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Musings of the Spirit

Roomi Naqvi

By Girdhar Rathi
Indraprasth Prakashan, Delhi, 2002, pp. 160, Rs. 150.00


Girdhar Rathi is an important Hindi critic, editor, translator, poet and litterateur. He has been the editor of the Sahitya Akademi’s journal Samkaleen Bharatiya Sahitya since 1991, which he has edited with zest and flair. Antastha, the book being reviewed, comprises essays and occasional pieces that he wrote variously between 1977 and 2001. Though the pieces written cover a period of over two decades, they do not seem to have lost their contemporary appeal. Antastha is divided into four sections.The book essentially manifests Rathi’s reflections on a variety of issues, including ‘Hindi literature at the threshold of the new century’, ‘The limits of Postmodernism’ as also essays on the nuclear bomb, nationalism, Ritwik Ghatak, the transformation in the present American generation and Sunil Gavaskar. Thus, there is great versatility of ideas in the book. There isn’t any one uniting thread in the different essays, except the title of the book itself, which sums up the entire enterprise of this text rather succinctly well. ‘Antastha’ would be a difficult term to translate but it should approximate to ‘musings’ or ‘ruminations of the spirit’.   In the Introduction, Rathi says, “After Uhapoh, when I was working on the other volume Antastha, I could sense a deep impact of disillusionment on the personal front in my writings from 1970 till today.” There is focus on the way the world has changed in the last couple of decades. He refers to the fast-paced technological changes of the last two decades but then also points out instances where there has been no change or development. Rathi significantly stresses on the issues of poverty, disease, public waste, illiteracy and homelessness as examples of stagnation in society. In the introduction, he tries to find the causes for the monumental neglect. He says, “Where lies the fault? Perhaps in the entire country, in each one of us.” And he goes on to ask, “Is the human being himself at fault?” In a way, when Rathi reflects on society, he does come up with very central insights and shows his strengths as an important social thinker of our times. He easily compares with leading critics of our age, such as Noam Chomsky. The essays show Rathi as a very erudite critic, who is able to find excellent connections between ideas.   In the ‘Limits of Postmodernism’ (Uttar Adhunikta Ke Daire), Rathi lays out the field well. He begins by criticizing the ...

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