Coming Of Age

For years we have been told that Indian English Poetry has come of age, and paradoxically so in independent India. But I am yet to see an anthology which does justice to this statement. The only kind of anthology that can possibly do so is one which is a collection of the best poems written by Indians in English since 1947. Or better still, it should contain the best Indian English poems ever written.

Changing Perceptions

The compilation is an interesting po-pourai which deals with the role of the Judiciary in the resolution of ethnic conflicts which arise in plural societies. Three Asian and two African societies feature in the volume, namely, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Tanzania and Mazambique. One of the facet in focus broadly speak¬ing has been the determination of the legitimate limits of judicial intervention in the fields of preference and reservation policies in education and employment.

Freedom In Peril

The emergency of 1975 evokes horror even today. Mercifully, it was short-lived. But even that short period saw enough violations of human rights to fill volumes. There are countries living in a permanent state of emergency: Paraguay, Cameroon, Haiti and South Africa, for instance. The protection of human rights in emer¬gencies is therefore a major concern of contemporary international law.

Vibrant Portraits

The reprinting of Mary Frances Billing-ton’s book is a welcome addition to the literature of foreign travellers comment¬ing on India. First published in 1895, Woman in India is a well-organized pastiche of women’s lives in the last few years of the 19th century. Her work is particularly interesting as it deals with a section of Indian society which was not readily accessible to most foreigners.

Where Are The People?

As a historian, I appreciate the author’s interest in the history of Indian urbanism (I have misgivings about the use of the term ‘urbanization’ which surely cannot be used for the centuries before the 20th) and could wish that more historians would share this interest. India’s long and glorious history is a cliche beloved of textbook writers and politicians. But how limited is the content of textbooks. The history of art forms, of cultural regions, even economic history (as distinct from the history of economic policies) is some¬what limited.

Contemporary Record

This reviewer, who has enjoyed the friend¬ship of Colin Legum for the past two decades, can without any fear of contradic¬tion describe him as perhaps the most know¬ledgeable commentator on matters concern¬ing the vast continent of Africa. Having met him several times in India, Africa, London and New York and having participated with him in a couple of international seminars on Africa, it would be fair to call him a leading Africanist. Essentially a journalist, he is highly respected even by academics from Africa, the United States and Britain.

Mechanics Of Change

This book gives in brief the planning events of the last 35 years in India. Yet, as the author himself has pointed out, ‘whatever progress achieved has been largely neutralised by sharp rise in popu¬lation’, which has made the so-called ‘self-sufficiency’ in foodgrains a mirage for the very poor. He points out that the development of agriculture has not been as intensive as needed with yields per acre still very poor while at the same time terms of trade have consistently moved against agriculture.

Macro-Perspectives

There is a persistent campaign in the corridors of the capital that voluntary social groups working in rural areas are ‘destabilizing’ India.

Anil Bhatt provides proof that indeed they are destabilizing India—but the India they are destabilizing is India of the capitalwallahs. Bhatt reports:
For the very poor any increase in production, though not enough to pull them out of subsistence, has been sufficient to give them enough food, a little better clothing and some addi¬tional necessities of life.

Homage to Haksar

For all its traditions of revering its sages and savants, this country is sadly deficient in the gift of honouring those who do it distinguished service. This has, let it be said right away, nothing to do with rewards. The truly great servants of a nation do not give a damn about re¬wards for services rendered. But surely there is such a thing as recognition. And, it, alas, is in short supply in India today.

Mundane Made Dramatic

She danced to the demon’s death
And cried: play the drum, sound the gong
Dancing, she lost her own breath
And died: some dances tap to the song
Only for a moment, and go wrong.

That’s the denouement of one of the characters of Mridula Garg’s new novel—she dances and dies. Ratnabai begins as a minor character, a household help in an upmarket middle class neighbourhood in New Delhi, in the novel Vasu ka Kutum, and ends up with one of the most powerful scenes in the novel—performing the dance of death, more vigorous than Nataraj himself, as the author puts it.