Friday, July 21, 2006

One week too late

[Due to unavaoidable circumstances, this article predates the date assigned by a week.]

The following is not a book review, nor does it say that I completely read the book being mentioned below.

Last week, we had 4 quizzes on 4 successive days. One always feels a kind of void when, after a period of rigorous activity, there is a sudden period where nothing needs immediate attention, no deadline to keep. But the fact that in the previous week there was concentration on some goals, cutting down the other activities, creates a premium value in the mind for our time. So, I enquired among seniors what they would do in such times. Not getting an answer which seemed worthy of pursuing, I started browsing my mail.

One of them was sent by Purva in which she mentioned a book by Arundhati roy called ‘the algebra of infinite justice’ attaching the adjective beautiful to it. I remembered seeing it in one of the seniors’ rooms. So, I decide to collect some opinion from seniors. The fact that most of them had gone home for the weekend simplified matters. My second shot was a bull’s eye.

Me: (Appropriate dorm name), do you know who has this book called …..

Ravi S: Yes I do. I am reading it right now.

Me: How is it?

Ravi S: It is good actually. (The kind soul must have remembered my earlier enquiries) If you want, take it for the weekend.

Ravi then made it clear that any damage to the book would automatically mean that no less than 5 seniors would individually ensure that I had a painful death.

Coming back to my room, I stared at the contents. I settled for the last essay called War talk because it was of 9 pages. (Theoretically, it is impossible for me to have time to read 40 page essays, because IAM In IIMA)

Ok the first article, War talk “summer games with nuclear bombs”.

The reading did not start smoothly, p.297 second paragraph “As diplomats’ families and tourists… “Why haven’t you left the city?”…target?”

---Is it really true? Because for me, famous western journalist I n India = Mark Tully. I do not remember him leaving India.

The reading then went smoothly .She cleverly managed to bring the Narmada issue into this through the non-violence connect.

p.300 “…clear-felling forests, uprooting hand pumps…

Halt! Uprooting hand pumps? Did they really do that? There is a reference, so must be true, there is a link in the reference, type type type click... .headline was some article about amir khan! (Ah the Fanaa controversy) Next link, type type type click.

What in the name of !! It is true, cutting power to a place about to get submerged, I understand, what in the name of sanity are they doing going around blocking hand pumps. Madhya Pradesh showed a deficit in its budget this year. No wonder, Hello MP Govt. guys! leave the bloody hand pumps and worry about cutting your expenditure.

P 303 “…for music, art, literature and everything else that defines civilization.


  1. An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions.
  2. The type of culture and society developed by a particular nation or region or in a particular epoch: Mayan civilization; the civilization of ancient Rome.
  3. The act or process of civilizing or reaching a civilized state.
  4. Cultural or intellectual refinement; good taste.
  5. Modern society with its conveniences: returned to civilization after camping in the mountains.

I hope therefore that she was thinking of all the above additions in the ‘everything else’.

Finishing the essay and going over the thoughts in my mind recorded above, I started wondering, “Is my dislike of the above concepts due to any inherent prejudice against her? Was my opinion really as objective as I could get"

Next I read the title essay of 22 pages which was a breezy read (except where she mistakes Kosovo conflict as part of Muslim-non Muslim conflict p. 228 but that is ok) . This cleared up my mind. No prejudice against the author then.

Now I had a dilemma. There were two articles of 32 pages each: one called “the ladies have feelings, so…” and another titled “democracy” (I could not have theoretically read both because IAM In IIMA)

Inky Pinky Ponky… the longer title.

P.188 end of the continuing paragraph “…emaciated labourers digging a trench…optic fibre…digital revolution…few candles

Good use of words to bring out a contrast. Not as commonplace as my experience of seeing non emaciated workers putting OF cables in IITM .Sleeping in the mornings and working in the night. Their candles were actually burning pieces of cable.

I see a great preference for highlighting the rich-poor divide. Firstly, a fact; this is not some unique unpardonable aberration occurring in India as the opinion generated by the author. I invite the readers to type rich-poor divide in any search engine and none of the articles which show up are from India/by Indians. Secondly I do not believe, this increasing divide means an actual drop in the quality of life for the poor.

I agree that the increase rate for the lower strata in no way comparable to the one for the upper strata. But the lowest stratum has improved this position.

The poor of India are better of now than 50 years ago.

How? One clear example is the fact that we, Indians, do not have starvation deaths.

In spite of the increasing pressure on resources, In spite of majority of Indians being Poor. In spite of The Apathy of the Haves, The death rate is lower.

P.196~197: She gives a thesis on why she is considered a writer-activist “…because in my essays, I take sides…a writer…uncool, unsophisticated thing to do…but is it mandatory for a writer to be ambiguous …euphemisms for pusillanimity?

[Pusillanimity? Does it mean meek as a kitten? (Pussy and animal?) (Shorty! Christo! Purva! Sudarshan! Dictionary!!! Desperately want one of you)]

I have not read the novel of the author .I would not have read these essays if either of Purva or Ravi S had not read and liked it. But I will still call her a writer-activist .Why?

One fine day many years ago, I came across the news that some Indian had won some literary prize.

Some days later, saw the same person, with hair cut short, protesting with the narmada bachao andolan.

Some more days later, saw the same person getting into some controversy with the supreme court.

Hence,for me she is a writer turned activist writer-activist.

The post is becoming long (and theoretically I cannot put up long posts because…)

Some highlights:

P 199 last Para: “Is Corporatization... going to pull India….close the gap…give those…”

I do not know, but writing such articles which seem aided by thesaurus and barron’s word list certainly will not.

P 201: “…bananas with mosquito bites…”

What? Then I imagined that mosquito bite must be the name of a particular condition. Googled: bananas Mosquito bites. This is what turned up.

Arundhati roy seem to have a control over the words she types she uses references to strengthen her point .She also slips her opinion as fact in between.

I do not know what to conclude this post as.

Anyway because… I have to study.


David said...

what makes u say that the poor are better off now. How did you arrive at the statistics that number of starvation deaths are lower now? If google search for certain key words are best indicator of your assesment and judgement then try Googling "Starvation death +India".
Also this brings us to the question of what being poor means...Does arbitrary but narrow streams of investigation like death rate by starvation lead to the clear understanding of the situation. Yes, we should concede that they are indicators; but crude and approximate at best.
Regarding your assesment of Arundathi Roy, concessions must be made for the fact that she is a writer. As writers one does prefer the technique of contrasts to highlight one's points. Books published, for how ever the nobel the cause, have the final idea of making money. Dry and prosaic style would doubly ensure gathering of dust at bookshelves...
Finally ur dig at her usage of words from "word lists" is naive. Gently put, we all do this. Read your own article for examples...

Raghuram said...

There are still starvation deaths occuring in india but I dunno whether it has lessened or remained the same...

Sreejith Narayanan said...

put blog

Sreejith Narayanan said...

put blog

Octa said...

Totally zapped I am. Din't understand a word! :O