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Emergency Trivia

N.S. Jagannathan

By Uma Vasudev
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, 30.00

By Kuldip Nayar
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, 30.00

By Janardan Thakur
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, 30.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 4 July-August 1977

Excesses of the Emergency is a much­ battered cliche, but a post-Emergency excess—in both senses of the word—for which no Shah Commission is possible is the flood of books on it. These have come in all shapes and sizes and they do not please, as Keats said poetry should, ‘by a fine excess’. The worst of them are badly written ephemera and very much a scissors and paste job that could be forgiven only on Dr Johnson's dictum that a man was never more innocently occupied than when making money. The better ones are barely acceptable as necessary preliminary documentation of a dark period in our national life. What induced the authors of these books to write them, if it was not money? Fame, the last infirmity of the noble mind or the first craving of certain kinds of less than noble minds? Or journalistic itch, as was most certainly the case with Kuldip Nayar, who would have continued with his behind the scene saga, Emergency or no Emergency? Only, the Emergency provided him with an immediate personal and professional provocation. Self-exculpation, as is perhaps the case with Uma Vasudev, who has had to discover a second face behind the first she so naively admired in her first book? The authors may have had these and other reasons for writing their books. But have we any to buy them? On consi­deration, I would say none, unless one has money to burn or a professional reason, as in the case of journalists. One could, of course, read them without buying them, as one would the journals in a dentist’s ante-room. My first objection to these books is that they have, by and large, trivialized the Emergency. It was an oppressive experience, tension-ridden and claustro­phobic, with a sense of unnamed menace and sinister forebodings on the one hand and of a corrosive guilt at one’s acquie­scence in it, however sullen, on the other. None of these books which refer glibly enough to the Emergency as a ‘traumatic experience’ conveys the damage to the spirit wrought by the regime’s assault on the collective psyche and individual ones. Ideally, what one is asking for is a novel by an artist with an apocalyptic vision that would capture the terror and indignity of it all and the obscenity of a whole people being pushed around by a ...

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