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It is widely believed that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is dissatisfied with the functioning of the Ministry of External Affairs. It is also well known that many members of the Indian Foreign Service are discontented and dispirited these days, and have been so for some years. Why?

Notwithstanding India’s recently comple¬ted chairmanship of the Nonaligned Movement and the amply demonstrated charm of the Prime Minister, India’s voice cannot be considered objectively to be one of influence in world politics today.

In Search Of Identity

The two books under review tackle similar questions but reach their answers through somewhat different routes. Kumari Jayawardena examines the role played by women in the anti-colonial struggles in several third world countries and the changes in the perceptions of women that emerged as a consequence, Liddle and Joshi study the position of urban, professional women in India today and attempt to , assess their status through the parameters of gender, caste and class. Both books address them¬selves to the vexed question of whether or not feminism is a western phenomenon transplanted to India or an; indigenously generated movement. Both books decide in favour of the latter, but again through different routes and for different reasons.

Dynamics of Change

Sitakant Mahapatra, the author of this work on Santal society, is a member of the Indian Administrative Service and at present Commissioner, Department of Tribal Development, of the Government of Orissa. As a former .Deputy Commis¬sioner of the predominantly tribal district of Mayurbhanj, bordering West Bengal, he had become interested in the tribal peoples of the area—the Mundas, the Hos, and especially the Santals—and learnt the Santali language. Subsequently a Homi Bhabha Fellowship enabled him to undertake fieldwork in three selected Santal villages in the northern part of Mayurbhanj district, and to supplement this with library research in the India Office Library, London. The book is based on a doctoral dissertation presented to the Utkal University.

A Multi-focal Approach

In his introduction, Orlando Fals Borda makes clear the position of the contribu¬tors to the volume: it is to understand human development in terms of social dynamics. Social change is not something which can be understood only through the social structure, with its relatively predictable ways of operating. Human beings, their aspirations, frustrations and capacity to mobilize are essential factors in the entire process of change. In fact, as the authors suggest, participation in the decision-making process is of vital importance. Social science can no longer afford to remain aloof and objective: it has to take sides, and the side it should take is of the proverbial underdog.

Narrative Transformations

This collection of essays is a result of a series of conferences held on folklore in Indian society. It may be regarded primarily as reflecting American scholarship on South Asia and therefore provides an opportunity to discuss both its dynamism and its limits.

Folklore as a discipline was long domi¬nated by a conceptual framework with emphasis on the recording of disappearing forms of narratives, riddles, performances and other ‘lore’ of the ‘folk’.

Continuity And Change

What has economics been concerned with? A question to which a reasonable answer should be available, one suspects, but it is almost startling to confront the diffe¬rences of opinion on how those concerns either relate to each other or to the history and times when they were in the focus of attention. In a sense the enquiry can be frustrating. Why should one worry with why Adam Smith worried with the wealth of nations? Historiogra¬phy must lend one some extra mileage somewhere in understanding and analys¬ing the present situation.

Children’s Book-fare

Part of the How it Works series, The Motor Car and The Telephone by Navakala and Subir Roy are both infor¬mative and well-illustrated. The books begin with the history of the automobile and the telephone and then move on to the working in detail (for the 10-12 age group). Each part of the working system is dealt with separately and profusely illustrated. Side by side, facts worth knowing are also given. Quoting Henry Ford about his brainchild, the Model-T, ‘You can have any colour you like as long as its black!’

Riding A Jaguar

The tentative approach that Rushdie makes towards Nicaragua is noteworthy. ‘Hope: A Prologue’ can be read as a series of justifications—the degree of the writer’s familiarity with the country is limited to a chance proximity of resi¬dence with Hope Somoza; his interest in the country boils down to a chance synchronicity of dates— the indepen¬dence day of Nicaragua and his son’s birthday; his point of view, he admits apologetically is one of an offspring of the third world—not quite that simplis-tic yet almost so.