thriller really thrills
Review by Ram Varma
by Roy Oliver. Writer’s Showcase, San Jose, New York, Lincoln,
Shanghai. Pages 251. $
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’, this solid book charts the
hiatus between desire and its deferred fulfilment.
feelings of the displaced
Review by M.L. Raina
on Exile and Other Essays by Edward Said.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. Xxxv +617 pages.
sound/then gently light unfading on that unheeded
neither/unspeakable home". Beckett
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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
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.
Holocaust child survivor recalls
Review by Vikramdeep Johal
by Uri Orlev and translated from Hebrew by Hillel Halkin.
Madhuban Educational Books, New
Delhi. Pages 64. Rs 40.
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
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
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.
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.
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
event can have an adverse effect on the psyche of children, who
are highly impressionable by nature.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
and wrongs of children
Review by Uma Vasudeva
on Child" (With Historical Background)
by Pramila Pandit Barooah. Concept Publishing Company, New
Delhi. Pages 396, Price Rs 500.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
have childhood customs like Hindus. These have been explained
as Azan, Chhati (sixth day), Chilla, Muranda, Khatna
(Circumcision), Bismillah, Hadia or Amin, Roza (fasting).
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
long struggle for dignity
Review by Ashu Pasricha
Rights and Justice System
by Ashwani Kant Gautam. APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi.
Pages 578. Rs 995.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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."
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
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
through emotional poise
Review by Jitendra Mohan
Intelligence at Work-A Professional Guide
by Dalip Singh. Response Books (A Division of Sage
New Delhi. Pages 198. Rs 375.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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...
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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
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
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.