Editorial 1 / Valley of fear
Editorial 2 / Deadline hope
All the chief’s men
Book Review / Drama in black and white
Book Review / Willow pattern
Book Review / To wander lonely as a cloud
Book Review / / Within the cracks of history
Editor’s Choice / The art of love and love of art
Paperback Pickings / Journals of a travelling revolutionary
Letters to the editor

It is now clear that the hope that the Agra summit would lead to a modicum of peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir was misplaced. The level of violence increased in the Kashmir valley, and militants seem to be acting with impunity even in the heart of Jammu city. The massacre at the heavily guarded Jammu railway station is the latest example of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the state. Further evidence of the seriousness of the situation is provided by the Union government’s decision to declare four more districts of Jammu and Kashmir as disturbed. This is the first time in the last decade that these districts, Jammu, Doda, Kathua and Udhampur, have been brought under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It needs to be emphasized that today all of Jammu and Kashmir, except for Ladakh, is severely affected by militancy and terrorism, most of which is directly sponsored by forces within Pakistan.

While there seems to be a new resolve within the Central government to combat militancy, it is still not clear whether there is a long-term plan to restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir. The last year has demonstrated that ad hocism has continued to define New Delhi’s initiatives towards the state, in both their internal and external dimensions. Policies are often initiated on the basis of insufficient evidence, imaginative measures, when they are thought of, are rarely given enough time to bear fruit, and the ministry of home affairs and the prime minister’s office often seem to be acting at cross purposes. The unilateral ceasefire announced last November to tap the overwhelming public sentiment against violence was implemented half heartedly and was abandoned without a careful evaluation of the adverse impact that the decision would have on popular opinion. Similarly, an unofficial dialogue with separatist leaders from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference that had the backing of the prime minister’s office was jettisoned by the appointment of Mr K.C. Pant as the government’s official interlocutor. Instead of engaging the separatists in quiet parleys, away from the glare of the media, Mr Pant sought to publicly engage representatives from the whole spectrum of public opinion in the state. Not surprisingly, the talks have gone nowhere.

Islamabad, it is clear, is not ready to curb the violence in Jammu and Kashmir, and many important voices within the Pakistani establishment believe that Indian security forces, operating in Kashmir, have a very low morale. It is, therefore, imperative that the security forces reestablish their authority. It is equally important for both New Delhi and Srinagar to articulate a series of policy initiatives that can win back the confidence of the people in Indian democracy and just governance. The government will also have to seriously introspect whether another summit meeting between Mr Pervez Musharraf and the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under the circumstances, will serve any real purpose, even while it may be important to sustain bilateral contact at lower levels. Mr Vajpayee’s policy towards Jammu and Kashmir is in limbo. It does not traverse on the beaten track of the past but neither does it show any vision and initiative.


Repeating a saying does not necessarily make it more forceful. But the Supreme Court has not stopped at the saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” It has administered a stern rebuke to high courts about the delay in pronouncing judgments. Appended is a list of directions intended to ensure that judgments are delivered within six months of hearing. This deadline is essential if the unspeakable condition of undertrial prisoners throughout India is to see any improvement. Petty offenders who spend more time in prison than their expected sentences would require cannot be said to have had any kind of justice. There are undertrial prisoners who may spend anything from two to 30 years in prison. Obviously, these offenders come from the underprivileged sections of society since they have no one to nudge the process forward on their behalf. No country can claim that its judicial system is just if its prisons are full of poor people awaiting judgment for years on end.

Although the Supreme Court’s instructions to the high courts are practical and should be immediately implemented, there are other ways in which the whole system could be tightened. Vacancies for judges are still numerous. The appointment of judges is a process which urgently needs speeding up. The other is the question of vacations. Long breaks mean longer delays, and the interruption of an ongoing process. The pile of pending cases in all courts has reached alarming proportions. Thus a paucity of judges and an excess of vacations compound the situation in which undertrial prisoners are caught, for incoming cases just keep growing in number. Naturally, accountability can be evaded when the system is so unwieldy. It is easy to pass the buck. This lies at the root of the Supreme Court’s immediate concern, since nothing else can explain the enormous delays in delivering judgment. Rebukes to individuals will ultimately not work, which is why the court has brought out a list of directions. The lack of accountability also makes possible endless adjournments and postponements. There should be stringent rules regarding such delays: rules meant to be applied, not just recorded. Even a serious and all-round effort to meet the six-month deadline would mean an unrecognizable improvement.


A recent directive from the home ministry to the Tamil Nadu government has “requisitioned” the services of three officers of the Indian Police Service who belong to the Tamil Nadu cadre of that service for postings in the Centre. Separately, but at roughly the same time, the Central government has asked for the services of R. Rajagopalan, another officer of the IPS to take over as director, National Security Guard, the presitigious NSG. From what one is able to gather from the media, the state government has refused to release Rajagopalan, and has yet to send a reply to the requisitioning of the other three.

All this would be routine, dull bureaucratic work, letters and faxes being exchanged between the Central and state governments, were it not for the political subtext that it has. The three requisitioned officers are the three directly involved in the arrest of the former chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, and have been seen as having exceeded their brief as police officers in effecting the late night arrest of the former head of the government. It has also been said that these three were given their posts by the present chief minister soon after she assumed office, and are loyal All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supporters. Rajagopalan, on the other hand, is said to be close to the former chief minister, and had been selected for the post of director, NSG before the election results were known.

Inevitably, the issue becomes a major administrative matter, and raises the whole question of the validity of services such as the Indian Administrative Service and IPS. But first things first. Let’s try to understand what animals these two services are, for they are in one sense rather unique. They are, (with the Indian Forest Service ) what are called “all India” services; quite distinct from “Central” services like the Indian Foreign Service, the Indian Revenue Service and all the other services that the central government has created.

An all India service is one where the recruitment is made by the Union Public Service Commission, and the basic training given by the Central government in its specialized training institutions; the terms and conditions of these services are also determined by the Central government, though the state governments are at times consulted on one or the other aspect of these conditions. The officers of these three services are allotted to different states, depending on the number of vacancies each state has, and become part of the IAS or IPS “cadre” of that state. In other words, the officer becomes an employee of that state government, except that his service conditions are governed by rules framed by the Central government.

This rather odd dispensation — a hangover from the time when India was a colony — was a means of ensuring imperial control even while the presidencies and provinces were given more and more freedom to govern. Vallabhbhai Patel, that shrewd, far-sighted statesman, saw the advantages of this control over the states, at a time when the newly independent country was moving forward rather shakily, riven with communal riots in the north, then by the demand for linguistic states, and with formidable personalities, leaders in the freedom movement in their own right, as chief ministers in various states.

As long as the Centre kept the eventual loyalties of the seniormost officers handling the administration and law and order in the states, it would, he saw, mean a greater degree of stability at that time. Given the fact that the Centre today is really ruled by a coalition of state parties, a system which is unlikely to change whichever party actually forms the government, the Centre will inevitably become relatively weak in terms of internal administration, and the states will become strong. That, surely, is as it should be; that will, in a very real sense, actually strengthen India, and bring in a truly federal structure, in place of the centrist system that passed off as federal only in name for the first four decades after independence. In a truly federal system, then, are such services still necessary ?

The advantages of the all India system have nearly all disappeared; several officers belonging to the “Indian” Administrative Service or “Indian” Police Service, have become camp followers of the ruling parties in the states, parties which have become stronger with the years, as the Centre has weakened. Consider the number of comrades in the IAS and IPS in West Bengal; their numbers are substantial, and they have the key posts. Why, then, raise one’s eyebrows at what’s happening in Tamil Nadu? Officers there are, similarly, open servitors of either the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or the AIADMK; and whenever either party comes to power “their” officers are moved into key positions.

Inevitably, naturally; it should surprise no one. What is even worse is that many of those who come to work in the Centre bring with them the intrigues, manoeuvres and coteries they form when serving their masters in the states. One recalls hearing, as a young under secretary, the then minister for information and broadcasting, Raj Bahadur, saying in the Lok Sabha that while he and all his fellow members of parliament were fairly seasoned politicians they were like children when it came to the politics played by bureaucrats. One’s youthful indignation has long since been replaced by admiration for the insight of the man. Over the last three decades in government one has seen many coteries and caucuses, and witnessed from the sidelines, so to speak, servile, furtive lobbying for some post or the other.

So should one persist with the charade of the all India services when they are anything but that? Odd though it may sound, I would say that they should remain. The system must not be faulted because of the ways of some who people it. There are undoubted advantages in keeping the all India services; especially today, when the unity and integrity of the country is passing into the hands of people in the states who are either venal, or power-crazed or simply incapable of seeing anything except their own mohalla.

But the way the system is managed has to be changed; at the risk of repeating oneself, one must insist that the power to transfer — within a state and from Centre to state and back — and the power to discipline, must be given to an independent body. It could be the UPSC or something similar. But the integrity of the administrative system must be divorced from political power, both in the states and the Centre.

Can this be done? It can be, but it needs a consensus, which will not be easy, with chief ministers like Jayalalitha around. Nonetheless, it is something with which the Centre should, and can persist; the likes of Jayalalitha will not last forever, and sooner or later the wisdom of such a system will have to be conceded. Perhaps the media, which is becoming as powerful as it is over the years, will play a key role in creating a climate where there will be no option left to recalcitrant states. Persistence is all; it may or may not pay off, and if it pays off it may be after a long long time. But it is essential; the stakes are already too high, and getting higher as the days pass.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting


By Meira Chand,
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £ 16.99

“Thou who are pleased by the worship of virgins.../ Who art in the form of the virgin,/ Destroyer of fear/ Who assumeth all forms at will...”

This incantation to Kali is chanted during an exorcism of the teenaged Sati. But the girl was not, as all believed, possessed by evil spirits. It’s Durga (from whose “forehead the goddess Kali was born”) who passes through her body. Quite naturally, the pujari’s prayer was useless: Durga’s hold on Sati became stronger than ever. Fortunate, too, because when the goddess’ voice emerged (“as if torn”) from fiery Sati’s throat, the young girl was hailed as the Devi. The once alienated, half-caste girl is now the epicentre of the frenetic storm of hope, faith and prayer of a whole community.

This is Calcutta, 1756. The British live in White Town, the natives in Black Town. Fort William has been given a free hand for trade under Alivardi Khan’s rule. Until the old and ailing king dies, plunging the palace, and Fort William, into uncertainty.

In this historical novel, Chand introduces real-life characters such as Chief Magistrate Holwell and Governor Roger Drake, though she insists these are fictitious. The power-hungry Chief Magistrate and the insipid Governor accept a bribe from Khan’s daughter, Ghasiti Begum, for helping in the intrigue to stop Siraj Uddaulah (Chand’s spelling) from ascending the throne.

A human drama precedes the historical upheaval. The city is divided into hovels and alleys of Black Town and the blinding, shiny houses of White Town. Sati, with her “tortoiseshell hair and yellow eyes”, is caught between the two. Demonteguy, the new husband of her Indian mother, Rita, now wishes to cash in on Sati’s strange “possessions” by arranging public seances.

The Demonteguys start custody proceedings. Sati, who lives with her grandmother, Jaya, is due to inherit the old woman’s jewels. Up against the Chief Magistrate (with whom Rita has had an affair), old animosities surface and aged Jaya doesn’t stand a chance. The treasure is seized by Holwell’s strongmen, but Sati is allowed to stay on in Black Town.

Following a straight narrative style, Chand’s drama, inspired by history, does not have any unexpected twists or turns. The characters are poorly developed though much time is spent in the attempt. The battle scenes are lifeless. The character of Siraj Uddaulah, though a pivotal part of the action, is left virtually untouched.

Sati remains the mystic, unreachable god-woman. Predictably, her first brush with the divine occurred when, as a child, she suffered great trauma. When she comes to grips with her pain, Durga disappears. Chand never strays from the concept of the goddess as a supernatural protector. Durga is the epitome of feminine strength, justice and power, but that Sati’s visions may have psychological, and not cosmic, implications is never explored.

The British characters are unusually flat, with no trace of ambiguity. Their only distinct characteristic is avariciousness. Traders are greedy and manipulative (though, to Chand’s credit, so are the native businessmen). The priest, Bellamy, is shrewd, more interested in wine than sermons. The Governor is incompetent, having pulled strings to gain the chair. Holwell is utterly despicable, without a single redeeming feature (he is not as clever as he thinks, either, playing straight into Siraj Uddaulah’s hands).

Textbook clichés about India abound: the community is at the mercy of the “Hoogly”, natives are all slaves to superstition, sultry Indian women trap the lusty “firanghis” into marriage for money with their wily ways.

The imagery is forced at times and the language prosaic. Despite a well-constructed plot, the setting — a universe which demands retribution for offences against the pure at heart — is worn from overuse.


Edited By Ramachandra Guha,
Picador, Rs 395

“The ball was coming up so mildly, but it evaded Bert’s punitive swing, he glared around, the bails fell, he said something. And another one.” A random selection from Edmund Blunden’s Cricket Country of 1944. Is this cricket? Or is it literature? The effortless shifting of agency from the bowler to the ball and then to the bails, and the printed word transporting the reader to the action on the 22 yards make it difficult to decide. Blunden, a poet, was part of a tradition which saw P.G. Wodehouse, Lord Byron, James Joyce, Arthur Conan Doyle and Samuel Beckett, to name a few, rub shoulders with Neville Cardus, C.B. Fry, C.L.R. James, J.H. Fingleton. In these writers’ works, literature and cricket coexisted in conjugal amity.

This tradition, like so many good things, now belongs to the past. Most would share Ramachandra Guha’s view that “the great days of cricket literature are behind us”. In fact, if one were to say that the single biggest malaise of modern cricket is that there is too much cricket and too little literature, one would not be too far off the mark. The Picador Book of Cricket proves, if inadvertently, that chances of a resurgence of cricket literature are more than remote.

When exactly was literature on the game replaced by “ghosted autobiographies and statistical compendiums”, not to mention the barrage of similar sounding interviews? Guha would have us believe that it was with the advent of the one-day version. After all, has there been a “Neville Cardus of one-day cricket”? It does not surprise, therefore, that selections from the writings of past masters have far outweighed the works of contemporary cricket writers in the anthology. Guha must not feel unduly hurt if readers fail to rally behind him in his team selection, for, within every cricket reader resides an anthologist. The anthologist in me, for instance, is disappointed that Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Simon Rae (on W.G. Grace) and Michael Henderson haven’t made it to the squad. On a more objective note, Guha not only provides an eclectic fare, but by preferring “the out of print to the readily accessible”, rescues several gems from oblivion.

The section, “Little Heroes”, accommodates many of these beautifully. Rowland Ryder on the original Percy Jeeves, Philip Snow on Bula, the Fijian Botham, C.L.R. James on Wilton St Hill’s forgotten leg glance, Matthew Engel on Colin Milburn, who lost his left eye and a promising career with it, Neville Cardus on H. Richmond, who played cricket “passionately and statistically” —all show that the most enduring personal memories are often of cricketers whose entry and exit have not upset too many schedules.

And then there is Neville Cardus to demonstrate the fine art of combining one’s understanding of the game with his imaginative insights. Writing about the Ashes test at Lord’s in June, 1930, Cardus writes: “Woolley’s strokes were as brilliant, as much a matter of nature as the rays dazzling the field from the blue sky. Wall attacked at a superb pace, supported by the virile dangerous fast-medium swing (both ways) of Fairfax, from whose bowling Hobbs was soon and most courteously caught by Oldfield, a wicketkeeper who, judging by his quiet charm of manner, might well and always have kept wicket in the kid gloves in which he was married.”

The works of Cardus, and of his contemporaries and followers like Alan Gibson and R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, however, present cricket as an anglo-centric, if not English, game, within whose realms Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji were but luminous “Oriental stars”. Guha tries to ensure that the book does not become a celebration of the imperial master’s game.

Enter C.L.R. James, for whom Garfield Sobers is not merely the best all-rounder in the world, but “the fine fruit of a great tradition”. Also V.S. Naipaul. Faced with the question, “Who is the greatest cricketer in the world?”, in a general knowledge test in the fourth standard, Naipaul discovered that the answer must be “Learie Constantine” and never “Bradman”.

The manifestation of what Naipaul calls the “cultural boomeranging from the former colonies” is as myriad as the colonies themselves. The anthology does not record, for instance, the transference of the very English division between the aristocratic amateur and the plebeian professional to the elite cricket-imbibing society of the Indian subcontinent. It also fails to record the ways in which the game became a tool for enforcing obedience — finally inviting defiance — in countries like South Africa.

That the subcontinent and South Africa did not have James’s equals might have something to do with this. But any account of the historic tour of the MCC to India would have served as a good exposition of cricket as a game played by the cosmopolitan elite in the India of the Thirties and Forties. By the time Mike Marqusee comes to the World Cup finals of 1996, cricket has moved a long way from the Long Room of Lord’s to Shivaji Park in Mumbai and the Maidan in Calcutta and to the mushrooming coaching centres in the cities of the subcontinent.

This is why the universe of The Picador Book of Cricket is a largely alien one. A cricketer need not now wait for an offer from a biographer, there’s always the ghostwritten autobiography. The mind’s eye need not be put to work, there’s the stump vision camera. And the written word may be dispensed with altogether — there are television commentators. The usurping of the game by the visual medium is hilariously merged with the sorry plight of West Indies against England in 1991 by B.C. Pires: “The television commentary just switched from BBC1 to BBC2 and Dujon disappeared in the changeover.”

When the last pages of the book have been turned, the feeling is of having read a pastoral elegy, set in cricket’s prelapsarian days. The sadness is compounded by the fact that the best batsmen are no longer chronicled by the best of critics. There will be no Cardus for Sachin Tendulkar.


Edited By Dom Moraes,
Viking, Rs 395

A readable collection of 35 essays, The Penguin Book of Indian Journeys contains works written over the last 50 years. The sheer geographic range and the time span these essays cover are fascinating. Arranging the pieces in chronological order might have been interesting. It would have enabled the reader to trace a journey not just though space but also through time, and to make connections between different voices, places and circumstances.

Most of the essays are well-crafted, and the prose is evocative enough for the reader to feel tempted to sit back and visualize all the places written about. But travel writing is not just about recreating atmosphere. It is also about discovery — of a place, it’s people, and of oneself. The nature of this discovery varies from writer to writer.

For instance, in the first essay, Jan Morris sees Darjeeling as a lovely toy town — “A musical box town, where pretty little melodies would tinkle in the sunshine”. This can work as a momentary impression, but is a little ridiculous as a complete perception. Then Morris goes on to soppily recount how lovely everything is in Darjeeling despite the poverty, how porters are bent double under the weight but still smiling, how girls laugh even while they chop firewood, how mothers trip over children and chickens in their kitchens but never get angry. As if this laughter excludes all other observation, as if this laughter validates their poverty.

This vision, seen from a serene, secure vantage point reduces real people and real places to a kind of happy comic strip. See how this piece ends — “And down I would hurry, past that merry line of beggars, tagged by swarms of children and encouraged by avuncular sages, to where the waiter in his red turban and his polished brass badge, looking anxiously from the dining room door, was waiting to whisk the cover off my porridge.”

V.S. Naipaul’s account of reaching Delhi is as well-crafted, erudite, irritable and self-absorbed as ever — “To step out of the third class air-conditioned coach on to the smooth hot platform was to feel one’s shirt instantly heated, to lose interest, to wonder with a dying flicker of intellectual curiosity why anyone in India bothered, why anyone had bothered with India. The porters, blazing in red tunics and red turbans, hustled about screeching for custom.” The “red turban” again. As if there aren’t people under the red turbans.

But then it is this that makes the collection interesting, the different voices, what they say and what they leave out, and why.

Khushwant Singh’s typical caricature of Phoolan Devi; Vijay Nambisan’s dark account of his stay in Bihar that leaves the reader with a sense of disquiet; William Dalrymple’s subdued and sympathetic piece on the widows in Vrindavan; Amit Chaudhuri’s uneasy observations about a post-Babri Masjid demolition India; P. Sainath’s exposure of the dissaris in Orissa, and others — the voices in all of them are distinct and different.

Anita Nair, while describing an encounter with elephants in Wayanad, does not quite manage to “bypass exotica”, which Dom Moraes in his introduction claims that younger Indian writers successfully do now. Sarayu Ahuja sensitively relates her encounter with a bitter, struggling social worker. Andrew Harvey describes Leh in a series of vivid images. Anees Jung constructs the claustrophobic world of an orthodox Muslim household in Bidar.

The mix of images, emotions, confluences, contradictions and climates manages, at best, to add up to a vague, incomplete picture that is still enticing. And this exciting mix is enough to make this anthology an enjoyable book to curl up with.


Edited By Partha Chatterjee and Pradeep Jeganathan,
Ravi Dayal, Rs 575

For those who are not historians, there are two kinds of richness offered by the volume. One is that of tools and approaches, a variety demanded by the search for the subaltern subject. The contributors include a lawyer, and academics from the disciplines of sociology, literature, anthropology, politics and cultural studies. What began two decades ago as an inquiry into how subaltern groups made and inhabited their own histories has become a mode of critical scholarship in history, literature and anthropology.

As postcolonial criticism, it draws its sap from a combination of Marxism, post-structuralism, Gramsci and Foucault, archival material and textual criticism. The volume is thus rich in the invocation of texts: oral accounts, anecdotes, films, and legal, political, literary and historical documents. The flip side, of course, is a blurring of theoretical coherence within the diversity of approaches and influences.

Flavia Agnes’s illuminating article on the evolution of property laws for women, for example, seems out of place as a subaltern essay. It is true that women represent most clearly the subaltern’s lack of a voice. At the same time, the subject alone cannot make an essay part of subaltern studies. The dilution of method raises questions about the direction of the subaltern project.

The other richness is simply that of possibility. Subalterneity is constituted by its failure to “come into its own”. Its records are necessarily fragmented within dominant histories. To “describe histories revealed in the cracks of the colonial archaeology of knowledge” is also to lay bare the recalcitrance of the subaltern subject. Therefore the essays in Subaltern Studies XI reveal the possibility of further forms of subalterneity, of more and different histories.

Violence is a central concern in the book. In three essays, Sri Lanka is the locale for violence. Pradeep Jeganathan identifies a space for violence in the Sinhala practice of masculinity. In the attempt to make “violence” available to his anthropology, he reaches “the limit of his subject” which is also the beginning of politics. “It is under the sign of...politics, finally,” he says, “that violence in all its power is made visible to anthropology.”

The politics of Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka is discussed by Qadri Ismail, who begins with the differences among country, state and nation. Arguing that the nation must be read “situationally and dynamically”, Ismail discusses the evolution of nation through its failure to keep its promise of providing a “home” for its nationals. The oral accounts of two Tamil women show that women cannot find a home in “nation”. They resist, through abdication, escape and change, not only the state that commits genocide but also the promised Tamil nation. This resistance is both in contrast with and parallel to the expulsion of the Southern and UpCountry Tamils from the Eelam project.

Ismail’s essay shows how community is fractured by “nation”, while David Scott discusses the failure of the liberal discourse on toleration to take on the task of “thinking through the contemporary impasse in Sri Lanka”. He ends with a question, as, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak says in the “Afterword”, writers in subaltern studies often do: “How can we begin to imagine organized spheres and practices of Sinhala-Buddhist self-determination that articulate in overlapping spaces of identity and difference with spheres and practices of Tamil and Muslim self-determination?”

Violence and territory are also central to Satish Deshpande’s essay on the spatial strategies of Hindu communalism in contemporary India. His essay ends with an implicit question as well. But the most difficult question is Nivedita Menon’s. She confronts the frustration of feminism’s entanglement with the law, specifically rape laws.

The voicelessness of women is central to her argument. Since the solution cannot lie in “being forced to speak the language of patriarchy”, her question is the most radical, if also the most abstract. The struggle should perhaps lie in emancipating women from the “very meaning of rape”. If the “female” self were not located within the sexually defined body of woman, the threat of sexual violence would become meaningless.

The interweaving of the themes of community, gender and violence is the most stimulating in Aamir R. Mufti’s discussion of Saadat Hasan Manto’s Partition stories. Counterposing the imagined figure of Mother India to those of Manto’s fictional prostitutes, Mufti argues that the “fragment of life” in Manto’s brothels disturbs the serene totality of a modern nation by suggesting “the possibility of ways of life that are less singular and more hospitable to human freedom”. The argument is extended to show how the the relationship between major and minor forms, that is, the novel and the short story, illuminates that between Urdu and other Indian literatures in the Forties and Fifties.

Mufti’s description of Manto’s literary aims could be a rephrasing of the subaltern project in this volume: “In his practice of the short story form, Manto inscribes this tension as the paradox of a ‘minor’ narrative form mobilized for ‘major’ literary and cultural aims.”


By John Armstrong,
Allen Lane, £ 10.99

All amateur art lovers have, at some point in their lives, stood before a painting — may be a Cezanne still life or even the Mona Lisa — and wondered what was so great about it. All visits to art galleries are in one way or the other mediated by guidebooks, and art lovers approach paintings burdened with the knowledge of what is great. Their own appreciation of paintings is overlaid by the appreciation of others, especially specialists. This precludes a personal and an intimate approach to art. John Armstrong in this book makes a plea for a more personalized response to art. “There is no access to art,’’ he writes, “except in private — in looking, thinking, feeling as we stand before an individual work.’’ His argument is by no means simple but his writing is invariably lucid and always accessible to any intelligent person interested in art.

The premise of Armstrong’s book is the entirely justified statement that “our access to the merits of a work is through our personal engagement with it”. It is of no consequence if, standing before the Mona Lisa and knowing that it is a masterpiece, an individual sees nothing of interest or charm in it. Such a situation impedes access to its greatness. The individual’s knowledge of its greatness may be entirely valid but “it is a hollow, pointless truth”. This kind of individualistic response can be totally subjective and stubborn. (“I hate Picasso because I don’t understand his work and I refuse to budge from this opinion.”). But the dangers inherent in this attitude are exaggerated because, according to Armstrong, most art lovers want to cultivate and develop their personal responses to art. They want to enhance their own confidence in their engagement with art.

This enhancement has to be a conscious and deliberate process. Armstrong’s book is concerned with the mental steps involved. Knowledge is a necessary, but not sufficient, component of appreciation. But information can be used to elaborate a feel for the process of making; it pushes the viewer to go beyond the obvious and the immediately visible. It promotes the mobilization of resources of attention, sensitivity and thought.

What drives an individual to look at an art object, be it a painting or a piece of architecture, is sensuous imagination, the extraordinarily subtle ways in which feeling gets linked to vision and memory. A painting evokes a reverie-like “vagabond quality of associations”. Armstrong assigns a central place to reverie in a spectator’s engagement with art. Reverie is the fountainhead of both thought and imagination. The automatic next step is contemplation, which involves the noticing of details, seeing relations between parts and seizing the whole as the whole. Armstrong illustrates these processes with examples from paintings which are reproduced in the book. These processes do not, of course, operate in a vacuum. Each viewer brings something to the picture he views. This is what he invests in a picture and this is what unlocks the picture.

There are, Armstrong reminds us, many obstacles in the appreciation of art, the most important being the absence of time. Armstrong’s arguments emphasize that art appreciation cannot be a casual affair. It is time-consuming and has to be nursed and cultivated. It is a relationship and an engagement. Falling in love is the process that Armstrong invokes. Appreciating a picture involves the capacity to take pains. It moves from a loving caress to a sense of familiarity and ease.


By Ernesto “Che” Guevara
(Harvill, £ 8.95)

Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s Back On The Road: A Journey To Central America is an autobiographical account of this legendary Argentinian’s second trip through Latin America in the early Fifties. Guevara travels along the spine of the Andes, recording his responses to Bolivian mountains and deserts, the Inca remains at Macchu Picchu and Cuzco, the forests of Guatemala. In Patrick Camiller’s deft translation, Guevara comes through as a curious, and always readable, combination of a social pioneer, indomitable explorer, amateur archaeologist and political theorist. A climactic moment in this chronicle is his meeting with Fidel Castro in Mexico City: “A political event was that I met Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary. He is a young, intelligent guy, very sure of himself and extraordinarily audacious: I think we hit it off well.”

By Nigel Jenkins
(Penguin, Rs 250)

Nigel Jenkins’s Through The Green Door: Travels Among the Khasis explores the Welsh legacy in the Khasi hills of the Northeast. It is, according to the author, “a hybrid creation, part travelogue, part history, part what-you-will, which cannot pretend to be other than impressionistic and subjective”. Jenkins, a Welshman himself, intertwines three main stories in this book: the tale of Thomas Jones, the first missionary of the Welsh Calvinist Methodists in the mid-19th century; an account of the mission itself, from 1841 to 1969; a narrative of the author’s own travels in the Khasi hills in 1992. This is a remarkable book about two distant and disparate cultures brought together by a shared history.

By Tim Dowling
(Short Books, £ 4.99)

Tim Dowling’s Inventor of the Disposable Culture: King Camp Gillette, 1855-1932 is a little book on the life of a man who came to encapsulate a version of the American dream “of Yankee ingenuity, entrepreneurial daring and material reward”. Gillette came upon the idea of the disposable razor one spring morning in 1895: “I found my razor dull and not only was it dull but it was beyond the point of successful stropping and it needed honing, for which it must be taken to a barber or cutler. As I stood there with the razor in my hand, my eyes resting on it as lightly as a bird settling down on its nest — the Gillette razor was born.” Apart from being a compulsive inventor with many patents in his name, Gillette was also a utopian writer whose vision of industrial progress produced the bestselling The Human Drift. Gillette was one of the many millionaire socialists and inventor-philosophers of late-19th and early 20th-century America. In Dowling’s words, “The man who wanted to change the world would have to be content to be known as the man who changed the way the world shaved.”



Fortune’s child

Sir — What do you do when you’ve left your job of eight years and have nothing much to do with your time? You sign a multi-million dollar book deal to keep you busy. At least that’s what the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, has decided to do by joining the bandwagon of memoir writers (“First Monica and now $12m”, Aug 8). He’s also going to be paid an estimated $12 million for the book, a new record advance for non-fiction. The signing of the deal is a commentary on Clinton’s hold over the public despite being embroiled in various misadventures ranging from the Whitewater scandal through Monicagate to his impeachment. It also speaks poorly of public memory that Clinton emerged unscathed from these events and still maintains the popularity he enjoyed while in office. Only time will tell whether this is the beginning of a trend for maligned public figures, to pen their memoirs and make big bucks while doing so. Will we be reading about the senator, Gary Condit, in paperback next?

Yours faithfully,
Rohan Verma, Calcutta

Investor’s nightmare

Sir — The latest act of violence by a disgruntled worker, who attacked the manager who had sacked him, is only going to confirm the image of Bengal as an investor’s nightmare (“Sacked worker beats manager senseless”, July 29).

The chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and the minister of commerce and industries, Nirupam Sen, have often spoken about improving the labour-management relations in the state in the hope of providing the impression of an industry-friendly region to investors. Yet, the three recent incidents of labour violence in the Baranagar and Howrah jute mill, and in the Falta factory show that the hostility between labour and management is at its worst.

The culprit in the Falta incident should be punished in order to make it clear to other hostile workers that these incidents will not be taken lightly. Before taking the law in their hands, workers should look at the dismal industrial scene in the state and at the rising number of the unemployed. Sixteen jute mills are shut. The fate of five mills of the National Jute Manufacturers Corporation looks very bleak as well. The Centre has decided to totally disinvest in six public sector undertakings in West Bengal. The added problem of labour-management hostility and violence will only help in driving away the few investors we have in West Bengal.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir — Thirty years ago, I had joined the steady exodus of investors and businessmen from the state. As a production manager of a multinational corporation, I was a soft target for attacks, at that time only verbal, by the labour union. It was a time of growing trade union militancy with political and official patronage. At the drop of a hat, people in my position were subjected to offensive behaviour from our factory workers. The report on the Falta death made me realize that the situation is only getting worse. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has a tough problem on hand. He and his colleagues will need to muster all the political acumen they can to tame the hostility of the labour unions.

Yours faithfully,
B. N. Bose, Calcutta

Captaincy blues

Sir — The predictable performance by the Indian cricket team in the recently concluded triangular series in Sri Lanka is getting a bit trying for Indian fans. While the team has been performing well in the group league stage, they always seem to lose at the final stage. And they do so quite badly. All the finals seem to have been conceded within the first fifteen overs of the Indian innings. India needs to change this defeatist attitude.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — India’s one-day cricket team lacks consistency. The team’s inability to perform seems to largely lie with Sourav Ganguly’s inefficiency as captain.

Every batsman undergoes a low phase in his cricket career. But Sourav’s problem lies with his attitude. There is a regular display of petulance in almost every match. Whether it is at being declared out or at his appeal for a wicket being turned down.

He was given a one-match suspension when he waved his bat at the umpire at being given a leg before wicket. He also had to forfeit 75 per cent of his match fee when he abused Russell Arnold after taking his wicket in the last tri-nation tournament. Needless to say, such behaviour hardly becomes a captain.

Ganguly should learn from other successful captains such as Steve Waugh, who is known for keeping his cool and remaining composed through defeats and victories. For some reason, Ganguly sees himself as a one-man demolition squad. For a team to be successful, it needs a captain who can guide it without giving vent to his aggression at the slightest instigation.

Yours faithfully,
D. V. Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneshwar

Sir — The performance of the Indian cricket team in the recently concluded Coca-Cola Cup in Sri Lanka was pathetic. Sourav Ganguly and the rest of the team seem to have decided to be “consistently inconsistent”. While the youngsters played decently, the three veterans, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S.Laxman, failed to deliver.

Maybe the team requires a change in leadership and group dynamics. Just as Sachin Tendulkar played better once he was replaced as captain, Ganguly might also play better without the added pressures of captaincy. The selectors should dare to experiment by changing the configuration of the team in order to improve its performance.

Yours faithfully,
Rahul Dutt, Calcutta

Sir — The Indian team’s current string of losses is indeed sad. But I do feel that an unnaturally big deal is being made of it. Every team has gone through a low phase in its career, whether it is the Pakistani, South African or the West Indian team; so why not India? The Indian public’s obsession with cricket is the reason behind the strong reactions to the team’s losses.

Sadly, Sourav Ganguly is being made a scapegoat for these losses. Anyone with even a slight knowledge of cricket knows that a captain cannot make or break a team. Although Ganguly has been performing poorly in the last few matches, it is unfair for the public as well as the media to hold Sourav solely responsible for the team’s performance.

This kind of criticism can only make his game worse by putting undue pressure on him. Instead of pointing fingers, the selectors should rethink the entire team and its leadership in an effort to improve the its performance.

Yours faithfully,
Rasika Ghose, Mumbai

Parting shot

Sir — I recently went to a fairly large supermarket to buy a tin of a well-known brand of baby food. Upon not finding any, I was told that the market did not sell baby food as they did not have a license for it. They also informed me that they had intentionally not got a license as they would have to pay money in excess of the actual fees to get the license. After receiving the license, enforcement branch authorities regularly turn up to collect money.

If the shop authorities refuse to pay up they are threatened and warned that a case will be slapped on them. I have bought baby food in many other states, but I have never heard of a license or of this sort of harassment. The rele-vant authorities must take some measures to rectify this situation.

Yours faithfully,
Subrata Mitra, Calcutta

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