Tag Archives: babri masjid

ABOUT AUTHOR: NIRAD C CHAUDHURI

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    Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri – lifespan (23 November 1897 – 2001) was an English-language writer of Indian origin. He authored numerous works in English and Bengali. His oeuvre provides a magisterial appraisal of the histories and cultures of India, especially in the context of British colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Chaudhuri is best known for ‘The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian’ published in 1951. Over the course of his literary career, he received numerous accolades for his writing. In 1966, his work ‘The Continent of Circe’ was awarded, the Duff Cooper Memorial Award, making Chaudhuri the first and the only Indian till date, to be given the prize. The Sahitya Akedemi, India’s national Academy of Letters, awarded Chaudhuri the Sahitya Akademi Award for his biography on Max Muller, Scholar Extraordinary.

    In 1990, Oxford University awarded Chaudhuri, who by then had become a long-time resident of the city of Oxford, an Honorary Degree in Letters. In 1992, he was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Although, he was highly critical of the post-independence Congress party establishment, Chaudhuri was more sympathetic to the right-wing Hindu nationalist movement in India. He refused to criticise the destruction of mosques. He wrote “Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about the desecration of one mosque in Ayodhya. From 1000 AD every temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas has been sacked and ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over northern India. They escaped destruction only where Muslim power did not gain access to them for reasons such as dense forests. Otherwise, it was a continuous spell of vandalism. No nation with any self-respect will forgive this. What happened in Ayodhya would not have happened had the Muslims acknowledged this historical argument even once.”

    Chaudhuri was born in Kishoregunj, Mymensingh, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh), the second of eight children of Upendra Narayan Chaudhuri, a lawyer, and of Sushila Sundarani Chaudhurani. His parents were liberal middle-class Hindus who belonged to the Brahmo Samaj movement.

    Chaudhuri was educated in Kishorganj and Kolkata (then, Calcutta). For his FA (school-leaving) course he attended Ripon College in Calcutta along with the famous Bengali writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Following this, he attended Scottish Church College, Calcutta, where he studied history as his undergraduate major. He graduated with honors in history and topped the University of Calcutta merit list. At Scottish Church College, Calcutta, he attended the seminars of the noted historian, Professor Kalidas Nag. After graduation, he enrolled for M.A. at the University of Calcutta. However, he did not attend all of his final exams, and consequently was not able to complete his M.A. degree. From 1937 to 1941 he worked as a secretary to Sharatchandra Bose (Subhas Chandra Bose’s brother).

    After studies, he took a position as a clerk in the Accounting Department of the Indian Army. At the same time, he started contributing articles to popular magazines. His first article on Bharat Chandra (a famous Bengali poet of the 18th century) appeared in the most prestigious English magazine of the time, Modern Review.

    Chaudhuri left his position in the Accounting Department shortly after, and started a new career as a journalist and editor. During this period he was a boarder in Mirzapur Street near College Square, Kolkata, living together with the writers Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee and Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder. He was involved in the editing of the then well-known English and Bengali magazines Modern Review, Prabasi and Sonibarer Chithi. In addition, he also founded two short-lived but highly esteemed Bengali magazines, Sama-samayik and Notun Patrika. Fed up with Bengali insularity, he later left Calcutta to settle down in Delhi, and took up a government job there. He worked for All India Radio from 1941 to 1952. But sadly he found Delhi, too, was full of Philistines.

    In 1932, he married Amiya Dhar, a well-known writer herself. The couple had three sons.     In 1938, when Chaudhuri obtained a job, as a secretary, to Sarat Chandra Bose, a political leader in the freedom movement of India. He was able to interact with political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the brother of Sarat Chandra Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose (also known as Netaji).

    Apart from his career as secretary, Chaudhuri continued to contribute articles in Bengali and English, to newspapers and magazines. He was also appointed as a political commentator on the Kolkata branch of the All India Radio. In 1941, he started working for the Delhi Branch of the All India Radio.

    He was a prolific writer even in the very last years of his life, publishing his last work at the age of 99. His wife Amiya Chaudhuri died in 1994 in Oxford, England. He too died in Oxford, three months short of his 102nd birthday, in 1999.         He lived at 20 Lathbury Road from 1982 until his death, where, a blue plaque is installed by the Oxfordshire Blue Placks Plaques Board in 2008.

    Student historian Dipayan Pal wrote some interesting things about Nirad C. Chaudhuri in The Statesman in 2016. Why was he always in love with England, though he had never visited the land before the age of 57? These questions perplexed me and the only answer I could decipher is that perhaps Nirad Chaudhuri was in search of a home that he could call his own. And perhaps this street in Oxfordshire of 1980s took him closer to the novels of Hardy and Austen. Lovers of literature not only see texts through their lives but also sculpt life through the texts they read. His textual affinity was coupled with the colonial aura he grew up with. We must remember that he spent his first 50 years in an empire where the sun never set.

    His England was a realisation of certain dominant sensibilities and visions he idealized but they were far from reality. Places like 20, Lathbury Road makes me wonder why people choose to migrate and why certain places receive more sanctity than others. For Nirad Chaudhuri, England was sacred as for some America is. The solution to this onerous puzzle cannot be found in better living standard or socio-economic conditions of higher wages.

    Furthermore, certain places celebrate certain people. Nirad Chaudhuri would have been immensely happy if he knew about the blue plaque as it would fit his sensibilities perfectly. Even Oxford County Council was happy enough to remember this person who was, “an original thinker, forthright in his opinions and an internationalist, in the sense of one who embraces the best of all cultures but never loses his own.”

    His masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, published in 1951, put him on the long list of great Indian writers. Chaudhari had said that The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is ‘more of an exercise in descriptive ethology than autobiography.’

    The book describes Kishanganj, the country town in which he lived till he was twelve. Bangram, his ancestral village, and Kalikutch, his mother’s village. A fourth chapter is devoted to England, which occupied a large place in his imagination. Later in the book he talks about Kolkatta, the Indian Renaissance, the beginnings of the Nationalist Movement, and his experience of Englishmen in India, as opposed to the idyllic pictures of a civilization he considered perhaps the greatest in the world. These themes remain his preoccupations in most of his works, as does his deterministic view of culture and politics. He courted controversy in the newly independent India due to the dedication of this book to the British Empire that said, ‘To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subject hood upon us, but withheld citizenship. To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge: “Civis Britannicus sum.” Because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped and quickened by the same British rule.

    The dedication infuriated many Indians, particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment. “The wogs took the bait and having read only dedication sent up howls of protest,” commented Chaudhuri’s friend, editor, historian and novelist, Khushwant Singh. Chaudhuri was hounded out of government service, deprived of his pension, blacklisted as a writer in India and forced to live a life of penury. Furthermore, he had to give up his job as a political commentator in All India Radio as the Government of India promulgated a law that prohibited employees from publishing memoirs. Chaudhuri argued that his critics were not careful-enough readers; “the dedication was really a condemnation of the British rulers for not treating us as equals”, he wrote in a 1997 special edition of Granta a magazine. Typically, to demonstrate what exactly he had been trying to say, he drew on a parallel with Ancient Rome. The book’s dedication, Chaudhuri observed, “was an imitation of what Cicero said about the conduct of Verres, a Roman proconsul of Sicily who oppressed Sicilian Roman citizens, who in their desperation cried out: “Civis Romanus Sum.”

    In 1955, the British Council and the BBC jointly made arrangements to take Chaudhuri to England for eight weeks. He was asked to contribute lectures to the BBC, and wrote eight of these. His impressions of England and Europe were later collected in his book ‘A Passage to England.’ on the other hand ‘The Continent of Circe,’ published in 1965, traces Chaudhuri’s doggedly independent-minded ideas on the social, geopolitical, and historical aspects of sub-continental India across millennia. An extended sequel to his famous autobiography, titled, ‘Thy Hand, Great Anarch’ was published in 1988. His last book Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, was published in 1997, coincided with his hundredth year.

    At the age of 57, in 1955 for the first time Chaudhari went abroad. After coming back he wrote a novel Passage to England (1959). In this novel he talked about his visits, and an account of five weeks in England, two weeks in Paris and one week in Rome.

    Chaudhuri was deeply distressed by what he saw as the deep hypocrisy in Bengali social life and in particular those that resulted from class and caste distinctions. His historical research revealed to him that the rigid Victorianesque morality of middle class Bengali women was a socially enforced construct, that had less to do with religion, choice and judgment, but more to do with upbringing, social acceptance and intergenerational transference of values.

    His prose was highly influenced by Sanskrit and the older version of the Bengali language, the Shadhu-bhasha. He had little respect for the proletarian language, Choltibhasha, which he regarded as being common in taste and scope. He avoided the use of words and very common expressions originating from Arabic, Urdu and Persian in modern Bengali.

Controversies

Nirad C Chaudhuri is accused of being in secret connivance with the British and leaked information about the whereabouts of Sarat Chandra Bose. This may have led to arrest of Sarat Bose in 1941. He was awarded DLitt from Oxford University in 1990. Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

BOOK CORNER: LAJJA by Taslima Nasrin

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Taslima Nasrin is an award winning writer and a human rights activist. She is also known for her passionate writings on the oppression of women and criticism of religious fundamentalism. She was born in Mymensingh in Bangladesh in 1962. She started writing at the age of fourteen and was acclaimed as a major writer in Dhaka in her late twenties. Her writings also became popular across the border in West Bengal when she won the prestigious Ananda Purashkar in 1992 and then again in 2000. After being forced to leave Bangladesh in 1994, Taslima has lived in India, Europe and the US. She has written more than thirty books, including poetry, essays, novels and memoirs. Her works have been translated into over twenty Indian and European languages.

    Taslima detests fundamentalism and communalism. This was the reason why she wrote Lajja soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992. She says the book took her seven days to write, and deals with the persecution of Hindus, a religious minority in Bangladesh, by the Muslims who were in majority. ‘It is disgraceful that the Hindus in my country were hunted by the Muslims after the destruction of the Babri Masjid. All of us who love Bangladesh should feel ashamed that such a terrible thing could happen in our beautiful country. The riots that took place in 1992 in Bangladesh are the responsibility of us all, and we are all to blame. Lajja is a document of our collective defeat.’

    Lajja was first published in February 1993 in Bangladesh, and sold over 60,000 copies before it was banned. It even earned her a bounty on her head from Islamic fundamentalists and that forced her to flee from her country. Lajja is not only an invaluable historical document but also a text whose relevance has unfortunately not diminished in the two decades since it was published. The novel’s central concern is the evil of communalism that continues to plague the subcontinent, erupting from time to time like a dormant volcano.

    It chronicles the terrifying disintegration of a Hindu family living in Bangladesh in the aftermath of the riots that break out to avenge the destruction of the mosque in India. Hundreds of temples across Bangladesh are grounded to dust or desecrated. Hindu men are butchered, women raped, houses burnt to cinders, and property confiscated. Nasrin brings out the sufferings inflicted on the “minority” community through the trials faced by Sudhamoy Datta, an upright physician who had fought in the Liberation War of 1971 at immense personal cost, along with his family.

    The Dattas, as Nasrin reveals, are divided on the question of staying on, in the land they have always thought of, as their home. Their ancestral seat in the village, once thriving and prosperous, has been usurped by their Muslim neighbours, forcing them to seek refuge in a rented house in Dhaka. However, Sudhamoy stubbornly, desperately, and naively holds on to his faith in the inherent goodness of fellow human beings, even at a time when his allies are turning against his family. His son Suronjon is more vulnerable to the circumstances. Like his father, Suranjon refuses to run away from the country of his birth or give in to communal sentiments he had condemned all his life, but his feelings begin to shift after a terrible tragedy visits the family.

    Sudhamoy’s wife Kiranmoyee and daughter Maya are far less squeamish about making an exodus to India for the sake of their lives and dignity. But then the women, as Nasrin insinuates, are mere pawns in the hands of the men. Maya’s prayer for security is beggared by the lofty ideals of her indifferent, irresponsible and vagabond brother, who remains unemployed mostly for refusing to take orders from anyone. Kiranmoyee nurses a deep, intimate pain, sacrificing every chance of happiness for the sake of her husband’s unshakeable resolve to remain rooted to the land of his birth, even as the consequences of his choice are horrible.

    While focused on the plight of the persecuted, Nasrin’s plot never departs from an area of moral discomfort, never pitting one community against the other or shying away from showing up the prejudices that infiltrate the minds of both Hindus and Muslims.

    Yet, in spite of its sustained ethical complexity, Lajja is not a literary masterpiece but close to it in terms of narration. Nasrin’s plot is interrupted by long roll-calls of damages and killings every few pages. Frequent discourses on politics and power also slow down the pace, and the sub-plots, especially, related to Suronjon’s jilted romantic life. Perhaps, that deserved more attention.

   Secular was supposed to be one of the strong beliefs of the Bengali Muslim, especially during the war of independence, when everyone had to cooperate with one another to win victory. But now the spirit had not only dwindled but had exhausted completely.

    Though ‘Lajja’ is the story of the Duttas, they are reverted to the background, and the newspaper reports and eye-witness accounts, with facts and figures about the number of people killed, temples destroyed, properties looted and women raped, becomes the main theme of the book. This inter-mingling of numerous statistical data with a fictional plot is done with such subtleness and so seamlessly that it becomes a part of the story. The data is not just parroted in the book. It comes as a dialogue from anxious Bengalis living in fear  of their lives, and this is what adds life to these numbers. It makes you realise the enormity and graveness of the situation, and sympathise with the victims. In the ultimate the story ends as a tragedy when Maya who is Suronjon’s sister and Kiranmoyee and Sudhamoy’s daughter is at a point of no return—perhaps dead. Finally Sudhamoy agrees to the long drawn suggestion of his son Suronjon to move to India.

    If you’ve not read the book you’ve indeed missed an endemic view point of life. I would give the book eight out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

BOOK TALK: THIS UNQUIET LAND … by Barkha Dutt

Copyright@shravancharitymission

 

THIS UNQUIET LAND

(STORIES FROM INDIA’S FAULT LINES)

By Barkha Dutt

(Published in 2016)

Publisher: Aleph

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about

    There is an old saying. ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.’ I think the saying fits in quite well in this case as you’ll come across many lives in this book.

    Barkha began working in 1994 for a news show that was originally broadcasted on Doordarshan. Her entry into journalism coincided with the birth of private TV. But, then, why this book all of a sudden? Showcasing India’s fault lines that runs deep and wide. Some of them even go back, centuries. The book is some three hundred plus pages. Where, she has selected certain topics, that have been haunting India for quite some time now. And these topics have even besmirched India’s reputation abroad. Basically she has handpicked issues that she came across during her career as a journalist. And around those issues the book spreads like a Banyan tree, but without any storyline. Hence it is difficult to summarise or even write a synopsis. However, what I’ve attempted here for you is, the trait of the book. Along with its central points that will give a sense of what the book is all about.

    The book spins around issues and the issues spin around Barkha. It has a gamut of aspects—starting right from her childhood, including parents, education, career, enthusiasm and even frustration. But most of the time … it is India’s helplessness. So, not a very superlative narrative for the country I would say. But I guess it can’t be helped. Because, for most journalists the uncompromising tenet is to first broadcast the negatives comprehensively, and beyond that if the time permits a few positive outlines too. Remember by broadcasting achievements you don’t get as many eyeballs as you get by broadcasting disasters. To substantiate the point Barkha quotes a VIP who says—‘India is a country that moves from headlines to headlines.’ Of course sensational ones. 

     The central theme of the book perambulates around, the last hundred years of India. One could call it the not-so-recent as well as the recent events of India. But then, while cruising through the book one does get a stale feeling, as if you’re zipping through some old newspaper columns or an old magazine article in staccato effect. Certain pages get you a feel as if you’re negotiating a long prose, though well described but high on verbosity. And what really keeps you charged during such narrations, are things that you don’t know, and that too, within what you know and also what goes on behind the scene. Many of us know a lot about the Kargil war through electronic and print media. Yet, we may not know, how important a role, late Mr Brajesh Mishra played in solving the crisis. Or we may have heard about Bhanvari Devi rape case in Rajasthan. But we may not know that ‘Bhanvari Devi’ was the starting point in the rape history of India where the other end was ‘Nirbhaya.’ The title covers the following chapters. Where, each chapter appears to be a short book in itself.

    PLACE OF WOMEN:  the chapter is almost like the rape history of modern India. The description below is about Bhanvari Devi and how ghastly.

     ‘Post rape: ‘Back at the police station, she was asked to strip and leave her ghagra behind as evidence. It was past midnight when she made her way home draped in the thin cloth of her husband’s turban.’ she picks the narration from Bhanwari Devi rape case of Rajasthan and links it up with Nirbhaya.

    In between, the lady author also spreads across to other rape cases, that had figured in various headlines during all these years. At times the narration appears as a memoir with a lot of emphasis on the sufferings of Indian women vis-a-vis the unceasing tyranny of the Indian men. Something, that is even otherwise known to most Indians. But then she doesn’t really relay any out-of-the-box suggestions, to at least dampen the malaise. She gives a good account of a lady journalist. Problems she faced while commencing her career. And in all of that, she juggles quite well with the words but the content doesn’t seem to be very uncommon. In certain pages sentences are long. But then they are vivid and to the point. The book has a tilt towards feminism which is quite obvious.

     It’s high on lexicon for an average reader, who might have to Google more often, to keep cruising. Therefore, the target audience is clearly the elite. But shouldn’t books with such historical sparks be, in easy read format? She has dug out some exhaustive statistics on females of India, especially, working women, and their sexual harassment.

    The book has a striking hard cover. The title is appropriate and gets further substantiated by a pin pointing sub title that says—STORIES FROM INDIA’S FAULT LINES. It is well presented in terms of font and flow. But it is still not a very moving book. As it swings between, diverse chapters and the personal memoir and does not have a linear penetrating plot. And it goes on and on. Sure intermittently it has interesting frills. As a messenger she has reported the happenings in the most erudite style, but has not presented too much of her own view points. She also touches upon the Gulabi gang of Uttar Pradesh that once operated in full flow. At places the narration is quite pungent when you compare it with the topic. Chapter deals with women’s issues, especially rape where it also cites three other cases. But then there are no incites or suggestions to solve the menace. She also goes on to describe the methodology of women politicians and about the callousness of women officers who are not sensitive to women’s cause. Superwoman versus supermom is comparison she draws quite artfully.

THE COST OF WAR

    This chapter by and large takes you through the sad tale of Kargil War. During the war Barkha was often seen near the the LOC. It was well covered by the channel she was working for, then. I’m sure. She must be carrying evocative memories about it. Such memories don’t die. Rather, you carry them to your grave. In this chapter, she even goes on to describe the role of Brajesh Misra, principal secretary and national security advisor to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in quite a detail, which you won’t come to know unless you read the book. She even elucidates the role that the diplomats of India played in bringing the war to an end, together with the balancing act of the US. She throws up some good war statistics. But she could have vented her views more ferociously. The chapter has a lot of stuff from ground zero.

    It fleshes out some good war statistics. It also hazily talks about gun configurations. The chapter explicates extensively, about the various wars with Pakistan and even the border skirmishes with China. She mixes the blend of her career and the Kargil war quite efficiently. For the general public doesn’t know what all goes on behind the scene and this is where she makes a killing. Excellent and moving description about martyr’s cremation.

     The sentence that moved me was, ‘And so in Kargil without snow shoes or proper high-altitude gear, Vishal and other first-time troops literally crawled their way up to peaks as high as 18,000 feet, where the temperature slipped to as much as ten degrees below zero to fight for the honour of their platoons and regiments.’

TERROR IN OUR TIME

    The chapter covers the gory parliament attack of 2001. It also gives a good account of, the history of terrorism in modern India. In this the lady author covers selected terrorist attacks. She gives a wide coverage of 26/11 Mumbai attack, describes Ajmal Kasab’s episode in detail. And how, in that moment of disaster, communities come together in Mumbai’s Zaveri bazaar. Narration is good and content is extensive. She also sketchily talks about farmer’s suicide. As a true messenger she reports whatever is happening in India. She talks about various issues without any solutions. Then she goes all over and even touches upon Sheena Bora murder case in page 95. She then even adds Samjhauta express and Malegaon blasts. A lot of it is the same and reverberates in your mind as news items of those times. But yes there are some finer points too, which were kept under the carpet, which is interesting. ‘Extremism is a bigger threat than terrorism’ she hears from another VIP.

    But in the ultimate analysis I would ask. If such books even reach the think tank of the dispensation to act upon, or they just get into their personal libraries and sit their as literary accolades. She further makes an important point–200 districts have Maoist movement—India’s red corridor. Where, she richochet’s some good statistics. And gives a good hidden perspective of India, overall.

IN THE NAME OF GOD

    She covers Gujarat riots together along with with the rapes that happened in 2002. A lot of it is a recount of recent history. How kar-sewaks were murdered and Muslims were massacred as a consequence of that. But she nowhere blames the media for reporting inflammable stuff. Rather she rarely points a finger at the media. She covers Gujarat riots in great detail but has less to say about the sentiments of the relatives of the kar-sewaks who were murdered in Godara. The narration appears as catchy news reports without author’s own modulation. She talks about the strong points of Indira Gandhi. She covers Babri Masjid demolition too. And compares the trinity– Narsimha Rao, Rajiv Gandi and Rahul Gandhi

A CHRONICLE OF KASHMIR

    Barkha mentions the minute India released Maulana Masoor Azhar, Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed on 31.12.99 for hijacking IC-814 India turned into a soft state. Farooq Abdullah who was then the Chief Minister of J&K vehemently protested this. She narrates further, ‘the minute we gave in, India became a soft state; an apoplectic Farooq Abdullah, who was chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir during the hijacking of IC-814, would tell me later. He phoned L.K. Advani, the then home minister, to vehemently oppose the release of terrorist.’ … She doesn’t hesitate in exposing India’s weakness. Then she covers the 1st suicide attack of the valley. Even harps about countries spreading terrorism, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. She of course has a lifelong obsession about J&K and doesn’t forget to talk about Nehru’s background and the birth and growth of JKLF. An interesting point that she makes is:

    ‘A month later in September, the prevaricating Maharaja Hari Singh made an offer of accession to India for the very first time. Nehru stunned him by making the deal conditional on the release of Sheikh Abdullah from jail. The maharaja refused.’ She also goes on to describe Patel’s conversation with Nehru. And of course she has described J&K’s constitutional history quite well and has also dealt with the malaise of Kashmir in detail.

OF POLITICAL DYNASTS, JUGGERANUTS AND MAVERICKS

    The chapter is full of anecdotal tales which the readers would love reading. It covers lady author’s encounter with various national and international leaders and even there close relatives. Where, it starts from Priyanka, Raga (Rahul Gandhi) and even Robert Vadhra. Barkha is curt and brusque when she wants to be. She compares Modi with Gandhis only to say, ‘Modi was determined to overthrow the political royalty of the Gandhis. He was a citizen who had come to take the kingdom.’ She disparages Raga, who had the luxury of several years of authority without any responsibility. But he neither became a minister in the government nor took charge of the party.

    She then goes on to describe the sum and substance of Arvind Kejriwal and at one point even draws a comparison between him and Raga. Both are youthful men, in their early forties—where, Arvind is acutely educated, and has a self achieved track record.

    Another interesting point that she makes is about Indira Gandhi under whose leadership Congress as an institution collapsed. She then spreads across to various political leaders of India and their parties. Her description about Mani Shankar Aiyar is engrossing. And there is a good compilation of political barbs. And of course how could she leave out Dr Manmohan Singh. L. K. Advani couldn’t have been left out either with his stories about Babri Masjid and his visit to Jinnah’s grave.

    The interesting comparision she draws is in between the ‘Chaiwala’ and the ‘Mufflerman’ (Namo and Arvind Kejriwal). Talks about ‘Achhe Din’ and ‘Make in India.’

    She opines about Modi, ‘I have always felt, in the many years that I have observed him, that Modi’s ambitions are personal not ideological.’

    I personally feel her overexposure to the affairs of Pakistan and Kashmir in some ways narrowed her journalistic prowess. She got branded. And that reflects in the book also. But then exposure is not always in your hands. She covers Nawaz Sharif and his delegation in the US, and his calling Manmohan Singh a ‘Dehati Aurat.’—that she clarifies.

    She talks about AAP party at length and the anti corruption movement.

A SOCIETY IN FLUX

    This chapter flows all over. It has no direction or plot. Whatever she felt … she has written about. And is quite a contrast to the previous chapters. I guess she wanted to close the book now. India is prone to disasters, so she talks about the Nagapattinam Tsunami of 2004, in Tamil Nadu which she had covered. She describes Ambedkar’s conversion ceremony to Buddhism. Where, she doesn’t forget to remind what Mahatma Gandhi had to say about conversion

    ‘I am against conversion, whether it is known as shuddhi by Hindus, tabligh by Mussalmans, or proselytizing by Christians.’

    Then she covers certain topics that had made it to the headlines. She of course digs into the history of India and fetches out things she had not come across in her career. She describes the pliant middle class of India. Talks a bit about the Modern School, where she had studied. Remembers, the Mandal agitation of 1992, and also brushes past IPL, Sunanda Pushkar and even Lalit Modi.

    Overall, a valuable read. Only if you’re interested in knowing how India operates or rather how the government of the day operates.

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Synopsis by Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha

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