• The Rhesus of Kargudy

    A

    Poem

    By

    Ajay Pratap

    ...

    Look you so nice,
    As you walk past Murugan Ice,
    The caps and skirts,
    The sweets at five pice.

    The berries, nuts and mice,
    You forage in a trice,
    With a fine show of aggression,
    You demonstrate in your posession,
    The intelligence of cultivators of rice.

    ...

    Thank you.

    Ajay

  • On What Happened in the Big-Bang Experiment Conducted by European Union Scientists

    On What Happened in the Big-Bang Experiment Conducted by European Union Scientists

    By

    Ajay Pratap
    Dept. of History,
    BHU.

    Said Mr. Ghose to Mr. Bose
    If the electron and the proton rotate round the
    Nucleus,
    Such that matter is in a solid state,
    Then if we shoot them at a higher-speed,
    Take heed,
    And make them collide,
    Then, that is, all we need,
    To get back to where we began!

    As to whether the Boson is created or not,
    The science research money will be deemed to have been
    Well-spent,
    Make sure this news goes to the press,
    And as the lab-boys assemble,
    To make a mess,

    Turn-up in a nice dress,
    The Champagne is on the house,
    And although we are,
    As poor as a church-mouse,
    Some drops of the bubbly,
    Would not do any damage,

    The world has not got a clue,
    Of what we are about,
    As the glasses clink,
    After many a drink,

    And as Mr. Rupert Murdoch provides,
    Six newer T.V. Channels to Asia,
    We shall be pardoned,
    By furthered public amnesia,
    Let us fill-out those reports,
    Straighten our retorts,
    And get back to where we began!

    ...

    Thank you.

    Ajay

  • Archaeological Pedagogy in India: An Assessment in 2015

    Friends,

    Archaeological Pedagogy in India: An Assessment in 2015

    by

    Ajay Pratap

    Friends,

    As one who had a paper in Political Science, as a subsidiary, while doing my History (Hons.) Course, at the prestigious St. Stephen's, I did manage to learn about Checks and Balances and Watchdogs in a Democratic set-up such as our country. Thereafter, I left for an M.A. in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology (with a specialization in Prehistory) at the equally prestigious Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, at Pune, which did only two subjects, Linguistics and Archaeology.

    However, all this is beside the point. I graduated in 1979 and 1981, respectively, and am teaching Ancient Indian History/Archaeology today.

    As a teacher of this subject, and by virtue of having been in this field, at least since 1979, which is some 30 odd years, my perception is that Archaeology in India has in this period remained for Indian students a very marginal subject or a subject very much on the sidelines.

    No distinct career options in Archaeology have emerged in the past thirty years, in comparison with other subjects, and surely this must be the main reason for that. The success of the Indiana Jones...series of films, and others of that genre, is testimony that there is absolutely no fault with the subject.

    (Box Item, like imagine this, as in a book...Ya?)

    Professor of Economics, Professor Rajendra Rai and I, have for years now made it a practice, to have tea together in my offices at the Department of History, Banaras Hindu University, a few days of the week. Sometimes, he wants to be left alone, just sits and meditates, or reads his lecture notes before a B.A. (Hons) Ist Year Class, other times we speak mostly about Economics. Two things among these, and in this context, are well worth discussing/highlighting. 1st, he said once, "Doctor Pratap, whichever other class you teach at this university, make sure that the BA 1 (as we call it!) is always among one of them!" That is a thumb-rule which I have never questioned and have adopted religiously for the past ten or so years, subject to the latitudes given me by the Time-Table Committee of our lovely department. 2nd, he breezed in once into my office, for a second or so, no tea this time (?) and asked me, "Doctor Pratap, what is Crowding-Out?" I said, "Sir, I'm sure that you are not here referring to how some people miss their trains in Bihar, but something like that, and it concerns Economics! Sir, I shall check on the Google and get back." Given below is are URLs which you may like to read and then try to apply this concept, borrowed here from Economics, to ask the quintessential question: Why India's Archaeological Heritage Management System has been, and continues to be off its hinges and in which both the Academy (in a Foucauldian sense) and the Establishment are both likely seen as responsible, subjectively speaking of course!

    (End of this Box Item, for now!!)

    The Structure of this Discussion

    1. The extent of Archaeological Pedagogy in India in 2014:

    1a. How many universities in India, out of over 400 State and Central universities, have undergraduate and/or postgraduate teaching departments exclusively for archaeology?

    1b. How many specialized Institutes exist for archaeological pedagogy and for awarding degrees of any kind in the subject?

    1c. To what extent are archaeological sources emphasized in courses of Ancient Indian History, in universities which do not have exclusive departments?

    2. The structure of Archaeological Heritage Management in India in 2014:

    2a. Is this in part Government managed or entirely? If so, why so? What are the consequences?

    2b. Does the Government management system suffice?

    2c. What is the Employment generation from the present structure?

    2d. What is the cost-benefit ratio of such a management system? That is, what is the expenditure? And, what is the income?

    2e. Is such a system rational?

    3. What is the relationship between poor archaeological pedagogy, low income and employment generation, and the poor upkeep of archaeological sites, remains, and monuments?

    3a. How does such a relationship manifest itself?

    3c. Does it matter?

    4. What would be a better management system for India's archaeological heritage?

    5. What is the history of and why does the older/present system persist?

    6. What is the present role of the Media?

    7. What is the role of the Indian publishing industry?

    8. Archaeological pedagogy in Indian schools:

    8a. At what level does archaeological pedagogy start, and to what extent?

    8b. What are the textbooks?

    8c. Is this heritage education local, national or both?

    9. Are regional disparities reflected in school and college curricula?

    (Start Box Item 2 here!)

    In this context, and insofar as every journey archaeologists of my type make, and insofar as each journey does leave some indelible impressions, of one sort or another, I would much prefer a sort of exegesis to the present undertaking by recounting that after a very very uncomfortable journey, by air, to the Hyderabad State, in February 2013; on the occasion of the annual conference of the Indian Society for the Study of Conservation of Cultural Property, we were led to a post or mid-conference tour of the Charminar World Heritage Site area.

    After weaving and winding as the gullies here are wont to do, while approaching this delightful monument from roughly the West-South-West direction, and having purchased some Hyderabadi Pearls, very certainly of Hyderabad Origin, and a Copper Lota, both at throwaway prices, as compared with elsewhere in India, from a local Muslim vendor of such small-things, I meandered closer to this world famous monument armed with my Kodak KB 10 basic camera, to take a few perfunctory shots.

    One arriving closer to this world-famous monument, I was at once alarmed to see the entire area, covered by this most wonderful monument, thronging to its very limit with Police!!! Of all Indian callings and descriptions.

    I do swear by all the very nice Hyderabadi Biryani of Mutton and Chicken, and Khubani Ka Meetha as well, with which the Patron of this conference, a descendant of the Salar Jung lineage called Nawab Ehteram Ali Khan Sahab, plied us with during working-lunch and dinners hosted at the Salar Jung Museum, that as I took a circuit around this famous monument entirely foxed at this heavy Police Bandobast, that my eyes literally popped-out when I beheld the express reason for this hustle and bustle.

    Near, or at the very third of the legs of the four minarets, the East-South-East one from my direction of approach, as one approaches it from the gully-end, there was the bewildering spectacle, and the ostensible reason for this hustle-bustle, that a small and an entirely modern and multi-coloured Gopuram-style temple had been built right on to and affixed firmly with this third of the legs of the minarets of the Charminar.

    This was without doubt as Om Puri occasions to say in the film Billu "Duniya Ka Aathva Ajooba!"

    The moral to my mind and better judgement seems to be that those who built this PWD Style temple, and I have actually seen a few others built on notable archaeological sites in India, seemed to suggest to the public, that India does not actually need world heritage sites. "Not really" since we are still a developing country, and what possibly could we do with having some full-time guards for our archaeological monuments of such high merit, not to mention admission-tickets and on-site museums.

    (End of Box item here...Ya?)

    (Cont'd.)

    ...

    Thank you.

    Ajay

  • Bhanua's Cauldron (Cont'd.)

    Out of Bhagalpur

    There were in these days at the Bengali Tola Mohalla, some seventeen odd years of them, if I remember them correctly, a few yearly outings for our family, most notably to the famous National Parks and Forest, such as at Chaibasa, Valmiki Nagar, Hazaribagh.

    The Forest at Chaibasa, the Kolhan and Saranda Forest Divisions, bring back such glorious memories as perhaps no other Forest Reserve of India does, and most certainly I have seen a fair number of Indian Forests, from the Hills of Assam, to Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh, Rajaji Park in Uttarakhand, Sariska in Rajasthan, and Mudumalai in the Nilgiris. However the forests of Chaibasa, particularly in the sixties, take the pride of place.

    First of all because these trips into the forests of the erstwhile Bihar State were all at the invitation of my Maternal Uncle, who at this time was posted at Chaibasa, as an officer of the Indian Forest Service. These were glorious days, and in between his learning and passing exams in the Ho Language, which I was told by him is necessary for all Forest Indian Forest Service Officers, who are newly posted to districts, from the previous one. Ostensibly, this is so that these Officers may be able to interact better with forest villagers over conservancy issues as for the proper promulgation of the multitude of governmental tribal development schemes.

    My Uncle was a very strict person insofar as his work was concerned. While on tour, it was extremely ordinary for him to stop what he suspected to be the trucks of illegal loggers and holler at them till kingdom come! In the Indian tradition and family system the Mama is after-all also supposed to be a daunting figure and he played this role to great aplomb! I have therefore to readily concede that my family owes its great love for forests, wildlife and the Tribal People of India to this very early and very very wide exposure he gave us.

    The forests of Chaibasa are elephant forests in every sense of the term, and as lovely-wooded-dark and deep as any other tropical forest on God's own Earth could be! On one of these trips to places inside this forest, we rode in his Mahindra Jeep (complete with a Trailer carrying the Rasad-Pani) and his half a dozen Ardalees (one of these called Paras was a particular favourite of his!), with my Mama riding shotgun, literally, with a twelve gauge, in what was an entirely open jeep on the sides, as this journey continued through forest roads and tracks known only to him and his staff, through a pitch-dark night, to a distant Forest Dak Bungalow.

    This we reached sometime late in the night. Immediately, the Ardalees all of them went about and put up a great shout. Partly, to awaken as to summon the Dak Bungalow watchmen and cooks, as perhaps to scare away any wild animals. Soon very bleary-eyed Dak Bungalow Staff approached and we alighted this jeep. Bungalow lights were switched on and a set of bedrooms were unlocked by the Dak Bungalow staff.

    In a small shanty shed-like kitchen beside this bungalow, the midnight cooking fires were lit and the cooks, local as well as the one travelling with us from Chaibasa, got to work cooking us some rice,meat and vegetables. My Mama, for his part, had first had all the Newar Beds at this bungalow, beaten thoroughly with stouts canes to chase out any deadly snakes and scorpions which as he explained to me as I stood dumbfounded watching this most arcane of south bihar forest rituals, regularly make these very comfortable white beds their favorite haunts, when the bungalows are unoccupied.

    However, on this occasion, even as I watched very closely, nary a living thing emerged from these very finely woven beds, except that odd Spider! If that provided a mid-night laugh for me, the Millipedes which I was to see the next morning, were as much of a surprise and the subject of a very crisp early morning wonderment and a great but a most pleasant and an equally welcome surprise, for I have never after that time seen such large Millipedes, which for a child of seven years of age or so, which I was at this time, were as large as Rhinos. This area then was truly tropical in every sense of the term.

    The following day was to be my first encounter with a set of very real bows and arrows!

    (Cont'd.)

    Out of Bengali Tola

    After some twenty years of our rented accommodation the Bhagalpur University finally found some grants from the University Grants Commission to begin building some new bungalows and apartments near the university, in its Lal Bagh area, for Lecturers, Readers and Professors, as teachers of Indian Universities were then typically called. The university allotted us the very first bungalow besides the Lal Bagh Pokhar. Some fantastic pond-life could be very easily observed from there. In years of flood, Gangetic fish would find their way into this pond. The Botany and Zoology department would often send their students to do their typical "Pond Life" studies at this pond.

    I once saw a snake in our back-garden, which had apparently emerged from this pond. It was very ordinary green and did not seem to be poisonous at all! When I touched it with a stick it promptly turned-over on its back and played dead. No amount of prodding would bring it back to life. However, and suspecting this to be the case, I lifted it on the stick and threw it into the pond. It came alive more or less instantly, and swam-away in plain sight!

    However, it was the very large-sized Rehu fish from this pond, which in years of flood, would interest us more.

    ...

    Thank you.

    Ajay

  • Some Book Reviews of Fiction

    Some Book Reviews of Fiction

    English, August: An Indian Story, Upamanyu Chatterjee. Penguin. 1988.

    Also see URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upamanyu_Chatterjee

    It is very difficult for a non-English literature person to review a literary work of the quality that is this book. However, let us invoke academic democracy that allows us, from time to time, to shed the garb of the specialist and act like normal people. This may give us the lee-way we need to justify whatever we write about Upamanyu’s Chatterjee's excellent debut novel of the late 1980s. At a time when most of our young students are inclined to "Take the Civil" Chatterjee's novel should come as an eye-opener to what there is in this line of service beyond the imagined fat pay packets! Upamanyu's work is by no means meant to be a manual for administrators or young administrators as was Kautilya’s Arthasastra. It is really the reminiscences of a king...just as if Chandragupta Maurya were to write about the Mauryan period himself rather than have Kautilya do it...which in fact is not the case! In my limited understanding of Indo-Anglian Literature, whether modern or postmodern, writing provides catharsis, and that to me seems to be the main purpose of English, August!

    The protagonist in this story is a young recruit into the elite Indian Administrative Service, also popularly known as the IAS. August is a thoroughly urban-bred boy who finds his first posting in Madna, a little district head-quarter, in the middle of nowhere, in particular. I find the word “wickets” to describe such places of abiding interest. The story revolves around the experiences of Augustya with local administration and about Augustya finding his feet in this unlikeliest of locales, given his deep disgust for all that Madna has to offer.

    There is something in the repeated flights of the protagonist Augustya Sen, mostly from rural locales of Madna, to the metropolis whether Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata, which smacks of a certain unabashed truthfulness, about the fact that a lot of urban-bred Indians suffer from claustrophobia while out in the open and conversely about a lot of rural Indians who feel the same, when they visit the great urban jungles. I tend to think that there is nothing wrong in protagonists of both kinds, running away, even in flights of fancy which literature affords, from dislikeable locales, on account of all being runners, which incidentally Augustya is!

    However, Augustya Sen is also a chatterer. He is constantly muttering (albeit only in his thought world!) to himself, and thus exercising self-reflexivity, in situations which he finds thoroughly dislikeable, such as committee meetings, revenue meetings and so on. To impart such fallibility to a character, even in fiction, is surely a first in postmodern Indo-Anglian fiction, which I have read. I mean the consistency with which Augustya is able to do this should by far out-rival the same talent in any other fictional character created thus far. A sort of Indian Walter Mitty. All in all this is a great novel.

    The Hungry Tide, Amitava Ghosh, 2004,

    Also see URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amitav_Ghosh

    As a student at Cambridge, once while I was deeply lost in the University Library Stack-Area, I happened to stumble upon an unlikely reading in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society - A Captain someone had written an article on the Gangetic freshwater dolphins (Platanista gangetica) that are commonly found all along the river Ganges in India. He had described the provenance and the habits of this creature and had even provided a diagram of a skeleton of one such dolphin, from which it was easy to infer that this is after all what we saw cavorting in the river from the roof-tops of our school in Patna, and from the shores of the Ganges at Bhagalpur, in Bihar.

    But most of all, I am an Amitav Ghosh fan, and read The Hungry Tide recently, a book that deals with Gangetic Dolphins. It is about the Sunderbans Delta of the Great Ganges; what life (human and animal) obtains there and their interactive dynamics. It is absolutely transporting as most Indians associate the name of the Great Sunderbans with the Royal Bengal Tiger and hence never even consider venturing into that area. His protagonist is a girl Ph.D. student working on such dolphins. As Amit Da is an anthropologist himself, he has managed to describe her trials and tribulations (in the novel) as she trails the very elusive dolphins and the not so elusive locals who are forever trying to do her out of her money! Absolutely transporting.

    Of course Amit Da, as he says somewhere in this work, has put in considerable field research on freshwater dolphins, if not in the Ganges delta then somewhere else in Southeast Asia. What I like most about this work is his eye for the correct sort of detail and his background knowledge of the subject. Such that the reader of his work emerges a little wiser than when s/he started. In a recent television interview with Barkha Dutt, Amit Da has shared his liking for the subaltern. Among other quotable quotes from this excellent interview session is "I do not paint any perfect characters as in real life there are hardly any."

    The Pilgrimage. Paolo Coelho. 1987.

    Also see URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Coelho

    I also happened to read Paolo Coelho's The Pilgrimage. I have also read parts of The Alchemist, and two other of his works, however, it is this work of his that I feel is of greater significance than the others. Astounding. Just when I thought that modern Europe is all about machines and material culture comes a book that takes us into the contemporary inner spiritual cultures of Europe. The kind of pilgrimages, revelations and magic that we hear exists only in exotic locales like the Orient. At least it helps establish that not all of contemporary Europe lives in her cities.I hope this is not blasphemy of any sort when speaking about a work of the great Coelho, that his novel smacks a little of the Castaneda genre of Don Juan books.

    Mr Palomar. Italo Calvino. 1985

    Also see URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italo_Calvino

    This is a book and an author very much to my liking. This is his very first work that I have read. In fact the book contains something about Mrs. Palomar as well. So Mr. Palomar, who is a quintessential dreamer, is also suitably domesticated. Thank heaven's that Mr. Calvino lives in Italy, else in this work, Mr. Palomar could easily have drifted into an existentialistic character. No, he appears to be firm, detached, purposeful and organized even in his dreaming, whether he is dreaming as he is watching the sea waves, the skies, his garden, or listening to the blackbird (the latter being the most interesting story according to me in the pages that I have read until now because it is certainly a relevant idea of Calvino’s that if the blackbird could speak the human language then humans could learn from her all the nature's secrets, and conversely, if humans could whistle like the blackbird then she could learn all the secrets of human culture! This is an adorable construct and explains the nature/culture dichotomy better than most books on anthropology. I welcome pontificators like Mr. Palomar.

    ...

    Thank you.

    Ajay

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