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CLIMBING THE COCONUT TREE: A PARTlAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY By Kasthuri Sreenivasan Oxford University Press, 1980, pp xiii 163, Rs. 60.00     No psychologist seems to have done any worthwhile research so far on why some persons feel impelled to write about themselves, especially about their lineage, childhood and boyhood, even if their lives have not been extraordinary in any way. The volume under review comes as a re­minder that attention to this interesting subject is overdue. From rags-to-riches is a tempting theme and the inclination of the poor man who has made good in terms of wealth to boast about it is understandable. From riches-to-rags would obviously make even more interesting reading, provided the author is completely honest about it all. Kasthuri Sreenivasan's life does not fall in either category. Nor does he appear to have made any special or significant con­tribution to human thought or progress which might entitle a person to engage in reminiscences in public. This is a ‘partial autobiography’, ac­cording to the sub-title. We discover that most of the volume concerns the first twenty years of the author's life, which has been that of the scion of a wealthy family getting all the opportunities and ‘making good’ in worldly terms. From the unknown Karadibavi village near Coim­batore to schooling in Coimbatore city it­self and then on to higher education in Manchester—that kind of ‘success’ was the share of many during British rule, even before Kasthuri Sreenivasan managed it. Many people have written about many villages in different parts of India, and writers like R.K. Narayan the storyteller and M.N. Srinivas the sociologist, not to speak of other, older novelists and poets, have brought typical villages or small towns to life. Kasthuri Sreenivasan, on the other hand, has revived memories of his own powerful family which turned from agriculture to the textile industry and decided to inflict these memories on who­ever is willing to pay the price of his book and read it. What were the compulsions that drove this ‘qualified textile technologist’ (as the blurb puts it) to record for posterity the story of his life, or part of it, not forgett­ing to summarize the rest of it in the form of a longish Epilogue? Perhaps he wanted to give the lie to the popular notion that good autobiography—even good biogra­phy—has to be by or about an individual ...


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