He has established himself as a versatile Dogri scholar. He
possesses a sound grasp of Hindi, Sanskrit and English
literature. He was also Executive Member of the Sahitya Akademi.
The first essay in the book An Approach to History of Post
Office in India makes methodological pointers for the
writing of a full-scale history of the postal system in India.
Giving a synoptic view of the postal system in ancient and
medieval India and focussing particularly on the roles of Sher
Shah and Akbar in the expansion of postal delivery, the author
emphasises that it was in 1688 that the East India Company
introduced a comprehensive scheme whereby it ran an efficient
service within its own paid runners; and an office was
established in 1766.
The author has
reconstructed the growth and development of the post office
system in the country by using some works like Mulk Raj Anand’s
Story of an Indian Postal Service and Geoffrey Clarke’s
The Post of India and its Story, etc. For writing a
history of the postal system in the country he suggests a
strictly chronological approach like dividing the whole study
into four parts: the pre-1688 period, 1688-1854, 1854-1947 and
finally from 1947 up to present times. Though chronology is the
key to history, this reviewer prefers a thematic approach to
designing the book as under: (1) historical perspective (2)
structure of the postal system, (3) dimension, quality and
hazards of the system, (4) a comparative evaluation of the
Indian postal system with other countries, and (5) summing up
with suggestions for the improvement of the system.
pinpoints the year 1854 when the Imperial Post Office
organisation was set up. This was the way that Lord Dalhousie
overhauled the entire administrative system, including
archaeology, education, public works, etc. The author has
provided a vivid and sensitive description of the post office in
the Viceregal Lodge, Simla, which is now called the Indian
Institute of Advanced Study. Of special interest are the article
on the Jammu Port Office and one illuminating piece on Anthony
Trollape, an English naturalist, and the British Post Office.
In this work there
is indeed a remarkable novelty in the treatment of the whole
postal system and organisation. The account presented is not
just a recital of events connected with postal history. It is
made into a vibrant and flowing narrative dazzlingly evoking
nostalgic memories and showing imaginative sympathy for the
solitary postman trudging along in rains, storms and through
deep snows to discharge his heavy duties.
This book written
with effortless ease in a free and flowing style provides a
valuable and solid base for the reconstruction of a
comprehensive history of the Postal system in India.
* * *
Sudhir Chandra has
made a notable contribution to the study of social history of
India in the 19th and 20th centuries on themes like nationalism,
communalism, culture and social reforms. His present work, Continuing
Dilemma and Understanding Social Consciousness, comprises an
introductory chapter, "The Self and the Work," and
seven other essays already published in journals. This study
offers a compelling reconstruction of the intellectual journey
that took him from a small town in Uttar Pradesh to higher
places of learning in India and abroad, which provided him with
ample opportunities for his own independent research work.
illuminating essay "The Self and the Work," as a
witness through his own experiences of alternating hopes and
deepening gloom, Sudhir Chandra finds himself deeply involved in
a predicament, a dialectical jam that exasperated him, and he
sees to his bewilderment, if not in desperation, the
vicissitudes of human affairs, entangled in a network of
inconsistencies and paradoxes leading to a state of drift or
what E.M. Forster called a "flux". He writes,
"Ambivalence is a way of understanding a constantly
unfolding dynamism which is what human history is at any given
point in time."
throughout this work is that of an agitator, a crusader and a
questioner of things established. Sudhir Chandra assails the
binary view of historical interpretation such as nationalism
versus communalism, or right versus wrong, and the tendency to
see a human personality all of a single piece. One wonders
whether his own perception of seizing on a one-dimensional
pattern of ambivalence is not itself a pre-determined notion of
viewing things through an optical illusion.
Some of the key
questions analysed in this study relate to social justice,
obsolete customs, the deprived and agonies of the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune which the author picks up and
weaves round them a story. The work reflects meticulous
scholarship, critical rigour and a natural flair for challenging
the conventional assumptions usually taken for granted by social
* * *
Dr Dhir is
carrying on the tradition of promoting the cause of Urdu
language in Ludhiana, which was started by Manto, Sahir and
Warris. Widely travelled, his writings translated into several
languages, Dhir has established himself as an outstanding
litterateur. Honours have come to him aplenty. It is commendable
indeed that despite the difficulties encountered, he is keeping
the spirit of Urdu alive by organising seminars, conferences and
anniversaries of eminent Urdu writers in Punjab.
In his stories
Dhir’s focus is on the middle class and its manifold dilemmas.
Problem-oriented, his stories reflect psychological insights,
imaginative sympathy and sensitivity. They unfold the complexity
of human life in its variety—high ideals, thwarted ambitions,
bitter struggles, and social inequalities are all rolled up. But
there is no surrender! The noblest object is the assertion of
human values, of which Basanti is the finest example.
With his artistic
crafts, Dhir weaves his stories, step by step, coolly, arousing
and sharpening our curiosity, and keeping the issues alive and
open, leaving them for human ingenuity to resolve. By the sheer
force of his visual imagination, Dhir has developed an exquisite
form of narrative, wherein lies his real excellence.