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A Supreme Irony

Krishna Maitra

By Ashok Gopal and Som Dev
English Edition (Publishers and Distributors), 2004, pp. 152, Rs. 125.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 10 October 2005

The most striking feature of Thinker in the Dark is its title, as I couldn’t think of any other name that would reflect the authors’ deep concern for the darker side of today’s academia. What is the function of a university? Pursuit of excellence or to be a place where people intellectualize their own agenda by manipulating a system, which is burdened with corruption, malpractice and caste politics?   ‘In a supreme irony, the system that was supposed to work towards the dismantling of caste was oiled by it.’ Though one of the authors has used a pseudonym, it is very much evident that she/he herself/ himself was witness to some such places.   The protagonist in this novel is a newly appointed VC whose own appointment was not above board. Coming from a village background, he could learn very fast the means that needed for social mobility. His wife is more practical and pushes him to complete his PhD so that he can enter the university as a lecturer. He becomes in due time the HOD but ‘that is as far as he wanted to go’. His appointment as a VC is quick and unexpected but he belongs to the same caste as that of the Chief Minister of the state. ‘There was an unwritten rule in the Deccan University that appointment of a Brahmin to a top post had to be suitably balanced by the appointment of a Maratha to a similar ranking post. Maratha and OBC appointments had to outnumber Brahmin appointments in any case. It was ‘desirable’ but not necessary to appoint a Dalit to a higher post’ (pp.14-15). The most deserving candidate with all the required qualifications has to leave the university because of dirty politics which has now become an integral part of many organizations. Luck favours Dr. Shubash as there was a coalition government at the state and the Governor accepts the suggestion given by the Chief Minister.   The VC’s appointment of the ProVC does not make everybody happy as he chooses somebody who could fit his own requirement. Dr. Yadav who is quite powerful and has his own agenda in terms of making money mani-pulates through an ambitious but controversial project and is particularly unhappy because he is not given a chance to have his say. The story has some other interesting characters that make the reading more realistic. ...

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