Saturday, March 22, 2014

23 March: A Remembrance in Books

Today is 23 March. A day when we remember the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev, three young men who laid down their lives for the freedom of India. I thought this would be an appropriate occasion to talk about books related to them that I read recently.



Professor S. Irfan Habib's To Make the Deaf Hear discusses the ideological development of the revolutionaries of the HSRA, a secret revolutionary organisation that was formed in the 1920s. As compared to the earlier revolutionaries, Bhagat Singh and his comrades had progressed much beyond the usual 'we want to free India from the clutches of the British' refrain. These young revolutionaries understood that simply a change in political leadership was not going to usher in a new dawn for India. If social oppression and denial of rights continued in an India ruled by Indians than it was no freedom but just a different type of slavery:

We want a socialist revolution, the indispensable preliminary to which is the political revolution. That is what we want. The political revolution does not mean the transfer of state (or more crudely, the power) from the hands of the British to the Indian, but to those Indians who are at one with us as to the final goal, or to be more precise, the power to be transferred to the revolutionary party through popular support. After that, to proceed in right earnest is to organise the reconstruction of the whole society on a socialist basis. If you do not mean this revolution then please have mercy. Stop shouting "Long Live Revolution." The term revolution is too scared, at least to us, to be so lightly used or misused. (185)

 More than 200 pages long, one-third of the book is devoted to the writing and speeches of these young revolutionaries explicating their thoughts on various ills that plagued Indian society. Even if you have little idea about Indian history this book will hold your attention as it brings alive a time of great debates as India recovered her voice. Much recommended.



"How does one study the literary life of intensities?" is the question that Prof. Udaya Kumar asks in his Forward to Nikhil Govind's recently published Between Love and Freedom which analyses the image/ construction of the revolutionary in the novels of three Hindi writers: Jainendra Kumar, Agyeya, and Yashpal. The second chapter of the book 'Bhagat Singh and Gandhi: Competing moralities regarding the question of revolutionary sacrifice' discusses "certain similarities and divergences of their notions of the political practice of freedom" (76). 

I must admit I was very surprised while reading this book. Firstly, I never expected Govind to have anything to do with Hindi literature, but this book ( a published version of his doctorate thesis) demonstrates a love for the language that is refreshing. Secondly, I expected a book full of jargon and thus difficult to understand but this book is entirely accessible so much so that even though I have read but a few of the novels discussed, I enjoyed it thoroughly.



The third book is a play Kranti ki Laptain (Flames of Revolution) by Dr. Chandramani Brahmdutt. The author dramatises certain key points in Bhagat Singh's life, especially his trial at both Delhi and Lahore. The revolutionaries had themselves used the courts as public platform to air their views and indeed these scenes are the best in the play which otherwise does not impress much.

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First Line: The rising of 1857 marked the beginning of India's struggle for independence.

Title: To Make the Deaf Hear: Ideology and Programme of Bhagat Singh and His Comrades
Author: S. Irfan Habib
Publishing Details: Gurgaon: Three Essays Collective, 2007
First Published: September, 2007
Pages: 231
Other books read of the same author: None

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First Line: The figure of the youthful revolutionary, on the run from the police, torn from family and love, isolated even amongst his peers, uncertain of whether he wold be able to live to see and share the future he was resolved to deliver, is an enduring image in the mid-century Hindi novel.

Title: Between Love and Freedom: The Revolutionary in the Hindi Novel
Author: Nikhil Govind
Publication Details: ND: Routledge, 2014
First Published: 2014
Pages: 180
Other books read of the same author: None

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First Line: Ek hall mein halki si roshni ho rahi hai, ek taraf Lenin ka chitra tanga hai, kuchh kitaben ast-vyast si dikahi pad rahi hain.

Title: Kranti ki Laptain
Author: Dr. Chandramani Brahmdutt
Publication Details: ND: Kalawati Prakashan, 2009
First Published: 2009
Pages: 119
Other books read of the same author: None





6 comments:

  1. Neeru - What an appropriate way to remember those men. Thank you for sharing those books - definitely good things for me to explore.

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    1. Margot, they were very fond of reading and discussing books so I thought it will be nice to pay homage to them through books. Glad you liked the idea.

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  2. Wow, Neer, I didn't know about the significance of this day. I've only read about Bhagat Singh and the others, including Chandrashekhar Azad, in ACK, and in articles. I know you've read their books earlier and I'll definitely be looking for them too.

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    1. It's a little sad Prashant that we have forgotten so many of our heroes. Oh those ACKs! Uncle Pai did a grand job of acquainting us with history and mythology.

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  3. Thansk Neeru - some very worthy books there.

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    1. Thanks Sergio. The books are written with a lot of love and it shows.

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