Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chander Mohan, Anuradha Bali and thenpolitics of matrimony

Anyone reading my posts would have realised that I am an inveterate enemy of dynastic politics and the cynical corruption of the Indian political class. Having said that I must add that the manner in which the son of Bajan Lal, Shri Chander Mohan, the sacked Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana was treated is not only shocking and barbaric, but also violates the spirit of the freedom of choice so precious to all of us. The politicians of Tamil Nadu have at the last count 3 wedded wives and scores of concubines and they find a respectable place in Sonia's (s)table and why should Shri Chander Mohan be treated differently.First things first. The statement of Shri Bajhan Lal disowning his son for having married his lover Anuradha Bali suggest that he has the right to decide for his son. Shri Chander Mohan was holding the responsible position of the Deputy CM of Haryana after having won the elections from his constituency 4 times. What does it mean to "disown" his son. Further he stated that the responsibility for the upbringing of his 2 children from the first wife, Seema, will rest with the "family". What law give Bajhan Lal the authority to take children away from the parents. I wish the ever alert mahilaa organisations take note of the patriarchal argument made by shri Bajhan Lal, treating children as if they were mere pieces of real estate. I am not defending Shri Chander Mohan, I am only pointing out that he has a right to live out his life with a woman he loves, for whom he gave up his political position. I am reminded of Edward VIII who abdicated the throne in order to marry Mrs Simpson. To my mind Shri Chander Mohan has shown spine and I laud him for it.It is obvious that the marriage with Seema had broken down and that she has the support of the patriarch. Chander Mohan need not have taken the dubious route to matrimony through a bogus conversion to Islam a la Dharmendar and Hema Malini. The Hindu Marriage Act does not mandate against a second marriage provided the wife does not complain. This is is the provision exploited by Shri Karunanidhi and scores of Dravidian politicians who practice polygamy with the elan of their Chola rulers.I saw both of them on TV last evening and it appeared that both seemed very happy together. Anuradha Bali was the Assistant Attorney General of Haryana and from the interaction on TV she seemed a highly articulate ans strong minded woman, If Shri Chander Mohan has married her out of love I think no one has any right to complain, least of all Bajhan Lal.The divorce laws are extremely antiquated and I think if one cannot live in a state of marriage he or she should be allowed to opt out. Shri Chander Mohan has only done that.I wish the newly weds the very best.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why Indian Universities cannot be World Class

A former chairman of the University Grants Commission is now decorating the chair of the Prime Minister of India and like any profligate public institution the UGC believes that by spending huge sums of money the quality of education, particularly at the University or graduate level can be improved. It is ironic that when the whole world, especially China is spending nearly 700 million US dollars on just one University, the UGC plans to spend 73 million US dollars on 12 "World Class Universities" as suggested by the Report of the Sam Pitroda Knowledge Commission. It is not possible for quality to be purchased at 9 million US dollars a piece and the mandarins of the UGC like their former Chairman is quite unaware of it. Moreover public money is being wasted in creating Centers of Social Exclusion and Inclusion Policy a hobbyhorse of Sukhdev Thorat, who in these days of identity politics is enjoying his season under the sun.
The Indian University system is utterly devoid of both vision and dedication. The officers who essentially run the University with the Vice Chancellors acting as their patrons are usually corrupt and almost all University decisions are taken on the basis of percentages. The UGC spends crores of rupees every year on major and minor projects and yet the impact factor of Indian research is just 0.o1 %. The bills and reports submitted are usually fraudulent and with the cut and paste option available on the Computer almost all reports are made to order. It is usually arranged that the UGC funds third rate Research that is an embarrassment to any civilised institution. I wonder if the former Chairman of the UGC Dr ManMohan Singh is aware of the deep rooted corruption in the funding of higher education. It is time for the UGC to stop the charade in the name of funding "quality research" based entirely on percentages of commissions.
Corruption exista at all levels of the University system. One notorious former Vice Chancellor who was dismissed for "forgery" even ended becoming the VC of a Centrla University and the Chairman of NAAC. He promptly brought his mistress into the University and even provided a senior level job for her in the organisation he once headed. We know that under the leadership of such men as the one referred to above the Universities degenerate in happy hunting grounds for Vice Chancellors with an overactive pecker.The autonomy granted to the Universities is generally misused for persecuting the independent and promoting the courtiers. The UGC instead of enforcing the minimum standards of public probity in the University can be trusted to protect every act of nepotism and corruption. Even the RTI is of no use. Recently I asked for Information from the Information Officer of the UGC on a particularly notorious case and I got the answer that the information cannot be disclosed for "administrative reasons".Against THIS BACKGROUND IT IS OF NO USE SPENDING CR ORES OF THE TAXPAYERS MONEY OF SUCH INSTITUTIONS.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Sterile Debate on NDTV Again: Fair or Lovely?

Barkha Dutt seems to be bent on displaying her amazing arrogance before a national audience without shame and without remorse. On Sunday, 28th September, there was yet another sterile debates on We the People regarding the most important issue facing the country: Is being fair un color the same as being lovely. The primadona of NDTV had rounded up the ususal suspects the gaggle of beuty queens, advertising gurus, business exccecutives and an o0dd politically correct dissenter. The issue was whether Indians equate fairness with beauty and therefore moredesirable and sexy at least on the matimonialmarket. The amazing arrogance of the woman who conducted the show is reflected in the fact that the members who were asked to comment on skintone and its alleged relationship with Indian conceptions of beauty were all FAIRSKINNED AND possessed skintones which ranged from fair to weatish and not a single one was dark. By exibiting such women and making them represent the dark skinned, Barkaha Dutt and her ilk have willynilly reinforced the age old stereotype that light skin is devine. NDTV has perfected the art of projecting the most reactionary politivcal messge in thegarb of appearing subversive.One more point. If NDTV thinks that fair is not beautiful or desireable then why is it that the stable of Pretty Young Things in Dr Roy's stable are all fair and perhaps to some eyes even lovely. It is sheer hypocricy to preach against colorconsciousness and at the same time project only white and light toned women in the various programmes of NDTV> That channel is always on the so called liberal side on every dbate. How amny dalit newsreaders anchors and reporters are working in NDTV. I am sure with the exception of the jasnitors and drivers there will be no dalit working in NDTV. It is time the sponsors stopped giving money to thi

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abhinav Bhindra Deserves a Big Hand

For the first time ever the Indian National Anthem was played at the Olympics, an event in which a resident Indian was given a gold medal. It was simply great to see the young Abhinav Bhindra receiving the medal without the nakra we have come to associate with the likes of Sania Mirza and of course, the cricketers. The outstanding performance of Abinav Bhindra was in spite of the Indian system and not because of it. It was due to his own effort and that of his family that was responsible for the outstanding performance. If we had the Indian Government involved in promoting shooting as a sport the fate would be disastrous. Just look at Hockey, a sport in which the like of Dyan Chand gave the country an enviable reputation. I think the time has come for the Indian Government at the Center and the State Governments to let go of sports and concentrate on just law and order.The demeanour of Abhinav Bhindra was quite a contrast with what we have come to expect from sporting icons. He comments were dignified and almost self deprecating. He did not hold himself as a model for the rest of the youth and honestly admitted that he "has been punching holes in paper bags for the last ten years" an obvious reference to target practice.Somehow NDTV was not happy with the victory of Abinav Bhindra--it was politically incorrect. A rich boy from a well-to-do family has won a gold medal. NDTV would prefer an OBC with a non English speaking background to have won a medal as that would promote the fractured political identity that is celebrated in elite circles in India today. So when Suhil Kumar won a bronze medal in yes a sport from the boon docks of the cow belt of North India,it was just the opportunity for NDTV to pull out all stops.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Terrorism, the Congress Regime and Sushma Swaraj

The repeated acts of criminal violence against the citizens of India should be a matter of serious concern if we have a half decent government. But we have in New Delhi a self obsessed bunch of courtiers and dynastic fascists who want to hood wink the people at every step. The Congress and its so called secular parties are never tired of saying that the minorities should not be disturbed. If jihad terrorists take refuge among the minority population how is the nation to defend itself. Now that HUJI is being suspected the police will have to investigate the settlement of illegal Bangladeshis in the country. To cry out of roof tops that police investigation is ipso facto minority harassment is another way of encouraging terrorism and the politicians who play this dirty game never suffer the consequences only innocent citizens.Susham Swaraj has drawn attention to the fact that the Congress Party is the likely benificaiary of the wave of terror attacks. In Assam the ULFA militants atre openly protected by the state leaders of thwe congress, in Nagaland the naga militants are close to the Congress. In fact the history of the Congress Party aiding and abetting with anti national groups is well known. Who supported the Sikh extremists like Bhindrewale? Everyone knows that Indira Gandhi for improving the electoral prospects of the Congress in the Punjab supported the Damdami Kahalsa terrorists and only when they gunned down Atwal, the DIG, near the Golden temple did she have any second thoughts. Her Home Minister misnamed Gnani Zail Singh must have been aware of the facts but being a courtier rather than a political figure he did not utter word and kept his mouth shut. Similarly in Tamil Nadu Mrs Gandhi aided and supported the LTTE throughout the 1982-84 period. Given the fact that the Congress has indulged in anti- national activities, I would not be surprised if the terrorists have acted in concert with their political supporters. When BJP ruled states only are targeted, if becomes clear that the terrorists see eye to eye with the Congress which is also anti BJP.The fact is that the vote of confidence won by the UPA is tainted victory and large sums of money have changed hands in order to ensure a comfortable victory for the Congress and the bunch of courtiers in the LOK SABHA. The terror strikes have diverted attention from the cash for vote scandal and I feel that the Susham Swaraj theory needs to be taken seriously. As long as India has anti national parties like the Congress and the Communists there will always be Terrorism.

In fact when Narasimha Rao was the PM the vote of confidence was won through outright bribery.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Solution to the Israeli Palestenian Question?

The peace in the middle east seems to be extremely difficult because both Israel and Palestine are locked in a state of mutual recrimination: peace with justice means that the existing paradigm for ordering the relations between the two societies has to be reconsidered. The Ashkenazi elite from eastern Europe and Poland that is essentially the ruling aristocracy of Israel has dominated the politics of Israel since 1949 and given its long association with Zionism is unlikely to support the obvious solution to the problem: A single Palestinian and Israeli state. A decade back even the so called liberals in the State of Israel would have been aghast at this solution but now civil society groups in Israel have begun debating the single state solution. The great Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine has been a long time advocate of this new shift in Israeli perception toward Palestinians.
The central feature of this new solution is the recognition that land for peace has not provided either security to the State of Israel or peace to the Palestinians. It is necessary for those affected by the placement of Israel in the erstwhile land of Palestine to have a chance to lead a life of hope and a normal life as any signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights will testify. An ethnically pure State of Israel has been of great moment only to the Ashkenazi and the Mizrahim sections of Israeli society with roots in North Africa, Asia and the Ottoman Empire have now willing to consider the possibility of the joint Israeli-Palestine state. This solution recognises the historical injustice of evicting the Palestinians from the land and at the same time recognises that a Jewish homeland, as promised in the Balfour Declaration is a reality. The fact that 4.5 million Palestinians are living in conditions of extreme deprivation is the real cause for terrorism in the region and if USA is sincere about a viable peace in the region it must address this issue.
For more than 2 decades the official US position as reflected in the Camp David accord and later the Oslo Agreement is the 2 state solution. While Israel is in favor of this policy it does everything to undermine the peace accords by making the living and working conditions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank extremely difficult. These territories are so closely guarded by Israel for fear of suicide attack that both territories have become huge camps where life, to put it mildly, is horrible.
It is time for USA the major backer of Israel to put its weight behind a solution as promised by all American administrations since Richard Nixon

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Politics Without Purpose

It is time to introspect: Is the Congress, a party that took India to the horrors of Partition, serving the cause of India well. The answer is a resounding NO. Right from the time of Indira Gandhi the party has become an instrument of dynastic advancement and this violates the very purpose for which India fought for freedom. The sacrifices of millions of people have been hi-jacked by the so-called first family of India politics. Further, the Congress has presided over a highly criminalised system: the mystery surrounding the Nagarwala case has still not been solved, though Ramachandra Guha in his latest India since Gandhi has tried his best to cover up the tracks. Now we have a vote of confidence that is sought to be won by brandishing every kind of inducement possible and the same suspects are being rounded up this time round; Shibu Soren. Who has forgotten the fact that he took money from Narashima Rao in order to vote in the vote of confidence. The mystery of the disappearance of his secretary Parka sh Jha is still to be solved. And now the Manmohan Singh government is trying to give him a minister ship as reward for his support. With this kind of politics where is salvation.
The Akali Dal, forgetting the fact that the Congress was responsible for the worst post Independence massacre in October of 1984 of Sikhs in New Delhi and other parts of India even wants to extend support to a discredited regime by abstaining. I think this is totally uncalled for. Even Deve Gowda thought it was pay back time and he has decided to vote against the Government.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Fall of the UPA Regime

It is unlikely that the regime of Dr Manmohan Singh and Soniaji will survive the vote of confidence and the nation will heave a big sigh of relief to see the end of a corrupt, inefficient and arrogant government whose sole raison d'etre is dynastic fascism of the most crude kind. I normally do not have kind words to say about the vampanthis, but they have done the nation proud by setting the process of the fall of this regime. The irony is that the Congress is going with a begging bowl even to Deve Gowda whose own government was pulled down by the Congress after the PM was named nikkamma (stupid) by the then President of the party, Shri Sitaram Kesari, the late and unlamented Congressman from Bihar. The arrogance of Congressmen is still on public dispaly when the General Secretary of the Party Shri Veerappa Moily is addressing the media with venom and spit spewing from his lips in equal measure. No one has forgotten the fact that it was during Veerappa Moily's tenure as CM of Karnataka that his name sake Veerappan had a free run of the forests of Karnataka and this fellow now talks about politics after having served as a front man for Veerappan. Then comes the other pillar of secularism and dynastic fascism, Karunanidhi. It was during his regime that Kachchateevu, an island off the coast of Ramesvaram that belonged to Tamil Nadu as the Sethupathuis of Ramnad excercised suzerainty over the island, was handed over to Sri Lanka in 1974. And Indian fishermen are being killed with impunity nu the Sri Lankan navy. Why does he not remove his dark glasses and yellow shoulder rag and see reality for what it is: make the retrieval of Kachateevu the price for DMK support for the Congress regime.A cut back to the past: 1999 when Atal Behari Vajpayee faced a vote of no confidence in which Jayalalitha was the prime agent. He did not trey to purchase MPs with money power, or intimidate them with the CBI or blackmail them into supporting the government of the day. He faced the Lok Sabha like a statesman and lost by one vote and then went on to win the elections. It is pathetic to see the shenanigans of the Congressmen. Some are being offered ministerial posts in spite of a criminal record. others are being wooed with money and the asking price is anywhere from 25 to 50 crores. Nothing like this happened in the past when the NDA was ruling. Why are the so called secularists not alarmed at the fall of public values at the hands of the Congress. The best part of all this is that even god cannot save the regime in New Delhi and it will fall and as I keep saying, good riddance to a bad regime.The Congress has devalued the post of the Prime Minister making a mockery of the most important constitutional post by making Manmohan Sigh the PM without power or authority. Somnath Chatterjee, thee Speaker, has suddenly woken up to the fact that he hols a constitutional office and so does Lal Kishen Advani, who is the leader of the Opposition. He cannot say that he will not vote with the BJP. He can at best say that as Speaker he would like to be neutral and that is understandable.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Politics of Fleshtrading:The Congress struggles to survive

The newspapers call it "horsetrading". But to my mind the corrupt, corpulent, illiterate Indian politicians cannot be compared with horses that are brave, noble and beautiful. Flesh trading is perhaps a better metaphor for the game that Congressmen are playing at the moment. The minority Narashima Rao survived by the purchase of MPs both in the wholesale and retail market. Now Manmohan Singh is trawling the MP retail market having purchased the SP MPs at a wholesale rate. I am told that the going rate of an MP is 50 crores today and the Ambanis will certainly be in a position to provide the cash. Hence the meeting with the queen bee of the Congress and all the drones and workers are abuzz with excitement.The Congress regime must not be allowed to perpetuate its misrule and hence it is in the interest of the nation that this government is allowed to fall. The numbers are not in favor of the Congress and hence they will try to organise abstentions on July 22. If around 20 to 25 MPs abstain then there is a chance for the UPA regime. Otherwise it is curtains and the country will not regret the demise of this regime.There can be questions about the nuclear deal and its merits. There can however be no question about the fact that 4 years of Congress misrule has only seen a radical rise in social temperature, increase in crime and lawlessness, spiralling inflation and all round misery. India stands isolated in the region and there has been no serious improvement in the economic situation. Hence this regime must go.Dynastic fascism as is being promoted by the Congress runs against the fundamental ethos of the country.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Lazy Day

Classes began today and a few students mostly from Andaman sauntered into class. I began the course listed as Medieval Societies and I am teching this course for the first time. After class I went to the post office as I was told that a package of books from the University of Hawaii was wainting for me. I sent the dollar draft for nearly 135 US $ a year ago and only now I have received the books.
A letter from my daughter was delivered and was happy to know that she is well. But her spelling was just awful in the letter. Went home and fed the cats, dogs and the rabbits. I take delight in feeding animals as they seem to be so grateful.
Must prepare for classes in the evening and must travel to Chennai to catch up with some domestic chores.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: A Review

Nearly a century back two young scholars from Oxford University, B P Grenfell and A S Hunt set out to excavate a site on the banks of the Nile in Egypt at a time when the tensions between the French and the British over the status of Egypt was particularly acute. Napoleon had already discovered the antiquities of Egypt and had published them in 11 volumes and Joseph Champollion had read the Rosetta's stone thereby unlocking the secrets of Egypt's past. Just at a time when the pursuit of archaeology was changing from a mere collection of antiquities, a la Indiana Jones variety, to a more scientific and systematic analysis of the material remains of the past,the explorers stumbled upon a small village with a Greek name Oxyrhynchos, which roughly translates as the City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish. Here were discovered a treasure trove of documents written on papyri and in the dry desert climate the documents survived for more than 2 thousand years opening the doors to the study not only of Egypt's past but also that of Greek, Latin, Arab and Byzantine literature. For preserved in the desert sands were literally mountains of documents and in the hands of a dedicated team of historians these documents have come to life and along with inscriptions and coins the documents from this site have become the mainstay of ancient history.
A fascinating book has recently been published based on a study of this site. Peter Parsons, a scholar who worked on the site for nearly 50 years has brought out an eminently readable account of the recovery, decipherment and publication of the papyri found at the site. Called City of the Sharp Nosed Fish: Greek Papyri beneath the Egyptian Sand Reveal a Long-Lost World book is a treat to read. This book demonstrates the dedication with which the early pioneers of the discipline of studying ancient documents went about their task. River fever, long bouts of loneliness,physical attacks,a morose work force and a obstructive Cairo administration were only some of the difficulties they faced. Even in the first season of excavation such treasures as a few lost poems of Sappho, odes of Pindar and Horace were found and this discovery along with a second century collection entitled Sayings of Jesus spurred the public interest in the project. Parsons has given us a delightful book.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Political Fallout of the Nuclear Deal: Instability and opportunism

The vampanthis, true to form, went on threatening and threatening the UPA Government of Manmohan Singh, but did little to destabilise it or even bring down the Government as they promised to do. The time the Congress Government was out on bail furnished by the vampanthis since August of last year, the congressmen as every petty criminal; out on bail is wont to do, just jumped bail and the vampanthis are left standing with filth all over their faces. The other day Veerappa Moily was on NDTV saying very badly that "we have the numbers" meaning the UPA regime can survive with the outside support of the Samajwadi Party headed by the Mulayam-Amar Singh duo. Had the vampanthis brought down the government in November itself when the SP spoke out against the Nuclear Deal, the credibility of the vampanthis would have been quite high. Now even if they bring a vote of no-confidence against the UPA regime, it is unlikely to have any immediate impact. Maybe this was the game plan right from the beginning. We will make ideologically charged and pro China based threats and you use the interim time period to organise support for yourself. The vampanthis have shown that they are indeed a "LOYAL OPPOSITION" to the dynasty obsessed Congress party.Enter the Samajwadi Party: A party that is all but wiped out, like the Congress, in the major state of Uttar Pradesh. Suddenly the two parties have discovered the virtues of "secularism" and this ever green fig leaf for every opportunistic alliance was once again invoked by the rajput chieftain, Amar Singh. He has even forgotten, quite unlike rajputs, the insult heaped on him by the queen bee of the Congress Pary, Soniaji. How long this alliance of mutual convenience will last is any body's guess. Mulayam Singh betrayed his friends in the UNPA to join forces with the discredited Congress and he and his party will pay dearly in the coming elections. He will certainly get the heads of Chidambaram and Murli Deoria as the price for extending support. Already there are signs of the Congress regime helping their new partner. Amar Singhji is known to be close to Anil Ambani and in the feud between the two sons of Dirubhai Ambani--Mukeh and Anil--the SP is clearly on the side of Anil. So the Congress regime obliges Amar Singji by launching its customs directorate at Mukesh and the 2 planes HE IMPORTED. IT IS SUCH VINDICTIVE USE OF OFFICIAL machinery that will increase due to the unholy opportunistic alliance at New Delhi.In the elections that will follow all these shenanigans will tell on the performance of the parties in the UPA. Congress will see a drastic fall in numbers and in Tamil Nadu, the DMK regime will bite the electoral dust. Pawar's NP is already cosying up to the Shiv Sena and in New Delhi the Congress will certainly lose power. All this does not mean that the BJP will sweep to power: it just means that it has a chance of becoming the single largest party and must prepare for power.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


A few years back the whole of the Islamic world was in a fury over the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses more recently over the publication of certain cartoons. We have been saying and I repeat that argument again that artistic freedom does not mean disrespecting the beliefs of others. Unfortunately the so called educated classes in India have internalised an obsolete idea first enunciated by the English and later converted into an article of faith by the conservative secular bandwagon that to insult and humiliate the traditional ethos of India is a virtue and a sign of advanced thinking. If the likes of Karunanidhi should give a certificate of excellence to a movie like Kamla Hassan's Dasavataram then we have reasons to be worried, because Karunanidhi has made it his life mission to be anti Indian and anti non Saivite religious deities. Karunanidhi in his long life has never once critisized the hook swinging ritual that now DMK cardres are encouraged to perform, but he is in the forefront in every attack on Vaishnava deities. He has no right to denigrate a religion that he does not understand or follow. Kamala Hassan has won the admiration of the children of EVR by launching an attack on Hindu religion and he has even appropriated the concept of avatar, the dasaavatar of Sri Vaishnava religion in order to attack Hinduism.The film just released portrays Hindu religion in a bad light and has to be banned. Unfortunately the crowds that pay the money to see this movie do not realise that such movies are made in order to cater to the political classes. Will anyone tolerate a false depiction of the religions of the book. Hinduism has become open game and anyone can trample over it in the name of secularism. I am sure this third rate movie will win all national awards and will be India's entry to next years Oscar. The White countries also like such lopsided depictions of India's religions because it make that violent religion of Christianity look good. Did not the Christians fight each other for centuries, even in the last century they slaughtered the Jews. Are not Shias and Sunnis not fighting each other today. Why blow out of proportion a small episode in the history of twelfth and thirteenth century South India.This movie must be banned

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Casablanca: AN Eternal Classic

Humphery Bogard and Ingrid Bergman in their classic roles in the war time movie Casablanca played roles that have seldom,if ever been surpassed. What makes this movie just a great film. The editing is spotty. For instance, the famous scene in the Railway station at Paris and when it is raining hard and Richard is dripping wet and by the time he enters the train in the very next scene his dress is dry. It is obvious that the director has overlooked this point. The dialogues are cliche ridden. Is that the sound of cannon fire or is it my heart pounding. This line spoken by Ingrid Bergman is as cliche ridden as most of the other dialogues; Of all the gin joints in all the towns of the world she walks into mine;this line uttered by Eric Blaine is just mushy sentimentalism. In spite of the obvious flaws there is something immensely grand about the movie.I regard the corrupt police officer, Claude Rains who plays Captain Renault as the real hero of the movie. He admits that he is a poor corrupt official but maintains a warm and exceptionally largehearted relationship with everyone. The poor girl from Bulgaria who does not have the money to bribe herself to an exit visa is helped by Renault. In the end when he could have had Rick arrested for the murder of the German officer Major Strasser, Renault allows Rick to escape saying: Major Strasser has been shot:Round up the usual suspects. Rightly, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I wonder why no novelist has ever thought of a sequel to Casablanca. The most wooden and by far the faceless character of in the movie is Victor Lazlo. He is self righteous, loves a woman who obviously does not love him,and tries to use his heavy hand to get Rick to part with the letters of transit. I think it would have been great if Bergman and Bogard had stayed behind in Casablanca.

Simon Schama: Rough Crossings: A Review

Historians like to tell stories, true stories that spring from the materials that have survives from the past. Putting the events together in a seamless web of narrative involves great intellectual and physical effort. And when you read a really good historical work based on exhaustive archival research you get the feeling of drifting into another world altogether. That is why someone said:The past is a foreign country. The twentieth century has seen a number of great historians: Fernand Braudel,Lawrence Stone, Bernard Bailyn, Theodore Mommsen and Simon Schama. Of these Theodore Mommsen won the Nobel Prize and still remains the only historian so honored. He was a historian of the Roman Empire who shifted the focus of research from the Empire to the Provinces. He wrote in a polished and sophisticated style that probably was considered literary by the Literature Committee of the Alfred Nobel Foundation. Thomas Mann was also a good writer and his son Golo Mann has certainly inherited his father's gift for words. The stories that historians tell about the past are regarded as true stories because the characters spring from a whole skein of written and unwritten evidence, not testimony. Unfortunately is a moment of self destruction probably even of self delusion, historians began neglecting the basic features of the craft in favor of abstractions like "models" "causation" "hypotheses" personification of historical epochs as "feudal" "capitalist" etc.The result was a general impoverishment of the art of history writing. Then came Hayden White who even said that history is only a "construct" like any other discourse.The sad state of affairs did not last long. Historians soon realised that a discipline that has been around for nearly 3000 years cannot be swept aside from the intellectual heritage of mankind. The craft of writing history not only involves a commitment to truth, no matter how elusive it may be but also the ability to write in a style free from the vacuous jargon that clutters the pages of several journals. One historian who has stood apart is Simon Schama.Trained in the University of Cambridge Simon Schama teaches at tColumbia University. He is the author of Landscape and Memory and Embarrassment of Riches.He has just published another excellent book, Rough Crossings.The American War of Independence is usually seen as a gigantic struggle against oppression and an epic saga of liberty and freedom. This patriotic interpretation cannot be cynically set aside for the simple reason that all the participants in that struggle, Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were all influenced by the dominant intellectual ideas of the time that we now collectively call the Enlightenment. Yet the principle of human equality was not present in the minds of those patriots and leads to an obvious paradox: The Americans fought for their freedom and the Slaves in the US at that time fought on the side of the British. This point is ably brought out by Simon Schama in this book. After the defeat of the English and after the surrender of Cornwallis many of the slaves who fought on the side of the British escaped to Nova Scotia in Canada. In fact conservative English judges who were called upon to deliver judgement on the status of slaves who escaped in British ports ususally set them free while liberal ideologues were less forthright in accepting the theory of mono genesis. Simon Schama has documented in great detail the lives of several slaves who faught and died in the American War of Independence.It is a tragic fact of history that the triumph of the rebels meant postponing the freedom of the African American population. This book is worth reading.

Orhan Pamuk and his evocative novels

Turkey is located geographically right in the middle of two great continents, Europe that lies west of the Straits of Bosporus's and the vast Asian lands to the east. Such a location is not without its obvious difficulties, a cultural confusion noted right from the days of Herodotus is only one obvious problem. Turkey aspires to join the European Union and as such has to meet certain exacting standards of human rights, judicial due process, political and intellectual freedom etc. This bill of political freedoms in an Islamic country itself is an anomaly. And yet Turkey in spite of rising time of Islamic fundamentalism and even al Qaeda inspired terrorism has proved to be a stable and vibrant society. The Nobel Prize for literature has gone to a Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk who seems to represent both the grand historical past of the Ottomans and the contemporary angst in his writings. Most critics would argue that Orhan Pamuk is a post modernist in that he experiments with different structures of time and narrative in his novels. We can even speculate about Pamuk's questioning of the Turkish identity of present day Turkey. He has won my admiration for the courage he displayed in publicly calling upon the Turkish state to acknowledge the Armenian Massacre that took place in the first decade of the 20Th century.Pamuk unlike western liberals who blame Islam for all the ills of present day society. He denounces quite vehemently all those who preach islamophobia in the name of spreading democracy. I will quote a passage from his writings to illustrate the point;It is neither Islam nor even poverty itself that engenders support for terrorists whose ferocity and ingenuity are unprecedented in human history; it is, rather, the crushing humiliation that has infected Third World countries. And for this the west has to be held responsible because it has failed to comprehend the shame and the humiliation that has fallen on the poorer nations. Hot-headed military operations and war swill only take us away from the order of peace.This sentence sums up all that is wrong with the policy of powerful nations against Islamic countries. Pamuk has spoken strongly in favor of intellectual and cultural freedom in Turkey and was even prosecuted for the crime of insulting "Turkish Identity". He regards the writers primary objective as being the unpacking of all that a culture refuses to talk about. A clinical examination of the sites of silence in any given society. Politics of civil liberty and unrelenting questioning of the staus quo are the credo of Pamuk's writing.His writing is aimed at the so called public sphere constituting civil society and he does believe strongly in the tranformative nature of good writing.The book that I enjoyed the most was one of Pamuk's earliest novels, My Name is Red.It is set in the dark days of the Ottoman Empire when Istanbul was the cultural capital of ASIA.The novel attempts an exploration of the subjective world through the experiences of a range of characters,Stork, Butterfly, Olive and Esther.The miniaturist and his world are etched out in a manner that suggests that Pamuk is quite familiar with the mentalities approach of the French Annalist es.

A Prisoner of Birth: A REVIEW

A few days back I wrote that I watched Jeffery Archer, the well known writer and conservative Party MP on T V and was impressed with his performance. I bought a copy of A Prisoner of Birth and the first few pages were a delight to read. However as I passed the halfway mark I began to suspect an elaborate con job on the reader. The plot is so unrealistic, almost crude, direct ripoff from Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo.I may agree that Danny was innocent of the original crime for which he was convicted, but by taking on the identity of Nick and impersonating the murdered Scottish lord, Danny commits a series of petty frauds like impersonation, forgery, misusing the credits cards etc. All these crimes cumulatively add up to More than 20 years in prison.
The transformation of Danny from an illiterate Cockney boy to a authentic Scottish nobleman in just 2 years is utterly unrealistic.
The book has its moments of charm, but such moments are few and far between.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker: A Review

Barack Obama's speech on race and racism has quite honestly triggered an avalanche of interest in the whole issue of slavery. I recently bought Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History and having read this wonderful book would like to share my thoughts with the blogger on this site.
Dr Rediker is currently the Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh and has taken his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a noted maritime historian and has an earlier work on slavery entitled The Many-headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the hidden history of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Like Simon Shama, Rediker has been exploring the history of Afro-Americans in the Revolutionary era.
All these new works on slavery starting with Phillip Curtin's The Atlantic Trade are essentially commentaries on the famous line of W E B Dubois, "the slave trade was the most magnificent drama in the last thousand years of human history". In fact Rediker takes the phrase "human history" from this line of Dubois. He deals with the period stretching from 1700 to 1808 when the slave trade was regarded as the most profitable commercial venture, yielding returns as high as 700 to 1000%.The English Parliament abolished slavery in English sea going vessels in 1835 under pressure from William Wilberforce and other abolitionists.
Marcus Rediker is a hard nosed historian and therefore does not confuse the issue with mushy sentimentalism. In fact the book documents very carefully the "historical context" in which the trading in "human cargo" was carried out. The eighteenth century opened when Africa was being criss-crossed by Arab traders who followed the ancient caravan routes to the west coast of Africa. Here too trading societies which until a few generations back were mere fishing villages were beginning to see opportunities in state expansion and trade both fuelled in part by the artillery and gunpowder that the Europeans, particularly the Portuguese and the dutch introduced. Africa in the turn of the eighteenth century was as Rediker is at pains to argue a mosaic of stateless societies and more sophisticated war polities in which capture in war meant a life of servitude. Slavery was an established institution in Africa and it was not introduced by the Europeans. In fact the Europeans only took advantage of pre-existing relations and structures in order to acquire slaves. In the 18th century, the raiding and trading parties were confined to the coast, an area known as the Bight of Biafra. As the century proceeded the areas of the interior were also coming under the baleful influence of the slave trade and this expansion in the range and scope of them trade was driven by the expansion of the Dahomey, a kingdom created by the wealth of the slave trade.
The narrative is gripping and is full of insight. Marcus Rediker has drawn on contemporary slave autobiographies and narratives in order to give the human dimension to the Atlantic Trade. It must be said that the African elites and the Arab Muslim merchants were as much part of the nexus of slave trade and plantation economy and it is worth emphasising this point.

Beyond Kilvenmani: The Dravidian Movement and violence against Dalits in Takil Nadu

Caste violence has become an important element in the political life of contemporary Tamil Nadu. We may define caste violence as systematic, organized and sustained acts of physical and cultural violence directed against the less powerful, marginal, and in a hierarchical sense lower social groups by members of the dominant landed groups. Though the latter are classified as Backward Castes and Most Backward castes in the case of northern Tamil Nadu, the BCs and MBCs are by far the most powerful social groups in the political and agrarian structures of rural Tamil Nadu. Both NGOs and the academic interpreters of the endemic caste violence in the countryside, conceptualize the growing social distance between Dalit castes and the BCs and MBCs as instances of “caste” conflict implying thereby that caste identities and loyalties are at the root of this problem. Such an interpretation while not inaccurate, skirts the more potent question pertaining to the structural linkages between the politically organized sections of the Backward landed communities and the violence directed against the Dalits in different parts of the Tamil region.Rural violence is not a new and novel feature. Medieval inscriptions record numerous instances of burning down of entire villages in the fifteenth century during clashes between the idankai and valankai groups. Caste hierarchy was reinforced through a range of measures that included dress codes, restrictions on the use of certain musical instruments, habitat ional exclusion by creating tindacheris in which particular social groups were sequestered, limited access to common areas such as the sacred space of the temple, educational institutions and the like. Indeed the social history of the Tamil region can be plotted along the axes of caste, community and sect, though the boundaries between the three conceptual categories were always fluid and permeable. In the nineteenth century we find identity formation crystallizing itself around the twin poles of caste and race with the ethno linguistic category of Dravidian glossing over the different castes and sub castes of the society. Uniting in the divided population in the name of language, the concept of Dravidian defined the Tamil identity in terms of the cultural practices of the dominant non Brahmin castes thereby excluding the dalits and other communities.Dalit intellectuals have in recent years mounted a serious challenge to the hegemonic claims relating to the libratory potential of the Aryan/Dravidian dichotomy in which the discourse on Dalit liberation and political praxis takes place. The literaey critic Raj Gauthaman in his excellent work entitled Dalit Parveyil Tamil Panpattu has shown that even in the earliest corpus of Tamil bardic poetry there is a stratum of communal and caste consciousness which effectively marginalized tribal groups which came to form the basis of dalit caste of the historical times. This interpretation alters the framework in which the emergence of caste consciousness is placed by conventional historians in that it situates caste in the context of autochthonous social trends. The importance of Raj Gouthamn’s work lies in his effort to reclaim the historical memory of the Dalits in order to assert an identity that is distinct from the one existing in the dominant Dravidian discourse. In his counter reading of Tamil literary and social history, Raj Gauthman is infact re interpreting the claims of Iyothee Das that Tamil cultural practices as depicted in the early bardic works are just as oppressive as that of the Aryan/Sanskrit other. He goes on to add that the ethic of valor and conquest enshrined in the puram genre of poems are mere ideological shibboleths to validate and legitimize the appropriation of agricultural surplus from the tribal sections of Tamil society, who he says were the ancestors of the present day dalit population. While this interpretation may not have all the sophistication of a well thought out historical thesis, it certainly points to a rupture in the dominant paradigm.In this paper we attempt an analysis of the violence in the Tamil region in which the caste conflict between the BCs and the Dalits are contextualized in terms of (a) the groups inv9lved and (b) the reaction of the state. We examine the frequent outbreak of social conflict in terms of the denial of the dominant discourse of the very basis of this conflict. We examine the issue of the Kilvenmani Massacre in terms of the response of the state as well as the social groups which took part in the massacre. I also examiner the response of Dalit intellectuals and political leaders such as Comrade Tirumavalavan to the growing instances of anti Dalit violence.On Christmas Day 1968, when C N Annadurai was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, an incident took place that is regarded today as emblematic of caste relation in this part of India. A few days prior to this incident, a group of farm workers began agitating for more wages. 1967 had been a particularly bad year for the region because of the sustained drought. The workers of the CPI felt that it was an opportune moment to organize the peasants, particularly the landless pallan and other castes in view of the collapse of the communist led insurrection in the Tanjavur district led by Jeevanandham and other leaders. A day prior to the Kilvenmani Incident one of the petty land owners was assaulted and killed, allegedly by the organized group of landless workers. An armed gang was sent to the cheri where the landless laborers resided. However they had by that time taken refuge in a barn along with their wives and children. In a gruesome act of retaliation the building was burnt down killing 44 men, women and 8 children. The DMK government which was in power in the state was reluctant to register the case and even the news of the horrific massacre reached the public only through the questions raised in the Assembly by the CPI MLA of the neighboring Nagapattinam constituency. Left and Secular liberal hagiography sees the Kilvemanni Massacre as a mere class oppressor versus worker issue. In fact the CPM has even appropriated for itself the memorial for the 44 victims of the December 25 Incident and is reluctant to admit the caste identity of the victims. In short, the incident itself has become a bone of contention between those who prefer to see it as the Dravidian Movements ambiguity with regard to the question of Dalit identity and human rights and those who view it in ideological terms.Social conflict is also predicated upon the very morphology and distribution of social groups across the territorial limits of the region. The great historian, Burton Stein has argued that the territorial segmentation, a structural feature of South Indian Tamil society, reinforces the dominance of certain groups in specific regions and sub-regions. The introduction of Panchayati Raj in this kind of a socio-political configuration through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment introduced yet another volatile arena of conflict and violence.II VIOLENCE AND THE STATEThe Kilvenmani Incident is just one of a whole litany of violent encounters between socially dominant landed groups and lower status landless and marginal social sodalities such as dalits. After Independence the Tamil region has seen episodes of violent upsurge against dalit societies in alarming propotions. Given below are a few of the more prominent incidents:Mudalukathur Massacre of 1957Melvalavu Massacre of July25,1997Gundupatti Incident of 1998Tambraparini River Massacre of July 23, 1999Kodiyankulam Incident of 31 August, 1995Thinniyan Incident of October 25, 2002In all these and other incidents the local dominant group was clearly involved in and complicit in acts of unspeakable cruelty and violation of human dignity, and in all these case there was hardly any action/reaction from the state. In one case however, the Tambraparini River Massacre, the then DMK regime was seen as the main instigator of the violence in which 17 people were killed.. The State appointed the Justice Mohan Commission of Inquiry and it camr to the magnificent conclusion that the “police were not at fault”and that the victime drowned because they “did not know how to swim”. The irony of the situation is that the very parties that soundly condemned the violence against the workers of the Majoli Tea Estate are today local allies of the very regime that perpetrated the massacre. Once again this reinforces the point I am arguing that there is considerable ambivalence with regard to the issue of state violence directed against the dalits. The Kudiyankulam Incident fared no better at the hands of the rival ADMK regime. The Gomathinayakam Inquiry declared the police innocent of any act of violence and thereby the state machinery that was deployed so ruthlessly against the dalits was absolved of all blame. It may be pointed out that even in the case of the Kilvenmani Massacre the state was at pains to absolve the perpetrators of any guilt. And the naidu landlord was declared innocent by the Madras high court after a lackadaisical trail. Shri Tirumavalavan,a noted dalit politician of the region has observed. “Only the explanation given by the court for releasing Gopalakrishana Naidu who committed such horrid murders is amusing and strange. It was: It is not possible to accept that a mirasdar who was very highly respected in the society could have involved directly in the murders”. He goes on to say that without a shred of evidence, and based on this conjecture, the court pronounced its judgement that day.From this we can say with some conviction that a general consensus with regard to violence against dalits had also infected the judiciary which by 1968 had come under the stress of Dravidian politics. The sad fact that the SC&ST Atrocities Suppression Act in Tamil Nadu has secured so far a single conviction shows that the administrative and political will to enforce compliance is lacking.The introduction of Panchayatiraj government at the local level through the 73rd Amendment has resulted in the opening of yet another level of inter societal violence and there is no let up in the intensity of the attacks. The position of the president of the village governing council inappropriately called the panchayat, after the gandhian metaphor for the Indian version of village democracy,is increasingly becoming a contested one between sections of the dominat castes groups and the dalit groups in the case of reserved seats. It is obvious that a great deal of government contracts are routed through the Panchayats and hence the competition for the post. The murder of Leelavathi, a councilor of Madurai by DMK workers was direct fallout of the war over government funds and local development that ruffled the feathers of vested interests. In this case too the response of the then DMK government was luke warm and no one was either arrested or prosecuted for the murder.Certain features of Dravidian political culture are deeply implicated in the rise of anti-dalit violence in parts of the state. Competitive electoral politics between the DMK and AIDMK has resulted in a situation wherein the two major formations account for nearly 56% of the votes polled, with an average electoral strength ranging from24% to 26% for each of the two parties. This polarized electorate has made it possible for weak political actors like the Congress and the BJP to forge alliances with the two giants of Dravidian politics. Further, the social morphology of the Tamil region, already alluded to with dominant castes and communities concentrated in specific regions of Tamil Nadu such as the vanniyars in the north, the mukkulathors in the south and specific zones in which the kallars and maravars are numerically dominant in areas of Madurai, Puddukkotttai and Ramanathapuram, has provided a fertile soil for the proliferation of caste and clan based political parties. We may add here while the political rhetoric of such parties in couched in the language of egalitarianism with regard to the elites in the areas where they operate, the practice of social and personal discrimination is prevalent in the context of dalit groups. Social domination and the resultant caste violence is predicated upon the situational strategy of asserting equality towards the upper castes and enforcing the ‘inferior” status of the lower castes, particularly that of dalits. Dravidian political ideology has not been able to bridge the yawning chasm between the imagined ideal of social justice and equality and the appalling reality of caste division and hierarchy that operates at the local panchayat levels.The social scene of village Tamil Nadu is riven with the visible symbols of identity and oppression. The flourishing industry of human rights activism has already documented the existence of the “two tumbler” system in most parts of rural Tamil Nadu. The enforcement of the two tumbler system in parts of Madurai and Ramanathapuram and in the vanniyar dominated regions of South Arcot and Dharmapuri districts is a constant source of tension and violence. Along with this there are other visible markers of status that are enforced. In the habitation areas of the dominant castes the dalits are forbidden to wear footwear and the men folk are made to tie their upper cloth round their waists. Such conventions become the cause of violence, when educated youth resist such display of deference to the higher castes they invite serious retribution. The temple festival is yet another arena that generates conflict. In fact the southern districts see a spate of violence particularly during the annual festivals of the amman shrines or clan temples. Status assertions vis-à-vis the higher castes and its negation is another reason for the outbreak of conflict and in such conflicts the local police and the administration side with the dominant groups. Given the highly politicized nature of the society with caste factionalism and party based rivalries any local issue can become the starting point of a caste conflict.The Ministry of Home Affairs in its Annual Report for the year 1996-97 has reported 282 violent castes conflicts in Tamil Nadu, and out of this figure 238 or 84% involved conflict between dalit groups and powerful landed groups such as the Maravars, the Kallars (often clubbed together as Thevars), Nadars, Vanniyars and Pallans and other SC communities. The table given below from the Justice Mohan Inquiry Report provides an index of caste violence in contemporary Tamil Nadu:DistrictNumber of violent anti-dalit incidentsNumber killed in clashesMadurai189 3Theni41NA NADindigulNANA NAVirudhanagar38212 24 Ramanathapuram182 NASivagangaiNANA NATirunelveli6014 NATudikudi11 Nil III PANCHAYAT ELECTIONS AND VIOLENCEThe violence unleashed against Dalit aspirants to the post of President of the Panchayat is symptomatic of the larger issue of dalit empowerment under the Dravidian political dispensation. A problem that considerably complicate the issue is that the Tamil communities referred to as Adi-dravidas are themselves divided along lines of hierarchy and there is ethnographic and anecdotal information to show that the practice of social exclusion permeates even to the door step of communities that bear the brunt of anti-dalit violence. Thus arundhitiyars are generally regarded with a degree of socil distance by other members of the dalit communities. In the case of panchayats that are revered for the SC communities the dominant landed groups are quite willing to support an arunditiyar candidate and make him virtually a rubber stamp of the local vested interests. Thus the differences within the dalit communities are exploited by the dominant landed backward caste groups, supported by the political parties across the Dravidian spectrum. Shri P Jaggaiyyan, an arunditttiyar who was elected to the Presidentship of Nakkalamuthanpatti in Tirunelveli was killed by the dominant Maravar group when he refused to let his Vice President, a Maravar himself, to preside over the Panchayat meetings. This case has not been solved and the DMK regime is currently trying to arrange a compromise. Similarly, Shri M Servanan, President of Maruthankinaru village Panchayat was killed when he refused to allow the husband of the Panchyat vice president, a kallar, to act as [president in all but name. In this case also no arrest has been made. In Tirulelveli 10 Panchyat presidents have complained to the Government about threat to their lives, and all of them are arundittiyars. The State Government is yet to act. In the case of Shri Chinnan, President of Vakarai village in Dindigul district, even as President he could not occupy his chair and made to sit on a stool when the meetings were conducted. The compromise worked out by the state government when the dalit presidents complain of being threatened or humiliated involved getting the president accept his own subordination to the Vice President from the dominant castes. This unfortunate aspect of Panchayat Raj in Tamil Nadu needs to be investigated further. In the report of Vishwanathan in Frontline of May 5, 2007 is the following observation and it is certainly woth quoting: “The ill treatment meted out to elected dalit panchayat presidents indicates that untouchability is still practiced in Tamil Nadu villages, 60 years after the constitution abolished it.”. We may add that 40 of those 60 years were under the rule of parties representing the forces of landed castes classified in the argot of Tamil Nadu as BCs and MBCs. Therefore we may be right in being cynical about the claims that these parties represent the forces of equality and social justice. It is well worth exploring whether the competitive electoral politics in India, with its first-past-the-winning-post system servers to increase rather than decrease caste tension and its consequent violence.The most horrific case of anti dalit violence engendered by the Panchayat election is the Melavalavu massacre of the dalit president and 6 of his associates on June 29, 1997.Melavalavu was a maravar dominated village that was reserved for the SC caste. Dalits who had earlier filed their nomination for the post of the President of the Panchyat had withdrawn their nomination when intimidated by the locally dominant groups who were also patronized by the ADMK. In spite of booth capturing and other acts of electoral malpractice, Shri K Murugesan was elected President. As has become routine in Tamil Nadu he was prevented from taking charge of his office and offered a representation to the government. A small police picket was posted at the village. Shri M Karunanidhi the Chief Minister of the state was informed of the threat to the lives of dalit presidents but no action was taken. On a bus on the way to Madurai Shri K Murugesan and 6 of his followers were killed in a brutal manner.In the violence that followed several buses of the state transport corporation were burnt. The real cause for tension in the region was the decision of the Government to name a road transport corporation after Shri Veeran Sundranarlingam, a noted dalit leader. In the mayhem that followed caste violence was unleashed all across the southern districts.These instances show quite clearly that caste tension is simmering under the surface and that the political parties exploit cast in order to create disturbances that can be used to generate cast blocs and thereby consolidate the political base.IV ConclusionIn this paper we have argued that contrary to popular perception, the political mobilization in the Tamil region takes place along caste lines and the Backward caste that form the backbone of the political support base for the 2 dravidian parties are not above using violence in order to generate electoral gains. We have also documented that the social morphology of the state with its layered and concentrated distribution of dominant castes allows for the exploitation of caste as a political resource. It may be said that the shift to proportional representation will considerably reduce the dependence of political parties on organized violence as a strategy for capturing political power.We have examined the several instances of caste violence starting from the Kilvanmani Incident of December 25, 1968 to the more recent instances of such violence and have shown that there is little possibility of anti dalit violence declining as it is predicated upon the very logic of the political parties that compete for power. In a larger theoretical sense we can even argue that the post colonial nation state is in reality an engine of destruction in which innocent lives are lost.

The World as it is: A Review of Partick French Boigraphy of V S Naipaul

It is always a difficult task to write the life of a living writer, and that too the biography of an opiniated and at time infuriatingly controversial, but highly talented writer, like V S Naipaul. Partick French has succeeded in doing just that:A narrative of the lfe of V S Naipaul from the sugar cane fields of Trinidad to the height of Nobel fame and glory. The World is What it is covers the life of V S Naipaul from the vantage point of uncovering the man behind the books, it is reverntial without being dishonest, objective without being cynical, critical without being scandalous. I enjoyed reading the book as I have been an ardent admirer of V S Naipaul, and in these days of post-colonial disregard for truth, we have in Naipaul a writer whose commitment to truth forms the very foundation of his craft.
V S Naipaul work is framed by what can be called a double dispalcenment: His maternal grandfather migrated in the late nineteenth century from Gorakhpur, in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a state of India, to the West Indies to work as an "indentured worker" on the sugar plantations. The abolition of slavery in the British Empire following the highly "Christian" campaign of William Wilberforce in 1834 resulted in a short fallof labor in the west Indies, and the Empire trurned to the badlands of northern India to harvest hands to work on the plantations. The savagery with which the Mutiny had been put down had completely torn asunder the agrarian society of northern India making it neccessay for the likes of Naipaul's grandfather to seek his fortunes elaewhere. The second displacement happened when Naipaul won his scholarship to study at Oxford. Reluctantly he became the chronicler of individuals and people caught in the grip of forces over which theyu had little control.
Patrick French is an excellent biographer and had access to the private papers of Naipaul which are housed in the oil-rich University of Texas at Austen.It must be said to the credit of Naipaul that he did not seek to influence the picture drawn by French, and this stems from Naipaul's own dedication to the craft of words in the service of truth.
There are a few dark spots in the life of V S Naipaul. His treatment of his wife Pat was certainly shabby. The woman did not once complain about the treatment meted out to her by her husband. The violence with which Naipaul treated his lover, Margret Gooding who bore the pain of 3 abortions in order to save V S Naipaul the responsibility of fatherhood, makes one wonder whether genius always pays homage to a tortured soul.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jeffery Archer in India

I am not a great one for novels. The time I have on hand I read heavier stuff ususally connected with history, medieval history to be precise. The other day I watched an interview with Jeffery Archer on NDTV. The host of the show was fortunately not that irritating woman Barkha Dutt but someone else. I was impressed with the fact that Jeffery Archer was forthright and candid in his answers. He even dealt with his 2 year prison term in a lighthearted manner. I cannot imagine the criminals sitting in the Indian parliament ever going to jail for the rape and murder they routinely commit. In the case of Jeffery Archer, apperently he paid money to a hooker and lied about it in court. I do not think that he did something that serous that he had to spend 2 years in Nalmarsh Prison, a prison that appears in his latest A Prisoner of Birth.I am reading that book.
Archer has a sense of humour and is extrekely easy to get along with. He is obviously addicted to Indian cricket and I cannot understand why.