The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, September 16, 2001

This thriller really thrills
Review by Ram Varma

Exiled feelings of the displaced
Review by M.L. Raina

A Holocaust child survivor recalls
Review by Vikramdeep Johal

Rights and wrongs of children
Review by Uma Vasudeva

Man’s long struggle for dignity
Review by Ashu Pasricha

Success through emotional poise
Review by Jitendra Mohan

Sunny and seemy side of biotechnology
Review by J.S. Yadav

Indian output: for verse or worse
Review by R.P. Chaddah





This thriller really thrills
Review by Ram Varma

by Roy Oliver. Writer’s Showcase, San Jose, New York, Lincoln, Shanghai. Pages 251.
$ 14.95.

THE jacket of Roy Oliver’s first thriller is terrifying. It shows a row of skulls with hollow eye sockets staring the reader in the face, arranged for performing some ritual with curdled and congealed blood splattered around them, their molars still seemingly insatiate, ready to dig and chew. The skulls are lying under the shadow of a boat’s hull. Appropriately, the story centers round a yacht named the Mandible. The dictionary meaning of mandible is a jaw, or the bird’s beak or the ant’s stinging claw; the word originating from the Latin word mandere (to chew).

As the story unfolds, one learns that the Mandible is a luxury yacht owned by a French multi-millionaire who is fond of the good things of life and throws lavish parties on board, entertaining exclusive guests in style. But there is also something sinister about it. People talk about it in hushed tones, and douse your curiosity with words of caution: "don’t get too close to it"... "there is something bad about the people on board"... "the owner is rich and powerful, he can buy anyone, and all the gendarmerie and administration is in his poche", and so on.

All thrillers have to be gripping and unputdownable. But most may strain your credibility. As a rule, I subject all thrillers to a sort of summary trial, skimming over the sea of words, holding the thread, trying to reach the kernel. Somewhere down the line either I discard the book going into a sort of Shavian stupor. Which came over GBS while listening to a lady’s musical composition, prompting his caustic remark at the end of it, that his dozing off was his "comment" on its quality. Or, if it is really good, I get immersed in it, forgetting my skimming strategy. Real thrillers are those that seem to wake you up. I gave the same treatment to the book under review, and I was just a few pages down to become fully absorbed in it. I had completely abandoned myself to its sinister seduction and read and re-read it.

The book has a racy rhythm, and the story unfolds at a breakneck speed. The reader is forever on the brink of a revelation, a discovery, a catastrophe. In Rodger (Rod) Rowe, Oliver has created a new James Bond. The name is suggestive of his sexual prowess, and the very first chapter testifies to it wherein he brings a pretty girl to his cottage near Almeria on the Spanish coast after dining with her in a restaurant. They go out for a midnight swim on his private beach, "her body gleaming and reflecting the moonlight", and end up in his bedroom. But the beauty of it is, nothing seems contrived. All this falls in place in the setting and circumstance of Rowe’s present moment in life.

Rowe is in fact a reluctant James Bond, or rather he desires to put his Bondian exploits and histrionics behind him, and is keen to steer clear of the rough and rude currents of counter espionage, and instead sail into the tranquil, blue lagoon of worklessness (he can afford it), savouring to the full what remains of life. He has taken retirement from his job of being a secret agent of UK government and is beginning to enjoy the serenity and the quiet pleasures of his new life when he is recalled: to trace the organisation behind the "taking out" (killing) of three government agents in quick succession.

Immediately on his signalling his consent to take a plunge again into the turbulent and murky waters of chasing drug and arms mafia, he becomes a marked man. There is an explosion in the yacht used by the agent who is sent out to contact him, and he too is "taken out" barely a few hours after meeting him, taking the tally to four. Rowe’s villa in Almeria is attacked, killing his valet. Death stalks him. But that is his job. The girl he had befriended in Almeria had turned out to be the agent’s daughter. She is also killed in a railway compartment while returning to London after a date with him. People around him are getting killed, things are hotting up.

On a clue provided by a co-passenger and some research, they close in on the girl’s killer, Ling, a man of Chinese descent. A drug-induced interrogation of Ling throws up the names "Mandible" and "Shining Father", but what they are no one knows. It is also found that Ling had two adjacent seats permanently booked at the Royal Albert Hall. Apparently the man was a lover of opera. I write about him in the past tense, as he was later found "in his seriously damaged BMW having apparently had an argument with a pillar on an overhead bridge on the M1". None came to claim his body.

Surveillance of the Albert Hall seats revealed their usefulness as a convenient contact point for exchange of contraband bags under the cover of darkness. An exchange takes place, and Rowe chases the principal character to Pairs; and after many a slip and sleight of hand, he is able to corner him. His interrogation reveals that he is a restaurant owner who supplies RDX to an untraced man. His restaurant goes up in flames that evening, and another lead dies off. Rowe is back to square one.

Clueless and groping, he goes to Scotland where the young widow of the third agent lives. He decides to enter through the backdoor and is arrested and manacled by three pretty ladies. Talking to this woman, Maria, Rowe comes to know that the Mandible could be a yacht to which apparently her late husband had gone for his last, fateful, rendezvous. He also discovers that Maria is attracted to him, they become lovers.

It is now necessary to track the Mandible. Taking Maria as his companion, he goes on a cruise to the French northern coastline in a yacht. They reach the mouth of the Gironde, and find the Mandible moored in a private jetty at Royan. They glean whatever information they can about it in the town and employ all kinds of stratagems, ruses and tricks to secure an invitation to a party on board. The owner Jean-Claude de Villandraut has a weakness for pretty girls; and when Maria turns up in "a pair of thin midnight-blue clinging trousers, which left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and with it a bright yellow sort of handkerchief-cum-bra, ... her long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders", they are accorded a VIP treatment!

They have some adventures of the preliminary kind, both savoury and unsavoury, and wrangle an invitation for the next evening. It was not de Villandraut’s campaign they were after. They were after the Mandible’s secrets. At the expense of a nick on Rowe’s jaw and much else, they got some telltale clues to its next mission and a peep into its lethal cargo, not to mention an introduction to the dramatis personae.

The Manadible’s manoeuvres and Rowe’s mission bring them to the Thames estuary, where Maria and Rowe do some underwater exploration of the Mandible’s cargo, Maria having had a career in the Dutch Navy before her marriage. Carrying their life on their palm, as we say in Hindi, this extraordinary duo discovers their undersea warehouses and suspicion-proof delivery systems. But not before they are gassed and immobilised and taken prisoner and towed away in shakles. It is Maria’s presence of mind and extreme bravery which makes them come out of the Mandible’s claws.

A long-drawn cat-and-mouse game follows, and one doesn’t know who is the cat and who the mouse. Maria and Rowe make a convincing pair, complementing each other. But the odds are heavy against them, the cover and the comfort of the UK government notwithstanding. The scene of action moves to de Villandraut’s magnificent chateau on the French coast with its virtually impregnable security network. Their professionalism and grit is pitted against the Mandible’s ruthlessness of purpose. Often it looks like a David taking on a Goliath, making you wonder if for once the history might refuse to repeat itself, and the Goliath might have the last laugh. There are dark underground corridors where danger lurks, large wine cellars where wooden crates contain hot contraband and not chilled champagne, and torture chambers that crack the hardest nut. One holds one’s breath as Rowe dares, again to get trapped into the Mandible’s jaws, only to be rescued by the marvellous Maria. It was a close shave.

There is another engagement with the Mandible in the Thames estuary. There has been a meticulous planning on the government side, and everyone is hopeful of finally taming the wayward craft. But at the end of it, the goodies disappear as if devoured by Father Thames, and the villains vanish, after throwing a battered Rowe overboard and leaving the Mandible high and dry on the dock.

Then they get Maria. And now it is a no-holds-bar fight to finish. The action takes place in Scotland, and then at the headquarters of the Shining Father somewhere in England. The whole commune in full panoply was assembled on the poolside and the manicured lawns, in front of an imposing mansion, out of which emerged the Brilliant One in resplendent regalia. There were ceremonies, bacchanalia and orgies. And there was the siege. The principal actors retire into an elaborate hillside hideout. But the safest hole can be a trap. "When we are safest, there is a sunset touch," as Browning sang. The finale is hair-raising and gory.

When you close the book, you marvel at Roy Oliver’s grand design, and his ability to envision the scene in fine detail and to make the characters come alive with a few deft touches. It is not only his mastery of the language, but his astonishing knowledge of the many locales in Spain, England, Scotland and France and of the nitty-gritty of handling yachts and gadgets, computers and weaponry. His creation, Rodger Rowe, apart from his physical and mental prowess, is a connoisseur of food and wines. He has a way with women but is not a sex crazy fiend. In short he has all the graces of a gentleman. The book has many love scenes, but they occur most naturally and have not been overdrawn. It is a good read.

The book has been well produced, but is not available in bookshops. It can be accessed through the publisher. The price however does not gel with the Indian market.

Svetlana Boym’s discussion of Brodsky, Nabakov and other exile writers in the section ‘On Diasporic Intimacy’ is conducted in the light of what she perceives after Freud to be the feeling of heimlich. But this feeling is part of nostalgia that she diagnoses as a permanent condition of displacement. Brodsky and Nabokov may have overcome their homelessness in the new home, the English language that they mastered to perfection. Yet they could not overcome their passion for Russian language and the scenes from their Russian past. The fact that they kept their Russian and English verse separate testifies to this dual allegiance, which, given the ‘stillness’ of the American scene, is not allowed to grate.

As a comparatist, Boym displays a remarkable ability to connect, to see parallels between one culture and another. She is not principally interested in the mere fact of exile, but in its consequences, namely, nostalgia and memory. She is percipient enough to realise that nostalgia is not the result of modern conditions of exile alone. In her informative first chapter, she traces a brief history of nostalgia, ranging from a medical condition to its present day longing for an integrated existence.

In an early passage she explains the nature of nostalgia: ‘it frustrates psychologists, literary theorists and philosophers… the sheer abundance of nostalgic artifacts… reflects a fear of untamable longing and noncommodified time’. Thus she sees nostalgia both as a permanent human condition and a desire for integrated wholeness, spurred by modern-day displacements, both geographical and psychological. Calling nostalgia desire ‘for the repetition of the unrepeatable’, Boym is signalling the exile’s need for the past and the modern urbanite’s desire to overcome alienation.

Like Said, Boym sees close parallel between exile and nostalgia on the one hand, and the emergence of nationalism on the other. ‘The outburst of nostalgia both enforced and challenged the emerging conception of patriotism and national spirit’, she says echoing Said’s sentiment that nationalism is an assertion of belonging ‘in and to a place, a people, a heritage…the collective ethos forms …the coherent amalgam of practices linking habits with inhabitance’.

But Boym would not wholeheartedly agree with Said that nationalism is ‘about groups…and exile is a sense experienced outside the group’. In her study of the American popular culture, she shows the myth of the dinosaur as a collective American fantasy seeking a lost wholeness in the new techno-pastoral. She also draws attention to the small exiled communities forging a sort of community ideal by recapitulating the icons of community living (like Matreshka dolls in Moscow, Hindu temples in America and broken film clips in the Italian movie ‘Cinema Paradiso’). These small and large reminders of the communal past (the difference between community and nation is not at issue here) are both a trigger for nostalgia and a means of overcoming it. When Kashmiri Pandits migrated en masse, they recreated their holy Khir Bhawani shrine at their new refuges.

In Boym’s scheme of things, nostalgia and memory play significant roles in keeping alive the links between exile and the pre-exile integral living. That is why she not only comments extensively on Baudelaire’s poems and Benjamin’s writing, but revisits the cities mostly associated with exile in our time: Moscow, Berlin and St Petersburg. Whereas Benjamin, Baudelaire and Nietzsche provide her with philosophical, poetic and critical perspectives on longing and memory, revisiting Berlin, Moscow and St.Petersburg inspires meditations on the very pain of displacement and its management.

Of the three cities, St Petersburg is the one closely linked to the power of Russian dissident writing. Not only do Brodsky, Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova belong to the city’s cultural past, the very mention of the city creates a sacrosanct feeling in their poems. Nadhezda Mandelstam’s ‘Hope against Hope’ and ‘Hope Abandoned’ are classics of the city’s literature of alienation in a communist society, and Brodsky’s evocation of the city as an Enlightenment haven is a major literary accomplishment in itself. On her visits Boym discovers the anarchic side of this most cultured city— in the writings of Victor Shklovsky as well as in the bustle of the aspiring youth..

In Moscow and Berlin, she sees hectic attempts to undo the communist past and restore the pre-Revolution icons. One is reminded here of Benjamin’s ‘Moscow Dairy’ in which, in late twenties of the last century, he saw a surface aridity suppressing a relatively vibrant soul. What she says about Berlin is true of all the cities: ‘This other Berlin exists in stolen air and unlicensed spaces’, places that were choked in the communist past. Revisiting these places is for her like recapturing the ‘imagined communities’ that existed before she left for her own voluntary exile in the U.S.

Like Harold Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’, this solid book charts the hiatus between desire and its deferred fulfilment.



Exiled feelings of the displaced
Review by M.L. Raina

Reflections on Exile and Other Essays by Edward Said.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. Xxxv +617 pages.
$ 35

"NO sound/then gently light unfading on that unheeded neither/unspeakable home". Beckett

Chekov once remarked that all Russian writing came out of Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’. It would not be presumptuous to suggest that most of the post-war reflections on exile, displacement and homelessnes came out of Theodor Adorno’s 1951 aphoristic autobiography, Minima Moralia.

Though world literature is full of stories of migrations and dislocations, it was Adorno, himself an exile from Nazi Germany, who shaped our thinking on the subject. Said’s title echoes Adorno’s sub-title. ; Boym, on the other hand, ignores him. Yet they are both intellectual exiles in Adorno’s sense of the word: Said from Palestine, Boym from St Petersburg. They have, however, acquired a privileged place in the American academy, in spite of their status as outsiders.

"Every intellectual in exile is …mutilated’, writes Adorno and goes on to add: ‘his language has become expropriated, and the historical dimension that nourished knowledge, is sapped’. Said does not quote this statement, but he seems to be in agreement with Adorno’ diagnosis. Boym’ research, given the self-imposed restriction on her theme, bypasses Adorno altogether, even as she recognises the psychological condition that he describes, implicitly registering his presence.

Exile and nostalgia, displacement and its memory, are facts of lived experience in our century. As a result, the best writing on these subjects captures the nightmarish passage of displacement, the chaotic scurrying for survival, the terrible beauty of violent disorder. One has to recall the fiction of Conrad, Joyce and Nabokov, the poetry of Paul Celan and Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, and the anguished ruminations by Adorno or, in earlier times, Alexander Herzen, to understand the pain of wandering in diaspora.

Incidentally, it is useful to mention that in our age exile in itself does not always create great writing. The post-exilic stillness is responsible for much significant writing in this genre. Recording the pain of homelessness is the work of some one who possesses the refined ability of a serious author and has both experienced exile and overcome its terrors. Creating exilic experience in the raw does not always make for good literature, as some of our own post-partition work illustrates.

Against the highly charged story ‘ Khol do’ by Manto or the later sections of Qurraitulayn Haider’s ‘Akhri Shab ke Humsafar’ or Intizar Hussain’s ‘Basti’ (I limit myself to Urdu works that I am acquainted with), we have a jumble of superficial writing whose impact dissipates on first reading. This is true even of the well-intentioned story, "Peshawar Express’ by Krishan Chander, to say nothing of the arrant infantilism of Bollywood films, Refugee and Gadar.

Edward Said seems to assume this when he distinguishes between exile literature and refugee literature. In the title essay of this collection (which assembles old and known essays on other subjects as well), he says, ‘ To concentrate on exile as a contemporary punishment, you must therefore map territories of experience beyond those mapped by the literature of exile itself…you must think of the refugee peasants with no prospect of ever returning home’. Refugee literature is the creation of the immediacy of experience and appears in documentaries and personal memoirs. It is not the product of later reflection.

Exile literature would be characterised by Svetlana Boym as the literature of ‘restorative nostalgia’, which puts emphasis on ‘nostos’ and proposes to ‘rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps’. As against this, she speaks of ‘reflective nostalgia’, which ‘dwells in algia, in longing and loss’. This would approximate to Said’s refugee literature.

The one recovers experience in tranquility, the other captures it in the moment. One would be justified in saying that both Said and Adorno and all those others, who come from migrant backgrounds but have made good in the new country, are what Adorno calls ‘intellectual exiles’. They enjoy a certain privilege that is denied to immigrants who seek bare means of survival in the new country and are incapable of genuine reflection.

Whenever Said talks of people like Camus, Fanon and Faiz Ahmad Faiz (who fled Zia’s Pakistan though personally he was not harassed), he means articulate intellectuals like himself who end up being what post-colonial theorists call as ‘native informants’, that is spokesmen for their people.

Faiz, however, does not provide the typical example. As Said notes after meeting the poet in Beirut, he could freely relax only with his fellow Pakistani, the political analyst Iqbal Ahmad. This is also partly true of Brecht in American exile, but certainly not true of intellectual exiles like Arthur Koestler or George Mikes (author of ‘How to be an Alien’) in Britain. This is definitely not true of Said’s paradigmatic intellectual exile, Eric Auerbach, about whom he writes with admiration and feeling.

Auerbach, a fugitive from Hitler, sought and found refuge in Turkey and America.. Here he could rediscover his ‘narrative and relational explicitness’ and produce a work of grand scope, Mimesis, that encapsulates his European tradition of realism as an act of rehabilitation, ‘collection and presentation’.

In Boym’s sense, Aruerbach transcends his exile in the act of re-figuring (Dante’s concept) the entire tradition, just as his mentor Dante did in his great work. Regrettably, the connection with Dante escapes Said, but it is necessary to remember that Auerbach could have been following his mentor in an unbroken meditation on creation, of shoring up the memory of lost home. Only in the academic ‘stillness ‘ of America could this be possible. German intellectuals in America are the best adapters.

Except for his recent memoir, there is no evidence in Said’s prolific output of such an attempt to shore up his Palestinian heritage. By the very nature of his self-designated place in the American academy, he remains a cosmopolitan in the best sense of the word. Nor is there evidence in the much-hyped writing of the Indian diaspora in America that a serious attempt has been made to recover tradition. There are, however, laughable gestures towards it in Manil Suri’s recent Death of Vishnu, now being hailed in the U.S media as a possible successor to Marquez’s ‘Hundred Years’.

May be this is due to the fact that the contemporary intellectual exile sees in his/her condition an opportunity to dramatise what are supposed to be multiple identities. They value the very same qualities of experience that genuine exile enforces, namely, uncertainty, ambiguity and fragmented identity. This is how postmodernism takes the sting out of the shame of exile and makes nomadic and diasporic conditions fashionable in intellectual discourse. This has the dubious advantage of a superficial internationalism.

Throughout these essays, Said seems to revel in his hybrid, syncretic identities, as do other postmodernists, but with none of the gravitas that Said possesses. The jarring disconnections of homelessness become for the intellectual exile conditions for self-dramatisation, though Said can be capable of standing back and looking beyond, as he does in his essays on Naguib Mahfouz, R.P. Blacmur, the Egyptian popular singer Um Khaltoum, and the classical western music.



A Holocaust child survivor recalls
Review by Vikramdeep Johal

The Sandgame
by Uri Orlev and translated from Hebrew by Hillel Halkin.
Madhuban Educational Books, New Delhi. Pages 64. Rs 40.

LEARNING from past mistakes is certainly not one of mankind’s strengths. When the world came to know about the Holocaust, it thought, rather naively, that this ugly chapter would not be written again. The genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, however, proved us wrong. As we keep making the blunder of not confronting them, the ghosts of the past are likely to go on haunting us.

The Holocaust was intended to be the Final Solution to the "Jewish problem." About six million Jews were systematically exterminated in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, etc. Hitler and his men wanted that there would be no survivors. But they failed. A few survived, physically and emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives.

Most were too stunned to narrate their horrifying story, for it required extraordinary courage to relive those nightmarish experience and make others believe what actually happened in the "death factories." Elie Wiesel, a Hungarian Jew who survived the genocide, took over a decade to break the silence, with the publication of "Night", a book which shocked readers worldwide.

The Israeli writer Uri Orlev was born in Poland in 1931. During World War II, his mother and his grandfather were killed by the Germans; his father was taken prisoner by the Russian army. He, along with his brother and aunt, spent two years in the Bergen-Belsen camp (where Anne Frank died). Here he took to poetry and dreamt of becoming a writer. Soon after the end of the war, he arrived in Palestine. Later, he served in the Israeli army and started writing in a big way. He has authored about 30 books, mostly for children and teenagers.

"The Sandgame" is a short memoir of his experiences, primarily meant for a young audience. It is not as harrowing as "Night". The story is told in good humour and delightful anecdotes are interspersed with disturbing ones. The innocence, rather naivety, of a child incapable of comprehending the gravity of the events happening around him is depicted extremely well. When the war breaks out and the Germans capture Warsaw, eight-year-old Uri’s teacher tells him that he has to stop coming to school as he is a Jew.

Recalling the incident, he writes: "Have you ever woken up in the morning and prayed for something, anything — a fever or a not-too-bad storm or even a little war — that would allow you to go back to sleep? It was as if my prayer had been answered."

Though all hell breaks loose, he thinks of himself as the hero of a thriller, firmly believing that nothing can happen to him and that his story will end happily. Even during their time in a ghetto and later in a concentration camp, Uri and his brother keep playing their games, mostly "war games " involving their favourite heroes.

A cataclysmic event can have an adverse effect on the psyche of children, who are highly impressionable by nature.

As Orlev remembers, "Sometimes in the factory we held contests with other children to see who had more murdered relatives. Even when we found out that the whole family of my mother had been sent to Auschwitz, giving us a score of 98, the boy next door was still ahead with over a hundred, so my brother and I invented a few more uncles and aunts and beat him."

Keeping his audience in mind, Orlev sees things from a child’s perspective, laying more stress on narration than comment. "There is no grown-up way to talk, tell, or think about the things that happened to me," he writes, "I have to remember them as if I were still a boy, with all the strange details, some funny, and some moving, that childhood memories have and that children have no problem with. As a grown-up, I can’t imagine my own children living through what I did." Moreover, it is essential to tell children about the sins committed by humanity in the past, hoping that their generation would not repeat them and endeavour to build a better world.

People still wonder how a cultured nation like Germany could butcher millions of people of a race. For the author, there is no contradiction between the two facts. As history has shown us time and again, beneath the veneer of civilisation lurks barbarism, ready to rear its ugly head at the slightest sign of human weakness.

Wiesel writes in "Night": "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night. . . Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath the silent blue sky. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."

Those of us who have not experienced such horrors should also not forget them. For only if we remember the terrifying chapters of the past and grasp their reality can we be able to ensure that these would not recur.



Rights and wrongs of children
Review by Uma Vasudeva

"Handbook on Child" (With Historical Background)
by Pramila Pandit Barooah. Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi. Pages 396, Price Rs 500.

INDIA'S commitment to the cause of children is as old as its civilisation. It has been a time-honoured belief in our culture that the child is the gift of God and is a father of nation. This gift must be nurtured with care and affection, within the family and society.

Unfortunately over the years in the pre-independence period, due to scio-economic and cultural changes, the code of childcare was replaced by neglect, abuse and deprivation, particularly in the poverty afflicted sections of society. From being advantaged children plummeted into disadvantaged group. Such a scenario made it imperative to intervene for providing care and protection to children, setting up extra government and voluntary sectors became inevitable.

The author has appreciated the vision the children have for the future of a nation and has therefore highlighted the place of the child in the past and the future.

In the opening chapter, "Evolution of child care and welfare services in India", the author has highlighted that in the past a high proportion of each group would be children, many dying before adulthood, infanticide was normal practice, since some infants, who were weak, or difficult to feed or to carry would have been simply redundant. Hunting accidents besides disease and starvation would have been a frequent cause of death.

The author says that since ancient times "The Family" has been the most important child care Institute in India. A satisfactory rearing of the child was ensured by an effective social organisation through the Institution of "Joint Family", and close knit community. These stressed co-operative responsibility and provided care and protection to the children. The traditional cultural attitude towards the child in India, shows not only longing for children but a faith and belief that satisfaction of marriage really does not take place until children are born in the family.

The author has mentioned a few Sanskaras concerning childhood and adolescent, which are practiced in India even today. Some of these Sanskaras are Namkaran Sanskar, Nikrashan Sanskar, Annaprasan or Ushtavan, Chooda Karma or Chowla Karma or Vapan Vidhi, Upanayan Ceremony and so on.

Muslims also have childhood customs like Hindus. These have been explained as Azan, Chhati (sixth day), Chilla, Muranda, Khatna (Circumcision), Bismillah, Hadia or Amin, Roza (fasting).

Similarly, other religions also have certain ceremonies at various stages of child growth.

It is sad that "Girl Child’ is considered unwanted in India resulting in atrocities on them. The girl child suffers because of infanticide, child sacrifice, child marriage, widow marriage, purdah, Devadasis and Jogins, prostitution, sati, child export, eunuchs, child beggars and so on.

The author has given solution to these problems though the majority of them have already been brought under control through the social awareness. Problems of social welfare and development have become an integral concern of the process of planning and development at the National, State and Government level, as well as International level. The author has brought out that there are 65 Government Organisations, 103 National Voluntary Organisations, and 13 International Voluntary Organisations and 27 United Nations Agencies of which 6 are more important from the children’s point of view.

Chapter on "Child Legislation", has an extra addition on Adoption after the latest Supreme Court Judgement and action taken rules and regulations formed regarding Adoption, especially for inter-country adoption.

The author says that the early part of the 19th century saw no substantial body of law relating to the liabilities, treatment of welfare of children. Under the common law principle of equality before the law, everyone was liable to ordinary proceedings in the ordinary courts and hence no special provision was made for the children. The principle of criminal liability was expressed in terms of the knowledge of right and wrong. This was applied to children on the basis that a child under the age of seven could not commit an offence.

In India the apprentice act passed in 1850 sought to provide for better treatment of children between 10 to 18 years of age. Then came Reformatory Schools Act 1876 and modified in 1897, which provided special courts which could order 3-7 years of detention and training instead of punishment.

The first move to enact Children’s Act came from the Indian Jails Committee (1919-1920) which recommended special treatment for young offenders to reform and rehabilitates them.

In the post-independence period, much social legislation is unprecedented in its long history. The Indian Parliament and State Legislature have been very generous in enacting social legislations. It began with the enactment of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956. In 1960, Government of India enacted the Children’s Act, which though applicable to Union Territories, has been conceived as a model of piece of Legislation. The provisions of Central Children’s Act 1960 as amended in 1978 should be incorporated in the Children’s Act to include children’s homes, special schools, observation homes and after care organisations. The in this chapter has given details of other legislations concerning children like The Juvenile Justice Act 1986.

India’s population has nearly trebled from 361 million in 1951 to 900 million in 1994; an addition of 539 million people over 45 years period. By the year 2001, population projection indicates that India will have more than a billion inhabitants. The author therefore added a chapter on "Statistics on Children in India". A strong database is critical for any meaningful planning for development. It is also important to have data to understand the impact of specific measures as also the general process of development of many groups of people in any area of development. It helps in relation with various aspects relating to children. The information and data is important, collected from different sources and compiling them in a comprehensive manner so as to get a picture of the child in India, from different aspects for the users and planners.

The chapter on Five-Year Plans has its own importance. The Eighth Five-year Plan (1992-97) recognised "Human Development" as the core of all development efforts. The priority sectors of the plan that contribute towards realisation of the goal are health, nutrition, education, literacy and basic needs. In the last decade of this century, dramatic technological development particularly in health, nutrition, and related sphere have opened new vistas of opportunities for redeeming our age-old pledges to the cause of the children. It includes the "Approach Paper to the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002)".

To help the parents and the families a chapter on "Indigenous Medicines" has been included. This helps to give medicines for immediate relief before approaching or waiting for medical aid. Medicines from the herbs and Ayurvedic medicines have been prescribed for normal day today ailments of the children.

This volume will help every individual working with and for child.



Man’s long struggle for dignity
Review by Ashu Pasricha

Human Rights and Justice System
by Ashwani Kant Gautam. APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi.
Pages 578. Rs 995.

FOR over 4,000 years man has struggled to have fundamental rights recognised and safeguarded. It has been a long, slow process. Centuries went by with little tangible evidence of success, and indeed the realisation of what man’s rights might be has only gradually become apparent. In such texts as the Manusmriti, the Babylonian code of Hummurabi, outlining the social order; the rulings of the ancient Israeli Sanhedrin banning torture and limiting the use of capital punishment; the Islamic legislation on rights of women; the English Magna Carta; the US Declaration of Independence; the 19th century conventions outlawing slave trade; the post-World War II; Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the shape and form of a global moral order has been created. It is really a fascinating story that will, one day, be told in full.

Some historian in the future will begin to research the real history of man and produce, not a national, regional or even international history of the world in terms of conflict, struggle for land, power and wealth, but factual history of the social evolution of mankind, tracing the development of man’s awareness of his uniqueness in creation and his essential oneness with every other human being.

Perhaps the most important challenge to mankind today is not that all people should be aware of the various "rights" which we have because we are "all born free and equal in dignity and rights", are "endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood", as stated in the first Article of the UN Declaration, but that we should realise, "this earth is one country and mankind its citizens".

The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights was "adopted and proclaimed" without a single dissenting vote in Paris on December 10,1948 (the six-member of the Soviet bloc, Saudi Arabia and the Union of South Africa abstained). Following this historic act, the UN General Assembly called upon all member countries to publicise the text of the declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded, principally in schools and other educational institutions…" Many efforts have been made and are continuing to carry out the request of the General Assembly.

In India a National Human Rights Commission was established by an Act of the Parliament in 1991 and since then a number of State Human Rights Commissions have also been established. All this has been discussed at length in the book under review "Human Rights and Justice System" by Ashwani Kant Gautam, a public prosecutor by profession.

He has also gone deep into the human rights and fundamental freedoms of accused persons while facing criminal trial. Victomology dealing with the rights of the victims is coming to the forefront and rights of the accused are still important and continue to engage the attention of society.

Events and incidents that have happened in recent years in some advanced countries throw doubts about human rights as yet taking deep roots. Thousands of innocent children, men and women have been butchered in parts of Europe and elsewhere; man has exhibited conduct violative of the basic prescription in the UN Declaration and instead of promoting respect for them, has completely eroded these rights by exhibiting disregard and contempt.

It is necessary that human rights education should cover everyone and receive acceptance so that conduct congenial to human rights may be generated. It is necessary that full and complete attention turns to this aspect of the matter so that a sustainable human rights conduct emerges.

Articles 10 and 11 of the Declaration provide for fair criminal trail by saying: s"!0. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of many criminal charge against him.

"11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed."

The questions that human rights address are perennial. What does it mean to be a human being? What is the purpose of life on this earth? What should our intellectual and emotional attitude towards one another be? These questions are central to all cultures and religions.

So much has been said about human rights lately that the term defies a precise definition. Defining human rights may be both simple and complex. Simple in the sense that one can argue that human rights implies a universal ethic which claims that certain rights ought to be believed and observed everywhere by everyone. They are possessed by human beings simply as being human per se. And complex, because when an attempt is made to list those rights, geographical diversities, cultural variations and differences in social values make the attempt a near impossibility to agrees upon a universally accepted list of rights.

Moreover, the concept of human rights is closely associated with the worth and dignity of the individual and accords highest respect to human personality without any discrimination on grounds of caste, religion, creed, race, colour, sex or place of birth. It is self-evident that human rights primarily aim to protecting the human dignity of an individual. Human rights provide the necessary and vital protection to an individual so that he/she may continue his/her life and contribute to society in a dignified manner. Hence, if this be the case then the rights which protect the individual’s freedom and inherent human dignity may thus be termed as inalienable and inviolable human rights.

India is an ancient society but a modern state. Indian society has largely been a tolerant one embracing and respecting the dignity of its friends and foes alike. India has always welcomed and accommodated people from alien societies. The very fact that Indian culture could withstand and flourish amidst "foreign" ideologies, both social and religious, speaks volumes of its eclecticism. In a way Indian culture has emphasised some of the fundamental principles of modern day philosophy of human rights from the past, which can be evidenced in the declarations, made in the Rigved: "No one is superior or inferior. All are brothers. All should strive for the interest of all and should progress collectively."

It may be recalled that from the time immemorial Indians have called their culture "human culture" (manav dharam/manav sanskriti).There is no gainsaying the fact that human dignity had universal appeal and Indian culture had tried to be so comprehensive to suit the needs of every human being, irrespective of age, sex, colour or caste.

Respect for human rights without distinction of any kind is a rule of international human rights law. Human rights recognise the inherent dignity and fundamental freedoms of all members of human family. The quality of civilisation of a country is measured by the respect it shows for the protection, promotion and implementation of human rights. In our modern justice system accused persons are not by mere charge of an offence, denuded of all the human rights and fundamental freedoms, which they otherwise possess. Now it is universally recognised in legal and political fields that an accused has the basic freedoms and human rights even in custody.

The book is aimed at the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of accused in the justice system. The book is largely based on research undertaken by the author for his doctoral thesis on "The Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms of the Accused under International Law with special reference to India."

The book traces not only the historical developments of human rights but also contains the complete analytical study of the provisions of UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Bill of Human Rights, European and American conventions on human rights meant for the protection human rights.

The book also contains lucid examination of various provisions of the Constitution of India and other laws which were meant for protecting and implementing the human rights of the accused. The role of judiciary in the protection and implementation of human rights has been discussed in the light of judicial decisions. Besides, various aspects of prison justice have been discussed. The role of National Human Rights Commission and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has also been dealt at length.



Success through emotional poise
Review by Jitendra Mohan

Emotional Intelligence at Work-A Professional Guide
by Dalip Singh. Response Books (A Division of Sage Publications),
New Delhi. Pages 198. Rs 375.

ON August 14,1998, at 5 pm Dr Daniel Goleman delivered the keynote address on "How does eemotional intelligence matter at work?’, at the opening of the 106th annual conventions of the American Psychological Association and the closing of the 25th International Congress of Applied Psychology at Marriott Hotel, San Fransisco, USA. It was an amazing personal experience to walk up to him and getting photographed after the event.

But he was in no mood to linger on and wallow in the glory of a star speaker. He said he must leave because he had to attend the marriage of his daughter at 10 am on August 15 in Washington which is about three hours away and it takes six hours flying time. A speaker has kept his promise and performed excellently by keeping the psychologists spellbound for 50 minutes. He bows in response to a thunderous applause. A father is in a hurry to be with his daughter in a personal event of joy, celebration and marital commitment.

Rarely, people are called to enact such contrasting but deeply involving roles of profound emotional intelligence. Goleman, the author of the great book of "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’?" was on his way to release his recent book "Working with Emotional Intelligence" I was overwhelmed by being a witness to a great academic event.

At home, another professional has come a long way in highlighting the core concept of EQ. Dalip Singh, a serving bureaucrat and trained HRD expert, now tells the world how to identify and improve your EQ. The movement of positive and affirmative psychology had reached India. The application of the deeper insights of psychology to work and the recognition of the role of "emotions at work" had culminated. Probably, the overemphasis on the dark, problematic, negative and pessimistic issues like anxiety-stress, violence, war, drug abuse in the 20th century was in a process of balancing itself towards love, understanding, happiness and optimism in the 21st century. What Goleman had started Dalip Singh is carrying forward.

What is professional success? Can EQ get you promotion? How to manage your boss? What are the levels of EQ required for various jobs? How to handle stress and frustrations in life? What are the consequences of low and high EQ? Can EQ be developed? Singh answers some these questions. He further states that it is the emotional makeup (EQ) of a person which largely determines his or her professional success.

It is interesting to note that so many people with high IQ fail whereas those with less intellectual endowment are extremely successful. It in increasingly recognised that IQ may account for only about 20 per cent of a person’s success in life. The remaining 80 per cent depends largely on a person’s emotional intelligence — EQ. Cognitive skills get you the job but the emotional skills help you thrive once you are hired.

Dr John Mayer, a University of New Hampshire psychologist, had coined the term "emotional intelligence" with Dr Peter Salovey, a Yale University psychologist in 1990. But it was the best-seller by Goleman that emotional intelligence became a popular and practical concept. Dalip Singh, a trained psychologist and with a doctorate in management, authors this book with an understanding that emotional intelligence or EQ is directly related to success at work and home and elsewhere.

It is a compact, comprehensive and straightforward book with a pointed direction and specific orientation. Certainly, it extends from the concept, its development, pervasiveness, and measurement to its application to different fields of human activity. The emphasis is on understanding, analysis and practice.

Singh defines EQ as "knowing what feels good, what feels bad and how to get from bad to good". An academic definition refers to emotional awareness and emotional management skills, which enable you to balance emotion and reason so as to maximise your long-term happiness. It includes qualities such as self-awareness, ability to manage moods, motivation, empathy and social skills like cooperation and leadership. Sometimes, it is easier to define emotional intelligence by showing how people with a high IQ and low EQ fail disastrously in their professional and personal lives. Certainly a critical, condescending, inhibited and uncomfortable person in comparison to a poised, outgoing, sympathetic, caring and comfortable person may reach but hardly survive a social universe.

The book has an inherent emphasis on what may contribute to corporate success. It is not a denial or neglect of intelligence but a recognition of emotional factors which is pivotal to healthy, fulfilling and productive life.

The reader-friendly narration of the message in this brief and systematic book is towards increasing recognition of emotional factors and not the denial of intellectual factors. A case is built to develop competence through self-awareness, self-regulation, communication, motivation and inter-personal skills. It dispels the myth that EQ does not mean merely "being nice", giving a free rein to feelings, gender bias and a genetically fixed EQ. It rather emphasises on early childhood training, education, mood management, monitoring, and professional training within the organisation towards emotional monitoring, discipline and harmony.

Globalisation implies networking and networking has to be positive, supportive and cooperative. The development of the theme through personality aspects, developing and applying emotional intelligence in organisations, managing emotions and coping with anger in organisations are the right factors. In a way the references to the EQ of US Presidents and Indian Prime Ministers are in the realm of personal affairs whereas the development of a psychometric test to measure EQ by Dr N.K. Chadha of the University of Delhi, is very significant and useful contribution for organisational research and training.

The book is technically well produced and reasonably priced. For a scholar, trainer, management expert and a layman "Emotional Intelligence at Work" has all the ingredients which will "work". As a professional guide the material provided in this volume is an excellent package of theory, skills, strategies and insights for self-development programme, management and administrative workshops and, above all, to encourage competence enhancement through harvesting of emotions. Dalip Singh has raised greater expectations by authoring a stimulating book.



Sunny and seemy side of biotechnology
Review by J.S. Yadav

by G. Padamnaban Gandhi Centre of Science and human Values of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore. Pages 88. Rs 40.

BIOTECHNOLOGY, defined as a technology based on living organisations or components of life forms, is not new. It is known to mankind for a long time making curd and cheese, brewing beer and vinegar. It has, however, acquired new dimensions of late, because of an explosion of knowledge of gene transfers across species and sex. Along with information technology, biotechnology is visualised to be the technology of the 21st century.

The book under review dwells on various applications of biotechnology encompassing almost every walk of life ranging from health and diseases, agriculture and food, to environment and industry. It also refers to certain ethical issues and environmental concerns, "some of which are genuine, some exaggerated and some political", but which need to be addressed. The book has been divided into eight sections, each dealing with a specific aspect. An introductory note describes the developments in the field, whereas an appendix deals with the sequencing of the human genome and its implications.

Applications of biotechnology to human health care are vital to humanity. Thanks to this technology we have today a lot of information on the life cycle, biochemical pathways and the molecular basis of infectivity and virulence of organisms responsible for serious diseases like hepatitis and AIDS, mycobacteria causing leprosy and tuberculosis and plasmodia which has also given rise to strategies towards diagnosis and therapy. Drug designing and diagnostics are the other fields to have gained immensely from this technology; large number of diverse compounds can be synthesised and screened on a chip and quickly tested on a large number of cell lines. Diagnostic kits are now available to detect a large number of infectious diseases, cancer and genetic defects...

With the publication of human genome, a new era of medicine has born in which medical discoveries will be made not in vivo or in vitro but in silico. The ability to clone a gene and express the corresponding protein across barriers of species and sex enabled the production of human insulin. It has also made it possible to produce highly potent cell culture-based vaccines for viral diseases such as rabies and measles. Hepatitis B vaccine has been produced in edible plants ant the experimental level. Recombinant DNA technology has made it possible to identify defects at the gene level and hope has kindled to diagnose characterise at the molecular level and cure nearly 5000 genetic disorders.

The dreaded genetic diseases stickle cell anaemia and duchenne muscular dystrophy have shown the way. Whereas germ line gene therapy is in the realm of research, somatic cell gene therapy will certainly cure at least some genetic disorders within a decade. Molecular medicine will become a powerful therapeutic tool in this century.

To other side of the picture is not very rosy. The subject of gene therapy, human genome sequencing and prenatal diagnosis have raised ethical issues. Stem cell research could well provide a permanent cure for many debilitating diseases like Alzherimer’s and Parkinsons. However, there is no getting away from disturbing questions regarding the ethics of harvesting embryos created in laboratories. Where is the guarantee that understanding of the predicted genetic susceptibilities of individuals to diseases may not be misused in denying them employment or insurance cover?

To meet the increasing demand for foodgrains to the increasing population, the successful introduction of specific genes into plants leading to transgenic plants with desired characteristics have kindled hopes of a new revolution in agriculture. Specific foreign genes have been introduced into plants to bestow herbicide resistance, viral resistance, insect resistance, fungal resistance and bacterial resistance — Bt toxin gene introduced into corn and cotton has been shown to specifically kill lepidopteran pests and us considered to be specific only for this species. Specific genes have also been introduced into crops to degrade herbicides. Production of transgenics tomato where ripening process could be delayed has shown the way to increase the starch content of potatoes delay flower senescence and generate sweeter vegetables.



Indian output: for verse or worse
Review by R.P. Chaddah

A survey of Indian English Poetry
by Satish Kumar. Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly. Pages 328. Rs 250.

"A Survey of Indian English Poetry" by Satish Kumar, a distinguished critic of Indian English literature, delves deep into the origin, growth and development of IEP since 1827 when Henry Derozio, the first Indo-English poet published his poems. During a century and a half of Indian poets writing in English, they have struggled against countless prejudices and persistent discouragement and have ultimately succeeded in maintaining their identity in the comtemporary Indian English literature.

The very first chapter "Indian English Literature" does not set the tone for the chapters to come after, because the book is about IEP. Anyway, IEP is mentioned in passing and in bits and pieces.

The second chapter just gives some general characteristics of renaissance poetry (1820-1900). This sets the tenor for the author to get at the work of "The Great Pioneers" — Henry Derozio, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Manmohan Ghose. The followers of IEP have quite a thorough knowledge of their work and Satish Kumar’s write-ups do not add much to what they already know.

For the first time, the author takes a look into the work of "saint poets" — Swami Vivekanand and Swami Ramtirtha. According to him "they have deftly and skilfully nativised English to express the Indian cultural and spiritual ethos. The poetry of the two swamis gives the message of detached and desireless action for man caught in the coils of political, social, moral and spiritual crisis.

In the "Survey", the major poets of pre-independence India do get an inside account, so much so that chapters bear their names at the top — Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya (brother of Sarojini Naidu) et al. The author quotes from old recognised critics of their work, and his own comments and criticism are hard to come by, anywhere in the book.

The book scores over others on Indian English literature in general and Indian English poetry in particular, when the author takes a detailed look at the work of the post-independence Indo-English poets. The number of such poets is ever on the increase. Alongwith the pioneers of modern Indian English poetry — Nissim Ezekiel, A.K. Ramanujan, Shiv K. Kumar, R. Parthasarthy — he clubs the work of Dom Moraes, Gieve Patel, A.K. Mehrotra, Dilip Chitre and others.

In the chapter "Some Poets of the Nineties" he lets us know the work of those who do not belong to the metros and still follow the muse of poetry, just for the heck of it and get their work published to satisfy their inner need — Baldev Mirza, R.K. Singh, Subash Chandra Saha, J.P. Das (Oriya and English), I.K. Sharma.

In "Women Poets", of course, Kamala Das is there alongwith Monika Verma, Mamata Kalia, Eunice De’Souza, Suniti Nanjoshi, Margaret Chatterjee and others. Only some of them are writing now because they published their major works in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century. Somehow, Satish Kumar has not been able to include the work of two major poets of the nineties and that is Imtiaz Dharkar and Sujata Bhatt.

Satish Kumar’s book is in the traditional mode without comments and he has not been able to update the work of certain important poets of Indo-English poetry. Something glaring hits the eye. Harindranath Chattopadhayaya’s date of birth is given, and not the year of his death in the early nineties. About Nissim Ezekiel, the author is not at all aware what Ezekiel had been doing or not doing in the last 10 years or so. Of course, he does not know that Ezekiel is suffering from Alzhemeir’s disease.

The present book has been in the pipeline for quite sometime. On page 327 the following sentence appears: "a few days back I received I.H. Rizvi’s anthology entitled ‘Contemporary Indian English Poetry’ (1988). The book’s first edition appeared in 2001.

The book is sure to find favour with students of Indian English literature, just because it covers the work of contemporary poets, though cursorly, which is not available in other books of criticism of Indian English poetry.