There have been somehow a good many number of books on the art of photography and also photographic exhibitions are on the rise lately.

In Bangalore, I visited two photo exhibitions, all top class, French names I forget but I remember Cartier Bresson’s widow curating one and two other Frenc names.

One Mr.Poddar is single handedly devoting himself to promoting the photography as an art. I applaud him.

Now the two books I glanced through greatly inspired me. One, a history of photography in India(The coming of photography in India, OUP) and the other Mapin’s publication on “Vijayanagara, splendour in ruins, it is an Alkazi Collection of Photography, all 247 pages of breathtaking pictures all taken some one hundred and fifty years ago! The price of Rs.2,850 is “peanuts”, I told myself!

An Englishman, residing in the nearby cantonment of Bellary seemed to have taken a fancy for photography and the result is the rare collection. The pictures about the boatmen on the Tungabhadra would really surprise you by their unbelievable contemporary look! The man who shot the pictures, one Alexander Greenlaw earns our gratitude for what he had done for the Indian people and their cultural heritage!

The lotus Mahal stands in full splendour! So too the other structures, one doesn’t know how much is lost and how much remains today. Those who visited Humpi and also those who haven’t and plant to visit must acquire this treasure trove!

There is one more book and one more photographic exhibition, this time in Lond. That is the Alakazi collection again, this time it is on “coloured Portraiture in India”

India had had some two hundred years of miniature painting and we all treasure this tradition as our own very Indian priceless heritage. This was before the 19th century before the Western photography art came into India. Even the Daniells, the two English cousins came to India and covered the entire continent and drew all the monuments and Indian life through their tinted sketches and portraitures. Read More →

Gandhi’s role in India’s Partition

There are about 400 and odd books on Mahatma Gandhi alone. This vast output is besides Gandhi’s own writings and letters that are collected into some one hundred volumes by the Indian government. Every country that had leaders of great national importance, from dictators to democrats, from Lenin, Stalin to Mao and the American and the British leaders has such authorised multi-volume publications.

These authorised, official versions and publications after sometime go out of use and completely junk!

Even Pandit Nehru’s “works” now already in multi-volumes, are falling behind times and it is said by the time the full volumes come out, most  of the contemporaries might have all been dead and forgotten! Along with them the Nehru era romance might also fade.
What would be the fate of the Mahatma?

Why so many books, continue to be written about him? Is he a man or a god, a mahatma or a soul force and what else we can make of this complex personality?

Gandhi stirs our emotions, mostly beneficial, for the obvious reason he is seen as a moral person and he talked often as a spiritual person. One more attraction for Gandhi is his long association with so many Christians and Jews and his claims in his autobiography how he was influenced by his coming into contact with these religious teachings.

But then he always claimed himself to be a religious person and that too as a Hindu. And to complicate matters, he had to work for Indian freedom and that brought him into direct conflict with the Indian Muslims and ultimately India was partitioned and also he died at the hands of a Hindu fanatic.

So, the story makes for an unending charm and complexity and throws in Gandhi’s other many idiosyncracies, eccentricities and a resort to fasting and direct action! All this he did in the name of freedom and also as a disciple of Gokhale, a great believer in constitutional means of agitation and persuasion! So, a series of contradictory acts and beliefs make for Gandhi, the man and his complex character. There are other ingredients as well like sex and sex experiments and the last but not the least the long-suppressed relationship with a high born Bengali lady of the Tagore aristocracy and the long-suppressed letter of Rajaji to Gandhi dissuading him to cut of his further relationship. So, you can have your own take, you are a secularist or a religious person or whatever you are and your inclination. The fascination for Gandhi never seems to die!

There have been several new books on Mahatama Gandhi. Two by his own grandsons, Rajmohan Gandhi (Mohandas: The True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire, pages738) and Gopalkrishna Gandhi (Gandhi in his own words, OUP), who is now West Bengal Governor. I had had a glimpse into these two new books. Both are written with much affection and also much detachment. That is an admirable quality one can surely expect from these two highly gifted grandsons of such a great man. There is also one by his great grand son, Tushar Gandhi whose book is sensationally titled as “Let’s kill Gandhi”!
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When British authors write of India

Indians have to take it with a pinch of salt!









India’s unending Journey

by Mark Tully,2007,pp 278 Rider,London

This is a book by the famous BBC Chief of Bureau for some 22 years and an much-admired writer and presenter of programmes on the BBC. Sir Mark Tully,born in Kolkatta in 1935, has made his home in India and is an authority on Indian affairs.Tully has a large fan- following and much decorated personality,Indian government awarded him the Padma Bhushan and the UK govt,a kinghthood.

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Book Review
Media Monolith
by Mark Tungate,2004,pp 260

Worldwide,newspapers seem to be growing in strength.Says the World Association of Newspapers(WAN) that in spite of the TV,the Internet and other digital distribution channels, it is the print media,the newspapers that has reported sales growth of 2.3 per cent last year.And more interestingly,it is India and China that are the growing market for newspapers.India is the world’s second largest market for newspapers after China.In India 88.9 million copies sold daily.Seven of the best selling dailies of the world are published in Asia while China,Japan and India account for 60 of the top 100 newspapers in developing markets.But we don’t know which are the titles that are best rated from India.While we know for sure what are the best newspaper brands in the Western markets.Here is a brief survey.
Newspapers of the world have a very interesting history.Newspapers serve to inform the public about news and developments in the countries and the world and also help to shape public opinion.
In this world newspapers have a varied story pattern.In India too we have newspapers that were started during the British regime and also newspapers started to fight for freedom
Newspapers and the journalists are now seen as part of any modern democracy,even in dictatorships newspapers played a role.
Even now,press freedoms highly rated and also highly suppressed even in democracies like USA.
In India we have a fairly free press and there are individual journalist heroes.Press freedom is vital but it is not easy to define.Anyway,now the newspapers face a threat from the multi-TV news channels,though experts predict about the decline of newspapers.This is the one more reason why newspapers are also seen as highly identical to national identities.Entry of foreign newspapers are also highly restricted for newspapers have to promote a peoples freedoms and also protect their national and local cultures and certain traditional values.
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Book Review: Paul Johnson
Creators -from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Victor Hugo to Picasso and Disney
Harper Collins,2006,pp300

The English people of today seem to be caught in an identity crisis of their own.Lost their empire and with that has gone their assumed plumes of hauteur and bluster.The English,more than the ordinary Brits,the so-called establishment as such is still haunted by their lost,it seems. Even now,we see their obsessions with their own importance,be it writing,letters,press and even such lofty fields like diplomacy.They seem to hold the key to everything in the world.But the outside world doesnt seem to think of them so.They clung on to an imaginary special relationship with the USA and now with the disasterous Iraqi war,both the Labour party as well as the English public opinion is again caught in an identity crisis.
This impression is strengthened if one goes through Paul Johnson’s latest book,”Creators”where most of the literary references are only to English language writers,even when they are minor ones in today’s world of letters.So,at places he makes a strained case for taking his views seriously.The total impression is that here is a brilliant mind nevertheless and Johnson remains a favourite writer of highly stylised and polished prose.
Paul Johnson is perhaps the best known intellectual writing in England today.He can be called the public intellectual in the American or French sense of the term.In England there are any types of pretensions,so too as for intellectuals who take up public causes.Of course,we have had the example of Bertrand Russell who went on to establish himself as the well-known intellectual face of the English people.
But it is very difficult to notice such people in a country like England and aslo at a time like this,after England had shrunk into a little island and English men struggle to live up to old images.Hence,the disasterous politics of Tony Blair and also the very growing troubles in England with the minorities,immigration and the fall in standards in public life.
This fall is noticed even here in this book which deals with a variety of creative people but Johnson somehow doesnt rise above his isolationist mindset.He chooses all English writers for literary creativity:Chaucer,Shakespeare,Jane Austen,T.S.Eliot.Apart from Hugo(France) and Mark Twain(USA)he has no examples in literature.
However,this is a remarkable book and a tough one too,considering the topic it has chosen to tackle.In India,I am not sure how far the book has been noticed for I have become more and more disillusioned by the fact that reading serious,first class ,original books seems not much in evidence.At any rate,such books or topics are not written about in the newspaper columns or even by intellectuals who write essay on different branches of knowledge.
Paul Johnson,in my opinion,is perhaps the greatest living writer and intellectual who can take up any topic of great importance and he can write also in such exquisite language.To read him is always a great pleasure and a source of great satisfaction both for the intellect as well as our aesthetic and emotional satisfaction.I have to confess I have been reading Johnson all my life ever since my tine at Oxford when he has also editor of the “Newstatesman” magazine,a great favourite with me and in fact reading that magazine helped me to form my political opinions and on a variety of issues.I have read,I think, almost all his major books,on the history of the Jews,history of the modern times,on Napolean,Renaissance,Egypt and on the” Intellectuals”which was published in 1988.
I am glad at least one Indian newspaper even today reproduces his Spectator magazine column,Spectator is also one of my favourite reading even now.
Now the subject of creators is a highly difficult territory and the very first chapter itself is a very fulfilling reading.At the very start,he defines who is an intellectual.”I define an intellectual as someone who thinks ideas are more important than people”.Of course this is a very simple definition.An intellectual is often one who the society looks upto him or her to take up fundamental causes,fundamental truths and advocate the truths in the light of the contemporary developments and often take stands that might go against the current dominant public opinion. That is how even writers like Victor Hugo became immensely popular,so too Charles Dickens and all writers who remain relevant even today,years after their lives and writings were done.

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