This book is based on the karkhanajat papers comprising roznama or roznamcha (daily ledgers), arhsatta (provide details on income and expenditure), siyah (lists details on the raw material in a karkhana), taujih jama kharch (gives details on raw material, the process of manufacturing and finished items, remarks on the wages and the operational techniques of the craftsmen) and rare documents available in the Town Hall Museum at Jaipur and the Rajasthan State Archives, Bikaner.
Amidst the resurgence of regional and local forces, the poets, performers, merchants and scribes found new and diverse sources of patronage, and as they travelled around in search of patrons and opportunities, they came in touch with, and interacted with new ideas and worldviews, creating in the process a hybrid and multilingual space.
In 2002, when I took up a posting in London with the Indian High Commission, Ziauddin Sardar, already established as one of Britain’s leading public intellectuals, was one of the most interesting voices in the argument that overshadowed all others, on whether the West, led by the US with the UK in tow, should invade Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Peter Pannke, the author, a German from Cologne, stumbled across an L.P. re cording of dhrupad maestros Nasiruddin and Aminuddin Dagar made by the legendary Alain Danielou in the 1960s for UNESCO. Something about the music struck a chord, he was reminded of free-flowing blues and jazz vocalists.
n the Preface to his book, A Gathering of Friends, Ruskin Bond mentions his critics, the ones who have sometimes felt that his stories are less stories, more character sketches, for want of a plot. In his inimitable style, with gentle humour, he points out, that life doesn’t come with a plot. One can imagine him, glint in his eyes from the witticism, continuing tell the everyday tales of life, from the observable and plausible, to the fantastical. Bond has been an intrepid chronicler of life in the slow lane.
Land and its acquisition being a hot topic in the media today, this book comes as another reminder of the rights of those who originally owned the lands. As the author says, ‘For thousands of years the black people thrived in the jungles, walking barefoot, wearing a loincloth and eating fruits and leaves.
Ethnography can be defined as the systematic study of people and cultures—an exploration of cultural phenomena from the point of view of the subject of the study. By this definition, a large amount of literature that we read is indeed ethnographic and diverse, even though it may only be a documentation instead of a faithful and authentic representation.
The book appears at first glance to be undecided about its genre or raison d’être: is it a novel or an essay? Does it wish to tell a story or discuss/debate women’s issues? Being an award-winning book notwithstanding, this disconnect stays with the reader throughout the book.