Reminiscences of a Soldier Turned Writer

Old soldiers like Monty Palit do not fade away. They become prolific writers and lead active lives, both physically and mentally, after retirement. Several of Palit’s books like Essentials of Military Knowledge have sold well, and I believe that his War in High Himalaya: The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962 is probably the best book written about the Sino-Indian border conflict.

Writing a Good Life

Autobiography and memoir—are they the same? In the subtitle the book is an autobiography, in the author’s preface it is “a memoir”. If you go by the COD, an autobiography is the story writing of one’s own life. But a memoir is just a record of events or history written from personal knowledge or special sources of information. It is only memoirs that become synonymous with (auto) biography.

Redressing an Imbalance

This scholarly and imaginative study of the Upanishads makes a significant point: It argues that the Upanishadic texts have been traditionally viewed as consisting of two distinct and separable parts—“metaphysics” and “story”. This has resulted in “abstraction” and over-valuation of the metaphysical message and, more importantly, neglect and consequent “under-reading” of the stories.

It’s one of those unsettling questions endlessly asked: what makes immigrants stay on in their land of adoption (generally western) if they end up unhappy, can’t strike roots, feel alien, homesick or abused; if the culture shock is hard, if memories of the motherland wring the soul, if the sunshine and yellow mustard fields of Punjab that put a song in your heart are so swiftly removed by England’s grey skies and fickle rain? If, as writer Gurnam Gill says in his short story ‘Trees in Kew Gardens’: “We are all trees of Kew Gardens.

Dalit Writing in English Translation

Translating Caste is a significant addition to the literature of caste now available in English. The first English-language anthologies of dalit literature, such as Barbara Joshi’s Untouchable! Voices of dalit Literature (1986), Arjun Dangle’s Poisoned Bread (1992), and the Anthology of Dalit Literature by Mulk Raj Anand and Eleanor Zelliot (1992) have served very well as windows on Dalit writing, especially the radical literature of protest that appeared in Marathi and other languages from the 1960s.

Mr. Burton is not Impressed

Benjamin Disraeli could well have had Sir Richard Francis Burton in mind when he remarked in his novel Tancred that the East is a career. Following his expulsion from Oxford for unruly behaviour, the young Burton headed East under the auspices of the East India Company, to become at various points of time an explorer, diplomat, soldier, translator, poet, writer, linguist, Sufi mystic and a most remarkable Victorian.