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Stir It Up

Chaudhuri has grasped Hindutva's pathology, seen the iron in India's pseudo-spiritual soul. And he's saddened and disturbed

Stir It Up
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Small Orange Flags
By Amit Chaudhuri
Seagull Books Rs 150; Pages: 79
The "‘state of emergency’ in which we live", wrote Walter Benjamin, "is not the exception, but the rule". Amit Chaudhuri quotes Benjamin approvingly as he reflects on the Holocaust during a recent visit to Berlin’s old Jewish quarter. That state, he recognises, is integral to today’s India too: in governance, public life, people’s private worlds, and the middle class’ coarsening sensibilities.

In this slender volume, Chaudhuri makes forays into many spaces: Manto, a Birla temple, a Greyhound bus, 1993 violence-devastated Mumbai, and issues of (diverse) identities. His style is easy, observant, never declamatory. The prose has insights which fiction-writers don’t always share.

The booklet should make some of the so-called educated minds think, stir up what’s left of their liberal conscience. It might have been more effective had Chaudhuri revisited certain familiar social-science debates and developed themes outside a strong Bengal-dominated context (he reduces the complex foundations of Indian secularism to the "liberal humanism of the Bengal Renaissance"!). But beyond a point, one can’t quarrel. Chaudhuri has grasped Hindutva’s pathology, seen the iron in India’s pseudo-spiritual soul. And he’s saddened and disturbed.

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