Archive for the ‘non-fiction’ Category

Failing world

May 2, 2014

The last quarter, the US growth was flat reportedly. The Europe is in recession already. Reforms are on the hold. Bail outs of Banks is fashionable in Western democracies apart from the criticism of the low growth of China at 7%. Now the sanctions on Russia which will worsen the recession. Are people waiting for a war really, which they think might bail them out?
The world seems like failing. BBC conducted a programme the other day, where most of the Americans interviewed lamented that the USA is almost a lost case–mostly due to the current administration. Really? How can it fail under one President only? It has started to fail long back. Read ‘The Great Gatsby’. This book is more than a sad love story.
When you run out of ideas, you look the most poor. We had no writer of his class after him.


An unforgettable tale

December 26, 2013!

Decaying classics

August 24, 2013

The summer has been so humid that it took my breath away. I was found to be an asthmatic. Dusting through old books I put off often. It leaves me breathless. Putting on a mask, I tried it recently. To my surprise, many books were damp and were infected by a fungus. So Dust was not the only threat.
The books I like, often rest beside my pillow of the bed. They shift between my hands so often that they are dust free mostly. The one that begins to gather dust, I shift to the racks. Where it could decay like this year.
To my surprise, the decaying lot consisted of a few classics too. But the greater shock was to find the same book twice among them. It was the reputation of the author and the book, that I purchased it twice, but never read it. There is something decaying about these classics, like their copies in my collection.
I have to muster courage to dispose them and not buy them again. But I will have to make a list first.

Fair-weather friends

October 15, 2012

Rajat Gupta has only two friends who are not fair-weather kind. Kofi Annan and Bill Gates. He should be thankful. Because most of us have none.

Money Meltdowm, A book by Judy Shelton; A review of a book that falls short of being golden than the gold

April 4, 2010

I laboured over past several months to read this book, which is more like a reaserch paper. But it ends up, almost after every few pages, emphasising the perils of the world economy due to the fluctuating value of the US dollar, often those that are artificially orchestrated by the political compulsions of the USA, as per the author. And, as a recourse, Judy insistently recommends that each dollar printed in paper should be backed by gold, as was the prectice before, when the paper currency was brought into practice.

I have yet to finish the last quarter of the book, as the author seems to be repeating her recommendations in it as well. The basic flaw of the book or of the author, is her ability to exclude the potential of human ingenuity and enterprise. Today, or at anytime, the worth of the US dollar is nothing else but the credibility of the US as an economy, which is continuously renewed by its technology and industry. A bad politics has less chance of prevailing in the USA, as it is the domain of some tyrannical systems still ruling people promising falsely a security and prosperity, in some parts of the world. These nations are often in league with each other to limit the influence of the USA. But the only way it could be possibly done is playing the way the USA does.

Imagine a scenerio when, anxious about the plummeting value of dollar of late, Bill Gates sells all his stocks in the market and starts buying gold. Which China has done lately. Being a communist nation Chinese seem to have excellant instincts of a capitalist one-however, to have invested so heavily in the US economy, expecting security. Once it is threatened, they go the reliable way of keeping gold as reserve. Though they still have one of the highest reserves of US dollars in cash. Had that cash backflowed into the US economy, which so liberally buys the Chinese manufactures, the stability of Dollar might not have been questioned. Though there have been discovered some inconsistencies in the domestic economical and financial institurions of the the USA, the current crisis there has a foreign dimension that could not be ignored. That is why it is the USA, which will continue to show the way one has to follow, notwithstanding the economical mess into which it is presently: That the trade has to be a two way process, and mutual confidence between the trading partners is the only security, which gold can not sustitute. The USA has a system that will correct its flaws without needing a cover up hopefully, but the same can not be said about its trading paretners, who sit on the largest reserves of its money-which speculatively is spread more outside of the USA. And When it has no choice but to print more of the dollars, it is not only the USA that will suffer.

So, the book of Judy is a limited perspective for someone looking for security of the capital one has acquired. If one goes by its logic, after the earth’s reserve is exhausted, the mankind will explore the other planets only to harvest gold. Which is only valuable for its scarcity and does not compensate for technological development and enterprise of its product. Imagine what happens if we find a planet where gold is available as we have iron or aluminium here. But the book is informative, for someone looking for how the existing monetary system of the world came into being. It is more about history than about insight into the future, in a very crafty prose. This I said almost fiftten years of the said book published. May be when it was published it was a remarkable book.

I will try to read the remainder of it. Though the book falls short of being golden than the gold.

The continent of circe: Essays on the People of India ( By Nirad C Chaudhari, Jaico Publishing, India) : A profound book on Indian culture

November 17, 2007

Nirad C Chaudhari, who lived most of his later life in Britain and died there a few years ago just a few year short of hundred, has presented in this book his deep understanding of Indian culture and Hinduism.

He repeatedly maintains that he technically is a Shudra: the lowest caste among the Hindus. His criticism of the Independence heroes of India and the writer Rabinrda nath Tagore is plausible and a little intemperate if one is to consider it in the present context, when most of the people he criticised has been deified to the extent that they are considered beyond any scrutiny.

Also is remarkable of his recognition of Hindu militarism and its going unacknowledged by the conquerors who ruled the India for centuries. It is presented as something different than the others and is directed inwards; and remains dormant to appear sporadically and surprisingly in the history. Nirad’s analysis in this regard is important as he was hired as a military expert by the colonial government during the second world war.

Nirad Chaudhri has intended in this book to put ahead the debate that the Aryans of India were migrants from the West and became brown by the ’sun and wind’ of the continent over the centuries.

Their inability to accept the black colour as equal; and their love and appreciation of rivers and other traits Nirad had presented as a proof to this end. The waters of a holy river lapping the ample breasts of a half-naked Hindu woman, while she is chest deep in it to offer prayer to the deities, while the naked Naga Sadhus pass from a  holy river bank nearby, with their genitals pierced and chained to suggest their celebate lives and the detachment to worldly matters is a scene depicted in the book, to explain the times, people and attitudes the writer knew.

He has hinted at the unavailability of Hindu women for blacks, unlike the European or American women, as a proof of the loathing the black color receives from Hindu higher caste. He maintains that Hindus are incapable of seeing any beauty in black colored people. This all may look a needless point, unsuitable for this remarkable book, that has an acuity rarely seen in the work of recent authors from the continent, and the writer’s deep study of the Hindu religious books that the authors refers to frequently in this book, and a first hand knowledge of the Sanskrit language. Nirad was not called ‘Brown-sahib’ for nothing.

Then he focuses on the matter of cow slaughter and debates that eating cow meat is nowhere prohibited in Hindu religious books. And he argues that the Indian cows are more beautiful than anywhere else. Nirad maintains that it is due to the color only that the buffalo milk is unacceptable to higher caste Hindus though it is more nutritious than the cow milk. Also the buffalo is slaughtered in the religious ceremonies of Hindus.

Nirad also dwells on the issue of Hindu sexuality, sounding a little prudish, when he rejects the ancient erotic art carved on the caves and the literature like Kamasutra as of little value and not the genuine representative of it. He argues it is lecherous in nature and meant to stimulate or satisfy the physically incapable or mentally perverted, men or women. He also disapproves of the Western curiosity and appreciation of the same. He states that the Hindu way of sex is not Gandhian non-violent type. Then he goes on to express his dismay when he noticed among an old married couple in his childhood, the amount of verbal abuse, sallies and innuendos going on,  the man mostly receiving them. Though they looked perfectly happy to the other people. 

He maintains that there is much self-wounding and violence taking place among a married Hindu couple than ever noticed or reported, by the scholars – indegenious or foreigner. The latter actually have no means to understand the cultural nuances of Hindu society, Nirad often asserts.  

He also reports the continuous emtional black-mail a Hindu man, particularly a jobless one, suffers for the sex he receives from his wife. The thought of the sex he would be receiving from his wife in the night keeps him going through all the harshness he is subjected to by his wife or the larger world, for his joblessness or other matters, keeps him going on. The couple hating each other to the utmost go to bed and fulfil their carnal desire in the dark, and detest each other for everything the next day, to became again aroused br the desire by the evening; never coming out of the fatigue of copulation really. Gratifying oneself by courtesans is what most people could not afford and having extra marital relations is always a risk of another marriage, entailing a lot of family quarrell and sufferings, more than anything else, as per Nirad. But he also states the Hindu capacity to ignore the inevitable adultery in some cases. These observation are of a time Nirad lived. They may look relevant or not in todays context, when the Hindu sexuality too, like many other things, has undergone a remarkable shift.

Nirad subtantiate most of his arguments in this regard by quoting from saskrit and French or Latin literature, displaying  his eclectic source of knowledge, to lend credence to the same. Defying his tyrannical observations would take a longer appranticeship with an intelletual career and greater insight than his, though the informations are more readily available nowadays.

This book also has the attitudes of English rulers before independence and shows how much they were worried about the mob overwhelming them and a possible sabotage. It was an uneasy relationship that is well explored by Nirad. 

And at times the arguments may appear without any sound proofs, that the author forwards with emotions, ran out of the quotes in different languages; and it seems the author is never ready to concede on anything he is arguing about. But it was a book written more then fifty years back. So such flaws could be ignored. Considering the fact that even today this is how matters are debated in the Continent.

For the people interested in the history of the Indian sub-continent, that is not much reported nowadays, or is tempered with even in the academic papers, this book is a delightful read, if one can ignore this singular flaw of the book: Of presenting the Aryans as the European Migrant.

Tell me no lies: Investigavitive Journalism and its trumphs: An analysis

May 6, 2007

Tell me no lies: Investigative journalism and its triumphs. Edited by John Pilger; Published by Vintage 2005. This book is an excellent collection of articles by some of the well-acclaimed journalists. ‘Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue’ Pilger quotes Oscar Wilde, in the beginning of introduction of his book. Disobedience, in this case, to not accept the official explanation of the matters that may have involved hundreds of thousands of human casualties in a far away country in one case; or the loss of US Presidency for a candidate by a few thousand votes in another case, particularly when tens of thousands of voters have been recently taken off the list for being accused in felony, from a constituency that was the stronghold of the party of the loosing candidate.

And, also, apart from the disobedience, a determination to go alone, risking ones life, finding the genesis of the events and the true magnitude of their consequences, far away from where the officials expect one to be and deep enough into the matters to bring out the hitherto-unspeculated perspectives about a matter, with enough evidences, to make the people think if all is not well with the matters of the state.

The ruling politicians of a powerful nation might have their own compulsions that, retrospectively, appear a callous disregard of the worth of human lives, to act in a way that resulted in a war or a serious conflict thousands of miles away, creating the consequences they might not have foreseen. When details to that effect are exposed by the intrepid journalists, the human tragedies caused by the wrong judgements of a few powerful people may look like a vindication of everything that the human society is not meant to be. Hopefully, the exposure of such nature will help the people see that many of the tragedies around us are man-made and could be avoided if the things are considered in more thorough and empathetic way.

The matters may appear serious when it becomes apparent, through the work of the investigative journalism, that the machinery of the government was also involved in covering up some of the facts about an incident that resulted in thousands of human casualties: lest the true magnitude of the ignorance of the politicians ruling the nation with unprecedented power and influence gets exposed.

Then you have another breed of journalists, who score a victory in times of peace by uncovering the accounts of corruption among the governments’ businesses and that of the people who benefit from it. A situation that often builds up to the extent that only a war could cover it any longer- that finally takes place. These journalists help others see that a given war was not resulted due to the Geo-strategic considerations alone, but was to hid the excesses of a corrupt state as well.

In the situations in which the investigations, as reported in this book, are done, the lives of the journalists are often on line, whether they discover the true consequences or the real genesis of a war; or an another scandal that uprooted a political group from power to establish another through apparently fair but deeply flawed methods.

For instance the second article of this remarkable book portrays a situation in which an Australian journalist named Wilfred Burchett goes to Hiroshima to cover the damage caused by the A-bomb, while other correspondents were going to Missouri for covering the surrender ceremony of Japan in World war II, as the officials expected and led them to. The bombs were dropped, Burchett writes, to cause the surrender of Japan just in time to avoid Russia attacking Japan by the deadline given by it on Aug 8, 1945, though the war had been practically won. But also Burchett highlights that a war winning attack was needed too, to also preempt the possibility of Japan fighting forever from its bases in occupied China. Though there were reports in Russia that Japan was ready to surrender. So the questions remains if the only ever use of A bomb was avoidable in WWII.

Some of the Japanese people accepted the enemy war correspondents, Burchett, armed with a small gun, with some hostility, while others, like the policeman near Hiroshima, who helped him to send his dispatch in which Burchett famously wrote the headline:

‘I write this as a warning to the world’

on 6 Sept 1945, in Daily Express. The officials of allied forces, who tried to play down the after-effects of the A-bomb even after Burchett reported them, could not contemplate that someone will go to Hiroshima within a month to report the same truthfully and first hand. So Burchett’s dispatch didn’t make him popular with the authorities. George Walker, an another correspondent of Chicago Daily News did the same on Nagasaki, but his reports were never published as he sent them through the Allied Occupying Machinary, as they censored it, while Burchett’s report made him a celebrity.

In the introduction of the book, John Pilger also goes on to illuminate how the governments of the USA or Britain do not provide information on their policies on a (possible) war. Then he goes on to collect the marvelous pieces of investigative Journalism by twenty-nine Journalists on the issues ranging from the aftermath of the allied victory in Germany and Japan, to the Middle East conflict and the war in Chechnya.

John Pilger’s own reporting, in one later article of this book, from post Khamer Rouge Combodia, in “Year Zero”, offers chilling details of the destruction and death perpetrated by Pol Pot. He also brings to light the complicity of the USA, Britain, China and the United Nations, in turning a blind eye to the massacre perpetrated by Khamer Rouge that eliminated one fourth population of Combodia. Pilger reports the British SAS troops training the Khamer militia along the Thailand border and Pol Pot living a cozy life in Pattaya. And the British PM making a statement ‘…there are reasonable Khamer.’ The people of Combodia have still not forgotten and forgiven Khamer Rouge, he reports.

Marhta Gellhorn reports in the first article of the book ‘Dachau’, the details of Nazi doctors sterilizing or doing medica1 experiments on Jewish prisoners. There are also the gory details of the concentration camps and the gas chambers. Dachau is a place where German army surrendered unconditionally in WW II.

‘The menace of MecCarthyism’ is from a broadcast by Edward Murrow, who emphasizes how the vital information are censored by the government during a war or an anticipated war like situation. Such lack of information limits the civil liberties and a lack of informed debate does not help in dispelling the hostilities among the people divided ideologically, as during the cold-war years. This article is important in the present context, when the world is fighting a global war on terrorism and civil liberties have been unprecedentedly curtailed in many nations across the globe.

In the “American way of death” Jessica Mitford exposes how the funeral business exploits the emotional distress of the people who have lost someone of their family. Making a funeral lavish may compensate a little for some of the mistreatment the departed soul had received from someone mourning for him or her, is what the funeral industry promotes, Mitford reports. “Through the looking glasses” by James Camroh is an account of the Vietnam war. It is amazing how the people hid during the day and worked at night in Northern Vietnam, to avoid Aerial raids.

Pliger, in the introduction of the book, also explains how a few rich Moguls are eating the smaller players in media and silencing the differing voice of the debates. The typical case, he says, is that of Australia, which has ‘….the distinction of the most concentrated press ownership in the western world.’ He appreciates the independence of a government owned media like BBC, which has given a voice to the sentiments of millions, on issues differing with the different countries. He also discusses how the Moguls like Rupert Murdoch are trying to silence a voice like BBC, by trying to influence the politicians in power.

‘The Vietnam war was a vulgar demonstration of the strong against the weak!’ Was the judgement of Seymour Hersh, who in the article “The Massacre at My Lai” gives the account of how 500 civilians, mostly elderly, women and children were killed by US troops in one incident. This piece displays the horrific scenes when a war goes dirty and wrong.

In the ‘Lowest of the low’ German journalist Guntur Wallraff, disguised as a migrant Turkish laborer, describes the subhuman condition in which the migrant laborer illegally work in German industries and the abuses they are subjected to. The publication of this work led to 13000 criminal investigations in Germany in late 1980s.

“The Timor papers’ by Brian Toohey and Marian Wilkinson, reveals how Indonesian occupation of Portugese East Timor in 1975 was allowed to succeed by the USA and Australian government, which caused 2,00,000 deaths of the E Timorese people.

“Exposing Aparthied’s Death squads” by Max Du Preez and Jacques Pauw gives the details how they ran, ignoring daily death threats and once bombing of its office, an African language newspaper for four years in Apartheid Africa. A newspaper that exposed the assassinations and destruction caused by the Death squad of the regime, the existence of which was routinely denied by the Authorities. The newspaper was bankrupt due to legal battles into which it was trapped by the regime and closed down when Nelson Mandela came to power after Apartheid was done away with. Some of the leaders of those death squads were later tried in the court and others were given amnesty by Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Desmond Tutu.

Paul Foot, a British Journalist, who in an instance through his investigation ensured the innocence of four accused, who had already confessed the crime under torture, of the murder of a newspaper boy in London; in “ The Great Lockerbie Whitewash” argues that the prime earlier suspects of the sabotage of Panam flight 103, Iran and Syria, were let off hook, and Lybia was made a ‘Pariah’ to punish it in various ways, by the USA and British governments, purely for geopolitical reasons; in the context of an impending war with Iraq. Paul maintains that the lone Lybian accused was falsely punished on flimsy grounds.

‘Terrorist’ article taken from the book of Robert Fisk named ‘Pity the Nation’ exposes how hundreds of elderly civilians, women and children were massacred in one attack in an area from where the PLO militia had already fled, by Christian Phalangist, an ally of Israel, after they were taken prisoner, after Lebnon was attacked by Israel. Pilger argues that this book of Fisk “..ended the moral immunity that Israel had exploited in Europe, if not in the United States.”

“The secret war against miners” by Seumas Milane exposes how a British newspaper like Daily Mirror falsely instigated a defamation campaign against a trade Union leader of mineworkers named Arthur Scargill, while the ruling Thatcher government “… was planning to run down and sell off the British Coal industry.” The use of state machinery to forge documents and discredit an honest union leader to preempt the likely protests against a government policy is revealed in this article; that also exposes ‘…The incestuous relationship between the intelligence services and section of the media…’ in Britain.

“The Thalidomide Scandal: Where we went wrong?” by Phillip Knightley is an account of the failure of Journalism in investigating the matters that involve powerful transnational pharmaceutical companies. “The Upside-down world” by Uruguay born Eduardo Galeno is an eloquent criticism of the existing world order and the US’s domination in it. But this article falls short of giving an alternative of the same.

This book is a collection of many more such articles that helped to demystify the officially held explanations about various vital matters of historical importance. It is a blessing that such reports, as collected in this book, are allowed to publish in one part of the world, because in many other parts the critical or deferring voices against what is mainstream are silenced using various means. Freedom of speech could not be achieved overnight, it is a perpetual persistence to find the truth, preempting the designs of those that want to hijack it, by using different pretexts. In this cause this book of Pilger helps a great deal.

April 30, 2007.