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Traversing Diverse Cultural Tracks

Partho Datta

By Rustom Bharucha
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2003, pp. 358, Rs. 325.00

Rupayan Sansthan Archives, Jodhpur, 2003, Rs. 225.00


Rustom Bharucha’s is a fascinating book, a record of long conversations over many months with legendary folklorist Komal Kothari of Rajasthan. The interviewer is the well-known theatre personality and cultural critic Rustom Bharucha. A big book which traverses the folk culture of Rajasthani peoples especially their celebrated folk music, it raises through conversation and dialogue many important issues that tackle politics, cultural studies, ethnomusicology and globalization.      There are two authors, not one and this is clear in the way the book has been planned. Komal Kothari is found in the first person chapters that form the bulk of the text. The range of Kothari’s information can be gauged from the chapter headings which include ‘Land’, ‘Water’, ‘Oral Epics’, ‘Women’s songs’, ‘Sati’, ‘Professional Caste Musicians’ etc. It would indeed be impossible to summarize these interesting themes in the course of this short review. But what comes across strongly is Komal Kothari’s encyclopaedic grasp of the material and cultural dimensions of peasant/nomadic society in Rajasthan. His enormous and detailed knowledge on local agricultural practices, local naming patterns, myths and legends is truly astonishing. In particular his close association and involvement with local musicians – the now well known Langa and Manganiyar musician communities - and their forays into national and international fora, a fascinating topic in itself, are dealt in two detailed chapters at the end of this book. The impression though is that despite Kothari’s immense range, his knowledge is rather scattered and that it needed somebody like Rustom Bharucha to systematize the vast fund of informal research that Kothari had accumulated over a lifetime spent among the ordinary folk of Rajasthan.       Bharucha is indeed a powerful presence in the book. He is to be found in the italicised introduction to the chapters and right at the end in the detailed footnotes where he intervenes in Kothari’s discourse in many significant ways with the aid of modern social theory. The footnotes [and the bibliography] reveal that Bharucha has read all the relevant literature on the subject and is very well up on debates in Indian social science. References to Partha Chatterjee, Gayatri Spivak, Ashis Nandy, Kumkum Sangari, Sudesh Vaid, Veena Das are relevant and point to the importance of the insights of these authors to the study of contemporary cultures in India. Bharucha’s creative engagement with these authors is impressive. This is well worth ...

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