Editorial 1 / Only left
Editorial 2 / Eating is out
The General comes to the Taj
Fifth Column / Dealing with some post natal problems
Book Review / Seek, and ye shall find the truth
Book Review / Long road taken by urban legends
Book Review / Arms, men and a two nation theory
Editor’s Choice / Not to be shelved and forgotten
Paperback Pickings / Our imports come from overseas
Letters to the editor

West Bengal is ruled by one ideology. This is not because of the dominance of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). But because of the inability of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress — the two principal rivals of the CPI(M) — to think beyond the ambit of leftist politics and policies. There exists in West Bengal, despite nearly 25 years of left rule, a substantial anti-left vote bank. The vote share of the anti-left parties — the Congress, its splinter parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party — has seldom, if ever, dropped below the 40 per cent mark. The people who take the trouble to go and vote against the left in election after election have some definite expectations from the party they want to see in power. These expectations seek a clear departure from communist policies and practices. And further an end to the abuse of power that the CPI(M) has made its trademark. The irony lies in the fact that when the Congress or the Trinamool Congress announces its programme, it merely echoes leftist politics. The left in West Bengal thrives on a pernicious kind of populism. Populist politics can be defined as the pursuit of a set of policies designed to fetch votes and popularity irrespective of the consequences those policies have on the economy and society of the state or the country. Indira Gandhi was the acknowledged master of this brand of politics. Both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress remain trapped within the get-quick-votes variety of politics.

Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, if and when she sits back to ponder on her poll debacle, will have to take into account this broader dimension of her failure. In her politics, projected policies, and in her campaigning style, she is nothing more than a replica of the left. In her rabble-rousing mode, she follows the politics of disruption that had brought the left to power in the Sixties. Her politics is openly populist as are the polices she pursues. Witness her position on eviction of hawkers, and the policies she adopted when she was minister of railways in the Union cabinet. The voter in West Bengal was thus faced with choosing between two kinds of left. An overwhelming majority chose the original rather than the replica. Faced with a make-or-break crisis, Ms Banerjee is perhaps being forced to refashion her political persona. It might be worthwhile for her to think of a path that deviates completely from the track of left politics. She will have to project herself as being different from the left and not as a more honest version of the left. This will not only give her a better chance but will also give to the politics of West Bengal a new dynamism. It is time perhaps that the people of West Bengal were not forced to listen perpetually to the one note samba.


Being a food inspector with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation is the shortest route to go off food. That is what the experiences of the team of CMC food inspectors doing their rounds of the city’s restaurants would suggest. Flies and cockroaches showed themselves to the inspectors, and even a cosy cat, arousing visions of those lower forms of life that may have remained invisible. There are other, quite unthinkable, evils. The kitchen of one restaurant does not have running water, one has a sewer pipe actually running through it, and no one seems quite sure how many restaurants have had their food-handlers given the mandatory inoculations. The food inspectors have ordered the immediate closure of one restaurant in which they found noodles piled on the floor. Admittedly, that is an extreme case. But the decision that a list of requirements for restaurant kitchens will be drawn up is of the first importance. It is equally important that the matter is not allowed to rest there. This inspection is yielding very unnerving results. The complacency of the restaurant managements must have as partial reason the absence of regular checks and strict monitoring. This must not be allowed to happen again. If a list is made, and individual restaurants hauled up for lack of hygiene, then the move must be followed up by regular inspection and actual penalties.

There is a deeper problem too. Irregular inspection should not be a reason for dirty kitchens and unclean methods of cooking and storing. Disrespect for work in general, and an unethical indifference towards the customer or client is typical of the lackadaisical work culture of Calcutta. Accountability is the last thing that is demanded or given, whether in the office or the kitchen or the secretariat. If West Bengal is seriously trying to open its doors to investors, accountability in the professional sphere is the one thing it will not be able to do without. Calcutta is the only metro where kitchen rules for public eating-places are so lax. The restaurants that have been inspected are popular, crowded ones, yet they have not bothered to keep their kitchens clean, or ensure that their fridges work properly or even that they have running hot water for washing. This is nothing short of shocking. Yet, once known, it is somehow not unexpected. Apart from the generally poor level of accountability, there is also a weakness in Calcutta’s consumer awareness. Very few demand accountability, although the number is gradually rising. But the people who go out to eat are loath to make a fuss. They are either out to have a good time, or are preoccupied professionals often in a hurry. A culture of accountability can only come from a combination of consumer awareness, administrative vigilance and the most basic professional ethics. Till this combination begins to operate, eating out in Calcutta will remain a risky adventure.


How things change! First there was the hyped up euphoria of Lahore. Then the screechings about Pakistan being a terrorist state with which it was not permissible to talk short of its giving up terrorism. Then come Agra and the plaudits about the “statesmanship” of the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The only common factor in all this is the inconsistency and hypocrisy of our national security establishment.

Let us start from the beginning. In May 1998 when India carried out Pokhran II and our government literally dared Pakistan to do the same (some statesmanship that), it thereby initiated the nuclearization of south Asia. This was not represented, as in truth it should have been, as a new danger — but as the opposite, a new era of greater peace and regional stability. The Lahore summit of spring 1999 was India’s initiative and it was an attempt to cover up India’s nuclear irresponsibility, to pretend that just such a new era of peace and stability had been ushered in.

That is why there was such a marked contrast between the reactions of the ordinary public in both countries to that summit and that of the Indian pro-bomb community, in particular. The reaction of the ordinary public in both countries was much more sober, welcoming as always, anything that might defuse tensions but cautious and sceptical of what might concretely be achieved. The Indian pro-bomb lobby went hyper, as it had to, since it had to try and make out that nuclearization of the subcontinent was in fact a great peace-enhancing act.

It took Kargil to expose the absurdity of such thinking and to show how embarrassingly naïve the thinking of the bulk of our “national security managers” was, not that our security establishment ever gets embarrassed by exposure (even repeated) of its ineptitude.

Then came another phase. After Kargil, the Kandahar aircraft hijack crisis, and the steady deterioration of the situation in Kashmir, we had a near unanimous clamour from this same national security establishment about the perfidiousness of General Pervez Musharraf who had unseated a democratic government, and the generally awful, indeed terrorist, character of the Pakistan state. Naturally, the Indian state’s own record of terrorist acts in Kashmir and the Northeast (never referred to as terrorist acts, only as “excesses”) or its willingness to seek good relations with states like the United States and Israel, whose record of international terrorism is far worse than that of Pakistan, was ignored.

Indeed, in the charged atmosphere of the time, anyone suggesting that one could not be dishonestly selective about combating international terrorism, or that there should be a more sober response to Pakistan and a willingness to move towards dialogue with whatever government ruled there, carried the high risk of being accused of being both “soft” on terrorism and anti-patriotic.

It is not as if the mindset and prejudices that led to such attitudes have now suddenly disappeared. On the contrary, they remain part and parcel of the mental make-up of our security establishment. But circumstances change. India is getting nowhere in Kashmir. Newer priorities emerge, most importantly the desire to reassure the US that India is a “responsible” regional power willing to have a dialogue with its neighbours. And an ageing and ailing Vajpayee wants to con India and the world into thinking that he is some kind of statesman when he has been nothing more than the principal apologist and leader of the most communal and anti-democratic political force that has ever ascended to power in independent India. Besides, Indian intransigence has not weakened in any way the hold of General Musharraf in Pakistan.

Still, whatever the motivations, compulsions or hypocrisies surrounding the background to the calling of this summit, is it not to be welcomed? Certainly it should. But for a variety of reasons those background compulsions and hypocrisies should always be kept in mind. This summit is not a diplomatic victory for Vajpayee but for Musharraf who has been far more consistent than his Indian counterpart in calling for the highest level of dialogue after, and despite, Kargil. But the self-righteousness that makes it so difficult for the members of the security establishments of both countries to be honestly self-critical remains quite intact. That is why there cannot be any serious breakthrough on the two crucial issues that bedevil Indo-Pakistan relations, the nuclear issue and Kashmir.

But can there be some forward movement at least? Here the main problem with the summit is that everything has been decided in haste, a lot like General Zia-ul-Haq’s one-time cricket diplomacy and visit. That is to say, everything has been vested in the very fact of the summit meeting and its symbolic impact rather than in making a summit meeting the culmination of a much longer, drawn-out and carefully prepared process of ongoing high-level negotiations during which agreed advances are chalked out. Now the pressure will be on to show some “success” at this summit and therefore to hastily bring out of the hat some evidence to this effect. The very haste and pressure to do something on these lines then makes any summit agreement or communiqué assurances more of a hostage to fortune and the future.

About the nuclear issue the most that can be expected then is some kind of very limited risk reduction measures. Thus, if there is any Agra agreement by both countries to separate warheads from missiles, planes or other delivery systems, or for de-alerting, or for non-placement of shorter–range missiles where they would be effective against each other’s territories, then these are all measures to be qualifiedly welcomed. The myth that must always be exploded, however, is that there can ever be a “nuclear-safe” zone between India and Pakistan as long as they both have nuclear weapons. Risk reduction is never a substitute for disarmament but at best a way-station towards it.

Of course, just to list some of the possible relevant nuclear risk reduction measures, as has been done, raises the question of whether, given the current state of relations between India and Pakistan, these are at all likely. Moreover, the real problem with risk reduction measures or what is almost the same thing — nuclear-related confidence building measures — is something that is inherent in the nature of such efforts. CBMs do not really create trust but themselves require a predisposition to trust each other if they are to be truly effective. That is to say, it is steadily improving bilateral political relations that make CBMs more effective/verifiable, and not really the effectiveness/verifiability of CBMs that leads to better bilateral political relations.

This, therefore, imposes serious limits on what can be expected from nuclear risk reduction measures, in contrast to the faith that the pro-bomb community in either India or Pakistan might want us to repose in “properly conceived and verified” CBMs. It is not at all surprising, that the US and Russia made dramatic advances in their mutual nuclear risk reduction measures only after the end of the Cold War and not when it was very much on.

As for Kashmir, there is no evidence whatsoever that either side can come close to serious forward movement. That will only take place when the representatives of Kashmiris on both sides of the line of control are considered legitimate participants (and not just bargaining chips) in a collectively negotiated process of finding a solution to the issue. The most that can be expected are much more modest arrangements, such as maintaining a ceasefire, and so on.

If both sides can move significantly forward in the way that the former prime minister, I.K. Gujral, genuinely sought to do — by easing the movement of goods, services and people — then this would be perhaps the most positive aspect and outcome of this summit meet and therefore, justification enough for its taking place.

The author has recently co-authored the book, South Asia on a Short Fuse: Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament


Less than a year after the formation of Jharkhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government in the state suffers from a credibility crisis. A controversial reservation policy and the ever-present Naxalite menace seem to be its bane. Opposition parties, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha being one of them, insist that the non-functioning Babulal Marandi government must go.

The beleaguered Marandi government has faced six bandhs during the seven months of its rule and seen several die in police firing. Even those who do not wish to destabilize the government concede that their hopes of having a development-oriented regime have been belied.

Jharkhand’s politics seems to be revolving around the competitive claims of various castes. Ranchi has recently witnessed a series of rallies by different caste lobbies, tribal groups and religious communities demanding an increased reservation quota. For instance, the Kurmi Mahatos, one of the most powerful castes in Jharkhand, held a huge meeting at Ranchi in May to press their demands. Other backward classes groups like the Lohars, Kumhars and Baniyas have also organized caste rallies at the state capital.

Caste in the mould

The reservation question has become controversial because the state is soon expected to hold the panchayat polls on the basis of reservation for different castes and tribes. The OBCs and Dalits in Jharkhand are up in arms against the Jharkhand panchayat raj bill 2001 as its enhances the reservation quota for the tribal groups while reducing their quota. On the other hand, the recently formed Jharkhand Adivasi Janadhikar Manch, led by the BJP parliamentarian, Salkhan Murmu, has demanded 60 per cent reservation for tribals. Murmu argues that Jharkhand was conceived as a tribal state and adequate representation has to be given to the adivasis.

The JMM chief, Shibu Soren, alleges that despite serving the interests of the non-tribal business lobby, the BJP has created the JAJM to confuse people. He asserts that 60 per cent reservation for tribals is an absurd demand given that tribals constitute not more than 25 per cent of the state’s population. Interestingly, Murmu is a member of parliament from Mayurbhanj in Orissa, but is dabbling in Jharkhand politics.

The Marandi government is facing another serious challenge from the Peoples War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre, Naxalite outfits which are active in 13 out of the 18 districts of the state. Marandi, while assuming office, had admitted that solving the Naxalite problem was his main task.

Underground reality

The government, accordingly, has announced a rehabilitation package with much fanfare for the extremists who wish to surrender. Simultaneously, the paramilitary forces and the armed police are being trained in commando operations to launch an intense counter-insurgency drive. There has however been little response to the package from Naxalites, who are hitting back with a vengeance.

The growing influence of Naxalite groups has forced Marandi to convene a conference of top police and administrative officials at Ranchi to review the operation. The seriousness of the Naxalite threat can be gauged from the fact that Rs 3.74 crore has reportedly been spent in the last five months only to provide security to ministers and senior officials.

The growing competition among various castes, communites and tribal groups on the one hand and the Naxalite threat on the other has virtually immobilized the Marandi government. Added to that are allegations of non-performance. The government seems to have made around 255 announcements about development programmes, but no work has been initiated. The state BJP thinks that the defamation campaign is actually intended to malign the government. The new state has inherited many problems of Bihar and it will take time to overcome them.

Investors so far have not shown much willingness to put their money in this mineral-rich state. Opposition parties say this is because the government has not worked out a proper industrial policy. Although business circles in Ranchi are optimistic, the Marandi government has to show that it is really serious about Jharkhand’s future.


By Richard Bernstein,
Alfred A. Knopf, $ 26

Richard Bernstein is not another curious American tourist beholding the exotic East with a little condescension. Fascinated by Hsuan Tsang’s arduous journey from China to India in search of the ultimate truth, he follows a nearly impossible route along the Silk Road, over the Tashkent and Samarkand passes, across the former Soviet Un- ion and Pakistan to India and back.

For Hsuan Tsang, a seventh century Buddhist monk, the quest was spiritual. For Bernstein, a journalist with the New York Times, it was reliving a past buried in the vast pan-Asian expanse that the monk had traversed on foot and on elephants, propelled by a desire to see what Hsuan Tsang must have seen and feel what he might have felt.

Bernstein is like the knight in the grail legend — seeking the perception that would ease his discontent, while secretly guarding his chalice, a legacy of historical consciousness.

Ultimate Journey is a parallel documentation of the two journeys separated by a millennium and a half years. The narrative moves back and forth continuously between the past and the present.

Fifty-five and still a bachelor, Bernstein prefers his footloose, non-committal lifestyle, just how a traveller would want it to be. His tryst with China dates back to his Harvard days when he learnt Chinese history and language. Later, as the Beijing bureau chief of Time magazine, the Chinese terrain became more familiar. Though absent for the major part of the journey, Zhongmei, Bernstein’s Chinese girlfriend settled in the US, forms a converging point in his psychological landscape.

Hence, in the garb of a travelogue, Ultimate Journey is a subjective account of the historical, the political and the personal fused into a whole.

In Chronicles of the Western World, Hsuan Tsang recounts his experiences of scalding deserts and icy creeks, alien customs and political intrigues, hallucinations and hardships, and finally, his interaction with the Buddhist scholars.

Bernstein’s accounts are interspersed with anecdotes from the Chronicles, the jataka stories and the myths surrounding the monk. With these are juxtaposed vivid details of the diverse ethnic groups he comes across.

At every stage of the journey, the writer draws an analogy between himself and the monk. Like Hsuan Tsang, Bernstein too is a fugitive. If the monk was forbidden by the ruthless ruler, Li Shimin, of the Tang dynasty from crossing the country, the blacklisted scribe is similarly uncomfortable in communist China, more so when the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade has unleashed a wave of xenophobia.

The present-day imbroglio over territorial disputes is a continuity of the gory battles fought between barbarian chieftains in the deserts. The past overlaps and coalesces with the present; history never seems extraneous. Bernstein’s own queries into the tenets and paradoxes of Buddhist philosophy merge into the discourse.

Visiting India is a culminating point for both Hsuan Tsang and Bernstein. Bodhgaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Nalanda, a great seat of Buddhist learning, were primary in their agendas but for different reasons. Unlike Hsuan Tsang, who as a pilgrim felt spiritually uplifted in the vicinity of the holy relics, Bernstein tries to capture the intellectual growth of an age when Buddhist scholarship reached its zenith. In contrast to the past, it is an unmasking of our spiritual bankruptcy as well. The vigour and pace in the narrative also ebbs at this point, which may be a bit disappointing for Indian readers.

As the tour draws to a close, Bernstein is hurtled towards the hearth — towards Zhongmei — not quite what the monk had striven for. Their realizations are as divergent as their faiths, the time and the space each occupied. Yet, for both, the journeys were reconciliations unto themselves. Perhaps, each was “ultimate” in its own way.


By Ashis Nandy,
Oxford, Rs 345

Journey has been used as a metaphor for life for centuries. The instances which come readily to mind are John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Deguile-ville’s The Pilgrimage of Man. In south Asia, this metaphor has for long been a favourite with saints, philosophers and scholars.

In An Ambiguous Journey to the City, Ashis Nandy is mainly concerned about a journey which is apparently territorial — that from the village to the city, the city being considered as the pivot of civilization. The fundamental opposition between the two is emphasized. Indians are familiar with this opposition, which has been used in a number of well known literary works and films, particularly of the Forties and Fifties, when the fear of being uprooted was uppermost in the minds of people.

Each of the four parts of An Ambiguous Journey deals with some facet of the motif of journey. Drawing from sources as far-ranging as the Mahabharata to popular films, plays and even television serials, Nandy seeks to understand the Indian traveller as hero, who copes with all the hazards of the journey in the quest for survival. The author profiles Pramathesh Barua, the actor-director, and Mrinal Sen, the activist-director, to show how both individuals have reached deep into the interiors of the soul to draw upon resources which help them to cope with the changed psychological terrain. Both find that the landscape has changed forever with one country becoming another country.

Readers will certainly be drawn to these two chapters because of the personalities involved. Barua gave the public films like Devdas and Mukti. He became the rage of contemporary Bengali society. “People wore Barua jackets, shirts and collars.” Nandy quotes Chidananda Dasgupta: “Rarely has a filmmaker been as much of a legendary hero as Pramathesh Barua...His image was of an irresistible prince charming descended upon common folk, honouring them by his very presence in their midst.” But Barua was a tortured soul destined to destroy himself.

On the other hand, Mrinal Sen was the right man in the right place at the right time. In fact, in West Bengal, his image as a radical, based on films like Padatik, Interview and Calcutta 71 still endures. These films became controversial and as Nandy puts it, the filmmaker thrived on the controversy. However, Nandy feels Sen’s most creative phase was in the Eighties when he “emerged as a brilliant critic of middle-class life and consciousness and a chronicler of the journey...from the city to the village to the city.” Among the films in this phase are Ekdin Pratidin, Akaler Sandhane and Khandhar.

It is the last part of the book where the author deals with the violence and exodus of Partition, which will haunt the readers’ minds. Partition resulted in an exodus from villages to alien cities. Many of those who undertook this journey were forever unable to pick up the pieces. Nandy’s rare insight into sections of the society adds to such experiences.


Edited By Maroof Raza,
Har-Anand, Rs 250

A military regime with occasional interruptions has been the norm in Pakistan from the Fifties. India, on the other hand, has been a parliamentary democracy ever since 1947. How can one explain this difference, especially when both countries share a common history, and both started with similar politico-military institutions? Maroof Raza, an ex-military officer-turned-academician, tries to resolve this paradox.

All the contributors to this volume accept the “power-politics” paradigm as developed by the neo-realist school in the West, which assumes that all state institutions like bureaucracy, military and judiciary are driven by a lust for power. The supremacy of one over the others reflects the quantum of power exercised by it in a given body politic. Raza argues that the prime factor behind the supremacy of Pakistan’s army over the other state organs is the ethnic imbalance within it. In contrast, as Raza rightly asserts, the Indian army is ethnically diverse —the reason why it could not function as a cohesive homogeneous powerbroker within the political arena.

Smruti S. Pattanaik writes that the dominance of the army in Pakistan occurred in two phases. Initially, during the early Fifties, it functioned as an arbitrator in the arena of high politics. Infighting among the politicians “pulled” the army into the state’s highest decision-making apparatus. Once entrenched there, the army soon transformed itself into a monopolist supplanting the politicians. As a result, generals like Ayub Khan, Yahya Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and now Pervez Musharraf have become prime ministers or presidents. Fusing the posts of the prime minister and the president under the aegis of the military enables the army to completely control finance and foreign policies.

Sanjay Dasgupta makes an interesting comparison between Pakistan and the former Soviet Union. Internal bickering among the politburo members allowed the Soviet army to increase the defence expenditure between 1970 and 1975. This hastened the collapse of the Soviet economy just as abnormal military expenditure is ruining Pakistan’s economy steadily.

The Pakistani army calls the shots in framing the country’s nuclear policy as well, while politicians and bureaucrats shape India’s nuclear policy. The A.B. Vajpayee government did not inform the Indian defence chiefs about the Pokhran II tests in 1998.

Barring Sumona Dasgupta, the rest agree that India is a democratic polity. Dasgupta argues that at times even a democratic state could exhibit militarism, pushed by civilian politicians. The Indian military operations in the Maldives in 1988 and in Sri Lanka in 1987 and 1990 during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime proves the point.

Compelled by the checks and balances situation, the governments which followed Rajiv Gandhi reduced military expenditure and withdrew from Sri Lanka. The big question facing political analysts now is how to establish a system of checks and balances in Pakistan for checking the unruly “men on horseback”.


By Henry Petroski,
Vintage, Rs 485

How many of those who read and love books are seri- ously concerned about how books are kept and in what kinds of shelves? There may be some enthusiasts for the arranging of books, according to subject, author, date of buying, size and so on, but book shelf enthusiasts are a rare breed indeed. Henry Petroski, who has the unique distinction of holding professorships in both civil engineering and history at Duke University, draws attention to the book shelf. No book lover can afford to ignore this book because Petroski shows with painstaking and enviable research how inextricably intertwined books and bookshelves are.

The book grows out of a simple hypothesis which in turn is based on observation: “For all the attention even the most observant of us pays to useful things, we all but ignore the infrastructure upon which they rest.” The book shelf is the obvious and principal infrastructure for the keeping and preservation of books, be it in one’s home, in a library or in a bookshop. A book shelf, Petroski says, “is like a common bridge on a small country road, there but not there to all who use it every day. Yet let the bridge be washed out in a flood, and suddenly it becomes the most important topic of discussion in the country. A book shelf is noticed when it is absent or crooked.

The story of the book shelf, as Petroski demonstrates — and his demonstration is so lucid that it strikes one as obvious — is related to the evolution of the book from scroll to codex to printed volumes. The modern mind is disconcerted by medieval and Renaissance depictions of scholars in their studies and monastic cells with books everywhere and none vertical with their spine outward. It is impossible to keep scrolls and codexes in the same way that we keep printed books on our bookshelves. Indian pundits had their own ways of keeping their punthis.

Focussing on bookshelves makes Petroski view books from a different perspective, “from the bottom up, so to speak”. Bookshelves are waiting rooms for books Books wait on shelves to be picked up by an inquisitive or an inquiring mind. They also cannot stand alone, they have to be in company.

In olden times, some books even had to be chained. Petroski refers to an unknown book published in 1931 called The Chained Library. Following up on this book, he actually found a book in the rare book section of the Yale University which is actually chained. The chained book is an important part of the story that Petroski has to tell.

For the book lover, reading this book is like taking part in a truffle hunt or being struck by serendipity. There are valuable nuggets of information and analysis tucked away in unknown and unexpected corners.

It will be impossible, after reading this book, to look at bookshelves as mere props. But for those who are particular about arranging books on a book shelf, Petroski leaves with a problem: how is his book going to be shelved. It defies a precise classification.


By Mark Crispin Miller
(Bantam, £ 6.99)

Mark Crispin Miller’s The Bush Dyslexicon: The Sayings Of President Dubya is a thoroughly entertaining as well as a stridently serious book. Entertaining, because it gathers priceless Bushisms: “to fight and be able to win war, and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place.” Distressingly funny as this may be, these very words also justify the alarmism of Miller’s book. Miller repeatedly dissociates himself from any party line. He claims to be doing with the latest American president what David Frye did with Richard Nixon, or Chevy Chase with Gerald Ford. But this book also puts forward a polemic against an order of crassness that would have been pure buffa material had it not been so dangerously empowered. Miller’s grim diagnosis is a “dual disorder...suggestive of dyslexia” and perhaps even of a touch of amnesia: “Our system suffers from a grave disorder at the top — both in the nation’s capitol, where a callow and illiterate President sits unelected, gamely fronting for a far-right oligarchy; and throughout the mainstream media, whose personnel will not perceive the evidence before their eyes.”

By Souvik Raychaudhuri
(Papyrus, Rs 195)

Souvik Raychaudhuri’s Partition Trauma, Theoedipal Rupture, Dreaming: The Cinematic Will Of Ritwik Kumar Ghatak is a dispensable book that attempts to add “a dimension to the understanding of psychoanalytic characteristics of movie (sic).” That grammatical infelicity is symptomatic, and becomes particularly unbearable when combined with the use of dated oedipal twaddle. The fatuousness of being told, about Ajantrik, that Bimal’s car is his “cathected object of desire”, or being pointed out Ghatak’s “cyclicality of ‘leitmotif’ of images”. The argument is entirely derivative, with a non-existent scholarly apparatus and the range of cinematic reference is quite giddying, from Blow Up to Blue Velvet. There is a more or less useful filmography and bibliography of Ghatak’s articles, interviews and letters. A recent collection of Ghatak’s cinematic writing had opened up possibilities of good interpretive work. Raychaudhuri’s shoddily printed book quite fails to realize this.

By Bob Beale
(Penguin, Rs 295)

Bob Beale’s Men, From Stone Age To Clone Age: The Science Of Being Male is a wacky, Reader’s Digest-type pop-medical look at “that puzzle — the man question”. There is the usual wisdom on sperm counts, duds, studs, blondes, gentlemen, boys and their mothers, men and their dens. But the best answer to the male question is provided by the sexual life of angler fish: “Tiny young male angler fish drift around until they encounter a large female, then physically latch into her body. In time, the two literally fuse together...then his body shrivels away until only the genitals are left...sometimes a mature female may sport as many as five or six sets of male genitals, from which she can fertilize herself.” Bob Beale comments sagely, “That makes human males an even greater puzzle.”

By Ayn Rand
(Plume, $ 8.99)

Ayn Rand’s The Art Of Nonfiction: A Guide For Writers And Readers gathers the edited transcripts of a series of lectures delivered, in 1969, by the writer of the strangely successful philosophical blockbuster, The Fountainhead. It would come as no surprise to those acquainted with Howard Roark’s monstrous ego that his creator would finish her lectures with “Follow my method, not the conformist writers”. The “abstract principles” behind Rand’s self-assured directives all tend to resolutely demystify writing: “Any person who can speak English grammatically can learn to write nonfiction.”

By Sidney Poitier
(Pocket, $ 8)

Sidney Poitier’s The Measure Of A Man: A Memoir is a wonderful testament from a remarkable actor. For Poitier, the only African-American actor to win the Academy Award for best actor, this is less a book about his life than a book about “life itself”. The memoir is primarily an exercise in self-questioning, but goes back to his childhood on Cat Island in the Bahamas, crediting his parents for the unflinching moral integrity which equipped him to break every racial and social barrier in the America of the Fifties and Sixties. “I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I’ve done at measuring up to the values I espouse, the standards I myself have set.”



Free ride that you just can’t take

Sir — “Free-riders run riot in Dum Dum station” (June 27) describes a sort of thing that can only happen in this country. Eastern Railways has to learn that every time they have “special” ticket checking drives, violence will break out. Mass ticketless travel has less to do with poverty or the affordability of the tickets. The desire to cheat the government of that extra penny stems from a deep-set feeling of being at the receiving end of bad treatment from it. The palpable absence of adequate state intervention in matters relating to essential services and social security cause such insecurities among people. If indeed Eastern Railways wants to stop mass ticketless travel, it should have checking drives on a regular basis instead of conducting these one-off stints. Passengers need to be kept on tenterhooks about these drives because until there is an effective policing machinery which guarantees the regular detection and punishment of offenders, people will continue to enjoy these free rides.

Yours faithfully,
Dipankar Mitra, Calcutta

A matter of science

n Sir — I have gone through the article by Zia Haq, “A failed exchange programme” (June 13), with the introduction, “Dhaniram Baruah’s efforts at xenotransplantation should be discouraged because they are dangerous and unscientific.” I always believe that The Telegraph writes only facts and in my case “Sunday” magazine and The Telegraph correspondents investigated my work on xenotransplantation a number of times in the past and published the facts as news and feature. A few days ago, your northeastern correspondent to The Telegraph has taken an interview of mine and published a positive news article in the Guwahati edition on my present and future plans, which created a good impact in the minds of the people.

Haq has written an article on June 13 which is not only fictitious but has behind it ulterior motives and malafide intentions. It does not even consider the basic ground rule of investigative journalism and has caused enormous damage to my long years of research and reputation. He has written this article out of his ignorance and personal vendetta. He is neither a heart surgeon, nor does he have any experience in xenotransplantation and he did not even care to contact me for my views and also acted above his authority.

Xenotransplantation is now a hot topic in the field of organ transplantation all over the world and many scientists and surgeons are working in this field. There is an actual shortage of human donor organs and recipients are quite substantial in number all over the world. I carried out clinical xenotransplantation in January, 1997 in Assam in compliance with every scientific and legal aspect. For intentionally stating the wrong facts and misleading the people, I can drag Haq to the court of law where he will have to explain why he said “it is dangerous and unscientific”. He says xenotransplantation is my dream. But in fact, it is a task one should undertake for the progress of medical science to help needy patients who have end-stage organ failure.

The law did not find me guilty as Haq says. Further, he said that my xenotransplantation was unethical, unreasonable medical intervention. So far we, the surgeons, have considered it ethical and reasonable medical intervention. So far I have heard, Zia Haq is neither a judge nor a lawyer nor a scientist nor a cardiac surgeon to judge xenotransplantation and its future, which he has dealt with posing as an expert. I have carried out more than one hundred xenogenic heart, lungs transplantation before I proceeded to clinical xenotransplantation and it was done both scientifically and legally. He further described my work as bizarre, which is also totally out of context. Without probably knowing the ABC of genetic engineering, Haq is narrating the details about genetically-modified pigs as an expert. Till today, we are not aware that hyperacute rejection can be overcome by using organs of genetically-modified pigs for xenotransplantation. My method of overcoming hyperacute rejection was quite different — I use antigen suppression agent.

He described my operation theatre as not being suitable to carry out this task and as not having airconditioners. In fact, my operation theatre was one of the best in India, as opined by the many cardiac surgeons who came from abroad and from various parts of India. I wonder whether this gentleman has ever visited my facilities in Assam. Can he explain what type of operation theatre is required for xenotransplantation? That my patient who died after seven days was proven by DNA studies and yet Haq said that the patient died long before which was only a wishful interpretation.

The previous Asom Gana Parishad government’s health minister was a doctor but he did not have any experience of xenotransplantation and the present health minister, who is also a doctor, has some idea about xenotransplantation which Haq refuses to accept as if he himself is an expert in xenotransplantation.

He further claims that northeastern India is yet to produce a scientist, which casts doubts on his ability to gather proper information on the people and the region. My Heart Valve project has already been accepted by the Scottish government and is going to be manufactured there on a commercial basis very shortly. If they cannot consider me as a scientist and cardiac surgeon, the Scottish government would not have accepted my work and allowed me to have my manufacturing base there.

Haq, before making any derogatory comment about my research and findings on xenotransplantation, should have the courage to prove scientifically that what I have done till date is wrong and at the same time that I am not the pioneer in this field.

Yours faithfully,
Dr D.R. Baruah, Guwahati

Troublesome plot

Sir — The report by Chandrima Bhattacharya,“Gadar makers smell plot” (June 27), describes how an unnecessary frenzy has been created around the film, Gadar. Meanwhile, a very biased attitude was displayed by Star TV during its news bulletin on June 26. The violent protests around the film were under discussion.

The head of the all-India Babri Masjid coordination committee, Syed Shahabuddin, was invited to the studio for this purpose. A representative of Zee Films, the producer, was participating from Mumbai. The Star TV anchors were consistently mild in their handling of the issues. At one stage, it was suggested to the producer that little amendments can be made to the film, including chopping off certain scenes so that the sensibilities of the minorities are not affronted.

This is indeed magnanimous of the electronic media. Meanwhile, Shahabuddin insisted that a particular name in the film, “Sakina”, was troublesome because this name has connections with Prophet Mohammed. There are often sentiments attached to names. This is why Shahabuddin himself has been questioned about why he has chosen to call the periodical that he edits “Muslim India”. He attempted to justify the causes behind the protests. He could have used this time to discourage the unrest.

In case of protests against the film, Water, Star TV had started a campaign about the freedom of expression. It brought in experts and intellectuals to impart advice to the Rashtirya Swayamsevak Sangh about democratic rights. Where are these people now? Why are they quiet?

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

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