Tag Archive: Books


House of Mr. Biswas

House Of Mr Biswas

I read this book on the recommendation of my friend. It is amazing how some books can help you draw parallel in your life.

 

The author writes the book inspired by his own life .The main protagonist of the book is Mr. Mohun Biswas who is in quest to get his own house made; this character is based on his father. Biswas is born in not so well off family but marries into a big-shot family of the region. His wife is among the 9 sisters and 2 brothers, there is constant collision between the husbands of the wives for all kinds of superiority, not to mention the sisters themselves have issues with each other.

 

In the beginning of the book, Mohun Biswas is shown as a baby born with 6 fingers, the sixth finger comes off when he is still 9 days old, considered unlucky child for his sneezing and bringing bad luck to those around him. Later he works as a painter for signs which leads him to his wife Shama’s place. There he paints for the shop’s sign board. Mrs. Tulsi gets his daughter married to him, then there is Seth a trusted advisor of Mrs. Tulsi who treats Biswas pretty much like shit and good for nothing lad. Seth has authority over everything, till the two masters (read Mrs. Tulsi’s sons grow up and take the mantle)

 

Biswas starts from being a guy who stays at his wife’s place Hanuman House, to one being given menial jobs for survival (in the process being ridiculed) and trying to get the elusive house build. Later in life, he writes as Journalist for Sentinel, A Trinidad Newspaper. This was a job he cherished the most in his life and which gave him a sense of respect (even though the in-laws might not believe so).

 

The story does gives a good insight into an Indo-Caribbean family where the protagonist is married to socioeconomic better of family, he has to deal with a wife who worships this family and her brothers. Biswas has 4 children, 1 son and 3 daughters. There are some hilarious typical Indian scenes, which I think are implanted in every Indian family. There is a scene where Biswas is being beaten by his rival that is his wife Shama’s brother-in-law, then Shama’s attempts for status but fear of loathing from her sisters. The pick of them all is sisters trying to score brownie points with their ‘Lord brothers’  by over-weeping when the younger one comes from England, in short attention seeking behavior. The brothers who act like masters in their own right, the Tulsi Family also has a fall out with Seth their administrator guy.

 

There is one instant, when the youngest brother returns from England (apparently after many years in England) and talks fashionably about Russia, Socialism and Communism, but barely tries to practice the leftist ideas at home or his surroundings. A typical trait in self proclaimed Leftist, who are educated in big shot foreign universities who then proclaim themselves as Liberal voices of the world. During the last chapters this exhibitionist “Lord brother” Owad talks about ideas and all, showing off his so-called intellect, in the process ridiculing Biswas, slapping Biswas’ son and showing superiority to others in presence of his cheerleader sisters, who loved each and every act of his. You can easily find such characters in every Indian family, whom you feel repulsed from, the over pretentious ones aka jackass.

 

Mr. Biswas also sets in motion the desire to get his children educated in England, the eldest daughter and son gets into the UK university.  Eldest daughter comes back and helps Mr.Biswas financially when his health is crumbling  and he is let go from Sentinel , the newspaper he works for. He is also able to get a new house, which he renovates after being duped to buy it. Not to mention in the process fending off the first owner/ builder from his veranda.

 

The book was all in all an Indian family drama, recommended for patient readers only. It took a while for me to get it completed though. Since, I got frustrated reading about some ‘real’ life characters and had other commitments too. Looking forward to read more Naipaul’s works, this time I think I will go for Non-fiction books, the Indian Trilogy which he wrote.

VS Naipaul

The book is an interesting take on Babur, his fights and battles. It starts from 12-year-old Babur listening about his ancestor Timur from his father who is a king but is not that rich (Timur plundered Delhi and his soldiers raped and killed many during the rule of Tughlaq dynasty  in 1398).

 The main characters which go along with you throughout the book are:

  • Esan Dwalat: Babur’s maternal grandmother
  • Khanzada: Babur’s older sister
  • Kutlugh Nigar: Babur’s mother
  • Shibani Khan: Babur’s arch rival, leader of Uzbeks and a nemesis of Babur’s people
  • Baburi: Babur’s close friends
  • Wazir Khan: Milk brother to Babur’s father , guide and mentor to Babur.
  • Kasim : Babur’s ambassador
  • Baisanghar : Babur’s father-in-law who helped Babur capture Samakhand
  • Maham: Babur’s favourite wife and mother of Humayun and daughter of Baisanghar.

Babur as such had 5 wives and many concubines, the name of his 5 wives mentioned are:

  • Ayisha: 1st wife older than Babur, daughter of chief of Mangligh clan. She never accepted him and had a lover prior in her own people with whom she eventually marries after leaving Babur.
  • Maham: Daughter of Baisanghar, the man who helped Babur win Samarkand.  Babur marries her to show respect to Baisanghar in addition to the fact that his 1st wife abandoned him for her lover.
  • Gulrukh: Mother of kamran and Askari. Grand-daughter of Bahlul Ayyub, Vazir of Kabul.
  • Bibi Mubarak: Daughter of the chief of Yusufzai clan (A Pashtun clan)
  • Dildar: Mother of Hindal

The author’s name Alex Rutherford is the pen name for Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. I believe that the act of humanizing Babur and the fact Babur is shown crying would definitely be a mind of a woman at work. Since that emotion riddled sequences are the ones which they so much like.  Therefore I guess that the husband and wife duo had their work cut out, very well.

Babur is a descendent of  Timur and Genghis Khan both. I however think that the book is romanticism of Babur. It shows him in humane form. Shibani Khan an Uzbek and arch rival of Timur princes is shown as barbarous man who was sexually assaulted and kept as a boy toy by an old Timur noble. This was when he was captured in a battle but Shibani Khan kills that noble and escapes, pledging to kill all Timur princes ( I think a fair deal if we look what Timur descendents did to Shibani khan and his people).

Babur is also saved many times by luck as his uncles, Rulers at Samarkand and Kabul gift him his kingdoms as they have no male heir. Shibani khan demands Babar’s sister’s hand in marriage as a price of leaving Samarkand unharmed, when he invades Samarkand (which is a tough issue for Babur). The author writes that Babur wept at being not a man/feeling impotent as he was unable to protect his sister’s honor,especially when he visualizes/imagines Shibani Khan touching the soft white skin of his sister (which is again human attempt though reality of the situation was not written or recorded in Babar’s auto-biography.Babur at that time was 19 Years old and his sister was 21 years old). His sister was returned to him by the Shah of Iran as the Persian Army killed Shibani Khan.

Babur again returns to Samarkand but as a puppet of Shah of Iran who asks him to convert to Shia Islam instead of Sunni Islam. His refusal leads to his loss of the city once and for all. During this period Baburi and Babur have differences. Therefore Baburi leaves Babur’s side and goes away. Babur is left all by himself without the men he could really trust. Baburi eventually returns after 7 years bringing Turkish canon along which he uses to conquer Hindustan (a land of infidels as he use to call it).

There he fights Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (A Pashtun Ruler). Whose armies he is able to defeat (as apparently it is full of infidels, very amusing). During this war he loses his close friend Baburi. After killing and defeating Ibrahim Lodi, Babur becomes the Emperor of India. Here too he fights of many fractions within, Namely Lodi’s mother Buwa who curses Babur.

Then there are fights with Rana sangha of Mewar, an old ruler famous for many bruises on his body along with many of his wives and concubines. This he wins by calling Jihad.  There is an attempt on Babur’s life by Poisoning but Babur is able to overcome it, it was  by Buwa, Ibrahim Lodi’s mother. He eventually dies praying for his son Humayun’s recovery.

I think it is a good book for fun-history purposes but the author himself/herself writes that he/she has fictionalized it. Though 70% is facts based on Babar’s auto biography.

I might read rest of the parts too but not soon, probably in a year or two.

The following lines are from the book “The Madmen” by Khalil Gibran, one of my favorite authors:

DEFEAT

Defeat, my defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;

You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,

And sweeter to my heart than all worldglory.

Defeat , my defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,

Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot

And not to be trapped by withering laurels.

And in you I have found aloneness

And the joy of being shunned and scorned.

Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,

In your eyes I have read,

That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,

And to be understood is to be leveled down,

And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness

And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed

Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,

You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences,

And none but you shall speak to me of beating of wings,

And urging of seas,

And of mountains that burn in the night,

And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,

You and I shall laugh together with the storm,

And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,

And together we shall stand in the sun with will,

And we shall be dangerous.

One Hundred years of solitude

One Hundred years of solitude is a story of a Latin American family (Of Spanish Descendant) and in the book you live every moment of the family. I was recommended to read it by a teacher as a book which one “MUST” read in his/her lifetime. The teacher drew a list of books that one must read much like all  time top movies one needs to watch.

The book itself was written in 1967 by Gabriel García Márquez who writes in Colombian historical backdrop with Spanish history taken into consideration. One believes that it also touches the tragic demise of the Spanish Royal House of Habsburg Dynasty’s EXTINCTION. It has been well documented that the Royal family members had cousin marriages and into the same family or more appropriately into the same clan( ie paternal and maternal). This inbreeding has been termed as incestuous and believes to be the reason for extinction of the Royal House. In the book One hundred Years of Solitude, the Grand-matriarch shows fear that one of her Descendants would be born with a pig tail.

The book is very detail oriented and there were times where I got bored and just kept on reading it for the sake of it. It is written in  daily life narrative of a family (in this case Buendía family).

The starting of the book with Gypsies arrivals Melquíades in Mocando (which is preceded by a Romantic narrative where Colonel Aureliano Buendía is standing in front of a firing squad),Melquíades later returns from dead  and gives Buendía family  a book which is written in sanskrit (these sequences were irrelevant to me till I read the entire book and realized how important they were).

While reading the book certain things of these characters stood out for me.

  • Jose Arcadio Buendía‘s desires and maddening
  • Colonel Aureliano Buendía‘s revolutionary fights
  • Úrsula Iguarán‘s determination
  • José Arcadio‘s wildness
  • Amaranta‘s stubbornness
  • Aureliano José’s and Arcadio’s desire to be like Colonel Aureliano Buendía
  • Santa Sofía de la Piedad‘s slient presence
  • 17 Aurelianos: Sons of wild Colonel Aureliano Buendía, who were born when he was on wars and had beautiful women come to his tent at night to attend him and have his children.
  • Remedios the Beauty: Her death giving beauty
  • Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo: the twin brother who die together.
  • Fernanda del Carpio‘s royal desires
  • Renata Remedios (a.k.a. Meme)’s rebillion
  • José Arcadio (II)‘s death by the hand of children
  • Amaranta Úrsula‘s free spirit.
  • Aureliano Babilonia (Aureliano II)‘s isolation and reading
  • Aureliano (III)‘s death

The theme on which the book is based on is “MAGICAL REALISM” which Gabriel García Márquez had tried for the 1st time in this book of his written in 1967. I can say that once the reader is done and if the book finds you off guard (or uninterested as I was after sometime). It is most likely to give you a kick once you are done with it, much like an adrenaline rush. Writing anything more about the book’s story will impact reader’s fun. Though one can still find detailed narrative of the book on Wikipedia (with whom certain section of people have huge issues).

Reading this book can become laborious at times as it became for me. However the ending made me sure that it was worth reading it and now I understand why Salman Rushdie says that it is “The greatest novel Written in any language in the last fifty years”.

This book I will keep with me always. I look forward to read other works of  Gabriel García Márquez.

Bhishma for me symbolizes purity and eternal wisdom.  Someone who is the guiding force in the family. I came across few line which showed Indian people’s admiration for him. The line are as follows :

  • If there is some sea one needs to bath in-order to be one with his spirit, then one would do so.
  • If there is some Mountain one needs to climb in-order to be one with his spirit ,then one would do so.
  • If there is some pilgrimage one needs to make in-order to be one with his spirit ,then one would do so.
  • If there is some fire one needs to walk through in-order to be one with his spirit,then one would do so
  • If there is some sacrifice one needs to make in-order to be one with his spirit,then one would do so.

To be one with the noble spirit of Bhishma is the desire and dream of every warrior because there is no greater character who sacrificed everything and yet remained true to the rules or as they say to warrior code (kshatriya Dharma) , even when those rules caused him terrible misery and eventually a painful death.

I, like every child growing up in 1990s watched Mahabharata being telecast on India channel (Doordarshan to be exact) . There were usually fights over who the better fighter was in Mahabharata, Arjun or Karna or Bhima. Some even said that Krishna should be also included into list. The story dates back to the time of 4000 B.C (now whether it is real story or not, one would not discuss but it was a story none the less). So when on those Sunday mornings it use to get telecast in Tv channels. Everyone use to be ready. One of our family friend’s son who was couple of years younger than me got so much impressed that he changed his name to Arjun. Much like it happens in childhood, I wanted my name changed too. I suggested Arjun but I was told that it was already taken. In reality my parents never wanted to change the name but were amused and were looking for some entertainment. When I suggested Karna, the reply was one of your uncle is karna, so no.  The whole idea about the name change was associated with the personality of the being or the fact who was greater warrior. Someone who could beat Arjun too (the supposedly the best warrior which we knew or I knew)

Then during one of the episodes I observed a man very old and wearing everything white, but  nobody wants to be old. Fortunately there was a story behind and the whole episode had its video series too.  I though of knowing about him more well,  the elders did narrate that he was Bhishma and he was the grand-father of  kauravas and Pandavas, in short he could spank them all (nice :)). I thought of knowing more about him, so I watched the starting episodes and discussed with others. It came to being that he chose to give always the right to the throne so that his father could marry a fisher-woman. The most notable point being that he was the son of Ganga, the most sacred river for Hindus and Indians. His father shantanu was king of hastinapur ,a powerful kingdom in north India.

The story of his life was such that he  abstained from throne so that his father could marry a fisher-woman since the fisher-woman’s father wanted his to-be (unborn) grandson to sit at the throne of Hastinapur which was certainly not possible when Bhishma (or Devavratha as he was originally known) was there as crown prince. Bhishma then took the vow of not marrying so that his off-spring might not stake a claim on the throne later. This vow at that time was called to be a rare one and a AKHAND Pratigya (unbreakable vow). It was much to the disappointment and frustration of his father , who blamed himself till the end of his time, for doing this to his son.

He took the another vow that anybody who sits on the throne of Hastinapur will be in synonym with his father’s position. Therefore he would do (Bhishma) as the king will commanded and his loyalty will be to the throne alone and none so ever. The second vow that he took became a reason for concern since Dhitrashtra (the blind king and father of Duryodhan) was not able to take right decisions owing to his love to his ever angry, egoistic son Duryodhan who was incited by his shakuni uncle (who was the crown prince of Gandhar or Bactira or Presently known as Afghanistan).

What followed was a war that nearly destroyed the entire India/ Bharat as it was called then and the epic war in India was called “Mahabharata” or “the great Indian war “. In short Bhishma was the epitome of culture and tradition in the ancient India. Though his act to look other way when Draupati (The queen of Pandavas) was been stripped naked by the kauravas is seen with contempt and anger. Here too it is said that it was his two vows that he took that made him incapable of stopping such an act. It was then left to Krishna to stop  kauravas from outraging the modesty of Draupati.

There was another instance when his half-brother was insulted in a marriage ceremony by the brides father (the king of other kingdom) by not inviting in the swamwar ( where a bride can choose their own groom). Apparently the act was done to insult Bhishma and Hastinapur by the king’s family. It was  a revenge act to get even as the king’s father was insulted when he had proposed the marriage of his daughter to Bhishma. Whereas Bhishma’s father Shantanu had laughed off that matter ( showing that there was huge class difference between both the kings). This act of insult to his half-brother did not go down well with Bhishma and he single-handedly went and captured three princess who were to get married in swamwar in order to get them married to his half-brother in the presence of all the princes of India present there and the king himself. (and none were able to do anything)

The three sisters were namely ambika, amballika and Amba. Salwa, the ruler of Saubala, and Amba (the eldest princess) were in love. Upon reaching Hastinapura, Amba confided in Bhishma that she wished to wed Salwa. Bhishma then sent her back to Salwa who turned her down as it was humiliating for a man to accept a woman who had been so long in the company of another man. She then naturally approached Bhishma for marriage who refused her, citing his oath. Amba, humiliated and enraged beyond measure, vowed to avenge herself against Bhishma even if it meant being reborn over and over again.Burning for vengeance all those years ago, Amba had left Hastinapur and gone into the forest, where she sought the shelter of the sages. With their help she worshipped Lord Shiv to gain the boon she wanted: To cause Bhishma’s death.

Years passed and Amba performed the most austere and extreme austerities to please Shiva. Finally, Lord Shiva appeared and asked her what she desired. She requested a body whereby she would be able to destroy Bhishma. Shiva granted her wish. Bowing before him, Amba surrendered her body into the sacred fire so that she may be reborn according to Shiva‘s blessing.

Amba took rebirth and was a reason for the death of Bhishma in the battle of Mahabharata.Amba was reborn as Shikandi, with full memory of his past life and vendetta against Bhishma. His body was male but his mind was female and thus Shikandi gained notoriety in the kingdom for being not quite male or female but both. During the ninth day of battle it was observed that till Bhishma is there kauravas will never lose but neither will Bhishma defeat Pandavas as he considered them as grandchildren just like kauravas.The war was thus locked in a stalemate. As the Pandavas pondered over this situation, Krishna advised them to visit Bhishma himself and ask him to suggest a way out of this stalemate. Bhishma knew in his heart that the Pandavas were righteous and chaste, and that he stood as the greatest obstacle in their path to victory, so when they visited Bhishma, he told them that if faced by an other gender that is a gender which has both features of a male and female in battle he would stop to fight and not lift weapons against her.

Therefore on tenth day of battle shikhandi accompanied Arjun (The favorite grandson of Bhishma). Upon seeing shikhandi Bhishma knew that he could not shoot him as it was Amba.(she had taken rebirth half man and half woman). Krishna provoked Arjun to shoot Bhishma. So Arjun shot Bhishma reluctantly with arrows and a death-bed was created for Bhishma. Bhishma was given a death wish by his father when he took those vows that he could choose the time of his death. Therefore till the time war was not over Bhishma laid there on the arrows, shot by Arjun. In all this event Bhishma was very proud of Arjun showing his ability (In reality Arjun wouldn’t have stood a second in front of him had he not disarmed himself). None the less this was the personality of Bhishma. Once in a war he deliberately struck Krishna with an arrow so that Krishna could take up arms and break his vow of not fighting for anyone. In a fit of rage Krishna had even ran with a wheel in his hand to kill Bhishma ( Bhishma being more than willing to die by hands of Krishna, but it was Arjun who stopped Krishna from Killing bhishma falling on his feet). There is a pic to depict whole act. The pic stands out for me in whole of Mahabharata.

Therefore back to the debate over choosing what to be. I finally was able to decide and it was Bhishma.  As far as name goes well Bhishma’s real name was Devavratha , so it really doesn’t matters that what the name is. It is the actions and more importantly the personality that matters. It was said his personality was the best that could be, fit for kings. Therefore the best man, but yes the catch being not the one made for marriage.

Bhishma on Mangement :

To be honest Mahabharat  has more to do with understanding the personality of character than  management these characters did. Still however every character had a distinct set of rules of getting things done. In the case of Bhishma it is more in terms of ethics. He was a very ethical man for whom rule and principles were supreme.He was an idealist but it was his vow towards Hastinapur that led him not to act on certain situations causing outrage among masses sometimes.

If one wishes to identity any manager with him, then he would be one who worked hard to create an organization on ideal principles.

Bhishma in today’s world :

Now this was a tricky one though I went around and tried to get a feel of the situation as to what people in India think about that, therefore it was two candidates which were narrowed. Both are from strong political parties in India namely Congress and BJP. The names are Dr. Manmohan Singh from congress and Atal Bihari Vajpayee from BJP. Without doubt both are statesmen and honorable people and I somehow felt they were right in today’s time to be named as Bhishma.

However, about who is the Bhishma of Indian Business world. I sensed that I always knew that answer. It is Ratan Naval Tata.

 ps: One knows that one cannot be an exact replica of bhishma but as far as I am concern, he is the only hero for me in entire Mahabharata and everybody wants to emulate their heroes. Isn’t it… ?

Plus on naming present day people who are close to or might resemble characters well, I doubt that I might have the wisdom to always come out with a name or even write. Now nobody wants to get spanked by naming someone a Duryodhan ( Though wise people will always be able to find such characters 🙂 )

Mahabharat is one of my favorite mythological books along with Iliad. Somehow I find it more real compared to Ramayana. Although many in India regard Ramayana as “the” book, I personally beg to differ. For me Ramayana symbolizes bondage but Mahabharata unleashing of spirits and thoughts, for someone who does not like bondage much, Ramayana might not excite much (Though I guess that talk might be blasphemous to some. I would just say it is the choice of having something spicier ).

Mahabharat offers a variety of characters whom we in this present world could relate to and I would be trying to give my own understanding of the characters as time goes on, hoping to find some answers myself too in the process. Additional to that I can say Business Sutra  reignited my interest for it providing a different perspective and a deep insight into Mahabharat. I enjoy the Business Sutra very much started on CNBCTV18 in which Devdutt Pattanaik  talks about mythology. I can honestly say that it is a delightful experience listening to him. I have rarely seen someone describe and enlighten people about Indian manuscripts and old age text like he does and use it in terms of management.

In the coming posts I would talk and think about certain characters which made me think and question. For a list they would be as follows:

  • Bhishma
  • Karna
  • Arjun
  • Yudhishtar
  • Bhim
  • Krishna
  • Duryodhan
  • Shakuni
  • kunti
  • shantanu
  • Ganga
  • Nakul and sehdev
  • Draupadi
  • Durshashan
  • Balram
  • Ghatotkach
  • Barbarika or Khatushyamji
  • Abhimanyu
  • Dhitrashtra
  • Gandhari
  • Pandu
  • Satyawati
  • Dronacharya
  • Sanjay
  • Vidura

Now one would try to start it generation by generation but would dare say that it would not always be that restrictive……. It may vary as per my admiration for the character (and mood)  so bear with me who ever will read it,apologies before hand if it puts you off. It will be more in terms my understanding of these characters…

The argumentative Indian

For starters let me be honest that it took me 8 months to complete this book, partly because of other engagements and partly that I found some portions boring as I would narrate. Dr Sen certainly has done a good job in trying to make west understand about India but unfortunately from an Indian perspective his observations were more focused on the eastern India from Bihar to Jharkhand and mostly his beloved Bengal where he traces his ancestry from.Though I would like to add that he did give accounts of medieval and ancient India in complete fairness. It was the modern history that he talked about and specifically about Tagore that made me think on those lines.

The book has been very meticulously divide into four parts,  I can say with conviction that I consider all the parts thoroughly engaging barring some chapters which I found not interesting(  a fact that I could not relate to them in any way).

His books as 4 parts , namely

  1. Voice and heterodoxy
  2. Culture and Communication
  3. Politics and Protest
  4. Reason And Identity

For starters the first chapter is the most engaging of all, providing a detailed insight of the way India society works in terms of the opinions of people on religion and science. The chapter of the argumentative Indian he talks about  “good amount of debates” that use to take place in the Indian society at large in past, such as the debates within various religions . Akbar‘s tolerance and the secular nature of India formed. His approach is again more in making the world understand that how debates and arguments have been institutionalized in the history of India and that it is this behavior which led to the formation of a democratic India. Even though many in west claimed otherwise that it was because of “western” ideas and colonialism.

He is also particularly harsh on the NDA government , a fact that the book was written when NDA was in power. The book also address the angle where Hindu militants(Hindu aggression and parties with those ideology) has been talked by Dr Sen and how BJP cannot win more than the seats that it won at the time(184  precisely). His analysis of BJP and its ideology was  to offer an insight into an organizational structure which has worked secretly (pretty much till its RSS link came out in the open). Though he gives them credit for the meteoric rise. I found all this information very fascinating and none the less somewhat like a lecture from grandfather type figure telling as though “how the world runs”.

In the chapter of Diaspora of the world he very rightly touches the topic which has concerned me for very long time, the Identity debate.

The second section of the book it is the most boring which I found (which caused the delay in finishing). He talks at length about Rabindranath Tagore, it may be his fondness of the man or that he studied in the school which was laid by Tagore but the talk about Tagore made me lose interest. If I may add in some points I was furious about why he was talking about him so much, whereas overshadowing other people at that time in modern India. Later I did calm my self by realizing that the man was basically giving respects to the culture he was coming from ( a fact which my friends might acknowledge when I speak so more often about Jats, his action kind of gave validation to my attempts as to speak about your own too) .

The chapter that stood out here however was that of “our culture and their culture” in which much to my dissatisfaction he talks how Satyajit Ray tries to portray his understanding(again proving that it is not wrong to talk about your people, as Ray is a Bengali). The best of the lines for me in this part were on page 133 last paragraph, on word “modernism” which I for all means consider a raped word. I thoughtfully enjoyed his questioning as it was again something which has made me think a lot and made somewhat uncomfortable. It was reassuring that a Nobel laureate also thought this way.

Here he also mentioned about three ways west usually looks at India

  1. exoticist
  2. magisterial
  3. curatorial

Exoticist approach where everything is fascinating about India. The magisterial approach where the British governors tore apart Indian culture and intelligence by calling it barbaric and archaic(which many of their Indian admirers retransmit). The curatorial approach, the most balanced of all.

In the context of China and India he talks at length about how china and India have interacted since ancient time.(Nalanda university time). He talked about the fear of Chinese people when Buddhism came to their footsteps and about what both “nations” have learned from each other.

The third part was the quickest for me as most were related to the recent events and the fact that I read it in my Delhi to gurgaon metro journeys(where I don’t have much apart from either getting bored to death or sleeping or  finishing my pending books in the bookshelf). The chapters involves the freedom to the class distinction in India. It varies from the gender issues to the nuclear bomb thing, which he consider another BJP brouhaha as it was already done in 1974 by Indira Gandhi government secretly.On the gender issue he takes the usual line of women as victims and all the stuff that you read and watch on TV set.( it seemed to me that most of the media people must have read his book)

The fourth part Reasons and Identity he talks from various calendars to the topic of enlightenment.The importance of “new human psychology” as propagated by Jonathan Glover met with cynicism by him( I hope the pseudo-intellectuals are listening). He at one point brings rightly into the different ways in which west and east approach the same issue. He also rebuts the claim that most westerns feel that Asian societies lack liberty or tolerance(which baffles me too). It would be interesting to see that how many of the “western intellectuals” who shape the opinions of the mass public actually know about people like Akbar and Asoka who championed both of the causes. His well constructed argument in understanding the various calendars and pointing towards Gregorian calendar. ( the only way world running). Giving credibility to the fact that power does influence cultures , as he points out about various time median have had such influence. Greenwich time median is another example. It was made official at the time when Britain was a force to reckon with, I doubt now US would agree to such things if it unfolds.(hope western ideology worshipers in India are listening).

All in all I found couple of points in Dr Sen’s book to be used very much often Tagore, BJP and reasoning. The first one got to my nerve, though I must say that he quotes that many Bengali’s are baffled that Indian people not appreciate Tagore  for his intelligentsia. It is but true as most are interested in singing their region’s choirs plus Tagore was never that a universal leader as Gandhi who came from Gujarat(a state on the west of India). Similarly many of the rest of the Indian are baffled that Bengalis do-not appreciate other parts of the country that much and neither their leaders. It was a through grandfather speech affair, which I could say had moments of amazement to disliking to great knowledge. It is a book must read for those who wish to brush their history skill(something which I fancy a lot).

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