The dominant scholarship on India’s North East is focused on the study of militancy and violence in the region. The concern of scholars, by and large, has been to understand and explain the conditions, circumstances and background driving the agendas of local identity movements, their grievances leading to radicalization in the public sphere, and the politics of militancy and their outcomes (Baruah 2005; Misra 2000; Hazarika 1994; Nag 1990).
Christopher Bayly’s new book, Recover ring Liberties: Indian Thought in in the Age of Liberalism and Empire, traces the history of political thought in India with a specific focus on liberalism. Bayly attempts to trace the lineages of liberal political language in the Indian subcontinent from the beginning of the nineteenth century with Rammohan Roy to the middle of the twentieth.
On the cover of this elegantly written reportage-cum-travelogue is a shabbily dressed teenage girl holding a toddler. In the background we see the thatched houses and many tell-tale signs of extreme poverty. From the cover photograph itself you have a fair idea what this book is all about. At the top of the cover it reads Beautiful Country:
‘Everything becomes a story one day.’ So begins the PS section of this Bangladeshi contemporary classic. Its writer, Mahmudul Haque, is credited with fashioning a new idiom and a distinctly modern sensibility in the post-1947 writing coming out from what was once East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh.
As summer looms upon us, a Gujarati friend living in Calcutta becomes more and more disgruntled. Her plaint is the lack of kesri ker no ras (aam ras or mango pulp) in her city. Upon a suggestion that she purchase mangoes and make it at home, came a most painful shriek: you don’t understand! In Gujarat right now, everyone is talking mango, buying mango, selling mango, cooking mango.
Even as Delhi has been celebrating the centenary of its restoration as capital of India, a proud fragment of its built heritage and history, it is fitting that we re-member the doyen of Delhi’s lived cultural heritage, Amir Khusrau (1238-1325), the most loved acolyte of the great sufi divine, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who, like his master, lies buried in Nizamuddin.
Poet and essayist W.H. Auden once remarked that every autobiography is concerned with two characters, ‘a Don Quixote, the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self’. Vinod Mehta’s literary self-portrait Lucknow Boy fits the description quite well. Only that in this memoir the two characters never appear together, at least not on the same page.
This book highlights a conceptual and political impasse that is at the heart of the most recent postcolonial scholar-ship on India.On the one hand, much effort is expended at exposing the contradictions and limits of British colonial rule (scholars tend to mostly ignore the Portuguese colonial presence!) and its reliance on orientalist epistemologies of rule.
In 2004, I went around the research institution where I work in search of a discussant for a paper on the historical shaping of public consent for family planning in 20th century Kerala. This was interdisciplinary work which reexamined some of the received wisdom of demography pertaining to Kerala from a critical historical perspective.