Which is the best place to look for systematically organized, comprehensive research material on the persisting ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka? India? No; Sri Lanka? No. It is, surprisingly, Oslo, which has no more than a tiny Tamil population of 8000. This is because of an important data base project undertaken by the Inter¬national Peace Research Institute of Oslo under the competent and committed gui¬dance of Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, a well known Sri Lankan socially active scholar.
Anyone who has had the joy of reading the first two volumes in this series is bound to be impatient to go through the other two, now available, which cover a crucial five-year period from June 1952 to November 1957. Those who have, for whatever reasons, not read these once-secret letters, written at least once a fort¬night, would never know what a pleasure they have deprived themselves of.
This is a deeply absorbing book, but not perhaps as intended. The corres¬pondence is between two persons both of whom evoke much interest in this country. Attention is sought to be focused on Indira Gandhi, to show the influences which moulded her in her youth and how by the age of 22 she is said to have come into her own. But there is nothing in these letters to hint even faintly at the splitter of Pakistan and the imposer of the Emergency.
Super Brat and Other Stories is a delight¬ful collection of stories reminiscent of R.K. Narayan and Swami.
The reader enters the warm and familiar world of the South Indian home, awash with the wafting smells of sambar, the gentle sounds of the Veena, the incense of the pooja room and the com¬forting presence of Amma. It is a safe and secure world, from where it is easy to cope with the problems of school, sibling insecurities and the world turning modern just outside the door.
The author was in the MP cadre of the IAS and had a distinguished career both in the central and State governments. This is not an autobiography; it is a well written account of his interesting experiences. In this sense, the author is a chip off the old block. His father BN Lahiri was the first Indian IG of UP police.
The author did not keep any notes and hardly any documents but his recounting of even fifty year-old events has a freshness and immediacy, and the old events are perceptively linked to present-day concerns. Lahiri mentions Noronha, a legendary Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh and his excellent book, A Tale Told By An Idiot. Noronha comments that a civil servant often has to deal with ‘Tremendous Trifles’. This is perhaps more applicable to field postings.
In a college in Delhi that doubles as a university, a temporary lecturer sues the English department for not selecting her for the regular post throwing the staff room in turmoil. As the drama unfolds, several characters march onto the stage each involved in their own struggle to define their selves as individuals trying hard to break free of the social confines of religion and gender. Not an easy task even today but back then in the last decades of the twentieth century these quests were even harder.
In early twentieth century Bombay Zahan Merchant is born to a couple living in the city’s Parsi colony. His is a regular birth and nothing out of the ordinary happens until he reaches age seven or so. Things start to turn with the incident of the missing blue box of Aunt Feroza, a member of the Merchant household. Zahan makes a wooden box appear as the blue coloured, missing one. Except for his elder brother Sorab, the family is relieved and happy. Though somewhat wiser than Zahan, Sorab is unable to understand how Zahan could bring the box, broken by none other than Sorab himself, back to life; or, make it appear to be the real one.
There are any number of literatures in the world that should be better known. The problems, as always, are of translation and publication. Literature in India suffers particularly from these issues, that is why so many writers have chosen to write in English. In English your audience is immediately vast and so makes up a worldwide market. But if you choose to write in Tulu, Meitei, Konkani, or Santali, the situation is certainly otherwise. So what can we say about literature from India written in Portuguese? Portuguese speakers in India have dwindled to the vanishing point.
MP Joseph vehemently insists at the outset that this book is a work of fiction and that the narrator—who coincidentally shares his name—too is a fictional character. It is perplexing why he has gone to such pains given that the narrator shares a biodata uncannily similar to his own: from a childhood in Kerala to working as a banker and then an Indian civil servant before joining the United Nations bureaucracy and serving a tenure in Cambodia. Doubtless this prestidigitation allows for greater freedom in describing people and situations, and provides a window of deniability while concocting this rollicking narrative.
Missing is set in a disturbing milieu: India’s North East in 2012. Critical reports from an English newspaper from July 24, 2012 to July 30, 2012 form an integral part of the novel—not to speak of the general derision with which news, per se, is viewed. Although much of the action happens in the relatively calm city of Siliguri, the characters are all profoundly influenced either directly or indirectly by the unrest in nearby Assam, in particular by the clashes between the Bodos, and the refugees from nearby States (including from Nepal and Bangladesh). If the news reports are to be believed, at the relevant time 48 deaths were reported apart from about 400,000 persons housed in 270 relief camps.
Rahi Masoom Raza (1927-1992) came from a well-established and well-educated middle class family of Muslims in Ghazipur, a district in Eastern UP. His village, or at least the literate people in it, were Marxist sympathizers or active Communists. Masoom Raza’s elder brother, Moonis Raza (1925-1994) gained national reputation as a Leftist intellectual and card carrying Communist. Still later, he won fame as Jawaharlal Nehru University’s founding Chairman and Rector. He also had a distinguished tenure as Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University.
Istart with a confession—I am half Maharashtrian, speak Marathi fluently, understand the ethos of that culture thoroughly, and yet I have only a nodding acquaintance with Marathi literature, having come to it very late in life. Therefore, I had not read Smritichitre before this and was delighted to be asked to review it. However, when I mentioned to my Maharashtrian side of the family that I was just not able to get into the book even after reading about a hundred pages, there was outrage, indignation and curt dismissal—’What will you English speaking types understand!’