Professor Sar Desai’s Southeast Asia: Past and Present professes to be ‘a broad survey of trends and currents in the historical panorama of the region’. Southeast Asia, with its area spread over nine modern states, its diverse ethnicity as well as its several centuries’ old history, poses a formidable challenge for a historical study of this scope.
The booklet under review comprises the fifth R.C. Dutt Lectures delivered by Professor V.M. Dandekar in Calcutta at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences. Professor Dande¬kar is well known, among other things, for his study on poverty in India and can be said to be one of the foremost proponents of the ‘poverty’ approach to an understanding of Indian social reality, as against the class approach. The booklet seeks to provide a theoretical basis for this ap¬proach.
Dr Sharma’s book holds as its major thesis that three ‘distinguished theorists and practitioners of the art of fic¬tion,’ E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham and Joyce Cary, between the years 1927-1958, have given a direction to what he calls ‘the modern-novel theory.’ To put it in his own words, as these writers ‘are neither blindly traditional nor just too pro- or anti-modernity, they offer a rational, balanced poetics of the novel.’
The exit of Indira Gandhi’s faction from the Indian National Congress in Novem¬ber 1969 was not a common split; according to the author of this book, it was perhaps the ‘most momentous upheaval in the organization’ since the split between the Moderates and Extremists at its Surat session in 1907.
It is a sign of the maturity of the Indian people that in politics there is nothing sacred and public opinion is always willing and almost eager to take a second, third and any number of fresh looks at policies. It is also understand¬able to argue that the world situation has changed conside¬rably since 1962 and what happened then need not be taken as freezing relations between India and China.
Elisabeth Bandinter’s book (loosely translated as ‘The Myth of Motherhood’) raised a stormy controversy in France, has been denounced by psychologists, educationists and the clergy, and clearly deserves to be read. Unfor¬tunately, at present the book is available to us in India only in French, and it is to be hoped that the English trans-lation comes to this country soon.
It is evident to any observer of the Indian situation that democracy has not led to equa¬lity. So for any social scientist engaged in a study of one seg¬ment of society, this revelation should not come as a shock.
In a study of ‘untouchable politics’ and Indian social change, Barbara Joshi focusses on various aspects—social, economic and psychological—of existence among the schedul¬ed castes.
Most of us are guilty of having a somewhat idealized image of the relationship bet-ween people in the Indian States movement and those in the Indian National Congress (INC) in the critical years before Independence. The image has been created partly by Nehru’s Autobiography, by V.P. Menon’s and Lord Mountbatten’s works and out¬pourings and partly by the publications of bodies like the Janmabhoomi Trust whose founder, Amritlal Sheth, was a pillar of the States Peoples’ movement in Gujarat and Saurashtra.
Yujiro Hayami is a dist¬inguished agricultural econo¬mist whose pioneering work on the specificities of Asian agriculture and the paths of its trans-formation is known all over the world. Professor Hayami, along with Masao Kikuchi, has recently comp¬leted an authoritative book, Asian Village Economy at the Cross-Roads, which will be published by the University of Tokyo. The present book¬let forms a part of that larger work.
In a discussion of Indian feudalism, there are two approaches that are equally misleading and therefore equally to be shunned. One approach is that which argues that India developed in a unique, peculiar and exclusive way of its own; consequently, any concept coined to explain the historical evolution of western Europe can have no relevance for a study of Indian history.
In the early years of the 16th century, the Portuguese des¬cended on the Indian Ocean like wolves on the fold to scatter and destroy the littoral societies of Asia and Africa. To a man they belonged to a breed of hardened criminals. They had no scruples. They spared nobody. Thus, during his second voyage to India, Vasco da Gama intercepted and destroyed any vessel he came across without warning.
Irfan Habib is the closest we get to Marc Bloch among Indian historians. True, the focus is much narrower but there is the same magic with the documents, and a similar talent to piece together the material living of a people.
Alluding to the nervous petty-minded censorship exer¬cised by the military rulers of her country, Fahmida Riaz writes in a burst of revolu¬tionary opti-mism:
the rising sun
cannot be hidden
when the day
breaks the world will see
Ajneya is one of the biggest names in Hindi letters today. His impact, both on Hindi fiction and poetry, has been considerable, and is a part of a growing legend. Even the way Vatsyayan acquired his pen name ‘Ajneya’ (the un-knowable) has a story to it. A freedom fighter, he had to smuggle his early writings out of prison.
Indian readers could have been spared the solemn Fore¬word, intended presumably for an audience in Australia, where this English version was first published. It is quite out of tune with the irreverent and incisive style of the novel, its alternating moods of comedy and despair, its bawdiness and violence, its rejec¬tion of all pretension and solemnity.
For Mahashveta Devi, writ¬ing is a mission, a cause and a crusade. This is what we are told about the writer in the blurb of her latest novel to appear in a Hindi transla¬tion. After ‘1084 Ki Maori’, ‘Jangal Ka Davedar’ and ‘Agnigarbh’, Mahashveta Devi has attempted a novel about the Adivasis of Bihar.