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Passionate Partisan

N.S. Jagannathan

By Mohammed Yunus
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1979, pp. VI 333, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 4 January-February 1980

Though of recent origin, political pornography is a well-established literary genre in India today thriving on what Yunus rightly describes as the ‘prevailing mood of our high-minded intellectuals to read gossip.’ What began as a mild stimulant following the news-starved years of Emergency became in the permissive milieu of Janata rule full scale pandering to political prurience. Much suppressed  truth did come out as it deserved to in the process, but so did some obscene fantasies like those from the poison pen of M.O. Mathai, in whose book a political porn became plain porn. Glossy maga­zines and hard-cover publishers soon discovered that they were on to a good thing and lent their pages and imprimatur impartially to rival muck-rakers to trade accusations and insults. And a public, sated with the cavortings of film stars, lapped it all up. As for the ‘high-minded’ reader, he can get his teeth into the stuff with the limpid conscience of an earnest student of affairs doing it all by way of stern duty. No need to hide the book as you have to when the children surprise you at their copy of Stardust. What the butler saw or the P.A. eavesdropped may not illumine state policy but it may pass muster as required reading in political sociology. What the very special correspondent had whispered in his ears by Deep Throat's opposite number in India may not rate high as a cabinet secret but it may yet be relevant literature for the student of climate of opinion. And when the very special envoy blows the gaff about his special relationships with very special correspondents and very special civil servants why, it is history itself in the making! How can you get the feel of the texture of Indian politics unless you have a firsthand account from the hangers on in the corridors and ante-rooms of power? So much for the reader, high-minded or low. What of the writers? ‘Why should one write a book of this nature?’ asks Yunus, and gives sundry plausible answers. He could, in all candour, have added one more: relief from psychological tensions. It is quite a respectable reason, really, applicable to Dostoevsky no less than to Dante, as much to Yevtushenko as to Yunus. In the course of sixty odd years, much of it spent in the shadow of the mighty in an ambiguous status with the ...

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