(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
Nibir K. Ghosh. Mirror from the Indus: Essays, Tributes and Memoirs. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2020. Pages: 208. Price: Rs. 800/- ISBN: 978-93-90155-24-8.
Reviewed by Shanker Ashish Dutt
As an academic, Dr. Nibir Ghosh is singularly free from the guilt of not writing enough. While the global contagion dislocated and altered quotidian schedules, for him it served as an antidote to what Eric Hyot terms ‘virtuous procrastination’. Mirror from the Indus: Essays, Tributes and Memoires published by AuthorsPress (2020) bears testimony to Ghosh’s, energy and diligence and scholarly recapitalisation.
The opening essay on Tagore as an ambassador for universal understanding sets the tenor, as the prophet of literature without borders bequeathed to humanity an intellectual and spiritual legacy of freedom, pluralism and peace in his writings. The India of his imagination emphasised the spiritual virtues of a sustainable civilisation based on mutual respect and understanding among peoples and nations.
Kipling comes next in which Ghosh attempts to balance the pejorative image of an imperialist who advertise the White Man’s Burden as ‘benevolent humanism’ and a positive one that provides an algorithm for the struggles of life that needs to be faced with resilience, equanimity and grace. The poem ‘If ’is addressed to one half of humanity since the notions of gender inclusion probably enter his consciousness much like the masculinist imperial project. It is rather interesting to observe Kipling strategically sandwiched between Tagore and Gandhi, the two apostles of non-violent, anti-colonialism. Ghosh unequivocally valorises Gandhi’s contemporary ethical relevance. However, the offices of privilege and profit seem to have cynical disregard for the Seven Social Sins enumerated in Young India in 1925:
Politics without principles
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Knowledge without character
Commerce without morality
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice
These tenets for an endurable polity germinated from Gandhi’s experiments with truth to become universal codes of human worth.
The vocational trajectory of Sri Aurobindo from being a member of the Lotus and Dagger Society, a committed revolutionary to a spiritual philosopher is a journey of ascending civilisational pursuits. On returning from England, Aurobindo was distressed by the material and spiritual poverty, irrationality, bigotry: ‘baser ideas underlying the degenerate perversions of the original caste system, the mental attitude which bases them on a false foundation of caste, pride and arrogance, of a divinely ordained superiority depending on the accident of birth’. Ghosh writes, as a nationalist, Aurobindo knew that Purna Swaraj could be achieved through the participation of each constituency of Indian society and that its heterogeneity was its strength that could be the driving force of the freedom movement.
Among the other essays that would be of interest to the readers are Subramania Bharati and Indian Independence, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The Quest for the Good Place in the Essays of W. H. Auden, History in the Future Tense; Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq and Dom Moraes’: The Disenchanted Voyager. Each one of these essays is crafted with a design to focus on relevance and cultural progress in our times.
This contemporary relevance has been incisively articulated by Subramanya Bharati who wrote: ‘In ancient times, do you think that there was not the ignorant, and the shallow minded? And why after all should you embrace so fondly a carcass of dead thoughts. Live in the present and shape the future, do not cast lingering looks to the distant past for the past has passed away, never again to return'.
Mirror from the Indus bears testimony to Ghosh’s multidisciplinary scholarship that has a purpose to build a good place in the manner of Auden: ‘tell them particular stories of particular people with whom they may voluntarily identify themselves, and from which they voluntarily draw conclusions’.
About the Reviewer:
Shanker Ashish Dutt is Professor and Former Head, Department of English, Patna University & Former Chairman, Bihar Sangeet Natak Akademi. As writer and editor, his publications are in areas of Cultural Studies and Liberation literature. He has been a theatre actor and director, a debater and a columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.