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Sunday
, April 7, 2002
Books

SHORT TAKES
The inflated importance of politics
Jaswant Singh

Politics and Beyond
by Ramashray Roy; Shipra Publications, Delhi: Pages 244; Rs 495.

IN todayís life, politics occupies a high position and disproportionate importance in society. Ramashray Roy, in this book, casts his gaze beyond the horizon of politics and discovers that the inflated importance of politics has lowered the role of society as a promoter of collective good. And he sets out in search of a socio-political system that can satisfy manís natural drives. He finds that in a society bereft of its capacity to integrate people, self-aggrandizement has emerged as a dominant trait of man.

The author, who has worked on the Vedic vision of political order at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies at Shimla, points at three different but linked models to overcome the current sufferings of mankindóthe Gandhian thought, "Swadhyaya" and the Vedic perspective. The basic theme of the book is the relationship between man and the Absolute. This relationship, the author maintains, creates order in manís interior and the external world, particularly the socio-political world.

 


Hungry Stones and Other Stories
by Rabindranath Tagore; Rupa and Company. Pages 277. Rs 50.

The mention of Rabindranath Tagore conjures up a vision of the man who gave us the National Anthem and whose poetic genius had earned him the Noble Prize for Literature. But the sweep of Tagoreís accomplishments spreads far beyond writing poetry. Apart from being a poet, Tagore was a short story writer, a novelist, a dramatist, and a composer of music. He wrote more than a hundred stories woven around love, social relationships, manís communion with nature and also the supernatural. The present collection of 13 stories represents some extraordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people. Hungry Stones takes you on a supernatural trip to a bygone world of unrequited passions, unsatisfied longings and the heard-aches of blasted hope. Cabuliwala presents a highly lovable character in a class of people which is generally misunderstood. His longing for his little child back home in distant Afghanistan makes poignant reading.

The collection also includes a satire on our social order (The Kingdom of Cards) and also provides a peep into the mind of a child (Once There Was a King, and the Homecoming). Some of these works have been rendered into English by the author himself, helped by eminent persons like C. F. Andrews, the Rev. E. J. Thompson, Panna Lal Basu, Prabhat Kumar Mukerjee and Sister Nivedita.

 

Rerun at Rialto
by Tom Alter; Viking, Penguin Books, India, New Delhi; Pages 128; Rs 195.

When a TV serial or film maker needs someone to play the role of a European character, the first person he looks for is Tom Alter. Mussoorie born and FTII trained Alter, when he is not before the arclights, spends his time in Mussoorie reading and writing. Rerun at Rialto is a suspense story, a mystery which at the end seems easy to solve.

Allan Kohli, a well-known police officer of Delhi, returns to his hometown, Mussoorie, for a holiday after 30 years and finds waiting for him the mysterious of a wealthy woman from a cinema house. The story moves with the usual twists and turns and the final act comes without much surprise. But before taking you to the end, Tom Alter takes you on a conducted tour of Mussoorie town in the company of his policeman hero who seems out to rediscover his hometown, meeting old friends and reliving his childhood. The bazaars, the pathways, the tea shops, book stores, schools, playgrounds, hospitals, cinema houses, all float in the pages in such detail that you start wondering whether you are reading a whodunit or a biography. The interest at this point does seem to sag.

Friends Colony
by Mani Dixit; Rupa and Company, New Delhi; Pages 108, Rs 80.

A fable from the Himalayan kingdom, Friends Colony follows the ancient pattern of Panchtantra and Hitopadesh to give wisdom to humans through animal characters that are given human attributes. Mani Dixit, a Nepal-born doctor who teaches medical students, adjusts his fable to suit modern needs and problems.

Animals in the land of Lapen (Nepal in reverse) get together to solve the problem of increasing population and pressure on their habitat. From this conclave of the denizens of the jungle, emerges a system of rotational rule by different species. In a seven-year cycle, the elephant, the hare, the monkey, the bear, the stag, the rhinoceros and the tiger are assigned to rule the jungle for one year each.

As the rule of different species progresses, problems of living close to humans are faced and discussed. You have the animals discussing issues such as preaching, protecting endangered species, preserving the green cover, as well as human problems such as brain drain, and emigration. You also find animals setting up committees and commissions to avoid immediate problems.

At the end of the seven-year cycle, the animals succeed in setting up an eco-friendly regime, in cooperation with the humans. Perhaps a lesson for us humans to learn to live in harmony with all creatures of nature.