Unsung heroes who made a big difference to society
By Manju Gupta
The Game Changers, Yuvnesh Modi, Rahul Kumar, Alok Kothari, Random House India, Pp 252, Rs 150.00
This book discusses the contributions of 20 alumni from IIT, Kharagpur, the institute which provides the ideal ecosystem to explore and excel in areas other than academics. The authors claim that its rich environment helps build leadership, encourage students to question the received knowledge and traditions. This book also marks the 60 golden years of the institute.
The alumni discussed in this book are unsung heroes who made a difference to themselves and to society. The book also gives a glimpse of their lives and achievements. Though different in every aspect, the alumni had one thing in common and that was entrepreneurship, which according to the authors of the book is not just about breaking free from the 9 to 5 humdrum life and not being your own boss. The entrepreneurs shunned the comfort of a cushy corporate job and a seven-digit salary to set sail on uncharted waters with a single-minded zeal and only with an idea as an anchor. It is their ideas and passion that made all the different and catapulted the entrepreneurs into a world of infinite possibilities.
The authors of the book decided to meet these enterprising entrepreneurs and learn about their journey to success and what made them do things they did. Moreover, what were the challenges or impediments they faced when they chose to walk on the path of entrepreneurship and how did they overcome them. So they interviewed these entrepreneurs among whom were included Arun Malhotra who was in the forefront of the IT revolution in India, social activists like Arvind Kejriwal; entrepreneurs like Dr Sukas Patil and Vinod Gupta, who successfully started their ventures abroad and faced opposition in US, but by providing us with a more global outlook. Whereas stories of entrepreneurs like Vijay Kumar, who breathed life into an ailing industry, are familiar to read, there is history of those like Sam Dalal, who had the guts to follow their childhood passion and turn it into something larger than life.
To cite in detail the life of some of them, the authors describe the life of Suhas Patil, who founded the company called Cirrus Logic. He was one of the first Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to open a whole new territory for the technocrats from India and who came to this ‘promised land’ to try out their luck. In 1992, Suhas Patil co-founded the Indus Enterprises and became a mentor to many aspiring new entrants into the field.
Another entrepreneur, Vijay Kumar established Bharati Shipyard, which changed the face of the shipbuilding industry in India. In 2000 it became the first private shipyard in India to go public.
Vinod Gupta flew to the US from a dusty village in Uttar Pradesh to start his company, InfoUSA, with just 100 US dollars in his pocket. Today he is a multimillionaire and has committed his wealth to charity.
Sam Dalal started Funtime Innovations which is the biggest supplier of self-created products to magicians around the world. His company offers a range of over 1,500 products including magic tricks, books and props.
Arvind Kejriwal is known as the ‘agent of change’ and one who left his job with the Indian Revenue Service to create a revolution with the Right to Information (RTI) movement and who is a key member of India against Corruption – a citizens’ movement that demands strong anti-corruption laws.
This book is meant for young entrepreneurs and the would-be entrepreneurs, who may get inspired to dream and create their own story.
(Random House India Pvt Ltd, Windsor IT Park, 7th Floor, Tower-B, A-1 Sector 125, Noida-201 301, UP; www.randomhouse.co.in).
A comprehensive volume of Indian hieroglyphs
By Manju Gupta
Indian Hieroglyphs: Invention of Writing, S Kalyanaraman, Sarasvati Research Centre, Pp 798, price not given
It is a very comprehensive book on Indian hieroglyphs. The corpora of Indus script show over 600 glyphs. Such a large number of glyphs cannot all be abstractions unrelated to an underlying language if the glyphs were intended to convey ‘meaning’. Language words are powerful tools for communication of ‘meaning’ in any messaging system. The book establishes that inventors of Indian hieroglyphs were iterate and used hieroglyphs to present their sounds of speech.
Archaeology has shown that the users of Indian hieroglyphs were innovators in the technology of using minerals, stones and creating alloys of the Bronze Age – alloying copper with tin, arsenic and zinc – heralding a true industrial revolution managed by corporate formations called sreni, ‘economic guilds’.
The author of the book says that the total number of inscribed objects with Indian hieroglyphs has now reached a critical mass of over 6,000 – a database “for solving a mathematical problem is cryptography of matching cipher text with plain text.”
Objects which have been discovered outside of Sarasvati-Sindhu river basins are also evaluated in this book and these include seals, tablets, ingots, etc. Indian hieroglyphs were not syllabic writing. Indian hieroglyphs were word-writing (sometimes called logographic or morphemic writing) to denote the Bronze Age repertoire as experienced by artisan guilds. Thus the process of writing moved from the stage of tally-bullae system of accounting to a written account of a furnace scribe, an associate of the Bronze trader to support economic transactions. A corollary to the account presented in this book of this stage of evolution of writing is the identification of over 1,000 glyphs of the lingua franca of the artisans, scribes and traders who used Indian hieroglyphs.
The inventor of Indian hieroglyphs represented a smith, ayakara by representing two glyphs in fish (aya) + crocodile (kara). The writing system evolved further with combinations of glyphs as ligatures to connote word-phrases. For syllabic representations, new methods – syllabic scripts – were invented, called kharosti and brahmi which were used together with Indian hieroglyphs, on, for example, punch-marked coins.
The work avers that the invention of writing, using Indian hieroglyphs, was necessitated by the economic imperative of the Bronze Age, c. 3,500 BCE. Indian script was composed of hieroglyphs written and read rebus. The Indian hieroglyphs were orthographic representations of lexemes (phonetic-semantic) of an underlying language of artisans. The language was meluhha (cognate mleccha) of Indian linguistic area (sprachbund).
This book will be of special relevance to historians, scholars and archaeologists.
(S. Kalyanaraman, Sarasvati Research Centre).
A fresh perspective in a dozen essay
Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Political Theory, Mangesh Kulkarni (Ed.), Sage Publications, Pp 273, Rs 795.00
This compilation of a dozen essays drawing upon a wide spectrum of subjects like social services and humanities, offers a fresh perspective on some of the most pressing political concerns of our time. The 12 scholars, whose articles are included in the book, shed light on and provide insights into a broad range of issues that are of current relevance in the domain of both theory and practice. Thus the book tries to capture the truly global, interdisciplinary, multi-paradigmatic and praxis-oriented character of the enterprise.
The essays included in the volume seek to capture and explore both the historically grounded contemporaneity and inter-disciplinarity of political theory by focusing on key thinkers like Rawls, Habermas, Derrida, on concepts like justice, right, democracy, debates on globalisation, intellectual property, torture and perspectives on Marxism, feminism and post-structuralism.
In his paper, Jayant Lele offers reflections on the relation between theory and practice by focusing on the two intertwined fundamentalist phenomena that plague the post-Cold War era – the global spread of neo-liberal ideology on the one hand and the upsurge of belligerent ethnic, cultural and religious identities on the other.
Rohin Hensman tracks the theoretical debates centred on the politics of globalisation.
Prakash Sarangi offers an overview of the perennial puzzles pertaining to the translation of individual preferences into collective decisions.
Lajwanti Chatani examines the fractures in the ongoing debates on citizenship and justice through the lens of feminism.
Arpita Anant grapples with the thorny issue of socio-cultural differences for focusing on the case of Muslims in modern India.
Syed A. Sayeed stresses the need for deconstructing politics for emancipation.
Deepti Gangavane focuses on ‘discourse ethics’. The conclusion drawn by the editor is that a twofold manoeuvre is needed – a vigilant deconstruction of the heteronomous tendencies inherent in the global configuration of capital, power and knowledge together with a dialogical endeavour to recover and reinforce the possibilities of emancipation.
(Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, BI/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110 044; www.sagepublications.com).
A gripping biography of a revolutionary
Bagha Jatin: Life and Times of Jatindranath Mukherjee, Prithwindra Mukherjee, National Book Trust, India, Pp 134, Rs 65.00
Written by a scholar-grandson of the great revolutionary and architect of the Jugantar movement, this is a biography of a man popularly known as Bagha Jatin, who chose to suffer and taught his followers to do likewise in the name of a future India where citizens would be happy in the midst of free nations. Jatindra lost his father at the age of five, and this was followed with the death of his little brother and brother-in-law. As a college student, drawn by a monastic life, Jatindra meets Swami Vivekananda who persuades him that even an honest family man can lead a saintly life. Soon Jatindra finds seeds of ideals of social and patriotic service within him and which have been sowed by his mother. In 1899, he loses his first child and in 1903, he goes to Haridwar as a distressed pilgrim. He meets Bholanand Giri, the spiritual guru who helps to solve some of his riddles.
Dedicated to the cause of the uplift of his downtrodden countrymen, he joins the plague relief organised by Sister Nivedita, the Swami’s Irish disciple. It is Vivekananda who guides Jatindra towards a political consideration for India in bondage and tells him to form a group of young men “with iron muscles and nerves of steel” for the political freedom of India from British rule. It is this group of men who come to be called members of the Anushilan Samiti.
It is in 1903 that Aurboindo entrusts Jatindra with the responsibility creating a society, permitting the Jugantar perspective of swaraj. Sri Aurobindo is impressed by the “beauty and strength” of Jatindra.
Jatindra approves of extremist activities and includes indoctrination of the native soldiers, sending emissaries abroad for military training and drawing international sympathy to help India escape from slavery at the hands of the British. He teaches a generation of disarmed militants to sacrifice everything for India and proposes a two-phase mass movement – individual martyrdom and guerrilla resistance. This revolutionary perception helps his followers to collaborate with Mahatma Gandhi in 1902. An exceptional strategist, he improvises a trench fight before laying down his short life for a nation-in-making.
(National Book Trust, India, Nehru Bhawan, 5 Institutional Area, Phase II, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110 070). —MG