The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tally of the wastage

The Evolution of the State Bank of India: the Era of the Imperial Bank of India, 1921-1955 By Abhik Ray, et al, Sage, Rs 1,100

This is the third and concluding volume of the history of the State Bank of India. The project to write the history of the bank was begun, if one remembers rightly, sometime in the Seventies under the economist Amiya Kumar Bagchi. It has taken more than 20 years to complete and Amiya Bagchi, after writing the first two volumes, has disappeared from the project. He does not even get a mention in this volume and there is no explanation offered about the time spent on the work. It must have cost an enormous amount of money as well, all from the taxpayer. This volume follows the standard set by Bagchi of piling on fact after fact followed by tardy analysis. It does nobody any credit, neither the bank which commissioned the study, nor Bagchi who begun it or the present group which has done its bit to complete what was left unfinished. The three volumes will stand as academic monuments to wastage.

Come, enjoy the replay

Collected Plays in Translation By Vijay Tendulkar, Oxford, Rs 595

Vijay Tendulkar is one of India’s foremost playwrights. He writes in Marathi. This collection brings together his plays for the first time. Outside Maharashtra, Tendulkar’s fame rests on his play, Ghashiram Kotwal, which was immensely popular wherever it was played. It was an unforgettable theatre experience. In Calcutta, he is well known because of Bohurupee’s production of Silence! The Court is in Session. Tendulkar is that rare dramatist who successfully brings together social criticism and entertainment. His social criticism is more often than not couched in satire with no visible ideological overtones. This collection, even though one suspects much of the bite is lost in translation, will please all who have loved and enjoyed Tendulkar’s plays on stage.

To miss the season altogether

Imperialism, Nationalism and the Making of the Indian Capitalist Class, 1920-1947 By Aditya Mukherjee, Sage, Price not mentioned

There was a time in the Seventies when economic history was the flavour of the season for historians. Terms like “colonialism”, “under-development”, and so on were common and fashionable. Then things changed. But this book was conceived in that earlier period. Its research is solid, the writing stodgy but its preoccupations are somewhat passé. There is a tendency also to emphasize the Indian capitalist class’s contradictions with the colonial state rather than the aspects of collaboration. The Indian capitalist class thus appears in Mukherjee’s analysis as more nationalist than their pragmatism actually made them. It is a pity that this book has been so long in the making. Twenty years ago it would have been taken seriously. Today it will be read by a handful of specialists and then gather dust in library shelves. The author may take pride in the fact that he does not follow intellectual fashions. But does he like being not read'

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