The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Encounters with history
Rumina Sethi

Power, Politics and the People: Studies in British Imperialism
and Indian Nationalism
by Partha Sarathi Gupta. Introduction by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya. Permanent Black, New Delhi. Pages 528. Rs 775.

HE essays selected in this volume were all written between 1966 and 1998. They are the research papers of historian Partha Sarathi Gupta collected for the first time by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya who introduces the reader very sensitively to each of these pieces. Thematically organised rather than by chronology, the papers explore broad areas such as imperialism, nationalism, labour movement, the Empire and the systematic Indianisation of the Indian Army and the Raj in general.

Meet the author
“Indian historians are navel-gazing, so there is an extraordinary gap for firangees like myself”
RITERS down the ages have held that India is so diverse and complex it eludes complete comprehension. William Dalrymple is no exception. He believes that were he to spend the next 40 years in India, he would still not understand the country. Yet, year after year this Scotland-born Indophile returns to write about India and tries to get a fix on it. Out of his highly acclaimed oeuvre of five books, three deal with India, but it is his latest fare White Mughals that might be his masterpiece.

Balanced view of Hindu-Muslim relations
Asghar Ali Engineer

Communal Rage in Secular India
by Dr Rafiq Zakaria. Popular Prakashan, Mumbai. Pages: 248. Rs 350.

HE Gujarat carnage in February-April this year has become a milestone in independent India. Many books dealing with the riots have come in the market. As far as I know Communal Rage in Secular India is the fifth book in row and many more will be published. The carnage was so earth shattering that it will remain the subject of research and writing for quite some time to come.

Spelling out the dangers of fundamentalism
Himmat Singh Gill

Slouching Towards Ayodhya
by Radhika Desai. Pages 163. Rs 150
Breaking The Spell Of Dharma
by Meera Nanda. Pages 183. Rs 160. Both by Three Essays Press

AS aggressive religiosity become the millstone around India’s neck, and is there a compelling need to break the "spell of dharma", are two salient issues that Radhika Desai and Meera Nanda have raised in their respective books. Three Essays Press, a comparatively new publishing house, has done well to bring out these two works of scholarship that touch upon contemporary concerns affecting India, and a discerning reader is bound to benefit from the in-depth research that has gone into in these unbiased narratives.

“Pierced, mutilated” & burnt by war
Pardeep Dhull

Letters Against the War
by Tiziano Terzani. India Research Press, New Delhi. Pages 139.

HE book under review is a collection of letters written by famous war correspondent Tiziano Terzani. Born in Florence, Italy, in 1938, he worked with the German magazine Der Spiegel as reporter from Asia for 30 years, after which he moved to India in 1994 with his writer/wife, Angela Staude. A keen student of the Asian continent, he has authored several books based on experience he gained during wartime as well as peace.


In the loveless lanes of Lahore...
Aradhika Sekhon

The Scent of Wet Earth in August
by Feryal Ali Gauhar. Penguin. Pages: 281. Rs 250.

HIS is an excellent book! The setting, the characters, the plot, the pace and the motives are all superb and totally convincing. The book is set in Lahore, in an area called Kucha Miran Shah, which had seen better days. Filled with buildings built centuries ago by courtiers for courtesans, it is now a place frequented by drug addicts and derelicts.

Multicultural mantra
D. R. Chaudhry

The Multicultural Path—Issues of Diversity and Discrimination in Democracy
by Gurpreet Mahajan. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 240. Rs 280

IVERSE religious, ethnic and cultural groups co-exist in society. A cursory glance may convince all that they exist peacefully. Equality to all is guaranteed in the Constitution and all kinds of legal safeguards have been taken to ensure equality. However, there is a hiatus between appearance and reality. Inequality is embedded into the structure of society and legalistic response is often not enough to smoothen the structural imbalance that has come into being over a long period of time.

Placing Laden phenomenon in perspective
Parshotam Mehra
Jihad: the Trail of Political Islam
by Gilles Kepel. I. B. Tauris, London. Page IX + 454. £ 40.

OT unexpectedly, the upshot of the 9/11 strikes against the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington has been a spate of books on Islamic fundamentalism. And its most heinous manifestations, the now nearly-defunct Taliban of the one-eyed Mullah Mohammad Omar and the yet alive, and kicking, Al-Qaeda network of the Saudi millionaire, Osama bin Laden.

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.

O 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.