On my list of Indian writers who must be read is Sudhir Kakar. On a scale of ten, I’d rate him as a nine. I make it a point to read everything he writes because he writes on a variety of subjects which no one has written about before—and is easy to read.
His latest is his own life story. I was fascinated because he trod the same ground as I had twenty or thirty years earlier. He spent his early childhood in Sargodha; I in a village a few miles from Sargodha. Like me, he was in and out of Lahore and went to the same school in Delhi. His father was a magistrate who was often transferred from one post to another. So at the age of eight he was admitted to Modern School in Delhi as a boarder. My father was president of the school’s board from its inception and I did my matriculation from there.
But unlike Kakar, I was a day scholar and knew nothing about what went on among the boarders. He gives a lurid account of the rampant buggery that went on in the hostel: “A hurried exploration of another boy’s genitals while offering one’s own for a similar grope. It had to be rushed, since other nine-and ten-year-olds...were lined up in front of the washroom door, impatiently awaiting their turn. After a couple of months of indiscriminate gropings, partners were selected for the rest of the year....”
In his next school, St Edwards in Shimla, run by Irish Christian Brothers, he talks of the beatings by sadistic teachers: “Brother Conway...once started caning a plump, good-looking Kashmiri boy who had played some innocent prank. (He) could not stop the beating even after the boy had dirtied his pants. In his flushed face and his inability to stop...we boys could sense (this) was more than punishment, there were other, darker forces propelling Brother Conway’s cane and blocking his ears to the boy’s screams.”
After he finished school, his family decided to send him to engineering college in Ahmedabad. He stayed with his aunt, Kamla Chowdhury, who was the mistress of the nuclear scientist Vikram Sarabhai. After college, Kakar had to decide what he wanted to do with his life. His first choice was engineering. He set sail for Germany to do a post-graduation in industrial engineering and spent four years in Mannheim, studying economics and industrial management. He learnt to read and write German and his articles and short stories appeared in German journals. He returned home without a clear picture about his future.
The decisive point came when he met Erik Erikson, who was working on a psychoanalytical portrait of Ambalal Sarabhai, whose family owned Calico Mills in Ahmedabad. Erikson’s Gandhi’s Truth was acclaimed as a masterpiece of psychoanalysis of a family split after a workers’ strike. Kakar decided to follow his example and become a psychoanalyst. For some time he lived with his aunt Kamla. It was during his stay in Ahmedabad that he married a beautiful Gujarati girl, with whom he had two children.
When Vikram died, Kamla moved to Delhi. She bought a spacious apartment overlooking Lodhi Gardens. Kakar and his family also moved to Delhi. He set up practice and started writing books. He was successful in both. He was much sought after by good-looking society ladies of Delhi. Kakar had many affairs. He also found family life boring and decided to ditch his wife and children, replacing them by marrying a German lady in the same profession. Kamla was soured by his second marriage and cut off relations with him. So Kakar and his German wife decided to get out of Delhi and set up home in Goa.
One of the delights of Kakar’s memoir is his keen observation of his own feelings. He writes, for instance, about what it felt like when he kissed a girl full in the mouth for the first time: “At first, I was startled when she put her tongue in my mouth. My Hindu self, brought up on the notion of jootha in which spittle is a source of pollution, at first recoiled at the incursion.” Or his feelings after he had sex with her—a sort of self-analysis. No one has done this with such finesse as he did.
Another plus point in this autobiography is the sets of pictures of people he writes about. They tell you his life story as much as the text.
Kakar begins his book by admitting candidly that there’s a degree of vanity involved in writing one’s own memoir. But this is that rare autobiography without a trace of conceit.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Personally I know Mr.Kakar and in begnning.I was arden admirer of his books. He wrote only two books honestly than he stared the repeation.I was shocked when he started to cheat the readers..Four years back I suggested to him write your honest atobiography, write it psychoanytilacally, but when I read his mini autobiography in his collected writing I wrote him if you write your complete atobiography in same vain please donot write He wrote I think he was now branrupt as a writer so he write this humdrum
'Khush' is indulgent; rightly so.
It seems Kakar had an eye for damsels around him.
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