The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, December 15, 2002

Short takes
Life story of JP — the eternal rebel
Jaswant Singh

Jayaprakash Narayan, the Eternal Rebel
by Varghere K. George; Rupa and Co., New Delhi. Pages 64. Rs 195.

TO the present generation, the name Jayaprakash Narayan brings the vision of an angry old man who brought about mass awakening against the tyranny of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and put the country back on the democratic path. They remember JP as the man who gave voice to the people and also gave them hope at a time when things looked rather bleak. But JP was much more than the man who caused the downfall of Gandhi.

It was in 1921 in Patna when 19-year-old JP, then a college student preparing for his intermediate examination, heard the exhortation of Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad that students should leave schools, lawyers should quit the courts and civil servants their jobs. Young Jayaprakash went home and declared a stop to his studies, much to the disappointment of his family. But his decision, like all subsequent JP decisions, was final and not negotiable. He found the suggestion to go to England for studies rather ironic. The idea of leaving a British-run school in India and going to England for studies did not appeal to him. Instead, he sailed for the USA where he could work and study. After spending seven years in the world’s principal centre of capitalism, he returned to the country a confirmed votary of socialism who believed that the salvation of the world lay in Marxism and that an armed rebellion was the only way to get the British out of India.


The story of JP, his transformation from a Marxist to a Gandhian, his daring acts during the Quit India Movement, his escape from jail, his rearrest and torture by the British which made him a legendary hero, his joining Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement, his emergence from isolation and providing leadership to the people groaning under the tyranny of the Emergency, have all been described by the author in a manner and style that makes the entire range of his personality and the sequence of events run before your eyes like a movie.

This finely written and beautifully produced book will certainly induce the reader to know more about the man who remained passionately devoted to the hopes and aspirations of the masses of India.

Natural Remedies
by D.N. Dhar and Rupa Dhar. Orient Paperbacks, Delhi.
Pages 184. Rs 140.

Man must have noticed the curative qualities of certain herbs and plants by accident, and then confirmed these through observation and experience. Since then herbal treatment has been the only form of medicine available to a large part of the world’s population. Even modern medicine draws heavily on herbs in the preparation of a number of pharmaceutically useful drugs. A recent survey in the USA has revealed that about 50 per cent of medicines used by doctors today are of plant origin.

India has a vast reservoir of medicinal plants which form the principal source of drugs used in the indigenous systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani and Sidha. But the tremendous advances made by modern medicine have caused the people to become sceptical about the utility and effectiveness of these herbal medicines, which are generally described as "home remedies" and often looked down upon.

In this scenario, when the authors of this book, who are scientists in their own right, speak of herbal remedies, they impart an authentic ring to the text. They maintain that the indigenous systems of medicine offer safe cures, free from side effects, and in many cases are based on sound scientific principles. They have listed more than 200 medicinal plants, given their common names, their botanical names and also their Indian names wherever possible. Each disease has been given a brief introduction with its causes and symptoms. The list includes some common ailments as well as some that are not so common and deserve serious attention. Then come the methods of preparing the herbal brews. They use the word "tea" for any concoction that contains an extract of herbs.

However, they also sound a note of caution. Herbal medicine should be considered an adjunct to and not a substitute for modern medicine. They also maintain that any prejudice against traditional herbal treatment would be unfair. Combining the simple but effective traditional practices with modern therapeutics would be a sensible approach to health care.

At the very outset, the authors and the publishers make it clear that the information in the book is not intended to replace medical consultation. They do not hold themselves in any way responsible for any loss or damage caused to any person directly or indirectly by the information in the book.