The Revenge of Geography – Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy

The Revenge of Geography

Part III – America’s Destiny

Chapter XV – Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy

By Robert D. Kaplan

The Revenge of Geography 3In the first instalment of this article, we looked at the base discussions of the book. Then in the second instalment, our focus was on India’s Geopolitical Dilemma in view of The Early-Twenty Century Map.

In the third part, Robert Kaplan takes up his analysis from the point of view of America’s Destiny. In Chapter XV – Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy – he has utilized Fernand Braudel’s one of the most influential works – The Mediterranean and The Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II . Barudel’s geographic compass identifies the Mediterranean as a complex of seas near a The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume 1great desert of Sahara. Braudel’s story is not really one of individual man overriding the obstacles, but rather of men and their societies subtly being moulded by impersonal and deeply structural forces. Braudel, with his writings establishes the literary mood-context for an era of scarcity and environmentally driven events in an increasingly water-starved, congested planet.

It is impossible to speculate on how geopolitics will play out over the inhuman time frame of much of Braudel’s analysis, especially given the controversy over climate change and its effect on specific regions. Precisely because Braudel places the events of humankind against the pressure of natural forces, our thinking facilitates on the longue duree (English- the long term).

Thus from the viewpoint of distant future, while US deeply focuses on Afghanistan and other parts of Greater Middle East, a massive state failure was developing right on America’s south border. It goes far beyond Eurasia, but is rooted in North American geography.

America is bordered by oceans to east and west, and to the north by Canadian Arctic. It is southwest where America is vulnerable. Much like Indian subcontinent in Northwest, it stresses civilization in the region. On much the similar the then historical perspective, the income gap between US and Mexico is largest between any two contiguous countries in the world.

Half the length of America’s southern frontier is an artificial boundary line in the desert established by the treaties following the Mexican- American war of 1846-1848.

Since 1940, Mexico’s population has risen more than five-fold. The North-Mexico’s population had more than doubled since NAFTA was signed in 1994. The irony is that Mexico registers far less in the elite imagination of the East Coast than does , Israel, China or even India. Yet Mexico could affect America’s destiny more than any other countries.

The fact that most of the drug-related homicides have occurred in only six of Mexico’s thirty-two states, mostly in North – another indicator of how North Mexico is separating out from the rest of country. The Us shares a 2000-mile border with narcotics controlled powerful multinational drug cartels.

America is a nation of Anglo-Protestant settlers and immigrants, with former providing philosophical and cultural backbone of the society. Only by adopting Anglo-Protestant culture do immigrants become American. America’s classical liberalism emerges from the very fact that it was born Protestantism. This creed might be subtly undone by and advancing Hispanic, catholic, pre-Enlightment society… While the Americans champion diversity, the current immigrant wave is actually the least diverse in America’s history.

Geography is at the forefront of all these arguments. Most of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah were part of Mexico until of 1835-36 Texan War of Independence and 1846-48 Mexican-American War. Incidentally, some these states also have a rich deposits of Shale Gas. The exploration of this shale gas has been able to convert the US from a net importer to a potential net exporter of the fossil-fuel.

Mexico is the only country that US has invaded, occupied its capital and annexed a good deal of its territory. Consequently, Mexicans arrive in US, settle in the areas of the country that were once part of their homeland, and so ‘enjoy a sense of being on their own turf’ that other immigrants do not share. Mexican Americans into their third generation maintain their competence in their native language to far greater degree than other migrants, largely because the concentration of the Hispanic communities.

America will actually emerge, in the course of 21st century a Polynesian–cum-mestizo civilization, oriented from north-to-south rather than as east-to-west, racially, lighter-skinned island in the temperate zone stretching from Atlantic to the Pacific. It will be brought closer to the rest of world not only by technology, but by the pressure of Mexican and Central America’s demography.

But this vision requires a successful Mexico, not the failed one. A stable and prosperous Mexico, working in organic concert with pro-America Columbia, could fuse together the Western Hemisphere’s largest, the third largest and fourth largest countries in terms of population.

Mexico is now at cross-road; it is either in the early phase of finally taking on cartels or it is sinking into further disorder or both. Because its future hangs in balance, what US does could be pivotal.

As Arnold J Toynbee notes[1], a border between a highly developed society and a less developed society will not attain equilibrium, but advance in favour of the backward society.

Thus, America’s economic power, cultural power, moral power, and even political and military power will be substantially affected by whether it can develop, into a cohesive, bilingual supra-state-of-sorts, with Mexico and Canada.

Finally, “Global war, as well as global peace means that all fronts and all areas are interrelated. No matter how remote they are from each other, success or failure in one will have an immediate and determining effect on the others.” This is far truer than it was in 1944 when that statement was published posthumously.[2]

[1] Arnold J Toynbee – A Study of History

[2] Nicholas John Spykman, The Geography of Peace (1944)

The Revenge of Geography – India’s Geopolitical Dilemma

The Revenge of Geography

Part IIThe Early-Twenty First Century Map

Chapter XIIIndia’s Geopolitical Dilemma

By Robert D. Kaplan

In the first installment of this article, we looked at the base discussions of the book.

The Revenge of Geography 2We now move on to Part IIThe Early-Twenty First Century Map, and focus on Chapter XIIIndia’s Geopolitical Dilemma.

India is possessed of geopolitical logic – Arabian Sea on the West and South-west, Bay of Bengal on East and South-East, the mountainous Burmese jungles on the east and Himalayas and knot of Karakoram and Hindu Kush on the North and North-West. Internally, too, India is vast. What it lacks is a single nursery of demographic organisation, like Wei Valley and lower Huang He (Yellow River) in China. Even the Ganges River valley did not provide enough platforms for the expansion of a unitary India State into the subcontinent’s deep, peninsular south. Various river system, besides Ganga, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Tungabhadra, Kaveri, Godavari and so on, divide it.

India has the hottest climate and most abundant and luxuriant landscape of all Eurasia population hubs and therefore its inhabitants lacked the need to build political structures for the organization of resources on the scale that temperate zones of Europe or China did.

The key to understanding India is the realization that while as a subcontinent, India makes eminent geographic sense; its natural boundaries are quite weak in place. The present Indian State does not conform to the borders of subcontinent. That is the heart of the dilemma.

The choice of Delhi as the capital of India was of very much function of geography for the invaders from the North-East, during the seventh through sixteenth centuries. Delhi’s back was the Islamic World and front is the Hindu World. The Mughal Empire was cultural and political expression of this fact. The last major ruler of Mughal Empire, Aurangzeb’s position was that of Delhi-based rulers going back hundreds of years – the (geographical) northern and north-western parts of the subcontinent were commonly under a single polity even as sovereignty over southern India was in doubt.

Unlike previous rulers who were essentially land powers, the British constituted the sea power. As evidenced by Bombay, Madras and Calcutta presidencies, it was from the sea that the British were able to conquer India. It was through technology of rail network, ranging from Afghanistan border to Palk Strait near Ceylon and from Karachi to Chittagong that the British made it possible to unite this vast internal space into one polity. British, being the sea power, were a neutral force in the historical drama between native Hindus and the Muslim land-route invaders.

When Indians look their maps of the subcontinent, they see Afghanistan and Pakistan in the North-West and Nepal and Bhutan in the North North-East or Bangladesh in East as all part of India’s immediate sphere of influence, with Iran, the Persian Gulf, the former Soviet Central Asian Republics and Burma as critical shadow zones. Not to view these places as such would tantamount to ignoring the lessons of history and geography.

From a different geographical perspective Pakistan makes up a civilizational intermediary and conduit of trade routes connecting the subcontinent with Central Asia …. A stable and reasonably moderate Afghanistan becomes truly the hub not just southern central Asia but of Eurasia in general… A quiescent Afghanistan would spur road, rail and pipeline construction not only in all directions across Afghanistan but across Pakistan as well. And therein lies the ultimate solution to Pakistan’s own instability.

But this is not the situation that currently obtains…. Hindu majority, albeit secular, Indian State wants to escape from the Muslim history and geography. The very competition and fixation with China can be views as the element of this escape. It is a rivalry with no real history behind it.

The very technologies that defeat geography also have the capability of enhancing geography’s importance. Whereas Chinese Dynasties of old almost completely fall within the current borders of China, the dynasties to which India is heir do not. Thus, India looks to Afghanistan and its other shadow zones with less serenity than doe s China to its own shadow zones. China’s influence extends all the way into Russian Far East and Central and Southeast Asia. China’s potential fear of more democratic way of state stems from Turks, Inner Mongols and Tibetans minorities that are restless. China will have to undertake some basic structural reforms and reorganize its economy. But it has an onerous task of containing the tumultuous transition to a manageable level.

India is a regional power to the degree that it is entrapped by its geography; it is a potential great power to the degree that it can move beyond it.

In the concluding installment of our look at The Revenge of Geography on 4th January, 2016, we will take up the chapter on Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy.

The Revenge of Geography – Robert D Kaplan

The Revenge of Geography

What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

By Robert D. Kaplan

This fourteenth book by Robert D Kaplan attempts to bend our views on political lines on the contours of relief maps of geography.

The book is spread over three parts.

The Revenge of GeographyIn the Part IVisionaries – of the book, Robert D Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries and theories of the great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at the critical pivots in history and then builds the platform to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of world’s hot spots through the learning their climates, topographies and proximities to other embattled lands.

In the Part IIThe Early-Twenty First Century Map -, Kaplan then applies the lessons learned from the present crises in the Europe, Russia, China, The Indian Subcontinent, Turkey, Iran and The Arab Middle East.

The part IIIAmerica’s Destiny – is devoted to the past, present and the future of USA’s foreign policy w.r.t the North America.

We will also take a three-part look at the contents of the book here . In the first part we will delve into the Preface and Chapter II – The Revenge of Geography – of Part I (Visionaries) of the book. Our second part will take a look at Chapter XII – India’s Geopolitical Dilemma – of Part II (The Early Twenty First Century Map) of the book. Our concluding part will be based on Chapter XV – Draudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy- of Part III (America’s Destiny) of the book.

The PrefaceFrontiers – contains material from four earlier titles – Soldiers of God (1990), An Empire of Wilderness (1998), Eastward to Tartary (2000) and Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts (2007). The mountains are a conservative force, often protecting within their defiles indigenous cultures against the fierce modernizing ideologies that have too often plagued the flat ends, even as they have provided refuge to Marxist guerrillas and drug cartels in our own era. .. In the times of upheaval, maps rise in importance. With the political ground shifting rapidly under one’s feet, the map is the beginning of discerning a historical logic about what might come next…When you look at the divided-country scenarios in the 20th century -Germany, Vietnam, Yemen – it is apparent that however long the division persisted. The forces of unity ultimately triumph, in an unplanned, sometimes violent and fast-moving fashion…

We all need to recover a sensibility about time and space that has been lost in the jet and information ages, when the elite moulders of public opinion dash across oceans and continents in hours, something that allows them to talk glibly about ‘flat world’….

Geography – the description of the Earth – has often been associated with fatalism and therefore stigmatized: for to think geographically is to limit human choice. However, study of relief maps and population studies add another layer of complexity to the conventional foreign policy analyses and finds a deeper and powerful way to look at the world. The more we look out over the span of centuries, the more the geography plays a role…Even as we send satellites into our outer solar system, and even as financial markets and cyberspace know no boundaries, the Hindu Kush still constitutes a formidable barrier.

In the Chapter II – The Revenge of Geography – Hans J Morgenthau (Politics Among Nations : The Struggle for Power and Peace) begins his argument by noting that the world is the result of forces inherent in human nature. And human nature is motivated by fear (phobos), self-interest (kerdos) and honour (doxa). “To improve the world, one must work with these forces, not against them.” The human nature makes for a world of incessant conflict and coercion. The tendency to dominate is the natural element of all human interactions, especially those of the states. Power only limits power.

Realists value order above freedom – the latter becomes important only after the former has been established. Sovereignty and alliances rarely occur in a void; they arise out of differences with others.

The map is spatial representation of human divisions. Maps don’t always tell the truth. They are often as subjective as any fragment of prose. Maps are materialistic, and therefore, normally neutral. Maps, even though being dangerous tools, are crucial to any understandings of the world politics.

Nature imposes, man disposes. The man’s actions are limited by the physical parameters imposed by geography. But these contours are extremely broad, so that human tendency to has more than enough room to maneuver…. The higher proportion of world’s most feeble economies are observed to be land-locked. The tropical countries (between 450 North and south latitude) are generally poor. The most high-income countries are in middle and high latitudes. East-west oriented temperate zone of Eurasia is better off than north-south oriented sub-Saharan Africa, because technological diffusion works much better across common latitudes where climatic conditions are similar. It is no accident that world’s poorest regions tend to be where geography, by way of soil suitability, supports high population densities, but not economic growth, because of distance from ports and rail-heads.

America and Britain could champion freedom only because the sea separated them from ‘the landlord enemies of liberty’. The militarism and pragmatism of continental Europe through the mid-twentieth century was the result of geography, not of character. Competing states and empires adjoined one another on a crowded continent. European nations could never withdraw across an ocean in the event of a military miscalculation. Thus their policies could not be grounded by a universalist morality. The two oceans gave America not only the luxury of their idealism, it was also that these oceans gave America direct access to the two principal arteries of politics and commerce in the world – Europe across the Atlantic and East Asia across the Pacific.

Geography, history and ethnic characteristics influence but do not determine future events. Robert Kaplan certainly succeeds in provoking our thinking on the geography as it was yesterday and as it is going to be tomorrow. As Eric Kaufmann notes, the first-order geographical effects like lack of natural barrier as a security threat, strategic proximity to sea-lanes and resources or suitability for bases and pipelines have attained new meaning in the context of the present and future legacy issues in view of the rapidly changing hard and soft technology. The second-order effects like restive national identities or the third-order fundamentalist religion culture have become untethered from their geographical moorings. Kaplan implores us to be mindful of the limits, posed by dirt, rock, and distance to our Utopian desire to bring forth a better world.


Robert Kaplan discusses his book, The Revenge of Geography, which illustrates how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.

In the  second part of our look at the The Revenge of Geography on 20th December 2015, we will take up India’s Geopolitical Dilemma.


Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow ǁ 4 of 4

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow – An Autobiography – as narrated to Udayatara Nayar

Hardback | 230 x 150 | 450pages | ISBN 9789381398869

Publishers: Hay House India

We have read the first three of the four parts – The Seeds of a Flight of a Fruit Merchant’s Son, Yousuf Khan, The Substance, To The Legendary Thespian Dilip Kumar, The Shadow,  First and Second Innings at the Hindi Film Cinema and Marriage and Life with Saira Banu – on  5 February. 19 February and 5 March 2015, respectively.  We carry on to the concluding part….



Dilip Kumar did not speak about his achievements and social service, as his wont, while narrating this autobiography. Hence this section explores insights into the man and his working style, through the personal and professional experiences of actors, directors, eminent friends, relatives and others who have had occasions to come into contact with him.

We glance through the representative ones of these here:

Raihan Ahmed – Saira Banu’s brother Sultan’s son

‘Travelling with Yousuf Uncle is guaranteed fun and adventure…Road trips were the best as he would make us try all kinds of street food…He has the ability of blending with any age group… Kite flying with Yousuf Unlce is an experience only a few lucky people can mention… Few people know that he is a great magician and has a box full of tricks..

Shabana Azmi

The first image that comes to mind.. is dignity.. He has entertained without ever having to resort to crudity…Dilip Kumar showed us how the subtext can be revealed, how to play against the emotion, how less is more and how simulated spontaneity can be as effective as real thing…

V. Babasaheb – A cinematographer by profession, who filmed Gunga Jumna

I knew it would be a great achievement in my track record if a sequence came alive on the way Dilip Saheb had visualized….He had calculated the speed of the train and the galloping of horses precisely..Saheb then explained to me he wanted the camera to be tied beneath door of the compartment to capture the hooves of the galloping horses raising dust as they advanced parallel to the running train. He strapped me to the floor of the doorway of the compartment in such a manner that I could operate it from that position and get the shots……..The scene I can never forget is Ganga’s death scene

He was going to take several rounds of the studio..running…in order to be out of breath… when he entered the house and gave the climax shot….I missed the initial timing..he was angry.. but he complied with.. a retake. He went through the whole gamut gain and with more intensity the second time and we canned the shot.

Amitabh Bachchan

…No art in the entire universe can ever exist, flourish or even take birth without an ‘unconscious assimilation’ of influence that eventually propels it to its creation… I believe that what (Mr. Dilip Kumar) is what was and is, correct, right and the best…The history of Indian Cinema shall.. be ‘before Dilip Sahab’ and ‘after Dilip Sahab’.

Jaya Bachchan

Dilip Sahab has expertly used the eloquence of silence in some of his iconic performances in a way no actor before him had.


…(Dilip Kumar) would be equally concerned to raise funds for the needy artistes and workers; the first cheque always came from him. The Film Industry Welfare Trust and superannuation schemes for old, retired artistes were his initiatives..

Yash Chopra

Dilip Sahab is not a method actor as many artistes think. He is a spontaneous actor who draws from inner emotional reserves when he performs .. marvellous dramatic sense…He was extremely serious about his work; emotions just surfaced naturally when he was before the camera. In the final take, therefore, he invariably did what he felt was best..

Sitara Devi

Dilip Bhai was, and still is, a shy man. The only time I felt he was drawn to a co-star was when worked with Kamini Kushal… The only reason why Dilip Bhai did not attend the premiere of Mughal-e-Azam and even refused to see the movie at trial show was because (K.) Asif had betrayed his trust (when [his younger sister] Akhtar chose to marry a much-married [first marriage with Sitara Devi and second one with Nigar Sultana], man twice her age).

Subhash Ghai

I had a subject…After hearing me out, he said nothing… on the fourth day..he smiled and told me the story had potential and he would consider working in it…people started asking me questions if what they heard was true.. the look on their faces would convey:”This is the end of your career.”.. he will make you sit somewhere outside the set and direct the film himself.. and by the time the movie is completed, you will have aged because he takes years to complete a film…. All through the making of Vidhaata (1982), Dilip Sahab paid great attention to my visualization of shots and cooperated to such an extent that the film was completed a month ahead of schedule…. I feel proud that I made three films (Vidhaata, Karma and Saudagar) with Dilip Sahab in the central role.

Dr. Shrikant Gokhale – personal physician (and a friend as well) for four decades

I have always seen the respect he gives to his admirers…It pains him when he sees street urchins and little girls who come and press their smiling faces against the car window at the traffic signals.. he gives generously… but they don’t know he is concerned and disturbed about their hapless condition.

Kamal Haasan

…I was able to appreciate the Western actors and the refinement of their acting after I watched (Dilip Kumar’s) films. It began to crystallize in my understanding of the eloquence of the medium that a mere look or sheer silence can convey so much and so powerfully…

imageI am and always will be amazed by the layers of emotion he evoked in the viewer when, he, as Price Salim (in Mughal-e-Azam) simply sat in the royal durbar, saying nothing, and doing nothing as Anarkali performed the provocative Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya number.

Anil Kapoor

…My father (Surinder Kapoor)..told me that Dilip Sahab never wasted his time in frivolous gossips.. he spent his time with writers and intellectually advanced people with whom he can make intelligent conversation and exchange meaningful thoughts… that Dulip Shab had more friends outside the industry than within because he disliked talking shop and never encouraged hangers-on….

Rishi Kapoor

Yousuf Uncle and papa (Raj Kapoor) shared an eternal fraternal relationship, which nobody could fathom or believe. They were in competition with each other as stars and yet they loved each other as though they were born to same parents…..We were filming Prem Rog(1982).I had to bring an intense expression of a despondent lover, and hard as I was trying, Raj Kapoor, the director, was not getting..what he wanted…he shouted at me..”Mujhe Yousf Chahiye”…When Yosuf Uncle was facing the brunt of Balasaheb Thackeray’s… objection to his receiving the Nishan-e-Imtiaz from the Pakistan Government. Yousuf Unlce said in an interview, “I miss my friend Raj today more than on any occasion. He could not let this agitation about me or any other artiste go unanswered.”

Manoj Kumar

The greatest quality Dilip Sahab possesses is his ungrudging admiration for the achievements of others in the profession. In an interview [during the shooting of Kranti (1981)], he was giving the example of Raj Kapoor as an inspiration for the generations of film aspirants to look up to.

Lata Mangeshkar

…When (Dilip Bhai) found out that I am a Maharshtrian is something that I cherish because it made me seek the perfection I then lacked in my Hindi and Urdu diction, he very truthfully said that singers who were not conversant with Urdu language invariably tripped in pronunciation of the words derived from the language and spoiled the listening pleasure of those who enjoyed the lyric as much as the melody….So, in the first meeting, Yousuf Bhai gave a gift unknowingly and unhesitantly…Salil Chuadhary gave an opportunity to sing a duet with Yousuf Bhai for Musafir (1947) – Lagi Nahi Chhute – and it was a memorable experience to observe the pains he took to sing faultlessly.

Ram Mukherjee – Director of the film Leader

Dilip Sahab’s love for his fans is something no star of his time or later could match. He says : “When an unfamiliar had claps mine and I feel the warmth of genuine adulation that clasp I feel a deep sense of reward for all the hard work I put in for a performance which no award can give me….”..If you watch Leader today you will find some of the lines spoken by Dilip Sahab so relevant to the present political climate.

Veera Rao – a well-known social service personality

When Dilip Sahab took over as the chairman of NAB, the great challenge was to generate funds…It did not take Dilip Sahab more than a minute to welcome the idea ..of NAB train in which people would travel with Dilip Kumar… for the ten years the train ran.. Dilip Sahab never let (the project) down…..At one large event for school children at the Brabourne Stadium … Dilip Sahab was alone was not without sunglasses… (when asked) why he never shielded his eyes from the sun, to which he said : “I like to talk to people without hiding my eyes.”

Waheeda Rehman

It was a mystery to me why Dilip Sahab did not give his name as director in the film credits when all the hard work behind the camera was being done by him…There have been two regrets…he could not work with Satyajit Ray as we as in Pyaasa (1957).

Harish Salve

God gave His children memory

That in life’s garden there might be

June roses in December……

Sharmila Tagore

Seven decades after his first film Jwar Bhata, and sixteen years after he acted in his last production, he continues to the final word in screen acting, someone who inspires awe and respect….Actors like Motilal and Ashok Kumar had already begun weeding out the theatrical elements from the film acting by late 1940s, but it was with Dilip Kumar that it became the norm…He demonstrated that it was not necessary to raise one’s voice to be heard….He introduced novel innovations such as acting crucial scenes with his back to the camera, using only his voice…He gave film acting a kind of layered edge, which was marked by self-conscious histrionics till that point of time. Many actors have tried to copy his style over the years and rightfully so, as I feel there is much to learn from his school of acting…


I must describe the first scene I enacted with Dilip Sahab on the sets of Devdas. The scene had a very simple dialogue – Aur Mat Piyo, Devdas – for me. I had to say the line when Devdas would stagger in completely inebriated, the camera was to capture Devdas and then follow him and turn its focus on me when I spoke that line with an expression of anguish and helplessness… As the technicians announce their readiness to shoot and Bimalda looked at me to know if I was ready, I realized that Dilip Sahab was not on the sets…One assistant whispered that he was taking brisk rounds of the studio to get that tired, weary look.. he had instructed cameraman to be ready to start the camera when would stagger in….When the camera started and I saw the incredible perfection to Dilip Sahab’s performance, all I could do was to speak helplessly the line: Aur Mat Piyo, Devdas. The helpless look on my face was what Bimalda wanted, and it came quite naturally…..

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow ǁ 3 of 4

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow – An Autobiography – as narrated to Udayatara Nayar

Hardback | 230 x 150 | 450pages | ISBN 9789381398869

Publishers: Hay House India

We have read the first  two of the four parts – The Seeds of a Flight of a Fruit Merchant’s Son, Yousuf Khan, The Substance, To The Legendary Thespian Dilip Kumar, The Shadow  and First and Second Innings at the Hindi Film Cinema – on  5 February and 19 February 2015, respectively.  We carry on to the third part….

Marriage and Life with Saira Banu


Dilip Kumar has devoted five chapters of the book to passionately narrate his marriage and life with her wife, Saira Banu. The chapters The Woman In My Life, The Big Day, Celebrations Galore, Taking Care Of Saira, The Husband And Wife Team respectively present his intimate narration of his proposal to marriage, festive atmosphere, the marriage ceremony, life with Saira Banu and his four-film stint with her.

Naseem Banu, Saira’s mother, would always be invited by Dilip Kumar’s sister Akhtar. On one such evening, Saira, who was on a visit to India during her school days, had accompanied her mother to Khan Residence. Apparently, Saira had seen Aan and brewing a storm of liking Dilip Kumar. Possibly as result, she took upon to learn pristine Urdu and Persian. In this initial phase Dilip Kumar did not give “any importance” to this crush.

When discussions for casting for Dil Diya Dard Liya (eventually released in 1966) was on, Dilip Kumar dodged the idea of her working with him because he was ‘so much older’ to her. After her maiden venture Junglee (1961), in due course of her career, she was paired to all successful leading men of the time – Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Manoj Kumar. Since she was still not paired with Dilip Kumar, there was huge demand for such a film. One such project was Mehboob Khan’s Habba Khatoon. Dilip Kumar ultimately withdrew from Habba Khatoom as he could not foresee himself doing Yousuf Chak’s (Habba Khatoon’s husband) character, which had some slants of negativity. He did have a special subject in his mind where pairing would be ideal and perfect. However, as the wait went to become rather lengthy, Saira did get ‘very annoyed’ with Dilip Kumar. ‘The polite, gracious and well-bred young lady was turning into an angry tigress..’

She was also suggested for a role in Ram Aur Shyam, against the character of timid among the two twin brothers. Dilip Kuamr had voiced his opinion to the producer of ram Aur Shyam that she was too delicate and innocent in appearance for a character that had to have loads of seductive appeal and a bold, buxom appearance. The role ultimately went in favour of Mumtaz.

imageIt was when Ram Aur Shyam was progressing hectically, that Dilip Kumar received an invitation form Naseem Banu, Saira’s mother, to join in the celebrations of Saira’s birthday. When he entered the beautiful garden of the Naseem Banu’s house, his eyes fell on a ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ looking Saira Banu. He was taken aback; because she no longer looked the young girl he had consciously avoided to be his heroine. She had indeed grown to full womanhood and was more beautiful in reality. He simply stepped forward and shook her hand, and time stood still. It did not take an instant for Dilip Kumar to realize that “she was the one Destiny had been knowingly reserving as his real-life partner while he refused to pair with her on screen. He found her to be intrinsically very Indian and rooted to her native culture.

During the filming of Azaad, Dilip Kumar happened to meet an astrologer. He predicted that ‘Dilip Kumar would marry in his forties; his bride would be half his age, as fair and beautiful as moon, would be from same profession. Soon after the marriage, she would take blow of his ‘karmas’ with a prolonged and near-fatal illness to absolve me, and that she would go through it ungrudgingly.’ The first part of the prediction had rang true, would then second part also come home?

To cut the long story short, Dilip Kumar formally proposed to Saira Banu. Obviously, the news spread like wild fire thereafter.

imageThey were married on 11 October, 1966. Having remained a confirmed, eligible bachelor for so long, did Dilip Kumar have any trepidation or any qualms as he walked into the married life? Dilip Kumar states No quite firmly. Instead, what he felt was a serene calm and tranquillity, as though having reached a safe Heaven of Peace, for he now had the person who would share his life and would be his very own.

The marriage was a surprise to all those who knew him. Naushad was the only one who had forthrightly asked if he wasn’t making a mistake. However, Dilip Kumar was firm in his conviction that he had considered the step with serious introspection. The nikah was beautiful – all his loved and dear ones (including Raj Kapoor who had made good his wow to walk in to the house on his knees without a moment’s hesitation) chipping in the mood of boisterous joy.

During their honeymoon at Bhutan Saira Banu had taken suddenly ill – being asphyxiated by the carbon monoxide in a small cabin of a log-house. Were that astrologer’s predictions going to ring true?

In the initial period of their marriage, the domestic life of the family was quite tough on Saira Banu. The stress had begun to tell on her health and she was taken quite ill with ulcerative colitis. She was taken to ‘one of the largest hospitals of UK’ and was put ‘under the the expert supervision of world-famous gastroenterologist…’. Saira recovered almost miraculously, and after a moth’s rest at the clinic resumed her shooting for Purab Aur Paschim (1970). Manoj Kumar had, admirably, waited for full recovery of Saira Banu. Years later, Dilip Kumar had “agreed to work in Kranti (1981)….to pay back (this) debt”.

On their return to India, they shifted to Saira Banu’s own bungalow at Pali Hill because ‘she needed special caretaking and also a specific diet. Soon, thereafter, “Saira adapted to (his) lifestyle and (his) pace.” ‘A marriage that is for keeps, even with all the good intentions of the couple, is not easy to sustain for either partner.’ They had their shares of ups and downs, but apart from (their) outwardly contrasting personalities, they shared the joy of living (together). The glamorous girl who took an hour for putting on her makeup, suddenly, changed totally. What Dilip Kumar has got to love and appreciate about Saira Banu down the years is her innate simplicity and softness of heart.

As The Husband-Wife Team, Dilip Kumar ‘began to discover the capacity (his) wife had for hard work and the pursuit of flawless work. She was receptive to sound advice and was quick to absorb the guidance (he) gave her in the scenes (they) came together. She co-starred with him in four films – Gopi (1970), Sagina (1970 in Bengali as Sagina Mahato and 1974 in Hindi), Bairag (1976) and Duniya (1984) – and (he) saw her tenacity and determination to get the nuances and emotional curves of the performances right.

The concluding part on  19 March, 2015…………….

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow ǁ 2 of 4

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow – An Autobiography – as narrated to Udayatara Nayar

Hardback | 230 x 150 | 450pages | ISBN 9789381398869

Publishers: Hay House India

We have read the first of the four parts – The Seeds of a Flight of a Fruit Merchant’s Son, Yousuf Khan, The Substance, To The Legendary Thespian Dilip Kumar, The Shadow – on  5 February 2015.  We carry on to the second part….

First and Second Innings at the Hindi Film Cinema


The narrative of Dilip Kumar’s life and times at the Hindi Cinema World spans another 8 chapters. Some of the reviews written when the book was originally released do lament about somewhat sketchy treatment to the subjects like his co-stars or his highly gossiped love affairs or his own views on some of his landmark films. However, as Udayatara Nayar has noted in the book, (at this stage and age) Dilip Kumar has certainly been selective in choosing to open up on topics in his long career, spanning over six decades and around 60 films on the silver screen. So, be it.

Bombay Talkies was the best thing that happened to the young Yousuf Khan at a juncture when he had no clue to what acting in front of camera was. Ashok Kumar taught him to “do what you would do in the situation if you were really in it. If you act, it will be acting and it will look very silly.” Devika Rani conferred him with a screen name by which he would be better known, appropriate enough for his audience to relate to, one that would be in tune with the romantic image he was destined to acquire through his screen presence. That set him to be launched with his maiden film Jwar Bhataimage (1944) directed by Amiya Chakraborthy. It was the beginning of the journey into the world of Lights, Camera, Action that even as passed on without much impact, Dilip Kumar had realized that it would a difficult job, where he would have to find his own way to continue. An actor has to ‘strengthen his instincts because the duality of real and unreal cannot be sorted out by mind, which is more concerned with truth and logic in any normal situation’.

The new identity of Dilip Kumar had liberating impact, in that what had no need to see or study, Dilip surely needed to acquire and accumulate New Aspirations, New Experiences, in terms of reproducing the emotions, speech and behaviour of fictitious characters in front of the camera. By the time Dilip Kumar had completed his work in Jugnu, he was still not noticed when he would be walking on the pavement near Churchagte (a station on Western Railway, in Mumbai), despite having acted in three films, Jwar Bhata (1944), Pratima (1945) and Milan (1946). But the release of Jugnu (1947) brought him in the acclaim due to a (film) star, even within his own family. His father also had come to terms with the reality that his son had (finally) chosen a profession he had least expected him to enter.

Then followed a period Between The Personal And The Professional lives when Yousuf Khan had endure the loss of brother so close to him, Ayub Sahab, who succumbed to his chronic lung ailment and his mother, Amma, passed away, on 27 August, 1948, ‘peacefully from the turmoil of life to eternal tranquillity’. It took all his ‘strength and will power to supress the pain and deep sense of loss to stand up manfully before his brothers and sisters, giving them implicit understanding of being both mother and father to them’. On the professional front, Dilip Kumar’s contract with Bombay Talkies was coming to an end. As it was, by that time studio employment system was being replaced by actors and technicians working on a freelance basis. Dilip Kumar opted for S. Mukherjee’s Filmistan for Shaheed (1948). There he had ‘an understanding and facile co-actor in Kamini Kuashal (real name Uma Kashyap), who was very attentive to the demands of the director and had the intelligence to grasp the intrinsic sensitivity of more poignant situations in the script.’ The success of Shaheed had the pair teaming up for two more films at Filmistan – Nadiya Ke Paar (1948) – based on Rabindranath Tagore’s story Nauka Dubi- and Shabnam (1949). Being in twenties at that time, he was no super human being and did ‘prefer company of colleagues who were educated and well informed. Stardom bothered more than’ it pleased him. Possibly, he was drawn more intellectually than emotionally to Kamini Kaushal. “if that was love, may be it was.” Dilip Kumar has always been asked somewhat ‘intrusive question as to whether it makes a difference to the potency of emotions drawn from within one self in an intimate love scene if the actors are emotionally involved in their real lives’. An answer that is Yes and No, draws up Dilip Kumar to scenes as Prince Salim with Anarkali (Madhubal on the screen) for Mughal-e-Azam(1960), described in greater details in the later chapter “Madhubala“. It was also in this period that he met Mehboob Khan and Nuashad Miyan, relationships with whom blossomed into two enduring friendships and professional relationships. The meeting with Naushad led to Mela (1948). Dilip Kumar notes that among the major lessons that he learned while working with Directors like Nitin Bose or senior artist like Devika Rani was that even as it is not easy for an actor to rise above the script, if the collaboration among the writer, actor and the director worked well it was not impossible either. A director may be satisfied with the given shot, it is also for the actor to discern for himself whether he had really given his best. The actor would be within his (or her) rights for another shot if he (she) felt he (she) could do better.

Mela evokes some wonderful memories of the past in Reel Life versus Real Life. Firstly, this was the film that Dilip Kumar’s father watched in a cinema house. Secondly, it established enduringimage friendship between him and Naushad and between him and Nargis. Raj Kapoor and Nargis shared a chemistry that made a good equation for their scenes together. With Nargis, Dilip Kumar shared a different equation in front of the camera. He could attain similar ease with Madhubala in Tarana (1951), which has remained, for many reasons, one of the films that Dilip Kumar counts as the memorable one, from among the ones of his early part of the career. During early 1950s, Dilip Kumar was advised to switch over to comedy roles by an English psychiatrist. The doctor was certain that Dilip Kumar took his work home in his subconscious and turned the spoken lines and the scenes over and over in his mind to review the work done during the day. It was not as if he did not realize that whatever he was doing in the fimageilms was unreal and diametrically opposite to his real life and real self. That led Dilip Kumar to take up Azaad (1955), a remake of Malaikallan (1954), featuring M G Ramchandran (MGR) as hero. This also was a pleasant experience working with Meena Kumari. Dilip Kumar had presented himself with his first car after the success of Shabnam (1949) and his own residence in Mumbai after Azaad. Dilip Kumar does accept here that he was attracted to Madhubala as a fine co-star and as person who had some attributes he hoped to find in a woman at that age and time. Because of the rumours of this emotional involvement, their pairing in Mughal-e-Azam made sensational news in early 1950s. However matters began to sour between them when her father attempted to make the proposed marriage a business venture. The outcome was that halfway through the production, they were not even on talking terms. The classic scene with the feather coming between their lips was shot when they had completely stopped even greeting each other – one of the rarest examples of Reel Life versus Real Life.

The book has a full chapter on Madhubala. Contrary to the popular notions, her father Ataullah Khan, was not opposed her marrying with Dilip Kumar. He had his own film production company and two of the most popular stars under the same roof in his company, singing duets in his productions till the end of their careers was what he would have wanted. However, Dilip Kumar had his own way of functioning wherein he would not permitted any laxity even if it were his own production house. Madhubala persisted that these details can easily be sorted out once they were married. In the circumstances, it seemed best that they did not decide to marry or even give each other a chance to rethink of a union that would not be good for either of them. The parting of ways did not affect him. He categorically states that he chose to remain bachelor because he had young sisters to be married off, and for me the taking care of, and ensuring happiness of his brothers and sisters were paramount. Madhubala’s father got her entangled in a lawsuit with producer-director B R Chopra over the outdoor shooting work for Naya Daur (eventually released in 1957). Madhubala was replaced with Vyjayantimala, when ‘all sincere and genuine’ efforts on Dilip Kumar’s part became futile. The announcement of the renewal of the project of fresh shooting for Naya Daur created a stir in the media. It was made to appear that Dilip Kumar ‘had got Madhu out of the film, while the truth was that her father pulled her out of the project to demonstrate his authority.

imageThe professional relationship with Vyjayantimala finds a special place in the book, in the form a full-fledged chapter: Devdas, Naya Daur and Beyond. Dilip Kumar was in two minds to take up Devdas (1955), the first of the seven-films that Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala did together. On one hand, it troubled him ‘initially to experiment with the rendering of a character who carried a heavy measure of pain and despondency under the skin and could mislead the more vulnerable youth to believe that alcoholism offered the best escape from the pain of losing in love. On the imageother hand, the subject was already successfully filmed with K L Saigal in the title role and Dilip Kumar had that opportunity to match his histrionic prowess with that benchmark and etch his name in the annals of Hindi Film history. Some of the dialogues from the film, penned by one of the very known literary names, Rajinder Singh Bedi, have become legendary and have lasted out the tests of time. (In fact, dialogue delivery was one of the very predominant weapons the armoury of Dilip Kumar’s histrionics. Here are five iconic dialogues from among many.) After Devdas, when they paired for Madhumati (1958), Vyjayantimala certainly draws a very fond word of praise from Dilip Kumar. Even as the film had tale of three incarnations of the heroin (played by Vyjayantimala), the story gets unfolded through the narrative of hero’s character (played by Dilip Kumar). He has fond memories of being able to score one-man-up-ship over her, while filming the fourth of their films, Paigham (1959), when during a visit to the sets by none less than the them Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, he gets a personal mention from Panditji, when it was Vyjayantimala who was expected to score on this front. However, it was during the making of Naya Daur, that Dilip Kumar noticed Vyjayantimala’s ‘ability to feign a rustic character’s mannerisms with conviction. So she was her first choice as the co-lead star for his home production, Gunga Jumna (1961).

At this stage, as he looks back On The Domestic Front, by the time his father passed away (on 5 March, 1950), Dilip Kumar did feel a sense of achievement that he could live up to his expectations.

imageGunga Jumna, expectedly, has very important personal space in the career so far as Dilip Kumar is concerned, and the making of the films is quite vividly captured in The Travails of Film Making: “Gunga Jumna And After. Dilip Kumar’s character had a very powerful script, in that his character Gunga takes the refuge in the lawlessness of the dacoits to get back to the society what was rightfully his. The story had a built-in conflict between the elder brother who flees the society, ‘where law favours the rich and the powerful and unjustly discriminates the poor and defenceless’ and the younger brother who has to uphold the law of the nation as a police officer. Dilip Kumar had done two other films where he had played negative ‘anti-hero’ roles, in Amar (1954) and Footpath (1953). This role was , however, closer to a the then social reality. IN any case, “life’s surprises never cease”. Ram Aur Shyam (1967), which was going to turn out to be a very special film to Dilip Kumar, started with a bit of turbulence. Vyjayantimala, slated to play the lead, was upset with the producer on some matter and was peremptorily replaced with Waheeda Rehman. That ended seven-film association on a sour note.

While taking up narrative of of A New Role: Taking Up Noble Causes in the public life, Dilip Kumar wonders – “I do not know if it is in my genes or if it is something that I have assimilated from the environment I was brought up in”. Quite vivid and lively discussions relating to his campaigning for V K Krishna Menon against Achrya J B Kriplani, for one of the most memorable Lok Sabha contests in 1962 or being the Sherrif of Bombay (1980) or his active participation @ National Association of the Blind (NAB), or (nominated) member of Rajya Sabha (2000 – 2006).

After Bairag (1976), Dilip Kumar found himself at the cross roads, once again after he had found himself in a similar predicament after Ram Aur Shyam, whether to take up retirement from the active humdrum of the film world. At that time it was Saira Banu who persuaded him to prospects of perusing the scripts of the films. However, after Bairag, Dilip Kumar got embroiled in a lawsuit slapped on him by A R Kardar. It was during the fag end of this trying phase that Manoj Kumar came to him the idea of Kranti (1981) that marked The Second Innings of his career. Then came (Subhash Ghai’s) Vidhaata (1982) in which he plays an earthy character of a railway engine driver.


He went on to do Karma (1986) and Saudagar (1991) too for Subhash Ghai. If his pairing with equally established Raaj Kumar in Saudagar had caused many a ripples, his pairing with just branded Angry Young Men Amitabh Bachchan in Shakti (1982) or his portrayal of veteran upright journalist – editor in Mashaal (1984) evoked fair degree of laurels form the public as well as critics. He credits the extremely involved acting in the famous sequence in Mashaal, in which Vinod Kumar (the character played by him) tries to stop his dying wife, to the deeply etched memories of his own father wailing to get the medical help for asthmatically gasping His mother.



Filmography Dilip Kumar – The Substance and The Shadow

The third of the fourth part of the article – Marriage and Life with Saira Banu – on 5 March, 2015…………………….

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow ǁ 1 of 4

Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow – An Autobiography – as narrated to Udayatara Nayar

Hardback | 230 x 150 | 450pages | ISBN 9789381398869

Publishers: Hay House India

In a very technical sense, this is the third book on Dilip Kumar, the previous two being Dilip Kumar: Star Legend of Indian Cinema by Bunny Rueben and Nehru’s Hero: Dilip Kumar In The Life Of India by Lord Meghnad Desai.

In fact, the very genesis of the present autobiography is that whatever has been written earlier about Dilip Kumar is considered to be ‘full of distortions and misinformation’. So less is known about Yousuf Khan, the substance, and it is so natural to get myths floating around a towering figure of the stature of Dilp Kumar, the shadow, that “an authentic, heartfelt and compelling narrative”, in the form of an ‘autobiography’ would invariably whip up the appetite for the various ‘aspects of life and times of THE titan of Indian Cinema.

This is not a review of the book, but a fairly selective, critical appraisal that would provide a reasonable insight into the contents of the book, and thereby in the principal protagonist, Dilip Kumar, born on 11th December, 1922 as Mohammad Yousuf Khan, the fourth among eleven children of nice, gentle and pious Pathan couple – Mohammad Sarwar Han and Ayesha Bibi.

The contents of the book is spread over four phases – The Personal Life of Yousuf Khan; First and Second Innings at the Hindi Film Cinema; Marriage and Life with Saira Banu and Reminiscences by actors, directors, friends and relatives.

We would take up each section every week, starting with –

The Seeds of a Flight of a Fruit Merchant’s Son, Yousuf Khan, The Substance,  To The Legendary Thespian Dilip Kumar, The Shadow


The book opens with a Foreword by Dilip Kumar’s wife Saira Banu. She extols ‘widely known admiration’ in an ardently pride narrative and in the process, presents some quite interesting facets of the persona of Dilip Kumar: image

§ Dilip Kumar is a fanatically voracious reader. The range of the subjects he reads is as much varied as is his range of histrionics. Dilip Kumar is also very keenly fond of good poetry, classical music and dance.

§ His persona transcends lands, religions and castes. He sternly refuses to see negative side of anyone or any situation.

§ His secular beliefs spring straight from his heart and his respect for all religions, castes, communities and creeds. His closet friends are Parsis.

§ He is very fond of his family.

§ He would never want to miss out on enjoying any of the splendour of nature’s beauty.

§ Flying kites, with the whole family in the toe, is great love. He maintains his treasure of his kites and manja with as much care and as much detail as he maintains his personal wardrobe.

imageUdaytara Nayar, a veteran journalist and writer on her own, is also a very close friend of Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu. In Introduction (A Dream Come True), while presenting the challenge of drawing out Dilip Kumar from his dislike of talking about himself, has been quite painstaking in documenting the frequent use of chaste Urdu in a fairly flowing English narrative. Of particular interest are the accounts of Dilip Kumar’s grasp of management skills as a complete professional and awareness of social responsibilities as a star and a role model. His uncanny choice of Premnath in a negative role in Aan (1952) as a key driver of the publicity or “He never faked anything, be it his appreciation..or his concern for a colleague” or meticulously studying the script and character and then to draw upon from his keen sense of observation are typical takeaways for a professional in any field of activities.

The first eight chapters vividly describes the built up of base of Yousuf Khan’s metamorphosis into Dilip Kumar takes place.image

Yousuf Khan’s date of Birth, in the Kissa Khwani Bazaar of a famous city of Peshawar in the then undivided India’s North West Frontier Province itself would find a mention in the chronicles, because a huge fire had gutted the goldsmiths’ workshops in that area. Yousuf’s Dadi’s opinion of her grandson’s arrival on this earth amidst blizzard and fire was further bolstered by fakir’s prophecy that the child was “made for great fame and unparalleled achievements.” Dadi’s extra efforts to protect her grandson form the evil eyes of the world seemed to transform Yousuf into an ‘loner at school, getting lost in the make-believe world of pictorial books.’

The pain of The Matriarch and Her Brood giving infant Yousuf a very ugly look to protect him from the evil of the world was to surface from the subconscious of Dilip Kumar while playing early tragic roles in career of the soon to be titled tragedy king. The isolation at the school did not seem to affect young Yousuf’s activities at home, but the mental agony of the characters that Dilip Kumar portrayed on the screen did lead him to seek help of psychotherapy.

The Escapades and Adventures of childhood years of Yousuf certainly seem to have ignited Dilip Kumar’s sense of storytelling. Young Yousuf would walk to the city square every day, in the toes of his father, Aghaji, to listen to unfolding of a narrative by one of the maulanas. He would not only enjoy the narrative but also let his fertile imagination conjure up characters and situations in his mind so graphically that back home he would try enacting the characters with the lines spoken by maulana. Several years later these embedded experiences were to unfold in the storytelling exercises for the cinema! Dadi was the first censor Yousuf came across in his life. She would abruptly curtail a story being told at the congregation of the family members around a bon fire of a sigdi on winter night, if she felt it was it was not good enough to be told in the presence of women and children. In his solitudes Child Yousuf also indulged in the pastime of imitating ladies and men who came visiting his parents. Among these visitors was the elder son of Yousuf’s father’s Hindu friend Basheshwarnath Kapoor, who would stun the ladies with his handsome appearance. That was Raj Kapoor’s father, Prithviraj Kapoor.

Off To Bombay: A New Chapter Begins when Yousuf’s father shifted to Bombay to explore the business potential in the wake of the news of impending world war. During the journey to Bombay by Frontier Mail, family friends would come to meet them with refreshments at some of the stations. Some of them were Hindus. When the trains stopped at stations, the vendors would sell ‘Hindu Chai, Hindu Paani, Muslim Chai, Muslim Panni. The travelling Khan family did take little notice of the difference. Adolescent Yousuf grew up in an atmosphere of warmth and affection. He was extremely shy, but not unhappy. There was no more shaving of his pate now (in the year 1937). The growth of thick black hair elicited compliments form all ladies, which would yield into a ritual by his mother for shooing away the evil eye. ‘Today, in (his) ninety-second year, (Saira Banu) performs the same ritual every time a visitor says something about,, looks or good health or when… dozens of people come for (autographs) and praise.. work!’

In The Growing Up Years, the family had shifted to Deolali (a hill station in Maharashtra, located about 180 km form Mumbai). Yousuf learnt English to a quite proficient degree. He also started taking keen interest in soccer. In fact, at that stage he had a desire to become a soccer champion and his father desired an OBE attached to his name. He met Raj Kapoor after many years at Khalsa College. In fact, theirs was not merely a friendship of two individuals in the same profession but a bonding that grew from well-placed trust and respect. Even as Yousuf was always trying to help his father, a destiny was being cared for him by the Almighty.

The Poona Interlude helped teenaged Yousuf find his own bearings, gain some valuable experience. That taste of a little bit of ‘freedom’ also made him unsure whether he would be able to continue to submit to the will of his father, and take over his mantle.

At that point of time, inevitable changes led to The Return of The Prodigal to Bombay, pining for warm, indescribable security of family and familiar surroundings.

Whilst in Bombay, Yousuf was now keenly searching for a meaningful occupation. One morning he happens to meet his father’s acquaintances. Dr. Masani. One thing led to another. Yousuf met Devika Rani and landed up with a job of Rs 1250 per month. This was The Turning Point. He also met Ashok Kumar, marking the beginning of a friendship that was to last and entire lifetime.

In addition to these chapters on his-pre-film life, Dilip Kumar has chosen to end the book with Family Matters to present his reply to persistent question asked to him: Whether there is anything at all that (he regrets) and wish(es) to obliterate from the canvas of (his) life. One such episode is his getting involved, under pressure, with lady named Asma Rehman. That mischievously perpetuated ‘second marriage’ was an error of judgement by a fallible human being. Saira Banu, despite the hurt caused to her pride and because of her intense faith in him, stood solidly by him. The whole episode strengthened their closeness and emotional dependence on each other. During the episode it was wrongly represented that Saira could not bear a child. The truth is she did conceive a child (in 1972), but was lost in the eighth month of the pregnancy because of several medical complications. Dilip Kumar also goes into a deep retrospective when he passionately narrates his attempts to give each of his brother and sister to scale the heights that he dreamt for them. He felt a moment of proud and that lump in the throat when Lata Mangeshakar, whom he fondly calls his ‘younger sister’, sang for him Allah Tero Naam on the eve of her soulful rendering of Ae Mere watan Ke Logo at a function in the presence of the then Prime Minister Jawhar Lal Nehru in Delhi.

We will take up next part of the article – First and Second Innings at the Hindi Film Cinema – on 19 February, 2015

‘A Delicate Truth,’ by John le Carré –

‘A Delicate Truth,’ by John le Carré – – is as good a review as it can be when some one talks of Le Carre’s work.  But that is , possibly because, Olen Steinhauer is the author of eight novels, most recently “An American Spy.” He lives in Budapest.

“A Delicate Truth,” like most of le Carré’s recent novels, feels like a rebuttal to George Smiley’s theory. How many stray cats can we allow to be snuffed in order to reach our ends? Or, as le Carré put it in an essay in last month’s issue of Harper’s, “How far can we go in the rightful defense of our Western values without abandoning them along the way?” Back in 1963, in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold,” we watched that novel’s stray cat, Liz Gold, die on the Berlin Wall. A shame, yes, but in the grand scheme of things an acceptable loss. Fifty years later, “A Delicate Truth” suggests that even little Liz Gold would be too much of a sacrifice.” 

I have been able to get le Carre book form British Library these days. This is THE 23rd novel, and I have completed just three of them.. WOW.. what a way to go ahead…….


“Aftershock” – A short novel by Shri Haresh Dholakia

‘Shock’ is when something happens, when least expected. Many social, scientific, historical or psychological treatises have documented such ‘shocks’. However, the matter does not end with the ‘shock’. Many related events keep on happening after the main – initial, principal – ‘shock’ – which are popularly known as “Aftershocks”.

The ‘shock’, or for that matter ‘aftershock’, too, can range in severity, from very light to extremely devastating. It is also not necessary that if the ‘shock’ is not severe, the ‘aftershock’ also will not be severe, or vice versa. Nature will behave in any random manner, because it is the nature. The effects or results of the ‘shock’ /’aftershock’ can be happy or can be sordid; these can be physical or emotional and can impact an individual or family or society or nation or the whole world severally or in some set(s) combinations or collectively. The effects can be ephemeral and transient or can be epochal and far-reaching.

Kutch experienced such a ‘shock’ on 26th of January, 2001 by way of a high intensity ‘massive’ earthquake.  More than 14,200 people have been feared to have perished and an estimated 600,000 were left homeless, in the aftermath of this quake. As a matter great credit to the grit of the people of Kutch, aided by a very generous immediate and mid-term help from the outside world, Kutch has resurrected itself, like sphinx, in the subsequent decade.

There has been extensive documentation of the physical aspects of the devastations and resurrection and reportages of human misery or of the human grit as well. But, as Shri Haresh Dholakia records in the Preface to his short novel, ’Aftershock’, there is hardly any fictional narratives on the human side of this particular ‘shock’ and thereafter. Our mind conjures up the memories of a similar event that has similar massive fallout on human life – the 1947 Partition. This had given rise to a vast variety of fictional works – short stories, novels and even movies.

Shri Dholakia happened to attend a meeting of some ’well-known’ withers in Bhuj, few months post-quake and resolved to write  representative fictional account of the holocaust as well as the human pathos. Our current short-novel owes its existence to germination of this idea in, otherwise, by nature, mind of an essay-writer. As he has indicated in the preface, he took enough time to give final, publish-able, shape to the idea, because the idea vacillated between two extremes of  ‘whether such a thing can ever happen in a real life’ rationale of a natural logic-bound essayist  and a pure, sheer creative urge of  a creator of a fiction-based literature.

Such an enticing introduction to the genesis of this book does start ringing of silent bells in the minds of the reader at the very start of the book. The reader is, thus, already in the state of off-the –edge’ of ‘what-next?’, which is further accentuated by the author’s matter-of-fact descriptive style to take him /her on a simultaneous journey of what the author would have in his mind for the next event.

The novel begins with an easy paced dilemma of a young civil engineer for his – unwittingly split loyalty between a happy family of a beautiful, loving and care-taker wife and a son and his unexplainable, but equally irresistible, love for the young daughter of his one of the senior customers. But before the reader can digest this minor ‘shock’, the author jolts the reader out of this romantic reverie, through that fateful earthquake of 2001.

Shri Haresh Dholakia is essentially a logical essayist. So his narratives flow between the logic and imagination. If his narratives do not seem to fly off on the wings of imaginations of a natural creator of fictional literature, the narratives do not sound too matter-of-fact, as well. The breadth of his narrative is not so constrained, by his natural logic, which the reader cam make out what is happening on the opposite end of the shore of his next-moves. Nor is it so unwieldy to be beyond the reach of likelihood of the logic of real-life feasibility of the events.

The reader moves on with the author, feeling the tremors of quake, feeling hurt by its immediate impacts, feels depressed with the principal protagonist, lives with him without any food for several days in the funeral-pyre place, decides to surrender to the Almighty when intellect and emotions have been totally blunted out, gets the message of self-less perseverance from the untiring work put in by the sages and gets rejuvenated from the childlike innocence of his son and pensively joins the process of building his life from the ruins of the quake.

The story line now moves from the past and the present to the future. As always happens in the fictions, his son ‘happens’ to have a chance, cursory meeting with a demure and smilingly under-stated beauty during his visits to the campus library of his University as he now pursues his study in graduation for IT.   The ‘chance meeting’ blossoms into ‘controlled’ affection, and then into the strong bond of love between the two youngsters, As the experienced reader of fiction would certainly expect. The relationship is seen to rise to a crescendo in the course of passage of time. Reader starts feeling the inkling of a storm in this gathering of clouds, even while the love-birds get the endorsement of the father, our principal protagonist of the past of the story, and his other family members.

Oh well, we should not narrate out the details of the story here, for that would foretell the element of underlying suspense and thrill that has spell-bound the reader with the follow of the story. The story is best enjoyed when read with the readers’’ own perceptions and points of views.

The story has now undertaken a different shape than a simple fictional love story, flourishing in the back drop of rejuvenated Kutch. One now undergoes a series of  ‘Aftershocks’, happening in random time scale, with varying intensities, akin to what Kutch has undergone as it re-built itself after the ravages of that fateful, massive quake. The reader vicariously feels the emotional impacts of these ‘aftershocks’.

Every turn in the story does not happen in line with the expectations of the reader. And when it does, the reader finds that author has been able to present the reasons different than what he/she had thought of. Thus, as you read “aftershock”, you feel the similarities with Alfred Hitchcock story or film, where ‘shocking’ events happen when the viewer least expects it or do not happen, certainly not, when the viewer has expected it.

So, the reader keeps on reading through the pages with a tense expectation of an ‘unknown known’ event happening, till suddenly he /she realizes that book is already over. There are questions not answered or answers for which questions were not asked. The reader is left to conjure up own version of what would happen in the lives of the protagonists, why it would happen that way, and what would happen if things happened the way they do.

“Aftershock” is indeed a very bold experiment of handling a rather unorthodox subject in somewhat unusual style by an author who is essentially not a known fiction-writer. On a cursory reading what may appear to be a story of unfulfilled love, in two generations, is in fact a welcome attempt to look at the impact(s) of a major physical event on the lives of the individuals.

  • Aftershock , Gujarati novel

–     Author: Shri Haresh Dholakia;

–          Publisher: R. R. Sheth & Co. Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai /Ahmedabad ǁ

–          ISBN 978-93-81315-73-6

–          First Edition: February,2012

–          Price Rs. 125/-

Rich Like Us – Nayantara Sahgal

Rich Like Us – A novel by Nayantara Sahgal

Nayantara Sahgal is already an acclaimed name in the field of Indian – English fiction and “Emergency” still rings bells to all those who have had lived in that period of “Emergency’ – 26 June 1975 to 21 March 1977. So when you flip through the covers of the novel “Rich Like Us”, and mark Nayantara Sahgal as the author and Emergency as the theatre of the story, the brain-watering juices are bound to be released. Add the factor that the author is the cousin of the chief protagonist of that period – Nayantara Sahgal, is the daughter of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s sister, Vijayalaxmi Pandit, and the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi is the daughter of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru.

The fact that I belong to the band of ‘the impressionable young common citizen’ social, or political, class at that time, it was obvious that the book was a ‘must-read’ the moment I saw on the shelves of the library.

Politics is the central running theme in this novel. Though worked around an interesting premise, the story did not match up to my expectation of having the socio-political points of views of a novelist of a very critical period of India’s post-independence history. The narrative jumps from one character to another, and from past to present in a manner, which is far from smooth.

The narrative flows from the perspective of an idealist IAS officer, Soanli, educated in the post-independence Britain but revolves mainly around the life of a British woman, Rose, who is hopelessly charmed by the young Indian Ram and ‘jumps’ into a matrimony that her family neither understands nor approves. When she comes to India, India is under the last phase of the Raj. She also comes to know that Ram is already married and has toddler son from that marriage.

The story flip-flops through Rose’s life – her acclimatization in the Indian social milieu and Ram’s family, Ram’s Indian wife’s attempt for suicide and Rose saving her, Rose trying to collaborate with Sonali to prevent the fraudulent means of her stepson of using his paralytic father – with Sonali’s narrative of her own life in the new ways of the Government under the new equations of Emergency, her student days at Britain – and en passé references to the realities of clamp down of the culture of impersonated sycophancy and corruption seemed to be germinating in the new ways of the regime.

As such, the book touches upon many issues – the lives of upper class during British rule, the accumulation of wealth, injustice to the poor, the sufferings of lower class during Partition, the role of women over the years, political situation, Indian family values, patriarchal society, the injustice meted out to people during Emergency, and so many others.

If one reads through the book purely as an Indian-English fiction, “Rich Like Us” does make an interesting at-least-one-time read.

The Wikipedia has presented the detailed literary analysis of the book, from different angles. Hence I would request a visit to that article for an in-depth analysis.