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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One Rotten Apple and Other Stories by Vandana Kumari Jena, author of Dance of Death and The Incubation Chamber, is an anthology of twenty-six stories which adroitly weaves a tapestry of life’s reality by shedding light on a gamut of human emotions, the psychological upheavals of the characters and some seriously menacing social scourges.
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.
What is a city, but the people; true the people are the city
Cities can be huge or small, bustling or tranquil, charming or squalid, but the only question worth asking is: is it yours ?
Madras on my Mind, a collection of twenty odd short stories that takes us through tree-lined streets and mounds of garbage of Madras/Chennai as we wander through the patchwork of communities that piece the city together.
Two novels, one short story collection. Different themes. With one joining thread, West Bengal, the State which is the setting for all three works. While Amit Dasgupta’s The House and Other Stories and Arnab Nandy’s On the Road to Tarascon are set in Kolkata, a familiar locale in many stories and novels, Indra Bahadur Rai’s novel, (translated by Manjushree Thapa) There’s a Carnival Today, considered a classic of Nepali literature, is set in Darjeeling, with its mystical mountains and tea gardens.
Here was a pinkish-red staircase, and a small piece of sky and the white fairies of delirium and the handsome prince who would visit me and tease me.
I have peeled away the skin of my life and served it up to you. Some may say this fruit is inedible but that doesn’t matter …
I Want To Destroy Myself (Mala Uddhvasta Vhaychay) by Malika Amar Shaikh, now translated into English by Jerry Pinto, shows her growing up as the pale but intellectually rigorous second daughter of Amar Shaikh, the Communist Party worker, and, then as the wife of Namdeo Dhasal, the Dalit poet.
EV Ramakrishnan’s collection of essays Indigenous Imaginaries: Literature, Region, Modernity has several entry points. In continuation of his earlier work Locating Indian Literature: Texts, Traditions, Translations, he is revisiting questions of tradition, transformation and modernity by taking a deeper look into the different cultural contexts embedded in the notion of ‘region’ or ‘kshetra’ and their shaping of the literary field in India.