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A scholarly work on early Indian influence in South-east Asia

A scholarly work on early Indian influence in South-east Asia

Manju Gupta

undefinedEarly Interactions Between South and Southeast Asia: Reflections as a Cross-Cultural Exchange, Pierre-Yves Manguin, A. Mani and Geoff Wade (Eds.), Manohar Boooks,   Pp 514 (HB), Rs 2,750.00

This book, an outcome of 23 papers presented at a conference in Singapore in November 2007 on ‘Early Indian Influences in Southeast Asia’, focuses on the ways in which Asian polities and societies interacted over the centuries in past. As many as 27 authors carried out research on the interactions between Southeast Asia and South Asia in the period between 500 BCE and CE 500. The introductory chapter is given by PY Manguin while the remaining chapters in the volume are divided into sections with 10 papers in Part I relating to the new archaeological evidence from South Asia and Southeast Asia based on archaeological evidence unearthed on both sides of the Bay of Bengal in recent years, while Part II comprising 13 papers addresses the issue of localisation of South Asian cultures in Southeast Asia. 

In Part I, Lam Thi My Dzung presents an overview of the archaeological cultures in Central Vietnam during the period from 500 BCE to CE 500; the transition process in Central Vietnam from Sa Huynh to Champa as are reflected in the archaeological sites and artefacts and the discussion for the delimitation of this early historic period and the so-called Sinicisation, Indianisation and the impact of indigenous elements. This paper shows that beginning from the early centuries of the Common Era, Brahmin priests, Buddhist monks, scholars and artisans introduced into Southeast Asia indigenous artefacts by Indian merchants. He clarifies, “I argue that the spread of goods and culture from India and China reflected the grafting of Indian and Chinese commerce on to a pre-existing infrastructure of Southeast Asian networks.”

Ian C Glover and Berenica Bellina say that excavations at Khao Sam Kaeo yielded evidence of agate and carnelian ornaments were made with the most skilful Indian manufacturing techniques and correspond to the most sophisticated production even rare in India. The presence of metallic vessels and hard stone and glass ornaments, some of which suggest to the authors that dynamic regional networks had established and sustained relationships with the Indian subcontinent as early as the 4th-2nd centuries BCE.

Phaedra Borvet says trans-Asian trade in ceramics made in the Indian subcontinent as early as the 4th-2nd centuries BCE and that to establish the borrowing of stylistic Bengalese outlines and of an Indian technique to some of KSK’s local predictions and the circulation of Indian craftsmen and potters in the Thai peninsula, during the same period.

Boonyarit Chaisuwan says that the Andaman Coast in southern Thailand had trade links with Indian merchants who distributed not only Indian goods but Roman products and items that imitated the original Roman goods. The Roman items came to Southeast Asia because at that time the Romans had already founded many trading stations in India. Phu Khao Thong in Thailand was an important bead-manufacturing site and many artefacts display overseas contact, especially with India. Among the notable artefacts is a rock crystal lion pendant (which was also found in Taxila), inscribed shards in both Tamil-Brahmi and Brahmi scripts related to the 2nd-4th centuries CE.

Similarly artifacts and other evidences have been found in West Java, in Sumatra, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand to show Indian influence.

These new studies as seen through the papers presented by scholars emphasise the influence of Indian cultural elements in Southeast Asia in respect of artistic, architectural, linguistic and religious attributes as they crossed the Bay of Bengal to reach the shores of Southeast Asia.

(Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 4753/23, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002; www.manoharbooks.com).


Snippets from real life

Manju Gupta

undefinedVisiting Old Friends: A Study in Remembrance, Margaret Chatterjee,  Promilla & Co., Publishers, Pp 50, Rs 150.00

The book carries snippets about the life and work of eight friends of the author and who hailed from countries as varied as South Africa, Australia, Germany, Greece, England, Russia and America.

Margaret talks nostalgically about Fr. MacLean of USA and how he showed her around the city – the Potomac and the surrounding areas – where he belonged. As he suffers from a particular form of illness, he stays near a hospital. In between the treatment and during the periods of remission, he does move about a little, but this period is getting less and less, yet his “spirit will never come to an end” but inspire others, says Margaret.

The others Margaret mentions include Merietta T. Stepaniants, a Russian professor at Diplomatic Academy and recipient of the UNESCO chair in philosophy, who has many publications to her credit and believes, “A civilisation without violence is an ideal towards which we are called upon to march untiringly; a lighthouse illuminating the path, lest mankind perish in darkness.”

Though the sketches are very personal, the style of writing is incisive and enjoyable to read who admire good English language.

(Promilla & Co., Publishers, C-127 Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi-110 017; www.biblioasia.com). 


Cast in village caste, power politics

Manju Gupta

undefinedTales of a Wasteland, Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’, Global Vision Press, Pp 480, Rs 495.00

This story is set in village Paranpur where caste politics has gained strong footing. Political parties too consider it right to organise themselves along caste lines. All is fair in power politics.

Here is located the old haveli of Paranpur Estate built by Shivendra Mishra who had prayed to Mother Tara to make him “from a pattanidar to zemindar,  from  zemindar to Rajah, from Rajah to Maharajah”, but she did not hear his prayers. He remained a pattanidar and died as one.

In this village lives Tajmani, a little girl belonging to the lower caste, who goes to attend the annual village fair where her bullock-cart is declared the winner in the race of bullock carts. A young boy named Jeet, who also happens to be a descendant of Shivendra Mishra, also participates in the same race, but loses and cries on losing to her. She reprimands him, “What a boy! You’ve grown so big and you cry because your bullocks have lost?”

When they grow up, they become close friends. Jitendranath Mishra or Jittan Babu as the young boy is now called on growing up, the lamp of the family, has returned home after ten to fifteen years’ absence. He has some wasteland left with him with a large portion of 1,200 bighas of it acquired by the government, much to his chagrin. Meanwhile his proximity to Tajmani raises many eyebrows in the village and all kinds of gossip starts making the rounds. They believe that Tajmani’s nose-ring has been removed by Jittan Babu, meaning that she has become his mistress. They whisper that just because she has done so, she has started looking down upon others from the low caste. A villager says scathingly, “She’s become a Brahmini. What airs!” Another says, “She tries to stir up the fear of the haveli! Jittan Babu is a Babu in his own home. Let him keep his nattin in his haveli.”

Unperturbed at all the talk, Tajmani blatantly begins to live in Jittan Babu’s haveli and soon discovers that he is in dire circumstances money-wise and this becomes obvious when Jittan Babu says that he will give up consuming milk and milk products and his drinks in order to do penance and save money. Tajmani persuades him not to inflict injury upon his body and offers to help him out. 

The book presents the trials and travails of villagers, the poor and the not-so-poor. Life throbs and pulsates through each page. On its broad canvas, the life of two generations is inimitably presented to create unforgettable characters through episodes and dialogues in an idiom that reveal the well-known author’s power over words. ‘Renu’ raises a deeply moving cry against an unjust social order coupled with compassion for man; his freedom from bitterness against the establishment and his love of common humanity. His story is supported through creation of a half a dozen powerful living authentic figures with whom he peoples his world and sets against the wasteland perpetrated by Nature on man. It is this that sets him apart as a major creative genius.

(Global Vision Press, 4855/24, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002)


A moving tale of unrequited love

Manju Gupta

undefinedTen Days: The Hope of a New Dawn, Azharuddin, General Press, Pp 184, Rs 125.00

This is the story of an ordinary guy named Zeeshan Akhtar, who harbours extraordinary dreams. It is through this protagonist that the author endeavours, in this first novel of his, to portray the similarities in the lives of the young generation in a developing country, where often the dreams and aspirations of the youth get thwarted by society owing to jealousy or antagonism.

Zeeshan leaves his parents, sisters and girlfriend Ria Dutta behind in India to go and study at Sydney in Australia, where he bears the brunt of mindless racist attack. When he first lands in this country, he has not even the wildest dreams thought that things would take such a downturn. He is admitted to Epworth Hospital where an Australian journalist named Amanda Stewart is deputed to interview this victim of the racial riots. 

Zeeshan, while lying in bed, goes back to high school days as he is reminded of his Grade XII days when he is deputed to organise the freshers’ party to welcome the Grade XI students. He asks Ria Dutta to assist him on the podium. Gradually they draw close and decide to get married when he returns from Australia.

Amanda meanwhile, tries to extract as much information as she can about his life, peeling off layer after layer of his life to make him realise his shortcomings, loopholes, desires and dreams and this serves as his life saviour as he is able to give vent to his feelings. After ten days of rigorous rehabilitation and cure, Zeeshan recovers and realises that he cannot return to India without seeing Armanda first. He locates her office but she refuses to see him because of what he had said to him when she had gone to see him. He leaves a message for her, telling her that he is leaving Australia for good and would like to see her once as he has something to tell her.

She goes to Epworth Hospital to see him but he has left for the airport by then. She rushes to the airport but is too weak-willed to face him. She hides behind the stalls because she does not want to create a scene and cry, beg and entreat to stop him from going. Slowly, the aircraft takes off, soaring high in the sky as she stands miles below, staring at it. “Both of them failed to say what they had in mind but in a way, it was good because the feeling of incompleteness would keep each other’s memory fresh in each one’s mind and what all happened Down Under.”

This is a moving story of unrequited love.

(General Press, 4228/1, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002; generalpressindia@gmail.com)

A spiritual thriller

Jayant Patel

$img_titleDrowning Shadows – A Novel, Umair Naeem, Amaryllis, Pp 210,   Rs 250.00

Here comes a spiritual thriller by a Karachi-based author who is currently working as a marketer. The book depicts the intricacies of human relationships and the ruinous effects of wild ambition. In between are thrown in, in a good measure, the conflicts of three women’s desires and expectations.
As the protagonist Hyder Waseem battles for life, the book traces his journey at two levels – the physical where he is a successful fashion photographer and at the metaphysical level, where he is trapped in the craze of drug addiction and forced to confront his failings. We get a glimpse of the fashion world in Karachi – a world where glamour and fame is power, loyalties follow where money beckons, lust is legitimate and everybody struggles to find love.
There is no doubt that Hyder is a shrewd man; at the age of 34, he has had 10 years of experience in Karachi’s cut-throat fashion industry. He has needed every bit of that shrewdness to reach this position – the pinnacle of his success. “Since day one of his career in photography, it had been obvious that to be an ambitious and successful photographer, he had to be clever. He had also realised that survival and success in his city often depended on how much one would be willing to give …and take.”
The book deals with Hyder’s relations with three women – Natalia Ahmed, Pakistan’s best-known model; Anab Mohsin, his protégé and personal assistant; and Sophie, the fiancé of his friend Osman Mehmood. Natalia Ahmed is the last in the long line of women Hyder has been with. All of them seem to find his dizzying success and striking face with a garnish of impeccably maintained stubble, hard to resist. Natalia is 25, curvaceous and delectable, but what makes her different is the fact that she is uninhibited, be it in bed or in front of the camera. “She possessed an unrestrained wildness that he had never seen before and which made him want to possess her every time he was with her. She was talented and was drunk on ambition. Like him she wanted it all and she had no qualms about how she got that.”
Anab Mohsin is young, energetic and very sharp. Still in her early twenties, she is fascinated by the media. She has left her hometown Lahore, hoping for success in the bustling metropolis of Karachi.
Sophie is strikingly beautiful and about to get married to Hyder’s best friend.
The novel explores the characters of these three women and how their past events shape them. It also points how seemingly different they are, yet inherently similar in terms of their desires and insecurities. This novel is about ambitious people, their expectations and relationships and the difference between what they want and what they really get.
(Amaryllis, J-39, Ground Floor, Jorbagh Lane, New Delhi-110 003; www.amaryllis.co.in)

A guide to debt-free life

A guide to debt-free life

Ashish Joshi

$img_titleDebt-Free Forever: Take Control of Your Money and Your Life, Gail vaz-Oxlade, Global Vision Press, Pp 311, Rs 245.00

If you are to your eyeballs in debt and cannot imagine ever being debt-free, this book claims to help you fix it. Staying mired in misery is one option. Pulling up your socks, dusting off your breeches and getting to work to dig yourself out, is another. You can wallow in your misery or you can work hard. You can whine or make life what you want it to be. Though what the author suggests is not easy but what she suggests for being debt-free is that whether you establish an emergency fund for the first time or make a commitment to live on a budget, it is your approach which can make you successful. Her straightforward approach to money management is based on self-control, hard work and prioritising what’s really important.
Gail gives a clear strategy and the steps needed to implement it. The first step she suggests is to analyse your weaknesses. If you love to shop, you should acknowledge the fact that you should not hang out at malls because it is not conducive to a ‘no shop’ plan. If you love to eat and agree to meet your friends in a restaurant, you are reinforcing your weakness. In such a case, recognise your old habit which gives you pleasure and change your environment so that you aren’t tempted.
Step two is to do one thing at a time. In trying to make things better, you may do too much and in the process, split your energy and wear yourself out. So to be successful, pick something “you want to do differently today and do that thing. Once the new pattern is established, pick the next thing you are going to do.”
Step three is to take small steps. Adopt the ‘baby steps’ strategy. If you are the one to get tempted to buy something you cannot avoid, it is advisable to establish a ‘no shop’ day and gradually ‘no shop Saturday’ can grow into ‘no shop Friday’ also. Small steps can get you where you want, without the risk of sliding back.
Step four is to demonstrate stick-to-it-ness. If you don’t have the persistence to stay on the course, it’s pretty hard to succeed. You have to demonstrate determination. Each step taken by you will create the momentum for the next step.
Step five is to set milestones. Create a map for where you are going and take pleasure from each milestone you pass. Rewarding yourself for achieving one goal to keep moving forward.
Step six is to accept your mistake. If you say something like if you will not get debt-free by Tuesday, you will not try again, then it is wrong because you have to try and learn from your mistakes to move forward.
Step seven is to do your best. If you keep cursing yourself for doing something wrong, then you can’t move forward. Sometimes you will miss but it’s the effort that counts. It’s best to say, “I’ve done my best today. Tomorrow I’ll try again and do my best.”  
So if life sucks, you are responsible for it to some extent. If you are determined to change where you are going wrong and exercise self-control, turn to hard work and prioritise what is really important.
(Global Vision Press, 4855/24 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002).

Forging essential connections. A handbook

Nidhi Mathur

$img_titleThe Art of Connecting: How to Overcome Differences, Build Rapport and Communicate Effectively with Anyone, Claire Raines and Lara Ewing, BPI India Pvt Ltd, Pp 230

As the global marketplace and e-business create greater intersection across cultures, time zones, races and religions, each of us is getting forced to connect thorough differences. Business results – sale, the profitability of a small business, the success of an article – depend on the ability to communicate effectively across cultures.

The book shows how to become more adept at forging these essential connections. If you want to bridge the gap that separates people from different background – whether it’s ethnic, perceptual, generational, gender or cultural in nature – the book provides a strategy for it.

The two authors of the book approached a hundred people in a variety of industries and chose four people out of whom one was a couple and all are masters at connecting. They studied the way these four interacted with a wide variety of people and learned about the principles that guided them. By observing their interactions, the authors isolated a set of steps used to forge connections.

The book profiles the four masters of connection and introduces the Titanium Rule – Do unto others according to their druthers. All the four individuals held a common set of principles and these were:

* There is always a bridge, that is, find a common ground with all people, no matter how different they are from others

* Curiosity is the key. Being most inquisitive people, these four masters are fascinated by people, especially those who come from different backgrounds. Curiosity opens a mental door

* What you assume is what you get. The masters approach each person they meet, no matter how they differ, expecting the best. They get into every interaction with anticipation and eagerness. They presume this is a good person who has valuable contributions to make and important things to say

* Each individual is a culture – Here the masters are curious about the other’s family, beliefs, education, key events in his life, personal style, artistic tastes, what kind of movies he likes, etc.

* No strings attached. The masters don’t expect reciprocity.
The masters do their best to learn what caused the reaction they have received, so they can be more successful in the future.

The book gives directions for facilitating team-building activities that help people close the diversity gap. 

The authors are sure that eventually the strategies and skills will become a part of your dealings with other people.

(BPI India Pvt Ltd, F-213/A Ground floor, Old Mehrauli-Badarpur Road, Lado Sarai, New Delhi-1100030; sales@bpiindia.com).


A short, pithy story

Nidhi Mathur

$img_titleThe Journey of a Burning Boat, Abdus Samad, Promilla & Co Publishers,  Pp 178, Rs 250.00 

In this short but very pithily told story about Sheila, who, though nearing some two score years, with her highly made-up face attracts people like bees to a honeycomb. Notoriety and popularity seem her innate mystic persona, giving her an unusual eminence in the village. She has no other relative, close or distant, except her father, who is a teacher in a primary school. It is rumoured that she resides in a hostel not well looked upon. It is also said she jostles with shady characters. Heaven knows what the truth is but her appearance – bedecked with jewellery make people wonder if she is really the daughter of Tikaram, the teacher. The villagers gossip about her through tight lips and Sheila takes the fullest advantage of their disapproving non-interference. Whenever she visits the village, she leaves a blazing trail like a comet. She visits all and sundry without reservation. 

No matter what the villagers say about her, she is, however, the only hope of the young unwed girls of the village from which every year one or two girls are known to vanish. No one knows where the girls go, but after some time money orders are received from them by the parents, who presume their daughters are doing well, else they would have hung like albatrosses round their parent’s neck.

One day a young girl called Chanda from this village, with a letter from Sheila Didi, visits the latter’s castle-like house in the town. She is taken in and made comfortable. Sheila instructs a woman to take Chanda for shopping and to get her done up in a beauty parlour. 

Chanda goes to sleep but without forgetting her parents. She realises that even if they were to forget her, she hopes to make them happy one day and is driven to do what she is doing for their sake.

The story describes her experiences and how she is ridiculed by older men who are her customers. Not only that, it takes the reader into the depths of Indian society – to the towns, cities and countryside where impoverished children without hope are lured and trapped in the flesh trade that is practiced with subtle élan.

(Promilla & Co Publishers, C-127, Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi-110 017; www.biblioasia.com)

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