A Rare Edifice

We have good novels and great ones. We have poetry that is good and poetry that is great. Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate is a masterpiece both as fiction and as verse, This simultaneous triumph will not come as a surprise to those who have read Seth’s engaging travelogue which appeared in 1983. From Heaven Lake marked the com-mencement of a creative journey, a journey of immense promise. The Golden Gate marks the realization of that promise. To say that with his latest work Vikram Seth has ‘arrived’ would be to employ a cliche unpardonable in a review of something that is altogether unprecedented.

A Rich Mosaic

Krishna Chaitanya’s extenuation for adding yet another to the two thousand odd editions of the Gita in seventy five languages that he has himself counted is indicated in the title of the book itself. His is the Gita for the modern man. It is of some importance to note that the visualized reader is modern not in the condescending sense of someone who has little or no Sanskrit, which, alas, is only too true of most potential readers of this book—and to whom the arcane ideas of an ancient scripture have to be explain¬ed. On the contrary, Chaitanya sees his reader not as a handicapped one but as one infinitely better placed than readers of earlier generations to respond to the profound resonances of the Gita as the vision of a great poet.

Against Revivalism

After centuries of hostility between Christendom and the Islamic world, a most heartening phenomenon has appear¬ed in the field of scholarship—the Christian missionary writing on Islam, not with a view to denigrate, but, to convey his understanding of the faith borne out of study and empathy. Wilfred Cantwell Smith is one such scholar, another is the Rev: Christian W. Troll, Professor of Islamics and Christian-Muslim Relations at Vidyajyoti Institute of Religious Studies in Delhi. He is also a regular Visiting Professor at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth in Pune.

An Ace Speaks

In the ‘Summing Up’ chapter of his memoirs, Air Chief Marshal Lai perti¬nently remarks: ‘There are certain psy¬chological factors to consider … in a pilot’s job. An airman fights alone, the soldier and sailor alongside many others’. It is this circumstance that largely shapes the ethos, values and outlook of the combat cadres of the Air Force. In battle the Army or the Naval commander can at all levels lead or direct his force as an entity, maintaining objectivity despite piecemeal crises; but once a pilot takes wing to meet the enemy, he becomes basi¬cally a loner—whatever his rank—meeting his foe in one-to-one combat like the old knights-of-chivalry. His view of battle is subjective; however technologi¬cal and mass-modernized his environment when at base, the very nature of the element he operates indicates that when he fights, he fights on his own.

Debunking A Myth

The historiography of British bureau¬cracy in India, more particularly of the Indian Civil Service, has been over-saturated by an aura of romantic mythology. This slender volume is a refreshing contrast making fun of the traditional make believe. It is admittedly a personal recollection of ‘anecdotes and descriptions’ of the author’s ‘experience as a Government officer in India during the decade before World War II to review the process by which in the space of few years’ he developed ‘from an ultra naive public school boy with a veneer of Oxbridge sophistication, classical scholar¬ship and a mind full of conventional prejudices into a starry-eyed activist in the Indian Independence movement and in particular, its communist led trade union and peasant committees’.

Ciphers Of Existence

Books on Indian jewellery are plentiful but this is among the first few devoted to rings. The book does not claim to be exhaustive in discussing the various categories of rings but does make the reader aware of the symbolic function of rings in certain cases other than those which are merely decorative. The illus¬trations are mainly of those which are available and this information could per¬haps have been extended by including some that have been found in excava¬tions, although admittedly the number and designs of these are extremely limited.

Age Cannot Wither

Jawaharlal Nehru was throughout his life, a teacher and an educator to others as well as to himself. From jail he wrote the letters to his daughter giving to Indira and the younger generation in India glimpses of world history. In the Indian National Congress he was the preacher of new
of socialism, secularism and internationalism. In Parliament he often functioned as a school master to the nation. Even on world platforms, while pursuing the foreign policy of India, he was also preaching the gospel of peaceful co¬existence and international co-operation.

RHETORIC AND REALITY

The two books under review discuss, albeit differently, the age-old issues relating to equality and inequality. While the first discusses the problem in a general vein, the second deals specifically with the pro¬blems of Scheduled Castes in India.
The volume edited by Andre Beteille contains six articles by contributors belonging to different disciplines: econo¬mics, law, political science and sociology. Notwithstand¬ing this difference in orienta¬tion there is substantial over¬lapping in their arguments for and against equality.