The Defeat or Distant Drumbeats
One story leads to another. Ominous dark clouds gather in the sky as a prelude to disaster. The twilight hour disappears from the life of simple folk. From one story to another to many. They run parallel, clash and finally merge into each other. Do they really? Why should the ghosts then peer into god-fearing homes, fireballs roll over the moor and the one-legged one unleash terror from the haunted palace? But the veil of gloom, like the spring festival before it, is not permanent.
Between stories space dissolves, time loses its meaning, borders fade away. One story contradicts the other and complements too. A child is born at the hour of self-immolations and breathes in the smell of blood and anger. One stream of politics, a way of life, comes to an end, a new campaign begins.
All this about a defeat? Maybe, maybe… but then… the drumbeats boom dismantling the tyranny of night, overcoming the accidents of ordinary life.
An Escape into Silence
Despite the brisk breeze from the south and loud Hindi film songs on the radio, a gust of cold wind blows from the lost rivers of the land in an uneasy reminder of a sneaky winter. Marxist street- fighter Bachchu Sen returns to Barasat. Things begin to happen.
Unable to make sense of his situation, a sensitive young writer drifts dangerously into two conflicting worlds. What follows is a confrontation between a traditional tolerant society and ruthless politics of indoctrination, a secluded past and searing present.
In a significant way the story follows the love-loss-reconciliation trajectory of the old tales. That girl after all comes back to the young protagonist one wet, wispy winter afternoon. But where it daringly breaks free of conventions is in its attempt at building a parallel between the terrible happenings in the outside world and the troubled, tortured state of an adolescent mind.
India: A National Culture?
The last two decades of the 20th century have witnessed a spectacular return of national consciousness. In this exciting and unique collection of essays, eminent academics, art historians, photographers and dancers focus on one essential ingredient of the making of Indian nationalism – i.e. the ingredient of culture, and one that has resurfaced in everyday experience. Their essays contribute incisive analytical comment on, and very different readings of, the fabric that constitutes ‘culture’.
From the early stirrings of national fervour in the second half of the 19th century, through the secularism of the Nehruvian era in the 1950s, to the all-pervasive and persuasive refashioning of culture to political purpose, the contributors demonstrate convincingly that culture is not a static entity. Rather, it can be refashioned, reinvented or co-opted to suit political purpose.
It is time, they argue, to once again reinvent an Indian culture that is intangible, that gets under the skin to resist the vicissitudes of political agendas.
31 October 1989
Mahendra Singh Tikait, Syed Shahabuddin, Kanshi Ram, representS powerful electoral triumvirate Kanshi Ram Leader, Bahujan Samaj Party with the genral elections round the corner, their shadows are looming large on the political horizon. Like vandals capable of wrecking the fortunes of the major contenders, a strange triumvirate – Kanshi Ram, Mahendra Singh Tikait and Syed Shahabuddin – has staked its claim to the electoral sweepstakes.
The trio have little in common except for the ability to cut into the votes of both the Congress(I) and the Janata Dal and upset the applecart of the principal bidders for power in the forthcoming elections. Though obscure figures a few years ago, the three are now weighing heavily on the psyche of leaders of the major parties.
The Indian Express
19 June 1994
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Statesman in waiting
Even though he has grown up in the Sangh, the impress of Nehruvian liberalism on him is only too pronounced
The day after he made the controversial remark in the Lok Sabha bailing out Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao from a difficult situation, Atal Behari Vajpayee shared the platform with the extreme-right phalanx of the Hindutva proponents at a book-release function. In the same row were sitting RSS Sarsanghachalak Rajendra Singh, BJP president LK Advani and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi.
As the audience for the launch of BJP MP Vijay Kumar Malhotra’s book Lotus was mainly drawn from the Sangh Parivar, the tension was palpable. An invisible line seemed to separate Vajpayee from the others. However, the moment he took the mike the mood changed.
The Times of India
20 February 2011
Lord of the rings: Why aam aadmi is sitting pretty
Nasir belongs to a village in Bihar but has moved some distance from his physical and mental origins — he works in an office canteen and recently, had to contact a mobile phone helpline. He says he was gobsmacked when a polite female voice answered the phone and all his queries. “I never thought they would bother to talk to me,” says Nasir.
Clearly, the canteen boy had underestimated his importance as a mobile phone subscriber. Across India, there are many like him and they are part of a radical change in mindset, expectations, worldview and aspiration. But the revolution underway is not the result of a political doctrine — it is the product of new technology.
India International Centre Quarterly
Vol. 29, No. 3/4, India: A National Culture? (WINTER 2002-SPRING 2003), pp. 252-258 (7 pages)
Cricket’s Social Subtext
One inspiring image in the backdrop of insensate communal violence in Gujarat that stayed with the television viewers in 2002 was India’s main strike bowler Zaheer Khan’s bristling burst of pace targeting an opposition batsman. Young Zaheer, who has already established himself as the team’s most dependable speedster by virtue of his sheer pace and penetration, happens to be from Baroda, an important city and cultural landmark of the afflicted state.
At a time when the gloomy landscape of strife made even the most incurable optimist wonder about the future of Indian pluralism, the beaming face of the new cricket star after hunting down yet another victim in the willow war, comes across as a reassuring symbol of hope. The red ball in hand, the left-arm bowler striding down the run-up in an upfront movement acquired an iconic dimension.
TEL 15: Liminality of Faith
When the Venetian merchant Marco Polo travelled across what is now the Middle East on his way to India and China in the late 13th century, it was an exciting place, a melting pot of ideas, influences and an amazing space where faiths intermingled. The intrepid traveller with an eye for the unusual, came across Jews, Christians, Muslims, Persians, Turks, Mongols, Buddhists and others. Though the Crusade had already been fought, cultures were still feeling each other out and imbibing each other’s influences and assimilating. The degree of sharing and coexistence was indeed remarkable. According to Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, another traveller of that time, the city of Baghdad, the capital of the Muslim Abbasid Caliphate, had 28 synagogues. Jews in Azerbaijan lived in complete harmony with Turks and others. In his Travels, Polo wrote about Nestorian Christians, Muslims and „idolaters‟ living peacefully together.
Bhaskar Roy as Publisher
Bhaskar Roy is one of the finest editors around. A manuscript, often a little raw and clumsy, is edited to its fullest possibility by him. With his keen literary sense and thorough knowledge of contemporary history he often brings out an interesting part that the author unknowingly underplayed. Truly, a book is reborn in his hands.
A development professional attempting his first book, I submitted my manuscript to Bhaskar Roy. When it came back edited, I was amazed. It was very much my own writing, not a single fact altered, the soul remaining intact but it read very different. It had a smooth flow I had not anticipated. In his own quiet way Roy did wonders. He is more than an editor. Beginners like me had a lot to learn from him. Such an editor is difficult to come across.
For a new writer it’s very reassuring to have someone like Bhaskar Roy as your editor. Indeed, I learned a lot about writing from him.