadership of Lala Hardyal, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Sohan Singh
Bhakna, Harnam Singh Tandilaat, Baba Gurdit Singh and a host of
other revolutionaries who then shifted the movement to India.
They arrived abroad the Kamagatamaru in the middle of the second
decade of the last century.
associated with Baj Baj Ghaqat tragedy and the later fall-out of
the ghadar movement gave a new militant thrust to the freedom
struggle of India that went parallel with the peaceful
middle-class movement led by Mahatama Gandhi and his followers.
However, the heroes of the freedom struggle inPunjab more than
Kitchew, Satpal and so on were Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev,
Madan Lal Dhingra, Kanshi Ram, Udham Singh and so on.
It is a
different matter that after independence a generation of
politicians quickly emerged to grab the loaves and fishes of the
power structure and the Congress was the smartest of all the
political formations in this.
Sajjan's novel"Anmukki Vaat de Chiraagh" (The oil
lamps of the unfinished journey) begins in the early years of
the 20th century. Surjan, a very audacious boy belonging to a
family of the potters is the protagonist of the novel. His
boyhood pranks and bold outward actions frighten the village
zaildar who finds something unusual in his behaviour which is
unbecoming of a potter (dalit). In f act he is supposed to be
extremely docile being a low caste menial. Once this boy
thrashed the zaildar's son while playing in the fields. Hence
Surjan's father who always observed caste norms, felt
embarrassed and was under constant fear because of his son's
activities which were not liked by the village chief.
The father once
gave him a severe thrashing out of frustration because the boy
would not mend his ways. The next day Surjan disappeared from
the village. Since he was physically well built, he got himself
recruited in the army by wrongly quoting his caste. When the
police came to the village to check his outecedents, Kirpal
Singh, a progressive Jat Sikh, and the Muslim lambardar Sher
Khan gave a good report. Somehow the caste factor remained
unnoticed as the police did not doubt it. Sher Khan served them
a good meal and Kirpal Singh who was very sympathetic to Surjan
gave them a few rupees while they were departing.
So nobody in
the army doubted that Surjan was from a low caste. He now
sported long hair and became an Amritdhari. He already knew a
little"Punjabi but in the army he learnt a smattering of
English as well. Soon his battalion was sent to China.But some
of the soldiers deserted once they found the Chinese cause
justified.The British officers demobbed the battalion and thus
Surjan came back to his village after two years. Now he was a
changed man educated, disciplined and an Amritdhari.he would
wear a pair of pants and creased shirts and would behave a
little differently from others in the village.
son Harnam Singh who was a friend of Surnaj had gone to Manilaa
few months earlier from where he reached the USA. He sent money
to Surnaj and asked him to come to America. The lambardar's
nephew Fazal also got ready to go with him.
After a month
or so they reached Hong Kong from where they set out for
America. Four months later,Surjan's family got a letter from
him. He worked hard there, earned a lot of money which he sent
to India. His father was under heavy debt but now he became a
free man. Surjan's elder brother, Arjan, started taking trade
tours on his mules to distant lands upto Afghanistan and beyond
and thus earned a lot of money. Surjan in America came in touch
with some trade union leaders and Indian Indian nationalists who
inspired youngmen to go back to India and fight for India's
freedom. Many white fellow workers taunted them for being the
citizens of a slave country.
Once race riots
broke out in California which were engineered by the capitalists
to divert the anger of the native workers towards the immigrant
workers. This way the labour movement could be divided in the
interest of the capitalists. Surjan wrote all these things ina
letter to his sister-in-law called Bobo who is the narrator of
After some time
a group of Indian revolutionaries including Surjan sailed to
India with a pledge to liberate India from slavery. They came to
Columbo and from there entered India through boats. They had in
mind the tragedy of Kamagatamaru that took place a few months
before which is why they did not land at any big harbour.
Surjan and his
friends after reaching their village worked in disguise. They
were able to recruit many young people from the neighbouring
villages, whom they trained for starting the "ghadar"
in the country on an appointed day. They even infiltrated into
the army and were able to create a cell there.
The police got
a clue of their activities. Moreover to a dies like the zaildar
were always around to keep a watch on and to send regular
reports to the government about the activities of the freedom
fighters. The ghadar revolutionaries were able to organise a
network for carrying out their plans. Bobo played a great role
in their activities as a courier and as the one who would cook
meal for them at odd hours.
were not interested in the mere transfer of power. They also
wanted a just social order. Acting on intelligence reports the
government was able to pre-empt their action and at an
appropriate time they swooped down on the revolutionaries.Many
of them were arrested. Dozens were sent to gallows, many were
deported to the Andemans or imprisoned for various terms to rot
in jails. Surjan and his three friends from the village were
sentenced to death and were hanged. The narrator, Bobo along
with some other village folks went to Lahore for the last
meeting with her brother-in-law, with whom she was attached. He
was in great spirit, without any fear of death.He said,
"Every body has to die someday. We are dying for our cause
which is dearer than life." He advised his kinsfolk not to
weep but to rejoice that their boy was dying for his country and
the people in the country were waking up on account of their
sacrifices to launch a struggle against the British.
Even his body
was not handed over to his kins but they were able to get a
handful of bones and ashes which they burried under a ber
tree in the moor that lay at a distance from the village. Every
year on Diwali night Bobo, who now had grown very old went there
to pay homage to the martyrs.
chapter of the novel is located in 1955. Even now eight years
after Independence, the freedom fighters were brutally dealt
with by the present government if they agitated for the rights
of the common people.
Now this small
novel in a nut-shell delineates the momentous history of the
ghadar movement which has mostly been forgotten by the people of
A large chunk
of the upper classes never wanted freedom from the British yoke
since as collaborators they shared the colonial spoils.
middle classes, enamored as they are of the dazzle of the market
economy have no time to think about the chequered history of
Indian freedom struggle. The martyrs are selectively remembered
for electoral purposes by the ruling oligarchies in different
states of India. Sadly, very few young men and women in the
present generation have any idea of the legacy of the ghadar
The publication of this novel
now in the beginning of the 21st century is an apt reminder of
the "brave new world" that rules the roost today to
pause and ponder for a moment and remember those who made them
the citizens of a free country.
to be left to women alone
What is a
Woman? And Other Essays
by Toril Moi.
Oxford University Press, Oxford. Pages xviii + 517.£ 25.
of our times makes it impossible for us to overlook the
ideological constructs of any discourse. The systematic
oppression by patriarchy along with sexism has amply shown
that it was not an act of unconsciousness. Language and
literature is already ideologically constructed before we
learn to speak or read. This has been posited by all
feminists, but Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Toril Moi
and John Kristen would not want to exclude the male voice.
They endeavour to recognise "especially the need to
appropriate by revision the work of men for feminism".
indeed too important a subject to be left only to the domain
of women. The male feminist voice is a vital intervention that
cannot be ignored. Only then can feminists be exonerated from
out by Michael Ryne, "What begins as a parochial matter
of pedagogy expands far beyond the classroom and academic
politics once literature, criticism and theory are seriously
taken as being about the encounter of readers with all forms
of situated discourse, or, even more broadly, about language
intricately marked by culture." Students need to be
initiated into the study of literary theory and cultural
studies and this can be done when teachers begin to
destabilise the established "patriachalism of traditional
As Toril Moi
writes in the preface of her book "Feminist Theory and
Simone de Beauvoir", "Now the possibility of
value-free skepticism is itself in doubt as many feminist,
Marxist and psychoanalytic theorists have stressed the
inescapability of ideology and the consequent obligation of
teachers and students of literature to declare their
political, axiological and aesthetic positions in order to
make those positions conscious and available for
examination." Such expansion and deepening of literary
studies has, for many critics, revitalised their field.
so-called feminist scholars are obviously naive in their
passions and sloppy in their scholarship. They seem to have an
uncritical admiration for many feminist writers without having
read them or understood them. My own view is that this
artificial position of critical superiority is one of the
reasons that the women’s movement has no clear agenda before
it, and more often than not, personalise the issues, with no
concrete outcome from any debate. I cast my doubts on their
sincerity and I feel they are doing more harm than good to the
cause of women.
admonishes those who "never finished" reading
"The Second Sex", a text that is "rapidly
genuflected to in prefaces and introductions; and then when it
is engaged with, the text is usually read from a stance of
critical impatience and superiority".
scholars cannot afford to be sanguine and must take a
politically confrontational view of their stand if they are to
recognise the politics of their own theories so as to become
politically effective. To do so, a theoretically enlightened
criticism is needed. The politics of literature and the
subterranean ideologies that lie under the texts have to be
decoded. The discipline of feminist studies has opened up to
textual, philosophical, psychoanalytical, linguistic and
semiotic analysis crossing the established academic
In all these
areas Moi has rehearsed, rethought and extended her
distinguished contributions to feminist theory and
interpretation over the past two decades. Toril Moi, Professor
of Comparative Literature at the University of Bergen and
Professor of Literature at Duke University, has over the years
acquired a powerful reputation for her incisive and often
controversial interventions into contemporary feminist theory.
too much attention to the oft-beaten and fatigued arguments
about feminist theory and its links with post-structuralism,
she engages here in an exciting re-reading of Simone de
Beauvoir, collating this to consequential reconsiderations of
Pierre Bourdieu and Sigmund Freud. This book is a significant
addition to her two former books, "Sexual/Textual
Politics" and "New French Feminism" in which
she explicates the works of Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous and
Luce Irigary, giving this French school of theorists an
immense exposure and following in the Anglo-American world.
adhered to Kristeva’s idea of difference with respect to the
marginalised status of women, she was always clear in her mind
that as yet no proper or adequate feminist theory had come to
the surface out of all western feminist writings. The answers
to questions relating to "What is a woman?" or
"Are women a political class or a discursive
category?" or "Is the space of blank subversion to
be always dominated by the masculine discourse?" still
tormented her. Therefore, she turned once again to Beauvoir
who has not been really understood or incorporated into
The year 1999
was important in drawing enormous interest and renewal in
Beauvoir, as it marked the 50th anniversary of the publication
of "The Second Sex". Conferences were held all over
the world to highlight the philosophical and original
contribution of this text to feminist thought. Moi illustrates
this text not in its historical aspect, but "as a source
of new philosophical insights". She stands up against the
post-structuralist approach that has problems in dealing with
the biological determinism of feminism. To her, the body is as
consequential as the exploration of gender. In particular,
Beauvoir’s statement that "One is not born but rather
becomes a woman" has widely been misunderstood.
Moi in her
first three essays which are seminal in her new writings
examines the important question of "What is a
woman?" through Beauvoir’s views on the voice and the
methodology used by theorists to define the position of women.
The differentiation between sex and gender has been the main
understanding of Beauvoir’s position, but Moi disagrees with
this formulation on the grounds that sex and gender co-exist
and one is as considerable as the other; the biological is
entirely germane to the lived experience of women and in turn
to the social or, in other words, to the entire thinking of
women. Social norms cannot be disassociated from the body
which is always situated at a position from where women have a
choice to use it to their advantage or be subservient to the
conventional exploitation at the hands of the patriarchal
The body is
subject to the biological or natural laws as well as to the
social determination of its function and meaning. This
ambiguity is essentially intrinsic to the existence of women.
It must be clear to all that she is neither wholly sexed, nor
completely a cultural product. A complete woman is both sex
and gender. To know what it is to be a woman is to live a
fully embodied life in varying situations.
takes up the argument of Jane Tompkins who believes in the
imperative need to include the personal and the private into
feminist critical practice. The personal and the philosophical
is important to Moi but not that it must always turn out to be
a mere autobiographical account. Beauvoir did use the
personal, but only as an anecdotal method to illustrate the
larger issues concerning women, not only as a pressing need to
incessantly talk about oneself. To illustrate an argument
through one’s experience is to only move towards an
explication. One can use oneself as a philosophical case study
to strike a robust dialogue with the reader through common
experiences and language.
Here Moi is
addressing Tompkins’s objections against the impersonality
of language that makes most of feminist writing more obscure
than comprehensible to the common reader. Thus to engage in
theory is to create a personal and a more understsanding voice
which sets up a vigorous debate and a response to the needs of
a positive development in theorising on the problems of women.
It is for this reason that she is more clear-headed and
forthright in her use of language than her French counterparts
like Kristeva and Cixous who have taken theory into
intolerable vagueness. Setting up an encounter between
contemporary theory and Simone de Beauvoir, Moi radically
rethinks the need and the difficulty of finding one’s own
philosophical voice by placing it in new theoretical contexts.
section of Moi’s book takes up the issues of feminist theory
and its connection with Bourdieu’s sociology of culture.
This arises out of the motivations of her interest in the
subject as the subject of praxis — as the subject of acts,
including speech acts. This involvement sends her constantly
to the works of Lacan, Freud, Kristeva, Sartre, Wittgenstein,
Austin and Cavell. And what is significant with her interest
is the emphasis on subjectivity as opposed to the concept of
identity which she feels is the "most Beauvoirean of
(her) thought". This saves her from the general
metaphysical mischief as her approach is to present a concrete
analysis of specific texts. Her main concern is with reading
and writing from a feminist standpoint, what we take words
such as "woman", "style",
"reality", and"’social beings" to mean.
Her new essays in this book
are an original contribution to feminist theory and are deeply
concerned with the "ordinary and the everyday".
Post-structuralism for her loses itself in the realm of
metaphysics, compelling her to challenge the mindset that
continuously uses scare quotes for "reality" or
"social beings". It is here that she expresses her
incredulity towards deconstruction, but paradoxically, refuses
to lay down theoretical requirements for femininity. Hers is
the feminism of freedom.
Review by Kuldip
For the soul:
Divine grace; a Book on Self-empowerment
M.M. Walia. Sterling, New Delhi. Pages 63. Price not
surrender or faith, whatever one may suggest, these are the
basic ingredients for enjoying, experiencing, feeling and even
appreciating the amazing grace of the Almighty. Miracles do
take place everyday and these are suggestive of infinite
divine power. It may sound strange but when fear dispels,
replaces danger with protective cover and darkness leads to
brightness, one realises the gift of God.
Grace is in
fact the "redemptive power of the lord". It is
intrinsically linked to devotion. The self-surrendering
attitude itself is a gift from him and when we speak of
"surrender", it means the willingness to accept his
power and grace.
It is a
general feeling that the theories of karma and divine
grace are opposed to each other and thus there is no room for
self-effort and free will. The same free will and divine grace
are said to be the basic factors in achieving success in life.
Moreover how do we think of divine grace when everything is
destined? Here is an answer for such feelings and doubts. It
is rightly said, "One must set with a fishing rod if one
wants to catch fish."
gives an apt illustration. In her words, "If a man were
destined to lose his leg because of his past karma, he
will escape with only a scratch by calling the lord." Sri
Ramkrishna goes a step further. For him, the man is not
absolutely free. He is controlled either by karma or by
God. Man’s situation or position is like "a cow which
is tied to a post with a 20-yard-long-rope.
for divine mercy and karma for divine justice. Grace
can be seen as manifestation of previous karma. Of
course, the course of life can also be changed by self effort.
Again by karma, in the form of spiritual practice. That
is why we do require self effort for spiritual progress and
bliss. For such progress, God makes us to work. In words of
Sri Aurobindo, "One cannot demand grace as a matter of
right." Divine grace can never be termed as Divine
capricious. It has its own law of action. Even it goes beyond
the key of cosmic law.
In order to
simplify further, it is said, "Grace is like sun
light." So it depends whether one wants to close the door
and windows and likes to remain content in darkness. Therefore
never forget "openness and sincerity". In Christian
theology "grace is ethical and charged with hysterical
satisfying power". In fact it is free love of God for
sinners. Vedanta philosophy emphasises the need for grace even
when one turns to God and strives for liberation. So one must
shed egotism. However doubts will not disappear without grace.
speaking, God can see us but we do not easily get a glimpse of
him. For that we have to pray and surrender. Fish, monkey, cat
and hen are said to be the four types of surrender but after
analysing, one understands that the hen strategy is the best,
simple and easy. The hen, by her training, efforts and
guidance, imparts "team spirit, cooperation and
friendliness." That ultimately leads to a total vision.
Moreover the so-called qualities if imbibed in the right
spirit, one qualifies for divine grace.
understand that whatever God does, it is always for our
salvation. Even if he inflicts punishment, it should be
accepted because his grace need not always be kind. Who knows
a calamity or catastrophe may be proved as a "gift of
grace" from the divine by the subsequent events.
In words of
Sri Satya Sai Baba, the most desirable form of wealth is the
"grace of God" and the grace will "overwhelm
all obstacles". Saint-poet Surdas explains the need for
guru for attaining such grace. The intellect is said to be
illuminated and delusion removed with the help and guidance of
guru. That is why our culture and scriptures have placed great
emphasis on the status of guru. So first surrender to the
guru. He will lift darkness, ignorance and misunderstanding.
He helps to establish contact with the divine light of wisdom
and knowledge. Ignorance is removed, false pride is dissolved
and ego banishes.
These are the
forces which prevent us from realising the existence of God.
our life style. Egotistim and selfrighteousness take the back
seat. The seeker starts feeling unconditional grace coming in
various ways and helping at every step.
involves a twofold movement which means the ascent of man and
descent of God.
Fenelon rightly asks:
"Can we be unsafe where he has placed us?" He has
the answer too and explains, "no more restless
uncertainties; no more anxious desires and no more impatience
at the place" exist when we are in the arms of God. So we
most practise advice of the Bible, "Commit your way to
the Lord and he will crown your efforts with success."
His grace "prevails behind everything, organises
everything and conducts everything."