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Wanderings in the World of Ideas

Achin Vanaik

By Rajen Harshe
Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp.175, Rs.495.00


Rajen Harshe is one of those rare individuals who through their lives have played many roles. He has been and will no doubt remain an activist, scholar, teacher and institution-builder. To get a better sense of what this book offers and why it has been written the way it has, knowing the background of the author matters. Harshe is Professor in the field of international relations at Hyderabad Central University and has always had a special interest in Africa. Noted scholar and author of many academic books and articles appearing in prestigious journals, he has also been a public intellectual unafraid to take positions on and participate in civil society actions on a range of progressive causes. Finally, he has served in various senior level academic administrative positions and served a full term as Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University (AU) from 2005 to 2010. During this time Harshes determination to restore AU to something like its earlier academic glory made him many friends but also many enemies within and outside AU, namely a nexus of money power, muscle power and political parties that did not hesitate to physically threaten and browbeat him. Despite the very severe, indeed life threatening toll this took on him he succeeded, with much support from both inside and outside AU, in pushing through reforms that have left the university a lot better off than when he first entered. If this book in part reflects that often traumatic experience and the lessons learnt thereof about the more general problems in higher education in India, it is also much more than that. Harshes early upbringing in a Marathi cultural ethos that was fairly anti-imperialist inspired in him an enduring idealism, a love of literature and poetrythe subtitle of this book is derived from a poem Gypsy by Manjesh Padgaonkaras well as a strong cosmopolitan bent that no doubt pushed him professionally into the field of international relations. Harshe then has self-professedly always been wandering in the world of ideas and now has sought to share these wanderings in the form of a collection of short pieces on a range of subjects. Many of these pieces, but far from all, appeared in his popular VCs Diary column that regularly featured in the Allahabad edition of the Hindustan Times. A number of passionshave stimulated the essays in this collectionmy love for memorable poems, respect for inspiring leaders, metaphysical inclinations, sense of history.....

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