Sunday, February 04, 2007

India, In spite of the Gods and foreign correspondents!

By John Cheeran
It is very difficult to be accurate when you engage with India.
That is true even in the case of insiders such as you and me.
So when foreign correspondents stitch together books about an India That is Rising, you should expect a half-baked treat.
India is, in spite of the foreign correspondents.
Edward Luce, who is now Financial Times’ Washington Commentator, is eminently qualified to write about India. Luce was FT’s South Asia Bureau Chief based in New Delhi between 2001 and 2005. Not just that. Having married an Indian girl, Luce is almost an insider, like you and me.
Hence I’m disappointed with Luce’s book, In Spite of the Gods, published by Little, Brown in Britain.
Luce has written his book, steered by a few intellectuals and historians whom he encountered during his India beat. And it shows.
Luce is pretty much impressed with the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu. He writes that “Many Indian modernizers hope that Tamil Nadu points the way that the north is heading – towards a more moderate and civilized clash between the castes in the field of politics and elsewhere. Tamil Nadu proves that caste sentiments can be diluted, especially in urban settings.”
Luce has compared Bihar to Tamil Nadu and contrasted Mayawati with Jayalalithaa.
Yes, Tamil Nadu is a progressive place compared to north India. But then it is hardly a case of social justice as is made out by Luce. Tamil Nadu, as Luce correctly points out has only 3 per cent of Brahmin population compared to the 15 to 20 per cent of upper castes in north India.
But instead of Mayawati, a Dalit leader of Dalits, Tamil Nadu has produced a Barhmin leader of Dalits in Jayalalithaa. It is a pity that Luce failed to notice this curious nature of Tamil Nadu politics. May be his advisers failed in pointing out this significant point to him.
In Tamil Nadu, it is not the caste that matters, but cast is. Average Tamizhan still believes life is not elsewhere but on the 70mm screen.
To Luce’s credit, he has fleetingly discussed the impact of Gulf Dirhams in Kerala. Luce has confused town names Kodungaloor and Chavakad and has created a new one, Changanoor (page 256) while writing about the Mini Gulf enclave in Trichur district.
Luce has written what Indian journalists and especially journalists in Kerala are spineless to write. Exposure to Gulf has brought about a Muslim resurgence in Kerala.
He portrays an Abdullah Kutty in Trichur district who is proud to have contributed towards the revival of the mosque in his area. Luce notes that Mosque has been designed according to the prevalent Gulf style. Its minaret booms out the calls to prayer to a much larger area than before.
Excerpts: He (Abdullah Kutty) said that exposure to the Gulf had changed other things too. Most of the women had become more conservative in their dress. “Now they are considered vulgar if they do not cover all parts of their body except the face,” he said.
The change in the dress code of Muslim women in Kerala, prompted by the Middle East is an interesting turn in Kerala’s march to modernity and Internet cities.
By and large Luce has included shining pictures of India in his book.
In the past, India-hands Mark Tully and Elizabeth Boomiller had written perceptive books about the India. And not to forget V.S. Naipual and his India: A Million Mutinies Now, which remains by far the best account of India with more direct encounters with the nation than Luce has managed here.
But Luce has gone step ahead of them all, by writing a policy prescription for India.I hope Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Madam Sonia Gandhi shall pay careful attention to Dr Luce.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read... aserious blogger of your blog my opinion is that it is time that you come out of the JUNK organisation you are presently working for and start on your

John Cheeran at Blogged