Vikas-Datta - THE HANS INDIA

Author : Vikas Datta


The Superfluous Man

The Superfluous Man

Nov 19,2017 , 01:10 AM IST | Sunday Hans
The Russian Revolution led by Lenin, which had its 100th anniversary recently, can be assailed on many counts, but literary connoisseurs could chiefly fault it on one. This would be ensuring the disappearance of a prominent mainstay of classical Russian literature and its archetypical contribution to the tradition – the "Superfluous Man" who was unfit for the new working class trend of "Socialist
All power to the Soviets

All power to the Soviets

Nov 12,2017 , 01:09 AM IST | Sunday Hans
Given that the system it gave birth to lasted only a bit over seven decades and has now been gone for over a quarter of century, does the Russian Revolution, even in its centenary year, hold much relevance? But many still know little about what is known as the Great October (or Bolshevik or Lenin's) Revolution, including that it was Russia's second in 1917 and actually occurred on November 7.
The badass philosopher

The badass philosopher

Nov 05,2017 , 01:46 AM IST | Sunday Hans
Philosophers are not usually distinguished for themselves seeking to curtail the scope of their sphere of activity, being lucid or admitting they were mistaken. Nor are they known for stopping crimes being committed by force of argument. But philosophy's wide realm always had exceptions, like this British thinker whose achievements include stopping Mike Tyson from forcing himself on Naomi Campbell
In pursuit of truth

In pursuit of truth

Oct 22,2017 , 01:10 AM IST | Sunday Hans
Human development owes much to philosophical 'gadflies' who search for the 'truth' about us and our world - not only to discover it but also find if it conforms to what we believe it is. They can end up with surprising, contentious findings like French philosopher Michael Foucault, whose quest led to him detecting a new approach to see the individual-society relationship and the prevailing ideas a
A long-forgotten Sanskrit classic

A long-forgotten Sanskrit classic

Oct 08,2017 , 01:29 AM IST | Sunday Hans
It however remained obscure for over 500 years – with its original Sanskrit text only published in 1973 and the first English translation in 2015Byline: Vikas Datta Amidst the glittering pantheon of classical Sanskrit literature we know – or some of us claim to know to put forth their idea of a golden age India "free of any foreign influence" – there are several lesser-known works, which give lie
Shairi se mashvare

Shairi se mashvare

Sep 17,2017 , 01:32 AM IST | Sunday Hans
We may be familiar with the literary concept of “poetic justice”, though in this modern technological and globalised age, we are more liable to call it “laser-guided karma”. But as the original term suggests, we desire not only justice but justice that happens in a "poetic" manner. Does the poetic form of literature treat advice the same way?
Sun of valour

Sun of valour

Sep 10,2017 , 01:01 AM IST | Sunday Hans
Rulers of men, be it in a system autocratic or democratic, soon begin to believe in their "divine right" of leadership and that they outstrip their predecessors – some of whom are sought to be brushed out. This sentiment is not alien to our country and our time, despite the lessons from one of the most abiding and popular works of our cultural tradition.
Desert warrior, ignored prophet

Desert warrior, ignored prophet

Aug 27,2017 , 12:35 AM IST | Hans
How is history made? From the interplay of political, social and economic forces, decisions made elsewhere or the contested "Great Man" Theory – the influence of one key man at the right place and time? For the modern Middle East's making and its problems, all seem to play a role, including in explaining what Lawrence of Arabia accomplished – and the consequences of ignoring his advice.
Judging books by their names

Judging books by their names

Aug 20,2017 , 02:20 AM IST | Hans
Conquering kings their titles take…" begins a Christian hymn, but what about those of books that demand you take a second look at them for something inviting, intriguing, or even incongruous in their name. While an indirect, rather fanciful title is now the norm, even among them, some have an edge in captivating readers
The saga of the kings

The saga of the kings

Aug 13,2017 , 01:19 AM IST | Hans
No great civilisation is without an epic, or two, whose importance is not limited to just reciting their particular creation myth and a gloriously golden past. Nor does their influence stop at national or cultural borders, or conform to arbitrary historical divisions imposed by vested interests. This saga of a venerable and sophisticated Asian civilisation offers some proof.
Hosting humour in history

Hosting humour in history

Aug 06,2017 , 02:48 AM IST | Hans
The last place possibly expected to yield humour is history. For most of us, it was a dreary, most colourless school subject. But today it a serious business – a fiercely-contested battlefield of ideologies, identities and political aspirations rather than a reasoned record of the past to enable us to understand our present and guide our future. Humour seems incongruous, even inadvisable, here.
The poetic roots

The poetic roots

Jul 30,2017 , 02:15 AM IST | Hans
In any literary tradition, the works of even its less famous or forgotten figures are liable to crop up at some unexpected place. As in Hindi film songs, with which Urdu poetry has been closely linked from the beginning. While their soulful, stirring or soothing lyrics come from the creativity of poets from Sahir Ludhianvi to Gulzar, Majrooh Sultanpuri to Javed Akhtar, sometimes inspiration comes
Mighty Jane

Mighty Jane

Jul 23,2017 , 01:06 AM IST | Hans
With a major plot of hers being women's dependence on an advantageous marriage to secure social standing and economic security, Jane Austen's works can strike a chord with readers in patriarchal societies still prevalent across the world. But this response might be not only a misreading but a grave misrepresentation of someone who is not only English's first great woman writer but great beyond any
Power of Poetry

Power of Poetry

Jul 09,2017 , 12:45 AM IST | Hans
It is not a fable, though it may seem like one. A prince is so entranced by an unparalleled city of his dominions that he lingers in it year after year, while his courtiers grow increasingly homesick and long to be reunited with their families. But nobody has the courage to broach the matter.
PG Wodehouse’s Women

PG Wodehouse’s Women

Jul 02,2017 , 02:12 AM IST | Hans
Going by PG Wodehouse's most famous works and characters - Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, the Blandings Castle set, Psmith, Mr Mulliner et al, you could wonder - as one of my friends did - why the celebrated comic novelist didn't have a woman character of equal standing. One who is not just a love interest, or among the formidable female relatives (chiefly aunts) many protagonists have to deal with.
Evoking laughter from the corridors of power

Evoking laughter from the corridors of power

Jun 25,2017 , 02:19 AM IST | Hans
Apart from the record of some singular "inspired" leaders, who may end up presiding over destinies of millions, including in mature democracies even now (and from a safe distance), humour is not a sentiment evoked by either politics and governance. 
The animal heroes

The animal heroes

Jun 18,2017 , 01:15 AM IST | Hans
The Second World War was truly a "world" war – for, apart from encompassing most of the globe, it saw all military forces drawing in additional "personnel" beyond the planet's dominant species. These were not only beasts of burden and transport like horses or elephants, but also man's best animal friend performing a range of tasks from "escort" to "early warning", and a shell-totting bear and many
An incredible Indian wonderland

An incredible Indian wonderland

Jun 11,2017 , 01:43 AM IST | Hans
It began as a literary hoax in 19th century Lucknow but this massive triumph of Indian imagination went on to have greater cultural impact – even beyond the subcontinent – than envisaged by its creators. 
Liberalism’s prophet

Liberalism’s prophet

Jun 04,2017 , 01:10 AM IST | Hans
The concept of liberalism and its key facet of tolerance are most vital to human freedom and development, but in these treacherous times, they are under unflinching attack by "right-thinking" sections of society in thrall to "infallible and all-knowing" leaders. But do they even understand these concepts or are only conditioned to abuse them virulently?
Unconventional but alluring heroes

Unconventional but alluring heroes

May 28,2017 , 01:12 AM IST | Sunday Hans
In human affairs, things exist before they are formally named and continue to thrive even when people don't know or forget the name. Take this type of literary character, who continues to hold a strange fascination for us – the "hero" (or rather, the anti-hero or even villain) who is passionate but flawed, charismatic but behaves outrageously, holds unshakeable beliefs while internally-conflicted
The wounded poet

The wounded poet

May 21,2017 , 01:05 AM IST | Hans
Like the sun outshines other celestial bodies, literary figures are liable to find that their contribution to popular forms of mass media will obscure all their other work, no matter how much better they consider it. 
Why Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use iPads and other digital dangers

Why Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use iPads and other digital dangers

May 16,2017 , 10:08 PM IST | Hans
Human reactions can be inconsistent. There was a time, if you were found reading a book in company, you could be shouted at by your parents or even have it snatched and flung away, but now if you are eagerly checking your smartphone, no one is likely to say anything -- for they might be doing the same too.
A saga of love, sex and danger in ancient India

A saga of love, sex and danger in ancient India

May 14,2017 , 12:49 AM IST | Hans
For keen readers, the point where texts transform into literature is always interesting. The protagonists are more likely to be fallible humans than deities, the prescriptive and didactic approach wanes to show the world as it is, not as it should be. 
Literary links

Literary links

May 07,2017 , 01:36 AM IST | Hans
Involving traversing fairways bounded by roughs and hazards for the unwary, a progressive set of goals to achieve through varying levels of difficulty, and performers of varying calibre and skill, golf might be the sport most approximating our life. But strangely, golf's appearances in fiction have not been commensurate with the resemblance – though it has not been entirely absent.
A priest-detective and his cases

A priest-detective and his cases

Apr 23,2017 , 12:24 AM IST | Hans
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" The Shadow, the mysterious narrator of a 1930 American radio show, knows – as he told us with his eerie laugh – but he wasn't the only one. 
TV shows needed as books too

TV shows needed as books too

Apr 16,2017 , 12:45 AM IST | Hans
The egg or the chicken paradox doesn't seem difficult to answer in its literary version – the printed word undoubtedly predates the moving image. Many much-loved books, across genres, have become acclaimed films or TV shows – with varying degrees of fidelity. Unfortunately, the reverse, though not unknown, does not happen as often.
Lawmakers and gallant rescuers

Lawmakers and gallant rescuers

Apr 02,2017 , 12:28 AM IST | Hans
Mowgli, the wolf-raised child in a central Indian jungle, and Kim, the orphan drawn into the ‘Great Game’, may be his most enduring child characters, but Rudyard Kipling is responsible for other irrepressible young heroes too. Changing literary politics have, however, regrettably obscured the tales of the children who could influence the Viceroy's council or view an unprecedented natural spectacle
Bad words

Bad words

Mar 26,2017 , 01:35 AM IST | Hans
Literary legacies can be strange and unpredictable. Most popular and best-selling in his time, this 19th century British writer coined phrases like "the pen is mightier than the sword" and "the almighty dollar", influenced both theosophists like Annie Besant and Nazi mystics but is now remembered for writing the most pilloried and parodied opening line of any English literary work and inspiring a
The course of a Greek myth

The course of a Greek myth

Mar 19,2017 , 01:01 AM IST | Hans
Does only economic status determine social class, or do other determinants – speech patterns, apparel, mannerisms and the like – play a part? And if so, will changing them mean upward – and irreversible – social mobility for all (across gender)? These questions have been much debated, but never so entertainingly as in this play, named after a mythological Greek character, and its numerous adaptati
Sun of Indian wisdom and his arduous task

Sun of Indian wisdom and his arduous task

Mar 12,2017 , 12:40 AM IST | Hans
Confusingly complicated family relations, logical puzzles for intellectual betterment, problem-solving by, and through, imagination, the importance of choices, and the spinning on a basic tale through a number of episodes have a long pedigree in India. One of their best examples can be found in this ancient but still popular story.