60 years of journalism, from the age of 16, and two books later, life has so much more to offer, there is no looking back. Not yet. Unstoppable after 70 is a simple expression of my thoughts, my triumphs, my failures and everything that makes this journey incredible.
- A TOWN CALLED PENURY- the changing culture of Indian journalism
- JOURNALISM - Ethics, Codes, Laws
- 'THE OUTHOUSE ON THE FIRST FLOOR - Coming of (Old)Age in India'
COMMUNIST CHINA HAS, for the fourth time, exercised its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to save Jaish-e-Mohammed founder and chief terrorist Masood Azar from being declared a global terrorist.
And Rahul Gandhi, President of the dynasty-ruled Congress Party (who met Chinese leaders months ago along with sister Priyanka, her husband Robert Vadra and his mother Maureen in a gesture of friendship} has declared that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a coward who was afraid of China’s President Xi (no, not an 11-member cricket team but a lifetime President of the country).
Rahul, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru who coined the slogan ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ before India lost a war to China and said that “my heart goes out to the people of Assam” who were fleeing the Chinese aggression, is not a coward like Modi. It is only communal Assamese who hated Nehru for this tearful statement of surrender.
Modi’s diplomatic offensive and tour of scores of countries, including those never visited by an Indian Prime Minister, resulted in China being isolated in the world body. All the other members opposed China, backing India and threatened other steps against Azar. Of course, there was no such gang-up on the three other occasions when China backed Azar terrorism. The Congress-led UPA was then in power in Delhi.
It was purely due to their courage that Congress leaders kept quiet, knowing that China did it only in the interests of avoiding confrontation and conflict with the terrorists whom the Congress refers to with honorifics like ‘Ji’ and ‘Sahib’. Brave Congress leaders did so only in the interests of communal harmony and secularism.
Communism may hold that religion is “the opiate of the masses” but it does not matter to China that Jaish-e-Mohammed means ‘Army of Mohammed”, the main Prophet of Islam. Such small things are unimportant as China feels that Masood Azar is the very personification of goodness. He kills innocent people as they are ‘kaafirs’ who do not believe in Islam. He fights for the rights of invaders from abroad to occupy parts of Kashmir and throw out its residents, the Pandits, all in the interests of peace and harmony.
China has its own Muslim problem and therefore cannot anger its Jihadi Muslims by standing with India. According to China and the Indian National Congress, those opposing Jaish are communalists while supporting the killing of innocent men, women, and children is purely secular.
More details of what Rahul said against the ‘coward’ Modi could not be heard as they were downed in the thunderous applause of Congressmen for adding ‘coward’ to the list of abuses for Modi, like thief (chor), uneducated uncouth,(anpadh-gawar), low-born (neech) and tea-seller (chaiwala) — ha ha ha — which they hurled at him.
The deafening applause by tail-wagging Congressmen who describe Jeneu-wearing Brahmin Rahul, grandson of Feroze, as Ram and his sister Priyanka as Durga, is all in the interests of secularism. This is election time and the louder you shout exhibiting loyalty to the dynasty, the greater your chances of being nominated.
Jaish deserves support for another reason; it too is dynastic like the Congress. Almost all its office-bearers are members of Azar’s family.
And the pro-China factions of Communists, who once said “Chairman Mao is Our Chairman”, add to the tumult by clapping – more for China than for Rahul whom they now support in the interests of secularism, though Congress dismissed their first elected government in Kerala.
Meanwhile, the intolerant BJP workers are hoping he would spread more such pearls of wisdom. For, has not Manishankar (neech admi) Aiyar’s invitation to sell tea at Congress session helped Modi become the PM?
PUBLIC MEMORY, JOURNALISM students are being told for decades, is phenomenally short
I myself unthinkingly reiterated this in a whole decade as a contributory lecturer in a post-graduate Department of Mass Communications, sometimes adding that the only memory shorter than that, perhaps, was that of sub-editors.
It is no wonder that none of the reports I had seen, both in print and on electronic media, about the controversy over the Congress party President, Rahul Gandhi, adding the honorific ‘ji’ to the name of anti-India terrorist Hafiz Sayeed, recalled how the same terrorist was similarly honoured by the Congress earlier.
In 2013, the Home Minister of the Congress-led UPA government, Susheel Kumar Shinde, used ‘Ji’ and ‘sahib’ while referring to the Pakistan-backed terrorist. A huge furor
was raised about it in the Lok Sabha then, with several Bharatiya Janata Party MPs demanding that Shinde, be sacked.
Many Congress dynasty devotees felt the honorifics could just be the result of the cultured and refined speaking habits of their leaders.
It was not only the reverential reference to Hafiz Sayeed, now repeated by Rahul himself, which irritated the BJP. The Congress had parroted umpteen times that there was nothing called Islamic terrorism and that all terrorists were just criminals. Fine. It was a mere coincidence that almost all the terrorists were Muslims and the acts were done in the name of Islam and the Prophet who preached love and peace.
In the same breath, however, Shinde and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, one of the few ‘think-tanks’ in the Congress (most others have left all thinking to the Gandhi dynasty) talked of Hindu and saffron terrorism. In spite of American intelligence, better equipped in Pakistan, telling that the blasts in the Samjautha Express and a masjid in India were the handiwork of Islamic terrorists, they tried their best to blame RSS and some Hindu leaders for the same – till the courts acquitted them after years of incarceration.
The same Congress leaders, however, called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a low-born (neech) tea-seller (chaiwala), uneducated and uncouth (anpadh, Gavaar), lier and theif (chor).
It is not known where their cultured refinement of speech had done then. Perhaps it was drowned in the loud guffaws (ha ha
ha) of Renuka Choudhary, the one leader who, when she was in Telugu Desam of after defection to Congress, was never known for use of soft or refined words.
FORMER CHIEF ELECTION Commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy has said that the upcoming elections to the Lok Sabha will be marked by money power, violence and hatred’.
He is quoted in the media as saying that “every conceivable complication will take place because of the way the political parties are fighting. This, he said, makes the implementation of the model code of conduct as big challenge to the Election Commission.
Today a friend sent me a message (in Kannada) which says: Price of a buffalo – Rs,80,000, Bull – Rs 50,000, Goat – Rs,10,000, Dog of a good breed – Rs 5000 to 6000 and Pig – Rs. 3000 to 5000. The price of a man who sells himself (his vote) is only Rs.500 to 1000, the post adds.
Earlier there was a story about a politician who offered Rs.500 for a vote to a man who said he would, instead, have a donkey. The politician went searching for a donkey and found that the minimum price demanded was Rs.2000. So he went back to the voter and said he could not get a donkey cheap; instead, he offered to pay Rs.1000 for the vote.
“So, I cost less than a donkey?” the voter asked.
Yes, the donkeys who vote for other donkeys for money, under threats of musclemen, because the candidate belongs to his/her caste or religion definitely are very cheap, We get donkeys or puppies to rule us. And even then there is donkey trading which the media calls “horse” trading and anyone who buys the largest number of donkeys becomes the ruler.
In a “progressive” state of India, the Chief Ministership went to the party which secured the LEAST number of seats and the party which secured the highest number (though a little short of a majority) sits in the Opposition.
India, it must be admitted proudly, has a democracy – unlike most of the newly independent and most Muslim countries. But almost 72 years of independence has not helped us evolve a healthy political culture in which voting is done on programmes and policies, NOT caste or religion, money, muscle power and vote-bank politics of sheepish voting to whoever the ‘mukhia’ (chieftain) asks you to vote.
And the party which ruled the longest, the Indian National Congress, has to bear a large portion of the blame for this. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which once boasted of being a party with a difference, a party of principles, seems to have fallen in line with the dynasty-ruled Congress and seems to value electoral victories more than principles. The party whose leader, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee once showed a bipartisan attitude and described his rival, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as ‘Durga” for the courage shown in liberating Bangladesh, is now accused of taking credit for action against Pakistan for terrorism and even of ‘faking’ the Pulwama terrorist attack killing 44 of its Jawans, for electoral gains.
Bipartisanism has lost the poll to “electoral compulsions.” Perhaps we deserve only to be ruled by a dynasty or its puppies.
The author of the piece below is an erudite, illustrious lecturer, author, editor and daughter of the well-known Hindi novelist of yesteryears, Shivani.
Ira Pande retired as the Chief Editor from the Publicity Division of IIC, New Delhi.
Her article amply highlights the dilemma of our ‘intelligentsia’, which has NOT been able to rid itself of the pernicious vestige of decrying Indian heritage and legacies
‘Kashmir is an integral part ofIndia‘. I have heard this line parroted by leaders of all political hues.
It has always sounded like an arbitrary statement designed to rebuff Pakistan, and to reaffirm India’s military might over a coveted geographical area.
Recently I came across facts that have totally changed my perspective on Kashmir. facts that have astounded me, but more than that baffled me, for they reveal glaring lacunae in the history we have been led to believeso far.
It is understandable that the British established a syllabus for us that was designed to obliterate our glories and inculcate shame in us for all things Indian. But, 70 years past independence, we are guilty of still toeing their line.
Thesee facts are proof that Kashmir is the fountainhead from which flows our culture, in fact, everything that defines our identity as Indians.
Due to my education at an elite school, I had considered myself reasonably well informed.
Yet, I had no clue at all about the significance of Kashmir vis a visIndian history and
— that it was home to Panini, whose Ashtadhyayi is considered the most scientific and flawless treatise on grammar in the world… –
— and of Patanjali, who gifted to humanity his Yog Sutra.
— Sharangdev, considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music is from Kashmir
— Acharya Abhinav Gupt, one of the greatest scholars of all time, who wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti was Kashmiri.
His principles of Ras (emotions) are taught in 80 universities around the world.
Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India and was also referred to as Sharada Peeth.
So much so that when students graduated from Kashi, they took four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning.
Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.
Rajtarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhans in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian Emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the North to the Kaveri basin in the South, and included Assam in the East.
How many Indians have even heard his name???
How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka or that Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid-Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks?
Who are the ‘educationists’ who deliberately withheld such vital slices of history from our textbooks?
How will the present as well as future generations realize that Kashmir is the keystone of our heritage through millennia, finding mention even in our oldest scriptures?
It is not just a piece of land. It is the abode of the soul of India
‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ now has a new meaning for me. It is no longer a political statement, but an impassioned understanding of its importance
I reproduce this because many who read it were surprised that they never knew these facts. Now ‘liberal’ ‘intellectuals’ of ‘tukde tukde’ gangs may say she is wrong and that Kashmir belongs to invaders from abroad who conquered peace-loving people.
That may get them votes, for which they care more than for India.
THE CONGRESS AND ITS allies in the mahagut(ter)bandhan have shown once again that they would stoop to gutter levels and personal attacks to settle political scores.
Added to the list of personal abuses heaped on Prime Minister Narendra Modi (chaiwala, Unpadh Gawar,Chor) is the latest: that he got 44 CRPF jawans killed just before the Lok Sabha polls to get public sympathy and more votes. The charge came from an ally in the gutter-alliance (mahagut(ter)bandhan), Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress who has been playing appeasement politics to get minority votes.
At the same time, Congress President Rahul Gandhi came out with a discovery that at the time of the terrorist attack on the CRPF motorcade, the Prime Minister was shooting for a party propaganda film and enjoying a boat ride.
Vikram Bhalla of Times Fact Check of the Times of India media group has checked and found the Congress claim that ‘Primetime Minister’ Modi was shooting till 6-30 p.m. and enjoying a boat ride at Jim Corbett national park while the Pulwama attack took place at 3-33 pm (not 3-10 as tweeted) by Rahul Gandhi, was false.
The fact check showed that Modi was NOT shooting at Corbett at 6-30 p.m. Government sources said Modi did shoot a tourism-promotion film earlier but was so upset about the delay in being informed about the attack that he did not eat anything. Bad weather also delayed his departure for Delhi as helicopters could not fly. He had to drive on a road full of potholes.
Besides the tweet by Rahul, the party’s Chief Spokesman R. S. Surjewala also called a Press conference on the same day, February 14, to repeat the charge and add that the PM was “enjoying snacks” at the Rampur guest house.
He also flashed photographs claimed to have been taken at the “boat ride” (but clicked before the ride) but none of the PM eating. On cue, many sycophants Twitter accounts, with thousands of followers, attacked Modi for being callous and uncaring about the killings.
Surjawala also called Dar a ‘home-grown so-called terrorist’, i.e. not a real killer, though Pak- based Jaish owned responsibility.
On the other hand, a newspaper published a photograph of Rahul Gandhi checking his mobile phone (obviously for WhatsApp messages) during the three-minute silence in Parliament in memory of the slain CRPF Jawans. Perhaps he could not wait for three full
minutes before planning the false attack on Modi.
As soon as he came to know of the attack Modi was on phone with the Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval despite signal problems,
No wonder Modi later said in a campaign speech that perhaps Rahul Gandhi had prior knowledge of the attack. Congress leaders had earlier visited Pakistan and urged it to work for removing Modi as PM. A photoshopped Instagram picture was posted showing boot prints on Modi’s back after “being kicked”. A Punjab Congress minister, Siddhu, said Pakistan was not to blame for the attack!
BJP chief Amit Shah on Saturday alleged that Rahul Gandhi was insulting slain Army soldiers by claiming that the 2016 surgical strike across the LoC was conducted to win the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. He said that today Army jawans have developed a sense of pride that their government is standing behind them rock solid.
There are also fringe elements supporting Modi who tried to use the occasion to target Muslims and Kashmiris in particular. The Government and the Supreme Court issued orders to ensure that Kashmiri students studying in different parts of the country were not harassed.
It cannot be denied that the political debate in the country has reached the lowest-ever levels. Can Congress, which ruled for almost 70 years, deny responsibility for the decline in the country’s political culture?
VALENTINE DAY, FEBRUARY 14, is celebrated in many countries as a day of love. It is ironical that Jaish-e-Mohammed, an organization named after the Prophet who preached peace and love, chose that day to brutally murder 44 Jawans of the Indian paramilitary force, Central Reserve Police Force(CRPF), in an act of terrorist hatred at Pulwama in J&K.
It is equally ironical that the Congress Party and the National Conference, the parties responsible for the Kashmir imbroglio, tried to politicize the act of terrorism with some Congress leaders like its Chief (not cheap) Spokesman Randeep Singh Surjawala, tried to ridicule Prime Minister Narendra Modi as boasting of “56-inch chest” without action and Congress’ Punjab pro-Pak minister N. S. Siddhu, defended that country as being not to be blamed.
This despite clear indications that the terrorist act, for which Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed proudly owned responsibility, was directed by Pakistani and its spy agency ISI. The ‘secular liberal intellectuals’ also remained as silent as they were when the Muslim majority in Jammu and Kashmir state looted, raped and drove out the state’s original residents, the Pandits.
TThe reaction of the Congress and some Opposition parties appeared to be almost one of glee as reflected in a tweet by a Kashmiri student of Aligarh Muslim University, which mimicked a film dialogue “How is the Jaish? Great Sir, #Kashmir #Pulwama” replacing ‘Josh’ with Jaish.
It is a fact that he was not alone in celebrating the death of 44 brave men who gave their lives for the defence of the country, And not all of them were Muslims as some far-right Hindu fundamentalists would have us believe. Some of the 17 or18 were Hindus. One of them, a woman journalist of a known anti-BJP news channel, was rewarded by the with two weeks of paid holiday. Another was an LIC officer.
Both the Kashmir parties, People’s Democratic Party of Mehbooba Mufti, who got three barriers on the road removed thus facilitating the suicide attack and Farooq Abdulla the dynastic leader of National Conference which initiated the Kashmir issue, and his son Omar, took clearly pro-Pakistan stands
They were all highly concerned about ‘innocent’ Kashmiris who had raped, killed and threw out the original residents of Kashmir, the Pandits, being harassed by the Army.
This can happen only in “intolerant” India.
(Written on phone on Feb.14 night. Posted 7 days later, only as a proof of being alive)
SEVERAL FRIENDS REACTED to my last blog — which was not by me (perhaps the reason it was liked) but by Srividya Srinivasan.
As I i mentioned at the outset’ I did not know her as the piece was mailed to me by a freind and I liked it so much I published it with no changes. Everyone who read it ( strangely it does not apear in the list of my blogs) as the link I sent led to it and agreed with all he said .
One reader even pointed out what she forgot: dog shit left on our footpaths to the disgust of morning walkers. In the US all residents in a colony who walk their dogs are asked to carry a bag and a pair ofvtongs to pick up the shit, put it in the oad and drop it in the trash.
The dog shit on footpaths can be picked up and put in trash bins. But what about the shit filling the brains of many who throw all trash on public roads and any place outside their homes? In India we pride ourselve in keeping our houses clean by throwing all trash out – even in the neighbour’s premises.
As the neighbour also does the same. we all live in trash dumps. The dog shit in our brains of those ridiculing the Swacch Bharat drive of Narendra Modi has to be cleared first. Why was keeping clean not thought of by those who ruled for decades? Because you don’t get votes from it?
That reminded me of a cartoon by R K Laxman decades ago. The ubiquitous ‘common man’ of his cartoons is seen telling a political worker at a booth surrounded by trash from the campaign: “You said you will sweep the polls. Go sweep them.”
It is time we all did some did some sweeping. And cleaning up, starting with our brains.
EVERYONE IS ON a WhatsApp group today, unless he/she is in coma, cut off from the world or absultey unique.
The number of people who send a ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Goodnight’ message (or several of them) every day on their smartphones in India,despite its high illitracy, is astounding, as is that of users forwarding, without checking or even reading often, what they receive.
No wonder, therefore, that Indians are among those using this messaging app most. Facebook, which owns the app, had to set some special terms, like ‘ only five forwards’ for India and later extend them to other countries.
It was made necessary because the unthinking forwards led to dangerous situatiins like lynching due to fake mesages of child-lifting reaching thousands of people within seconds.
Fake news and provocative messages creating law and order problems spread faster than wid fire. Millions of people get addicted to watching their phones. Once used to read WA posts every few minutes, they spend hours on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, equally addictive.
This causes not only a huge loss of productivity but also reduces actual human contact and face-to-face communication. Another problem arising from it is war of words between those in a groupk who belong to rival idrologies.
Some feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under attack from ‘Dynasty Devotees’ who want the return of Rahul and his dynasty to power. The DDs call them Modi Bhakts (worshippers). Both sides feel the other side has paid people doing the messagung.
Though some of the posts do seem to be created by the IT Cells of the BJP and the Congress, most are posted by people who strongly feel on issues. Some posts, especially those attacking the other religions, are the handiwork of fanatics/fundamentalists wanting to fan social tensions and even riots.
It is true that Modi, supposed to be more orthodox and backward, as an RSS fulltimer, than the ‘young, foreign educated and secular’ Rahul Gandhi, used the electronic media and technology more erffectively than Rahul initially, but soon the Congress caught up.
Intervening in a raging war of words between two members if a family group, with both quitting the grouo repeatedly in protest (to be added back by the group admin) I had to tell them to refrain from political posts and stuck to family issues.
People have a right to believe that only the Indira dynasty can rule India and that religion can be used for votebank politics or that anyone who talks of nationalism is communal.
Similarly others can not call them psudosecular and say most Muslims stayed back in India after partition not because they were secular but for their property, posts and to make India an Islamic country.
One group can’t question the other or say that everyone here must owe allegiance to this country first and be patriotic.
So no political posts on family or professional groups. One can post them directly to to others who agree with the ideology.
Group admins, held responsible and even arrested for offensive posts, should ensure that politics are to be discussed only on griups that are meant for it.
And people should live here, not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
MUCH NOISE has been made on the issue of CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) going to the residence of Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar, IPS, to question him about alleged dilution of cases against ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders involved in Ponzi schemes in which thousands of people were defrauded of millions of rupees.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (‘Didi’ for all) sat in Dharna (protest squat) with Kumar to support him. Eight years ago, she accused him of snooping on opposition leaders!
Most political leaders decried the ponzi (chit fund) schemes. Many citizens, mostly the poor who wanted to get rich, were cheated.
The critics included Rahul Gandhi, now President of the Congress. He now supports Didi, in a U-turn, as Didi backs ‘mahagut(ter)bandhan’, the anti-BJP grand alliance that may make Rahul the next PM.
The Supreme Court first warned the police chief against destroying evidence and then the CBI against arresting him. Now it said he can be interrogated at Shillong. Both Didi and BJP claim they won!
From what appeared in the media, the CBI only wanted to question him. The big drama put up by Didi led to suspicion that Kumar knew too many of Mamata’s secrets or of her support to the fraudsters.
It is widely believed that police dilute cases to ensure that those with clout, especially political, are acquitted by courts. Often such cases are dragged for decades by police
Such people, like the Congress MLA of Karnataka who tried to kill another, become ‘untraceable’ even if they are in a minister’s house or sit in a police station.
“CBI has questioned George Fernandes, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah under Congress control very peacefully and found nothing to indict them. These mahagath- bandhan screechers are like terrified chicken when the CBI goes near them. Wonder why?“,Jaya Jaitly a close associate if Fernandes, who died recently, said in a Tweet.
The SC had dubbed CBI a caged bird (perhaps during UPA rule?) It is astounding how many state agencies — like intelligence agencies, police, inquiry commissions and even lower judiciary — are caged birds.
So many probe panel reports have concluded just what the ruling party wanted, that one suspects the report is written in advance and only those who endorse it are named to head the panel, which only buys time or hides the issue under the carpet.
It is time an independent agency free from political influence is set up. Three US Presidents, Nixon. Clinton and Trump have been cornered by such an agency.
Caging birds is cruel. It is time they are setfree.
THE SOCRATIC concept of true knowledge is the ability to know how little one knows. The world’s greatest scientist, Newton compared all known knowledge to one grain of sand on a beach. These equally apply to books: Those who are regarded as well-read or voracious readers know that they had read a microscopic fraction of all the good books written – even in one genre. And some great books are forgotten and remain almost unknown.
One lifetime is not enough to read all the works (including the critical analyses and interpretations) of the books ofonlyShakespearein Englishor of Kalidasa in Sanskrit.
That was, perhaps, how the sarcastic adage that “Classics are books everyone knows about, but no one reads” came into being. But, though unread, classics are known.
Millions of people go through their entire lives without reading a single book (except class books mugged up to pass exams) and talk derisively of ‘bookish knowledge’ or proud of learning from life as ‘graduates of the school of knocks.’ A few authors are known for one or two of their books but many of their works are lost in history,
Will Durant, the American author and philosopher, is famous for his classic ‘ The Story of Civilisation’. How many know of his‘The Case for India’?The book moved me so much that I felt the government should have bought millions of its copies to distribute them free to anyone who can read English. Another of his books,Our Oriental Heritagealso would have made India proud.
I once toyed with the idea of pirating ‘The Case for India’ and distributing it free to thousands or making it a free e-book.
Some very good books are forgotten and stay unknown, hidden under the dust of history. I (and perhaps most readers) had not heard ofElizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell,a contemporary of the great Charles Dickens in the mid-1800s.I would never have known about her if I was not listening to an audiobook of D.H. Lawrence, found it boring and moved on to readers’ comments. One of them said Gaskell’s‘Mary Barton’was much more interesting. I had not even heard of her and downloaded that audio book.
Besides‘Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life” she also wrote A Dark Night’s Work, The Grey Woman, The Life of Charlotte Bronte. My Lady Ludlow, Round the Sofa, North and South, Mr Harrison’s Confession, Wives and Daughters, Ruth, Cousin Phillis, Cranford and the Cage at Cranford, The Moorland Cottage, Sylvia’s Lover and The Pastor’s Wife.
All these books are available on the free audiobook site, Librivox. I would not have known about the book had I not discovered, due to the fear of impending blindness, audiobook sites (I subscribe to several such sites) and Librivox, a site which has most books whose copyright had expired, enabling them to be put ‘in public domain’ with the help of volunteers who read them. Librivox also has an e-book version GuteBooks for those who canread on screen.
ALL the books by Gaskell have received 4, 4.5 or 5-star (out of 5) ratings from the listeners. Some books are available in more than one version, read by a different person.
Here is a writer-up on the book by Martin Geeson, on the Librivox site:
Mary Barton was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first full-length novel. It was published anonymously in that tumultuous year of political change, 1848 – only a few months after the Communist Manifesto co-authored by her fellow Manchester-resident, Friedrich Engels. Engels’s experience as agent in his father’s cotton-spinning factory motivated him to write “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, a classic account of the sufferings of the poor under the factory-system.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s own personal contact with the plight of the poor cotton workers of Lancashire also compelled her to a compassionate examination of their lives; but as a middle-class woman, married to an Unitarian minister, her approach to her subject took on a more emotionally complex significance; influenced by religious faith but also by more personal considerations. In the brief preface to the novel, Mrs Gaskell hints at her initial impulse. The loss of a beloved child in infancy led her to seek a therapeutic outlet, but one which left her uncertain of her capacity to contextualize her public, writerly response to the tragedies occurring in the surrounding society of Manchester’s poorest classes:
“I know nothing of Political Economy, or the theories of trade…” She was, however, determined to portray, in novelistic form, the intimate connection between the private experience of her characters and the social forces of her time. The success of the novel led her to proclaim her authorship and move on to further works of fiction, which have secured her in our times a mounting reputation as one of the leading novelists of the mid-Victorian period.
Certainly, the novel features numerous death-scenes, all conveyed with a depth of sympathy that contrasts with the queasy iambics with which Dickens orchestrated the notorious demise of Little Nell. Mrs Gaskell was not, like Dickens, a London-based novelist observing the sufferings of the provincial poor with a journalistic detachment – as evidenced in his own admirable, Lancashire-based novel “Hard Times”. Gaskell lived among the people whose attenuated lives she chronicled – and however hesitantly, as a début novelist, she rendered their experience in literary terms, her writing presents us with a true insight into the sufferings of individuals at a point in history when the mass of human beings fell casualty to the forms of economic progress following upon the Industrial Revolution. Most impressively she called into question the political and social cost of creating a resentful proletariat despairing of survival in (to quote Karl Marx) a “heartless world”.
Our reader Tony Foster is a resident of Manchester and a near-neighbour of Mrs Gaskell (allowing for their separation in time). His superb narration renders the native speech of her characters with an authenticity which ideally conveys the spirit of this book. A truly moving experience awaits everyone who gives ear to this ‘Tale of Manchester Life’.
Much has been written about India’s poverty and books or films (like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali) which portray it have a big market (and win awards) in the West where the common man still thinks Indians live on trees. But the picture of utter poverty of the working class in 19th century England is startling.
Most of the readers must have read Mulk Raj Anand’s classic ‘The Untouchable’, at least as a prescribed reading for examinations if not out of concern for an oppressed class of the country and a reflection of India’s greatest evil, the caste system.
However, in my reading for 70 years, I had not come across any mention of the Cagots of western France. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote of them in a story ‘An Accursed Race’ included in book of stories ‘Round the Sofa’. Her portrayal of the inhuman way the Cagot tribe was treated all over Europe and even by the Church is not just appalling; it shows the Indian ‘Dalits’ were not treated half as badly. The other stories expose how the aristocracy discriminated against the ‘commoners’ and even denied them education.
And yet the world knows of only the Indian untouchables and caste. The same Church used that oppression and deprivation to convert millions, adding only to its numbers without improving their social status in any way. Other religions followed the same technique besides coercion. All that came of the conversions was creation of vote banks and politics of hatred.
It is significant that fiction and literature took up the social issues of discrimination, poverty and inequality, strengthening the efforts to set right the system. Very little of such use of literature and fiction is seen in India. True some films and books did come out against economic inequality, corruption and caste system, but they were very few or executed badly. I am not aware of any literary works that exposed the crimes against Kashmiri pandits or victims of caste reservations, sexual harassment or other evils.
With smart phone usage going up day by day in India, it is time a free audio and electronic book site of Indian books comes into being. On one of the audiobook sites I borrow books from the Toronto Public Library in Canada.
Is there a single public library in India which has such a facility?