Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings

Osmania University Centre for International Programmes, Hyderabad & ICSSR, New Delhi, Sponsored 
International Seminar on
Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings

17-19 December 2012

Highlights and Excerpts
Charles Johnson: Embracing the World edited by Nibir K. Ghosh and E. Ethelbert Miller was formally launched in the inaugural ceremony of the International Conference on Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings organized by Osmania University Centre for International Programmes (OUCIP), Hyderabad in collaboration with ICSSR, New Delhi from 17-19 December 2012.
Prof. S. Satyanarayana as Chief Guest said: The Editorial collaboration between two writers – Nibir K. Ghosh and Ethelbert Miller – separated in terms of geographical distance by half the world augurs well in bringing two principal democracies together. The theme of the seminar is of utmost relevance in the context of the dichotomy and ambivalence that surrounds the society and polity of the two major democracies in the globe we inhabit. Writings grounded in pain and suffering that emanate from prejudice and discrimination on lines of colour and caste have come to occupy centre-stage in modern socio-political discourse. I am optimistic that this event will generate sweetness and light in ample measure and bring closer writers, academics and scholars from different parts of the world in a spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Prof. Jane E. Schukoske, the Keynote speaker at the conference, said that the book’s effort in putting together contributions on the life and works of Charles Johnson is a grand tribute to the African American legend.
Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh delivered the Inaugural Address as Guest of Honour. Highlighting the power of words in negotiating margins, he cited the instances of numerous writers and activists from the African American and Dalit pantheon and stated: “In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the Statue of Liberty is shown to be lost in the fog. With Obama’s resounding second victory the Statue of Liberty has become increasingly more visible and writers may not find it imperative anymore to append to their works titles like “Invisible Man,” “No Name in the Street” or “Nobody Knows My Name.” The presence in our midst of celebrity African American and Dalit writers and scholars, ought to convince us how the margins are being redrawn in remaking the world where the line of distinction between “our” sorrows and “theirs” as pointed out in the poem by Waharu Sonavane:

We did not go on to the stage,
Neither were we called.
We were shown our places,
told to sit.
But they, sitting on the stage,
went on telling us of our sorrows,
our sorrows remained ours,
they never became theirs.

He concluded by expressing the hope that the conference would prove to be of tremendous significance not only for people of every colour in the U.S. but for people of all castes in India.

Excerpts from messages sent by Charles Johnson and Ethelbert Miller:

“I'm delighted the festshrift book you and Ethelbert did will be formally launched at the "Negotiating Margins" conference. Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings is a long-overdue conference of tremendous historical and international importance. In 1959, Martin Luther King Jr. visited India as a guest of the Gandhi Peace Foundation and met with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. "To other countries I may go as a tourist," said King, "but to India I come as a pilgrim." He was inspired by his trip to India, personally renewed in his spiritual practice, and saw his connection to the Dalit people when at one event he was introduced, somewhat to his surprise, as an Untouchable from America. Immediately, he understood that the various meanings for the Hindi word dalita---"driven or torn asunder," "broken," "crushed," "destroyed," "oppressed"---applied equally to black Americans after the experience of slavery and during the era of racial segregation and disenfranchisement in the United States. This conference, then, opens the door for a crucial conversation (one both political and spiritual) and seminal scholarship devoted to two groups separated by great physical distance but united in their similar experiences of being social pariahs in the West and East. And as with so many other things during its long history, it is not at all surprising that India is at the forefront for opening the door onto this specific awakening.”  - Charles Johnson.

“A successful conference consists not only of scholars exchanging ideas but also of laying the foundation for the creation of maps and blueprints. If we are indeed living inside a World House as Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned in his last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?  then we have a responsibility to prevent groups and individuals from being marginalized. The study of comparative literature should be seen as essential in the 21st century as taking steps to protect ourselves from global warming, religious strife and nuclear war. When people place emphasis on similarities instead of differences remarkable things can occur. This December gathering “constructs” a cultural bridge between people separated by distance as well as language.  In the world of ideas the rivers always flow, the mountains rejoice and the valleys retain their memories. The International Conference on Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings should be a reason for celebration. History today turns to touch those once defined as untouchables and the world turns. This marks the dawn of change. When dusk comes it will be dark like us. Oh, the night will be beautiful for the stars will shine and the “new spirituals” will be sung by people who have been given back their voice. I congratulate Professor Sumita Roy and Professor A. Karunaker of OUCIP and Nibir K. Ghosh for making it possible for scholars from different parts of the globe to share their views on a subject of universal relevance. I am also delighted to know that that the conference has on its agenda the launch of Charles Johnson: Embracing the World, the book that I had the pleasure of editing with Nibir K. Ghosh. Throughout the movie The Book of Eli the actor Denzel Washington portrays a man protecting a book; by the end of the movie we understand the importance of his actions as well as the significance of the text. Charles Johnson: Embracing the World is a book we should all cherish. It highlights the work of a writer whose contributions are essential for living and understanding reality. One is forever grateful that this man’s vision embraces our world. There are no borders or boundaries to beauty. Charles Johnson in this book reveals the lotus in his heart. We are all capable of becoming better human beings because of it. -- E. Ethelbert Miller.

Science, Media and the Integrity of Design

Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh addressing the audience as Keynote Speaker at the Two-day National Conference on ‘Science in Media’ organized by YMCA University of Science and Technology, Faridabad from December 3, 2012 to December 4, 2012. 

           Science, Media and the Integrity of Design
                          Excerpts from the Address:
                 “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” - Arthur Miller

In 1965, in an article in Horizon, Alvin Toffler coined the term "future shock" to describe the shattering stress and disorientation that are induced in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time. The term led to the epoch making book by Toffler titled Future Shock. The concept of future shock strongly suggests that there must be balance between the pace of environmental change and the limited pace of human response. For future shock grows out of the increasing lag between the two.
If Toffler were to view the accelerative thrust brought about by unprecedented scientific advancement and information technology in a far too shorter time span, he would simply be dumfounded with amazement and probably ask us to recall the lines of T.S. Eliot from Choruses from the Rock:
With all the technological advances and change, “Endless invention, endless experiment,” we are compelled to ask is mankind happier or wiser than he was 100 years ago? Perhaps, we haven’t traveled too far from the predicament described by Mathew Arnold: “YES: in the sea of life enisled,/ With echoing straits between us thrown./ Dotting the shoreless watery wild,/ We mortal Millions live alone.”

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

If we subject the pace of the accelerative thrust of scientific change to the domain of Media, we can easily visualize a transformation that may be called revolutionary to the core. It is true the arrival of the digital revolution – the evolution of the Internet, the emergence of new forms of media, and the rise of online social networks – has reshaped the media landscape and made the current-day Media something we couldn’t have imagined even 15 years ago. The Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.
A realistic appraisal of the current electronic and print media scene would acquaint us with the pros and cons of the Media revolution. What comes readily to my mind is the applicability of Gresham’s Law. Gresham Law states, "When bad money and good money are both circulating side by side as a media of exchange, bad money drives good money out of circulation, other things remaining the same." Gresham’s Law, it is clear, operates in the media field as well: shallow, soap-opera-led commercial programmes drive the serious and worthwhile out of the Market. With the growing reliance on social media, we no longer search for news, or the products and services we wish to buy. Instead they are being pushed to us by friends, acquaintances and business colleagues. In the words of our former first citizen, Kalam: "Why is the Indian media so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why? We are the first in milk production. We are number one in Remote sensing satellites. We are the second largest producer of wheat. We are the second largest producer of rice. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE…?"
North East sms episode
We are all aware how recently social media and other sources of technology were used to threaten people from North-East leading to amass exodus from southern states. The sms’s with inflammatory matters and doctored pictures and videos were used blatantly to create social unrest in the country. Facebook emerged as a tool to incite violence or spread hate.
If the media, with all its modern gadgets, had the time and inclination and even a small measure of social responsibility, it should have delved deep into the malaise and found out the source of the problem. Rather than counter the panic created by the sms and other social media networks, the Media found it more convenient to give hype to the exodus. Perhaps, from Media perspective what was of paramount concern is either Gopal Kanda’s tryst with beautiful females in remote farmhouses or its 24x7 preoccupation with guests at the Saif-Kareena wedding. Unfortunately, the Media is being seen less and less as a neutral observer and more and more as participants, or even collaborators.
Media is just a word that has come to mean bad journalism. Thomas A. Edison Said: “We will make Electric Light so cheap that only the wealthy can afford to burn candles.” If Thomas Edison invented electric light today, the TV channels would probably report it as, ''Edison threatens Candle making industry.'' Phone line pe bane rahiye.
Integrity of Design
In an era when there was neither radio nor television, Gandhiji’s publications like Young India, Harijan and Navajivan galvanized the whole nation to action against an empire where the Sun never set. An effective communicator, fearless and eloquent with his words, he reached out to millions of people with the outpourings of his heart and soul and convinced them of his cause. These publications were to Gandhi "a mirror of his own life." He was clear about the nature and content of his newspapers. They would not carry any advertisements nor try to make money. Mahatma Gandhi said: "The sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates crops, so an uncontrolled pen serves, but, to destroy.” Similarly, Bande Mataram, edited and published by Shri Aurobindo, between the brief period - beginning in 1907 till its abrupt winding up in 1908 -  changed the political thought of India. It is needless to make a mention of the impact Munshi Prem Chand’s Hans had in the evolution and promotion of economic and social concern of the common populace. Going by such line of reasoning, how many publications in the world today would be able to measure up? 
Watergate Scandal
Importance of Watergate in journalism history. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein created a new milestone in American journalism when President Richard Nixon had to step down. Says Leon Jaworski in The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate: "From Watergate we learned what generations before us have known: our Constitution works…and that no one - absolutely no one - is above the law."
In 1961 Jawaharlal Nehru had reminded us: “It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people…. Who can indeed afford to ignore science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid.” But while adoring the blessings that science can provide, he also asked us to cultivate the scientific temper. This involves the application of logic and reasoning, and the avoidance of bias and preconceived notions in arriving at decisions, and becomes particularly valuable while deciding what is best for the community or the nation.
Thus, rather than indulge in propaganda, manufacture of consent, irresponsible and unethical journalism, distorting or sensationalizing news reportage, hyper-commercialization, private treaties with corporates; rogue practices like paid news, and bribe-taking for favourable coverage etc., the Media barons must cultivate the urge to shape public opinion through debates of high order and discussions that reflect the fiery touch of intellectuals and the humane concern of patriots. Refraining from setting the ‘Page 3’ approach as its topmost priority, the Media has to undertake the responsibility of deciding as well as propagating what is best for the community or the nation as envisaged by Rabindranath Tagore a century ago:

Where words come out from the depth of truth,
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way,
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit,
where the mind is led forward by thee into
ever widening thought and action,
into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.


Friday, 26 October 2012

"chaman ro-ro ke kehata hai" : Tribute to the Emperor of Laughter

While surfing in cyberspace yesterday, I was shocked and dazed by the news of the untimely demise of Jaspal Bhatti. “Laughter is the language of the soul,” said Pablo Neruda. Who more than Jaspal Bhatti could have wielded the language of the soul with such immaculate perfection? Laughter is the best medicine, they say. The gods in heaven must have been envious of the Jaspal medicine that we mortal were enjoying in this country. I am sure Jaspal will not refrain from mocking at the cruelty of fate that left us bereft of cheer and laughter in so absurd a fashion.

At this tragic moment, I cannot help recall the lyrics by Shankar Jaikishan of the famous Hindi song sung by Hemant Kumar in the 1954 film Badshah.  

rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the
chaman ro-ro ke kehata hai,
kabhi gul muskuraaye the
rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the

agar dil ke zubaan hoti ye gham kuchh kam to ho jaataa
udhar vo chup, idhar seene men ham toofaan chhupaaye the
chaman ro-ro ke kehata hai, kabhi gul muskuraaye the
rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the

ye achchha tha na ham kehate kisi se daasataan apani,
samajh paaye na jab apane, paraaye to paraaye the
rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the

Let us keep alive the legacy he left behind and try to bring in this beleaguered world a little smile and plenty of genuine laughter.- An ardent admirer, Nibir K. Ghosh

Monday, 22 October 2012

"The greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.”

Vol. 11 No. 2, September 2012

“A University should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning,” stated Benjamin Disraeli. I would like to examine this statement in the context of an event of considerable importance that took place two centuries ago at Oxford University, “the oldest university in the English speaking world [that] has been educating world changing leaders for over 800 years.” Inspired by intense love for scientific reasoning, a beautiful and effectual angel, hailing from the protected precincts of an aristocratic order, dared to sing hymns unbidden in praise of “atheism.” Yes, the reference is to P.B. Shelly and his (in)famous “The Necessity of Atheism,”  the thirteen-page tract that led to his expulsion from Oxford University on March 25, 1811.
The pamphlet argued the lack of evidence for the existence of God and suggested that God was just a projection of human ideas. The title page of the tract displayed his avowed purpose in writing it: “love of truth.” Far from being impressed by his innocent demand for qualified reasoning, the presiding dons at Oxford – “the men who had made Divinity the study of their lives” – found his reasoning reprehensible and asked him in an abruptly summoned summary trial, “Are you the author of this book?” The impetuous one curtly replied: “If I can judge from your manner, you are resolved to punish me if I should acknowledge that it is my work. If you can prove that it is, produce your evidence; it is neither just nor lawful to interrogate me in such a case and for such a purpose. Such proceedings would become a court of inquisitors, but not free men in a free country.”
In a letter written to William Godwin, his future father-in-law, Shelley recorded his complaint of college tyranny in no uncertain terms: “Oxonian society was insipid to me, uncongenial with my habits of thinking. I could not descend to common life….I became in the popular sense of the word ‘God’ an Atheist. I printed a pamphlet avowing my opinion, and its occasion. I distributed it anonymously to men of thought and learning wishing that Reason should decide on the case at issue. It was never my intention to deny it.” Perhaps Shelley was unaware how, even in the heyday of the Romantic age, when to be young was very heaven, such thoughts were blasphemous.
Strangely coinciding with the bicentenary year of Shelley’s expulsion from Oxford University, we may shift our gaze to an event located in the capital town of the world’s largest democracy. Showing scant regard for the ideals of “light, liberty and learning,” the Vice Chancellor and the Academic Council of Delhi University brazenly removed A.K. Ramunjan’s brilliant and insightful essay, “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation,” from the B.A. (Honours) History course. The controversy came to the fore in the year 2008 when some activists, inspired by their concern for saving “Hindutwa,” attacked teachers in the Delhi University’s history department and demanded that the essay be removed from the B.A. History syllabus. The matter finally landed up in the Supreme Court which sought the opinion of an academic expert committee on the issue. Surprisingly, three out of four members on the said committee voted in favour of the essay. The lone dissenting voice was that of the fourth member who, while praising the essay’s scholarship, came to the conclusion that “it would be difficult for college lecturers to teach with sufficient context, especially those who weren’t Hindu.”
It may be pertinent to mention here the remarks of Professor Michael Shapiro, University of Washington, Seattle, who, responding to my “Editorial” in the March 2012 issue of Re-Markings, stated: “I enjoyed what you had to say and agree with you totally.  By the way, your article made me reflect on all the nonsense that’s been taking place at Delhi University with regard to A.K. Ramanujan’s old article on the various versions of the Ramayana.  There seems to be no end of craziness.”
Such craziness, however, is not a rare instance in the general atmosphere of intolerance that prevails in our groves of academe. In very recent times Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey was removed from Mumbai University’s literature syllabus simply because it allegedly contained some “disparaging” comments about “Shiv Sena and the Marathis.” No less absurd is the logic forwarded by the powers that be in removing the sixty-year old Ambedkar cartoon from NCERT books. The price paid by Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University for circulating a cartoon featuring Trinamool Congress leaders is common knowledge now. Robert Frost’s candid confession that he left Harvard “to be educated” does make a lot of sense.
Disturbing events that threaten to destroy the very rationale of intellectual autonomy in democratic societies do urge us to reformulate Benjamin Disraeli’s statement to accommodate the express views of Doris Lessing, the Nobel Laureate: “In university they don't tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.”
- Nibir K. Ghosh
Chief Editor

Rabindranath Tagore: The Living Presence

Nibir K. Ghosh. Rabindranath Tagore: The Living Presence. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2011.ISBN 9788172736491. Rs. 850.
In this engaging anthology, poets, writers, critics, social activists, academics and scholars from various parts of the globe share their appreciation and insightful understanding of the life and work of Tagore and illumine how the fragrance of his living presence crowns the infinity of his kaleidoscopic creations. Through insightful evaluation of songs, stories, novels, plays, articles, literary criticism, memoirs, dance-dramas, books for children, philosophical treatises, travelogues and the like, the essays in this volume bring into bold relief the colourful shades and nuances of Tagore’s multidimensional genius: his boundless aspiration for the expansion of the human spirit, his ability to transcend borders and boundaries, his multicultural concern, his patriotism, his stellar role as an ambassador of universal human understanding, his lyrical exposition of those living on the margins – the poor, the oppressed, the women etc., his recognition of the world not merely as a storehouse of power but as a habitation of man's spirit, his genius in setting to music dimensions of human versatility in a style that is both timeless and universal. While the many deliberations in this book bring to light issues and concerns universal to mankind, a unique feature of this anthology is the intimate touch of endearment that most contributors have displayed in revealing their esteem for Tagore.
IPreface. 1. Rabindranath Tagore: The Living Presence – Nibir K. Ghosh. 2. The Spirit of Tagore – David Ray. 3. The Poetry of Rabindranath Tagore – Shanta Acharya. 4. Religious Experience as Drama: The King of the Dark Chamber – Basavaraj Naikar. 5. Rabindranath Tagore: A Tribute – S. Ramaswamy. 6. Poetic Justice – Siddharthya Roy. 7. Tagore’s Santiniketan – Debarati Bandyopadhyay. 8. Religion and Politics in the Plays of Rabindranath Tagore – Mukesh Ranjan Verma. 9. Literature and Film: Satyajit Ray’s Cinematic Rendition of Tagore’s Novels – Nashtanir and Ghare Baire – Anuradha Sen. 10. The Abyss of Nationalism: Tagore’s Critique – Prasenjit Biswas.11. From Micro-Humanism to Macro-Humanism: Tagore’s Legacy – Tanutrushna Panigrahi. 12. Call of the Forest: Tagore’s Theory of Education through His Seasonal Plays – Sudeshna Majumdar. 13. Orientalism Revisited: A Postcolonial Perspective on Tagore – Divyajyoti Singh. 14. Conflict between Bondage and Liberation in Tagore’s Muktadhara – Basavaraj Naikar. 15. Eco-centric Concerns in the Poems of Tagore – Kalpana Purohit. 16. Triumph of Humanism over Industrialism and Superstition: A Study of Rabindranath Tagore's Red Oleanders and Sacrifice – Arpita Ghosh. 17. Rabindra Nath Tagore: An Exponent of Humanism – Madhabi Sen. 18. Rabindranath Tagore: The First Global Citizen – Sandhya Tiwari. 19. Environment and Marginalized Existence in Tagore’s Works – Debarati Bandyopadhyay. 20. Tagore: A Living Manabasatya – Monali Bhattacharya. 21. To Dwell in the Land of Perfect Bliss: The Maternal Figure in Select Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – Raichel M. Sylus. 22. Nation and Nationalism in the Poems of Tagore – Divya Walia and Rani Rathore. 23. “Thou hast made me endless”: Universality in Tagore’s Poetry – Shekhar Varma and Seema Shekhar. 24. Rabindranath Tagore: A Living Essence of Humanitarianism – Namrata Parmar. 25. Humanizing Science: A Reflection on Tagore’s Muktadhara – Lalima Chakraverty. 26. A Search for Adi Dharm in Tagore’s Gora – Manju Rani. 27. Lyrical Qualities in the Dramas of Tagore – Ravi Prakash Chapke. 28. Sexuality, Nationalism and Tagore’s Home and the World – Sanjoy Saksena. 29. Tagore’s Creative Genius in Mashi – Simmi Gurwara. 30. Tagore: A Humanist Perspective – Shobha Diwakar.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Felicitations to Dr. Jane Schukoske! Great job!

'Hitch your wagon to a star'

Women-led Water Management: Trendsetters in village Marora

Water has gender dimensions. Women and men derive different benefits from its availability, use and management. Although women literally carry water, they are often left out of the decision making process about community water management. Mewat's water scarcity is well-known to the government and organizations working in the area. In an area where women are often confined to four walls of the house, the recently formed women-led water committee in village Marora, just 2 kms away from the district headquarters Nuh, lifts the spirits and capacity of the community. It has a very interesting genesis.

Promoting knowledge of rural development is a high priority of the Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD), an initative of the S. M. Sehgal Foundation to further the well-being of rural communities in India. This issue of IRRAD Connect features consultations, collaborations and conferences that bring together partners, government and others interested in the development sector.  The purpose is to share best practices, identify and solve problems and support good policy recommendations to accelerate the meeting of basic needs. Our themes are water management and sanitation, citizen participation in governance, and agricultural income enhancement. 

IRRAD collaborates with partners from all sectors on demonstrating tested models, and providing technical advice and training.  Please visit our website (www.irrad.org), blog (http://blog.irrad.org/) and social media sites. Let us know what interests you.

If you would like to explore ways to join hands with us, please write me at CEO@irrad.org.

Jane Schukoske
Chief Executive Officer, IRRAD

Sunday, 19 August 2012


Heartiest congratulations to the sportspersons who won laurels for India in the recently concluded London Olympics! They richly deserve all the accolades and the avalanche of gifts, rewards, promotions, cash awards running into unbelievable figures for what the glory they have brought to the nation. 

It is interesting that state governments and the centre are engaged in a race to outdo one another in their announcements. Even the worst cynics will not grudge the medal winners what they are receiving. I wish the governments should get together and actually reflect on their own contribution to developing sports in the country. If we compare our medals tally with that of China, we will see it as a natural corollary to the apathy and neglect that games and sports are subjected to in the country. It would be in the fitness of things if the government machinery gears itself to improving resources to draw an army of talents from every nook and corner of country and create basic infrastructure facilities supported by inspired coaching and training of international standards to mould these talents into potential medal winners rather than bask in the reflected glory of achievements for which they deserve zero credit. But, I guess, taking credit for something we don't do is far easier than doing things and not getting any credit. -- Nibir

Friday, 16 March 2012

Heartiest Felicitations to Sachin Tendulkar!

Sachin Tendulkar, representing Sungrace Club (Bombay), receiving the Man-of-the-Match award in the Final of the All India Shaheed Smriti Cricket Tournament 1992 from Mr. B.K. Chaturvedi, Commissioner, Agra Division. With them in the photograph are Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh (Master of Ceremony) & Mr. K.K. Kapoor (Organizing Secretary).

If it was a joy to see Sachin Tendulkar win the Man of the Match Award at the All India Shaheed Smriti Cricket Tournament in the Spring of 1992, exactly twenty years ago, at the Eklavya Sports Stadium, Agra, it is difficult to express the happiness and cheer his 100th Hundred in International cricket has brought to the whole world today.

Heartiest Felicitations to the Wonder Boy from the city of one of the Wonders of the World! Crowned with sportsmanship and humility of the highest order, may Sachin continue to dazzle the sporting world with his magic bat and always remain the undisputed monarch of all he surveys, the likes of which mankind may never see again.

- Nibir K. Ghosh

Monday, 12 March 2012

More Comments on "Of censorship and the books that nobody reads"

Dear Dr. Ghosh
Thanks for the March 2012 issue of Re-Markings.
I fully endorse your editorial comments on Satanic Verses. In fact, my own experience with this insipid book is exactly same as yours.In 2008, I happened to borrow a copy of this book from a county library in the US and as I carried it, I felt great for having got the opportunity to read a book that made so much of news in India. But despite my best efforts to read through the book, I could not go beyond about fifty pages, for it turned out to be what you call "excruciatingly unenjoyable". Thanks to  the "absurdity of banning books that are considered unreadable," many generations of young Indian scholars have been blissfully relieved of the drudgery of reading Satanic Verses!

Best wishes.
  • Dr. Jitendra Narayan Patnaik worked as Professor of English in Ravenshaw University, Utkal University and Sanaa University, Yemen. He was Senior Fellow, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India during 2007-2009. At present, he is UGC Emeritus Fellow, Ravenshaw University, Cuttack.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Re-Markings: Down Memory Lane - March 2003


In the complex equation of power relations the factor which seems to have remained constant is man’s inhumanity to man. The ever onward march of human civilization has revealed, among other things, man’s ingenuity to invent a dependable database to justify and account for oppression and exploitation in various forms. The narratives of empowerment emanating from the corridors of power have constantly provided the much needed rationale to keep the ‘wretched of the earth’ in their designated places. The vast proliferation of  knowledge in every sphere has strongly fore-grounded ideologies to support the ones at the apex of the superstructure of  power, be they gods or mortals. Scriptures too have been found very handy in justifying what man has made of man.

In this grim scenario the only redeeming feature seems to lie in the hope generated by the flux of counter-narratives provided, from time to time, by the ‘hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration’ -- the writers, poets and intellectuals. These narratives, emanating from the fertile soil of  human compassion, sing in profuse strains of  deeply meditated  verse songs not only of distress but also of  man’s capacity to survive with courage and dignity in a hostile world. The latter part of the twentieth century has especially shown how passivity towards the fate of the downtrodden is no longer a matter of  intellectual luxury.

The ongoing debate concerning the variables in the power equation has necessitated a virtual remaking of history where Caliban is no longer content with merely abusing Prospero in the language he has appropriated from the latter but shows instead the insidious intent of appropriating his place and position in the hierarchy of power. Likewise, Sisyphus is no longer a hapless victim of the wrath of the gods but  a veritable epitome of  steadfast determination endowed with the ability to confront his fate with the  gleaming smile of  scorn. The euphemisms of the Orwellian doublespeak are no more the exclusive  prerogative of the oppressor. The conflict between ‘freedom’ and ‘fear’ awaits new  visions and revisions from contending camps.

What is so very heartening about the emergence of  such narratives is the role they have assumed in promoting a profound understanding of the age in which we live. And it is equally satisfying to view with humility the small but decisive imprints Re-Markings has made in offering  its enthusiastic readers a wide spectrum of  divergent ideas from the viewpoint of multicultural perspectives.

The current issue of Re-Markings marks the first anniversary of its birth. Committed to issue-specific analysis and treatment of  a wide range of narratives and counter-narratives which transcend the barriers and boundaries of time, clime and space, the journal has become a receptacle for the ‘thinking  man’ in a relatively short span of time. Thanks to its avid readers and contributors, this journal has found effective sustenance in what it has to offer. While unqualified appreciation and praise from host of statesmen, academics, writersand intellectuals like His Excellency Dr. A.P.J. Abul Kalam, Charles Richard Johnson, Jayanta Mahapatra  and others from different parts of the globe offer exhilaration and encouragement, the advice and guidance of  critics will continue to play a seminal role in making Re-Markings move closer to the essential concerns of the human predicament. Light can only show reality. I am optimistic that Re-Markings will take you along the unlighted road to the yet unrealised. 

      Nibir K. Ghosh
Chief Editor

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Langston Hughes in journal Re-Markings

Langston Hughes

Nibir K. Ghosh with Amritjit Singh

Re-Markings, a literary journal (ISSN 0972-611X: Website: www.re-markings.com) edited by Nibir K. Ghosh plans to publish a special section on Langston Hughes in 2013 (Vol. 12, No. 2, September, 2013) to be guest edited by Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English at Ohio University. We invite the submission of personal and scholarly short essays (no more than 3000 words), poems, and short stories written either about Hughes's poetry or fiction or in response to the affect and appeal of his writings. We would especially welcome submissions that deal with the global and transnational aspects of Hughes' career and works. 

Please send submissions in attached Word document in MLA style to both Amritjit Singh (e-m: singha@ohio.edu) and Nibir K.  Ghosh (e-m: ghoshnk@hotmail.com) by 30 September, 2012. Also, please send a tentative title of the proposed submission along with a 300-word abstract if applicable and a 1-page CV by 15 May, 2012.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

More Comments "Of censorship and the books that nobody reads"

Dear Nibir

I was interested in your piece.  I’m afraid I never read Satanic Verses but heard Salman Rushdie quote a passage at The South Bank a number of years ago when a variety of writers whose work had been banned or suppressed appeared on stage.  I felt, at the time, that there was a touch of intellectual arrogance and though I was really interested in The Moor’s Last Sigh and have been urged to read Midnight’s Children by several people, I have had a few reservations about Rushdie.  I remember Attia Hosain whom I knew (do you know her work?) did not approve and also what is interesting is that had he not called it Satanic Verses, the publication history might have been different.  Freedom of speech is one thing but why not some diplomacy as well.

With best wishes,

Anita Money, London.

Dear Nibir,
Thanks for passing this on to me.  I enjoyed what you had to say and agree with you totally.  By the way, your article made me reflect on all the nonsense that’s been taking place at Delhi University with regard to A.K. Ramanujan’s old article on the various versions of the Ramayana.  There seems to be no end of craziness.

With warmest regards,
Mike (Prof Michael Shapiro, Seattle,USA.)

Comments from Charles Johnson


I DID enjoy reading this. Your quotations from Milton and D.H. Lawrence are worth a reader memorizing. And I had the same experience with The Satanic Verses that you did. I just couldn't read it. But "Of Censorship and the books that nobody reads" was a pleasure from start to finish.
Sadar Pranam,

Charles Johnson is American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and cartoonist.  Johnson gained international prominence when his novel Middle Passage (1990) won the National Book Award in 1990, the first African American Writer to.get the award after Ralph Ellison.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Of Censorship and the books that nobody reads

Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.
- George Bernard Shaw

Apprehending arrest for reading passages from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, four eminent Indian English writers had to abruptly disappear from the 2012 Jaipur Literature Festival. Engrossed in the bliss of ignorance, they possibly forgot that “You can discuss a book, read from other writings by the author, have conversations with him, invite him, but you cannot either possess a copy or publicly read from a book that is banned.” So explained William Dalrymple, the co-Director of the Festival, and went on to add how “the consequences could be serious for the four delegates since the readings constituted a premeditated act.” After such knowledge what forgiveness!
Since time immemorial controversies around bans and censorships have always evoked and generated tremendous amount of interest both in the educated elite and the illiterate. The graph of public curiosity naturally rises when it pertains to anything that is denied for reasons extending from the sublime to the ridiculous. It reaches a feverish pitch especially when the issue in question is either pornographic or pertains to what Karl Marx referred to as the “opium of the masses.” Battle lines are instantly drawn between the self-appointed guardians of public morality and over-enthusiastic defenders of free speech and action, be it the case of Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Though it would be an exercise in futility to ruminate time and again on whether a book ought to be banned for offending the sensibility or the fundamentalist sensitivity of a certain class of people, I do feel the urge to recall a particular passage from John Milton’s immortal treatise against censorship entitled “Areopagitica”: Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”
What I find seminal in Milton’s classic statement, an adage that most of us have grown up with, is his emphasis on the phrase, “a good book,” which many of us may tend to miss while discussing censorship or ban. I distinctly recall that what had impressed me most about Lady Chatterley’s Lover, when I lay hands on it for the first time, was not the picture of alluring nudity displayed on the frontispiece of the book or the charge of obscenity that was brought against it; I saw the magnetic appeal of Lawrence’s magnum opus in his very opening statement: “Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”
I discovered on reading the novel how the inherent complexity of life after the apocalypse was as significant as the intimate scenes involving the union of Connie and Mellors and how the blending of these twin concerns went on to create an exquisite work of art. In this context it may not be out of place to quote Oscar Wilde: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame."
Contrary to my admiration for Lawrence’s novel, I wish to cite an instance related to my initial date with The Satanic Verses. When Rushdie’s novel hit the stands in 1988, fetching the author $2 million within a few months of its publication, it immediately stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest and initiated a controversy that has not dimmed in any way with the passage of time. I was obviously intrigued by Rushdie’s open letter to Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister of India, which I happened to see on the front page of The Indian Express. Protesting against the ban imposed on the book on the testimony of a few parliamentarians who had not cared to read the book, Rushdie had stated: “The right to freedom of expression is at the foundation of any democratic society….I ask you this question: What sort of India do you wish to govern? Is it to be an open or a repressive society?”
At that point of time, I was working on my book Calculus of Power at the American Studies Research Centre, Hyderabad. When a friend made The Satanic Verses available, I tried reading a couple of pages and found the experience excruciatingly unenjoyable and gave up the effort in despair. Over the years, I have come across many honest readers whose opinions about the book have not been much different. Though I confess being an avid reader of many of Rushdie’s other works and greatly admire him as an icon of IWE, I’d reiterate the absurdity of banning books that are considered unreadable. This approach, I guess, would be wiser and safer than suppressing the suppressors of freedom of expression.

Nibir K. Ghosh
Chief Editor

Editorial, Re-Markings Vol. 11 No.1, March 2012

It is heartening to know that even highly acclaimed writers are not unaware of the significance of a good story that appeals to the “laws of our primary nature.” For instance, we may look at a lyrical passage from Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things:
The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably….They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

I wonder how many of us would really like to glance at the novel for the sake of reading a “Great Story.”