Tuesday 21st August 2018 16:58 EDT

‘Reform, perform, transform,’ was the theme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the Nation from the ramparts of historic Delhi’s Red Fort on the 72nd Indian Independence Day celebrations. He exuded confidence on the New India fit for purpose for the new generation. 

The Prime Minister highlighted the fundamental changes in the country’s evolving  economy, starting with the doubling of tax payments to 75,000 crore, the ease of doing business, which had resulted in around $1 trillion worth of investments, domestic and foreign, the unfolding national health insurance and public health and sanitation measures, continuing agricultural reforms projected to double farm production over the next four years and the promise to protect Muslim women by banning the tyrannical practice of triple talaq (instant divorce following the thrice declared intent of the male spouse).   

Manned space flight by 2022

Moving to the future, Prime Minister Modi  said India would send a manned mission into space by 2022, taking India In to an elite group of four countries after the US, Russia and China.. Dr K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) speaking on TV, said that much preparatory to that goal had already successfully been accomplished, what remained to be done, although challenging, was eminently achievable.

Passing of a Literary giant

The novelist and writer V.S. Naipaul, born into an Indian immigrant family in the Caribbean island of Trinidad died in London on 11 August 2018, aged 85, within a week of his 86th birthday. Reams of print were devoted to his life and career as a literary icon, most drearily mundane, in their muted tributes, relived somewhat by syndicated columns from the New York Times, the favoured crutches of Indian scribes unable to walk the talk unaided at such challenging moments.    

Nobel Laureate

Vidyadhar (Sir Vidia to the public in his mellowing years) Surajprasad Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in October 2001, the Swedish Academy having found release from its claustrophobic embrace of Islamic clerics and their obedient flocks in  the aftermath of the jihadi attacks of 9/11 on the United States of America. The Academy made timely amends for its past timidity with praise of the author’s ‘incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories…as a literary circumnavigator only really at home in himself, in his inimitable voice.’ He was unaffected by literary fashion and models and had wrought existing genres into a style uniquely his own, said the judges. 

Naipaul’s response 

Naipaul expressed intense delight at this ‘unexpected accolade. It is a great tribute to England, my home, and to India, home of my ancestors…’ The literary critic Jason Cowley summed up thus: ‘His work, may, at times, be characterized by irritable misanthropy,… and by rage, but in the canon of British writing, he is without peer, a scourge of sentimentality, irrational and lazy left-liberal prejudices. He deserves the prize.’

Place in the canon

For Amit Chaudhuri, an acknowledged literary critic of high standing, with contributions in The Times Literary Supplement, New Yorker, The New Review of Books et al, Naipaul was the finest writer in the English landscape in the second half of the twentieth century.    

‘To yourself be true, wrote Shakespeare. Sir Vidia  - stubbornly so, felt it was a writer’s role to disturb, tease and infuriate, to shake the unregenerate out of their comfort zones of uncritical faith of, banal simplicities expressed in the ritualized solace of incantation.  From anxiety and calamity, Naipaul brought leavened experience to fertilize imagination, imagination to illuminate experience. His early prize winning comic masterpieces, The Mystic Masseur, Miguel Street The  Mimic Men et al such made room for the more serious works, A House for Mr Biswas, In a Free State (Booker Prize), A Bend in the River and The Enigma of Arrival were landmarks in modern English fiction.. To this oeuvre must be added his travel omnibus, The Middle Passage: The Caribbean Revisited, Among the Believers, Beyond Belief, India: A Million Mutinies Now, a sympathetic understanding of the country’s churning, a redemptive measure of leavening hope to his earlier pessimism.  The day after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Naipal paid a fulsome tribute in London’s Daily Mail (1November 1984)  to her father Jawaharlal Nehru, and to her, for giving India time and space to grow, and their encouragement of science, an incubation of a rising educated class in search of modernity.

Sir Vidia’s memorable reportage includes ‘The Return of Eva Peron’– a searing analysis of Argentine history, society and politics, arguably author’s finest piece in this genre. As long as the English language remains to entrance and enlighten us, light the way to the desired universal civilization, so long will the works of Vidyadhar Surajprasad. Naipaul be read and cherished.

Disarray of Indian cricket

The hype is over, the indecent exposure of the mediocrity of India’s Test team  of cricketers brutally exposed by the rout against England in the Second Test at Lord’s. Indian ex-cricketers fattened on easy fees turned media gurus, who contributed ignobly to the once fevered optimism are running for cover with sudden new insights: lack of footwork, lack of technique, application or whatever. Master batsmen, shorn of the synthetic plumages, are a sight for soe eyes.. Dhavan, Vijay, Rahane, rock star Pandya, he of the multicoloured hair-dos, et al are out of their depth in the testing environment of Test cricket. 

Former captain, and now a commentator, Saurav Ganguly, awakening from his slumbers, made a frantic call for the inclusion of Karun Nair and Risabh Pant for the Third Test match at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, before the threatened apocalypse puts the faltering summer beyond any hope of redemption. Too little, too late. (Print media, TV channels August 11, 12).

Rains and floods torment Kerala 

Heavy monsoon rains have breached dams and caused rivers to burst their banks bringing devastation to this southern state. Forty-two people at the last count were killed. Kochi Airport was closed until August 18. Home Minister Rajnath Singh promised immediate relief aid of Rs 100 crore (Hindu August 13, 15).

Far-reaching Army reforms underway

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her first address to India’s armed  forces told of the government’s decision to introduce far-reaching reforms of the Army, enabling it to be a more effective fighting force in tune with modern conditions. The reforms would encompass officers of all ranks, fitted for purpose in various roles. The  reforms would also involve the redeployment and restructuring of Army posts. This would be accompanied by improved methods of transport and supply requirements; all dues for personnel to be met expeditiously in line with the Pay Commission recommendations ((Hindu August 15)

China beefs up Tibetan presence

China’s military presence in Tibet has been beefed up by oxygen deliverable equipment at military posts across the entire region to prepare for high altitude warfare, according to The Global Times, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. The report was confirmed by the website of the People’s Liberation Army (Times of India, Hindu August 15)

North-East goes digital 

To communications with India’s  North-East region, the Central government has announced a Rs10,000 crore aid package over four years, including its digitization, said Telecommunications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Guwahati, Assam, while inaugurating the first electronics manufacturing cluster in the region (Hindu August 12).

PM lauds IITs

Prime Minister Modi urged administrators of the prestigious Indian Institues of Technology to focus more on quality rather quanity for research programmes. Having stressed the urgency of doing so, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the leading role of the IITs in India’s development hoped they would likewise contribute in Artificial Intelligence and other cutting edge technologies to service and secure the country’s future (Hindu August 12). 

Ties with India crucial for Texas

The Governor of the US State of Texas, Gregg Abbot, said that trade and investment ties with India were crucial to its development going forward, at a meeting of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce in Houston. ‘Texas energy can fuel the growth that is coming to India… when I was in India I met with Prime Minister  Modi for more than an hour and I left with more optimism that Texas-India partnership has no limits.’ (Hindu August 13).    

Somnath Chatterjee dies, aged 89

Former Speaker of the Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee has died in Kolkata, aged 89, leaving behind a wife, son and daughter. A distinguished lawyer and once member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) before his unexpected and painful expulsion, party members who came to the house to pay ther respects were thrown out by Mr Chatterjee’s family (Hindu August 14).

Pune tops Ease of Living Index

Pune topped India’s Ease of Living Index, with Delhi 65 on the list. The vaunted Am Admi Party of Arvind Kejriwal  with Delhi’s squalid administration has much to answer for. He has been charged with assaulting a civil servant during an affray (Hindu August 14).

Shaurya Chakra Awards

Major Aditiya Kumar and abducted and murdered Rifleman Aurangzeb were awarded the Shaurya Chakra – the latter posthumously -  for bravery in counter insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley.       

Amazon invests further $386 million in India  

Amazon the world’s largest online retailerhas invested an India, bringing its total investment in the country to a massive $4 billion (Mint August 14).

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