Editorial 1 / New currency
Editorial 2 / Free verse
Cutting Corners / Transparent dishonesty
Book Review / Blowing in the trade wind
Book Review / Horror stories
Book Review / Summer interlude
Book Review / Commander with a brain
Bookwise / Fitting the book to size
Paperback Pickings / Blood, wisdom and cricket
Letters to the editor

Since the Euro transition did not happen overnight, January 1, 2002, is more of a signal and needs to be considered in the broader context of European integration. The idea of single currency and monetary integration dates to the Sixties, although it went through ups and downs like the snake (limited currency fluctuations within a band) that was knocked out of existence because of oil price shocks and the more recent European Monetary System. Other than issues of nationalism, some governments have been sceptical because of fears of loss of economic sovereignty in monetary policy and to a lesser extent, in fiscal policy. That 12 countries eventually opted for the Euro zone (Britain, Denmark and Sweden are not yet members) is largely due to the efforts of Germany, France and Italy, although the new Italian government has turned doubtful. As an intervention currency, the Euro has of course been around for three years and a corporate bond market in the Euro also existed. From January 1, 2002, this virtual currency has become visible to citizens in the sense that national currencies are being replaced by the Euro, with phased transition for some members.

There are three implications for India. First, there was the transient software opportunity in Euro conversion and by all accounts (unlike Y2K), India has missed this bus. Second, there is the issue of reduced transaction costs when an exporter deals with one currency rather than twelve and the overall impact is beneficial, as has also been the case when in the process of trade integration, standards and procedures have been unified across 15 countries. Third, there is the long-term issue of whether the Euro is likely to be replaced by the dollar in foreign exchange transactions, including invoicing. 70 to 80 per cent of India’s trade invoicing is done in dollars and this is far out of proportion to the importance of the United States of America in India’s trade. With the European Union as a whole accounting for one-third of India’s trade, the importance of the Euro should increase. However, this becomes a function of the strength of the European economy and in the last three years, the Euro has dropped significantly against the dollar. While the impetus behind European integration is an emphasis on economies of scale and productivity increases to take on the economic might of the US (and Japan), there are clear problems of transition. And these will become more acute once the relatively backward 13 countries in Eastern Europe also join EU. Any talk of the Euro’s replacing the dollar is therefore premature. However, there is yet another implication for India. With three major blocs forming in America (the North American Free Trade Agreement will spill over into South America), Europe and east Asia (the Association of South-East Asian Nations will soon extend to South Korea, Japan and China), India will be left out in the cold.


Time, and a few unsuspecting bureaucrats, have delivered Rabindranath Tagore from the clutches of proprietorship. Sixty years have passed since his death, the Centre has refused a further extension of the copyright, and Visva-Bharati’s regulatory bodies have had to forego their hold on his works in the new year. This can only be a good thing. The stranglehold of a puritanical and provincial cultural ethos had become increasingly embodied in Visva-Bharati’s purist zeal. And the freeing of the publication, interpretation and performance of his works from such protectionism could initiate an entirely healthy opening out of these activities to criticism and innovation. Bengal’s legendary predilection for traditionalism and worship had found its suitable icon in Tagore, and the cultural snobbery regarding his works may be seen as the other side of a profound insecurity regarding contemporary Bengal’s global status in the creative and intellectual spheres.

Yet, populism is never the antidote to protectionism in art. Hence, the Centre’s “package”, presented to the human resources development minister, to make Tagore accessible to the masses sounds just as futile and misguided. First, art — unlike public lavatories — is under no obligation to be universally accessible. Second, the responsibility of doling out art or literature to the people does not lie with the state. The people will make its own arrangements for getting more quality Tagore at cheaper prices, and the Centre’s interventions in such matters could only amount to officiousness. In this, the ministry is just as redundant as the Visva-Bharati. Similarly, bureaucratic attempts to have Tagore recognized by UNESCO as a “national heritage” show basic confusions regarding the nature and workings of heritage. Tagore’s works must survive as a living tradition, variously inflected in different cultural and social contexts. Making Shantiniketan a heritage site might result in the preservation of its interesting architecture and of the valuable art in the campus, much of which is in a state of vigilant neglect. But the question of copyright, or even of the dissemination of Tagore’s works, could have nothing to do with such official bestowals of status. Visva-Bharati’s vice-chancellor has identified “children or NRIs ”as victims of the anarchy and indifference which would follow the expiry of the copyright. Perhaps the surest way to put them off Tagore would be to set this institution up as what the vice-chancellor calls a “reference point” in the appreciation of Tagore.


The unsinkable Molly Brown, please move over. You have competition, the defence minister of India has proved himself equally unsinkable. He said boo to Tehelka and got himself re-inducted in the Union cabinet. Even the comptroller and auditor general’s report could not capsize him; the incident of December 13 has come as a godsend. Those whom the gods do not want to destroy are supplied with wonderful modalities of survival.

So we can, for the present, leave aside the redoubtable George Fernandes. A question mark nonetheless hangs around the prevention of terrorism ordinance which is yet to be legislated. The government apparently is in a cheerful frame of mind. How does it matter if the proposed act fails to make it in Parliament? Now that the Parliament is adjourned sine die, the ordinance already promulgated for the purpose, it has been hinted, can be conveniently reissued.

This is of course in line with the hoary tradition built in the great democratic republic of India. There is such an animal as Article 123 of the Constitution. Clause (1) of the article reads as follows: “If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinances as the circumstances appear to him to require.” In terms of clause (2) of the article, an ordinance so promulgated “shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the re-assembly of Parliament”.

In the present instance, Parliament re-assembled on November 23 last; therefore the prevention of terrorism ordinance is supposed to lapse by early January. But now that Parliament is not in session, the government may well venture to re-issue the ordinance and thus feel to be at the top of the world, at least till Parliament reconvenes and once again six weeks go by. The stratagem appears to be so enchanting that a government, which does not like the legislative body, could continue to rule indefinitely through promulgation of ordinances ad nauseam while Parliament is in recess. In fact, during the halycon days of overwhelming Congress supremacy and Indira Gandhi’s national dominance, ordinances were as common as crocuses in springtime both at the Centre and in several states.

Thereby hangs an eerie story. No representative government existed in the country during British days; our masters, operating from several thousands of miles away, would rule through ordinances. Nationalist politicians would fulminate against such “lawless” ordinances and promise the people a legislature-validated rule of law in free India. That promise was soon conveniently forgotten in the aftermath of independence. The Congress oligarchs gradually got habituated to bypass the legislature and rely on ordinances, a custom which went well with the arbitrariness that featured the establishment mindset. In the first flush of post-Emergency pro-democracy fervour, some idle talk ensued over the desirability of putting a stop to governance by ordinance. That was more easily said than done.

Ordinances, you see, are so convenient. Those who are in administration have to take measures from time to time in a hurry, laws have to be enacted pronto, those in charge cannot afford the luxury of waiting for Parliament to meet at its sweet will and endorse the proposed legislative measures only after an agonizingly long wait. Extraordinary situations call for extra ordinary arrangements, such as ordinances. Should these ordinances not be to the liking of members of Parliament, why, one can play hide and seek with Parliament and re-promulgate them as soon as Parliament adjourns.

This game has gone on for nearly half a century and no sense of outrage has disturbed the air. Several jurists were worried; the systematic re-promulgation of ordinances with the obvious objective of by-passing democratic procedures, they were of the view, is a scandal of the first order. But they failed to halt the process. Feeble attempts at seeking the intervention of the judiciary for thwarting such debunking of representative government have been made every now and then — to no avail. The ordinance-lovers have fallen back on clause (3) of Article 123, namely, that, in the matter of issuance of ordinance, the satisfaction of the president “shall be final and conclusive and shall not be questioned in any court on any ground”. That apart, Article 74 is also quite categorical: the satisfaction of the Union council of ministers has to be equated with the satisfaction of the president.

However, there is suddenly a glimmer of hope. In case a determined effort is made afresh to raise the issue with the highest judiciary of the land, a positive response might now perhaps be looked forward to. The reason for this optimism is a recent judicial development. A provision exists under Article 75 of the Constitution that a minister can continue to hold office for a period of six consecutive months without being a member of either house of Parliament. This provision has been exploited to the hilt in both New Delhi and the states for enabling an individual to continue in the office of minister through a transparently dishonest sleight of hand.

The person inducted, as minister, without being an elected member of the legislature, has continued to hold office for six months, would vacate office on the expiry of the period, but be sworn in again with a gap of one day or one week; the pastime would continue for ever. Never mind if it is formally a representative form of government, a minister would continue to be one without obtaining the endorsement of the electorate.

At long last, the celebrated J. Jayalalithaa case has succeeded in extracting a clear-out verdict from the Madras high court in this matter. It has ruled that a particular individual could continue as a minister without being elected to the legislature, only for one period of six month; he or she is not entitled to re-appointment for any further period without election to the legislature. This verdict has actually been the source of the recent travails of the formidable southern lady.

Should not an analogy hold here? If, as per Article 75, an individual can continue to be a minister without being a member of the legislature only for one count of six months, should not Article 123 be similarly interpreted: an ordinance is to be permitted to be promulgated only for one occasion and must under no circumstances be re-promulgated? The highest judiciary may not in all seasons necessarily prefer to assume an activist role in the dispensation of justice. But this is a most crucial issue which should attract its attention.

We call ourselves a democracy. We have not declared an emergency and kept in suspension the fundamental provisions of the Constitution. And yet, we condone an arrangement which, on the face of it, winks at the effectual enactment, over and over again, of legislative measures without the sanction of the elected representatives of the people. Is this constitutional? A one-time promulgation of an ordinance on an emergent issue of vital importance could be gone along with. But when the whole thing is reduced to a grotesque parody of democracy, the judiciary must step in.

There have been instances of late when the Supreme Court of India has taken the initiative to pronounce a judicial decision on a matter on the basis of a newspaper report or even a postcard addressed to it. No flippancy is involved if, while closing this column, a hope is expressed that the honourable judges would reach the conclusion that enough was enough, and that it was time they put a stop to this hocus-pocus of continuous re-promulgation, till the cows come home, of the same ordinance.


Edited By Amit Dasgupta and Bibek Debroy,
Konarak, Rs 750

This book is part of a series through which the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies makes an impact, highlighting the challenges facing India. Amit Dasgupta and Bibek Debroy have presented the rich diversity of views on trade policy here. This is partly the result of the intellectual collaboration among the two editors who hold different views on trade policy.

The coverage of the book is impressive. The issues range from whether India should have agreed to the new round of the World Trade Organization to the debates over intellectual property rights, barriers to trade, trade in agriculture, anti-dumping, competition policy, trade in services, the WTO’s decision-making process and the needs of developing countries.

One may not agree with the 19 very eminent authors, but the book is fair to both sides of the debate on the relationship between trade and development. Those who believe in economic development through trade make impressive arguments. The chapter on anti-dumping makes a brilliant case for scrapping the anti-dumping agreement in the interest of rich and poor countries alike.

One of the chapters argues the case for a new round and a stronger WTO. The new round is viewed as the best way to address old problems like the movement of skilled Indian labour to service India’s exports, and the profiteering instincts of multinationals manifested in the intellectual property rights agreement. Another chapter argues that intellectual property protection and public health concerns are compatible with the TRIPS agreement. This is not the conventional wisdom in India.

An interesting view is that the WTO may become one reason for south Asian unity. India and Pakistan are united in their fight against the developed countries’ move to relate trade with labour standards. There is also the promise of unity against the imposition of environmental standards,and in favour of the need for differential treatment for developing countries and freer movement of service providers among countries.

Those arguing against a new round of trade negotiations have, typically, a negative view of development through trade. For them, the new round is an excuse for the rich to introduce issues like investment and competition policy, labour and environmental standards, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation into the trade agenda. This way, it is believed, the rich countries can ensure that the concerns of the developing world about non-tariff barriers, high tariffs, anti-dumping and procedures governing WTO decision-making are not addressed properly.

The arguments in favour of a new round are of two types. Some argue that the Uruguay round asymmetries cannot be meaningfully addressed without it. India’s concerns about market access, decision-making in the WTO and the freer mobility of labour require it to pursue a pro-active agenda in the new round. It is time India got over its protectionism and used trade to further development.

The second argument in favour of a new round is not very common among Indian thinkers and trade policy analysts. Whether or not India should have agreed to a new round was an issue of strategy rather than goals. If staying out of the new round was more costly to India than being in it, then India should have agreed to a new round at the beginning of the Doha ministerial meet itself. This calculation should have been based on an analysis of the support India could get on issues of its interest.

The book would have been richer with an analysis of strategic options. This weakness however is hardly a shortcoming of the authors. It reflects the general lack of strategic thinking on trade policy in India.


By Jonathan Glover,
Yale, $ 14.95

Adorno once famously remarked that poetry would no longer be possible after Auschwitz. But the moral catastrophes of the 20th century seem to have disabled moral philosophy more than they have made poetry impossible. In the face of death camps, genocide, ethnic war, torture, carpet-bombing, the possibility of nuclear extinction, in short, the sheer versatility of evil that the 20th century has witnessed, moral philosophy appears particularly mute.

For great reflections on the horrors of our time, one might turn to Primo Levi or Ceslawz Milosz or even a Solzhenitsyn, but it is rare to find a moral philosopher who can help us reckon with these catastrophes. Moral philosophy has flourished as an academic discipline, and the range of arguments it offers are impressively sophisticated. Yet the horrific experiences of this century seem to elude its clarifying gaze, call into question the whole institution of morality, if not human nature itself.

Following Collingwood’s exhortation that the chief business of 20th century philosophy ought to be to come to terms with 20th century history, Jonathan Glover, a distinguished moral philosopher whose earlier work, Causing Death and Saving Lives, is a mini-classic on its subject, makes the horrors of the 20th century the central question for moral philosophy. The book provides a vivid history of human nature in extremity. Glover tries to come to terms with the moral significance of World War II, Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, and the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Rwanda and a range of other catastrophes.

The book is clearly and vividly written, without cant or pretension. The book operates at two different registers. On the one hand, Glover examines the morality of particular actions. Was the Allied targeting of civilians during the bombing of Dresden justified? Was the dropping of the atomic bomb justified? What is the morality of humanitarian intervention? These questions are dealt with great finesse and clear-headedness and display moral philosophy at its best. On the other hand, when examining the moral significance of the big horrors like the Holocaust, Stalinism and Pol Pot, Glover’s focus is less on the question: what is the morality of these actions? In some ways, the answer is too obvious: these actions are unmitigated moral horrors.

Rather his focus is on the moral psychology that produces and legitimates these actions in the first place. In short, his argument is that the challenge for moral philosophy is not primarily figuring out the right thing to do. Rather, we should pay greater attention to the psychological dispositions that produce these actions in the first place.

Glover provides an account of many dispositions that render our usual moral resources impotent: the love of cruelty for its own sake, the allure of Manicheanism which divides the world into neat dualisms, a will to simplicity that finds any difference or disagreement threatening, a plain unreflectiveness about one’s own motives and dispositions, an easy ability to deny other people’s humanity by construing them as mere abstractions. His discussion of these dispositions draws on a wide range of sources: survivors’ testimonies, the reflections of perpetrators, novels and poems, official explanations. The manifold incarnations of these psychological proclivities appear in a variety of characters: soldiers on the frontline in wars, petty bureaucrats, military decision-makers, politicians, and often ordinary people all across the world. What makes the book compelling is not the originality of its argument, but the cumulative force of various reflections on violence and cruelty that Glover has gathered and which give his narrative much of its force.

The avoidance of cruelty will require political restraints on a global scale. Yet Glover is sceptical that politics can be the whole story. Rather, the destructive side of human psychology needs to be tempered by a more adequately humanized ethics. Quite what Glover means by a more humanized ethics is never entirely clear. It involves something like the thought that human beings ought to resist, and be more sceptical of, all those ideas, fantasies, and delusions that disable the normal workings of sympathy and the moral imagination. I think what he has in mind is the argument forcefully articulated by Kierkegaard in his discussion of the Old Testament. Kierkagaard, in his discussion of Abraham’s sacrifice pointed out that the greatest danger to the ethical arises when individuals subordinate themselves or others to higher causes in the name of which all sacrifices can be justified.

Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, nationalism, religious fundamentalism have this in common: they immobilize the ethical because they treat individuals not as ends in themselves but as instruments of this or that cause, or this or that identity. What they efface is the thought poignantly expressed by Emerson — that no society ought to be considered larger than a single individual. To humanize ethics is to always keep individuals, and their inviolability firmly in view; it is to insist that any ideology or collective idolatry that converts individuals into mere abstractions ought to be resisted.

Glover raises but never quite answers the following question: given the pervasiveness of cruelty why do moral philosophers, or for that matter citizens often avoid facing this central fact about the modern world? His answer seems to be simply that we are often in denial. A more acute answer was provided in the 16th century in Montaigne’s Essays, still the acutest analysis of the sources of cruelty. If we always kept cruelty firmly in view, Montaigne suggested, we would most likely become misanthropes, people who simply hated the world. Cruelty is too deep a threat to reason, which is why philosophers seldom contemplate it. The most delicate of psychological tasks is to face the facts of cruelty without succumbing to a moral paralysis that comes from a sense that the world is a horrific vale of tears.

Glover is right to insist, following Montaigne, that the avoidance of cruelty is seldom acknowledged as being the first of our political tasks. And, like Montaigne, he rightly insists that promises of collective redemption more often than not lead us to suspend the demands of ethics. But whether groups of individuals can resist the temptation to reach outside themselves in ways that prevent them from recognizing the humanity of others is still an open question.

Read Humanity for an important moral challenge; and then read Montaigne’s Essays for the cultivation of a sceptical disposition that is the best antidote to the allure of all that justify cruelty.


By Brinda Charry,
Viking, Rs 250

Childhood is easily the most impressionable age in the life of any individual and Nithya, the eleven-year-old protagonist/narrator in Brinda Charry’s novel, is no exception to this rule. Forced by circumstances to spend six months with her maternal uncle, Sundar, and aunt, Janaki, in Thiruninravur, a small town in Tamil Nadu, Nithya learns a great deal about love, betrayal, passion and death. The small town and its inhabitants, despite their claustrophobic existence, leave an indelible impression on her, forcing Nithya to come back for a visit 12 years later. Charry, however, restricts her narrative to the events that unfold in Thiruninravur that summer. What happened to Nithya in the intervening years or what happens after she leaves the town is not revealed to us. The novel ends with Nithya standing outside Sundar and Janaki’s house, surveying the ruins and wondering whether she would run into any of the people she had known as a child.

Having lived all her life in Bangalore, Nithya at first finds it difficult to adjust to her new surroundings as well as the scorching heat. She, however, finds an unlikely companion in Sudha, the twenty-year-old maid in her uncle’s house, whom she befriends. Not quite a child and not yet a grown-up, Nithya becomes the chronicler of the undercurrents in the lives of the other characters. Inquisitive neighbours, Kamala and Vasu, their daughter Kodai, whom Nithya dislikes, their academically-inclined insipid son, Sridhar, and the eighty-year-old matriarch, Ambuja Pati, are thus subjected to Nithya’s intense scrutiny.

As a narrator, Nithya is both matter-of-fact and judgmental. We know, for example, the contempt that she feels towards the overweight Kodai who is slow at school and is yet to get out of the habit of playing with dolls, or her love for Sudha, who becomes her sole companion. The differences in class, education, and attitude to life do not stem the communication between Nithya and Sudha. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when Sudha falls in love with Sundar, Nithya becomes a witness to their clandestine relationship. Being the quintessential dreamer, Sudha longs for a better life and for a man who would be able to share her burden of family responsibilities. Unfortunately for her, Sundar is too weak and cowardly to fulfil her needs. Ultimately, love not only alienates Sudha from Nithya but also destroys her.

The outcome of the relationship between the poor servant girl and the master of the household is somewhat predictable and hackneyed. Charry also deprives her readers of the surprise element by beginning with Sudha’s death. Sudha’s suicide becomes the focal point of the The Hottest Day. It exposes Sundar in the eyes of the community and, in a rather extraordinary way, also frees Janaki from the boredom of a dreary existence.

While dealing with Janaki, Charry gives a touching picture of the relationship between her and Raghu, the dwarf with a golden heart, and deals with the stigma of physical deformity in Indian society. Equally brilliant is her depiction of a small town and its idiosyncrasies. In a town where nothing exciting ever happens, the death of a Brahmin girl from a poor family causes a flurry of excitement and lends grist to the rumour mill. Sudha’s death, however, is all but forgotten as the inhabitants of Govindachari Street try to outdo one another by claiming to know what exactly went wrong.

The simplicity of the story, which makes The Hottest Day eminently readable, is also the cause for its undoing. Though Charry takes pain to replicate the narrative voice of a eleven-year-old, we realize that the events are actually being narrated years after they took place. So the voice becomes fractured.

The author who is a native of Bangalore is however true to her roots in the novel which has detailed descriptions of temples as well as a mention of southern film stars like MGR, and Kamalhasan. It is however unfortunate that bad editing should interfere with the fun about reading about Nithya’s days in summer.


By Nigel Hamilton,
Penguin, £20

Panzer Armee Afrika should either fight for victory or die in Egypt. This was the cryptic message Hitler sent to Rommel in October 1942, after the battle of Alamein. In the end, Rommel defied his Fuehrer and ordered retreat. For the Germans in Africa, it was the beginning of the end.

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the architect of victory of Alamein, was extolled as one of the best commanders of British military history. But historians like Martin Blumenson, Ronald Lewin and Correlli Barnett are less charitable. How great indeed was Monty’s generalship? Hamilton in this book grapples with this problematic.

The biggest charge against Monty is that unlike the German generals, he was not a master of mobile warfare. Hamilton agrees with this and asserts that Monty was good only in brutal frontal assaults. This was because, asserts Hamilton, “strategy is the art of the possible”. With the troops that were available to Monty, he could not implement sophisticated tactics. Why was this so?

Hamilton links combat motivation and tactics with the broader socio-political conditions. In his view, a totalitarian dictatorship like Nazi Germany could churn out better soldiers than a decadent democracy like Britain. Hitler had introduced conscription in 1935. Compulsory military training for one year for all German males gave the Reich a vast reserve of trained military manpower. Britain introduced conscription too late in early 1942. By then, the British Empire was in its death throes.

Also, not only did Churchill lack the charisma of Hitler, the British lacked the mechanism for motivating the common masses to fight and die for their country. Thanks to Nazi indoctrination and Goebbel’s propaganda machinery, German soldiers were willing to die for their Fuehrer. Hamilton accepts the “Hitler revolution” thesis. In this view, Hitler provided equal opportunity for all by destroying the privileges enjoyed by the Junkers. This allowed upward mobility, especially to the lower middle class. The result was the meteoric rise of military commanders like Rommel and Sepp Dietrich.

Hamilton depicts the British society as moribund and class conscious. The political domination of the lord and the Marquis resulted in the appointment of “commanders without brains”.The citizen soldiers of Britain thus lost all faith in the high command. Monty’s appointment was an exception. Exigencies of war had forced Churchill’s hand.

Montgomery realized that he had to motivate the rank and file. This was done through tours and lectures, especially helping the common troops with their problems of ration, pay and so on. This has lead many to describe Monty as a “film star general”. Notwithstanding that, Hamilton argues sympathetically, Monty was, after all, the first British general to defeat the Germans.

But was Monty the greatest British commander of the war? What about Slim? With less motivated Indian soldiers, Slim was able to defeat the Japanese in Burma. Again, it would be unfair to compare Monty with the bigwigs of the Wehrmacht like Hoth and Schorner who with underage and underfed Germans carried out “manoeuvre warfare” even at the fag end of the war. The truth is that Monty was no “genius for war”.



The size of a manuscript can often be the deciding factor when an editor is considering whether or not to publish the book. The logic is simple: the bigger the manuscript, the higher the investment and hence higher the risks. When books are commissioned, publishers spell out the maximum number of words the manuscript should contain because anything beyond that would price the book out of the market. For their own sake, authors should adhere to the word count lest they be rejected or worse, find their works so badly truncated as to be unrecognizable. How should authors go about it?

Many computers will provide the word count of the manuscript. But don’t be surprised if the editor does another count after the editing. He is more concerned with the amount of space the text will occupy on a page. For instance, if there are small headlines or subheads, they will be counted by the computer as any other word. An editor counts them differently to be sure that enough space has been estimated for larger type.

Quite often it is quickest to count each word on a representative page and multiply by the number of pages. You can get a very rough count by multiplying the number of pages by 300 ( the average number of words on a double-spaced typewritten page). Do not count words for a poetry manuscript or put the word count at the top of the manuscript.

To get a more precise word count, add the number of characters and spaces in an average line and divide by six for the average words per line. Then count the number of lines of type on a representative page. Multiply the words per line by the lines per page to find the average number of words per page. Then count the number of manuscript pages. Multiply the number of pages by the number of words per page you have already determined.

All this goes only for a straightforward running text. Manuscripts with illustrations or mathematical or technical matter call for a different treatment. What is important for authors is to stick to the guidelines provided by the publisher.

The big question is what happens when authors don’t stick to the word count, which is quite often the case. What can the publisher do? From a strictly legal point of view he can do three things. First, he can rescind the contract; second, trim down the manuscript; and third, he can push the manuscript so far down the production line that no author can possibly predict when the book would be finally published.

All three options are fatal so far the author is concerned. The publisher is well within his legal rights to opt out of the contract. The paring down of the manuscript can be disastrous if done by an inexperienced editor. Sadly, even the big houses have lost their best editors in recent years and work is left to the second rung who are not competent enough. What they invariably do is lop off some chapters that destroys the work. Re-scheduling is probably the worst option because the publisher can wear down the author’s reluctance to cut down the size through sheer attrition. Fortunately, things do not often come to a head.

But quite apart from the business side of publishing, it is in the author’s interest to make it short and sweet because no one really wants to read more than what is required.


By Vikram Kapur
(Srishti, Rs 250)

Vikram Kapur’s Time is a fire is a sensitive and fairly accomplished novel by a professor of journalism in America, whose “family maintains homes in both Seattle and New Delhi”. Blending mystery, romance and political history, Kapur sets the story of the Seattle-based Amrita Gill against the backdrop of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In 1984, a 16-year-old Amrita had come home to find her parents murdered in the riots following the assassination. Returning to America and deciding to stay on there for 13 years was her way of putting this trauma behind her. But her past catches up with her when Gurbachan Singh from Vancouver promises to disclose something to her, to die (possibly unnaturally) soon afterwards, and this is followed by an assault on her. Gurbachan turns out to have been close to Beant and Kehar Singh, involved in the assassination, and it appears that her parents were only made to look as if killed in the riots. She also learns that her father, whom she had always considered a police officer, had actually been with the intelligence. An unpretentious and readable novel, drawing on some good Indian journalism of the Nineties and working back, historically, to the Partition, through books like Prakash Tandon’s Punjabi Saga.

By Renuka Narayanan
(Penguin, Rs 75)

Renuka Narayanan’s The little book of Indian Wisdom is a relentlessly wise book, which solves the mystery of why German Romantics made good Indologists. Narayanan’s book is quite humourless and takes itself very seriously, in spite of declaring itself to be “little”. There is very little lightness or fun, and spirituality reigns supreme. These quotes are collected to set things “right” for those feeling “angry, unhappy or clueless”: “Indian wisdom offers philosophical depth; upholds social and spiritual democracy, civic sense, moral values, humility, hard work, a tough stand on shortcuts, irrepressible humour and optimism and gratitude and good manners as lubricants for the wheel of civilization.” Must wisdom elicit bad metaphors?

By Sandeep Bamzai
(Rupa, Rs 100)

Sandeep Bamzai ‘s Guts and Glory: The Bombay Cricket story traces the genealogy of Mumbai’s cricket — the origins, history and development of the game in the city. For Bamzai, Mumbai is “a cosmopolitan gargantuan which has produced an assembly line of cricketers”. He therefore weaves into his account of the most eminent players a look at the sociological impact of the game on the metropolis. The big names in this book are Vijay Merchant and Manjrekar, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Wadekar and Eknath Solkar, among others.



Divided we fall

Sir — Factionalism is not an uncommon attribute of a political party, but the Trinamool Congress has taken it to exalted heights (“Panja strikes with ‘real’ Trinamool”, Dec 2). The latest sequel from the party was the floating of a parallel Delhi unit by the suspended chairman, Ajit Panja. For some time now, the rebel leader has been trying in vain to have a say in the affairs of the party. However, his arch-rival, Mamata Banerjee, has proved to be a more seasoned player whose popularity and gimmickry have helped her outshine Panja on all scores. The most annoying part of this farce is the utter disregard which both the leaders have shown for the sentiments of the party followers and the public. This is unexpected from two experienced politicians whose ultimate interest is the vote bank. Moreover, they cannot but realize that petty factional fighting is not in their best interests. It would be heartening to see Banerjee and Panja rise above personal differences and work unitedly for a change.

Yours faithfully,
Sumana Guha, Calcutta

Read between the lines

Sir — The Indian prime minister was at his rhetorical best in his New Year message to the people of India — and Pakistan, too (India will triumph against terrorism”, Jan 1). Atal Bihari Vajpayee also struck a chord among non-resident Indians, who as he put it, “have maintained unbreakable social, cultural, spiritual and emotional ties with India”. Vajpayee has taken great pains to convince the people of Pakistan and the world at large that India does not want war. His assurance echoes the sentiment of all NRIs who, too, wish for a climate of peace in the subcontinent.

The prime minister seems to be baffled about why “some people choose the path of terrorism?...How are they able to create a religious frenzy in support of terrorism when no religion sanctions terrorism?” Vajpayee probably needs to be told that the roots of terrorism lie in religious intolerance and no other cause. Most people in India are inclined to believe that terrorism originates in Muslim countries. We have lost sight of the fact that practically all top Muslim leaders of the 20th century — Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk, Algeria’s Ahmed Ben Bella, Indonesia’s Sukarno, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Iran’s Mohammed Mossadeq — were all secularists. However, most of them were unable to sustain the concept of the nation-state because of various causes, including economic and social factors.

M.A. Jinnah also defined his government with the assertion that “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state”. His successors failed him in failing to retain this secular philosophy. It must be said to the credit of General Pervez Musharraf that he is now trying to resurrect the ideals of Jinnah. In a recent address to the nation, Musharraf bluntly told his audience that among the many dangers facing the nation was the threat from “bigoted extremists”. India must welcome this change in Pakistan’s attitude. It will be a grievous mistake not to talk to Musharraf in Kathmandu.

Yours faithfully,
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy, Durham, US

Sir — Although the New Year’s musings of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was well- drafted, the mention of Kashmir as a “contentious issue” has evoked mixed feelings among readers. If Kashmir is an integral part of India, why refer to it as a subject of contention? This might give a further fillip to Pakistan. While we talk of peace with Pakistan, why do we prevent a peace delegation from going there? We are sending conflicting signals again.

Although Pakistan has arrested the chiefs of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, it will pass the acid test only when it hands them over to India to face trial. India should remember that the arrests, after all, were made for “domestic crimes”. It should walk the “extra mile” with Pakistan only when the latter’s words are actually translated into action.

Vajpayee has hinted that some harsh measures may have to be taken in the current situation. Care should be taken that the burden of such sacrifice does not fall on the lower middle classes and the poor only. History is witness to the fact that Indians have always stood behind their prime minister whenever required and shall continue to do so.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — The report,“Atal sets friendship terms for Pervez” (Jan 1), clearly shows that serious politiking is going on between the two nations. It is also clear that India has the upper hand and the pressure is building on Pervez Musharraf. It is true that nobody wants war, but to expect India to stay put in its place would not be fair. Also, given that the United States of America has made no commitments to either of the two nations, the only option left for Musharraf in this situation is to extend a hand of friendship to India, at least for now.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

To our health

Sir — The rap on the back from the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has been disappointing for doctors in the state (“Straying medics taste dose of Buddha medicine”, Dec 27). The abysmal state of the health department leaves medical practitioners with little option but to strike work in order to attract the attention of the authorities concerned. Instance of doctors getting assaulted by relatives of patients is rampant. There is absolutely no security for doctors in the state and they often carry out their duties in a hostile environment. Moreover, the lack of infrastructure in both government and private hospitals makes it difficult for doctors to render their service without a hitch. It is true that doctors should be responsible and give up their habit of going on strikes. But this requires a more friendly environment and better cooperation from the state government.

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge

Sir — It is common among Indian doctors to go on a strike to express their resentment on any matter. The recent strikes by doctors in Bangalore and Santiniketan go to strenghthen this point. As rightly pointed out by Bhattacharjee, all doctors found indulging in negligence and indiscipline should be severely punished. This may pave the way for better health services.

Yours faithfully,
Varsha Sharma, Bakreshwar

Sir — Doctors have been equally responsible for the dismal health services along with the government. Consistent policies need to be followed by the health ministry which should also take account of the problems facing doctors and patients. Cooperation between the last two is vital. Perhaps a complete overhaul of the health system would prove to be more effective.

Yours faithfully,
Malabika Chatterjee, Calcutta

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